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Not Like Chasin' Bluegills

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Steve squinted at the tarmac with the wary sort of distaste Tony had come to associate with press conferences and, more frequently, him disapproving of Tony’s decisions.

“Tony,” Steve said, voice flat and unamused.

“Yes, dear?” Tony grinned at him and then climbed out of the car. Ian was already throwing his own door open and bouncing out onto the tarmac. Steve sighed, and leaned over so that he could peer at Tony through the driver’s side door.

“This isn’t Montauk,” Steve said, eyeing the jet.

“That’s a very astute observation,” Tony said. “Now come on.” He shut the door, and despite Steve’s frustration at being kept out of the loop, he climbed out and followed Tony around to the trunk.

“You said we were going to Montauk,” Steve accused.

“I didn’t say anything about going to Montauk.” Tony handed him a briefcase, and then passed Ian his backpack. The rest of their luggage he left in the trunk of the car. There were already men making their way over to collect the rest of the bags and, presumably, load them onto the plane.

“You said, ‘remember when we went fishing at Montauk?’ I thought it was pretty clear,” Steve said.

“Well, it wasn’t. This is better,” Tony said.

“Where are we going?” asked Ian, and Steve could tell from the excitement in his voice that there was no going back. Tony had probably planned it that way.

“Fishing,” Tony said. “Also, I have a movie you need to see. We’ll watch it on the way down. Ever heard of Jaws?”

“Tony,” Steve warned, as Ian shook his head no.

“Chop chop, the pilot’s already been waiting an hour.”

Steve caught his arm on the steps up to the jet and waited until Ian disappeared inside. He fixed Tony with a serious look.

“Tell me we’re not going shark fishing.”

“All right, I won’t tell you.”

“Is this legal?”

“Don’t worry about it, Steve. I’ve got all our permits, and I know what gear to use and what species we can keep and what’s protected.” He ticked each off on a finger, and then splayed his hands, placating. “You can read up on the plane if you want.”

“Have you done this before?”

“Yeah, in college,” Tony said. “Of course, all we caught were colds, but I’ve got the idea.”

“Well, that’s reassuring.”

“Quit being such a worry wart. We’re Avengers, I think we can handle a little shark fishing. Besides, it’s summer break! Relax a little.”

“You know adults don’t actually get summer break.”

“Says you,” Tony said. He smirked and then tugged Steve up the steps and into the jet. “Come on, we’ve got a movie to watch.”

 

Ian was, understandably, completely taken with the idea of shark fishing, especially after watching Jaws and the sequel on the flight down. Steve read everything Tony had given him on the subject, and he had to admit that it was a really good idea on Tony’s part. Well…maybe not the movies—Ian was practically vibrating out of his seat through the final sequence of Jaws—but Steve knew Ian missed being able to hunt and fish like he had in Dimension Z, and the prospect of fishing for sharks clearly excited him.

Normal fishing was well and good, but there was certainly something appealing to Ian about hunting something that could hunt you back.

They set down at the airport without any fanfare and made it to Tony’s quaint (Tony’s words, not his, he probably would have used the word ridiculous) beach house in time for dinner, but not much else. It was a modest three stories, and Tony’s housekeeper had already prepped the bedrooms for them by the time they arrived.

Once Steve had warmed up to the idea, they’d agreed they would spend the first full day of their vacation by getting straight to fishing and then, depending on how it went and what Ian wanted to do, they’d split the rest of their vacation time between exploring the Florida Keys and taking Tony’s boat out again for more fishing.

 

Steve spent the next morning making sandwiches and doing his best to ignore Tony’s housekeeper as she hovered around behind him. When Tony finally stumbled into the kitchen, fully dressed but not yet fully awake the coffee pot was already full. Despite their agreement to get an early start, Steve still had to wake Tony up twice this morning, the second time with much less...conventional means.

It worked, at least. Nothing could be said against a blowjob’s effectiveness at getting Tony Stark’s attention. Steve handed him a cup of coffee, and then watched in mixed fascination and disapproval as he drained the cup in one go.

“Ian’s already outside,” Tony said.

“I’m not done yet,” Steve said, motioning to the lunch he was putting together.

