The last stage of Tony's project was human trials. Pepper had arranged for a team of doctors, nurses and physical therapists to work with them. It meant working with people he didn't know who all knew how Tony Stark, playboy heir of Stark Industries, was an asshole.
The truth was, he'd always had to work with people who knew more about him than he did about them. He just hadn't had to do it sober.
On the first day with the hands-on people, Tony walked into the physical therapy gym and saw them from across the room: a tall, yellow-haired man and a tiny little black-haired girl. The girl was standing on a platform between parallel bars. She was on crutches, and the man was holding her up while she transferred her weight to the bars.
"Will this hurt?" the girl asked.
"Yes, a little bit," the man said.
"That usually means a lot, Steve," the girl said.
Steve shrugged. "It'll hurt," he said, "but you'll be glad later, because you'll get better faster when you can walk."
"Okay," the kid said. She put her hands back up on the railing, and stepped forward, slowly. He stood in front of her, peering earnestly into her face. He didn't smile or say anything. He just waited.
"Okay?" he asked softly.
She was crying. "I can do one more, but that's all."
"One more," he repeated, and she took another step. Then, without prompting, she put the first foot down one more time, but it was too fast, and she had to grab the railings. She was panting loud enough that Tony could hear her breathing.
"All right, soldier?" he said softly.
"I might throw up," she said.
"Go ahead," he said.
"You didn't get the bucket this time."
"Nope. It's not a good day in PT if someone doesn't puke right on me," he said. She started giggling, and he slid one crutch under her arm, and then the other. "Okay now, use the crutches to walk to the end."
He got her back to a hospital-issue wheelchair. "Am I done?" she asked. He helped her sit in her wheelchair.
"Nope," he said. "You have to write your name with your toes now."
Tony grimaced to himself. That wouldn't feel good with the pins of the external fixators going through her calf muscles. He'd done the exercise when he was healing a running injury.
She pointed her little foot and circled it. Tony knew the motions were supposed to feel like writing the alphabet. He could hear Steve muttering the letters under his breath.
"H, W, U, done!" she said. "I'm done. OK Steve?"
"Your name is pretty short, huh? Beth Wu. We'll have to work up to something longer. How about next time, your name and then write 'is awesome.'"
"'Great' is shorter."
"How about 'great' with your right foot and 'super' with your left? It'll stop your muscles from tightening up."
"OK," she said, her breath a little short. She seemed ready to sleep.
"I'll wheel you back," he said. "When I see you on Wednesday, it'll be easier." Their voices trailed off down the hospital corridor.
In a minute, the other members of the PT and OT staff filed in. There were 23 of them, 24 with handsome Steve. He didn't pretend he hadn't noticed.
Tony pulled out his laptop and set up the projector. He had a PowerPoint to explain the surgical study and the therapy team's role in it.
They were all attractive, of course. Pediatric physical therapists were mainly young, athletic women, with some older, athletic women and some young, athletic men mixed in. There was nothing to keep Tony from doubting he was a total pervert for finding all of them sexually appealing. They all had kind faces and well-defined arms and there was not one of them who couldn't beat him up if he let them know he wanted to sleep with them.
It was so much easier to work on projects using a computer simulation. He didn't like the study's funders, but no one liked their funders. He didn't like the surgeons; they always thought they knew better than he did. He didn't like the parents, but fortunately he didn't have to persuade them to be part of the study. That was Pepper's job. But the PTs and the nurses—them, he liked. They were people who got things done, who took care of people. He knew that he wanted someone who would take care of him.
Poor little rich kid. He sucked. He knew it.
He felt something soft and terrible for the children, and that was the worst of all. How could they be so small and have everyone demand that they be brave? He tried to focus on the biophysics of their bones instead of on their pain, but sometimes even he couldn't be enough of a cold bastard for that.
Steve came back, and took a seat in the back. Another familiar face was up in front, what was her name again? From college? She waved and smiled. Right, Jan, that was it. She was older, but still cute. She was even wearing a nametag on her black and yellow jacket. JANET.
Tony started his spiel for the last time. The devices they were going to be trying were a replacement for the Ilizarov external fixator, and all the ex-fix models for distraction osteogenesis.
Distraction osteogenesis sounded so nice, like a euphemism for the behavior problems of a gifted rich kid in some douchy private school. It really meant "break the kids' bones and separate them to make them grow back together longer." He was grateful that he didn't have to explain that to these people.
