Steve hadn't quite realized how many fans he had.
It had been years since he'd been a working commercial artist, years since he'd been the penciler for Captain America. He hadn't done a lot of issues -- maybe ten, if that -- and then, well, the exigencies of superheroing had meant he'd dropped off the grid. Marvel hadn't even been able to find him to pay him for the last one. He'd thought, honestly, that he'd faded into obscurity. He'd never really kept track, and it had been work-for-hire, so it wasn't as if he could measure his success by royalty checks. But two months ago, the Comic-Con people had somehow found him, phoned him up, and asked if he'd be willing to be a guest at their convention. Meet the fans, sign autographs, maybe pose for a few pictures, be on a panel. It had sounded like the sort of thing Steve was quite used to doing in his other persona. No problem. Easy. It would make people happy.
It had been right after they'd come back from Onslaught that the convention had come calling, and Steve had duly checked his calendar for two months out. All clear. And they'd only wanted him to sign for an hour. He could do that.
Apparently everyone involved had significantly underestimated Steve's popularity.
They'd closed the line at the end of the hour, but Steve, a little guiltily, had insisted that everyone who was already in line should stay.
Privately he thought that if they had known who else he was, the line would have been out the door of the convention center.
He had fans. He, Steve Rogers, had hundreds of fans. People in Cap t-shirts clutched trade paperbacks, lovingly-preserved first edition comics encased in plastic slabs, equally lovingly dog-eared comics that had been read until their covers had fallen off, action figures molded of Cap the way Steve had drawn him -- which, of course, the universe being what it was, meant they looked more than a little like Steve himself.
There were fans who had been to the convention every single year, who were so thrilled to finally see him in person. There were fans who had written into the letter column, back when he'd been drawing the comic. He'd signed every issue that he'd drawn, multiple times over, and he'd heard a story for every issue: here, when Cap fought Zemo, why, that had given this fan the courage to speak up about the bullies at her school, and she wanted Steve to know what that meant to her. Here, when Cap met the Avengers again, that had been the first thing another fan had ever decided to read to practice his English, and now he was a creative writing major at Empire State University. Steve had known that as Captain America he'd touched people's lives -- he couldn't not have. Heck, back when he'd been drawing Cap, people had been calling in on that hotline he'd had, and he'd helped them out the way he always did, as a superhero. But he'd never realized he'd touched them as plain old Steve Rogers, too.
It was humbling, it was wonderful, to know that this thing he'd done had been a force for good all along, and he'd never even known.
And there were so many people in costume, too. There were other Avengers as well, sure, but there were a whole lot of Captains America. Men dressed in meticulously-accurate reproductions of every uniform Steve had ever had told him, passionately, how much he'd really understood the character of Captain America, how that was plain from his portrayal, how they loved his art, the dynamic flow of his action scenes, scenes that showed how he really understood battle. There were people dressed as Captain America if he'd been in a different era, if he'd been another gender, if Captain America had somehow been a woman from Regency England or a gladiator from Ancient Rome, and they all posed for pictures with him. Steve had hefted the gladiator in a bridal carry, at his request and to his friends' chortling delight.
A grinning dark-haired man dressed as Nomad -- cape and all -- had winked at him and slipped Steve his room key underneath a comic to sign. He'd been far from the only one hitting on Steve. But he'd been the cutest of them, honestly, and Steve had to give him points for sheer audacity.
(Okay, maybe Steve was a little bit lonely. And maybe he had a type. But he wasn't quite that lonely yet.)
Steve's personal favorite costume so far had belonged to the five-year-old girl in a blue dress with a white star and wing-shaped hair barrettes to match. She'd solemnly told him that she was going to draw Captain America when she grew up, and he'd signed her crayon Cap drawing himself ("Keep drawing! Best of luck, Steve Rogers") and told her he was looking forward to seeing her in print.