“Barbara can finish that for you, and she’ll probably do a better job.” Tony said. Behind him, Barbra huffed, and Steve got the feeling she’s been politely keeping that opinion to herself all morning. “We need to go catch some bait before the sun gets too high.”

“I’m sorry, who was it that woke up three hours later than we agreed?” Steve asked.

Tony grunted. “What’s the point of fishing for something active later in the day if you have to get up at the ass-crack of dawn anyway?”

“You suggested it,” Steve said. Tony waved him off, and Steve was about to reply when he heard Ian calling him from the porch. Not ten seconds later he called again, more impatient than the last, and Tony chuckled.

“We’re coming,” he called. Tony grabbed the long, golfer’s bag that was leaning against the counter, and swung it over his shoulder. He motioned for Steve to pick up the empty cooler beside it, and then headed out onto the porch. “Come on, we’re burning daylight.”

“Where are we going?” Ian asked, already eyeing Tony’s bag. “To the ship?”

“No, we’ll have to drive to get there,” Tony said. He led them down onto the beach, but instead or heading for the water, he led them back toward the rocky areas beside the house. “We’re going spear fishing. Gotta catch some bait. Here.” Tony pointed to a crack in the rock face, large enough for even Steve to walk through without crouching.

“I found this place when I was your age,” he explained, leading the way through the short tunnel. It was less than ten feet deep, and came out on the other end into a small cove.

“Wow.” Ian turned in a full circle, admiring the towering rock on all sides. The water was shallow and clear and teeming with stingrays—which was the main reason that it was such a bad place to swim.
Tony pointed to one that had come as far into shore as it could go, flapping sand into a cloud around it, and handed Ian a spear from his bag. The spears he’d bought all had multiple prongs on the end, to make it easier to keep what they caught, and to make the puncture wounds smaller and hopefully keep their bait alive. “Try not to kill them. Live bait works best.”

Tony traded a spear for Steve’s cooler, dragging it over to the water to dredge some up. He then dragged it back inland and sat down on the lid. “Go nuts,” he said. Tony saw the little downturn of Steve’s mouth when he pulled out his phone, and he decided to field the protest before it began.

“Your son’s starting without you,” he said. “You might want to warn him about the stingers.” Steve turned back abruptly.

“Ian, wait—” he called, wading in after him.

“Got one!” Ian extended the pole, stingray flapping uselessly on the end. Steve gave an exasperated sigh, but Ian wasn’t trying to grab it and he was still wearing sandals, so he let him take it back on land. Tony lifted the lid on the cooler.

“Put it in the well,” he said. “A few more of these, and we’ll be good to go.”

“Tony, don’t you want to try?” Ian asked, sticking a spear under his nose.

“No thanks, kid. I’ll hold down the fort.” Ian looked skeptical, so Tony handed him a pliers.

“Try and get the barb off the tail,” he pointed to the general spot near the back, though it was hard to pin it down with the stingray thrashing so much. “Or do you want me to do it?”

“No, I can do it,” Ian said.

Tony smirked. “Okay, just be careful not to get stung.”

“I won’t,” Ian said. Tony saw him roll his eyes, but his tongue was already pinched between his teeth in concentration as he went after the barb.

“I mean it. If you get stung, we can’t go fishing,” Tony said.

“Do we have to use fishing poles? Can we go spear fishing for sharks?” Ian asked. Tony snorted, and even more so when he realized Ian had asked without a hint of irony.

“Even if that was legal—which it’s not—we wouldn’t want to. The sharks swim too deep.”

Ian seemed to consider that while he was scanning the ocean bed. There were a number of tiny stingrays nearby, but he seemed to only be interested in the biggest ones—probably because he figured they would catch them the biggest sharks.

“Can you eat shark?” he asked instead.

“Sometimes people will eat the fins,” Tony said, “but finning’s illegal, so we won’t. Shark fishing is mostly for sport. Some people will cut the teeth out for trophies if they catch something they’re allowed to keep, but…”

He paused, considering. It occurred to him that without being able to eat them—or even land them, for some species—Ian might not see any reason to go shark fishing.

“I don’t want to kill them if we can’t eat them,” Ian said, taking the decision away from him.