He showed a slide diagramming the distinctively spiky apparatus, posts going through the flesh of a limb and through the bone. A child on crutches, his leg haloed with spokes. Ilizarov had originally used bicycle parts in his innovative method for setting bones, and it showed in the designs today.
As soon as Tony mentioned Ilizarov, Steve sat up very straight in his chair. This could not be missed, as he was taller than most of the other staff.
"Most of the devices since the adoption of external fixators have been more expensive," Tony said. "This method is based on the ISKD, but we believe it will be less expensive and cause fewer complications. As you know, the ISKD can sometimes push the bones to grow too rapidly, causing nerve damage. A lot of patients choose it, because it's internal and doesn't look as scary as one of those big Ilizarov devices."
He showed an ex-fix from the 1990s, which looked like an erector set on someone's leg.
"We at Stark have improved on the Ortho-Fix and other internal osteogenetic devices with artificially intelligent, self-powering technologies that are much easier to install. The Osteo-arc reacts to signals from the body to change shape. The main problem we have is determining whether they are indeed less painful for patients than previous methods. That's where you come in."
He clicked to the next slide, and stopped. The slide had an image of a physical therapist, provided by the hospital's website. It was Steve, wearing an American flag t-shirt. Huh.
"Patients themselves can't compare the discomfort of various methods, because they typically do not have more than one type of surgery. Well, usually they don't have more than one surgery of any type. In this clinic, you've worked with a lot of children and teens and young adults who have had distraction osteogenesis, and who've had compound fractures from accidents repaired by these methods. You're actually experts in patient experience."
Janet raised a hand. She didn't look so friendly right now. "This is a procedure that has never been tested on patients?" Her lips were clenched tight, and her manicured nails were curled into her palms. Uh oh. Protective of the kids, worried about consent?
"We have tested our tech on adult patients," Tony explained. "We had some soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who agreed to be subjects. They had excellent recovery by many measures. All the minors who are in this study are working with a special consent protocol to ensure that the child as well as the parents understands the risks and benefits of agreeing to participate."
"I'd like to see the consent forms," Jan insisted.
He nodded. "Generally it's the role of the pediatrician rather than the physical therapist to advocate."
Another PT, a tall blonde woman with broad shoulders, Carol, bared her teeth in some imitation of a smile. "As you said, we're the experts in patient experience."
Steve, who wasn't wearing his nametag, raised a hand. "I think it's important work," he said. "I see that you've included a survey for us to fill out after each session with the children in the study."
"It's extra paperwork, but," Tony said, gearing up to defend it, and the consent, and the project as a whole. This misunderstanding phase had never felt good, not even when he knew he could have a drink after.
"Usually, surgeons don't ask us what we see," Steve said quietly. "Orthopedics is a very… focused specialty. They only care about bones. If the bones have healed, they think the patient can walk. "
The other therapists nodded.
"I know I wouldn't be here today without experimental treatments," Steve said. "This work you're doing," he gestured at the screen, "It's important."
The mood in the room shifted as the other therapists exhaled audibly, relaxed their shoulders, and looked at Steve. Some nodded.
The thing was, Tony didn't have to get their buy-in. The hospital as a whole had received a grant to do this. They had to cooperate—he could make them. But he wanted these people, the really good ones, to think of him as a helper, too— one of the good guys.
Steve's jaw was set in an expression that had nothing in common with a smile. What were the experimental treatments that he'd had? It wasn't the best moment to ask. The question was going to rattle around his head.
Tony wound up the presentation and the therapists took their folders with the explanation of the project. Steve and Janet waited around until after the presentation.
"I think we know each other," Janet said. "Janet Van Dyne? Now Van Dyne-Lieber."
"Oh right," Tony said. "You used to hang out with Hank Pym."
She grimaced. "Yeah, that's a blast from the past." Hard to believe such a WASPy girl wound up with someone named Lieber. She was wearing a star of David necklace, so maybe she'd even converted. Ugh, Pym. Tony hoped he knew that Janet looked so much happier and better, more solid.
"See, now you look like the Tony Stark I remember," Janet said. "When you smile like that. I wasn't sure when they said 'Dr. Anthony Stark.' Do you still go by Tony? This is Steve Rogers, by the way."
Steve shook his hand. He was much younger than Tony had thought.
"It wasn't really experimental," Steve said apologetically. "It was distraction osteogenesis with an Ilizarov fixator. The treatment I mentioned. It was just not used that much on kids with juvenile arthritis."
