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A Symphony of Laughter

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-o-

R. Thank you for your time and input during this partnership. All is flowing smoothly due to your assistance. Everything should be complete by Sunday morning. Keep me up to date.

--S.P.

Steve’s head snapped away from his computer screen, hearing the loud steps of Schmidt from outside the room. His eyes quickly scanned the message once more before he deleted the email and pulled up next month’s reports. His fingers typed over the keyboard as quickly as he could, appearing as if he’d been working for hours—as he was supposed to be.

Schmidt, with his balding brunette hair and always sunburn-looking face, came in. His thin lips were pulled into a tight frown, his teeth grinding together as he hissed out vulgar curses and slurs.

Steve needed to inhale through his nose to keep his mouth shut against the spew of insults. Today, Schmidt had words against Italians—though it was not a surprise. Regardless of how usual it was it still did not ease up the boiling anger within but he distracted himself by singing the Happy Days’ theme in his head.

“Afternoon.” Steve looked up from his computer screen to give his stepfather the standard polite greeting. “You look…” he cleared his throat awkwardly, “should I assume the meeting did not go so well?”

“Get me a drink.” Schmidt snapped his answer.

“Any kind or do you want one of the strong ones?” Steve was already making his way to the bar, pulling out the glass.

“Strong. Balkan or Stroh, if we have any left.”

After a few moments of rummaging around, Steve found a bottle of Stroh left and poured some into the glass and handed it over. “That bad?”

“That man is a menace. A headache and a sick prick of a pain in my side.” He grabbed the glass and shot back the drink and tossed the glass back at Steve for more.

The blond kept his face, and therefore his twitching lips, hidden as he did as demanded.

“He is nothing more than a child. And he,” Schmidt nearly slapped the re-filled glass out of Steve’s hand in his desperation to get more alcohol in him. “He is now taking everything that belongs to me.”

“At least you fought and you’re getting something out of it.” Steve noted, keeping himself a safe distant from the clearly enraged man.

“Twenty million measly dollars. Hydra is worth at least four hundred million. The tech that’s now in Stark’s hands…that…that is a sick reality.” His lips pulled back in a snarl but Steve thought it made his face look skull-like. “He does not deserve the knowledge. You,” he pointed to Steve in a shape of a gun. “You sure no one else was interested in anything?”

“You double-checked them yourselves.” Steve responded, his stomach twisting at the accusation. “The ones who can afford buying blueprints or information can’t afford getting caught with them. Stark Industries has its hand in far too many things and have some deadly connections, both governments and otherwise. Even Pierce was weary on getting caught with his hand in the cookie-jar and losing his government stance.”

“It also helped that Stark got all of this underway within a month.” He was gripping the glass so hard it sounded like it was close to shattering. “How the hell did he take me down in a month’s time? Where did he get the information to make it go so well in his favor?”

“Well,” Steve shrugged nonchalantly, “he certainly has had practice in take-overs. You’re what? Number eighteen just in the past six years?”

Schmidt cursed again and smashed his drink against his desk. “To make it even better,” he started to walk around, his wide nostrils flexing in his rage, “there will be a big party to celebrate this new union of ours.”

“A party.” Steve repeated, interested.

“Yes, a party.” Schmidt huffed as he continued to pace. “The Starks have always been notorious party-folk, especially the men. Always throwing their exuberant riches around to keep the little folk under their heel.”

“Surprise you don’t like it.” Steve commented, suppressing a flinch when the black eyes turned to glare him down.

“Not when I am considered a little folk to them. They bought me out, Steven. As if things weren’t bad enough when Howard was in charge…now that his son has taken over everything is worse.”

Steve did not bother to ask how it was worse. Hydra Enterprises wasn’t growing in popularity compared to Stark. The company literally had no competition once Anthony Stark officially took over. His brilliant strategies, perfected inventions, and humanitarian ways had him out-shining everyone else in the field. All were eventually absorbed into it or finally taken down by the man’s hand. Schmidt’s weapon-focused property just did not have the means or the customer support in an age where war felt to be slowly dying out.

In the end, despite Schmidt holding out as best as he could from pride, Hydra fell under Stark’s reign like the rest.

At least he still had profit shares and was coming out of the deal a millionaire but that wasn’t the issue. The issue was he lost. Lost to a man only nine years Steve’s senior at thirty-eight to Steve’s twenty-nine. A “child” with an attitude problem. It was a painful blow to everything Schmidt worked for and felt he deserved.

It made it difficult to keep the ecstatic smile down on Steve’s face.

Johann Schmidt always had a big ego and did not take kindly to the loss.

If he could, Steve would be willing to kiss Stark’s shoes for the suffering he was giving the bastard. The man was a king among kings to Steve and what he was putting an end to.

“Shit.” Schmidt ground his teeth and then went to a large wardrobe and Steve’s twisted stomach dropped in realization. “Shirt off, Steven. This has gotten me quite disappointed.”

He bit his lip but did as told. He sat on his knees and kept his back straight as he heard the soft thwap of the riding crop hitting Schmidt’s open palm. He closed his eyes and still found it in himself to smile. The anger from his stepfather may have grown since the buy-out, but what did that matter?

Weapons of war were no longer being created and sold. Employees were no longer to be underpaid and overused. Schmidt’s oh so strong partnerships with low-life black-market dealers were crumbling. Crooked government officials were getting sniffed out.

It was thanks to Anthony Stark that it was happening.

Steve could easily take what Schmidt gave to him instead.

That’s what he told himself when he felt the air crackle as the crop flew towards his back.

-o-

“So this party is a celebration for Stark and Schmidt’s union.” Steve explained as he took slow sips of his milkshake. He always took great care to enjoy these splurges when he could.

“Union?” Sam repeated, his lips quirked.

“That’s the term he wants to use.” Steve sniggered with his giddy smirk. “But I think Stark may actually be going along with it.” He waved off the reason. “Whatever the case, in a matter of a few hours there is no longer a Hydra Enterprises and all the weapons’ info is falling into the hands of a humanitarian, green company.”

Sam raised his strawberry shake up in a toast. “Now, that is the best of news.” He stabbed his straw into a chunk of strawberry and popped it into his mouth. “Tell me, does Schmidt know?”

“I don’t think so.” Steve shrugged as if he did not care. “He’s never been very involved in the backdrop of the company. Ever since he had me learn everything it always fell on me.”

Sam paused in his enjoyment of the drink to look at Steve seriously. “I would like more than an I don’t know. If he ever found out that you were the one who made first anonymous contact with Stark Industries then…I’m worried what he’ll do.”

“I’ll be fine. It was worth it no matter what Schmidt finds out. The papers are signed, all the information has been transferred, and it has been made official by announcement. All that’s left is settling some of Schmidt’s finances which,” Steve took a fry and dunk it in his chocolate shake, “will take place tomorrow morning. Besides, even if he finds out he couldn’t pull back; they’re the ones who have to break the contract now. Stark Industries was going to take over or wipe him out eventually. This way he actually gets something out of it.”

“More than he deserves.” Sam still did not look settled and his eyes focused on Steve’s left shoulder. “Is it healing up?”

“Yeah, don’t worry about it.” He flipped the fry into his mouth and shrugged his right shoulder, keeping his left side as still as possible. “It didn’t need stiches.”

“But it still bled.”

“Well he was angry.”

Sam crossed his arms over his chest, his eyes cold. “I hate this, Steve.”

“I know. Me too. But I can’t get out of it just yet. Not until this is over with.”

His friend sighed heavily and shook his head. “It isn’t fair.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Steve inhaled the last few bites of his burger. “Hydra is going down. People won’t be hurt from his choices any more.”

“I’m not sure you’re worth this sacrifice. I get it, Hydra isn’t a friendly company--”

“Its produce has been responsible for several hundred civilian casualties. He has overlooked so many environmental and human safety regulations.” Steve reminded him. “He uses over-shore companies that go under the radar and uses child labor and fear over the workers. Even those on US property are underpaid and treated wrong. The whole thing is corrupt. And I am going to see to it that it falls.”

Sam sighed in defeat. “Of course, you had to go and be a whistleblower.” He rubbed his hands over his face. “But this week is the end, right? After all of it you’re moving in with me and Bucky, taking a job at the center, and you’re never getting near this bastard again.”

Steve smiled and nodded, “Yeah, that’s the plan.”

Sam stared him down, making sure he was giving him his word, before he nodded and pulled back to focus on his own food. “Fine. But I will come over there and drag you out of that hellhole myself if you don’t. Understand?”

Steve gave a salute, which earned him a french-fry to the forehead.

“So, this party. You going?”

“Me?” Steve licked over his fingers and shook his head. “No, I’m not invited.”

“Hydra’s CEO’s stepson isn’t invited to the event?”

“I’ve never met Stark or anyone from his side. I’m not sure if they really know I exist. Besides, the old man doesn’t want me to come. He has me working on all sorts of paperwork that I have to get done before the morning.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s going to take me hours to get it done and supposedly Stark parties last for days. Or at least throughout the whole night.”

Sam scowled, “But this is your doing; your hard work. You’re not going to see it off? You’re practically hours away from freedom. Why push yourself so much for paperwork?”

“I don’t want to raise any suspicion. Besides,” Steve shrugged again. “It’s not like I could get in. I don’t have an invitation. Not to mention clothes.” He downed his milkshake, licking his lips and looked at the empty glass with his sad puppy eyes.

Sam sighed and waved over the waitress for a chocolate-shake to-go and handed over his credit card.

“Thanks, Sam.” Steve smiled awkwardly. “I promise to pay you back once I have access to a bank-account.”

“Don’t start that again.” Sam warned. “You’re my best guy, Steve. You set me up with Bucky and you’ve got the center some donations. Not to mention I wouldn’t hold you to pay me back when your bank account is literally frozen or under watch from a fucker like Schmidt.” He shifted in the booth seat, his nostrils flexing as he tried to calm his breathing. “Whatever. We won’t talk about that till later. I want focus back on the party.”

Steve pursed his lips, “I’m not sure what else there is to talk about. I can’t go.”

Can’t.” Sam snorted. “That’s ridiculous. You’ve never let that word stop you before. Case and point; taking down a multi-million dollar company. You need to go to it. Crash that party, hit up some hot people, eat caviar and shrimp or whatever rich white folk scarf down, and enjoy your victory.”

“Stark isn’t just white. His mom was Italian. He has very tanned skin. And Howard Stark came from a Jewish family.” Steve muttered.

“Yeah, that was the thing you needed to focus on.” Sam tilted a brow. “That’s another thing; you need to go and at least feast upon Stark with your eyes. This little hero’s crush you have on him is sad.”

“It is not a crush.”

“Uh-huh.” Sam thanked the waitress when she returned with his receipt and Steve’s milkshake. “You need to go. I’m going to make sure you go.”

“What? Why?”

“I’ve already told you man, pay attention.”

“Ok, then you pay attention: I can’t get in without an invitation or without meeting the proper dress-code. And incase you aren’t aware; all I have are Salvation Army slacks, jeans, and sweats.”

“God, that still burns my stomach that Schmidt is well off and he won’t pay you right so you could get some better clothes.”

Steve wanted to pull his hair out. He understood Sam’s issues, things within Steve’s life were not good and had their roles been switch (and God, was Steve so happy they weren’t) he would be just as protective over his friend. It was crushing to see someone you cared about in such a position. But, he was nearly thirty. He could survive the abuse, he chose to survive the abuse, for the good of others. There were more important things to worry about than Steve’s lack of proper fitting clothing, denial of food, and constant raw back.

“But you’re going. Simple as that.”

Steve started to slurp on his new shake, tilting a brow at his friend, “How?”

“Don’t you mind. Just text me the moment Schmidt leaves tonight. I can handle the rest.”

Something uncomfortable tingled upon Steve’s back. “What do you mean?”

“Just text me, ok?”

Steve’s lips pulled into a frown, but something curious wormed its way around his head. He wouldn’t lie; seeing Stark in all his glory was tempting. Not to mention it would be nice to see such a spectacular event. Anything with Stark’s stamp on it was always notorious for being the best of the best.

His fingers scrapped the Styrofoam cup for a few moments as he felt that unsettling need to face a challenge.

“Ok.”

-o-

Schmidt left at five-pm.

He left in a mood just as foul as before. A vein was throbbing on his temple and his fingers continuously cracked as they made fists. Had in not already been pristine and ready for the evening, Steve feared Schmidt would’ve wanted another go at his back to relieve himself of the stress.

As promised, he texted Sam, though he waited twenty minutes after the car left. Better safe than sorry, after all. Sam responded back quickly and said he’d be at Steve’s property within ten minutes so he needed to quickly shower and brush his teeth.

It was an awkward rush, but Steve still did as told and was finding himself nauseated with excitement and regret the whole time. His hands had started to shake when a classy limo pulled up in front of the house, honked once, and then Sam unnecessarily texted to announce his arrival.

Steve tiptoed out, worried any moment Schmidt would appear, and had to keep his courage steady to not rush back in and avoid the risk the night would surely bring. He always found himself bold and stupid with most challenges, but this was stretching him a bit thin when he was already risking so much. One can only handle so much ‘jump off a cliff without looking’ acts in one week.

