Steve saw him on the very first day.
It was sunny; the early morning glare pissing everyone off at the get-go, and the fact that it was a Monday seemed only to be heightening everyone’s irritation levels. Steve had only just stepped off the bus two minutes ago and he’d already been barged out of the way several different times, which sure made for a great first impression.
Steve was already intensely fucking nervous. New situations, new schools...they weren’t his thing. At all. And the lack of acknowledgement wasn’t helping much. Not that he wanted to be stared at, obviously- but he’d been used to meeting with Peggy and Bucky in the parking lot every morning, so this just felt...weird.
A lot of things tended to feel weird these days, though- Steve tended to just get on with them. He was good at that.
Hitching his bag higher up on his shoulder, he took a deep breath. Brand new start, he told himself, n ew friends. New places. They’d said it might be good for him to experience different things. Healthy. A great way to get his life moving again after-
Yeah. Anyway. New beginnings. Right.
It was just a school. And he only had to hold out for another year or so. He was already coming to the tail end of 11th grade, and once he got through 12th, he could say adios to education forever, if he wanted to. It wasn’t a big deal. A year and a few months, tops. Easy as pie.
Pulling out his phone, he saw the texts from Bucky and Peggy wishing him luck, and grinned despite himself. Moving away from Brooklyn and over to Manhattan had been hard- not being able to see both of his best friends whenever he wanted was even harder- but they were still there. And he was going back down to see them after school, so it wasn’t the end of the world. He could get through this.
His phone started ringing in his hands, and he swiped up instinctively when he saw Bucky’s face flashing on the screen. “You literally just sent me a message,” Steve began with, hopping up the stairs and making his way through the parking lot, “now you just look clingy.”
“It’s because I am,” Bucky said down the line, “so sue me for wanting to make sure you haven’t thrown yourself in front of a car yet. I worry.”
“Don’t,” Steve rolled his eyes, “there will be no leaping in front of fast-moving vehicles any time soon. Promise.”
It was a joke, but he heard Bucky sighing in relief anyway. Steve couldn’t even blame him. The last half a year had been kind of… messy. And the situation he was in right now was far from perfect.
“Well consider me assured- but I’m gonna call you again when you get out anyway- I want to know every detail about the new school, alright? People, classes, cafeteria food- all of it.”
Steve sighed. “You know, there’s really not much difference between our school and this one. I bet you a hundred bucks there will be the same groups, the same sort of teachers, and the same assholes as there always are. It’s a universal constant.”
“You don’t know that,” Bucky said, “Peggy is always telling us how weird school over here is compared to England.”
“They’re different countries, Buck, it doesn’t count.”
“Of course it counts. Everywhere is different and that is a fact. So you gotta keep an open mind and not let any bad impressions get you down, okay? It’s all gonna work out fine.”
“You say that like you have a clue,” Steve said wryly, “although touched as I am by the confidence boost, I’m probably just going to have to wait and see for mys-”
He cut himself off as his eyes caught on something ahead of him, and before he knew it, he was jerking to a standstill in order to look.
There was a motorbike- gleaming grey chrome and leather seats that obviously cost a fortune- but somehow managing to be overshadowed by the boy leaning on it.
He was tall. Dark-haired. Blue eyes that were piercing enough Steve could see them all the way over where he was. He wore a leather jacket that fitted perfectly and ripped jeans, and there was a cigarette held between bowed lips as he searched his pockets, presumably for a lighter.
He was...completely and utterly beautiful.
The boy obviously found what he was looking for, because his shoulders slackened a little and slender fingers pulled the lighter to his mouth, lighting up with a practiced ease. Steve was aware that smoking was prohibited on school grounds, but this kid didn’t seem to give much of a fuck as his hand curled around the flame, protecting it from wind until smoke was twirling into the air in front of his mouth.
The way his body curved as he leaned back on the seat made his hair fall forward, a few strands arcing down toward his stupidly long eyelashes, and Steve was just mesmerised. Totally struck dumb by the sight of him, and he didn’t even know why. It wasn’t like he’d never seen beautiful people before- and he wasn’t one of those guys (Bucky) who got weirdly turned on by the sight of others smoking- but here he was. Standing like an idiot in the middle of the parking lot because he’d forgotten how to move.
There was a sudden blaring from his left, and he jumped about a mile in the air as he stumbled out of the way of a beat-up truck with an angry boy staring out the window at him. The books in his hands almost went flying- it was only sheer determination that kept them in his grip.
Well. That was one way to get noticed. He felt himself blushing, looking down and hurrying out of the way before the guy deliberately drove over him. When his eyes turned back upward, they were pulled automatically into the gaze of the boy he’d been staring at seconds previously. Who had obviously heard the noise and looked up. At him.
He stared back dumbly. Bucky was talking in his ear, but he zoned it out. Those fucking eyes- they were hypnotising. So... blue. Clouded by the smoke in front of his face, but not enough to negate the colour.
The boy cocked his head and pulled the cigarette out of his mouth, blowing out a cloud of smoke. Steve was still staring.
God, this was so fucking weird.
Eventually, the boy’s attention was pulled elsewhere, when three other boys wandered up to him and began their greetings. Steve blinked a few times, looking back down at the floor and taking a tentative step over toward the steps again.
“-You still there? Steve? Steeeeeeve-”
“Yeah, I’m here,” Steve said quickly down the line, sparing one last glance over to the boy, who just so happened to be looking back over to him again. He cocked an eyebrow and did something with his mouth that could almost be construed as a smile, before pushing off his bike and heading in the opposite direction of school with his friends. “Just…”
Steve shook his head and rubbed a hand over his eyes.
“Nothing. Never mind”
“So- what do you think? How were your first few lessons? You made friends?”
Steve turned, watching Sam hurry over to him. The boy belonged to the couple who’d taken Steve in after… after what had happened to his mom, and so they’d become close pretty quick. Although their home was small, it was cosy and welcoming, and honestly, Steve would have been fine living in their back garden if he’d had to- anywhere was better than being put one of those big buildings with thirty other kids in the same situation as him. He wasn’t even sure he’d have survived that. Sam and his family were a blessing, at this point.
He shrugged, hitching his bag high again. “It was okay, I guess. You got some nice art facilities. The people are... people.”
“I really would fucking hope so,” Sam jostled their shoulders together and then held on to his elbow as Steve’s 5-foot-nothing body almost lost footing, “I know this is probably scary as shit- but you’ll get used to it here. We don’t bite. Much.”
“Stay away from Darcy Lewis. She’s unpredictable on a good day.”
“Right, Steve nodded, wandering down the corridors and letting Sam guide them, hopefully toward the cafeteria, “so- who’s who ‘round here then?”
Sam grinned, wiggling his eyebrows. “Good question. Right- so between our year and the seniors, there’s the best group, which is obviously mine. I hang out with these idiots called Clint and Natasha, mostly. There are other people like Sharon and Phil- oh, and sometimes a guy called Bruce will sit with us, when he’s not working- but that’s pretty much the whole group. We’re a friendly bunch, don’t worry. Long as you don’t steal Clint’s food or try hit on Nat, you’re all good.”