Tony closed his mouth and smiled. "Yes, I was going to ask."
"Not that I tell my medical history to all the boys," Steve said drily.
Tony felt a little leap, like tachycardia. He honestly couldn't tell whether Steve was flirting with him, or pretending to flirt with him as a straight man's gay joke. It probably wasn't really tachycardia. It probably wasn't really flirting, either.
"Well, you know," Tony said, trying to be equally cool and probably failing, "I'm not that kind of doctor."
"Yes, I Googled your project," Steve admitted. "Really amazing stuff. I couldn't believe you went from those nanotech projects to this."
Tony grinned like an idiot. He hoped he just looked friendly. This guy was everything he liked for all the wrong reasons. Anyone would like someone for being classically handsome, strong, and kind. Tony was enough of an asshole to want someone who was smart enough to get him, but not gifted enough to compete with him and make him feel bad.
That's what happens when you know yourself too well. Tony kept smiling, though he had stopped feeling it. If Steve had Googled the project, it meant he knew who Tony was, and what a fuck-up he was.
Christ, this guy had such blue eyes, and Tony had to look up slightly to look into them.
They must have broken major bones to make him this tall. Certainly they broke both of his femurs.
Tony hated the phrase incalculable suffering, because he couldn't stop calculating. How many bones did the doctors break? How much of this was done simultaneously? He couldn't swallow it. He actually felt physical nausea. His skin prickled.
"Tony," Steve said. He put a hand on Tony's arm. "Hey buddy, you OK?"
"Yeah, I was just thinking that must have hurt a lot." Steve was wearing athletic shoes, blue and red ones. They looked very patriotic on the white tiles. Of course his feet were a pretty good size; that's why they'd decided he hadn't grown as tall as he should have. There was no way Tony could look at that innocent face, still so young, and not think of Steve as a little boy trying to stand on broken legs.
"I'm all right now," Steve said. He didn't let go of Tony's elbow, but didn't try to meet his gaze. He just waited for Tony to look at him again. "It's kind of disturbing, sometimes, to think about doing this to kids on purpose."
"Hey Carol, it turns out that Dr. Stark is someone I know from college," Jan said, pulling over the tough blonde PT from the presentation. She looked different with a smile on her face—friendly.
"The Tony Stark?" her friend said. "Oh!"
Steve let his hand drop.
There was no good reason for Tony, as the lead investigator on the project, to hang around the physical therapy room at the hospital every day. Once, twice in a week, tops, he could go to the PT gym and hang around, tapping away on a laptop in the corner and pretending not to be waiting to talk to the physical therapists.
He really hoped it wasn't obvious that he wanted to see Steve. He did, after all, have friendships with other people on the team: Carol, Sam, Wanda, and of course, Janet. He liked to be there, too, to help fix their equipment.
The parallel bars, the ones that every kid used to relearn to walk, were rickety and hard to adjust, and the rubber mat underneath needed to be replaced. Tony wanted to reinvent the whole thing to make it easier to raise and lower. He sketched it out; it might be too expensive and heavy to manufacture. He compared designs online, and ordered a new one for the hospital.
Steve was always waiting at the end of the bars, his mouth a line, his eyes focused on the face of the child.
The day the new equipment arrived Tony was back in his own lab, working on a completely different project. He wasn't thinking about physical therapy or bones at all when his cell phone rang.
"This is Tony Stark."
"Steve Rogers here. Maybe you remember me from the physical therapy team at the hospital." Yeah, maybe he did. "Did you buy us some new equipment?"
"Oh, uh, sorry about that, I wanted to test— I had an idea about how to improve your— If you need to return it, that's fine."
"Were you researching how to improve our equipment?"
"A little bit, yeah. Nothing official."
"Well." Steve was quiet for half a beat. "You could come down here and help me put it together."
"Yeah, sure," Tony said, before he could think about it.
"I can't do it during my shift," Steve said. "If you can come around six, I'll take you out for a beer afterward."
"I don't drink," Tony blurted. Stupid. He's not actually asking you to drink. He's being friendly.
"Oh, right, right," Steve said. "I didn't mean to, I meant, we could, just wanted to treat you."
Captain Awesomeness was nervous around him, the super geek. Wow. Tony's heart was doing its stupid scary damaged heart dance. He swallowed. "Sure," he said.
