Steve should’ve known better.
Loki always talked shit, it wasn’t anything new. He didn’t mean anything by it. Usually. Still, Steve had never been able to listen to bullies without trying to do something about it. The fact that it was Steve’s longtime friend and hopeless crush Loki had been teasing hadn’t exactly helped matters. Steve sighed as he hopped along the path back to the castle.
He really should’ve known better.
He’d only been alone with Loki a moment but it had been more than enough time for Loki to hit him with a burst of electricity that left Steve disoriented and more than a little ill. It wasn’t until after he’d finished purging the contents of his stomach that he’d taken a real look at his surroundings and realized he was no longer at Stark castle. It wasn’t until he got a good look in the pond in front of him that he realized something was very seriously wrong.
It was just a childish prank, Steve reminded himself. Loki had done far worse to Thor over the years. The Odinson family would be staying with the Starks another night, surely they could get this resolved quickly enough.
Or so Steve told himself firmly, trying to quell the rising dread as he hopped back home fast as his newly webbed feet would carry him.
He arrived as the Odinson carriages left.
He jumped about like a madman—madfrog?—trying to get someone’s attention, to no avail. Well. Loki saw, not that the rat did anything other than smirk at him. Oh, Steve was going to make him pay when he got back up to size.
He wiggled through the front gates and made his way to Tony’s quarters. Tony would know what to do. Tony always knew what to do, which is why Steve was rushing to get there. It had everything to do with finding answers and nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that he was tired and upset and hadn’t seen Tony’s face in almost a whole day now.
Nothing to do with that at all.
He was just two short yards from Tony’s quarters when one of the maids came after him with a broom, shooed him away. He regrouped and tried again, only to be rebuffed this time by Sir Clint’s hound, who nosed around him suspiciously until Steve decided a tactical retreat might be better than death by mutt. He decided to wait in the weeds nearby instead. Frogs could hardly open doors, anyhow.
Finally, what felt like hours later, Tony opened the door.
For a moment Steve felt his heart beat just a bit too fast, his throat go just a bit too dry—it had been a long, exhausting day and he’d missed Tony like an extra limb—but then Tony started walking in the other direction and Steve had to go double-speed just to try and keep up.
He hopped and croaked and stuck his tongue out, tried just about anything he could think of. Tony didn’t spare him a glance.
He knew it wasn’t really ‘him’ Tony was ignoring but he felt foolish just the same. For a moment he felt painfully young again, reminded of the boy he’d once been, utterly entranced by the kind and brilliant prince who never so much as looked his way. Not then, at least. Certainly Tony had looked his way eventually. They’d become friends by all measures; Tony confided in him, brought him travelling, even got him into the knightship training program though Steve knew full well Tony’s father had been dead set against someone of Steve’s bloodline being anywhere near it.
Tony stopped when he spotted Sir Rhodes in the hallway. Steve used the opportunity to hop on Tony’s foot.
“Looks like you’ve made a friend.” Rhodey grinned down at him, then back at Tony. “You been running around the swamps lately?”
“Yeah, it’s—I don’t know.” Tony shook his foot half-heartedly. “Listen, have you seen Steve?”
“He’s not with you?”
“He’s not.” Tony bit his lip worriedly. Steve tried valiantly to shove down the starburst of warmth that Tony had not only noticed his absence but cared. “Do you know anyone who’s spoken to him lately? Any of the knights, maybe?”
“I haven’t seen him since just after the Odinson’s arrived.” Rhodey shrugged. “He missed training last night, but we assumed he was with you.”
“He’s pretty serious about it. The only one he’s missed so far was when you had that nasty cough last month.” Rhodey grinned. “Tried to pretend he was sick too, but we all saw him sneaking along the ledge to your quarters.”
It was hard to tell from his angle but Steve thought Tony might’ve smiled at that. “He didn’t tell me he skipped training.”
“What have I been telling you? It’s been years, man, you can’t honestly still think—”
“Enough, Rhodey.” Tony sighed. “That’s not…I don’t want to talk about that right now.” Talk about what? What had Rhodey been telling him? What might Tony honestly still think? He hopped back onto Tony’s foot almost absently, just trying to hear better, and Tony shook him off again. “What the hell is wrong with this frog? Look, Rhodey, just—let me know if you hear from him.”
“He’s probably avoiding you,” Rhodey said dryly. “You know, because he hates your guts so much?”
“Ha ha.” Tony rolled his eyes. “Will you please just ask around with the knights?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Rhodey waved him off.
Steve didn’t really understand the conversation—okay, at all—but Rhodey and Tony had been friends since long before Steve came around. They had their own shorthand, he was just missing something. It was fine.
He hopped after Tony determinedly while Tony went around asking people for his whereabouts. Unfortunately no one seemed to have seen him pull Loki aside, which had been the goal at the time of course, though in retrospect not his best move. He seemed to be making some progress with Tony though. He’d get some backward glances here and there, occasionally even a smile. After the fourth conversation turned up no leads on Steve, Tony sighed.