“Steve,” Sam greeted with a wide grin as he rushed up to his friend and dragged him out the brownstone. “This is Natasha.”

Steve blinked and gave a polite greeting to the gorgeous redhead who was wearing impeccable make-up and an itty-bitty black dress that Steve wanted to compliment on her for filling out so well. She had an impassive, but stunning, face as she looked him up and down.

“Wilson, you really need to stop over-exaggerating. This man won’t be hard work at all.” She said before she started to circle around him like a vulture. “A bit unusual body type for a man with his torso broad and his waist small but I can work with that easily.”

“Uh?”

She gently reached up and grabbed his chin and titled him around. “Sweet face. Just needs a little cleaned up.” She frowned. “You look tired.”

“Just been busy.”

“Uh-huh.” She then wormed her finger for him to follow her into a very nice and sleek limo. She entered in smoothly, without any hitch of her dress or snag of her hose. “Come along, Steve.”

When Steve took a moment too long to get in, uncertain, she reached out and grabbed his collar and yanked him inside.

Sam grinned as he came in as well, securing the door and trapping Steve in the middle of them both.

“Nat here is an ex of Bucky’s and a friend of mine. She also happens to have a strong connection with the Stark family.” He stretched out on the seat. “I filled her in on what was going on and she was more than happy to help us out.”

“You told her?”

“Sorry,” he held up his hands, “I didn’t tell her much. Just that you are the demon’s stepson and that you’ve been a big help with everything. Besides,” he motioned to Natasha who was studying the blond intently. “She’s the head of Stark Security. She needed to know.”

Steve looked down in surprise when Natasha’s hands pushed up his too-stand-out pectorals and gave them a squeeze. “Uh, can I help you?”

“I think I can get you squeezed into something without much issue.” She pursed her lips and dropped Steve’s breasts back to their normal location. “It may be a tight fit, you won’t want to flex, but it’ll work.” She pulled out her phone, also sleek, from her small purse and started texting. “Ok, we are to go through the back where we’ll get you fixed up.”

Steve shifted, “This is a little uncomfortable.”

“You’re not getting cold feet.” Sam warned. “The doors are locked anyway.”

He sighed and allowed Natasha to continue looking over him (he assumed for weapons along with his size) and making texts to an unknown party through her phone. She had a stubborn look on her face as well and Steve knew he was not getting out of the car unless it was for the party.

“Ok, ok. But I need to get back early.” Steve said. “I need to get some of the work done or Schmidt will be pissed. So I’ll leave by eleven or twelve at the latest.”

Sam and Natasha’s lips thinned and Steve worried how much the woman knew of his life.

“Deal. I’m going to be around,” Sam waved his phone around. “Text me when you’re ready and I’ll have the driver come pick you up. We’ll have your clothes here in the limo so you can change on the way back.”

Steve nodded slowly, his nerves still frazzled but something eager was starting to grow. He couldn’t like, he loved doing things he was told he couldn’t do. Especially if Schmidt was the person who told him no.

‘There isn’t much to be nervous about anyway.’ He thought. ‘I’m going to get whipped no matter what I do. Might as well try this rich white food Sam was so curious about.’ He smirked and tried not to laugh.

It took fifteen minutes to get to the location of the party; Stark Industries NY’s location. It must’ve burned Schmidt all the more to have to enjoy himself in such a place. Stark was truly rubbing in the victory.

Their limo peeled around back and into a garage that appeared to be heavily monitored. Wasting no time, Natasha had the doors opened and pulled Steve into a white hallway and then into an employee locker room. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he could already hear the loud pumping of music.

“Undress.”

“B-But you--”

“Now.” She ordered.

“Just do it. She does need to make sure you’re not carrying anything anyway.” Sam explained.

“Well…fine, fine. Just,” he pointed to Sam, “don’t say anything about it ok?”

Sam sighed and nodded with a heavy promise. “Ok, just get to it. I don’t want you missing out on anything.”

With his own heavy sigh, not wanting to delay it any longer, he stripped himself down to his underwear and socks. The room was silent for a few breaths and he knew the both of them were absorbing the scars peeking over his shoulders from behind his back.

“Those too.” Natasha snapped her fingers and broke the silence. “They have holes in them.”

“Fine, ok.” He did not understand why socks would mater but apparently rich people were prepared to check socks to verify wealth. “There. Now what?”

“Now you get dressed.” She went to a locker, tapped in a code (as all of them had no locks but an electronic keypad) and pulled out a sleek but simple tuxedo. “Here, socks first, then pants. You ever wore a bowtie?”

Steve shook his head as he placed everything on as demanded. He was surprised how nice the material felt. Tuxedos always looked so stiff and tight in movies, not matter how easily Bond moved in them. Well, it was just a smidge tight. It hugged him a little too closely in some places but from the shirts to the pants it all felt nice.

“Jacket. I think it’s going to hit you a little higher on your waist than normal but I think it’s going to work for you.” Natasha helped him slip in on then went to work on the bowtie. After rearranging it briefly then fluffing up Steve’s hair she stepped back to admire her work.

“Ok, here we go.” Natasha grinned and it was a nice expression on her face. “Looking good, Rogers.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, you’re looking amazing, Steve. You’re coming home with some numbers tonight.” Sam agreed, practically bouncing in his excitement.

“You think?” He had never…well never anything before. Dating, sex, even most friendships were strictly off-limits. Schmidt needed Steve available to work at all hours and things like that would simply get in the way. It hadn’t clicked till just that moment that in a few hours, he may have the chance to pursue things like that.

His heart couldn’t help but speed up at the idea.

“No doubt in my mind. Now, don’t you get disappointed if you don’t meet Stark. I want you to, of course, but don’t get too hopeful.” Sam warned. “And don’t just take any drinks from anyone, ok? You get the drink yourself. Also, don’t let anyone lead you to a dark corner. You’re bound to get ravished and they’re taking you out to dinner at least once before that.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Steve mused with a smile at Sam’s overprotectiveness. “Ok, so,” he inhaled and exhaled, “I guess time to party?”

“Damn straight. Now you follow Natasha, she’ll get you inside. When ready, just go back the same way and come out here.”

“A co-worker will be on the look out for you and will make sure you get back here without any trouble. This route isn’t available to anyone not Stark approved.” Natasha noted as she started to drag him away.

Sam grinned and waved, calling out, “Text me when you’re ready! And have fun!”

“O-Ok!” Steve tripped as bit, trying to keep up with the powerful woman. They stopped by a door after some turns down hallways and she knocked three times and another man with blond hair popped his head in.

“Yo.”

“Barton, this is Steve. The special case. Remember his face and let him in this route. If there is any issue just call me,” she dangled her phone, “and I’ll take care of it. But under no circumstances stop this man from leaving.”

“Or you’ll castrate me. Read loud and clear.” He reached around and gave a handshake to Steve. “Clint Barton. Any issues, just let me know.”

“I appreciate that. Appreciate all of this, thank you.”

Natasha checked her watch, snapped her fingers, and Clint offered up an earpiece to her. She slipped it on, pressed it against her ear, “Nat in. Just handling a personal issue. Plan is still a-go. Keep eyes out on Schmidt.”

Steve blinked in surprise, “You’re looking out for him?”

“Not just for you, Steve.” She explained. “We make sure to look after any CEO we bring to ruin. We worry one day, one of them will snap, and we’ll have a hurt Stark.”

“Oh, god, I really hope that doesn’t happen.” Steve hated the idea of anything happening to Tony Stark.

“It won’t. Not with me around.” She huffed as if the thought of something happening to her boss on her watch was the most insulting and ridiculous accusation in the world. “Now, go on and party. It was nice meeting you.” She gave him a nod, spun around, and stalked off as she talked into her earpiece.

“Yeah, she is always like that.” Clint answered the unasked question. “Alright, in you go.”

“I…well, uh, ok,” Steve allowed Clint to grab him and pull him in. Instantly the thumping of music took over his bones. It was loud and energetic. Lights followed the beat of the music, swishing around the floor, and with a mass of bodies hopping around.

“Uh…” Steve blinked again.

“Yeah, wild, huh?” Clint grinned. “Two floors of nothing but partying. You’ll have no issue finding food. It’s everywhere. Starks loves to eat. Don’t worry about the music, it’ll ease into something soothing soon enough. It goes from hard-beats to classical every other hour.”

“Women are…amazing. How the hell are they doing moves like that in those heels?”

“Many are already tipsy too. I’ve done so many parties and have yet to figure it out. Oh, and most every outfit in here is worth at least five-hundred bucks and everyone can still act like this in them.” Clint laughed. “Once it gets late it gets even better because then the majority are out of their minds plastered and high off fun.”

“Huh.” Steve looked around, still in awe over it all. He’d never been to such an event before. There was so much energy and craziness. It was almost too much for him to handle. His head hurt and his chest felt tight. “I…think I’ll stick back for a bit.”

“Introvert, huh? Yeah, I get it. We got a friend, Bruce, he’s one of the head scientist in Stark Industries, hates these things. He’s only around for his necessary speeches, a few handshakes, stuffing his pockets with all the bites he can manage and then he’s off to his office to watch a BBC Masterpiece. Take your time. But really, go check out the food. They’re so fucking good.”

“I’ll keep a look out for everything. Thank you, Barton.”

“Call me Clint. Romanov and I use last names during shifts. I’ll be right around here if you need anything. Oh, there we go.” Clint nodded as the music shifted. “Speeches are about to be made. After that, the music will stay soft for a few hours.”

“Ok, well…ok.” Steve swallowed, nerves but straightened his back and walked into the crowd.

“Good luck, Steve!” Clint waved as well.

‘Jesus,’ Steve tried to squeeze around people without touching anyone. Everyone was either very squishy and sweaty or painfully gorgeous—it did not seem like there was any in-between of the rich.

‘To be fair, most millionaires and above have to sit to work. Don’t be a jerk, Rogers.’

Like Clint warned, it looked like they were decked out in more money Steve was allowed to see in six months. Women had diamonds and emeralds from head to toe, and gorgeous dresses as applaud worthy as Natasha’s. Not to mention the heels. All, no matter the age, were in impressive stilettos that made Steve want to wail, “HOW?! Your poor feet!” and offer a massage or something.

The men blended in a little better. Unlike the women’s vibrant rainbow colors and energetic shoes, most all of the males were decked out in black tux’s much like Steve’s own. Every so often there was someone with daring red or dark blue but nothing that really took Steve’s artistic breath away.

Well, no one until the music swelled up and then to a dramatic down and all the lights went black except upon a stage Steve had not noticed before. A man appeared, waving his hands as if to shush the predictable roar of applauds—which happened almost instantaneously—and a smirk on his face.

“Oh.” Steve breathed out, far dreamier than he'd like to admit.

“Evening, evening. I won’t make this long. I know we all want to get started on the party.” Stark said, giving a pointed look to the open bar in the corner. A few people clapped at it, excited. “Tonight is a night worth celebrating. It’s a union and a start of something new and grand.”

“Jesus.” He whispered, looking up at Stark in awe. He wasn’t even sure what the man was saying…his senses were all jumbled up. His suit was different from all the other men. Stark was dressed casual and sharp. His shirt a crisp white with a cerulean tie that popped out well. His jacket was a softer blue and pinstriped white with a dark gray handkerchief in the front pocket. His pants, from Steve’s distance, actually looked closer to jeans than something like a suit. And unless his eyes were deceiving him, the man actually had sneakers on.

What a beautiful sight and a fantastic insult to Schmidt. Hydra’s colors were red and black and there was not a speck of either color on Stark’s form. The fact that he was also dressed so casually while Steve knew Schmidt was a bit more dolled up made the snub even better. It was well known the man had an impressive collection of outfits and that many designers were all but crawling over each other to get a chance to put Stark in something of theirs.

This was deliberate and it was gorgeous.

Not too mention everything else about the man…from the way Tony moved, his hands twisting around in the air, his legs dancing around…it almost looked like nonsense but every movement was smooth and powerful. He took up the whole party, not just the stage. Everyone seemed to be lost in some sort of hypnotic stare at Tony Stark.

He went on speaking for a few more minutes before he elegantly swung his arms to the side and Schmidt walked out, his face still serious but not quite so angry. His applause was impressive but still not to the intensity of Stark.

Steve didn’t care as he hid behind one of the chunkier patrons and tried to keep his head down and out of sight. No one seemed to mind his obvious hiding, but he realized it would be best to try not to earn stares and attention.

“To this wonderful union.” Stark said, holding up a drink Steve hadn’t seen him pick up.

“To a good future.” Schmidt deadpanned and their glasses clinked in a toast.

That was enough for the audience who started applauding again. Tony gave a dramatic bow while Schmidt simply nodded to the crowd.

“Now, enjoy the night!” Stark finished, his voice loud over the excitement.

‘What am I doing here?’ Steve maneuvered his way to a corner, watching Stark share some quiet words with his stepfather. Stark’s back was to Steve but his posture did not look quite as relaxed. Schmidt was wearing a familiar smile of hot anger.

Even from his spot, Steve understood the expression clearly and his shoulders lowered in defeat.

Schmidt was coming home furious.