The ride on the train felt endless, even though it was only a few stops. Once he got back to the hospital, he forgot about his nerves. It was fun to put together the new equipment. Steve was great at building things, unlike most people. He could do it without getting frustrated, keeping a lot of information in his head at once. They talked about what tweaks Steve wanted to make to the equipment, and it felt natural enough to move the conversation to a Bertucci's near the hospital.
Tony showed Steve a sketch of one of his PT equipment ideas, and Steve added a kid on the ramp.
"Oh, you can draw," Tony said.
"I was an art major in college, before I decided I wanted to be a physical therapist."
"I did technical drawing," Tony said. He bit off any further admissions by putting a slice of pizza in his mouth.
Steve had this trick of smiling without smiling. It was the opposite of other people, who bared their teeth without anything friendly reaching their eyes. Steve's eyes looked kind, even though his mouth was merely quirked.
Oh for fuck's sake don't look at the man's lips.
"Yeah, um. I was wondering how you decided to become a physical therapist for children."
"You should come sometime to the dancing class."
"You teach a dancing class?"
"Nah," Steve actually did smile at that, but only a little. "I'm not a dancer. They have real ballet people for that. It was the part of the training that made me decide that I wanted to do this with kids, though. Before, I was planning to work with people my own age."
He pulled out his cell phone and showed Tony the hospital website. They had a program for children with Down Syndrome to dance with the local ballet.
"I don't think—" Tony said. He did not want to see kids with intellectual disabilities. It made him feel even more foreign, more separate, than usual.
"You have to see it," Steve said. "It got me through the part of my practicum where I worked in children's hospice."
Tony took a bite of the pizza, and nearly choked. He took a big sip of his ginger ale to wash it down.
"Tony," Steve said in a low voice. He leaned forward and patted Tony on the back.
Tony chewed his food and drank some more soda, and wiped his mouth. He knew he was swallowing feelings. He couldn't get past the tight place in his throat. God, he hated being sober sometimes. He didn't want Steve to know he was such a wuss. It didn't seem to bother him.
"You have a really hard job."
"Yeah, sometimes," Steve said. He could convey so much emotion and understanding without saying anything.
He took the last slice of pizza. The guy could eat. He must work out a ton. They chewed in silence for a little while. "It's great to meet someone who can actually understand what I do and why I do it, why it's important."
"I'm not sure that I do," Tony said. "You could have been a surgeon. You're good at remembering things, you're cool under pressure, good with your hands…" He trailed off. Too personal, maybe.
"I thought about it," Steve admitted. He was eating the last of the bread. The waiter brought another basket. "Without Dr. Erskine, I wouldn't have been able to grow. He was the orthopedist who did my ex-fix surgery. We talked a lot."
"Why didn't you go to medical school?"
Steve shrugged. "Money, mainly."
Ugh. Tony could feel himself blush at his hairline. He was an asshole, a rich asshole who didn't know what life was like for normal people. These were the kinds of moments he usually just blustered through, bragging about his privilege, laying it on thick. Even now he couldn't apologize.
"I mean, I had some scholarship money from the Army, because my dad was in the service," Steve said, "but I didn't have any relatives left. I didn't want to go into that much debt."
"You're an orphan. Me, too."
"I know," Steve said.
"Oh, right," Tony said. That was his life. He didn't see anyone for weeks at a time, immersed in projects, but everyone on the planet knew everything about him.
Steve paid the bill, waving Tony's wallet away. "My treat," he said, "I invited you."
It was finally dark when they walked out, but there seemed to be a lot to say. Steve had questions about Tony's work, the type of question that undammed Tony's tongue. He was doing that thing he did sometimes, with the asides and the jokes and the quips, the too fast, too much talking thing that put off most ordinary people. It was the reason most of his girlfriends were one night stands.
But Steve was laughing and kept saying that they could walk to the next T stop, and in the end they never got on the train. At some point, Tony realized that he had walked all the way to Arlington.
"I live over there," Steve said. "I hope I haven't taken you too far out of your way."
"No," Tony said vaguely. "I can call a cab."
"Or you can come over," Steve said. Even in the dim light of street lamp, Tony could see he was blushing.
"Are you," Tony said. "Is this?" and then even he couldn't be this obtuse, and he took Steve's hand and their fingers threaded together. "Really?"
Steve was smiling, so wide and bright and gorgeous that he didn't need to say anything.
They got to the door of his house and Steve tried to get his key out with his other hand. He started to reach across his body to the pocket on the other side so that he wouldn't have to drop Tony's hand. He opened the door and they stood in the vestibule while Steve unlocked his apartment on the first floor.