Right. Sounded pretty nice. Safe. “Who else is there?”
Sam shrugged. “Typical cliques, you know. There are the popular kids- you might wanna stay away from them, though, they’re dangerously bitchy. Sunset Bain and her minions.” He shuddered a little, pulling a face, “God, the amount of drama her and her group have caused over time. She’s currently joining forces with Whitney Frost and her girls to form some sort of alliance of evil, but God only knows how long that is gonna last-”
“What about the guys?” Steve cut in, mind casting back to that morning before he could stop it.
Sam paused, shooting a look at Steve. “Most of them hang out in smaller groups. There are the jock-type ones, but they’re pretty cool. People tend to merge, a lot of the time. You’ll see some of the girls hanging out with the jocks- or all of the jocks and girls going over to one of the popular guy’s houses and having a dodgy house party on the outskirts of town-”
“There’s a group of popular guys?” Steve asked.
Sam shrugged, making a gesture with his hand. “I mean, I’m naming these groups very generally, but… yeah. Mostly they’re just popular ‘cause they cause trouble, you know how it is- a lot of ‘em smoke and get expelled a lot and shit, it’s weird, man, I don’t get it-”
“Does… I mean, which one of them has a motorbike?” Steve couldn’t help himself- he was ridiculously curious, and he just wanted to know as much as he could about the boy with the blue eyes and dark hair as possible. “Pretty expensive looking- leather seats, and really blue eyes- the boy, not the bike, obviously.”
There was a silence. Sam was making an amused face at Steve. “Tony Stark?”
Steve shrugged, and Sam made a huffing sound. “Yeah- that’s Tony, alright. He’s one of the seniors. Flashy. Probably the most recognisable guy in school- everyone knows about him. He’s… crazy. That’s the only word I can use to describe him- I don’t know him, but I’ve heard stuff. He’s been expelled from a few schools before this. I’m pretty sure he’s been arrested more than once, too. Sometimes I’ll hear him slamming the door of the class next to me and walking out. God only knows how he’s still even here- his dad probably bought the school out. They’re loaded.”
Steve nodded. The name… suited him. He could definitely see him as a Tony.
“Steve?” Sam prodded him with his elbow gently, and when he looked up, Sam was shaking his head a little, “Word of advice. Don’t get involved with the ones like him. All of them are just… they’re not the type of people you’d wanna be associating with. You’ll end up with a criminal record by the end of the week. And if you get on the wrong side of them, they’d tear you apart. People like Tony Stark are not there to make friends with.”
Steve swallowed, nodding. Yeah- he’d sensed that the moment he saw the guy. There was a chaos about him that was noticeable from the first moment of contact. Steve wasn’t an idiot- he knew danger when he saw it.
“Understood,” he said, readjusting his bag once again and pushing the sight of that tiny knowing smile out of his mind, “show me to the ‘best group in school’ then.”
Sam grinned, gesturing to the entrance of the cafeteria. “After you,” he said.
Steve walked in, and the sound hit him like a wall. Hundreds of kids were milling around, talking and laughing and moving through the crowds with ease, and for a moment he felt a little overwhelmed. That was… a lot of new faces. They all seemed to know exactly where to go and what to do, and then there was him- stuck out like a sore thumb, with his too-small frame and too-large backpack, he must look like a fucking idiot-
“It’s cool man, deep breaths,” Sam was at his side, shoulder a constant presence next to him, and Steve nodded again- seemed like he hadn’t stopped since he’d woken up that morning- “you can wait out here and I’ll go get the others. We can find somewhere else to hang out.”
“No, no, it’s fine,” Steve stepped forward again, because he wasn’t one to shy away from this sort of thing, “sorry, it’s just…”
“A lot?” Sam raised an eyebrow, understanding.
Steve sighed. The heavy feeling in his chest gained a few pounds. “A lot,” he agreed quietly.
Sam didn’t say anything- but his hand rose and squeezed against Steve’s shoulder. “Well, you’ve done fucking great so far, dude. Honestly- I’m kind of shocked. When dad said we were taking in a fifteen year old guy rather than the usual foster kids, I thought it was going to go… very differently. You’ve been better than any of us could have imagined.”
Steve grinned sheepishly, following Sam as he began to wind his way around the masses of people and find their table. “I’m tough,” he said, pride in his voice. It was true- he had learned to be, over the course of his life. It was the only way he’d been able to make it through.
“Well, I already like him.”
He jerked a little, looking down at the girl sat on the table to his left. She had wavy red hair, unruly and hacked off at the neck- but she was still somehow gorgeous, despite the apparent disinterest in her appearance. He watched Sam grin at her and flop down into the gap she’d left, and figured- “you must be Natasha.”
She stuck out a dainty hand, but when Steve wrapped his own around in greeting, the shake was shockingly firm. “Indeed. It’s lovely to meet you.”
“I- you too, yeah,” he choked, clutching his hand back into his chest as she finally released him and smiled, shuffling across the bench in order to make room for him to sit.
“Ughnf, wait, is the new guy here?” Steve jumped a little as suddenly he watched another boy jerk upright from the opposite bench where it seemed he’d previously been having a nap on. His hair was plastered to his face, and a bandage ran across the bridge of his nose. “Steve, right?”
The boy reached over the table and offered his hand. Slightly more wary now, Steve returned the motion- but nothing cracked or was otherwise maimed, and he sighed in relief.
“Don’t worry, that greeting is exclusive to Natasha,” the boy grinned, “she likes to lay down the law from the get-go. Me? I’m more happy to let you push until we descend into a brawl in the middle of th[e school cafeteria-”
“As if I’d ever let you make a scene like that in my cafeteria,” Natasha poked him across the table, “this place is for eating and sleeping only. You’d have to take it to the courts, and by that time you’d have lost interest anyway.”
The boy- Clint, he guessed- shrugged in defeat. “She’s not wrong. I’m Clint, by the way. I didn’t already say that, did I? I can’t remember.”
“No, you didn’t,” Steve couldn’t help but laugh as Sam sighed, throwing a wrapper at him and saying “just go back to sleep, Clint.”
The boy saluted lazily, and then his head dropped back under the table again. Steve just watched him. “Does he do that often?”
“More than would be considered normal, yes,” Natasha said with an absent shrug, as she shoved her fork into the pasta, “but you get used to it. Anyway- tell me a bit about yourself, Steve. Where you from?”
“Brooklyn,” he answered automatically, smile forming on his face, “lived there my whole life.”
Natasha nodded. “Bet this sucks ass, then,” she said bluntly, and Sam stiffened a little beside Steve, but he just laughed. Right- not one to sugar coat it, then.
“Yep,” he said with a smile, “it really does.”
Her face softened a fraction, and she smiled at him. “Well, at least you’re not gonna be wandering around alone. We’ve got your back, Steve.”