“You’re a determined one, aren’t you?”
Steve croaked. Tony laughed, a real laugh, and Steve would’ve been beaming if frog mouths were capable of it.
“Talkative, too.” Tony sat down next to him, slowly reached out a hand and stroked the top of Steve’s head with two fingertips. “Not as slimy as I thought, I’ll give you that.”
Steve leaned into the touch, gave another encouraging ribbet. Tony laughed again.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d almost think you understand me.”
Steve nodded and croaked and practically wormed his way into Tony’s palm. Tony shook his head with a laugh.
“I’d say I was dreaming,” Tony huffed. “But where’s Steve then, hm?”
Steve tried to ask wait, what? but all that came out was more croaking. Thoroughly unsatisfying. Was Tony saying he dreamt about him?
“Maybe he’s right. I really do need more sleep if I’m apparently daydreaming about sentient frogs.”
Well, obviously I’m right, but more importantly you’re awake! Steve tried. Still just croaking.
“Gods, you’re loud.” Tony rubbed at the middle of his forehead like he did when he had a headache. Steve guiltily shut up. Tony sighed. “Honestly, of all the days for Steve to take off on an adventure without me he sure picked the wrong one. First my father, now sentient frogs? He’s never going to believe me.”
Tony’s father? That was rarely good. Steve leaned against Tony’s thigh in what he hoped approximated comfort. It made Tony chuckle, at least. Steve tried to prompt him with a croak or two but Tony had closed his eyes. Eventually he opened them again, glanced over at Steve. Then, eyes wide, he did a double take.
“No way,” Tony muttered as he grabbed Steve, urgent and almost a little too tight, bringing him up to eye level. “No way.”
Tony stared at him for quite a long time. Had they both been human Steve would’ve minded significantly less. As it was, he was getting anxious.
“I’m losing my mind,” Tony murmured finally. He didn’t put Steve back on the ground though, just lowered him down to his lap. “Oh, this is bad.”
Steve tried to croak in a way that sounded reassuring. If the wobbly, slightly hysterical laugh Tony gave was any indication, he mostly failed. Still. If this meant what Steve thought it meant he couldn’t help feeling hopeful. Had Tony recognized him?
“Wow. This is just—fuck.” One hand still carefully wrapped around Steve, Tony used the other to shove himself to his feet. “I gotta find Rhodey.”
Tony tore around the castle in search of Rhodey, eventually finding him out in the courtyard by the knight’s jousting court.
“Tell me I’m crazy,” Tony demanded, hoisting Steve up to Rhodey’s eyes.
“Uh.” Rhodey moved Steve out of his face with a finger. “You’re crazy. Why exactly are you crazy today? And why is your frog friend in my face?”
“Look at his eyes,” Tony urged. God, Tony really had recognized him. And by his eyes alone no less. Steve may have been a fool for it but he couldn’t help the way his stomach fluttered at the romanticism.
“Is this what you’re like with Steve?” Rhodey made a face. “Okay, we need to get him back because I definitely can’t be your substitute—”
“No, just—this is about Steve. Look at the eyes. Just for a minute.”
Rhodey sighed, gestured for Tony to lift Steve up again. They locked eyes briefly and Steve saw a flicker of…something.
“Really, Tony?” Rhodey raised an eyebrow at Tony.
“You see it too,” Tony realized triumphantly. He clutched Steve close to his chest, started stroking the top of his head again. “We’re going to fix this, Steve. I promise.”
Rhodey groaned. “Oh, god, please don’t call it Steve.”
“It’s him,” Tony insisted defensively. “I know it is.”
“Or,” Rhodey drew the word out. “Maybe you just miss him a little? Which, hey, no one’s blaming you for. You two are attached at the hip and he went on a teensy little adventure without you, and you’re maybe a teensy bit upset about that which I definitely get, but it’s really not reason enough to start talking to random animals like they’re him.”
Steve croaked at Rhodey defensively. Why did everyone think he’d run off on some adventure? What kind adventure was worth having without Tony anyway?
“See?” Tony insisted. “He’s mad you said he ran away.”
Steve hummed happily. Tony really did know him. Tony glanced down at him, looking surprised though he didn’t move to stop cradling Steve against his chest. Steve wasn’t exactly complaining.
“Did you know frogs could purr?” He asked Rhodey.
“Frogs definitely don’t purr.”
“Well he’s...vibrating, or something. I don’t know.” Tony smiled down at him. “Guess I got interpreted you right, huh?” Steve croaked in answer and Tony smiled wider. “I’m taking that as a yes. I mean, come on, Rhodey. This frog’s been determined to follow me around since Steve went missing, you don’t think that’s a little weird?”
“To be clear, Steve suddenly being a frog would also be pretty fucking weird.”
