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Closer to Fine

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Tony was bent over the bench in his workshop, face scrunched in sheer concentration as he fussed over the plans. For once, the genius was almost clean. Today was a planning day, not a building day and so the dirt on his person came from pencil, paper and general workshop debris. Oh, and that fourth cup of coffee. Dum-E had run into his leg and knocked Tony over as he went to take an absent-minded gulp of the life giving black liquid and half of it ended up on his shirt. It was a sign of his focus (or lack thereof – Tony’s mind helpfully supplied) that he didn’t even stop to threaten the clumsy bot. He barely noticed the spill at all to be honest. Which was a worry since the coffee had been fresh and piping hot.

There was a reason that JARVIS had strongly suggested that his top priority for the day should be to perfect the latest batch of blueprints to be sent to the fabrication department.

Tony huffed in frustration as he cut his finger on a sheet of paper as he thumbed through the completed work. Normally, all of this would have been done on the sophisticated holographic displays that every flat surface in the Avenger Tower seemed to be equipped with, but there was something about the floating and moving lights that Tony couldn’t deal with today. The swinging and sweeping motion of the graphics had made him want to scoop his eyes out with a rusty spoon and so he opted to do things the old-fashioned way for a change.

Some intern over at R&D could have the dubious honour of digitising the plans later. Wouldn’t be hard, he had excellent equipment and programmes after all. Even the explosion happy lackeys of the SI development team should be able to get through them with minimal mistakes.

Swear softly as the small cut welled up with an overly dramatic amount of blood, Tony pushed Dum-E and his proffered oily rag out of the way and reached for a tissue and wrapped up the small wound. Normally, Tony wouldn’t bother. It was just blood. But if the plans were going to be sent to SI then apparently, they should be free of bodily fluids. Tony had been reminded by Pepper more than once that although he may play fast and loose with his personal safety, the Work Place Safety Officer for the R&D department did not appreciate having to take complaints over biohazardous waste being sent via bike messenger. Sparing a thought for the poor officer’s sanity, Stark checked over the work for any signs of blood. Satisfied with his skills at appeasing the Workplace Safety God for the day, Tony was reaching for his cup of coffee when a crisp, british voice cut through his focus.

“Sir, if I may remind you, the time is now 6:30pm and if you wish to make yourself presentable before your date, it would be wise to cease working.”

Tony looked up from the plans and frowned, “J- are you sure, I swear it is only like, midday, at the latest.”

JARVIS seemed to sound irritated when he replied, “Sir I am rather certain indeed. I am not known to make such simple errors.”

Tony chuckled, “Yeah true. Ok. Have the plans sent over to R&D. I guess I should shower and get changed?”

“Given you have been working for 12 hours straight, I believe that anyone with an olfactory center would greatly appreciate it.”

Tony rolled his eyes as he made his way over to the small en suite in the corner of the workshop where the shower was already running hot and a clean and neat outfit had been laid out for him. “Jarvis, remind me to programme you to be less of a sassy shit?”

The disembodied response was curt, yet seemed fondly amused, “Certainly sir.”

Shaking his head at his AI’s sly wit, Tony stripped off and stepped into the shower. Hot water ran over his body and tension he hadn’t fully been aware of slipped out of his body. As the layers of sweat, graphite and coffee were stripped away the genius felt centered in a way he hadn’t all day. The shower just felt… Cleansing. It was easy to stand there and allow himself to be lost in the sensory overload of the water hitting his skin and rolling off, the sounds of the droplets slashing and the gurgle of the drain. Of the smell of the ridiculous body wash he loved and the faint chlorine bite that he hated.

And they always had to end too soon. Sighing, Tony shut off the water and quickly towelled himself off with one of the soft and oversized towels all bathrooms in the tower came equipped with and began dressing in the outfit that Natasha had picked out for him.