He nodded at her, and felt at least one worry ease off his shoulders a little. He could check that one off his list, thank God. “Thank you,” he murmured gratefully.
Yeah. Okay. So it wasn’t so bad. He could do this.
Over the course of the next few weeks, he never stopped seeing Tony Stark.
He didn’t know what it was. But wherever he looked, the boy was there. On the corridors. Wandering past his class. And every damn time, they’d somehow manage to catch one another’s eye. Tony didn’t smile at him, as such- but he always looked sort of amused, like he was thinking of a joke Steve didn’t know of. And his stupid hair would flick everywhere as he scraped a hand through it, and then he’d turn away and that would be that. Did he even go to any classes himself? Where did he get all that free time to seemingly just be wherever Steve looked? It was distracting, that’s what it was.
He told Bucky and Peggy about it, and his stupid best friends just raised their eyebrows and looked smug. “Oof, didn’t take you long to jump right into things, did it?” Bucky said with a look toward Peggy.
Steve rolled his eyes and kicked out across the bed, poking him in the stomach. “Don’t be an idiot,” he said, “Tony Stark is not… that sort of person. I’m just curious, that’s all.”
“Oh, and we all know just where curiosity leads, don’t we?” Peggy smiled smugly at him, “it kills the cat, Steven.”
“And then satisfaction brings it back,” Steve snapped quickly, sitting up when his friends just seemed to grow more and more amused with every word, “Ugh, you are both the worst, I should have just left you behind, honestly-”
“Oh, darling, you wound us,” Peggy dived for him, tugging him back down on the bed, where he was sat on by a pouting Bucky. “Yeah, Steve, look at how wounded we are.”
“I don’t- care,” Steve wheezed, batting Bucky’s waist uselessly, “I hate you both.”
“Well, we aren’t going to help you with your Tony Stark problem if you hate us then, are we?” Bucky asked, whilst Peggy nodded solemnly.
“And how exactly do you intend to help me at all?”
“Ah- Glad you asked,” Peggy said, sitting up instantly and jumping off the bed, hair falling into her eyes as she leaned over Bucky’s desk and grabbed his laptop. “We’re going to do some detective work.”
“We’re going to google him like stalkers,” Bucky clarified, then dodged a smack around the head from Peggy.
Of course, googling didn’t exactly help matters much.
“Damn,” Steve breathed, looking at all the news articles; the blurred photos of a boy younger than what he was now, lying unconscious on a table, obviously drunk. Police reports. Paparazzi shots. And-
“Fuck, your guy’s filthy fucking rich,” Bucky’s eyes were at his hairline as he stared at the little Stark Industries logo in the corner of the tab, “and also an heir to one of the biggest businesses in the world.”
“Well, that was certainly not what I expected,” Peggy admitted, mouth slightly parted.
“Can’t say I did either,” Steve spoke into the room- trying to process the information in front of him and stick it to the boy he knew, if only through school rumours. They didn’t fit- Tony Stark was absolutely the last person Steve would have pegged as a business heir.
He wondered if that was the point.
“Yeah, okay, seriously now Steve,” Bucky grabbed his shoulder and looked down at him seriously, “you might wanna not pull on that thread. Maybe go for someone a little less... Disastrous.”
“I’m not- I’m not ‘going for him’,” Steve rolled his eyes and tried not to blush. Bucky wasn’t wrong- getting caught up in something like that would be like walking out into a hurricane- “I was just interested. And now I know, see? The cat is satisfied, and is not going to dig any further.”
Bucky and Peggy looked over Steve’s head at one another. He pushed them both backward onto the bed with a huff.
He wasn’t lying. Seriously.
Steve stared at the wall sullenly and tried not to think about how getting sent to the principal's office after the third week of starting at the school was most probably not the sort of first impression he wanted to be making.
It wasn’t even his fault. Or- well- maybe he had started it, but it wasn’t exactly for an unworthy cause. He’d just been minding his own business in the toilets, and then a group of assholes had decided to steal some poor kid’s homework and give it a bath right in fucking front of him. What was he supposed to have done- just walked off? He didn’t work that way- and the poor boy had looked almost ready to start crying when he saw what they were doing. It wasn’t fair.
So yeah- Steve may have been sporting a bust up lip and a slight concussion after getting shoved into the tiles on the wall, but it was worth it. And that’s exactly what he’d tell the principal when he asked. And Bucky when he asked. And mom when sh-
He stopped that train of thought abruptly and jerked a little. The heaviness inside grew ten sizes.
Right. Not mom.
“Wouldn’t have pegged you for the kind of guy who’d get sent to the principal’s office.”
Steve turned to the sound of the voice, and his mouth dropped open as he spotted none other than Tony fucking Stark, leaning against the wall as casual as anything and looking at him with that same half-amused smile playing across his mouth. He wasn’t wearing his jacket today- just a deep red shirt that was a few sizes too big and tucked loosely into his tightly fitted jeans. There was a pair of sunglasses resting on his hair and a phone in his hand, and fuck, Steve had been silent for a while now-
“What would you have pegged me as, then?” He asked, frowning a little.
Tony shrugged, cocking his head again, like he was focusing in on Steve properly. He’d done that the first time they’d looked at one another, and Steve just sat there a little dumbly, trying not to blush under the stare. “You know- I genuinely can’t say. Innocent, maybe. You give off that vibe.”
“I do not-” Steve spluttered a little, “I do not give off an ‘innocent’ vibe.”
“You really do. I think it’s the height. And the hair.”
“It’s very innocent-looking hair,” Tony shrugged again, looking around the corner absently, “anyway- you wanna go in first, or shall I?”
Steve folded his arms, trying to make himself look a little taller. Tony seemed to spot it, and for the first time ever, Steve watched an actual smile spread across his lips before being pulled back and smoothed down. “I’ll go- I got here first,” Steve said gruffly, beginning to stand.
“Just out of curiosity, what exactly did you do?” Tony asked, shoving his hands in his pockets and leaning his head back against the wall. He looked absolutely casual- he probably made this trip on a weekly basis, after all.
Steve paused. Would Tony laugh if he admitted it? Finish the job the other guys had started?
Well- at least he’d know to avoid him if that was the case, Steve thought. “Two shitheads were trying to ruin some kid’s work. I stepped in. They changed tune and decided to ruin my face instead.”
There was a short silence. Tony turned his head to look at him again, the hint of a frown on his face. “Hmm,” was all he said.
“What was yours?” Steve asked, if only to waste a bit more time- he really wasn’t in the mood to be yelled at- he’d got enough of that at his old school.
Tony’s lip curled- not a smile, but more a recalling of a memory. He was silent for a moment, as if debating what to say, before ending up with “same as you. Got in a fight. Again.”
Steve just nodded wordlessly. Judging from the lack of injuries on Tony’s body, Steve figured he must have won it.
They stood there for a few more moments, the silence growing more and more heavy, until eventually Steve just sighed and then jerked his head awkwardly over to the door. “I’ll go in, then,” he said weakly, turning on his heel and knocking at the door.
