“Flat white, please,” He looked around. He made sure that people didn’t know what he looked like. That when he was out in public, the suit was covering his face. There had been close calls, so close that there were pictures of his eyes floating around the internet from a crack in the hull constructed over his face, but nothing that had given away his identity yet, and as long as he dressed in something inauspicious, eh could still roam the streets freely. His greatest worry was that Peter would reveal his identity to one of his friends at school, particularly Ned who understood neither why he could never come spend the night at Peter’s and how he got such goo technology so quickly. But he had managed to keep it quiet so far, and besides, Peter had an identity of his own to keep hidden and was proving surprisingly efficient at it.
“For here or to go?” The teenager working the register would clearly rather be elsewhere, popping their jaw so loudly after they spoke that he was almost worried they had hurt themselves. He glanced around the room, it was crowded because it was always crowded in the morning. He looked for someone interesting, most people being the bland, very white or very-college-esque people who were usually here. But, next to the door was a interesting enough man, wearing a very strange set of wrapped looking tunics with what looked like a cape draped over the chair next to him. In his line of work, he wondered if this might be the next supervillain enjoying his morning brew.
“Here,” He said, noting the five empty spaces at the man’s table. He smiled a bit at that, it took a real kind of asshole to take up a six-person table for themselves, though it did look like he was letting other people snag the chairs.
“Okay.” They took his money, cracking their jaw again. He frowned, at that, disguising it by looking around, making sure the man didn’t have a companion. It wasn’t as though he himself were looking for anyone to talk to beyond a simple conversation, burn off the energy he was about to buy off this flat white, but he was always up for something a bit more intriguing if he could see find someone worth the time. The fleeting thought made him think of Pepper who he was sure was on to greater things now. He missed her, had truly loved her, but they couldn’t make the life together that either of them needed, and when the time had come, it had been best to let it go. That night was an unpleasant memory, but the others of her were overwhelmingly positive, though they did now make him more than hesitant to approach someone else. She had kept true to her final promise, and though he knew she had told people that she had dated the head of Stark Industries, she had never shown his face to anyone beyond those who already knew him.
“Here’s your stuff.” The man remained alone after a few moments, tapping gloved fingers on the sides of his cup in the rhythm of a song that certainly wasn’t the strange jazz remix playing softly over the speakers at the moment, and he took the cup and slightly wet change with no words to the barista.
“Is this seat open?” He grabbed the back of the thick wooden seat across from the man, who looked up at him with sever, raised eyebrows. “Thanks.” He said, sitting down without waiting on a response. “It’s busy.” He offered by way of explanation, taking a napkin from the center of the table.
“Can I help you?” The man said, his voice a lot deeper than he had been expecting. He took a second to look at him, holding his chipped ceramic cup aloft in front of his face. The man was interesting looking, that was for certain, with some of the most severe facial features he had seen. They worked well with the facial hair which mirrored his own, though at the moment both the man’s mouth and eyes looked incredibly displeased at the turn of events of no longer enjoying his tea alone. Earl Grey, if the bag could be trusted.
“That remains to be seen,” He said, sipping at the Flat White that tasted the same as it did every Thursday. “Come here often?”
“Who are you?”
“Tony. Who are you?”
“Doctor Stephen Strange.”
“They let you operate on people wearing that? Or are you dressing up for kids at the hospital?” He didn’t mean the words to sound so patronizing, but the man was reeling off answers as fast as he could questions and it was far more entertaining to see if he could keep up with the banter.
“Strong words from a man who looks like he walked off the set of Rad.” It might have been his imagination, but this Doctor was enjoying himself as well, despite his full intention not to. Tony smiled, curling his tongue over his lips. Perhaps this would be the kind of person that he could spend a bit more time with.
“I realized yesterday that I don’t know your last name.” Doctor Stephen Strange was looking out at the water, not at Tony, who stood close to his other side, making space for the elderly couple walking up the sidewalk.
“We’ve only been out to dinner twice. I didn’t want to take things too quickly.” And Stephen Strange laughed, unable to help himself.
“Is this your idea of a third date?”
“Fourth date. I’m counting the coffee.”
“I was drinking tea, actually.
“You, me, coffee, and tea. An excellent date by all measures.”
They stopped, watching a parcel of boats float gently past as the city Summer Motion Festival. IT would be a fun day, worth the strange stares they got at Stephen’s eccentric clothing. From all Tony could find on that, he was member of a group that was mainly centered in Asia. But it didn’t explain he glowing green necklace he wore constantly or the thick brown gloves he kept on his hand at all times, even the couple of times that Tony had felt it right to slip his hand around Stephen’s. He hadn’t pulled away, always a good sign, so he did it again as they moved to cross the bridge towards the bunches of booths there. “We’ll need to start planning a spectacular fifth date if this one goes well.”