Steve knew, without a doubt, the beating Schmidt was about to give him would leave more scars.

His fingers itched to text Sam. The large space all of a sudden felt so small. There were thousands of bodies enjoying the party but Schmidt was going to find him. He’d know and then Steve would have more to worry about than a few scars.

Kneecaps shaking, Steve took a moment to gather his breathing and stop seeing spots. This was something he expected, he was prepared for. He couldn’t keep hiding from a life. He needed to learn how to enjoy himself. In just a matter of hours he’ll have options and if he couldn’t get the anxiety under control he was going to have a very difficult time experiencing the word fun.

‘Let’s get a drink and some food. If I’m not able to calm down after that then it’s time to go.’ He settled on that plan. It sounded fair and he predicted Schmidt would be busy for another thirty minutes with small talk before he could freely stalk the party for future investors to get his dark business back up.

Besides the nausea from fear, he was actually quite hungry and he’d never been allowed to try party foods like this before.

On the way to the bar, Steve paused and grabbed a few hors d’oeuvres from walking waiters. There were all sorts of amazing bites. Something with fig and prosciutto, a savory mousse, many different crunchy pieces of bread with all sorts of items piled and spread on top, and so many cheeses. And that was just his thirty-feet path to the bar. There was a small buffet of meats and bread in one corner, a massive table of desserts in another, and what appeared to be at least a hundred staff members carrying trays of food all of the place.

Clint was right about the food. There was no way he could try it all…but dammit, he was going to make an attempt. At least he could earn a beating with a sickly full stomach.

Steve’s attention was everywhere. He simply could not keep up. One moment he was following the sight of food, the next a beautiful woman dancing on heels (he’ll never get over that), men in groups laughing like friends, the lights…the music…it was overwhelmingly blinding.

So blinding in fact, he smashed chest first into another patron and nearly sent the gentleman sprawled to the ground.

“Shit!” He gasped as his reflexes kicked in and he gently grabbed the man to keep him from falling back. “Oh, oh God, I am so sorry. I was not paying attention at all. Are you ok? I’ve been told I’m like a brick wall.” He babbled in a nervous panic.

“Yeah, yeah.” He waved off the apologies. “I didn’t spill my drink, so everything is good.”

“Ok, ok…good…oh.” Steve’s blood rushed out of his face once he paid attention to who he smashed into. “M-Mr. Stark. Well…shit.”

The man laughed good naturally, “That’s one way to…oh. Oh.”

Steve blinked and now found his cheeks overflowing with blood and heat as he was now staring straight into Tony’s eyes. They were so intense and brown and it made Steve lose control over his breath for a moment. Somehow, it felt like everything shifted and nothing would ever be the same. “I…well…this was not the way I wanted to ever get to meet you. Very, very sorry.” He tried to get out of the man’s way and air, hoping he still had it in him to continue to the bar. All he wanted to do was go home and smack his head against Schmidt’s expensive, mahogany desk.

“Hey, hey, where are you running off to?” Tony grabbed his arm and pulled him back. “Keep me company for a bit.”

“I…ok?” Steve was surprised and his expression showed it.

“Now,” Tony tapped his chin as he looked Steve up and down for a few breaths. “Why haven’t I seen you before?”

Steve frowned, heart picking up in worry he was about to be caught. “First time to an event like this.”

“First time? No, no, no that won’t do! You’re far too pretty to not be shown off at a place like this.” Tony reached over and grabbed Steve’s hand, “Well, I need to be properly introduced. I’m Tony Stark.”

“I-I’m, Ste-VE!” He yelped when Tony kissed his hand.

“You squeaked!” Tony laughed, not carrying about the stares thrown their direction. “Too cute. Steve was it? Last name?”

“Rog…” He cleared his throat and shook his head to try and get some dignity back into himself. “Rogers. Steve Rogers.”

“Rogers.” Tony looked thoughtful. “Not sure I recognize the last name. Sorry about that. I’m not the best with names. Mechanical equations, the elements, parts to a car I have memorized for days…but not names.”

Steve shook his head. “I’m no one important so I doubt you’d heard my name.”

“Psh, no one important? Now that is impossible to believe. Rising starlet? Company heir? Model?”

“Uh…no? I mostly do some IT work and Graphic Designs.” Steve winced weakly. That did not sound like someone who would be invited to such an event. What if Tony asked for his invitation? What if Schmidt got involved? “I…just…”

“No? You’re not a model?” Tony continued in disbelief. “Really? Well you should be. Ah, an editor of People’s Magazine is here. I’ll make sure to introduce you two. I’m sure she’ll agree you need to be on covers of something. Magazine, books, beds…whatever.”

“Beds?”

“Oh, glad you agree with me.”

“I…no, no,” Steve gulped and shook his head. His mind was racing a mile a minute and was causing him such a headache. He cleared his throat and tried to stop seeing spots to speak clearly. “I’m not someone who wants to be a model. I like being behind the canvas.”

“An artist?”

“Not, not really no. I like art. Do it in my free-time but…” He shrugged, feeling very awkward. How did conversations work again?

“I appreciate art. I don’t go view it enough. We should go to an art museum next week and you can tell me all about what we see. Ah,” he looked at the flabbergasted Steve and then behind him, “you were on your way to get a drink weren’t you? Come on, let’s get you something.”

“Ok?” Steve allowed the man to pull him along. ‘What the hell is going on?’

“So,” Tony kept himself close to Steve’s side, their fingers brushing as they walked which made Steve blush and flinch. “Tell me about yourself. Who are you here with?”

“Oh,” he looked away as an uneasy sensation washed over him. It was never pleasant to talk about Schmidt. “My stepfather.”

“Just your stepdad? No date?” Tony raised a hand and a drink was provided for him instantly. “Here, house special. One of the best available tonight.”

Steve blushed and took the drink Tony offered him with tense fingers. “Thank you and no, just him. But I’m doing my best to avoid him at all costs.” The idea he was so close had Steve give a quick peek around the room. No sign of him. But he wouldn’t be far. Surely he would be on the prowl for Stark to continue business negotiations.

“Father trouble, hmm, yeah I can get that. Your mom?”

“Died three months after she married him. Lung issues.”

Tony’s cheerful face fell into something truly sympathetic. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Steve shifted on his feet and tried for an air of nonchalance. “It was over ten years ago. Still stings but,” he left it at that with a look he was sure was sadder than he wanted. “I would ask about yourself and these issues but everything about you seems to be in the public eye.” He winced. “Sorry about that. And sorry about your own father and mother.”

“I get some perks with the public sacrifices. So it’s not all a big lost. And thank you.”

It felt a little tense with the heavy conversation and Steve wondered if he was about to leave for another guest but the man stuck to his side. “The rumors about your parties certainly aren’t overestimated.”

Tony grinned. “No? Good to hear. I always try to outdo myself. Besides, I felt a great need to rub someone’s nose in it.”

Steve knew loud and clear who he meant and practically choked over his drink in his laughter.

“Whoa,” Tony rubbed his back, starting from the center and trailing down a bit lower a few times. “I didn’t think it was that funny.”

“Sorry, no, it’s,” he cleared his throat, still chuckling, “I get the feeling I know who you’re talking about. I guess I pictured his red face growing even redder.”

Tony’s electric grin grew, “You do know, eh?”

“I bet that was rude of me.”

“Rude over Skeletor? No. The man’s ego is bigger than my own. It needs made fun of. Curious how you guessed that.”

“Well, it didn’t look very warm between the two of you on the stage. He had a smile of someone in horrible and angry constipated pain--” Steve’s lips twitched in a smile when Tony snorted over his own drink this time, “and you looked eager to alleviate said pain by socking him in the stomach.”

Wiping his mouth, Tony continued to laugh, “Ok, well, you have a good eye. I thought I was better at masking my intense dislike.”

“I think I can just read anger easily?” Steve tried lamely.

‘That’s certainly a talent.” Tony tilted his head, looking him over again. “Probably works well in an IT-department. I hear managers in there can be the pits. Unless, you’re a manager in which case, managers are sexy.”

Steve swore his face has never been so red. Not even when he was eleven and Bucky decided to pants him during the school-play. “I’m not a manager.”

“Then they’re still the pits.”

“You are…quite blunt and flirty.”

“And you are quite attractive and adorable.” Tony’s hands found Steve’s lower back again and he led him around the big room. He’d stop occasionally to say something to a fan or co-worker, but for the most part he kept his attention on Steve.

Finally, after what took twice as long than necessary, they arrived in a more secluded area. Interestingly enough, once Tony got comfortable leaning on the tall bistro-like table, no one approached them.

“It won’t be this quiet or respectful for long, Steve.” Tony warned as if he read his mind. “Once the drinks get sloshed around in bellies for a bit longer, people will lose their sense of privacy and make an approach. But I enjoy the quiet when I can get it.”

Steve played with his drink, “It sounds like a headache.”

“Tell me about it. I get pulled one direction to the next all night. People seeking connections or a new rich friend.”

“I guess I have to acknowledge that’s brave of them. Guess everyone needs a connection to make it.” He was so grateful for Bucky and Sam who could get him a job once this was over with. If he didn’t have them, there would be no doubt that he’d be homeless. “Still, seems a little much to pull at a man’s arms out all night. Do you get anything out of it?”

“Me? Uh, guess no one has asked me that before. Well,” Tony blinked and then shrugged, “I guess a little? Some smooth sailing business deals and whatnot.”

“But not to the extent of what they could probably get.” Steve finished. “I guess that’s balance in power of sorts. I will say, you’re handling it well.”

“I didn’t use to.” Tony confessed. “In my twenties I was impossible to talk to because I was party-ready and roaring drunk. Started to put myself together the past ten years.”

“It shows. You’re taking over companies left and right quicker than I’ve ever seen. It’s tactical genius.”

“Really?” Tony grinned.

“Oh, yes. Not to mention your humanitarian efforts are amazing. I’ve never heard of a company of your substantial size doing so much for the world. You have done so much that it always just takes the words out of me.” He stopped and flushed realizing he dipped a bit into fan-boy territory. “Except for now apparently.”

Tony’s eyes were sparkling, “You really like it?”

“Well, of course! Your steps for cleaner energy, how Stark Industries is always in the Top Twenty Companies to Work For, the charities…how could anyone not like it? I mean, you’ve dipped up and down out of Forbe’s Top Five Wealthiest Men because of how much you donate. How can someone not be impressed?” Steve paused and groaned. “Sorry, this must sound ridiculous. You probably get this all the time. It’s just that because of you my best friend got a prosthetic arm and he’s had access to amazing centers and therapies through your Vet Program. Your actions are just amazing to me.”

“I don’t really.”

“Huh?”

“Get this. I mean, yeah, I hear kind things about my work…but, I dunno, it always feels a bit staged or it’s leading up to a call-me type of deal. For business,” he corrected. “I need to call you for our museum date. So don’t get out of my sight till I get your number.”

“You were…serious about that? You want a date? With me?”

“Yeah?”

“But…but why? I mean…you don’t know me. What if I am work-piranha?”

Tony’s grin started to grow again, “I like that. I’m keeping it.”

“It’s not like I’m going to trademark it, so it’s all yours.” Steve noted and Tony laughed again. “But you don’t know for sure. What if the run in--”

“You mean the boob-smoosh?”

Steve flicked Tony’s hand with a scowl, “I’d prefer something with a little less breast in the title.”

“Hmm…naah, I’m sticking with boob-smoosh. You pretty much flattened me to the ground with those.”

“Because you’re so short?”

“Oh, ow, burn. I’m not that short. I’m like an inch or two smaller than you, big guy. Just because you eat your greens doesn’t make you better than me.”

Steve rolled his eyes, but the smile was on his face, “You’re ridiculous.”

“Says the man who attacked a billionaire with his boobs. Tell me, they just for show or can you do things with them?”

“I’m not,” Steve leveled Tony with a warning, “pulling a Rock move and making them dance.”

“Psh, I don’t want you to do that without the shirt off anyway. I can’t see anything with how you’re dressed.”

“Was that some backwards invitation to get my clothes off?”

Tony gasped dramatically, “You perverted tease. I said no such thing.”

“Oh, no, you’re not putting the blame on me for that. That’s what you were doing, weren’t you?”

“Wha-a-at? Don’t get all huffy at me. You’re the pretty one here tempting me with your pectorals and I’m a hot-blooded, sexually eager male. I can only be tempted so much.” Tony batted his eyes at Steve as if innocent.

“Oh, god,” Steve threw his head back and laughed. “You really are ridiculous.”

“Seems to have you laughing, so that works for me.” Tony smirked and took a sip. “And, still didn’t hear a no about the clothes off thing.”

“And I didn’t hear it put into a question.” Steve shrugged but his shoulder gave him a pinch and he winced. ‘Oh…oh right.’ How did he forget about his back? How did he forget where he was?

“What’s wrong?” Tony’s face fell a bit. “Are you ok?”

“No, no. It’s fine. Just a small wound I got yesterday. I think I just tweaked it from laughing so hard.” Steve gave him a sheepish smile. “Sorry.”

“You should’ve told me. Do you need to sit down?”

“No, it’s fine. I sit on my ass too much for work anyway.”