“That’s fine. We’ll see if we can catch anything, take some pictures, and then cut them loose. “

 

 

The boat Tony rented was prepped and waiting for them by the time they finally made their way to the marina. Ian ran up the dock with an entire cooler full of de-barbed stingrays for bait rolling behind him. Steve and Tony followed after at a more leisurely pace, though not too much so. Ian’s excitement had increased exponentially once he’d actually seen the boat, and his good mood was infectious. Tony had Ian put the stingrays in the well while he and Steve brought them out to sea.

It wasn’t a large boat, but the motor was powerful enough that it was a matter of minutes before they were far enough out that they couldn’t even see land anymore. Steve spent the trip watching Ian watch the ocean. He’d certainly caught bigger fish than sharks fishing in dimension Z, but it had been a long time for either of them since they’d last gone fishing for anything.

Tony, on the other hand, alternated between watching the GPS, watching Steve watch Ian, and setting himself up a lawn chair by the edge of the ship. There was only one mounted rod on this ship, not that Steve or maybe even Ian probably needed the thing, and Tony wasn’t planning on using it.

After they’d gone far enough into the water, Tony killed the engine and dropped the anchor.

“Okay, Ian, go grab some bait,” Tony said. He pulled out a hook while Ian grabbed a stingray out of the well. Tony handed him the hook, already attached to the line. “Make sure you let your line out a little.” Tony demonstrated how, though he didn’t think Ian needed the lesson. He gave him a quick run-down of the basics of what to do once he actually had a shark on the line, and Ian listened intently, nodding in all the right places in a way that reminded Tony strikingly of Steve in a debriefing. Tony flashed him a smile once he was sure he’d gotten it down, and Ian grinned back.

Next he showed him how to hook mount the pole and lock it into place. He figured it would make Steve feel better at least (it sure made him feel better), even though Ian grumbled about not needing it. Tony just assured him it was to make sure the shark didn’t get away too easily, and that seemed to placate him.

“Okay, okay, I’m ready,” Ian said. He climbed onto the chair, ignoring the harnesses entirely, and tossed the stingray into the water. Tony could see it swimming for a few minutes, before it dove down and disappeared from sight. Tony hovered for a few more minutes, watching the line and the focused expression on Ian’s face in equal parts before he wandered back to his own seat.

When he glanced over at Steve, he was staring with a peculiar look on his face.

“What?” Tony asked as he dropped into his chair and kicked back, but Steve was already shaking his head.

“Nothing,” he said.

“Hey, Tony, how long is this going to take?” Ian asked.

“Patience,” Tony said. Steve chuckled.

“He doesn’t know. He’s never caught one, either,” he said. Tony stuck his tongue out, and rolled onto his stomach. Steve watched him fumble to pull his shirt over his head as an afterthought, and Tony didn’t miss him looking.

“Like what you see?” he asked, making the laziest display of seduction Steve had ever seen. Steve trailed his fingers down Tony’s spine, watched him shiver.

“Definitely,” Steve said.

“Dad, I’m right here,” Ian complained. Tony huffed.

“Go back to fishing, squirt,” Tony said. Steve just chuckled and pulled away, ignoring both Tony’s pout at the lost opportunity, and Ian’s pout at being called squirt. Steve grabbed Tony’s ankle and squeezed.

“Ian, come put some sunscreen on before you burn,” Steve said. When Ian hesitated, eyes on the water, he added, “I’ll watch your pole. Come on.”

Ian waited until Steve sat down in his chair before he was willing to look away, and it took him almost no time to finish applying it, big white streaks where it wasn’t rubbed in properly left in his haste. Steve helped him smooth it out and put some on his face before he took the bottle from Ian and gave him his chair back.

“Tony.” Steve held out the bottle of sunscreen, nearly half-empty already, and waved it next to Tony’s hand. He wasn’t looking in Steve’s direction, and he didn’t seem to have heard, so Steve repeated his name and poked him with the corner of the bottle. Tony turned his head this time, caught one look of the bottle, and stretched out his arms.

“Feel free,” he said. Steve rolled his eyes and set the bottle down on Tony’s back.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you, when you’re so sunburned you can’t move tomorrow,” Steve said.

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Tony half-mumbled. Steve tried to ignore him, but it was really no use—Tony already looked like he was falling asleep, and he probably knew that Steve would rather give in than actually see Tony suffering with a bad sunburn.

