Steve had always hated formal parties and this one was no exception. It was too full of people who smiled, talked pleasantly and were completely false. But then Steve expected nothing else for a party organised by Tony Stark.
Loki had received invitations yearly to the Stark annual fundraiser, but this would be the first year he would be attending. He could hardly say no after the help Stark given them when Bucky was MIA. This year’s invitation also had one major difference. Instead of the standard Mr Loki Borson plus one, the card read Mr and Mr Borson-Rogers. Even though Frigga had put an announcement in the papers, people still tended just to invite Loki by name, seeing as it was him and his money they wanted. Stark was the first of Loki’s business associates to acknowledge his marriage and it was the only reason that Steve was here at all. That and hoping to get a look at the man’s art collection.
Steve and Loki had been at the fundraiser for about an hour and a half and they hadn’t even gotten to the dinner. After the meal, which had cost a fortune, there would be charity auction. Most of the lots would be donated by the other patrons, worth very little in relation to the bids they would receive. Steve couldn’t help feeling that it would be easier to simply make a donation without the circus, but then donations didn’t come with publicity in the gossip column.
Loki had been dragged away by a friend of his mother's. He had looked back to Steve, a look asking for help clearly written across his face. Steve had just smiled and waved a little, gaining a scowl from his husband. It did mean however that at least until Loki got free, Steve was on his own, not really knowing anyone else there.
Steve wandered from group to group for a little while. Most people were polite but the conversation tended to stick to business matters that he didn’t know a lot about or gossip about people he didn’t know.
In the end, he was looking at one of the paintings on the wall, an abstract work when someone touched his elbow. “Hi Steve.” He turned and saw Maria Hill standing behind him. He pulled her into a hug.
“Hi, how are you? I heard you were working for Stark, but I didn’t think you would be here.”
Maria shrugged. “I’m running his PR team so I’m on the clock right now. Still, working for Tony is certainly its own type of challenge.” She smiled at him. “Which I understand is what you’re doing. Nat says you’re going to be painting full time and have a gallery lined up.”
It was Steve's turn to shrug. “I couldn’t stay there. Loki is willing to support me while I get some sales behind me. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll go try something else.”
“Well, I expect an invitation to the exhibition. Now, as much as I liked catching up, there is someone who wants to meet you.” Maria tucked her arm through his and began to lead him across the room.
She took him over to the more crowded side of the room that Steve had avoided so far. In the centre of the throng, stood the party host, Tony Stark. The man was wearing charcoal dress trousers and shirt, the top button undone. His tie was lose and the suit jacket was slung over his arm. He was telling a very loud story about taking some politician down a peg or two.
The newspapers had printed a multitude stories about him over the years, many of which exposed his drinking, drugs and philandering. Steve had noticed however that these stories were become rarer, being replaced with the new directions he was taking the company. He had closed down his arms division and was now focused on clean power sources and medical research, without any real explanation why. He also had seemed to have cleaned up his personal life as well. The rumour was he was involved with the Company’s CEO, but neither had confirmed or denied anything.
“Tony.” Maria called to him, loud enough to cut through the chatter of the other guests.
Stark looked up and seeing her, excused himself and cut thought the crowd to reach her.
“Tony, this is Steve, Loki Borson-Rogers husband. Steve, Tony Stark.” Maria introduced them. With a nod from Tony, she kissed Steve on the cheek, with a whispered request to call her, before she headed off to mingle once more.
“Borson-Rogers, that’s a mouth full.” Tony commented, holding out his hand to Steve.
Steve took Tony’s hand and shook. “Steve, please. We like it and we can still use our unmarried names if we need to.”
“Tony. I’m still waiting for my invitation to the wedding, seeing as I’m a valued client.” Tony laughed. “Anyway, let’s go somewhere less noisy.”
Tony led them both over to a side gallery. It still had full view of the room, but was still isolated enough for a private conversation.
“So, you’re the guy Loki has been hiding from us. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone better at keeping his professional and private life separate. When word got out he was gay and married, it broke more than a few gold-diggers hearts. I think Justin Hammer would have gone gay just to get his hands on one of the Borson brothers and now both are off the market.” Tony commented, a little off hand. “Tell me how did you two meet?”
Steve bristled at Tony’s bluntness. “Thor’s wedding and before you ask the rest is none of your business. We are private people and want to stay that way.”
Tony smirked. He loved getting under people’s skin. Just because he had cleaned up his life and company, didn’t mean he was any less of a jerk at times. “Look, kid, I don’t mean to offend, but it’s a harsh world out there and you married one of the city’s most eligible bachelors, sneakily I might add. You two will be the subject of gossip, in fact I can promise you that at least one group is talking about you right now and not all of it is going to be pleasant. You need to grow a hard skin and deal with it.”