Tony tipped his head, admitting the point. “This seems more likely though.”
“In what world?” Rhodey threw up his hands. “You know, Steve keeps telling me you need to sleep more, I thought he was just nesting but apparently I should’ve listened—”
Nesting? Steve croaked angrily. What the hell does ‘nesting’ mean? Of course he needs to sleep more, I’ve been telling you for months!
Rhodey paused. Examined him a little closer.
“I’m…still not saying it’s Steve. And you definitely still need to get more sleep. But, uh. I will admit those are some real blue eyes for a frog.”
“I know,” Tony said softly, hugging Steve closer to his chest. “I mean, I’m not a hundred percent sure either, but what if it really is him? He sought me out, Rhodey. He needs my help.”
Rhodey melted into laughter. “Oh, please, god in heaven above tell me you’re gonna kiss that frog.”
“I didn’t say that,” Tony insisted defensively.
Steve felt the way Tony immediately stiffened up at the suggestion and tried to stifle his own brief flare of hope. There were other ways, obviously. Surely Loki could turn him back. It was only true love’s kiss that broke spells anyway, not a quick forced kiss for the sake of a friend.
“You didn’t have to.” Rhodey grinned gleefully. “Please tell me I get to watch.”
“Why would you get to watch?” Tony scowled. “You’re a jerk.”
“And you’re a frog-kisser!”
“I am maybe, possibly kissing one frog in the hopes that it’s Steve, not as a recreational activity!”
“You gonna kiss your frog or not?”
“Not.” Tony lifted his chin, utterly unaware of Steve’s sinking heart. “Better go practice, knight. I’m going to find a way to fix Steve without your help and then he’s going to kick your ass for making fun of me.”
“Whatever you say, Tones.” Rhodey snickered. “You go ahead and pretend you’re not just taking Steve-frog back to your room to kiss. Let me know how it turns out. I hear frogs have pretty long tongues…”
“You’re the worst and I hate you and I am definitely not doing that!” Tony called over his shoulder, marching off in the opposite direction of his quarters.
At least until he rounded the corner, at which point he redirected back towards his quarters.
Steve felt his heart start to race.
Tony was still holding him very close.
He didn’t say anything the entire way there. He didn’t say anything after they were in his quarters either, not as he bolted the door nor as he deposited Steve on his desk. He just sat in the desk chair, put his head in his hands and sighed.
Steve hopped over and patted his arm comfortingly. It was a strange thing to have to consider, he supposed. He hoped Tony didn’t feel he had to. Steve started to hop towards the door, maybe give the impression that they could go somewhere else, try another solution. Tony lifted his head and put out his hand to stop Steve from going too close to the edge.
“I should tell you something,” Tony said slowly.
Steve quirked his head.
“If you really are Steve I probably should’ve told you a long time ago.” Tony ran a hand through his hair. “If only for the sake of honesty, but I just…I don’t know. I was scared. Told you even princes get scared, didn’t I?” Tony smiled fondly at the memory. “I didn’t want to lose you. Still don’t, never do. But if it can help you now…well. I love you.”
Steve went very still. Tony put his head back in his hands.
“I’ve loved you as long as I can remember. And I know you don’t love me back, no matter what Rhodey says, which is fine. It is. I’ve always known and I’ve lived with it this long and it’s fine, I just—I’m telling you now because you being a frog seems like a spell and kisses tend to break spells and I know you don’t feel the whole true love thing but I…I do. I really…” Tony’s voice wavered ever so slightly, enough that if Steve hadn’t been desperately committing every detail of this moment to memory he likely wouldn’t have caught it. “Really do. Which is to say I think if you can bear with me for a moment, I might have enough true love stored up for the both of us.”
Tony finally brought his head up from his hands. He was biting his lip anxiously, expression a chaotic jumble of embarrassment and determination and an aching longing Steve was all too intimately familiar with.
Steve hopped closer, placed a webbed hand on Tony’s chin. He’d been going for cheek though apparently he couldn’t quite reach that high. He still couldn’t speak. For once, he didn’t think he needed to.
We can have this.
Tony swallowed hard. Sucked in a bracing breath, then leaned down and in.
Steve had definitely thought if they ever kissed it would feel electric. He wasn’t prepared for a full body electric shock that bordered just a bit on painful or for finding himself buck naked on Tony’s desk hardly half a moment after their first kiss, but then, he hadn’t planned on most of the last two days.
Tony loved him. He could roll with the rest of it.
Tony cleared his throat awkwardly. He was basically just staring at the ceiling now, unable to look at Steve’s face or apparently anywhere else. “I guess, um. I had enough for both of us after all.”
He could’ve thought of something witty about them both being fools or Rhodey being right or any number of other things but honestly, he was exhausted and in love and witty one-liners weren’t really his top priority at the moment.
He dragged Tony in and kissed him again.