“Next week,” Stephen said, “I have to be in London later tonight and for the next few days.”
Tony blinked, looking up at him through his sunglasses, looking for any joking in his features since to make that happen, he would need to leave in the next eight minutes. It was time he started to learn more about Doctor Stephen Strange, he decided.
“What’s up with you, Mr. Stark?” Peter said, eating a bowl of cereal like he hadn’t had food in days. Which wasn’t true since he’d eaten an entire pizza by himself the night before when he had come over. He had as good as moved in, spending far more nights in the bedroom he had adopted for himself than he did in May’s Queens apartment. In a way, it made Tony feel guilty, but in their brief interactions, May had been nothing but grateful for what he had done for Peter, who made sure to spend to spend time with her, she said.
He looked up from his screen, reading through articles about a car crash from a couple of years ago, one that might offer some insight into his mysterious Doctor friend. “Nothing.”
“You don’t have to lie to me, Mr. Stark. I know when something’s wrong, so there’s no point in lying really, you know? I think you should…”
“Peter.” He said, and the boy stopped, slurping up another bite of cereal. “I’m fine.”
“Really? Cause you seem real distracted, Mr. Stark. Real distracted, like that time that Aunt May…”
“I’ve been seeing someone.”
Peter’s eyes went wider before his smile followed. “That’s great, Mr. Stark! Really great, you know I think you’ve been alone for too long now. What are they like? What’s their name? Do they know you’re Iron Man yet? Are you going to tell them?”
“What kind of Doctor are you, exactly?”
“I don’t practice medicine anymore.” It was avoiding the question, that much was clear to Tony.
“You’re too busy dressing like a Jedi now.” Stephen’s eyebrows raised at him, the same they had since that first day when he was agitated by Tony’s teasing. “Sorry,” He said, “More like a Sith.”
“I’ve moved on to another career.” Stephen finally conceded, clearly not wanting to talk about this outside of this Italian restaurant. Dinner had been fabulous, but of course it had. Tony wouldn’t allow any of the meals that they shared to be anything less than magnificent. There was something about Stephen’s reaction to nice things, as if he were both comforted by and entirely uncomfortable with them at the same time. Tony craved those moments, anything that would tell him more about Stephen Strange, Doctor Stephen Strange, since the man was by far the most reserved person he had ever met with the exception of his clothing.
“As a sorcerer?” Tony asked, piquing his voice, not quite believing the words were coming out of his mouth. The reaction was visceral. Stephen stepping away from him, pulling gloved hands from his pockets. “It’s okay,” Tony said, “I have something to share with you, too, if you’ll just come with me.”
As if one cue, his actual car, not the pretend sports car he had been driving around for the last little bit, pulled up the curb to take them. “Coming?” He opened the door, offering it to Stephen first who lowered his hands and clambered inside, his eyebrows lowered.
“You’re Tony Stark.” Tony thought that Doctor. Stephen Strange, the apparent Sorcerer Supremes’ voice sounded much better when it was muffled from its place at Tony’s neck, his long body practically wrapped around him like a massive snake. “And Iron Man.” Almost unconsciously, one of the man’s hands drifted to Tony’s chest to touch the soft blue glow. He laughed again, a beautiful sound, really, if Tony thought about it. Given the various sounds they had been making earlier, he was glad Peter was at Ned’s for the night instead of anywhere in the building. He could make no guarantee on the soundproofing which was certainly an oversight on his part.
“And you’re Doctor Strange.” He turned slightly, disrupting his lover’s long limbs. “An unfortunate name, really.”
“It’s better than Tony,” was the sleepy reply.
“Technically speaking, it’s Anthony.”
“Anthony, then.” And Tony thought he might like how it sounded.
Peter arrived in the middle of one of his attempts to cook dinner. It was a simple enough dish, chicken gnocchi, but one that was requiring more effort than he had meant to put into it, Stephen sitting on one of the kitchen bar stools, gloved hands crossed. “Smells good, Mr. Stark! Are you cooking something?”
Tony whipped around as Peter tossed his backpack onto one of the couches. “Hey there, I’m Peter Parker. Who are you? You don’t work here. He doesn’t work here, does he Mr. Stark?”