But even so, there was only so much of this Steve could take at once, and he was glad of the impending end. He scrawled his signature at the bottom of the comic book open in front of him -- a splash page of Cap surrounded by the Avengers -- capped the dying Sharpie, put his head up, smiled politely, and pushed the issue back into the hands of a woman whose Captain America costume had an inordinately large number of belt pouches, stars on the shoulders, and a strange beak-like face mask.
There was one more person in line, and he was an Iron Man.
Steve had seen a few of those today, wandering the hall, their costumes executed with a great degree of enthusiasm but wildly varying degrees of skill. This guy, though -- he looked like he could have walked right out of Tony's armory. The suit was one of Tony's classic designs, with flexible golden metal clinging to the man's arms and legs, fitting into the bulkier crimson metal paneling of the armor's body, boots, and gauntlets. He'd even wired it for light; his palms glowed, just like the real repulsors did. Steve was impressed.
"Hi there," Steve said, managing to summon up his best smile once more. "What can I do for you? Do you want me to sign that?"
Iron Man set down an issue that -- unsurprisingly -- had Cap and Iron Man together on the cover, back to back, taking down Hydra agents.
"Do you take commissions?" Iron Man asked, and, wow, he had the vocal filtering going, exactly like Tony. Steve wanted to compliment him -- he was just like the real thing -- but he had no idea what to say that wouldn't give him away, because of course it wasn't as if the entire world had intimate knowledge of Iron Man, and Steve Rogers the former comics artist certainly wasn't supposed to have befriended the real Avengers.
Steve reached for another Sharpie and uncapped it. He flipped open the issue, looking for a good place to sign, but Iron Man was still talking, even as Steve's brain finished catching up with the question.
"I'm interested in commissioning a sketch," Iron Man said. He leaned forward, edging into Steve's personal space, splaying his gauntleted hands on the table. "I'd like you to draw me wearing only a tiny thong, with Captain America staring at my nearly-naked body in horror."
Well, it wasn't the strangest or most obscene request he'd ever gotten. But still, that was a no. That would have been a no even if he did do commissions, which he didn't have the time to, what with the Avengers gearing up again; he wasn't actually a working artist anymore.
Steve's mouth was moving on autopilot, and he gave him the same answer he'd given everyone else with inappropriate requests of a similar nature. The same thing he'd told the flirtatious Nomad, actually. "I'm sorry," he said, by rote. "I'm not comfortable with that."
He looked away; he put his head down, focusing on the comic issue on the table. Iron Man's shadow over the pages shifted as he leaned in more.
"Yeah," Iron Man said, a drawling reply, but one that sounded almost amused. "Just imagine how I felt."
That really wasn't the response Steve had been expecting. It was as if this guy really had been--
Steve's head snapped up. Iron Man's eyes behind the mask were an extremely familiar dark blue, dancing with suppressed laughter, with joy at his own cleverness.
Tony, he wanted to say, and then Iron Man, but he couldn't say either, because at this point both were equally compromising. The name tag dangling around Tony's neck proclaimed him to be Randall Pierce, and Steve wanted to laugh, because he was pretty sure Randall Pierce had been legally dead for a long, long time, since that mess with the Guardsmen and Tony's armor designs. Since Steve had actually been drawing Captain America, come to think of it. On the one hand, it had been a while. On the other hand, six months ago both he and Tony had been dead in the eyes of the world, so -- Steve supposed -- why not resurrect all the fake identities?
A staffer was heading toward them with panic in her eyes, and Steve realized belatedly that Tony's words and body language would have been extremely unwelcome from a stranger.
"No, no, I'm okay," Steve called out, hastily waving her off. "I know, uh, Randall. He's an old friend."
The woman nodded, but by her gaze she wasn't entirely mollified.
Steve fumbled for the camera that he'd stashed under the table; he'd been taking pictures here and there of some of the costumed attendees, with their permission, and with the vague notion of showing them to the team later. He thought Jan would be particularly impressed by the sewing skills on display.