Tony pressed his face against his open palm and smiled, “Gorgeous, funny, vulgar, and a pro-flirt. Anyone ever tell you that you’re perfect?”

“Uh, no? I…well…no. You’re the first for that.”

“Really? No other partner?”

“Oh, uh, I’ve never actually…” he pointed back and forth between the two of them. “Done this.”

“This what?”

“Flirt? Uhm, all of it?”

“What? Wait…what?” Tony laughed only for it to get sucked back in at Steve’s face. “Wait…what? No, no way. You haven’t flirted. You. With your looks and personality. With anyone?”

“No, no chance or time.”

“Oh, come on, Steve. No chance? I’m not sure how I got a chance to talk with you in this herd of wolves. You wouldn’t have lasted three more minutes without someone hungry for your waist.”

That took him by surprised. He had noticed some stares before but he thought it was because he didn’t fit in. Did Tony think people were actually appreciating how he looked? That was certainly a thought he hadn’t played with before: the idea that people could actually be attracted to him. “You think people were checking me out?”

“Christ on a bike, yeah! Not one person here is surprised I went after you. You’re gorgeous. I’m always seen with the most stunning at a party…and that sounded bad, bringing up conquests…and that sounded worse.”

Steve’s brow tilted, “Yeah, that did.”

“Sorry, sorry.” Tony winced. “Yes, I’ll be all up front: I’ve been a player in my prime partying days. I tend to leave an event with a companion for the sole purpose of seeing a bed. But I have not asked someone out before. At least not in five years.” At Steve’s surprised look he continued. “Occasional fun date set up by a friend? Yeah. Like twice a year. No one clicks. It’s all a fun romp then we part ways.”

“Oh. Uhm, am I—“

“No, no!” Tony waved his hands, stopping the question before it was out in the air. “Really. I like you, Steve. You’re hysterical and sarcastic. Are you gorgeous to look at? Uh, biggest no duh there has ever been. I’m not exactly a romantic guy, but I just sort of saw you, your eyes, and…” He snapped his fingers, “something just clicked.”

“Oh.” Steve nodded slowly. “I guess I felt that too?” He wasn’t sure, so he did not want to mislead the man. He had nothing to compare this feeling to, but he couldn’t lie…there was something there. A spark. Some sort of amazing, addicting energy, perhaps something akin to happiness and a possibility of a future.

“But, ok, listen, when I mean I haven’t flirted I mean that on every level just about. I’d love to spread out my past conquests,” he gave a snort which earned another sheepish look from the handsome man, “but I don’t have any. I’ve never dated.”

It looked like Tony’s brain just rebooted. His expression was blank and stunned and confused. “Uhh…”

“Before you ask, yes, never. I went out with my best friend when we were fourteen, though all we did was continue on with her friendship so we sort of gave up. We literally continued playing videogames at his place as dates. That’s my experience. I just haven’t…done anything.”

Tony rubbed his face, “Holy hell.”

“I get it’s awkward--”

“I’ll be honest, I don’t have an virginity-kink. But it’s not any sort of shame or problem. Not by any means. I’m just surprised. As said many times, you’re gorgeous.”

“Really? It’s ok?”

“Yeah,” His smile was so soft and honest that Steve nearly felt his breath knocked out of him. “Yeah, it is.”

“And you want to go out on a date with me?”

“Yes. Now, I’m getting why you’ve been questioning things. I can’t believe you’ve never been taken out before!” He shook his head in disbelief. “Well then, guess that means our date will need to be the best there is.”

“You don’t have--”

“Ut-tut-tut.” Tony waved his finger around. “Not on my watch. You’re getting the glitz and glam!”

“Even if I’m simple?”

“The simple glitz and glam!” Tony corrected.

Steve’s stomach was starting to ache from all the laughter coming out of him. He couldn’t remember the last time he enjoyed himself so much. “Ok, ok. Simple glitz and glam it is.”

“So brunch, museum, walk in the park…I need to make notes.”

“Tony, uh…Stark, no, Tony,” Steve paused. Had he called him by his first name the whole time? Was he allowed? Was that ok after a date had been set up? But Tony Stark was a Stark. He was a billionaire. He owned an international company. He was clearly out of Steve’s league…but that didn’t mean professional. Did it?

“I’ll just let you keep floundering for a bit before I come to your rescue.” Tony hummed, his eyes half-lidded, and a sultry smile on his face. “Continue on deciding what you want to call me. I’ll just be here waiting.”

“You’re a brat.” Steve sulked and sulked more when Tony just continued giving him a lazy grin.

“Tony.” He finally assisted. “I want you to call me Tony. Or hot-stuff, or darling, or honey, or stud-muffin. But Tony will do for now.”

“Tony.” Steve tried it out and found he really liked the sound of it. He wasn’t about to give the man a nickname. “Brats don’t get nicknames.” He smirked when Tony sulked. “I just wanted to tell you that you did not have to work like that. Aren’t dates supposed to be simple?”

“Not when dating me. Besides, as I told you, I haven’t been out in a while. I want to have fun too. Besides, how is that not simple? What were you thinking a first date should be like?”

“I…” He frowned, thoughtful. Remembering the movies and TV-shows he’d seen nothing really stood out at what could be normal and simple. “I don’t know. Just a cup of coffee?”

“Er, no. We’re going out and having fun. Besides, I drink about twelve cups of coffee a day. That’s no adventure for me. We’re going to the museum.”

“Ok, ok.” Steve gave up but did not feel like he really lost. “I’m really taken aback. Is it normally this fast? I’m pretty sure I met you less than half-an-hour ago.”

“Sometimes, sweetpea. I know I can be. If I want something, I go for it. Why play around and wait? What would we be waiting for anyway?”

“I mean, wouldn’t it make sense to do so after all of this? We talk and you make sure I’m good enough?”

“Wow, now that is a red flag on insecurity. You good enough?” A pout went on his face. “That’s pretty unfair to you. Why would you even ask me that?”

“I…I…” Steve bit his bottom lip, horrified he let that slip out. Of course, people wouldn’t normally say things like that to a person they just met and who was clearly interested. He hadn’t realized how much of Schmidt’s words poked through his every day conversations. His only companions outside of Hydra have been Bucky and Sam who knew a lot of what was happening. “Sorry.”

“Hey, hey, don’t apologize to me. You didn’t do anything to me. Just, don’t put me on some sort of pedestal because of my wealth.” He frowned and reached over to take Steve’s hand, making him jump. “Though I can see it’s not just that, huh? Poor, baby. You’ve been through the ringer, haven’t you?”

Steve’s throat felt swollen and he shook his head in quick denial. The last thing he needed was someone else aware of his secrets. Especially Tony Stark…

He reeled back as if sucker-punched.

What was he doing? This was Tony Stark. What was going to happen once he found out about Schmidt? Would Tony ever trust him once he discovered Steve was a whistleblower? And Steve’s history…not everyone wanted to handle someone with his emotional and physical scars. Why would someone with a life like Tony’s want to deal with someone like Steve?

Then there was the awkward conversation where he’d need to share things with Tony. Steve wasn’t so out of touch that he didn’t know that relationships needed some honesty and Tony would for sure wonder about Steve’s back and history…god, there was no way to get out of this without Tony knowing everything.

“I…uh…I-I need to go.” Steve pulled back, panic swelling through his chest. “I…I need…yeah, I got to go.” He pushed himself away from the table and hurried off, his whole core shaken at what he had dipped into.

‘Oh god, oh god, oh god,’ he panted, his chest constricting and his vision swarming. He could feel himself stumbling. Everything was spinning and he could just hear the harsh whish of the whip.

What had he done? Why did he even think something like this would be a good idea?

“Wait, wait, Steve!” Tony was all of a sudden behind him, he had his arms around Steve’s waist and shoulders, steadying him. “Easy, easy there. Here, come outside a bit.”

Steve tried to fight back but Tony held firm as he brought him out into an outdoor party area that was empty of people. It did not look like anyone else would find them outside either as men decked in black closed the exit doors and stood guard.

“Sit.” Tony eased him into the outdoor couch and kneeled before him. “I need you to take some breaths, ok?”

Was he not breathing?

Oh, oh, no…no he was not.

Steve gasped out, sounding as if he were in pain, and suck the air back in too swiftly and started to cough and wheeze. He had not had such a moment of restricted breathing in years.

“Ok, it’s ok. This is a panic-attack. They happen. So it’s ok. You’re ok.” Tony whispered, his voice so tender. “Shh, it’s ok. Just let it out. Keep breathing and keep holding my hand. There you go.”

Steve fell forward, trying to catch his breath. He hadn’t even realized his hand was in Tony’s.

“There we go, it’s ok.”

Once Steve had the ability to pull himself up and to stare at Tony the man met his face with his hand, cradling his cheek with more gentleness than Steve had felt since his mother. He was still shaking a bit.

“S-Sorry,” he finally managed, and pulled back. His heart was still racing and he felt sweat drip down his neck and along his spine.

“Steve,” He would not let the man go. “Don’t. Don’t try to turn from me, ok? You don’t have to be embarrassed about this.” Tony smoothed the blond hair back tenderly. “You back?”

It took a few breaths to nod. He did not feel right but it felt like the panic was slowly seeping out of his system. “I think I am.”

“Just stay sitting for a bit. I’ll get you some water. Want any food? I know everyone can be different after something like this.”

“Just water, thank you.”

Steve wasn’t sure how Tony managed to get a cold glass of water delivered so fast without appearing to leave Steve’s side, but he did so. He watched over as Steve took timid sips for a few minutes, not saying a word until he was satisfied with how much Steve had and how soft his trembling was.

“Better?”

“Yes. Thanks. You were,” Steve coughed again, his chest not quite back up to par, “you were quite good at handling that.”

“I’ve had a few of my own. Been taught some tricks to help out.” Tony looked up at him in worry. He reached up to push some of the sweaty blond hair out of his face. “Have you had many of these?”

“Here and there.” He said, honestly. “Not in front of a stranger though.”

“Well, we’re not really strangers. We’re about to go on a simple glam date.”

Steve chuckled weakly, “You sure you still want that? You just saw what happened.”

“Yeah, I saw it and I stuck with you through it. As I told you, I’ve had them. I get it. It’s upsetting but not a bother.” He gave another prince-like kiss to Steve’s trembling knuckles.

“It feels like a bother. Feels pretty shameful.”

“Yeah, they do. But they’re not. You can’t help it that this,” he reached up and gently tapped Steve’s forehead, “decided to attack you. That’s not your fault.”

Even with the comfort, it did little to Steve’s insides. He was filled with hot shame and embarrassment. What a mess he made the night of. His back throbbed as if agreeing with his insecurity and it made him shudder.

“Hey, I like this song.” Tony noted, taking Steve by surprise at the change in conversation.

“What is it?” Steve listened to the change in music. He frowned, the beat sounded familiar…it felt heavy 80’s or 90’s. It was a romance song, from a movie…he could almost…Dolly Parton’s iconic voice started and he let out laughter, “Oh my god, is this from Beethoven 2?”

Tony laughed as well, “Yep. I loved those when I was growing up. This song has such nostalgic feels for me.”

“The romance part between Beethoven and his girlfriend. Oh wow, I haven’t seen those movies since I was a kid. I can’t believe I remembered them.”

The Day I Fall In Love echoed out in their private space and Steve could not help but grin at how cliché and sweet the music was.

“Here, have you ever danced before?” Tony pulled Steve close to him, their bodies touching.

“I haven’t.”

“Well, let’s get you learning. Now, put your hand on my shoulder…yep, like that. I’ll hold your other hand like this, I got your waist…now follow me, ok?” Tony led gently.

It took a few moments of stumbling for Steve to get the hang of it and he gave a shy peek to Tony, “Don’t blame me if I step on your toes.”

“Just take it slow, ah, there we go.” Tony hummed a bit to the music, his fingers rubbing gently circles against the softness of his lower back. “I’ve had to learned how to dance since I was a teen. I’ve been stepped on plenty. It won’t be an issue.”

“It’s a bit embarrassing.”

“We all have different talents. Ok, now stay easy, I’m dipping you.”

“You’re dippWHOA.” Steve gripped his shoulders as his shoulders found themselves hovering over the floor. He was then brought back up, his eyes wide and his heart pounding. “May need a bit more warning next time.”

“Your surprise face is precious though.” Tony smiled. “But see? You’re a natural. Quite flexible too.” He licked his lips, not at all ashamed to show his hungry smirk.

Steve groaned, “Don’t give me fantasies. You’re pressed up against me. I’ve been shamed enough already.”

“Now, I’d never kink-shame you over anything.” Tony gave him a raised brow in question.

“Panic-attacks aren’t a kink.” Steve then nodded and relaxed again as Tony held him close and dipped him again. His head didn’t swim from surprise nor was he overwhelmed from how brutally romantic it was.

“I’m sure they are for someone. Still no judgment from me, unless they force a person to into it. Protect the kinks, that’s what I say.” Tony smiled down at Steve, his eyes heavy with something that shocked throughout Steve’s nervous system.

“Well,” he cleared his throat, “So happy to know you are so accepting.”

“Mhmm, well, I am a one of a kind. Perfect partner, I say. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Will you drop me if I say anything but yes?” Steve’s eyes twinkled.