Just as he heard the voice that told him to come in, Tony’s own mixed in with it, thrown out absently as the boy turned back to his phone and started typing lazily.
“They may have tried to ruin your face, sweetheart, but they didn’t succeed.”
Steve’s mouth fell open, and he choked a little bit, unsure of how exactly to react to that without completely embarrassing himself. He was aware that his cheeks had probably gone crimson, and was just grateful that Tony was no longer looking at him and so could not see the baffled look painted on his stupid face.
“Right,” Steve said quickly, “okay.”
He stepped into the principal’s office and slammed the door shut behind him- the last thing he heard from the other room being the light sound of Tony’s laugh.
He kept the sound in his head for the rest of the day.
When the bell rang out to signal the end of last period, Steve was still thinking about it. It was a nice laugh- softer than he’d imagined. Tony’s voice was lovely, too. Warm, smooth, despite the cigarettes he always seemed to be smoking. The sort of voice that you listen to for hours and hours.
Fuck. He had no idea why he was thinking so hard about it- no idea why Tony had that much effect on him at all. They barely knew each other. Tony was quite obviously trouble. It was just… stupid.
He huffed, hoisting his bag further on his shoulder and walking down the hill. Of course- speak of the devil and he shall appear- because there he was again, in his usual place, leaning against his damn bike and smoking another damn cigarette, completely oblivious to Steve’s eyes on him.
Which reminded him- he should probably take his eyes off him.
Twisting away, he jumped down the stairs quickly, readjusting his bag. He passed a couple of kids in his class along the way; felt their eyes on him curiously, but just blanked it out. It was only when he heard a snigger and then felt the all too familiar yank on his back that let him know those stares were more than just curiosity- they were calculating.
It didn’t take long for people to figure out who the weaker ones were. Sharks smelling blood in the water- that was the best analogy for kids like that.
Steve jerked to a stop, taking a deep breath. He’d already got a warning that very day for fighting- he wasn’t going to start again. So instead he just turned around and glared at them as they raised their eyebrows at him. He couldn’t put a name to either of them- they weren’t relevant to him in any way- but if he were to guess, it would probably be something like Troy. Or Chad. Or Jace. Or perhaps an obscure one, like Twist or some shit-
“Do you have a problem?” He asked roughly, holding his hands tighter around the straps of his bag, knowing that was the first place they’d go to. He had experience with this shit.
“We might,” the bigger one shrugged casually, sneer curling on his lip, but Steve didn’t quail under it. It wasn’t even a decent sneer. “You might wanna watch yourself, Rogers.”
“Noted, Troy,” Steve rolled on his heel and turned back around without another word. If they pushed him down the stairs right then, it wouldn’t very convenient, but he just had to hope they weren’t keen on trying to make a scene.
When he glanced back at them, they were looking at him in confusion. He saluted them lazily, and let his eyes slip away- noting Tony watching him again as he did so. Only for a second, because then Steve had turned around once more, but in the fraction of a moment their eyes had met, Steve noticed the frown creased on his forehead. God only knew what he was thinking- it seemed like sort of a mess up in that head- and Steve just let it slide in the end. He kept his eyes firmly facing the path in front of him and refused to turn around even once.
It wasn’t important. Just some people he had to hang out with for six hours a day and then forget about as soon as he was gone. He ignored the laughing from the boys behind him.
He was used to it.
Steve bit his lip, shuffling his feet under the grass and zipping his coat up a little further. This felt weird. It always felt weird, coming here. The graveyard was pretty tiny- ‘round the back of the church they’d both attended, and encased by a pretty little brick wall that came up to his waist. The sunlight still hung low on the horizon- he’d come very early on in the morning, after all. Had to, if he wanted to have the time.
Sarah Rogers’ final resting place was simple. It had been a pauper’s funeral and a pauper’s grave- even in the end, she’d made sure no money was wasted on her. It had all been put into Steve’s savings; and so all she’d gotten in the end was a little stone plaque that marked where she lay- the date of birth and death scripted neatly across the top, and then the words ‘There will always be hope amongst the chaos’ at the bottom.
he’d heard her say that to him many times, before. He knows she asked for it there just for his benefit. There was more to it, though- more to the saying she’d whispered to him on his bad days, when he’d been too sick to stand and too sad to care.
"Never give up on people, Steve,” she’d say, and her fingers had always been thin, but they stroked through his hair and felt like home every single time, “never give up on the goodness. Even when the world seems black, when you feel like there is nothing out there- you can always find hope. It will always be there- you just have to find it. And often it turns up where you least expect it.”
Looking down at her grave- marking the spot in which one of the three people who’d ever truly loved him was laying six feet under- he really wished he could believe her.
“School’s going okay,” he said quietly, hands tapping against the stems of cheap flowers clutched in between palms. He couldn’t afford anything else. “People are alright. Got some good new friends. It’s better than I thought it was gonna go.”
A bird called out a morning song over in the trees to the side of him, and he smiled fondly. At least mom would be happy here. It was peaceful.
“I miss you,” he said softly, and it had been six months, but every time he came down here he still goddamn cried- he didn’t know how he was ever going to look at the concrete slab that marked his mom’s grave and not feel the grief well up so deep and profound inside him- “I miss you so much, ma.”
The grounds were silent, and it was deafening. Steve shut his eyes and brushed a hand over his cheeks, swatting away the droplets gruffly. He wanted, more than anything else in the world, to just be able to hear his mom’s voice. Once more. Wanted to hear the happiness she always carried with her, even through her illness, even through her trouble. She’d never stopped sounding happy.
But it was gone, now. There was no going back.
He sighed. The heaviness in his chest felt more prominent than ever- he wondered if it would ever stop. Maybe not. Probably not.
He crouched low and lay the flowers next to the headstone. His fingers brushed the stone- cold to the touch. So unlike his mother.
Nothing was the same any more, though.
It was a month in at his new school when Steve realised he still only knew about ten new names.
There was Sam, but he didn’t really count, because Steve had been introduced to him a few weeks before he even came to Shield High. Clint and Natasha, obviously- and Bruce, who he’d met a week ago for about five minutes before the haphazard boy thought of something and rushed off without another word. Thor, who stopped by briefly to ask the whereabouts of his brother and then challenge Clint to an arm wrestling competition as he always did, apparently. Steve had been surprised by that one, actually- Sam had said Thor usually hung out with Tony and that crowd, but Natasha had informed Steve that Sam had a weird obsession with trying to group the whole school into cliques when in reality, people drifted in and out. Thor was one of them. There was also Jan and Carol- two girls who Steve only knew through Natasha- but they seemed nice, and they’d smiled at him when they’d met briefly in the corridor, so fuck it, Steve was counting it.
Then there was Tony. He was a name that had stuck too, for some reason- not that they were friends- they’d had one conversation and then not spoken since, but still. Steve figured if he remembered it, it counted.
