The smile on Natasha’s face was almost feral as she gestured above where Tony stood. He looked up, tracked back down to where Steve was walking towards him, and then looked back at Natasha, eyes wide. He moved to take a step back, out of the path of the offending item, but found himself buffeted by a warm body. A glance over his shoulder revealed Clint, his back to Tony but turned just enough for Tony to see the lift of his cheek as he smiled. Tony narrowed his eyes and turned to move forward but was instead met with Steve’s bright blue eyes.
“Who spiked the eggnog?” Steve asked, an eyebrow raised at the way Tony had been stumbling.
“No one, Clint was just—” he turned to glare at the man only to find him already gone, “—being an asshole.”
Steve chuckled. “Well, that’s not so unusual.”
Before Tony could start to guide Steve away, Bruce walked by and smiled at Tony before looking at Steve.
“Hey, Steve—oh, look.” Bruce pointed upwards as his pace slowed. “Mistletoe,” he said and kept on walking, leaving Tony to a very nice view of Steve’s neck as he tilted his head up to look.
Steve looked back at Tony, a shy smile on his face. He opened his mouth to no doubt tell Tony that it was a silly tradition, they didn’t need to do it, but was interrupted by someone yelling from across the room.
That sounded an awful lot like Thor, Tony thought. He’d be having words with him later.
The entire room, consisting of the Avengers, their paramours, and a smattering of people from SHIELD, seemed to look their way and Tony looked at Steve, who frowned for a moment, shrugged, and put his large warm hand on Tony’s neck and leaned in.
Tony got a whiff of Steve’s cologne, whimpered internally, and then Steve’s lips were on his and he whimpered not-so-internally. Thankfully the sound was covered up by someone’s wolf-whistle. And then there was a moment, a very fleeting moment, where Steve was kissing him. In that moment, life was good, life was great. Steve was a warm presence in front of him, the kiss just slightly more than a pair of two dry lips touching, with Tony’s bottom lip caught between Steve’s own. And then Steve was pulling back. Tony leaned forward a moment, not ready for it to end, before he remembered himself and opened his eyes.
Steve was standing in front of him, eyes dancing, a slight pink tinge to his ears, the rest of the room had gone back to whatever they were doing before Tony’s life had been turned on end and Natasha was still grinning at him a few feet away.
Tony cleared his throat. “Right. Well, good to know you’re down with free love, Cap.”
Steve laughed, Tony smiled, and life went on.
Until the next morning when JARVIS gave him his morning run down in the shower and the projected tabloid covers on the specially made glass door made Tony’s heart skip a beat.
“Shit. Shit, shit, shit. Has Pepper seen this? How the hell did that get out? The only people in attendance were either vetted by SHIELD or were SHIELD!”
“Miss Potts has already started to work on damage control and wished to relay the message that you, under no uncertain terms, are not to leave the tower until this blows over. She would like to remind you of the Amsterdam incident.” Tony winced as JARVIS continued.“She also says that the official position on this photo is ‘no comment.’”
Tony rubbed his forehead as the hot water pounded on his back, doing virtually nothing for the newly tense muscles.
A thought occurred. “Fuck. Steve.”
He hoped against hope that Steve hadn’t gone for his morning run today. “J? Where’s Steve at now?”
“Captain Rogers is not currently present. Judging by his clothing and prior data he should be back from his run in approximately ten minutes.”
He rushed through the rest of his shower, called Pepper while he got dressed as quickly as he could, and then went for the kitchen, hoping that Steve would stick to routine and go straight for his protein shake. Tony twitched his way around the kitchen, unable to sit still, worrying about what kind of mood Steve would be in. Thankfully, JARVIS was right, and Steve walked in looking only a little more frazzled than usual just a few minutes after the estimated time.
He saw Tony and stopped short immediately. “Tony—what,” he shook his head. “What’s going on? There are all sorts of reporters out front and they kept asking—”
“I know. I’m sorry. I don’t know how they got that photo.”