"Say," he added, "would you mind taking a picture of the two of us? Just for me?"
"No problem," the woman said, and he passed her the camera.
"That's fine, really," Tony said, and his eyes behind the mask were wide. "I wouldn't want you to go to any trouble--"
"It's no trouble," the woman assured him. "We were so lucky to be able to get Mr. Rogers this year. He's been a wonderful guest. Here, you're both going to need to stand up."
Getting up, Steve beckoned Tony to his side of the table; Tony slipped between the gaps between booths with a remarkable amount of dexterity for a man who was currently six foot six in combat-ready armor.
"Closer," she directed, and Steve obligingly reached up and slung his arm over Tony's metal shoulders. He could almost feel Tony stiffen up. Strange. Tony was usually so much calmer than this around him.
"There you go," she said, and she squinted. "Don't you want to take that helmet off so you can see your face in the picture?"
The quiet hissing noise next to him stopped, and Steve was certain that was Tony forgetting to breathe.
"Nah," Steve said, letting the word come out of him as a casual drawl, the way Tony would have said it. "He's good." Steve grinned broadly. "He's got a secret identity, you know. Iron Man can't let just anyone see his face."
The staffer giggled, and Tony made a series of reasonably alarming spluttering noises, pitched low enough that only Steve could hear them.
"You think you're so funny," Tony said, darkly, under his breath, and then he straightened up and lifted his face toward the camera. He gave the camera a thumbs-up, and Steve wondered if he was smiling.
"Okay, on three," the woman said, and Steve smiled like he meant it, which wasn't hard, because it was Tony he was with, after all, and Tony always got a real smile out of him. "One and two and--"
The flash dazzled his eyes, and as Steve was blinking, the woman handed the camera back.
"Thanks," Steve said. "That was swell."
"Yeah, definitely swell!" Tony echoed, and his filtered voice resounded with an impressive level of earnestness. "I'm so glad I could get a picture of me in my Iron Man costume with my friend Steve here. Maybe someday I can take a picture with the real Captain America, too!"
Steve tried not to choke on his own tongue.
"T-- Iron-- Randall! Uh." He floundered and eventually found the right name. "Yeah," he added, weakly. "That would be swell too."
"You started it," Tony informed him, with audible glee, as the woman walked away.
Steve refrained from telling Tony that Tony had in fact started it by asking him for the damn sketch.
They were alone. Except they weren't alone, of course. There were people on all sides of them, people within earshot, and they couldn't talk freely. Steve realized that this was how Tony was going to play this: he was Steve Rogers, former Captain America artist, and this was his friend Randall Pierce, a man in a homemade Iron Man costume, and they certainly weren't anything else, not with all these people around to hear them. It was like having an entirely different secret identity.
Well, at least he knew they could both handle that. And if Tony wanted to have a little fun with their identities, well, who was Steve to begrudge him? Two could play at that game.
As he sat down, he motioned Tony to the folding chair next to him, which creaked alarmingly under the weight of Tony's armor. At least his old suits were lighter. Relatively.
"So, Randall," Steve said, with a grin, "what brings you to the con? I didn't think this was your sort of scene."
"Oh, you'd be surprised by what sort of things are my scene," Tony said.
The drawl sounded a little choppy through the filters, the way it always did, but Steve had known Tony long enough to know exactly what his face looked like under the mask: he'd be grinning, his eyes half-lidded in that way that for anyone else might have been flirtation, but wasn't with him. Tony didn't mean it like that. Not with him. Steve had long ago resolved not to let that particular fact bother him. Tony just didn't like him like that.
Steve let one eyebrow drift upward. "Oh?"
"This actually isn't my first convention," Tony informed him. "I went to one a while back for, uh. Business reasons." Steve wondered what in God's name supervillains had been doing at a comic book convention. "But I brought the armor-- I mean, suit-- I mean, costume. Had a great time. And so I thought I'd check this one out. You know, work on my Captain America comic collection. And then I saw you were signing, and, well, how could I resist?"