“I get the feeling you’ll bring me with you, so, no.” Tony pulled him back up. “That, and you may actually leave a crater on the concrete.”

“You calling me fat?”

“I’m calling you a hot chunk of muscle.”

Steve felt light on his feet in Tony’s arms. Nothing was right any more and he loved it. Seeing Tony smile, letting him lead them in the dance, their words snarky but somehow molding into the scene perfectly…

He was doomed. He was wonderfully doomed and he wanted more.

And I’ll never promise to be true, to anyone, unless it’s you…

Steve quickly looked away from Tony’s eyes at the song, his heart squeezing tight in his chest. It was overwhelming and too much to handle. He feared if he closed his eyes he’d reopen them and not see the warm mocha of Tony’s but just his own reflection of his computer, waking up from a dream. “Jesus, isn’t it a little too cute to share a first dance with this song?”

People always say love is wonderful…

Tony paused and listened to the music for a moment and then, oh and Steve could cry, he started to sing along with it. His voice was beautiful and unlike Steve, who was struggling to breathe and keep eye contact, Tony had no problem with the whole sweet, cliché mess.

“The skies will open. I wonder where’s that great big symphony. I’ll be your Beethoven.”

It was ruining Steve’s ability to stand, let alone dance. “T-Tony.” He pleaded.

“You’re supposed to say Roll-over Beethoven.” Tony said softly.

The chorus picked up as Dolly Parton and James Ingram sang in beautiful tune together: Just an ordinary day, started out the same old way. Then I looked into your eyes and knew…today would be a first me…

“Maybe it is too cute.” Tony did not sound nor look the least embarrassed. His face was relaxed, a smile on the verge of loving, and his eyes heavy once again. In fact, he seemed pleased in the element he was presently in. “But you’re a bit too cute so it seems rather fitting.”

Steve tried to catch his breath. Tried to sound as if he were as strong in the situation as Tony clearly was. But he knew his voice was soft and shaky, “I’m 6’2 and with shoulders too big to fit into shirts. You sure that’s cute?”

“Beyond words.” Tony, somehow, managed to spin Steve around and then pulled him back to his side. “Besides, the thought that you can’t fit into a shirt is beyond words of sexy.”

“Still won’t make any muscle dance for you.” Steve warned again as the song started to end.

Tony didn’t respond, he just reached over and grabbed Steve’s face and kissed him.

It was short but powerful. Tony’s mouth had a taste of whisky and perhaps something sweet to it. His mouth was hot, too. It felt like something from inside Tony made its way into Steve and took over his entire bloodstream. His hands, cradling Steve’s face and skull, were more callused than Steve realized but they felt warm in the cooling outdoor air.

“Sorry,” Tony pulled back, blinking himself out of a daze and then pressed his hands over Steve’s cheeks as he checked the young man over. It ended far too soon and Steve could not compute why the man was apologizing.

“That…that may have been a bit aggressive. I should’ve asked. Was that your first? Shit, shit. I was too aggressive. But you danced with me to a cornball song and then you got snarky again. I just needed to…god, you are so perfect. Are you ok?” Tony looked worried. He actually looked terrified he may have done something damaging to him.

Steve couldn’t help the wide smile growing over his face and returned the kiss with his own, hoping to answer the question.

It was so funny, he could feel Tony’s own smile grow against his lips. That tingled as much as the kiss itself. He felt Tony’s happiness through such an intimate way. They were sharing something and Steve found he really loved it.

When they finally pulled back, Steve knew he was grinning again. “I really haven’t been kissed before. I think you set the bar high.”

“Hmm, been known to do that.” Tony purred.

“You talking about your conquests again?”

“No, Steve. I was trying to show off and be romantic. Gawd. Don’t throw off my romantic groove here.”

Steve laughed, “Wow, my mistake. So sorry I ever doubted you. Anyway I can make it up?”

“Mhmm,” Tony’s tone was still deep and husky. “I think I can think of a few ways. First, I want another go at that mouth of yours. After that we can talk about the possibility of getting to see what’s under these clothes.” He tugged at the hem of Steve’s pants suggestively.

“Ah, the clothes can’t happen tonight. Sorry.” Steve apologized and found himself disappointed. He didn’t really care about jumping into something sexual so soon. “Maybe after the date? If…if that will still be available? I can do the mouth thing…uhm, I don’t think I’m doing the sexy-thing right.”

Tony apparently disagreed as he dragged Steve into another kiss. This time it was a little less sweet and a little more intense. There were teeth and tongues and sounds that sparked a tingling sensation along Steve’s spine.

Steve’s eyes fluttered close and he let out a sigh.

He never knew kissing could be so amazing and bone melting.

Tony started to push him back into the little crevice behind the door and against the wall. It was dark in their little private corner—unless someone came out they couldn’t be seen and unless they rounded the corner Steve was almost completely out of sight.

Tony’s body was a shield against the outside, normal, sterile world. So many people looked at Steve and expected him to take the grunt of everything, to be a sort of savior and god, did Steve try to live up to expectation but he would not lie and say he did not enjoy the feel of someone else protecting him. Even if it was from something as harmless as light or aggressive kisses.

He pulled Tony closer, showing he was eager to take whatever Tony wanted to provide.

Their heads titled and Steve parted his lips wider, giving Tony an invitation that he was excited to take. The man was clearly skilled in the art of making out as his movements within Steve’s mouth weren’t wiggly or awkward but pumping and meaningful. Tony’s tongue was slow moving but kept it powerful and ooh, it did things to Steve’s stomach.

Apparently, Tony seemed to know this—perhaps it was a predictable response?—and his hands left Steve’s face to trail down to his stomach, giving him tempting touches through his shirt. Then the hands danced around the circumference of his waist and made contact with his lower back. Apparently Tony found something he really liked back there as his fingers started to dig into the pants after a moment of pause for permission.

“Your ass feels like a work of art.” Tony groaned as he pulled away, nipping at Steve’s bottom lip as he did so.

“Best be careful what type of art you compare it to.” Steve panted back. “Best not say Picasso or Banksy.”

Tony laughed and it was different than what he had been before. Deeper and rougher. It vibrated from his chest and Steve wanted to touch it and feel his body move with the sound.

“That was…” He inhaled and caught another whiff of Tony’s scent and air. He must be high on happiness because the smell continued to play with his very turned on situation. “Something.”

“Your compliments need a little work. But I’m overflowing with adjectives, puns, and comparisons. You’ll pick up my talent in no time.”

“I think I can be honest enough to say I look forward to learning from my new teacher.”

“Ugh, you missed such a sexy opportunity to call me master.” Tony bemoaned. “Or at least called me Jedi-master.”

“Exactly why I didn’t call you that.”

Tony just kissed him again.

They probably didn’t part for another three minutes and Steve had to pull away. His head was getting a bit too light and he did not want to pass-out on the concrete. Besides, he was worried if Tony went further there would be an embarrassing mess in his pants.

“Just a warning, I like dirty talk, topping, and making partners squirm.” Tony confessed as he pressed himself as close as he could to Steve’s form. He didn’t seem to mind the break.

“Just a warning, I’m an adventurous virgin.” Steve nearly whimpered over Tony’s mouth.

“Aaaaand I now have a virgin-kink. Thank you for that.”

Steve smirked, “Anytime.”

Gaaaaawd, you’re killing me. Why can’t we hook up tonight? I haven’t believed in blue-balls till this moment. I think I’m going to combust.”

A frown went back on his face. “Stepdad and work.”

“I’m sorry.” Tony shook his head and threw him an apologetic look. “I shouldn’t whine or guilt you. You said no.”

“I said I can’t. Not that I don’t want.” Steve reminded.

“Still a no so still not acceptable to whine. You’ll find I’m not the most patient of men.”

“You seem to be doing a fine job to me. I feel guilty, but not from you. I’d rather stick around with you and continue. And I like the attention.” It did not feel proper to confess it. He worried he should be more humble and ready to push away the compliments Tony provided. But he loved it. All of it. The attention and how good it made him feel not just in body but mind was something he didn’t want to lie about.

“Oh, then you’re going to do good with me. I tend to spoil those I like.”

“Well, I hope I can do the same for you. Spoil you I mean. I don’t have much,” any, his mind corrected himself, “money. But I’d like to give you things if that’s acceptable?”

“These questions are far too adorable for my heart to take. I’m reaching forty, Steve. I could keel over from a heart-attack any day now.”

“So, no more making-out?”

“You think of hiding that mouth from me and I will die from misery. Don’t kill me baby, please. I want to live. Live I tell you.”

“Ok, ok, I’ll do my best to help you live. Need some more CPR?”

Tony almost looked like he was going to cry, “You were made for me. There is no doubt about that. You were actually made for me.”

“Want to show me the proof of that?”

“Oh god, yes.” Tony purred only to scowl as the door to their side opened. “What?”

“Sorry, sir. Schmidt is demanding to see you."

Steve’s blood drained from his face and the heat in his groan and belly deflated instantly. He covered his mouth to keep himself from making noise and the horrible nausea slammed back into him that he very well nearly vomited.

“Mr. Stark, I was hoping to get our conversation underway about tomorrow.” Schmidt’s clear voice, accent and all, clipped in. He sounded dried out and impatient, probably looking for the man since they parted on the stage.

Steve pressed himself against the wall, trying to disappear into the shadows as Tony followed in suit, the hungry looked replaced by one of confusion. “What?”

“Mr. Stark?”

Steve closed his eyes as he tried not to shake. Maybe he could jump over a fence or something? Maybe he could get swallowed up by the darkness and Schmidt would never be the wiser…oh, god, he was about to lose everything.

Tony looked at the blond with the pretty eyes and then tilted his body back so he showed up in Schmidt’s sight, pressing his hands against Steve’s shoulder, keeping him out of view. He threw the business partner a sly grin, “I’ll have to join you in a moment Schmidt. I just found myself a friend.”

“Mr. Stark,” Schmidt snapped.

“I got an issue to take care of, Schmidt.” He noted, not bothering adding the Mr. to the name. “I’ll meet you by the bar in thirty minutes. I don’t need to walk out there in my state.” Tony went so far to use his hands to make a shoo-ing motion.

Steve swore he could hear Schmidt’s teeth grind together and his fists popping.

“Fine. I will meet you there. Thirty minutes.” And he must’ve walked off as the doors closed and Tony turned back to look at Steve with a thoughtful, that was slowly turning to realization, look.

“Schmidt.” Tony stated, his voice a soft, horrified awe. “Schmidt is your dad. A Nazi-sympathizer is your dad.”

Steve flinched. He hadn’t wanted to deal with this conversation so soon. “Stepfather. Please…don’t make it sound like he and I are related. And trust me, I get it.” He crossed his arms to show stubbornness but it really felt like he was trying to protect himself. His hands were shaking again at how close of a call it was.

Tony pulled back as if he were burned. “I can’t believe it. Your IT-job. It’s for Hydra.”

“I’d rather not be reminded of that. It’s nothing I go around bragging about.” The turn in atmosphere made Steve want to cry but he was good at swallowing agony back. “Look, Tony--”

“Stark.”

Steve’s crushed expression must’ve been brutal as Tony physical flinched at the sight of it. Tony opened and closed his mouth a few times, as if he were shocked of his own demand.

“Fine. Fine, Stark. He is my stepfather. I do work for Hydra. I’m sure it’s written on my face how much I love my situation.” Steve snapped. “I’m sure my terror to get away from him is the perfect proof that all of this was a set-up to gain something from you. Even though you’ve already taken the company. Won, actually, brilliantly mind you—as I’m sure you remember me telling before.”

“How can I trust you?” Tony asked, his tone sharp, impatient, and desperate. Perhaps even a bit hurt. “How can I know you’re not working for the prick?”

“If you’re looking for a list of reasons you’re not going to get it. I don’t have to tell you what he’s done to me as some sort of proof, Stark. You know the kind of man he is. Anyone with an ounce of humanity wouldn’t care for him. I know I have humanity in me and I had hoped a smart man like you could see that.”

“Your mom married him.”

“Don’t.” Steve pointed at Tony’s glare and nearly snarled. “Don’t you dare speak of her like that. She…she was…” remembering his mother and what she did and how it was all his fault made his intense fury drip out of him, leaving nothing but hallow guilt and sorrow in its wake. His shoulders lowered and his head bowed to the ground. His beautiful mother and what she had to do. “She was the most giving, accepting, and humanity-loving person I have ever known. And she married…” his teeth snapped shut as a pained sound came from him. “She married Schmidt because of me.”

“Because of you? Why?”

“Why else would a mother do anything horrible for a child? Because I was in trouble and she loved me.” Steve ran a shaky hand through his hair as he avoided Tony’s look. “She lost her job when I was fourteen. Because she punched the teeth out of a doctor who decided to feel up the nurses and threaten their lively-hoods if they talked. She got fired and a suit. We had no money and…and I had heart-failure and needed a transplant.”

“Oh.” Tony looked to reach for him but froze in place. Gears turned in his head and a look of horrible understanding crossed his features. “Oh.”