The entire team had a vested interest in tonight going well. Steve and Tony had been dancing around each other for months and it was out of sheer frustration that the rest of the Avengers had shut them in the library together, Mjolnir holding the door closed, until the two of them did something about the insane levels of flirtatious bickering they had subjected everyone to for the last 8 weeks. Eventually Steve had walked up to Tony, taken his hand and asked if he could take Tony out to dinner. Tony had stammered a reply in the affirmative, the rest of the team shouted “FINALLY” from behind the closed doors and a week later, here Tony was.

Standing in his workshop, waiting for Steve Freaking Rogers to knock at the door and pick him up for their date.

This is not where he had seen his life going. Tony was tempted to design a programme to ensure there was a warning system in place to let him know if he slipped through to an alternative universe. But he honestly had no idea how to approach that and he had a feeling that asking Bruce would just end with a lecture on allowing himself to be happy.

Scoffing at that thought for several reasons, Tony slipped on his shoes. Nat had informed him that although the date itself was a surprise, she had been assigned to ensure that he was appropriately dressed. Apparently, this simply constituted jeans, one of his comfortably worn, but not ratty band shirts, a bomber jacket he hardly ever wore and boots. Running a hand through his hair, Tony suppressed the urge to make JARVIS lock the workshop down. This date was clearly a terrible idea and would go horribly and it would be better to just not even start, let Steve deal and then go back to arguing 24/7. But he didn’t. Mostly because Tony was fairly certain JARVIS would simply refuse and also partly because Tony swore he would never be the reason for the patented ‘Steve Rogers: Kicked Puppy’ expression. And locking the door in the good Capsicle’s face would certainly result in the kicked puppy look.

Goddamn it

It would have been better to politely turn Steve down when he asked Tony out in the first place. Sure, he would have been sad, but he would have bounced back quickly. The man was nothing if not polite and considerate. If Tony had just said that the feelings were not mutual…

But then Natasha would kill him.

And it would have been slow and it would have been painful.

Not worth it

Huffing out a sigh Tony dropped himself onto the couch and rested his forearms on his thighs, right leg bobbing nervously up and down. Scraping a hand through his still wet hair, Tony tried to force himself to calm down. Paradoxically, his respiration sped up. It was 7:32pm and Steve was 2 minutes late.

It’s because he isn’t coming

Pushing to his feet, Tony stalked over to his work bench and opened the top draw and pulled out the flask. If he was going to sit around and wait for someone who clearly isn’t showing up, he was going to get drunk while doing it.

No sooner than the first mouthful of scotch slid down his oesophagus, there was a loud knock at the workshop door.

“Sir, Captain Rogers is requesting access to the workshop. Shall I unlock the door?”

At JARVIS announcement, Tony hastily recapped the flask and threw it on the bench. He coughed and straightened his shirt as he walked to the door, carefully hiding his anxiety under a mask of easy-going humour. “Yeah that’d be good J. Thanks”

***

“Well, the lover boys are off and running,” Clint announced as he dropped from a ceiling vent to land lightly next to Natasha and Bucky in the kitchen. Natasha rolled her eyes while Bucky clapped his hands together.

“‘Bout fucking time…’ Bucky huffed quietly, “God if they didn’t leave soon I was going to shoot them both.”

Sighing fondly, Nat turned to Clint, “You do know that the tower has doors right? And elevators and hallways that are larger than 3ft square.”

Clint grinned, “You know, I have heard that,” Clint replied in a smart arse tone, “but I just don’t think it is as fun. Also, you don’t overhear nearly as many conversations.”

Natasha’s eyes narrowed and she waited for Clint to continue.

Clint pushed on, “What I am trying to get at Agent Romanoff, is that I know you know where Cap is taking Stark tonight and I think you should share the goss.”

Bucky’s head snapped up from the microwave, “Wait, you know? Why do YOU know?! Steve’s my best friend!!’