Steve grinned. "Maybe you can get Cap to sign your comic sometime, huh?"
Tony made another strangled noise.
Steve waited patiently.
"He's my favorite," Tony finally said, and God, even if Tony didn't like him like that it was always nice to hear Tony tell him he liked him.
"You didn't want to dress up as him?" Steve asked, just because he was curious to see how Tony was going to get out of that one.
"Eh." Tony shrugged, the motion, as always, huge in the armor. "I've got a Cap costume in the closet. Was thinking about it for Halloween," he said, to Steve's surprise, and several other feelings that Steve probably shouldn't contemplate in public. "But this one was ready to go and... I feel like I couldn't be Cap, not really."
The idea of Tony in his uniform kindled feelings in Steve that he hadn't even known existed, something warm and tight deep within him, full of an aching longing. Possession. It would be like Tony was his, or he Tony's. Like giving himself to him.
But, geez, the idea that Tony thought he didn't deserve this--
"I don't think he'd mind," Steve managed to say. "I mean, uh. Not like I'm an authority on the fella. But he seems like the kind of man who would be happy to know that he... meant so much to people." To you.
Tony shrugged again. "Anyway. Whatever. I had this old thing lying around. It was no big deal."
"I like it," Steve said, and he watched Tony glance away behind the mask like he could avoid the compliment. "You look just like him. Iron Man, I mean. I always liked that armor." Steve smiled again. "You want to know a secret? He's my favorite Avenger."
"Ca-- Steve," Tony said, almost desperately, and Steve realized that he could compliment Tony all he wanted and Tony couldn't stop him.
This secret identity thing was the best.
"No, really, he is," Steve assured him. "I mean, I drew the Cap comics because that was what Marvel hired me for. If there had been an opening, I would have been thrilled to draw Iron Man. He just-- he's always been an inspiration to me, you know?"
"An inspiration?" Tony echoed, and his voice sounded faint. His eyes were wide. "But you're-- I mean. Uh. There are a lot of other heroes out there."
Steve smiled. "There are. But Iron Man's the best."
"He's just a guy in a suit of armor," Tony countered. "Anyone could do what he does. He's not anything special. Not like... someone like Cap."
Oh, geez, Tony.
"But that's why he's special!" Steve retorted, instantly. "And there's nothing just about it. I mean, setting aside the fact that he's brilliant, even if he lets Tony Stark take the credit, there's... there's so much to admire about him." He paused, uncapped his water bottle, took a drink. "Guys like Captain America, in some ways, they have it easy, you know? They've got superpowers. They're prepared. They have a leg up. But Iron Man, he just climbs into that armor every day, and under it all he's a baseline human. No healing factor, no super-strength, just him and everything he can think up with that genius brain of his against all the evil of the world. There's nothing to make it easier, physically, but he does it anyway. And he doesn't have to do it at all. He doesn't have to be a superhero. He wasn't built for it, but he does it anyway, because it's the right thing to do. And to me that's the essence of being a superhero, that drive to do good in the world, to do the absolute utmost you can, and Iron Man, he just-- he just embodies that. More than any other superhero in the world, for my money. He's the best. No question about it."
He didn't think he'd ever laid it out for Tony quite like that before. He wondered if it was too much. If it was too revealing. If Tony hadn't really wanted to know.
Tony's eyes were wide. "You think-- you really think that?" He was blinking rapidly, and it looked like he was trying not to cry.
Steve smiled. "Of course I do."
The noise Tony made sounded suspiciously like a sniffle. "Jesus, they should have had you drawing Iron Man after all."
"Hey," Steve offered, "I'll draw you Iron Man. Or Cap, if you'd rather. Or both. Didn't you say you wanted a sketch? I'll take that commission after all. Free of charge, for a good friend like you. I'll draw what you told me you wanted."