Steve considered Tony’s advice. It was true, he knew what marrying Loki could mean, but Loki avoided the public eye where possible, leaving things like that to Frigga and Thor. Steve knew that when Loki took over the company, he would be expected to take a more active role in its public image and Steve would have to help with that. He wasn’t looking forward to it, but would do what he needed to for Loki.
Steve decided he wanted to move on to a safer subject, one he felt more comfortable talking about. “I’ll keep that in mind. Anyway, I’ve been hoping to meet you for a while to thank you for your help when Bucky was MIA.”
“There's no need to thank me, it got Loki to attend one of my parties. Truth is, I asked Hill to bring you over first chance she got. First, how is your brother doing?” Tony asked settling himself down on a cushioned bench that ran along the wall.
Steve took a seat opposite. He nodded slowly. He felt that Tony deserved to know how Bucky was doing, given how much he had helped them. “Good days and bad. Bucky has got his own apartment and seems to be doing better. He’s having trouble with the Doctors though. They keep pushing for him to be fitted with a prosthetic but he’s resisting. He would rather learn to manage without. And don’t get me started on therapists. He has a new one every two months, just can’t stick with one. I think he has an appointment with a new one next week.”
“A hard man to please. I’m glad you brought up prosthetics. I have expanded the medical research department in the last year and one of the new projects we are working on is the fabrication of fully usable prosthetic limbs, primarily for soldiers who’ve lost limbs in conflicts. And when I mean usable I mean fully functioning. Including fine motor function.” Tony explained, before taking a drink from the scotch in his hand.
“Wow that’s amazing. What stage is the research at? How soon will it be available to the public?” Steve asked, the earlier conversation forgotten.
“We are still in the development phase, but my lead researcher, Dr Bruce Banner, has applied to move to clinical trials. We've been assured that it will be approved so I’m looking for volunteers to be fitted with the prototype limbs. Of course, there will be medical conditions to be met, physical and mental. Assuming he meets the criteria, I want Bucky in the first round. There are no guarantees and it might be years before there's a breakthrough.”
Steve sat back, a little stunned. Bucky's major objection to a prosthetic had been that it would be effectively dead weight. If he got a limb that was usable, he might be more open to the idea. Still, he had some doubts.
“What do you want?” Steve asked. “I mean, we're only here because you got us past the army red tape, but why would you help Bucky now? What more do you want from Loki?”
“What did Loki tell you?” Tony asked.
“That he would be attending fundraisers for the next ten years, because of your help.” When Tony raised an eyebrow, Steve continued. “But he also said that you would have helped not matter what.”
“Let me tell you who I am, Rogers. I’m a bordering alcoholic, who spent many years selling weapons to every government on the planet and slept with anyone I wanted. I was on a path of self-destruction.” Tony sighed. “And then five years ago, I was kidnapped after a weapons demo in Afghanistan by a group called the Ten Rings. Nice group of people. They had gotten their hand on Stark tech and wanted me to modify them into dirty bombs. Of course, I refused until they threated to shoot the kids they had kidnapped, they'd been turning them into boy soldiers. It was the incentive I needed. Still I delayed as much as I could and got lucky, Rhodey found the base and got me out after six weeks. Bombed the place to hell later. So, I know what your brother is going though. Guess I want to give him the chance to get back what was taken from him.”
Steve took a moment to absorb the information he had been given. None of this was public knowledge. “How come none of this has made it to the papers? A billionaire getting kidnapped should have a leader.”
“We have a kidnap policy in place. We do nothing to draw attention to the situation and we have a team on standby, mostly ex-military, who’s job it is to find and get the employee out.” Tony explained. “Of course, Pepper did most of the work. According to her, I was one a private cruise for the duration. In other words, in rehab. After I got back, I couldn’t sell weapons anymore, knowing that they were going into the hands of terrorists. It also forced me to look at myself real hard and I didn’t like me. I am not saying I’m perfect but I am more settled and have managed to get someone very important in my life to keep me there.”
Steve realised that for all he was an ass, Tony Stark was trying to be a better person. “Ok, I’ll talk to Bucky. He might say no, I try to avoid talking about his arm unless he brings it up, but I think he might be interested.”
Loki chose that moment to finally reappear, having freed himself for his mother’s friend. “Stark, please tell me you aren’t trying to seduce my husband.”
Steve looked shocked at the statement, but then saw the humour in Loki’s eyes. Tony didn’t even blink and replied with the same humour.
“As long as you stay away from Pepper, we’ll be fine, Borson. Now, here is my card, Rogers, if Barnes is interested. And I shall leave you, so we can eat. Gentleman.” With that, Tony stood, slipped on his jacket and headed back into the main party.
Steve shot Loki a look, who said. “When we were drawing up plans for his building, he was convinced that I was enamoured with Miss Potts. We had words after the meeting, I had to show him a picture of you before he believed me. He has issues that will keep his therapist in business for years. What did he want anyway?”
Steve smiled. “I'll fill you in later, but it could be good news for Bucky.”