"I wasn't sure whether you liked men," Tony said.
"Oh," Steve said. He was looking at Tony very intently. He leaned down and stole a kiss. It made a juicy smacking sound when their lips connected, and Tony leaned forward for another. "I do," Steve said, and kissed him again. Tony grew slightly dizzy, standing on the same spot, kissing and kissing, licking into Steve's mouth, feeling his smile against Tony's face.
"Now this," he said, leaning back against Steve's strong arms, "this is good to do sober."
"Because this," he said, kissing Steve's neck, "I wouldn't want to forget."
"The first time we kiss," Steve said softly. Tony had to shut his eyes.
He felt like he was falling forward into Steve's mouth, like all the hairs on his body were standing at attention, his nipples, his cock. Steve was running his hands down Tony's back, one hand on a shoulder blade, one hand cupping the cheek of his ass, so that the blood in Tony's skin prickled outward, everywhere so sensitive and eager.
Steve's fingers were warm on the seam of Tony's jeans, present and pressing against his asshole and perineum. Tony's cock was forced against Steve's thigh.
"Is it too forward to ask if you have a bed," Tony said, "or a couch, or a, a, yoga mat, or even something I could just bend over? Kitchen table, maybe? Kitchen floor?"
"Do I sound desperate?" Tony said, panting.
"Little bit, maybe," Steve said. "But I'm with you there." He turned Tony's body in his arms so that he could push his cock against the globes of Tony's ass and run his hands over Tony's chest. He was tall enough that he could lean around to kiss Tony on the mouth. He started to pull up Tony's shirt, to rub his hand on Tony's bare belly.
"I have some scars," Steve said, suddenly. "From the surgery. On my legs."
"Mmm," Tony said, "Does that mean you're going to take off your pants? Because I was just thinking about how nice it would be we were naked. In a bed."
"They're kinda ugly," Steve said. He'd stopped moving, and was just kind of resting against the wall, his arms around Tony. He sounded sad. "I've seen pictures of the people you used to date," Steve said. "At fancy parties." Tony turned around and looked at him.
"Wait," Tony said. "Do you think I'm going to stop loving you because of some scars?"
"How would I not know that you have scars? Isn't the point of my project to reduce scarring?" Oh shit, had he really said that?
"It's not the same when you see them. Did you say stop loving me?" Steve was good and red in the face, and smiling. His teeth were so perfect. Ah, okay, they were capped, he hadn't always had such pretty teeth, that was probably why he didn't smile much. Holy shit, he was handsome. He looked so happy.
"Oh for fuck's sake, I didn't mean to say that." Tony felt his heart speed up again. "I just—all right, pretend I didn't say that."
Steve bent and kissed him some more. "Yeah, I have a bed," he said. He whirled Tony around the room, and bent him backward into a dip, and then kind of swept him up, off his feet, like a bride. "Let's go get naked in my bed," he said, walking into the bedroom. He put Tony down and brought his head down to Tony's fly.
"That's more like it," Tony said.
Steve was nuzzling him through his clothes.
"I'm not naked," Tony pointed out. He was really hard, though.
"Do you know what I like about you?" Steve asked. "You're so damned quick."
"Seriously," Steve said. He moved up Tony's body to look him in the eyes. It was like being a teenager again, all that gazing. "Seriously, I like that about you."
"I don't always like it about myself," Tony admitted.
"Yeah, but I know what's good," Steve said, pulling him into his arms for more kissing.
"I mean, it's not good to be quick in bed," Tony said.
"I won't mind," Steve said. He had turned on the bed so that they were head to foot and was removing Tony's pants and his underwear. Oh! Wow. Great idea! Tony reached for Steve's fly. "I want you to come in my mouth." Steve was kind of rubbing his face against Tony's balls, like a cat.
"That?" Tony said. "That could happen." It was taking everything he had to concentrate on getting Steve's clothing off. It wasn't as easy to act like a genius in bed. His mouth watered. Steve had him naked from the waist down and he'd only managed to get Steve's pants down and his shirt up. Tony leaned his head against Steve's abs. "Just look at that pretty cock," he said to himself.
"Don't just look," Steve suggested, pushing his jeans and underpants down with his feet to untangle himself. One pant leg and his underwear were pushed down to his ankle. He did have scars. Tony had plans to lick them, but first things first.
It felt like they were still working together when they managed to put their mouths on each other's dicks in the same moment. Steve had this great deep voice, and the vibrations of his grunts of pleasure vibrated through Tony's body.