"Oh, God." Tony put his masked face in his gauntleted hands. "I'm an asshole sometimes. Don't draw that. I thought it would be a funny thing to ask for, that's all."
The serum, of course, let Steve quote Tony's words back to him. "You said you wanted a sketch of you -- or, I guess, Iron Man? -- in a thong, with Captain America staring at Iron Man in horror."
Exactly four people in the world knew about that moment, and something in Steve twisted up in dismay, because surely Tony knew Steve hadn't been horrified to see him. But this... was this how Tony wanted to remember it? Was this what he thought Steve thought of him? Did he think that Steve had looked at his body and hated the sight of him?
That day, Steve had been so happy. God, he'd been so happy to find out that Tony was Iron Man, and all along Tony had believed this?
"I'm so sorry," Tony said. "It was a joke. It was a bad joke. It was tasteless and offensive and I shouldn't have made it."
Steve frowned. "Tasteless and offensive?"
It was more than a little hurtful, sure, on a personal level, that Tony believed Steve had been so unhappy to finally learn who he was, but that wasn't quite how Tony had made it sound; tasteless implied something that was universally recognized.
"Uh." The helmet tilted down; Tony wasn't meeting his eyes. "Well. You know. Captain America, national icon. It's an awfully crude joke to make about a national icon."
Good God, Tony thought he should be offended on behalf of his image? Tony had to know him better than that.
"Captain America might be famous, but he's an actual human being," Steve said, and he tried to keep the sting of the rejection out of his voice. "I'm pretty sure he's seen a naked man before. He was in the Army, after all. He's probably heard an off-color joke before, too. You think, what, he took a vow of chastity?"
The armor shifted backwards and that was Tony wincing. Something about this was going very wrong. "I didn't mean it like that," Tony said, hurriedly, and the repulsors glowed as Tony swung his hands up like he could block Steve's line of questioning. "I just meant that, well... he's-- he seems like a private kind of guy, and this is a private kind of matter, and maybe he'd be offended. Especially because it involves his friend Iron Man. I just don't think it would be his thing."
"So you think," Steve ventured, "that's what Captain America thinks of Iron Man? You think if he saw him like that, he'd be disgusted?"
Behind the mask, Tony's eyes flickered shut. "Not-- not like that. He probably wouldn't really be disgusted, because he's better than that. But he wouldn't have a really positive opinion, let's just say. I mean, uh. Cap's obviously straight."
Steve noted the fact that Tony hadn't said Iron Man's straight.
Steve swallowed hard.
"Have you ever considered," he said, very carefully, "that you might be wrong about Captain America?"
Tony stared at him in agonized, frozen silence. People milled around them, ignoring them, moving from booth to booth. They didn't know. They had no idea what was going on.
"Oh, my God," Tony's hands went to his mouth-slit. "Oh, God, Steve--"
"And that maybe Captain America," Steve continued, before he could lose his nerve entirely, "might have some, uh, positive opinions about his friend Iron Man?"
Tony's hands were still covering his mouth, and Steve hoped that Tony had remembered to disarm before coming here because Tony looked distracted enough that he could very well manage to shoot himself in the face. Tony was shaking, and given that it was visible even with the armor on, Tony was shaking a lot. "I-- oh my God, Steve, we're in public pretending to be-- I can't-- oh, God, what am I even supposed to do with this now, how am I supposed to--"
"Breathe," Steve told him, and he reached out and laid a hand on Tony's armored shoulder. He smiled. "Relax. We're just two good friends, having a conversation about superheroes. Is that a realm of speculation that interests you?"
"I never thought of it," Tony said, his eyes still wide. "I never-- I always figured you were-- I mean, Cap was-- and even if he wasn't, why would he ever want someone like--"
"Why wouldn't he?" Steve asked, softly. "It's plain to see he cares about Iron Man. He always has. And as for being straight, being quiet about it doesn't mean he doesn't... have feelings." He tried to smile. "Might be a hard thing for a fella like him to talk about. Even to admit to himself."