But yeah. That made- what- seven? Seven new people. A month in and he only knew seven new people, what the fuck was that? It was disgraceful. He could never tell Bucky or Peggy that- they’d never stop laughing.
“I cannot believe,” Bucky wheezed, clutching Steve’s shoulder as his face scrunched up and he laughed loudly, “that you have really only made seven new friends since starting. I refuse to believe that. No. I’m sorry.”
“Steve, even I think you’re a little more likeable than that, and I’ve known you for years,” Peggy told him gently, wiping the streaked mascara off her bottom lashes and using the other hand to pat his cheek.
“I’m not joking!” Steve groaned, letting his head drop into his hands, “I am genuinely so terrible at making friends. I can’t. I don’t know- I don’t know how, you’re all I’ve had for my whole life and this is just- it’s just so hard.”
There was a short silence, Bucky’s laughter petering out a little. Great. What a way to throw cold water over everyone’s head- talk about his depressing inner monologue in front of them. He opened his mouth tiredly, apology already on his lips, but Peggy got in first.
“What you need to do is networking, Steve.”
Bucky was looking at him solemnly when Steve turned his head to face him, and he could feel Peggy nodding along with her own words on his other side. His own face twisted incredulously. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
“It means,” Peggy waved a hand vaguely, “you have to get out there! Hang out with people when they invite you places. Engage in conversation. Throw yourself into new situations! You are a free spirit, Steve, you are a child in the midst of the best years of your life! Go to… parties and stuff. Do kids still do that?”
“You are a kid,” Bucky told her, “I’m sure you can answer that one.”
“Well, it’s been so many months since anyone even fucking invited me to one I’ve forgotten about whether or not they even exist-”
“Supportive as I am for your social crisis, we’re talking about mine right now,” Steve mumbled into his hands, and there was another round of back-patting from his two idiot friends, an automatic response to his trouble by that point. “How exactly am I supposed to get myself invited to these things?”
The vague sensation of shrugging on either side of him. “Look… available?” Bucky tried.
Steve lifted his head and looked at both of them. “You haven’t got a fucking clue to how to make friends either, do you?” He asked, and immediately both Bucky and Peggy shook their heads and made noises of apology.
His head fell back into his hands again. “Great,” he bit, “absolutely fucking typical.”
They changed subject after that, what with Peggy demanding they eat their feelings with appropriate Ben & Jerry's foodstuffs, but Steve didn’t stop thinking about it.
Seven friends. Well- not even friends . Seven names he knew and who knew him- that was a bit of a kick in the face if he ever felt one. Was he really that unmemorable?
It was just another one of those moments where he wished for his mom more than anything. School was hard- everything seemed so fucking hard right now. Steve was fifteen, and yet suddenly he was having to navigate this whole new world on his own after she’d passed away. It had been all he could do to be able to wrangle a set of foster parents in New York so he could stay close to Bucky and Peggy- and grateful as he was to Sam’s mom and dad for being the ones to sign up for it, it still wasn’t….
It wasn’t his mom.
She’d always known what to do. Always had a stupid inspirational quote like the one now carved into her gravestone. In times of trouble, they’d have baked cookies together and then eaten them all in one night whilst Steve sat and felt sorry for himself and his mom looked sympathetic by his side. He missed her so much it was like a physical pain in his chest whenever he thought about it. Made him want to scream and cry and punch things.
But he’d done his fair share of that in the first few months. The whole damn shebang- Bucky hadn’t been kidding about checking for suicidal tendencies- but at least now he’d sort of… mellowed out. He didn’t want to say Given Up, exactly, but-
It was hard. That was all.
“Steve?” Bucky asked quietly, and Steve blinked a few times, noticing that the room was dark now, and Peggy had fallen asleep on the arm of the couch as they watched the repeats of Friends on the TV.
Sometimes that happened. Time just… passed.
“Are you good?” Bucky asked, hand curled around Steve’s arm.
Steve smiled. “Yeah,” he lied easily, naturally, “I’m fine. Don’t worry.”
The next day, he woke up feeling much the same. A little empty, a little detached. He got up and went through the motions like he always did; made sure his teeth were brushed, banged on the door and told Sam to stop hogging the bathroom, thanked Mr Wilson for just… being Mr Wilson, he supposed- and then left the house.
Natasha was waiting for him by the gates that morning, which was unusual, but not worrying. She was slightly sporadic in her actions- Steve figured she liked to keep herself unpredictable.
“I’m not going to ask how your friend called Bucky Barnes got my number, because I feel like it will involve an intensely weak password for your phone and about a billion security risks that I’m not willing to deal with right now- but he told me I needed to look out for you today, so-” she shrugged a little and handed him a bar of chocolate. It was a bit soft, and Steve was lactose intolerant, but he smiled anyway.
“Thank you,” he said quietly, looking up at her. She curled an arm through his and walked them both up the steps. That was a great thing about Natasha- people got out of the way when she walked through a crowd. It was probably the face- the combination of strikingly gorgeous and utterly murderous was always one to strike fear into the souls of even the toughest teenagers.
Yeah. Natasha was kind of awesome.
He frowned, turning his head to the source of the noise, and found it belonged to none other than Troy or Chad or Jace or whatever the guy was called who’d grabbed his bag earlier that week. He seemed slightly nervous as he walked over to Steve and Natasha. His buddy wasn’t with him, but Steve’s was, which was certainly comforting.
“What do you want?” He asked bluntly. He wasn’t in the mood for the bullshit this morning.
“No, I just… man, I wanted to- uh- apologise,” he looked around awkwardly, eyes flitting around, like he was looking for someone, “I didn’t mean to be an asshole, I didn’t know you were friends with… yeah. I’m just- we cool?”
Steve ducked his chin a little, trying to follow the broken fragments of what Troy/Chad/Jace had been trying to say. “You’re apologising?”
The kid nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah- look, let me make it up. There’s a party at my friend’s tonight- a tonne of people are going. You should come. Starts at eight, down by The Revel, you know it? Anyway- invitation’s there. Just…” he bit his lip and looked around once more, before starting to back off again, “tell Tony we’re cool, yeah?”
Steve frowned even harder. “Tony?” He was about to continue and ask what the fuck the guy was talking about, but felt a sharp prod from Nat’s elbow and subtle shake of the head, so he wisely changed his track. “I… yeah. Sure.”
The guy nodded, obviously relieved as he backed away and walked off quickly. Steve was just left there, more than a little confused. “What in the fuck?” He asked Natasha after a few moments.
Natasha sighed. “Useful as having Tony Stark as your backer may be, Steve, I really wouldn’t recommend getting too cl-”
“Yes, I know, everyone’s fucking told me that, don’t worry,” Steve cut her off, irritated by the same old warning, “I’m just wondering why the fuck that happened, and what Tony Goddamn Stark has to do with it.”
Natasha looked at him in amusement for a moment. “You really don’t know what that was, do you?”