He still gave an overdramatic sigh, popping the cap on the sunburn and squirting a large blob directly onto Tony’s shoulders. He pretended that he couldn’t see the tiny smirk on Tony’s face, either, but made sure to trail his fingers extra gently along Tony’s sides, where he was most ticklish.

Tony jerked and rolled off the edge of the lawn chair, landing on his back.

“Oh, good, you’re up.” Steve handed him the bottle, “You can take it from here, then.” Tony scowled halfheartedly, but actually accepted the bottle this time. Steve stopped by the cooler to grab a couple of bottled waters, and then wandered back over to the edge of the ship, where Ian was perched on the rail.

If there wasn’t so much space between the rail and the actual edge of the boat, Steve might have been worried about the arrangement, but as it was he just let Ian be.

“Catch any man-eaters yet?” Tony called from behind him. Ian’s face was pinched in concentration, and Steve could see him tracking their bait with his eyes.

“No,” he said. “The sting ray is still swimming though. I thought sharks were supposed to be able to smell blood.”

“Patience, Ian,” Steve said. “You’ve got to wait for them to come to us.” Ian knew this, of course. He’d been on plenty of hunts before, both in dimension Z and on Earth, and this wasn’t their first time fishing either—although shark fishing was certainly a first.

 

Ian was…riled, for the first half hour or so (probably Tony’s fault, though he would never admit to Steve that showing him Jaws was anything other than entirely necessary). He was eyeing the water like he expected a man eater to appear at any moment. After a while though he settled down, and the long-practiced hunter shined through. He was amazingly patient when he wanted to be, Tony thought.

Steve and Ian seemed entirely content to stare out at where they thought the bait was in the water. Tony, on the other hand, was not. Watching them watch the line was only fun for so long—and then it was boring. Tony rolled over onto his stomach and buried his face into the crook of his arm, intent to take a nap.

He said as much, but all he got was a distracted hum from Ian. He might have felt a hand skim lightly up his spine a few moments later, and then he was out.

 

Tony woke none-too-gently to the sound of Ian crowing at the open ocean.

He blinked as the boat rocked to the side (just slightly—it was a big boat) and Ian sprung out of his seat so fast Tony could have believed he teleported. Tony scrubbed a hand over his face, still feeling bleary and too-warm from the sun, and pushed himself up in his seat to get a better look.

There was definitely something on the line, from the way the rod was bending. After a few seconds the line gave another, more violent tug, and Tony felt the boat rock.

“I got one!” Ian shouted. “Ok, Tony, now what?”

“Now you strap yourself in before you get ahead of yourself,” Steve interrupted. Ian clearly knew how to pick his battles, because he threw himself down into the chair again and did up the straps on the harness, lighting quick with Steve’s help.

“Now what?” Ian repeated, before he’d even finished with the belt strap.

“Give it a minute, then lock down your reel like I showed you earlier,” Tony said.

“I don’t see it,” Ian protested.

“Just keep reeling. You will. If it starts pulling really hard give it a little slack, or you’ll lose it,” Tony advised.

The look of enraptured concentration on Ian’s face was cracking Tony up, but he did his best to keep it to himself. Ian looked like he was trying to will the shark into the boat, even with it still a good hundred feet out. He was muttering to himself as he reeled it in, Tony realized, not in English but in Phroxi, as he scanned the water.

Finally, after several minutes of reeling, Ian leaned up in his seat. “I see it!”

That was enough to catch Tony’s interest, and he wandered over closer to the rail. He didn’t immediately see what Ian had, though Ian was too busy with reel to point it out, but he did eventually spot the shadow of its body below the water.

Tony let out a low whistle. It was hard to tell the exact size from this distance, but he could easily rule out some of the smaller species even from here. Once it got a little closer, Tony estimated it just on the shy side of eleven feet long.

It seemed like the closer to the boat it got, the more fiercely it fought against the line. Ian yelped as it thrashed to the side, letting up on the reel like Tony instructed, and then was back at it a moment later, expertly. He was a natural at this, or at least determined enough for it not to matter.

Once it was finally close enough Tony leaned over the edge of the boat to get a good look at it. He let out a little disappointed noise despite himself (Ian’s excitement really was contagious).

“What?” Ian asked.

“It looks like a tiger shark to me,” Tony replied.

“They’re on the protected species list,” Steve supplied at Ian’s questioning look. “We have to cut it loose.”