“What photo?” Steve asked.
Tony sighed. “Someone must have snapped a picture with their phone at the party the other day.”
Steve still looked confused.
“The mistletoe,” Tony clarified.
Comprehension dawned on Steve’s face, his mouth forming a little ‘oh’ before he walked forward and sat down.
“So that’s why they think we—we’re dating?”
Tony nodded and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Pepper’s put me on lockdown. Barring all villainous attempts at taking over the world, I’m not allowed to leave the tower until this is under control. Our official stance on this is ‘no comment’ and I’d suggest that’s all you say to anyone who asks, unless you feel like facing her wrath.”
“You’re on lockdown? Shouldn’t I—”
Tony shook his head, and relaxed his stance a bit. “Pepper thinks you’re trustworthy and the press don’t have any skeletons to dig up on you. Due to past transgressions, however, she doesn’t feel the same way about me.”
Steve frowned and sat up straight. “Well, that’s hardly fair. You’re a good man Tony, they can’t hold your past against you!”
Steve’s indignation at Tony’s treatment made Tony soften his tone. “They can and they will. Pepper’s right. You reap what you sow, Steve. I know that better than most.”
His shoulders slumped and Steve sighed, “So, what? We just do nothing, say nothing?”
“Exactly. Give it long enough and pretty soon the American people will be fascinated with something else.”
Steve frowned and Tony knew instinctively that inaction was Steve’s least favorite plan of all.
“Hey, I know it sucks, but we just need to ride it out. Things will get back to normal soon enough.”
Steve nodded a little slowly, still glowering at the table. Tony hesitated a moment before he crossed the room and put one hand on the man’s shoulder.
“I promise,” he said, giving a squeeze before he left the room, both hating the look on Steve’s face and the feeling in the pit of his stomach. The feeling that was attached to the small voice in the back of his head saying that of course it would blow over. There wasn’t anything true to the headlines, how could there be? Steve Rogers would never be interested in someone like Tony Stark.
Tony Stark was a liar.
Life didn’t return to normal “soon enough”. It had been three weeks. Three weeks and, if anything, it had only gotten worse. New headlines were popping up everywhere. Every single photo ever taken where he had so much as glanced in Tony’s direction were suddenly irrefutable proof of their love affair.
People Steve had only ever met once in his life for a few seconds were giving interviews talking about how Captain America and Iron Man were made for each other. Articles popped up discussing the rocky beginning to their relationship only to go on to explain in rather tawdry phrases how they learned to love one another despite their flaws and how they were swept up in a whirlwind romance that rivaled the movies.
That was to say nothing of the jokes and looks he’d been receiving from the rest of the team.
The sad fact was that apparently it was so believable that not only did all of the tabloids run with it, but the more reputable news sources started to run their own stories on the pair. They shied away from calling them a couple outright but they were certainly cashing in on the stir that the photo had caused.
Everyone from religious fanatics saying they were going to hell and taking the country with them to Avengers fanatics talking about how great of a couple they were, how well they matched each other and seemed to ground each other, were talking about Steve and Tony. It wouldn’t have been such a problem for Steve, ignoring everything and waiting for it to go away, if his own thoughts and feelings didn’t align so closely to those of the latter group.
Even then it could have been fine, Steve could have continued on living in his world of denial and longing, if the newspapers and websites hadn’t taken the opportunity to drudge up every single photo and piece of gossip regarding Tony’s previous ‘relationships’ with men. Relationships which Steve had been blissfully unaware of. But now Steve was aware. He was painfully aware of the glimmer of hope that resided in him, the one that said he actually had a chance if he was brave enough to take it. And while bravery was something Steve usually had in spades, there was something about Tony that set him off kilter. His thoughts and feelings were twisted around each other, entangled and knotted up like a fine chain left forgotten in a pocket for too long. Hopeless.