She sighed again, tugging him in closer and beginning to walk them up the steps once more. Her smile was fond. “You seem to just inspire the best in people, Steven,” she said cryptically, before letting go of his arm to fiddle in her bag, “you’re not actually going to go to that party though, are you?”
Steve shrugged non-committedly. Apparently, that wasn’t as much of a negative response as what Natasha was looking for, because after she’d found her hairband she flicked him over the back of the head. “Steve, parties with those sort of people in them are not good parties. Don’t even bother, honestly.”
Steve hummed again. She side-eyed him suspiciously, but eventually must have just put it down to his funny mood because she let it drop. Steve was grateful- he didn’t fancy a lecture right then. Hell- he probably wouldn’t even go… but wasn’t this sort of thing just what Bucky and Peggy had been talking to him about last night? Networking, right? It was only a night. And Steve just wanted something different, for once. A change.
Hell, he was only fifteen once. And the parents who were supposed to stop him were both fucking dead, he thought a little hysterically.
Why the fuck not?
See, this was Why The Fuck Not.
The venue was loud and bright. There was no-one he knew. He already felt like he had a headache, and he’d been there twenty minutes.
God, why did anyone enjoy this?
“Don’t think, drink!” Someone said (screamed) to his left, shoving a large cup of...something, in his hand and then laughing as she stumbled away. Was his discomfort really that obvious? Probably.
Sighing, he drained the contents in one and then crumpled the cup, dropping it on the floor. He was fucking tiny, so hopefully that would work pretty fast and loosen him up. He just wanted to have fun- he hadn’t felt that sensation in a very long time.
God, he sounded like a seventy-year-old.
The bass dropped on one of the songs playing, and Steve stared at everyone dumbly as they started jumping. He really couldn’t imagine jumping right now. He thought he’d probably throw up.
Someone sidled up to him and laughed, and Steve turned to them, smiling awkwardly. They stuck out their hand. “I’m Joyce,” she shouted, words sounding just a little more than slurred, “you’re cute. Let’s dance.”
He opened his mouth, trying to tell her he felt a bit sick, but the music drowned out his voice, and suddenly he was being dragged into the middle of the crowds before he could stop himself. As soon as he took the first step, he knew he was fucked. Whatever had been in his drink was strong- too strong for someone who’d never had more than a few sips before in his life, and he felt the world spinning out of control almost immediately.
“Uh oh,” he muttered, blinking rapidly as the girl grabbed his hands and started jumping up and down again.
Everything felt too bright, and he wasn’t breathing right. Asthma? No- panic attack, he thought absently. That was more likely, anyway, considering it was paired with an all-consuming, desperate desire to just get the fuck out and take a breather.
He tried to pull his hands away, but she was holding tight, and so he ended up yanking a little bit roughly. She let go with a grunt of annoyance, and Steve felt his own legs suddenly start moving too fast, and oh fuck- he was falling-
His head hit something soft, and when he focused back in, he realised it was a chest. “Hello!” The chest said happily, and Steve frowned, “are you well, my friend?”
“Uh,” Steve pushed away jerkily, and he stumbled to the side before the chest grew arms and caught him. Realising now that this was probably not just a hovering chest, he looked at a relative giant of a boy, long hair tied into a bun and smile bright enough to match the LED lights lining the room.
Oh. Thor. The… the arm wrestling guy.
“I need to get out of here,” Steve said quickly, noticing his hands shake as they rested on Thor’s huge chest. God, this had all been so stupid- what was he doing, coming out here when he had no idea-
“Hey, hey, take a few deep breaths,” Thor said, his own hands rising up and hovering nervously by Steve’s shoulders, “my name is Thor, remember? You are… the new boy, who sits with Clint, right- yeah, that’s it- I’m going to take you to the kitchen, okay? It is a lot quieter in there. We can get you some water, yes?”
Steve nodded numbly, and then felt Thor’s hands take hold of his shoulders and steer through the crowd. He kept his head down, mortified at himself. He was such a freak - the entire night had been a disaster, and this was so obviously a testament to how well he was going to fit in here in this shit school-
Suddenly the continuous noise cut off into a much duller thumping, and Steve opened his eyes, which he hadn’t even been aware were closed in the first place. He was stood in a large kitchen, occupied by a handful of people, most of them making out in various corners.
Great. So they’d ignore him, then.
Thor patted his shoulder and then gestured to a chair. “Would you like to sit down?” He asked softly.
Steve just followed the order, letting his head fall between his knees as he did so. He heard the thumps of Thor’s feet fade away after a few moments, and once more the panic surged right back again- Thor was the only kind person he’d met that night, he didn’t want him to go, then he’d be all on his own again-
“Don’t panic, it’s okay,” the warm baritone spoke closely to him again, and a hand fell over his shoulder once more, “I just got you some water. Would you like it?”
Steve swallowed through the dryness in his mouth. “Yes, please.”
Thor placed it delicately on the table next to him, and Steve could feel him hovering in worry just behind him. He wanted to assure him that it was okay, that this was tragically regular occurrence and he was not in fact dying- but the words just wouldn’t come and his throat felt too tight. It was bad enough that he’d had to be escorted from the party by Thor- but now he wasn’t even polite enough to say anything to the guy.
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck, this was so fucking ridiculous-
His head jerked up, wide eyes searching automatically for the new voice.
In one of the corners he’d previously passed off as unimportant make-out spots, none other than Tony Goddamn Fucking Stark turned his back around, staring over his shoulder and toward Steve incredulously.
Steve just stared back. The fact wasn’t really processing right in his brain- Stark was there, again, and looking right at Steve, again - the guy had absolutely no idea what that gaze felt like when placed under it, honestly, it made Steve want to shiver. His eyes were so blue.
The girl sat on the counter in front of Tony looked a little offended by the sudden interruption, and she patted his arm impatiently, but Tony just frowned harder and brushed her off, not taking his eyes off Steve. “Yeah, alright, just go back to the party, babe, I’ll meet you back out there.”
“No you won’t,” the girl said angrily, before jumping off the counter with a huff. She shot daggers at Steve as she stormed out past him, and he just stared right back at her, completely bewildered.
“Do you know this guy?” Thor asked Tony, who just looked at him with a confused face, “I found him in the middle of the dancefloor, and he seemed pretty distressed-”
“Oh, God,” Steve whispered, utterly mortified. Why was he here? Why was Tony Stark looking down at him as he tried to hold back a panic attack because he couldn’t even handle being in the same room as more than ten people consecutively? What did he think he was doing?
“I...Yeah- I’ve got this, Thor, you go back in if you want.”
The hand came back to his shoulder, impossibly light. “Are you okay, Steve? Or would you rather I stayed?”
He breathed through his nose and kept his face covered. Eventually, he just forced out the words “I’m fine. Thank you.”
Thor patted him again. “Look after him, Tony,” he said solemnly, before retreating.