“Oh,” Ian said, and he did sound a little disappointed, but not terribly so. “That’s okay. We can’t eat it, anyway, so. Now?”

“If we tire it out too much we might end up hurting it,” Tony confirmed. “Should we get a picture first?”

Ian agreed, and Tony very pointedly ignored the look that Steve gave him, that said he knew Tony would have a wallet-sized print by the time he got home. He made Steve get into the photo with Ian, and it was awkward, trying to get them in the picture with the shark still in the water.

(Actually, Tony probably took too many pictures. Ian may not have any baby photos but he was sure gonna have well-documented teenage years.)

“Okay, you can cut it loose—”

“Wait!” Ian said. “Aren’t you gonna be in the picture? I mean, its your boat and your fishing gear and—”

“Okay, okay,” Tony said, smiling fondly.

He set up a timer on the camera, propping it up with his folding chair and a stack of towels, and they took a picture that way as well, with Steve’s arm around Tony and Ian in between them.

“Happy?” Tony asked as he retrieved the camera.

Ian beamed. “Very.”

 

 

Ian had his Fish Tale down to an art by the time they were home.

“It was huge!” Ian said, throwing his arms wide. Tony chuckled, glancing at him in the rear-view mirror as he pulled into the driveway.

“I know. I was there.”

“We caught a man-eater!” Ian insisted. “Just like in the movie.”

“Well, actually, that was a Great White. We caught a tiger—” Steve elbowed him, and Tony huffed, rubbing at the little point with one hand while he put the car into park with the other.

“It still could have eaten a man,” Ian said, obviously having heard Tony, “or a kid, at least.”

“I was pretty big,” Steve agreed. “It was good of you to let it go, Ian.”

“You can’t keep Tiger sharks anyway,” Ian said, as though they hadn’t been the ones to tell him that in the first place. He hopped out of the car, and Steve and Tony went to follow him. On the porch, he hesitated. “Hey, Tony. There are people on your beach,” Ian said offhandedly.

Tony could see the family of five, umbrellas opened and towels already laid out. All three of the kids were already running toward the water, surfboards underarm, but the parents, at least, were staring at him. They were probably wondering if he was going to kick them out—it was private property after all, even if he rarely came down to use it.

“That’s okay, they’re not hurting anybody,” Tony said. He waved, thinking maybe that would put them at ease. Sure enough, a moment later the father waved back, and they went back to setting up umbrellas. It wouldn’t really be fair to kick them out, since they probably used the beach more than he did.

He hadn’t had much time for vacations, recently.

“Can we try that?” Ian asked, pointing at the surfers. They were a gradient of ages, all older than Ian, and obviously had a lot of practice surfing. Steve looked uncertain.

“I don’t know if Tony has any of the gear. We can maybe go shopping tomorrow and—what?” Steve asked, noting that Tony was smirking at him. “Do you have the gear?”

“Of course I do,” Tony said, feigning insult. “What do you take me for? There’s almost always someone surfing around here. I figured it would come up, so I had the staff pick up some gear for you two. Besides, I like surfing, and I like to be prepared.”

“Can we try it now?” Ian asked. He was already bouncing toward the door, and Tony laughed.

“Sure, go put your suit on,” he said. “I’ll meet you out there.” Ian darted off, only just stopping in time to notice that the screen door was closed. He slammed the door behind him and it bounced open again on the rebound.

Tony turned to give Steve an exasperated look, and stopped short. Steve had the same look on his face as earlier, when he was watching Tony teach Ian how to shark fish.

“What?” Tony asked. “You’re giving me that look again—and don’t you say ‘nothing’ again, Mister.”

“I was just—thinking.” Tony gave him an expectant look, and Steve pulled him closer by a hand on the hip. “You’re good with him. That’s all.”

“Oh, well,” Tony said. “I’m good with everyone. That’s part of my charm.”

Steve could tell that he was going for nonchalant, could feel him tensing up beside him, and of course Tony was getting ready to cut and run. For all that he really was a remarkably good father figure, the moment anyone mentioned it, Tony was already halfway out the door.

It was why Steve wasn’t going to mention it, earlier, and wasn’t going to pursue the topic now. Steve let him go, pulling back with an unimpressed “uh, huh” that sent Tony’s defenses in another direction entirely.