"It's a big step," Tony said, his voice solemn. "It's risky. Maybe it'll change things."
"Things always change," Steve told him. "Cap-- he came from the forties, he woke up in the future, he knows that. Knows you can't hold onto the past. And besides, some things are worth changing. Some things change for the better. I hear Cap likes the future a lot. And I know he likes his pal Shellhead a whole lot. Might be good, seeing what happens. I think it's a... worthwhile speculation."
"Well." Steve smiled. "I just draw the guy. I couldn't really say, of course. But I have my suspicions."
Tony laughed; the sound was a little more relieved now. "Ever had any suspicions about Iron Man?" he asked, sounding honestly curious.
Steve bit his lip. "A few," he admitted. "Mostly wishful thinking. A lot of thinking."
"Oh?" Even Tony's filtered voice was salacious, and, dammit, Steve was blushing. "You'll have to tell me about it sometime." He paused. "That is, if you-- if you--"
"Absolutely," Steve assured him.
He was beginning to regret doing this in public. This was all going too fast and somehow not fast enough. It was overwhelming. If he were at the mansion he'd go for a run to clear his head, but that wasn't going to work here.
And then he realized what would work here.
"Look," Steve said. "Maybe you can give me a minute--"
"Of course," Tony said, and his shoulders slumped, and it was obvious that behind the mask his face had fallen, and Steve knew what Tony was thinking. "I understand completely."
Steve reached out and squeezed Tony's gauntlet. "Not like that, okay? This isn't farewell. I'm definitely interested in... continuing our conversation, believe me, I just--" He couldn't find a way to say it. "Why don't you look around the floor a bit and then come back? I'll draw you a picture in the meantime. Probably not that picture."
The suit moved as Tony nodded. "Yeah, okay," Tony agreed. "It's probably best to... slow this down a bit. Take some time."
"But come back, all right?" Steve added. "Please?"
"I promise," Tony said, the words given the weight of a vow, and then Tony was edging around the table. "I'll be back in a bit." He winked. "Let me know if you need me to model for you."
Steve laughed and fished his sketchbook out from under the table. "Oh, you're definitely going to want privacy for that."
And then a small boy a few feet away pointed at Tony.
"Look, Mommy!" he cried out. "Iron Man! Mommy, it's Iron Man! The real Iron Man!"
Steve stifled another laugh in his hand as he opened his sketchbook.
"I'm going to go meet my fans," Tony said. "I'll be back."
"Shh," the woman told her son. "What did I tell you about that? Iron Man's very busy. That's not the real--"
Delighted, Steve watched as Tony crouched down next to the kid.
"Hi," Tony said. "It just so happens that I'm not busy saving the world right now," he added, and Steve saw him wink broadly behind the mask, at the boy's mother, a gesture that said of course I'll pretend to be the real Iron Man. "Did you want us to take a picture together? What's your name?"
"You're Iron Man!" the boy yelled, in absolute joy, and he flung his arms around Tony.
That was who Tony was. He cared about everyone.
He cares about me, Steve thought, and he couldn't stop smiling as he reached for a pencil.
He knew exactly what he was going to draw.
Steve had just closed the sketchbook when a shadow fell over the table. He glanced up. Tony was there, still armored up, and his eyes were bright.
"You came back," Steve said, and he could feel himself smiling again, his face flushed with a dizzy happiness.
"I came back," Tony confirmed. "Got waylaid for a lot of pictures in the meantime, sorry. Apparently vintage Iron Man is really in, this year." His gaze went over Steve's head, and that was when Steve knew he'd caught sight of the portfolio case. "Hey, is that your--"
"Yes," Steve said, before Tony could say anything more compromising.