There was a short silence, and then suddenly three loud claps rang through the air. Steve jumped, looking up for a second, but Tony didn’t seem to be directing them at him. “Everyone- get out. Go find another room- this one is occupied,” he announced, and the couples broke off, looking disgruntled by the interruption. However, they all slinked off after a few seconds, leaving Steve and Tony alone in the vast kitchen.
“It is weird how much power you have,” Steve laughed shakily, still not looking up. He felt dizzy.
“Perks of being a billionaire,” Tony answered, and then Steve heard quiet footfalls coming closer and shut his eyes once more, rubbing a hand across closed eyelids.
“So, my question is- what are you doing down here, Steve Rogers?” And the voice was at a weird angle; below him, despite the fact he was the one sat on the chair, and he opened his eyes despite himself and then jumped when he saw Tony, sat cross-legged on the floor next to his feet.
“I…” Steve began, trying to think of something. Same thing as you are. Just wanted a change of scene. Networking.
“I don’t know.” He laughed, and then groaned a little, “I really don’t… I’m sorry-”
“Don’t apologise,” Tony looked at him, frown creasing his forehead once more, which he seemed to do a surprising amount when looking at Steve, “you don’t belong here, though, that’s for sure.”
He felt the sinking in his stomach. It was really that obvious, then- he didn’t fit in, didn’t fit in Goddamn anywhere anymore-
“Not like that,” Tony said softly, waving a hand in dismissal. His smile was light as he said “Steve Rogers, hate to break it to you, but you are simply far too genuine for a dump like this. These places are reserved for assholes only. Hence,” he waved at himself, and then around the now empty room.
Steve frowned. “You don’t even know me.”
Tony rolled his eyes. “I don’t have to know you to know you, you know”
Steve tried to process that in his head, but it didn’t quite work out. Tony laughed quietly, grabbing the glass of water from the table and then wafting it under Steve’s nose. “It does help. And then once that’s down you, you should get gone, alright? You shouldn’t be here.”
The words didn’t even sound cruel- just slightly concerned. Like Tony cared. Which didn’t make any fucking sense, considering Tony was Tony Stark and Steve was just.... Steve. Sad little orphan kid who didn’t know what the fuck he was doing.
“Do you think anyone in this joint knows what the fuck they’re doing?” Tony asked him, which was scary, because it meant either he could read minds or Steve had just said the last bit out loud. “Steve, this is just a conglomeration of kids trying to act like adults. Trying to pretend as if they’re big. It’s not even a good party- shit music.” He stopped, running a hand through his hair, and Steve couldn’t help but watch the movement. “Look- you got a ride home?”
Steve shrugged. He… had arranged a cab. But at some point between entering the place and getting to this kitchen, it seemed he no longer had any money in his jacket. “I’ll work something out.”
Tony made a noise. “Like hell you will,” he said, uncrossing his legs and jumping to his feet. “My bike’s outside. You just gotta promise not to fall off- that would be beneficial to absolutely nobody-”
“Tony, you don’t… what are you doing,” Steve asked weakly, gripping on his hair, “why are you… how do you even know my name? Why are you being nice?”
Tony stopped then. Steve, being vaguely aware that what he’d just said was probably offensive, only sighed in resignation. He was fucking everything up. “I didn’t m-”
“How do you know my name?” Tony asked in reply, and then turned away for a second, in order to grab his jacket on the side of the counter and throw it on.
Steve cursed quietly. “You don’t have t-”
Tony shook his head and gave him an unimpressed look, and Steve clamped up quickly. The embarrassment and shakes were mingling together, creating some sort of terrible mutant emotion that felt like it was clawing at him from the inside out. He just wanted to go home.
Another hand on his shoulder- this one not as soft as Thor’s, but with the added bonus of a stroking motion, so Steve just shut his eyes and let it ground him. “You got a friend you wanna call?”
Steve shook his head. “They’d flip their shit if they knew what I was doing.”
Tony’s thumb stopped moving, just for a second. “Lucky,” he murmured quietly, and Steve didn’t quite know what that meant, so he just remained silent.
“We gotta get out through that room,” Tony declared after the silence got too long, jerking a thumb over to the source of the pumping music and loud bangs, “you gonna be good?”
“Yes,” Steve bit irritably. He was an idiot, maybe, but he wasn’t a fucking child- he could handle a bit of noise.
“I’m not saying you can’t,” Tony raised his hands, and oh fuck, Steve had thought out loud again, “I’m saying you just had a pretty severe panic attack, and usually when those hit me, I’d rather eat my own leg than go walking through a place like that.”
Steve paused, momentarily thrown. “ You get panic attacks?” he asked, slightly incredulous.
Again, Tony was silent for a few seconds before grinning. It was staged, even Steve could see that. “When there isn’t alcohol within five feet of me at any given time, yes. Now come along, Rogers- gotta get you home to momma, ‘kay-”
“Don’t say that,” Steve snapped, harsh and completely unfairly, Tony had done nothing but help him all night and Steve had just been a dick in return, “please. Don’t.”
There was silence, and then a quiet “Sure. Sorry. Let’s just…”
Tony gestured to the door, opening it with a swing. He grabbed Steve by the arm and turned his head one last time, quirking a smile and cocking his head again. The hair fell back into his eyes, when he did that. “I could clear the whole room out if I clapped my hands five times, if you really want.”
Steve huffed, amused despite himself. “Show off.”
“That’s me,” Tony shrugged, and then pulled Steve forward.
The crowds were just as massive as they had been; but Tony kept ahold of his arm and navigated them easily through. People automatically seemed to move out of the way for him- it was crazy, and Steve still couldn’t understand why he was getting looked after by the most popular guy in school. Tony was helping him- genuinely- for whatever reason, when he could have just left him with Thor and continued to kiss every inch of lipstick off that pretty girl. It just… didn’t make any sense. That wasn’t how it was supposed to work. Those sort of guys… guys like Tony, who smoked and drank and got thrown in jail- they were the ones he met in the corridors when they tripped him over or beat him up against the lockers between periods, not-
Oh. He’d been so lost in thought, he hadn’t even noticed they’d stepped out the exit. That was… a relief.
Tony slackened his grip as the doors shut behind them and he jumped down the steps, onto the sidewalk where his bike was sat waiting for him at the curb. It must have cost more than Steve had ever owned in his life, he thought as he looked down from the top of the steps.
Tony leaned over, humming absently and tugging the helmet of the lock. Turning around, he glanced up at Steve, still stood still a few feet away at the entrance. “You coming?” He raised an eyebrow, looking amused once more.
Steve opened and shut his mouth a few times, before jerkily nodding and beginning to move his feet of his own accord. When he got to the foot of the steps, Tony chucked the helmet over to him and then climbed on the front. “You ever ridden before?”
One shake of the head. Tony shrugged. “Don’t worry- just hold on and enjoy the ride, sweetheart. I won’t crash, scout's honor.”