“I am,” he insisted, following Steve up the front steps. “I’m very charming.”

 

“You’ll want a longer one,” Tony said. He considered a shortboard for himself, but figured it would be easier to teach if they were on the same page. “They’re easier for beginners.”

Tony could see Ian considering the challenge—not that Tony had intended it to be one—and it was all he could do to keep from laughing when Ian glanced shiftily over at the other family, all surfing with short boards. Still, he eventually listened to Tony and did grab a longboard.

Tony shared an amused look with Steve above Ian’s head, and then trotted over to where Steve was setting up the grill.

“Sure you don’t want to join us?” Tony asked, lifting his board in silent invitation. Steve shook his head and then, because he couldn’t resist the Tony normally, let alone all sun-kissed and earnest, he leaned in to kiss him.

“I’m going to start grilling,” he said. “So maybe later. And you need more sunscreen.”

Tony rolled his eyes. “Yes, Mom.” He gave Steve a lopsided grin, and then turned back to Ian. “Come on, squirt, I’ll show you how it’s done.”

They did listen to Steve, pausing to apply more sunscreen, although Steve was beginning to suspect that they were beyond the possibility of prevention and into “well, hopefully it won’t get worse” territory. Ian was only looking a little pink at least, and Tony less so with his darker complexion, so maybe they wouldn’t have anything to worry about by tomorrow morning, healing permitting.

Tony lead Ian a little further down the beach, where they wouldn’t get in the way of the other surfers, and then out onto the waves. They paddled out, and then paused, sitting on their boards with one leg on either side for several minutes while Steve assumed Tony explained the basics of surfing to Ian. Finally Tony got up to demonstrate. He was actually pretty good, from what Steve could see, though he was clearly resisting showboating for the sake of teaching.

Steve glanced away to turn on the grill, and when he looked back Ian was already trying his luck. It only took a few minutes for him to realize that, despite his many talents, Ian was not a natural surfer.

Steve watched Ian climb unsteadily to his feet, only to lose his balance immediately and tumble into the water. His head popped up a moment later, and he started swimming immediately to try again. It was the third time in a row with the same result, and Tony, at least, seemed to find it hilarious.

Ian just looked determined, and maybe a little frustrated that his usual balance and athleticism when it came to combat didn’t seem to extend very well into surfing.

Ian pitched off his board again, backwards this time, and Steve cracked a smile. Okay, it was a little funny.

He’d just started to get the burgers on the grill when the mother from the other family wandered over. The rest of her family was busy surfing, so Steve supposed she was probably bored.

“Thanks for letting us stay,” she said.

“Of course. You probably use this beach more than Tony does,” Steve said.

She laughed. “That’s probably true. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to admit that, though.”

“I won’t tell,” Steve promised. He gestured to the grill. “Do you want to join us? There’s plenty.”

“Oh, no, thank you,” she said. “It’s Tahlia’s turn to pick where we eat, and I don’t think she’d approve of the sabotage.”

Steve glanced out to watch the water. Her family all seemed perfectly content to simply surf, but it seemed that Tony and Ian had grown bored of surfing normally (or perhaps Ian had grown bored of failing) and had switched to (badly) attempting tandem surfing.

Tony managed to get Ian half way onto his shoulders before they overbalanced. While Ian dropped into the water Tony, miraculously, managed to keep his footing. He must have anticipated what came next, because he didn’t even try to fight it when Ian swam over and tipped Tony into the water. Steve let out a startled laugh.

“How long have they been surfing? They’re good.”

“Well, I don’t know about Tony, but it’s Ian’s first try.”

“You’re joking,” she said. She was looking at him with a bewildered expression.

“He’s a fast learner,” Steve hedged.

“I’ll say,” she mused. “I’d like to see him after he’s had some practice.”

Steve nodded. He would too. They watched what looked like Ian attempting to convince Tony to let him lift him onto his shoulders this time, which Tony was clearly refusing (Steve was sure Ian could lift him, but he was also pretty sure Tony wouldn’t be caught dead letting him). He laughed again as Ian splashed Tony, and Tony retaliated by dunking him. They looked happy.

They might need to make this vacation a more regular thing.

 

When Steve called them in for dinner, Ian insisted on one more attempt, swearing that he definitely had it this time.