“Right, what can a broke nurse do? Especially when she had legal bills, rent, and food to pay for? I was on the list but there was no way anything would come in time. It was nearly half a million dollars to save my life. Well, then she met Schmidt, who was wealthy as he was ugly, and he was willing to pay it off.” He straightened his back to give Tony a hot stare. “So don’t act like she was someone who’d ever want to be with a man like him. If it…if it weren’t for me she would never had even graced him with her spit.”

It was silent between the two of them and Steve quickly wiped his eyes fearing they were wet. He hated talked about his mother and his past. He hated remembering what his existence did to her and their situation.

If only he wasn’t sickly, they could’ve found another way to survive without her job. But he had to be dying and she needed to be desperate and Schmidt had to show up.

“I should leave.” Steve said, his voice quivering as he pushed past Tony to see if Schmidt was close by. He hoped he wasn’t waiting for Tony right outside the doors. Hopefully the guards saw to it that he left. ‘But he’ll be watching for movement. His eyes will be on these doors.’

“Actually, I think I need to jump the fence.” He moved away from the doors as if they were about to bite and tried to find an escape route.

But, Tony grabbed his wrist and pulled him back. Steve tried to yank his wrist away, giving Tony a watery glare but the man’s expression had completely turned around. It made Steve pause for a moment. “Steve, no. Don’t. Don’t leave. I’m sorry. I should never have said that about your mom. I am truly sorry.”

“It…” Steve paused to take a deep inhale and exhale. He could not get his hands to stop shaking. “It’s fine. Not…well, not fine, but understandable. I mistrust anyone associated with him myself so I get it.”

“I was,” Tony truly looked horrified, “miserable to you.”

“Well, he’s a miserable person, Stark. I get it. You probably should never trust anyone who has to be close to him.”

“Tony,” he begged. “Please, please call me Tony. I shouldn’t have been so cruel to you. I got fearful and jumped to conclusions, jumped to a stupid fear of mine, without giving you a chance. I, fuck, I am so sorry.”

“You need to let me go. I…we can’t do this.”

“Yes, yes we can. If you still want me after my asshole-ness…we can. I want it. I want you.” He tugged at Steve again. “At least don’t let me see you run away from me via fence.”

“He’s probably watching the door. How can I leave?”

Tony’s expression was losing its hurt and started to grow dark. “Why are you avoiding him, Steve? You said you came here with him.”

“I…may have lied about that so I wasn’t thrown out. He doesn’t know I’m here.” Steve confessed and looked around for the door, his cheek nearly brushing Tony’s to get a peek. “He didn’t want me to come. I’m supposed to be home doing work.”

Tony’s arms wrapped around his waist and squeezed gently. “He didn’t want his own stepson to come?”

“The dislike apparently goes both ways.”

“How,” Tony took a moment, closed his eyes and breathed. “How much of a dislike does he have for you?”

“I…I don’t think we should talk about that right now.”

“Fucking Christ.” Tony’s shadowed expression went to full blown rage. Apparently, he heard enough in Steve’s avoidance. He turned away from Steve and started for the party. “I’m going to kill him.”

“You can’t let him know I’m here!” Steve begged, clinging to him and pulling him away from the door because the man truly looked ready for murder. He was stockier than Steve originally thought. Clearly, Tony was attractive in both face and body if this hold had any indication. His built made Steve worry there could actually be concern and possibility in his plot for murder.

‘God, I am so happy I’m big.’ He thought, not about to let the man go.

“He’s not leaving here unless it’s in a body bag or cuffs.” Tony promised.

“He’ll know something is up! You won’t be able to keep him for anything. And if you kill him you’ll be the one if cuffs. Please don’t do that for me. I’m handling it.”

“You looked like you were about to sob you were so terrified!” Tony said, his voice did not sound like something Steve thought the man could produce. His soft voice that sung such a gentle song before sounded almost savage now.

“But I didn’t.” Steve said lowly, trying to comfort him. “So I’m good. I’m an adult, Tony. I can handle this.”

Tony looked him over, back to holding him back as if he worried Steve still had plans to run off. “How old are you exactly?”

“Twenty-nine.”

“Why the fuck would you ever stay around him?”

“I had to…do things before I left. Besides, you’ve met the man. Does he really seem like the sort who would pay a person he doesn’t like?”

Tony’s mouth opened and closed like a gaping fish. “You have…nothing? He isn’t providing you with anything?”

“I told you I didn’t have much to spoil you with.” Steve waved him and his concerns off. “It’s a weak excuse, not even my best one since I have a friend who is more than willing to let me crash at his place and get me a job. I just want to see this.”

“What?”

“You,” Steve pointed at Tony. “I wanted to see you take over Hydra and do something good with it. I hate it. I hate everything about Hydra. And I couldn’t live with myself if I knew such a thing existed, right under my own hands,” he looked at them, remembering all the files he had to work with…everything he saw and typed, “and go and live in an apartment with friends and work at a community center. I wasn’t getting comfort till Hydra stopped taking it from others.”

“Steve, no, no, baby, no. You don’t do that to yourself.”

“I wouldn’t be able to rest until I saw Hydra destroyed by you.”

Tony was shaking his head in disbelief, “No. No, I won’t accept it. We’re going to talk to Pepper.” And then, pushing Steve’s head down under his arm, rushed him out of the garden area and into the mass of people.

“T-Tony! W-What, Pepper? Who is Pepper? Why do I need to meet up with her?”

“She’s my CEO.” He explained as he maneuvered Steve around, set on a course. His head snapped around, keeping watch as he pushed them through the party. “I want to get you to her. With her help, we’ll get you away from him.”

“How? We already discussed my age. I don’t think there is any legal action that can be taken.”

“Then we need her to ensure I don’t take my own personal legal-action.” Tony hissed. “Ok, babe, I don’t see him. You can pick yourself up a bit if this is uncomfortable.”

Steve did but slowly. “You don’t have to do anything. You’ve done enough with this takeover. I should be moving out while he’s at the business meeting with you in the morning.”

“Not. Good. Enough.” Tony snapped and rounded on Steve. “I don’t want you to go back to his place.”

“Mom’s stuff is there. I’m not leaving it. Besides, where would I go? I don’t want to move in with my friends until this is behind me to not endanger them.”

“Endanger them? Holy hell.” Tony rubbed his face. “What exactly is going on with you…with this?”

“Things.” Steve tried lamely.

“Things.” Tony just stared at him with such a heartbroken expression. “You said you liked art but you’re in IT.” He licked his lips in nerves over the answer. “Was that your choice or his?”

“Schmidt finds art useless…at least for me.” Steve spoke with his head bowed. The fact he wasn’t allowed to even try always broke something in him. “I was more useful behind the computer. I feel lucky I was able to finish high school and keep access to paper so I could continue to sketch in whatever free time available.”

Tony’s look was pitiful and Steve tried to laugh it off.

“Sucks, right? I mean, mom loved it when told her I wanted to be an artist. She said even if I ended up broke I knew how to survive and I could be happy. She wanted me to paint her once we could afford the materials.” That didn’t sound like something to laugh at. It sounded more pathetic than the last. Tony’s look was heartbroken and Steve did his best to wipe it off. “It’s not the end of the world. I still find time to draw. I probably now have better skills to find a job anyway. No one wants to hire an artist.”

“You’re not going to thank him. Ever. You’re coming with me, now, and we’re getting the fearsome Ms. Pepper Potts on this issue. She’s a monster with business and legal actions. She’s going to rip him to shreds financially and then I get my turn physically.”

“Tony,” Steve started to beg then stopped as the names bounced around. “Stark and Potts.” He repeated to himself, his eyebrows narrowed in confusion. “S…S.P.?”

Tony stopped and spun around fast, “What the hell did you--”

“There you are, Stark!”

Shit!” Steve ducked and before Tony could grab his hand, he pushed his way deep into the crowd and out of Tony’s sights.

“No, don’t…” Tony wanted to reach for him and pull him back where he’d be safe.

“Steven?” The nasty voice sounded shocked.

Tony’s heart dropped before he spun around and gave Schmidt an ugly smile. “Well, someone is impatient. I thought we were meeting at the bar in thirty?”

Schmidt scowled as he walked closer, “That gentleman with you--”

“A friend of mine.” Tony laughed and it sounded angry and panicked to his ears. He did his best to keep it under control. “If you get what I mean. I have a few of them here for the party. They make big tips and are wonderful with their mouths. May need to introduce one to you. You seem tense.”

“That one--”

“Oh, I sent him to wash up. Got a little messy outside. Apparently, someone was in a rush to meet me so we couldn’t enjoy our fun.” Tony crossed his arms over his chest and glared. “Nice of you to interrupt my own personal party at my own personal party. What do you want?”

Schmidt’s eyes were narrowed, “I wish to discuss the finally transfer of payment and credits mentioned in the deal but,” he reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. “I need to make a phone-call.”

“Uh, no.” Tony came over and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, turning him the opposite direction of Steve, and instantly wanted a bath. After he strangled the bastard. “You interrupted my fun. If my alone time with a friend can wait then so can this.”

“I thought I saw someone--”

“Yeah, that deserves all the attention after everything you just pulled. Fine, though.” Tony released him and continued on his path. “Go call the someone or whatever and we’ll talk about this stuff tomorrow morning, as originally planned.”

“Stark--”

“Mr.” Tony interrupted again. “Don’t forget, Schmidt, I’m putting on this friendly show for your benefit. There is no union. I own you now. If you want to keep on my friendly side you will show better respect and you will not interrupt me again. Now, do you want to talk about business or do you want to go our separate ways so I can actually enjoy myself with people I appreciate?”

Schmidt’s face was an uglier shade of red and his eyes promised pain.

Tony gave him his own promised stare right back and hoped this moment of alpha-snorts gave his Steve time to hide.

‘Just get safe. Go somewhere safe. Don’t you dare go back to that prison, baby. Don’t you dare.’

“Tick-tock.” Tony raised a finger and like magic a drink was presented to him. “Silence means I pick. I’m going to have fun.”

“No, wait,” Schmidt hissed out between his teeth, “Please. I’d like to just have a quick discussion on something mentioned so it may be changed before the morning.”

Tony sighed as if truly put-upon. “Fine, fine. Suppose I did give you a choice in the matter. Come on, walk and talk and dine with me.”

‘And stay the fuck away from Steve.’

-o-

Steve’s panicked look must’ve been quite expressive as Clint saw him and pulled the door opened without pause.

With a pant of, “thanks,” and a few stumbles, Steve made it into the locker room where he brought out his phone and frantically called Sam.

“Hey, you having fun?” Sam greeted.

“I think Schmidt saw me.”

Shit. Car is coming up. Just jump in and we’ll blow all the red-lights to get you out of here.”

“Ok.” Steve ran out of the locker room and to the garage. He looked around, waiting for Sam or Schmidt to show up. He didn’t know what he’d do if he needed to face the man. He was about to be sick. “Sam, this isn’t good.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, buddy. We’re getting you out of here. Are you ok? We’re pulling up now. Get in.”

Steve nearly jumped in once the limo pulled up and the door opened. He grunted in agony when his back rolled against the floor. “Shit, shit.”

“Yeah, yeah…here, take some breaths.”

“I need my clothes. I need to change.”

“Steve, you’re not going back--”

“I need to. I’m not leaving mom’s items with him. And I’m not giving him any reason to suspect anything. Everything is officially over in the morning. Everything needs done so he won’t drag anything out.”

“Steve! You go back there and you could get hurt, waiting isn’t worth it.”

“Yes, it is.” Steve snapped back. “I won’t give up now. Just a few more hours. Sam, please. I need my laptop anyway. I need to send an email and some files out.”

“Steve,” Sam pleaded.

“I’m going to email S.P. about the abuse.”

Sam’s jaw dropped. “You are?”

Steve nodded, “I think I can get their help to ruin him.”

“How…?”

“I…may have secretly filmed him when he’s beaten me. He’s never noticed me leaving the laptop up and on. With the computer training, I was able to get it going without any obvious signal.”

“What will this do?”

“He beat me yesterday. AFTER the business transaction. I’m not a child and I didn’t fight back, so the legal-aspect part is going to be iffy. But it will look bad. If he does anything that could hurt Stark’s reputation means he’s lost rights over negotiations.”

“Why haven’t you done this before?”

“Because I feared Stark Industries would just drop everything all together and Hydra would be given back to Schmidt. He’d lose a lot of money but he could still run it for a few more years before it fell to financial ruin.”

“What makes you think Stark Industries won’t do that? Jesus, you could lose all your hard work. You could get killed.”

“Because…Because I may have just spent most of my time at the party making out and making promises of future dates and sexual adventures with Tony Stark.”

Sam’s jaw dropped again. Wider this time. “You…what?”

“It’s possible I now am sort of dating the owner of Stark Industries. And he found out a bit on what I’m going through. If I can give him and his CEO proof I think they could take Schmidt down. He’ll get nothing.”

“Oh. Well...oh.”

Steve frantically took off his tux and looked around for his clothes. “Schmidt can’t know about it. I need to get the files sent to S.P., who, surprise, may actually be Stark himself. I need to get home.”

“You can get the laptop and your mom’s stuff and then leave.”