Tony squinted at him. "And under that flannel button-down of yours, you're wearing...?"
"Yes," Steve said again.
Tony gave him a thumbs-up. "I would have accepted sexy lingerie, but that's also a good answer." And then he coughed, like he wasn't sure if that was too much. Like he didn't know if they could flirt now.
Steve raised his eyebrows. "Pretty sure that's you with the lingerie, as you keep reminding me."
Tony's voice was low and pleased, full of promise; he'd clearly decided flirting was a go, thank God. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
"Yes, please," Steve said, as fervently as possible.
Tony made another choking noise. "You're gonna kill me."
Steve took this opportunity to nudge the sketchbook forward. "Here. Take a look." He shifted in his seat. "I can give it to you properly later. But you probably don't want to carry it around in public. There might be some awkward questions."
"Oh, God," Tony said, as he gingerly picked up the sketchbook in his gauntleted hands, "did you draw me naked after all?"
"Nope," Steve said, as he leaned forward to help Tony flip it open. "If you want that, you're posing for me. In private, like I said." He smiled as he turned the pages. "But, at any rate, I think you won't want people to see this, at least until you get it home. And even then you might have to do some explaining."
The sketchbook fell open to the last page, and there it was: a portrait of Captain America and Iron Man. Iron Man was wearing the same classic armor that he wore now. His helmet was off, tucked under one arm, and his face was unmistakably Tony's. Next to him, Steve had drawn himself, in one of his uniforms of the same era, cowl pulled back; it was very clearly him as well. In the picture, Tony's face was pleased and surprised, a half-smile curling around his lips, and Steve had leaned in to kiss him on the cheek.
Tony was still staring at the picture. He said nothing. His eyes were wider and wider.
"You wanted to know," Steve said, slowly, "what I-- what Captain America would think when he saw who Iron Man really was. You wanted a picture of that."
Had it been too much? Had it been more than Tony was ready for?
It was the truth. The truth couldn't be too much, could it?
Tony was perfectly still.
"And this is--?" Tony began, stumbling through the sentence. "This is what you-- this is what you think he would think?"
Tony was clutching the sketchbook to him, the paper rubbing up against the molding of the chestplate.
Steve smiled. "I'm sure. You like it?"
"I'm going to frame it," Tony said, and he closed the sketchbook with shaking hands and pushed it back. "After I take you to dinner." He paused. "Are you free now? Can I take you to dinner? Is there food around here somewhere?"
"Yes and yes and probably yes," Steve said, feeling joy rise within him, and he gestured at Tony's armor. "But how are you planning to eat?"
"I'll have a milkshake," Tony said. "They've got straws. It'll be like the old days. But better."
"I'm liking this already," Steve said, and then he remembered his schedule. "Oh! But can you get me back here by seven? I'm supposed to be on a panel about the future of the Avengers comics."
Tony offered him a hand up. Steve took it and didn't let go.
"Sure thing," Tony said, and there was a devious glint in his eyes. "You think they'd mind a special guest? I might know a guy who knows a guy who, uh, happens to control all Avengers merchandising rights. And he might have some thoughts about future plot developments. Especially right now. I'm thinking we could use some more... diversity."
"Gosh," Steve said, and he batted his eyes. "You never told me you knew Tony Stark!"
Tony's speakers fuzzed in a laugh. "And I'm sure he can introduce you to the real Iron Man, if that's your thing." There was a pause. "You'd probably like him better than Tony Stark, anyway."
Steve squeezed Tony's hand, even though he couldn't feel it. "I don't think they're that different. Besides, I've always loved them both."
Through the speakers, there was a quiet indrawn breath. "Jesus, Steve."
"Too much?" Steve asked, quietly.
Tony shook his head. "No, just-- it's everything I-- and I can't believe you really--"
Steve rubbed his thumb over the metal striations of the gauntlet. "Well," Steve said, grinning. "What can I say? I'm a longtime fan."