“Come on, we can come back out after,” Tony insisted.

“Just one more,” Ian insisted. Tony followed his gaze, and instantly his smirk morphed into a full out grin.

“Showing off for your girlfriend?” he teased. Ian’s head snapped around so fast that Tony could practically feel it in his own neck.

“No!” he snapped. Tony grinned wider, and Ian held up a fist.

“Woah, slugger, calm down. Your bachelorhood’s safe with me. I’m gonna head in, though. You’ve got too much energy for this old man. Besides,” he said slyly, “you’re not going to impress your girlfriend when I’m right here—” Ian swiped at him—thankfully playful, or he wouldn’t have missed nor would he have held back—and Tony cackled.

“Leave him alone, Tony,” Steve chided, not unkindly, and Tony took that as an invitation to sidle up next to him.

“And what about you, Steve?” Tony asked playfully. “Impressed?”

“Oh very,” Steve said, mock-serious. “Especially with the way you so elegantly flailed every time you hit the water.”

“What can I say? I’m all grace.” He gave Steve a quick peck on the cheek before he snatched up his plate.

“Do you want to surf with me, Dad?”

“After you eat,” Steve promised.

 

The other family ended up packing up before they were finished eating, and Ian’s enthusiasm to surf quickly waned when Tony introduced the prospect of making s’mores.

After several hours of sitting around the bonfire, Ian eventually fell asleep. Steve got up from where Tony was leaning into his side and gently brushed the bangs back from Ian’s face.

“Me next,” Tony sighed, when Steve lifted Ian into his arms. Steve wasn’t looking forward to the day that Ian grew too big to do this, but he wasn’t going to dwell on that now, either. Steve smirked at Tony to show he’d heard him, and then went to go get Ian settled in his room. He didn’t so much as stir the entire trip—to be fair, it had been a long day, and swimming took a lot out of a person.

When he returned, Tony hadn’t moved an inch, either.

“I’m exhausted,” Tony whined when Steve dropped onto the blanket next to him. Steve grinned, and leaned over to press a kiss to Tony’s neck, just under his jaw.

“Too exhausted for funny business?” he asked into Tony’s skin. Tony scoffed, and turned his head to steal a proper kiss.

“Steve, I could be half dead and I wouldn’t be too exhausted for funny business. You know this. You’ve seen this.”

He had, more times than he’d like to admit.

“Well, I guess we don’t have to move to the bedroom,” Steve said.

“And if I sleep out here, I’ll be feeling it for a year,” Tony said, already pushing himself grudgingly to his feet. Steve couldn’t resist, reaching out to pinch him as he passed.

“Oh, you’ll be feeling it either way,” he said, as Tony gaped at him.

After a moment, his expression changed, from shock to desire. “I am holding you to that, holy shit.”

 

Tony might have regretted that in the morning, when Ian was in their bedroom at the most ungodly hour imaginable demanding that they both get out of bed before he was forced to leave without them, except, ha, no, Tony was never leaving this bed again.

Instead Tony groaned into his pillow while Steve, bright-eyed as ever, got up to make breakfast. Despite his resolve, Tony stumbled into the kitchen half an hour later.

“Can I go out on the beach for a while before breakfast?” Ian asked.

Tony hummed into his mug. “Fine, but stay where we can see you. If you wander off and your dad looks out that window and you’re gone, he’s going to assume you’ve drowned. And that won’t be fun for anybody.”

“I know,” Ian said, with no small amount of impatience.

“Well, then, go on,” Tony said. Ian grinned, and bounced out the door, but not before pausing to give Tony a hug. “Have fun,” Tony called after him, and then he got up to shut the door behind Ian, where it was still standing ajar.

He even politely didn’t comment when Steve went up to the window and not-so-subtly did his smothering from afar thing that he tended to do whenever Ian decided he wanted to exercise a little independence.

“So,” Tony said, clearing his throat pointedly. Steve didn’t even glance from the window, though he did narrow his eyes the way he always did when he expected Tony to tease him, “We’ve got this whole house to ourselves.” That got Steve attention, at least, and he dropped the shade on the window.

“Whatever are we going to do with all that free time?” Tony mused.

Steve hummed thoughtfully, a small smirk playing at the corner of his mouth. “I can think of a few things.”