“I could…but there is still a risk things will fall through. Schmidt can’t suspect anything before it’s official. And if I’m not there to meet him, he’ll know something is up and…I don’t know. I just can’t let Hydra rise up again. I can’t, Sam.“

“Steve--”

The two stopped when Steve’s phone began to ring.

Gulping, he pulled it out to check the ID.

“It’s Schmidt.”

-o-

Schmidt’s issue was handled too swiftly.

It was all over some legal-jargon concerning his transfer of finances if he did something not up to Stark’s high standards. He had issues with it before as Hydra was not a green company and he worried Stark Industries would take advantage of that.

Tony knew, though. He knew Schmidt worried he’d one day get caught in all his abuse and his money went down the drain. After the start of the week and the first signature, Hydra belonged to both Tony and Schmidt and if either party broke a law the contract could break or, as Pepper made sure to get in, Hydra would still belong to Tony but they wouldn’t have to pay for it.

How she managed that, he didn’t know or care at the time. All he cared was that Schmidt was aware he’d done bad things and wanted to protect himself from it.

And that bad thing was Steve.

“Shit.” He cursed as he frantically looked around once he and Schmidt parted ways. Steve was nowhere to be found. He rushed to check the men’s restrooms and ask the guards who watched over them in the garden space. He even rushed out into the garden space, surprising another couple that had snuck out for some fun, to see if he went to hide there.

A horrible sinking feeling took over his stomach when there was sign of him. “Oh, no, no baby, please don’t tell me you left.”

“Sir,” Natasha piped in his ear. “Schmidt just left.”

What? No! He can’t leave!”

“He did sir. Do you need us to trail him?”

“Yes, god dammit! Find out where he lives and send me the address NOW. I’m going to get Pepper and then I’m on my way.”

‘No body, no proof.’ A dark voice whispered and he felt like he was about to be ill. ‘If he gets rid of Steve, his flaw to the plan, his own whistleblower, what could we do? He has connections. Oh, god, he has connections.’

“Did Steve leave? He’s--”

“Schmidt’s stepson. I know. I was the one who got him in the party. He did leave.”

FUCK!” He snarled and party-patrons jumped back in surprise and terror. “I’m getting Schmidt’s home phone now. Trail him!”

“Done.”

His heart was lodged in his chest, ice filling his veins, and he spun around again and hurried to where he knew Pepper would be. He ran, shoving people out of the way, to get to her in the middle of a crowd of suits.

Without stopping he grabbed her arm harder than he’d intended and dragged her away.

“Tony!” She snapped. “What the hell?”

“I just met R.”

Her scolding stopped short and she looked at him in surprise. “Our informant, R?”

“Yes, his name is Steve Rogers. He’s Schmidt’s stepson.”

Pepper gaped. “What?”

Tony nodded, his chest heaving as his very own panic attack was starting to set in.

“It-it makes sense.” She conceded. “The information we got was too personal and too well informed. It would have to be someone close to him and able to find all the files, passwords…well everything.” She looked up and looked around, eager. “Where is he? I need to meet him. Because of his information we won this thing so easily.”

“He ran off. Schmidt saw him. He wasn’t supposed to be here and Schmidt saw him and is after him. I need Schmidt’s home number to warn Steve.”

“Tony--”

“He snuck out to be here. Schmidt was basically locking him up. Has kept him locked up. I don’t know what the hell he’s been through but with a man like Schmidt…” He let out a weak, shaky breath. “But I know he’s been hurt on some level. And now he’s trapping himself at his home. I need to get him out of there.”

She made no argument as she pulled out her blackberry and started frantically moving through her files. “Got it and his address.”

“Forward them both to me.” And then he ran as fast as his legs could take him, thanking his sarcastic genius that led him to wear his sneakers, and made it to his parking spot. With a single click of keys, the engine of the Bugatti was revving and he was ripping out of the garage with squealing breaks. “Jarvis, get me to the address Pep is sending to me as fast as possible.”

“Done, sir. Do you want me to patch you through to Schmidt’s house?”

“Yes.” His fingers clenched the steering wheel. “Keep it up till you get an answer.” He could kick himself. How could he not have grabbed Steve’s phone number when he had the chance?

“Please, please don’t be there.” He begged as he blew through a red light and his thoughts continued a horrible mantra of ‘no body, no proof’. “Please.”

-o-

“H-Hello?” Steve tried to keep his breathing steady and even.

“What the hell took you so long?” Schmidt greeted back, his tone harsh and suspicious.

“I had it on silent. Sorry, I wasn’t expecting you to call. Everything going well?”

“You at home?”

Steve felt his fingers shake and he gulped, his throat dry. “No, actually I’m out to get a pizza and a frap…or two. I was starting to fall asleep in front of the computer. Is there a problem?” Sam touched Steve’s shoulder to help calm him down. “I can’t do much through the phone but if you need some sort of paperwork I’m sure I can get it to you.”

“No.” His tone was sharp. “No need.”

“Ok? Did you need--”

“Just get back home and get back to work.” And he hung up.

Steve pulled the phone down and tried not to vomit. “I…I think I’m good.”

Sam nodded, stoned face. “Hiding a lie with some truth works. But, Steve, I don’t think you should stay regardless.”

He kicked off the pants and awkwardly slipped on his jeans. “Sam, he may suspect something.”

“I think that should be acceptable. This isn’t something to play around with. You shouldn’t even risk it. Get in, pack your things, get your laptop and get in the limo.”

Steve chewed his lip in thought. Being bold for the common good was one thing, being stubborn out of some panicked pride was another. “Ok. Ok, I’ll do that. But you and the driver need to wait for me away from the house. A block or two down. I’ll meet you near that bus-station.”

“Why?”

“Like you said, this isn’t something to risk. Schmidt bought it, I think he did, but the last thing we need is him appearing and seeing this limo up front. If he shows up, I may be able to play things my way.”

“Ok, ok. I can get that. Yeah, it would be like him to drop in to check things. Ok, yeah. An hour at the most, Steve. Then I’m dragging you out.”

“I think I can get everything put together in an hour.” His shaking had stopped. He was doing something. He was moving. He was back with a plan and everything was on his shoulders again. No was not the time to worry. Now was the time to get things done.

Like the trip to the party, it took roughly twenty minutes to get to the brownstones. Steve gave a pat to the top of the car and a wave as he drove off to the meeting spot.

Not bothering to wait, he jumped up the stairs, and opened the door.

No one was waiting for him so he took that as a good sign.

The phone started to ring but he ignored it. If it were Schmidt he’d just call his cell. If they left a message, Steve would take it and see if it was important but for now he needed to concentrate on packing and files.

He started with the computer first. Quickly, he found the secret videos and started to transfer them into email and sent them out. He sent five first and hoped they made it quickly.

S.P. I’m sorry I didn’t provide these for you sooner. I wasn’t sure if it would be in my favor if these videos made it out of my hands. But after a night with Stark, I feel they will be more useful in yours. More will be available after download.

--R.

With the communication-line opened, Steve double-checked a few emails were sent out and the rest were downloading onto a Cloud, another email, and a USB. Even in a rush he would be thorough.

“Ok, now time for mom.”

The phone was still ringing but he went up to his room.

‘Sorry, Tony.’ He thought with a wince if it turned out Tony was the S in the S.P. He prayed the man didn’t watch them.

The bedroom he was given was bare and small but still filled with many personal items he didn’t want to part with. He pulled out a plain suitcase used for his rare work travel and opened it wide.

His grandmother’s quilt was pressed in first. He then started to fill up journals, sketchbooks, and a few books of his mother’s. He finished up with few items of clothing, photos, and a jewelry box of his mother’s. There was still more items but these were the ones that meant the most to him.

If he was lucky, maybe he could come back and get the rest.

‘I’m leaving, mom.’ He thought and found himself giddy in panic. ‘I’m leaving him and ruining him in one go.’

Hauling the heavy suitcase down, he left it by the stairs and went to the computer. It still had roughly half left to go. His fingers tapped impatiently on the desk. “Come on, come on.”

The phone was ringing again.

“Damn.” It screeched in the house. “Ok, ok. See who this is and if download isn’t ready, screw it.” He answered it, “Schmidt Residence.”

“Steve!”

Steve looked taken aback at the voice, “Tony?”

“Get the fuck out of there! Get out of there!”

“What?” He responded numbly. “Tony--” A loud cry of surprise pain as a hand smashed into his wrist into the desk and dropped the receiver to the ground. There was a sound, of someone, Tony, screaming but it was distorted.

Hands up, Steve waited no time and swung his fist as Schmidt. The man blocked it but he left his chest opened briefly enough for Steve to place a well-placed front kick. His stepfather stumbled back and grunted in pain.

A brief moment passed and they just glared at one another.

“What are you doing, Steven?” Schmidt hissed, rubbing his chest.

“I’m leaving.” Steve said as he stood tall and strong. “I’m taking all of mom’s things and I’m leaving.”

“No, no you’re not.” Schmidt hissed.

“I’m nearly thirty. I can leave if I want. I’m not going to be your prisoner. I’m leaving. You still have a chance getting out of this without jail-time. Step. Back.”

“Are you actually trying to threaten me, boy?”

Schmidt wasn’t beautiful but he was not an overweight weakling. He had martial arts training that he had used on Steve during what he would call necessary-teachings to make him more of a man. It earned Steve plenty of broken bones but he also knew how to defend himself properly. Picking up brawling techniques became easy when it happened often enough.

Still, Schmidt had better training and though Steve was in shape it was primarily from running and weights. He was looking at some intense injuries if his stepdad wanted an actual fight.

“I’m just saying what’s happening. I’m out of here.”

His crazed eyes looked at the phone and his lips curled. “You said Tony…you speaking with Stark, weren’t you? You were at the party.” Schmidt panted. “I knew something was wrong about the whole mess. They knew too much. They got a hold of things to blackmail me with, Steven. I looked and looked but could not find any sign of who did it. Their contract is binding because of how much they know. You, it was you.”

“Yeah, ok, yeah.” It did not look like there was a point to deny it. “I’m your whistleblower.”

“You’ve,” he started off slowly as if in shock. As if he had never considered Steve would not be afraid of him one day and fight back. “You’ve ruined everything.”

“Yeah, I guess I have.” Steve took a step back, preparing himself for a battle. The enraged look on his face showed he was not in a right mind to talk with. “And I am pretty happy about it too.”

Such simple words of confidence blew up in Steve’s face as Schmidt snarled and rushed him. Steve tried to be prepared but the power in the football tackle took him off guard and he landed with a painful, hard grunt to the ground, his head smacking into the wood.

His vision blacked out for a few seconds which gave Schmidt enough time to get Steve pinned with his hand pressed against the back of his skull and his knee buried into his lower back.

Steve tried to twist and elbow the man off but Schmidt’s better training took over and he smacked Steve’s head back against the floor. He then proceeded to rip Steve’s shirt off his back, leaving shreds behind. “You ungrateful, pathetic, traitorous brat.”

Gritting his teeth, Steve did his best not to make any sound as the whip slashed hard against his back. Of course the damned thing was still out from the last beating and of course that was the go-to for Schmidt.

“Bastard,” Steve tried to get away again but was momentarily stunned by another smack and he actually felt his skin rip from the impact. Blood started dripping down his sides and Schmidt hit that same open wound three more times.

“And this!” Schmidt stood up, pressing his heel into Steve’s wound. “You’re emailing them now. You worthless…” his words turned into German as he picked up the laptop and then smashed it down on Steve’s side. When it didn’t make the impact he wanted, he picked it up and threw it against the floor next to his crumpled floor. It shattered next to Steve’s head and he flinched away from the mess.

“You are not getting out of this house.” He warned, grinding his heel into the wound.

Steve yelped out in agony.

Schmidt got up the crop again and smacked it against Steve’s shoulders now. He was about to start getting a momentum going and Steve was seeing spots when the front door was hit hard numerous times.

They stopped to stared in confusion and surprise as it bowed and cracked and finally gave up from the force and a body rushed in. They could see the outline from down the hall, it rushed forward and stopped just short at the entranceway.

“Steve…”

Steve blinked, stunned, to see Tony just standing in the doorway; his smart blue suit wrinkled and his composed face frantic and dark. “T-Tony.”

“S-Stark.” Schmidt greeted, panting from his exertion. “This…This is a surprise.”

“What the fuck,” he growled, “are you doing?”

“Just showing my son some better manners and how family should not be betrayed.” Much like Steve, he did not bother lying. And much like Steve, he paid a quick consequence as Tony jumped his business-partner and smashed his fist in his jaw and did it twice more for good measure.

“Jesus, Steve.”

Sam appeared out of nowhere, or perhaps he had been there from the start, Steve wasn’t sure. His head was swarming a bit.

“Here, turn over. Let me get a look at your eyes.” Sam peeled open his eyelids back, smacking the side of his face. “Can’t tell for sure, but I don’t think you have a concussion. But you need a doctor, ASAP.”

“Yeah, yeah, I think I can agree to that assessment.” Steve grunted as he tried to pick himself up but missed and fell back down. “Sam, get Tony.” He tried to point but it was his attacked wrist and it throbbed in rejection of his movement. “I think he may actually mean to kill Schmidt.”