It was so perfect. Tony felt like he was about to come the whole time, but had just enough attention on what he was doing to Steve to keep from toppling over the edge. Steve's cock was perfect. It was thick, but not so thick Tony choked. He kept thinking about Steve's cock in his ass. It was so hot on his lips, it would feel hot going into him.
Tony could have kept going, sucking Steve's cock and feeling the warm wet of Steve's mouth, his lips tight. He could have hung there in that fine place, the balance of sexual tension and the relaxation of pleasure like an endless, echoing loop.
But Steve fought dirty sometimes. He parted Tony's ass and rubbed a wet finger over his hole, and Tony gasped, and Steve's cock fell out of his mouth. Steve groaned really loudly and Tony dimly understood over the roar of his own orgasm that Steve was coming, too.
He lay there as Steve scrambled around to face him. "Oh, sorry," he said. Tony felt the wet on his face. His cock was still hard and he felt a little more blood flooding into it. Steve had come all over his face.
Steve grabbed some tissues from a box by the bed and started to wipe Tony's face. Tony was laughing. "Oh my God," he said. "That's the hottest—you're like a porn star."
"You're the one with the facial hair," Steve said.
"Is there something about porn stars and facial hair?"
"I think it's sexy," Steve said. "It makes me want to kiss you," and he did.
"Your come is in my beard," Tony said. Steve made a sound into his mouth.
"I could go again," Steve said, and they did.
Tony really did try not to spend too much time in the PT clinic, but he was there enough that he started to know the patients, and not only the ones in his study. There was Beth Wu, from the first day, and Matthew Anderson, who had been in a car accident, Tyler Williams, whose dad always brought him from home, and Olivia Garcia, who had cerebral palsy.
Tony couldn't look at Olivia for the longest time. She had some kind of speech issue and a tremor. It only took a few minutes of hearing Steve with her for Tony to understand that she was one of the really smart kids.
He had to stay in the room while Steve worked with Olivia because he kept thinking that maybe there was some engineering problem here he wasn't seeing. He had to stay even though he was crawling out of his skin with discomfort at how hard things were for her.
He just sat in the corner making things on his laptop, concentrating. It had always worked for him.
He didn't realize how accustomed he was to Olivia's speech until the day he heard her say, "Steve, you have a cool boyfriend now."
Tony kept his hands on the keyboard home row. Asdfjkl;asdfjkl;.
"Yeah I do," Steve said, kind of laughing. "We're going out dancing after this."
"I read about him on the internet." In spite of how slurred and out of control Olivia's voice was, Tony could hear the archness in it.
"Me too," Steve said. "He's a genius."
"I'm jealous," Olivia teased.
"You should be," Steve said. "He's over there inventing a jet pack or something."
Tony knew that she meant she was jealous of Tony, because of Steve.
He kept his face buried in the laptop screen.
"Hey, Tony," Steve said. "C'mere."
He went over and gravely shook hands with the little teenager. She was actually a pretty girl, now that he looked at her. Her body zig-zagged where her muscles were paralyzed, but—there was no but. She was a pretty girl with cerebral palsy, a sharp kid with a spark to her.
Steve never gave up on making things better for the kids, but he didn't try to fix them. Sometimes, things can get better even though they can't be fixed.
Hard to accept when you were an engineer. Hard to accept when your own life was something that had to get better without getting fixed.
"This is my girl Olivia," Steve said. "She's teaching me to dance."
"You're so corny," Olivia said. They did often put on music and move around. "Steve has no rhythm," Olivia said.
"Olivia likes math," Steve said. "She's one of your people."
"I thought I recognized the secret handshake," Tony said, and the kid lit up.
"You're corny too!" she said. "Perfect."
"Glad you approve," Tony said, because he was glad, and hoped the dry tone hid how much. She made her way to the elevator with some difficulty.
While Steve was cleaning up, Tony did a little more work. He looked up mobility aids for kids with CP, again. They were so undignified.
"I'm glad it's not weird that you're with a man," Tony said.
"I'm glad you got over your shyness," Steve said.
"Me, shy? I'm not shy. Everyone knows that. Socially awkward maybe, but not shy."
"You always see through me," Tony complained. The elevator doors opened. Steve waited for the doors to close; they were alone.
Steve put his arms around Tony, and klunked their foreheads together gently. "Yes," Steve said in a low voice. "I see right through you."