Worse yet, since Tony hadn’t stepped foot outside of the tower in those three weeks, Steve was left with the brunt of the attention. Reporters swarmed around the entrance of the tower, shoving microphones in his face and yelling questions as he tried to gracefully weave his way through them. Questions ranging from fairly innocent to downright obscene, questions that he ignored but would come back later and haunt him.
‘When did you start dating Tony Stark?’
‘Are you two spending the holiday together?’
‘Is he as good in bed as the rumors say?’
The questions rattled around in his head as he jogged. The answers, some real and some only hopeful, already fully formed in his brain. He didn’t know how much longer he could stand this, to see something he wanted so badly dangled in front of his face like this. Hell, there had been times even he had started to believe some of the pictures that had been dug up. Pictures of Tony staring at Steve while he was busy talking to SHIELD agents after a battle, like he couldn’t tear his eyes away from him. Photos of Tony with his arm around Steve, smiling at him like he was the center of the universe—
Steve shut down that line of thought and instead thought of the fact that he actually hadn’t seen Tony in the flesh in a few days. He was surprised at how well Tony had been following Pepper’s orders, since the man typically couldn’t care less what the press thought of him and did as he pleased anyway. But it wasn’t just that, was it? Tony hardly ever listened to anyone when it came to himself, he didn’t care what the majority of the world thought of him. So why was he hiding himself in the tower? Why hadn’t he taken control of the situation like usual?
In a moment of clarity, Steve realized it wasn’t just Tony’s name being bandied about this time. It wasn’t just Tony’s character and personal life being discussed like it was dinnertime entertainment. It wasn’t just Tony’s reputation that would take a hit if one of them said or did the wrong thing. It was Steve’s, too. Tony was being careful for Steve.
The unpredictable, often-brash Tony Stark was keeping a low profile, something Steve hadn’t been aware was even possible, just for Steve. His heart stuttered in his chest as his feet pounded the pavement, turning over this realization in his mind. He didn’t know what to make of it. He knew what he hoped it meant, but Tony hadn’t given any inclination of possible attraction to Steve. At least, not outside the same comments he gave to the rest of the team regarding the general appeal of so many good-looking people in one building.
He slowed his steps as he approached the tower, dripping with sweat. The throng of people outside the entrance had grown and he did his best to push his way through politely, ignoring the questions being thrown at him. Just when he thought he was finally getting the hang of how to handle these people, someone yelled out a question that made him nearly trip over his own feet for the first time in decades.
‘Captain Rogers! How long have you been in love with Tony Stark?’
It was a fairly innocuous question, considering the other things he had been asked recently, but it made his stomach plummet to his feet. He kept walking, neatly covering his stumble, but his mind was racing.
How couldn’t he have realized it before? It was obvious. It wasn’t just a simple attraction, infatuation, or even a silly crush. How long ago had he fallen in love with Tony? He couldn’t remember the last time he had looked at the man and saw nothing more than a friend. Weeks, months… possibly even over a year. A year of feeling like this and he had done nothing. Like a coward, he thought, suddenly sick with himself.
He took a deep breath and strode across the lobby, back straight. Enough was enough. He had to talk to Tony today, he had to figure this out, get his answer and either start moving on with the thought that he had done his best or… Or.
Careful not to get his hopes up, he forwent his shower, feeling as if he had already waited long enough for this moment. He went straight down to the elevator and didn’t bother with asking for Tony’s location, he already knew.
The music shut off as soon as he punched in his code and stepped inside. Tony was bent over a workbench, blowtorch in hand. Jumping slightly at the sudden lack of noise, his head tilted up, eyes covered with dark goggles. Shutting off the flame, he gave Steve a quick grin as he set down the torch and pushed the goggles up to his forehead. His grin faded and his eyebrows pinched together as he got a good look at Steve.
“You’re looking… wet.” He said and then he took in Steve’s face, probably noticing the firm set of his jaw. “And angry.”