Natasha threw Clint a glare before rolling her eyes at Bucky’s hurt expression, “Buck, for starters Steve doesn’t have to tell you everthing. If Steve had wanted you,” she turned to Clint, “either of you, to know what the plan was, he would have told you himself. But really, are you surprised? The two of you are not known for your secret keeping ability.”

Clint looked wounded, “I am a highly trained SHEILD operative with access to highly classified intelligence! And Bucky was the world’s most feared assassin! If Earth’s Mightiest Heroes can’t be trusted with freaking date plans, then how can we be trusted to protect the planet?!”

“I wonder the same thing every day. I don’t know how in hell you got through your security clearances because you and Barnes over here are some of the biggest gossips I know.” Replied, gesturing at Bucky who was still moping over being left out of the circle of trust. Ignoring the two men, she stalked into the living room where Bruce was watching TV. Clint followed her, grabbing Bucky by the arm on the way.

Bruce looked up as the three of them entered the room and cocked an eyebrow at the display. Nat was walking towards him as if she were totally oblivious to the moping super soldier being dragged by the archer, trailing in her wake. The two men were now bickering between them over which was the least trust worthy. Bruce smiled at his friends. He never expected to have friends, let alone ones he could live with in such a comfortable manner. Even at their most annoying and frustrating, Bruce looked at his team mates with the sort of fondness that most people reserved for their kids doing something particularly endearing.

Bruce was snapped out of his reflection by the mention of his name “Look, Bruce will back me up on this, but neither of you can be trusted with anything that isn’t directly related to a national or international secret. Anything less important than that and the two of you are meeting in darkly lit rooms and swapping titbits like old ladies. I didn’t want Tony’s night ruined by your enthusiastic thirst for secrets.”

Nat looked at Bruce for back up, “She’s right. Remember the surprise party incident?”

Clint rolled his eyes and Bucky threw his hands up, “It’s not my fault that I don’t understand how email works! Clint never taught me the difference between ‘reply’ and ‘reply to all’!”

Traitor,” Clint whispered to Bucky.

***

Tony ran a hand through his hair as the elevator doors closed on his blonde team mate. As far as dates went, it was a good one. Actually, scratch that, it may have been the best Tony had ever had. Steve had picked Tony up from the workshop door with a gentle kiss on the cheek. They had left the tower on the back of Steve’s bike and eaten at a tiny diner in Brooklyn where no one looked at them twice. Steve took the scenic route home, stopping to walk hand in hand through the Central Park. The conversation had been light and relaxed. Banter came easily and stayed on the right side of teasing. There were no awkward silences and no work talk. When the night came to an end, Steve had walked Tony to his door and kissed him good night.

Nothing had gone wrong. It really was a perfect night.

It was a first.

And it was shocking.

***

Tony kept waiting for it to sour. Each date had been as perfect as the first. Steve was gentle and patient. He never pushed for more than Tony was willing to give and the man seemed to actually listen and pay attention when Tony spoke.

He never brought Tony flowers (“Flowers are so weird right? Like you are literally saying ‘I like you, have a bunch of dismembered plant sex organs’. So romantic’), and he always let Tony sit with his back to the wall.

The man was so damn considerate and Tony had never felt so loved. It made him want to do better, to be better. He got rid of the booze stashed away in the workshop and his penthouse. If he was going to drink, it would be with the team, not holed up alone with only JARVIS for company. Tony made attempts to keep some sort of regular sleep and eating schedule in an effort to see Steve as much as possible.

For the first time in a long time, Tony made an effort to look after himself.

Steve rewarded the efforts with soft, gentle kisses and stroking hands. When they did eventually make it to bed, Steve had made it his mission to shower every inch of Tony in adoration and love. Tony responded in his own way. Quietly, Steve began to notice things around him changing. At some point the tiles in his bathroom had become heated, so he no longer dreaded the cold of them in the morning. His pantry slowly filled with his favourite 40’s comfort foods and someone seemed to have tracked down a damn good replica of his favourite shaving cream.

Little things.

But the reminded him that someone loved him.