“I can’t believe I actually am about to stop him from doing so.”

“Thank you.” Steve allowed his head to fall back to the ground, hating how the room spun a bit. “I think I’ll just stay here for a bit. On my side. Not back. Yeah, that sounds good.” He rolled over, his back screaming in agony.

“Stark, let the man go! You may actually kill him--Stark, stop! Just go to Steve!”

Steve could hear some grunts and ruffling of clothes as Sam ripped Tony of the bloodied and near unconscious Schmidt.

“Go to Steve!” Sam shoved the billionaire away. “I’ll get him cuffed or something till the cops get here. Just go check on him, ok?”

Those must’ve been magic words because Tony was soon in Steve’s eyesight.

“Tony,” Steve blinked, his jaw aching. “I think I got your message a bit late.”

“Oh, my baby…oh, look at what he did to you.” Tony whispered, his voice shuddering. He started touching over Steve’s bruised face. “Can you move?”

“Y-Yeah.” He stumbled a little when he tried to get up. His knees quivered and he was so relieved when Tony helped steady him, keeping their sides pressed together and his arms secured around Steve’s waist. “Sorry, I’ll be good in a minute.”

“Don’t. Just…just take it easy, please.”

“I think taking it easy sounds rather good.” Steve pressed his face against Tony’s neck as they came out into the street. Blue and red lights swirled around in the night air.

“About time.” Tony said, his voice rough. “Come on, baby. I’m getting you into the ambulance.”

“I don’t think I need it.”

“There are no arguments. You’re getting looked at. Your back,” his voice trailed off to a whimper. “Oh, your back…”

Steve did not argue any more against that tone. He said very little for the next few hours. Everything was a blur and he found himself exhausted. His body was maneuvered around, he was stuck a few times, and soon some of the sharp pain started to ease.

“Just relax, baby. There we go.” Tony whispered sweet-nothings over and over. And since he was there, giving Steve permission, he decided it was fine to indeed let go and not think. “Yeah, you don’t have a concussion. You can rest. I’m here and he’s not. He’s never going to be around you again.”

Steve sighed and nodded.

“Now, you need to remain on your stomach or side.” Tony eased Steve to a bed all of a sudden. Where did a bed come from? “You have seven stitches on your back. I was warned it would be very tender.”

“Where are we?”

“My penthouse.” Tony explained as he took off Steve’s shoes and went to work on his jeans. “Your friend warned me you can drink a whole six-pack and not be the least tipsy but strong Advil will take you down. And you’re on something a whole lot better than Advil.”

“Why here?” Steve didn’t bother to get back up. He practically sunk into the bed. His whole body fit with still plenty of room for his toes. He rarely got so much space in a bed.

“Because this is your new home.”

“Huh?” His lifted back up, sleepy confusion written over his face. “Wha?”

“Shh, put your head down, baby.” He pressed his hands against Steve’s brow and stroke over it, putting him back against the pillow. “There we go. Now, I’m lifting up your hips. I know this is a bit dubious on my part, but I don’t want you sleeping in jeans that have blood on them.” Tony urged as he picked up Steve’s waist and peeled off the jeans and left him in his boxer-briefs. “There, that should make sleeping a lot easier.”

“Ok.” Steve slurred, snuggled into the scrumptious bed. Doing as told, he kept on his side and hugged a pillow and blanket.

“You have so many scars back here.” Tony said after a few seconds of silence. His fingers trailing tenderly along Steve’s bare back. He was careful to not touch the stiches. Their angry red color nearly brought him to seeing his own red. They were swelling a bit and would probably cause Steve plenty of pain the next few days.

“Mhm,” Steve sighed, sleepily. Wow, those were some top-notch pain medicines. He was floating off and ready for twelve-hours of blissful sleep. “Oh, your party.”

“It’s fine, baby.”

“But it’s your party.”

“Shh, hush now. It’s fine. I’ll have more.” Tony’s hands continued to caress the skin. “He’s done this to you for over ten-years?”

“Uh-huh.” Steve yawned and snuggled deeper into the pillow. It was the softest thing he’d ever been on.

“W-Why?”

“Hmm?”

“This abuse. God, why did you suffer through it?”

“Worth it. It’s fine.” Steve could feel his eyelids growing too heavy to function with. The pain meds were doing a wonderful number on his brain. He swore he could hear Dolly Parton somewhere. Not a bad thing to pass out to. “Hydra has collapsed. They’re not…they’re not going to hurt anyone else. Right?”

“They’re not. They’re facing public ruin now because of you and your…your videos.”

“You saw?”

“I had some free time when you fell under the impression of drugs at the hospital. School is cool, Steve.”

“I’ll remember that.” Steve chuckled though it felt more like weak air. “Maybe can go to school now.”

“Anything you want. Absolutely anything is yours. Want the moon? I’m sure you’re high enough to reach it yourself, but I’ll get it for you. Fuck, baby, what you went through…and you stayed just to take down a company.”

“It was a bad company.” he yawned again.

“He’s a very bad man.” Tony moved around the bed to kneel before Steve’s tired face. Those warm eyes that had hypnotized Steve all night were red and his look was serious. “I’m going to scold you like hell when you wake up.” He pushed his fingers through Steve’s hair. “I won’t rest until you understand that you will never be so selfless again.”

“Ok.” Steve was nodding off, but he was trying so hard to keep awake.

“Sleep, darling. You deserve all the rest you can get.”

“Ok,” he muttered, about to start to drool. He hoped he didn’t. First night with a hot man and he got caught drooling was not the way he wanted to start anything. He was trying to learn how to be sexy and drooling was not sexy. And was that a St. Bernard?

Tony watched, a smile growing on his face, as Steve eased into his drug-induced sleep, muttering everything in his thoughts the whole time. “There we go, sweetheart. I won’t judge you if you drool. Go on and chase that dog.” He gave him a kiss, covering him up, and left the bedroom.

He was on his phone in a matter of seconds. “My dear Black Widow…how do you feel about sending a special message to a Nazi?”

-o-

“Well, I guess I can’t move in with you two.” Steve said with a sheepish grin as he sunk shyly into the booth’s corner.

Sam rubbed his face, groaning, while Bucky glared at Tony.

Tony kept his hand over Steve’s shoulders, giving a bored look back to the brunette. “Got something to say, Kurt Cobain?”

The sulking man just continued to growler.

“Buck.” Steve pleaded. “No guard-dog today, please. I get enough from these two already.”

“Besides, I’m the boyfriend. I get to be all possessive as I want.”

“No you don’t.” Steve elbowed Tony and turned to Sam, truly the only one with common sense. “You ok with this?”

“I’m just a bit taken aback since you two have only been dating for five days.”

“He’s already living with me to heal up. What’s the point of him leaving?” Tony said with a puffed out chest.

“The five days?” Sam retorted with a raised brow.

“Haven’t you ever watched Disney? They all get married in three days. Steve and I are being conservative in comparison.” Tony kissed the side of Steve’s head in a sickening romantic move.

Bucky and Sam were at a loss as the proper way to respond. Eye roll? Gagging? Make over the top smooching noises? Pry the two apart with a crowbar since the two were completely super-glued together? Hide Steve in a tower? Far too many options.

“Now, we just want it to be more official?” Steve tried with his grin. His face was more impish now as he held Tony’s hand, beaming at the bearded brunette. Tony beamed right back.

“Gross.” Bucky huffed, “I think I can actually see hearts sprouting over your heads.”

“Sasquatch speaks!”

“Tony.” Steve warned with a sigh.

“Well, ok, then.” Sam pursed his lips. “As long as you’re happy, Steve. That’s all Buck and I want for you. But it’s official-official? You’re moving in with him?

“Yes, he is.” Tony huffed and his hand trailed away from the shoulders and up to Steve’s neck and hair. “It’s better this way. He deserves to be in a palace. Don’t you, darling?”

Steve blushed but smiled at Tony. “Tony also wanted to keep me in a safe place as a precaution. Whistleblower and all. Tony worries Schmidt won’t be in the hospital,” it was unusual how Schmidt fell terribly ill after the attack, “or jail forever.”

“He’s in for assault and with his connections and money he could get out within two years, if that long.” Tony filled in, his jaw popping and his mouth pulled down to a frightful frown. "But while he's out of commission, we're dissecting Hydra apart to find anything else we can pin him for."

“Tony also worries about the connections. I think he is just being paranoid, but it seems fair to consider. He wants me in his penthouse at the tower so I have access to better protection.”

‘Holy hell, he is already living in a tower.’ Sam shook his head. ‘What a princess.’

“No one is touching Steve again.” Tony swore.

“Well, good on that.” Sam agreed, nodding to the man. The night of the attack, Tony’s car had sped past Sam waiting in the limo and somehow Sam knew something was wrong and took off sprinting back to the brownstone to find Tony smashing the door down with his body. They hadn’t shared much in conversation but there was for sure a start of a friendship after what they went through that night.

It was also hard to deny Steve’s safety with a man with a couple of billion in his bank account and with the frantic force to break down a door to get to him.

“Well, is there still a need to work at the center?”

“I would like to, but part-time.”

“Hmph, you shouldn’t even work part-time. Just concentrate on your studies and your fabulous boyfriend.”

Studies?” Sam and Bucky repeated.

“Steve is going to school.” Tony explained, proud.

Bucky blinked and looked at his friend, “You are?”

“Tony, uh, is pulling some strings and helping me get into NYU’s art program.” Steve shrunk a bit, his face red.

“Aww, babe, don’t get shy. I’ve told you, you’re not using me. I want to do this for you. The least I can do.” Tony gave Steve a little kiss on the corner of his mouth. “You deserve this. I can’t wait to see what you produce.”

And like that, Steve’s face went red and the other couple simultaneously wanted to smile and vomit.

“Ok, next Monday, 8am, come to the center and we’ll get you situated.” Sam grinned. “Looking forward to having you, Rogers.”

“Right, right. Just don’t give him too many hours, Wilson.” Tony warned and gave Steve’s hand a kiss, something he did every half-hour. “Oh, baby, we need to head out. That exhibit is on its last days and I know you wanted to check it out.”

“Oh, yeah.” An excited grin went over Steve’s face.

I’m taking him to the Metropolitan.” Tony said, his tone smug.

“We know.” Bucky and Sam muttered, suffering from a Couple Headache. It was no hidden feature of Tony that he apparently enjoyed to brag. Almost as much as he loved to talk and dote and kiss on Steve. That was a lot.

“I got the check.” Tony put down a hundred dollar bill. “Come on, babe. Get your milkshake and let’s get the date started and over with. I want you back in bed.”

“Tony, my back doesn’t hurt anymore.” Steve sighed as he picked himself and his drink up.

“When did I say I wanted you resting?”

Oh.”

“Oh, god.” Sam groaned and placed his head on the table. He didn’t care if he probably just pressed it against a ketchup-puddle.

“I do not need to hear about my best friend’s sex life.” Bucky said, his face sour.

“You tell me about yours all the time. You deserve to suffer.” Steve sniffed though he reached over and took Tony’s hand and waved goodbye with his drink. “I’ll see you guys later.”

“Yeah, bye.” They waved back before turning to each other. “So fluffy. Ew.”

-o-

“So the Met for a few hours, maybe a walk, a nice romantic dinner, and then I get you,” Tony purred, his fingers resting on Steve’s thigh and trailed up, “all night long.”

“You start playing that song and you can have me right here.”

Tony barked out laughter. “Wow, Lionel Richie is what gets your motors roaring? Duly noted. Jarvis?”

“Playing now sir.” The music started up.

Now Steve was lost in a fit of giggles, “Me and my big mouth.”

“Feeling the sexy vibes yet?” Tony hummed as he lifted his hands up to dance along.

Steve grinned and nudged him. “Oh yes, I’m officially seduced. But if you start stripping and then we’re talking.”

“You know my history, that is a dangerous dare, Steve. I’m more than willing to get naked.”

“Oh, good, I’ll get my phone out. It’ll be a hit on YouTube.”

“Please, I’m old news. Your hips, on the other hand,” he stopped dancing to give him another squeeze on his upper-thighs, “those will get people talking.”

Steve tapped his chin in sarcastic thought, “Make the dinner Thai and I’ll give you a show.”

“Yep,” Tony nodded as he started the engine. “Yep. Still completely made for me.”

“Yeah,” Steve smiled as he lounged against the seat. His back gave him a mild throb but it was easy to ignore. The small space of the car, speeding through the New York streets, on the way to an art museum, Steve knew he felt happiness. “I think the same.” He leaned over and kissed Tony back. “We were made for each other.”

On the day I fall in love, the sky will be a perfect blue…

“Did you really just start that song?”

“It’s our song, isn’t it?” Tony’s eyebrows wiggled and sang along to, “Roll over Beethoven…so I can get at that ass.” Promptly ruining the song.

“Hey,” Steve slugged his arm. “I thought I was supposed to sing that verse.”

“Ok, we’ll it start over and have karaoke in the car. Perfect way to start a date.”

Steve grinned as the song started and Tony, with his lovely voice, was singing right along with it. “Yeah,” he nodded, watching the man’s smile grow, happiness oozing out of him as much as it was Steve. “Perfect.”