Steve sighed and crossed his arms. “Tony…”
“Yep, already not liking this conversation,” Tony said.
Steve shook his head, trying to figure out where to start but Tony beat him to it.
“Is this about the vultures outside? Look, Steve, it’s only been a few weeks… they’ll get tired of it—”
“Tony, they aren’t getting tired of it. It’s just getting worse!” Steve said. Nervous, the words tumbled out too loudly. He immediately regretted it, that wasn’t what he had come to talk about and now he could see Tony’s defenses raising.
“I don’t know what you want me to do, Steve, Pepper thinks—”
“Since when do you care that much about what Pepper says?” And oh, it seemed all the things he didn’t want to say were just tumbling out of his mouth. He hadn’t meant that the way it sounded.
“That’s not—that’s not what I meant,” Steve said, dropping his arms and taking a few steps forward.
“Are you sure? Because there’s really not a whole lot of fucking ways to take that, Steve.”
“Look, I just— one of the reporters—” he started but Tony talked over him.
“Because I’ll have you know that Pepper is one of the very few people whose opinions do matter to me, and if you don’t know that then I don’t know what to tell you.”
“The only reason I’m down here is because Pepper insisted I stay out of the limelight because lord knows the moment I get in front of cameras, I’ll fuck up and not that I care how they see me—”
“—but since we are supposedly ‘dating’, and trust me they won't believe us when we say we’re not, if I fuck up it won’t just reflect badly on me, it’ll reflect on you—”
“Tony!” Steve shouted, trying to be heard over Tony’s rant. “I just came down here to tell you I love you, you idiot!”
Tony flinched back a step, as if taking a hit. His mouth hung open as he stared at Steve in shock.
Steve took a step forward. “Fuck. I’m sorry, I—this is all coming out wrong.”
Tony was looking at him as if he had sprouted another head and Steve was feeling so out of sorts he wondered if maybe he had and just hadn’t noticed yet.
“You what?” Tony asked.
Steve sighed. “It’s not new. I’ve felt this way for a while now. But all this stuff with that picture... I was doing alright with it. I was,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “Until now. One of the reporters asked me if I love you. It caught me off guard and, well, I realized I did. I do. Love you, I mean.”
Tony was silent, staring at him like Steve was a figment of his imagination.
“Look,” Steve said. “I understand if you’re not interested. This is pretty… heavy stuff to put on you when you’ve never even acted like—well, I’ll understand. We don’t have to let this affect the team or our friendship. I can get over it, I promise. But I just—I had to tell you. You deserved to know and I needed to find out, one way or another. So there you have it.”
He stood there a moment, fighting the flush he could feel creeping up to his cheeks. Tony didn’t say anything, making no move or any indication whatsoever that he had heard what Steve had said. It really wasn’t fair of him, Steve thought, to drop this all on Tony and expect—well, he didn’t know what to expect. But the least he could do was give Tony a moment alone.
“I’ll just give you some time,” he trailed off, turning around, ready to head out.
“Wait,” Tony said. “Just… wait.”
Steve turned back and saw Tony walking towards him, hesitant. He tilted his chin up, ready for whatever Tony had to say to him. Tony stepped within arms reach, just far enough to not be crowding Steve. His eyes were roving over Steve’s face, inquisitive and Steve held his breath. They stood like that for nearly a minute before Tony reached up ever so carefully and cupped Steve’s jaw with his hand. Steve exhaled and felt his entire body relax under Tony’s touch. Tony noticed, of course he noticed, and he grinned and that flash of teeth was the last thing Steve saw before he felt Tony’s lips against his own.
It was so much like the night with the mistletoe, the jolt of heat through his body because he was kissing Tony, and the warm thrum of pleasure because he was kissing Tony. But this time they didn’t pull apart and smile awkwardly at each other, this time Tony pulled back for a moment and they both smiled dopily at each other before going back in for another kiss. And another.