Steve swallowed, and Tony turned to him properly, frown marking his forehead for the dozenth time. He sighed. “Steve, seriously- if you’d rather I just call you a cab, that’s f-”
Jamming the helmet on as quickly as possible, Steve let his answer be shown. He didn’t care- he really didn’t, all he wanted to do was get out of there, and Tony was offering- “I’m pretty sure you don’t get to use scout’s honour if you’re not a scout.”
Tony smiled, turning back to face forward so his profile was pointed toward Steve. “I could be a scout.”
“I highly doubt that.”
“Well joke’s on you, ‘cause I’m telling the truth. I was totally a scout.”
Steve climbed clumsily onto the back seat, still feeling a little dizzy from the mix of alcohol and nerves. He really hoped he didn’t fall off. That would suck. “How long for?” He asked through the helmet, hands going around the grab rail in front of him.
He noticed then, that Tony wasn’t actually wearing a helmet. Must only have been carrying one around with him. Steve was about to say something, but then Tony revved the engine and kicked off the brake, shrugging as he did so.
“Three days,” he answered, and then pressed down on the accelerate.
Steve felt the pull immediately; hands curling even tighter around the grab rail. Fuck, he’d never ridden on a motorbike before. This was… certainly new. And slightly terrifying.
He took a sharp inhale through the helmet and tried to calm his heart a little. This was the weirdest night of his life- if someone had told him he’d be hitching rides on the back of Tony Stark’s motorbike after meeting him at a party, he would have just asked what they were smoking. And yet here they were.
Tony veered left, and Steve yelped. The grab rail felt too fragile, too easy to let go of- and before he knew it, his hands had clutched tightly around Tony’s waist instead, cold fingers grabbing the fabric of Tony’s jacket like his life depended on it.
In front of him, Tony was laughing again. “Wondered how long that would take,” he called out over the wind. Steve was thankful the helmet covered another spill of crimson over his cheeks- Goddamn pale skin, it gave everything away.
“I feel like we should introduce ourselves properly,” Steve yelled, not entirely sure where his brain-to-mouth filter had disappeared off to all of a sudden. “I’m Steve Rogers. Hi.”
He felt the vibrations through his fingers as evidence for Tony’s next laugh. “Nice to make your acquaintance, Steve Rogers,” he said, amusement obvious in his voice, “I’m Tony. Now do you mind telling me where you live?”
Oh. Fuck, yeah, that was probably important. Steve shot off the first part of his old address in Brooklyn, before cutting off jerkily as he remembered that that wasn’t his home any more. That place was probably stripped bare and put up for sale for some random stranger to poke and prod and look in, now. Ha.
Tony remained silent as Steve backtracked and told him Sam’s, but he felt the nod at the end of his sentence which showed he’d got it. They were silent for the rest of the journey; Steve fighting the sudden urge to rest his head against Tony’s back and just go to sleep. He was really tired. Hadn’t slept well, those past few weeks.
Eventually- what could have been five minutes or an hour later, Steve wasn’t too sure- Tony pulled up at the foot of Sam’s house and cut the engine. His foot stepped out, kicking the brake into place, and slid off gracefully. Steve attempted to follow, but the helmet obstructed his view and the seat was actually surprisingly high up, which meant he lost his footing about half way down. Yelping, he fell sideways, just grateful for the fact that he still had the helmet on for when he inevitably hit the tarmac-
“Whoah whoah,-” Something grabbed his waist and looped around, holding him in place, diagonally tilted across the sidewalk, “you’re really not good with your drink, are you?”
Steve hurried to regain his footing, pushing off away from Tony’s arm as the other boy just looked at him, that goddamn half-smile still curling around his mouth, “I think I’m just accident prone,” he bit out irritably. Tony had probably been laughing at him inwardly the entire damn night- not that Steve could even blame him, he’d acted like a fucking idiot.
He put his hands up to his head and started to attempt the task of taking off the helmet. Meanwhile, Tony leaned back against his bike and continued to watch him, pulling out another cigarette from God only knows where and tucking it in his mouth.
“Fuck,” Steve swore, blindly trying to to undo the buckles around his chin as the helmet covered his eyes. This was the most embarrassing thing in the whole world, and Steve was never going to leave his room ever again-
“Here, just- Oh, Lord, just come here, Steve Rogers,” Tony said, and yeah, Steve could definitely hear the laughter in his voice now; the dry way in which he said Steve’s full name, and Jesus Fuck, Steve couldn’t even feel angry, Tony’s voice was just so lovely-
A pair of hands pulled Steve’s away from the buckles he was working on, and in only a few seconds, he felt the release as Tony undid them. After that, he tugged it off Steve’s head entirely; leaving Steve blinking in the streetlight. His hair probably looked as if he’d been dragged across a football field.
Tony was centimetres away from him. His eyes were shining, and he was obviously holding back a smile. Steve glared sullenly back at him, really hoping that the red across his face and down his neck wasn’t visible.
Tony pinched the cigarette between his two fingers and turned his head, blowing out to the side of Steve. “You’re certainly an interesting one, Steve Rogers,” he stated, rocking back on his heels.
Steve made a face, finally looking down at the sidewalk. He made a humming noise, and after a few seconds of silence, jerked his head over to the house. “I should probably…”
“You should,” Tony nodded, cigarette going back to his mouth. Steve took a step forward, but was stopped by a hand around his arm once again- soft and non threatening, but certainly there all the same.
“I’m sure you’ve been warned by your friends, but I’m gonna throw in my own two cents here,” Tony said quietly, looking down toward him with his stupidly blue eyes, serious and a little bit sadder than they had been a few seconds ago. “They’re right. You don’t want to be hanging out in the same circles as me. You don’t belong caught up in that, alright?”
Steve pulled away, irritated. It seemed everyone had decided they knew what was best for him, all of a sudden. Even, apparently, Tony fucking Stark. “You don’t have a clue about me.”
“I know you’re not okay,” Tony told him with a shrug and a half-smile, “you think I can’t see it? But believe me- this isn’t the way to deal with it.”
“Sounds a little hypocritical if you ask me,” Steve folded his arms. Tony just shrugged, taking another long drag and blowing out.
“Oh, totally is,” he admitted, “I’m literally the poster-boy for bad decision-making and unhealthy lifestyle choice. But it doesn’t mean I can’t try and stop you anyway. You’re…” his nose wrinkled, like he was trying to find the right word, and despite the aura Tony tended to give off, the action itself was rather- well- adorable. “You’re too good for that. Still got some good friends. Romanov’s loyal- terrifying, but loyal. Heard Wilson’s a great guy, too. Just stick with that. You’ll get through.”
“Touched as I am that you seem to care so much, you’re not actually my mother,” Steve snapped, rolling his eyes and turning around. “I don’t need life advice from Tony Stark, thanks.”
Behind him, there was a short bark of laughter. “Fair,” he heard the muttered reply, and then the revving of an engine once more as Tony got back on his bike
Steve turned, just as Tony dropped his cigarette on the ground and stepped on it with the toe of his boot.
“Stay away from me, Steve Rogers,” was the last thing Steve heard him say before he turned back out into the road and sped off through the darkness.