Before he knew it Steve was panting into the kiss, pressing Tony up against a work bench, his hands cupping Tony’s face as he deepened the kiss while Tony’s hands ran up and down his sides. He moved his hand up to drag the goggles off of Tony’s head, tossing them onto the table, feeling Tony smile into the kiss, before he threaded his fingers through Tony’s hair. Groaning as Steve pulled lightly at his hair, Tony ran his hands down Steve’s back, giving Steve a firm squeeze on the rear and pulling Steve’s body into his own.
Steve felt light headed as his hips moved of their own accord, rutting against Tony, his erection full-fledged behind his tight jeans. From the way that Tony gasped and the pressure Steve felt against his own hip, he knew that Tony was in the same state as he was.
He contemplated doing things proper, taking Tony on a date and wooing him a little before getting physical, but Steve had been living with this thread of lust and love for too long. Steve had told Tony he was in love with him and Tony had kissed him, this wasn’t just a one-off, they would have time after this for more traditional things. He would have all the time in the world to woo Tony later, the thought and ideas already running through his head, gleeful with the idea that they wouldn’t have to hide it since the whole world already thought they were together. But right now he wanted nothing more than to slide Tony’s pants down and take him apart with his hand.
So that is exactly what he did. With one hand still firmly entangled in Tony’s hair, Steve slid the other between them, deftly unbuckling Tony’s belt before unbuttoning and unzipping his pants, shoving them and Tony’s underwear down until Tony’s cock sprang free.
Tony bit into Steve’s bottom lip when he wrapped a hand around Tony’s length, stroking slowly and firmly until Tony was doing little more than gasping into Steve’s mouth, his hands gripping Steve’s sides. There was a brief struggle as Tony reached an arm between them, making quick work of Steve’s own pants. Steve let go of Tony’s cock, bringing them together instead, skin to skin, as he thrust against Tony’s body, the space between them slick with precome and sweat.
His hands made their way to Tony’s ass, fingers massaging the firm flesh he found there. The edge of the workbench must have been digging painfully into the bottom of Tony’s ass, Steve realized. He broke the kiss, bent slightly and lifted Tony until he was seated on the cool metal surface, removing Tony’s pants entirely before stepping between Tony’s legs, aligning their cocks once again. He wrapped his hand around both of them and Tony slumped forward, his forehead resting against Steve’s shoulder, breathing harshly.
It wasn’t long before Tony came, spilling hot over Steve’s hand with a soft sigh. That feeling, Tony’s release warming and slicking his own cock even more, and Tony’s breath on his neck was almost too much for Steve to bear. He wasn’t going to last much longer himself and when he felt Tony’s hand curl around his own to help, Steve came with Tony’s name on his lips, knees threatening to give out beneath him.
Tony’s other hand stroked through his hair as he pressed gentle kisses to Steve’s neck as he rode out his orgasm. When Steve finally slumped down, resting his head on Tony’s shoulder, Tony chuckled. They stood there for a little bit, catching their breath until Tony broke the silence.
“So, uh, while I hate to do this with our dicks hanging out and freezing my bare ass on cold metal, in favor of avoiding any awkward conversations or situations… I, uh, love you too, you meathead.”
Steve’s heart clenched and he laughed. He leaned back and took Tony’s face in his free hand. He looked up at Steve, eyes wide and full of emotion, a small smile on his lips. Steve rubbed his thumb along Tony’s cheekbone and pressed a soft gentle kiss to his lips.
When Steve pulled back, Tony smiled up at him. “I should probably give Pepper a call but after that, what do you say we blow this popsicle stand and give the people outside what they want?”
Steve laughed. “Sounds good to me. But first why don’t we go upstairs, clean up, and finish what we started?”
“Finish?” Tony asked and then glanced down. He looked back up at Steve with a glint in his eyes. “Oh, wow. Yeah. This is going to be great. I love you, you have the best ideas.”
Steve laughed again. “I love you too, Tony.”