Saying that Stephen was startled would be an understatement, since he was currently staring at Peter as if he were one of the vague, mystical threats he had sometimes left to deal with in the past three months, coming back sometimes unperturbed in only minutes, sometimes after hours or days, cuts across his face and chest, appearing through portals in Tony’s bedroom so he could walk into the shower. A particular incident had made Tony swallow a mouthful of toothpaste at his sink, nearly gagging as Stephen simply appeared in the shower, sans shirt.
“My name is Doctor Stephen Strange.” He said, and Peter nodded, tilting his head back and forth so fast that he was nearly shaking, moving the whole couch with him. “And you are?”
“Peter Parker,” He said, reaching in to his bag to pull out his computer. “Why are you dressed like that? Is it for your job? Do you work here? If you do, you’re new then.”
“Peter.” Tony could feel his eyes widening, and soon as Peter looked at him, the boy’s eyes widened right back. His lips pursed out into a smile, face bright with excitement.
“Right, well, I’m actually going to meet with Aunt May for dinner. Maybe she’ll want to go out to eat.” He turned his head, shoving his computer back in his bag and winking at Tony, who could feel his mouth hard-linign into a frown.
“You don’t have to leave.” Stephen said, looking almost overwhelmed for the first time since Tony had known him.
“No, its fine. I’m sure Aunt May will love me coming home for dinner. I always get home late.” He gave a little wave, “Bye, Dr. Strange. Bye, Mr. Stark!”
“Peter,” He turned one last time to Tony, mouth open in a grin, “Take the card off the table and let me buy you and May dinner.”
“Thanks, Mr. Stark!” He yelled again, and slid the sleek black card off the wood, practically running to the elevator.
There were few beats of silence as Peter vanished into the elevator, and Tony became conscious of the fact that his gnocchi was about to boil over into a catastrophe so he pulled on his oven mitts.
“I didn’t know you had a son,” Stephen finally said, halfway through Tony emptying the dumplings into a colander. He didn’t say anything, letting out a soft breath as he tried to consider how to reply. “He seems interesting.”
And so, he just smiled instead, feeling an odd, slightly uncomfortable feeling in his chest. He looked over at Stephen, who had his sharp eyes fixed on him, sipping tea out of one of the sleek chrome coffee cups, and Tony felt his face redden.
“I still don’t understand how this works.” Tony said, as Stephen materialized through a portal into his workshop.
“That device that your working on? I’m afraid I can’t help.” The cloak on Stephen’s shoulders slid off, moving over to Tony for a moment as if seeing what he was up to, pestering him gently on the face until he shooed it off and it went back to Stephen, offended.
“No.” He said, raising it up in his fist. “This definitely doesn’t work, but I do know why. I don’t understand how you do that.”
“You built yourself a full-body, heart-based prosthetic and you can’t grasp the concept of magic?”
“I didn’t really think I would ever have to consider magic.”
“I wasn’t expecting to end up dating Harry Potter.”
And Stephen laughed, enough that Tony smirked, trying to hide how happy the sound made him. How his own smile was almost entirely involuntary, but he didn’t. He wasn’t ready to say those words yet. There was something, something still missing. Parts of himself he was keeping too hidden.
“Kamar-Taj is a bit different from Hogwarts, thankfully.”
“No werewolves.” He said, and they both laughed, Tony trying to hide his blushing features as he pretended to tinker with the hopeless piece of metal in front of him.
“What school is it that you go to, again?” The next few times that Peter arrived when Stephen was visiting, he didn’t leave. The boy’s curiosity had gotten the better of him, and Tony could hardly blame him, with how everything had been over the past year or so.
“One that takes itself too seriously.” Peter said, tapping his pen against his teeth, filling out a listed page of equations. “And one that has a huge endowment!”
“Maybe that’s why it takes itself seriously,” Stephen remarked back, picking up Peter’s biology textbook, a worksheet falling out.
“Hey!” Peter said, “Don’t lose that! It’s my homework.” Stephen was looking over it, squinting at the worksheet.
“You might be better off not turning it in, most of its wrong.”
“What?” Peter said, snatching it out of the good doctor’s covered hand. “It is not.”
“Whatever you think,” Stephen looked over at Tony, giving him the barest wink. “But I’ve never seen a photosynthetic cycle without glucose as the final product.”
Peter opened his mouth, then closed it again. Then opened it a final time before he looked over at Stephen. “You wanna help me?”
“What the hell, Peter?” He was yelling, could hear himself yelling as he cradled Peter in his arms, watching blood soak through the tear in his suit from Peter’s side.
“It’s okay, Mr. Stark,” He said, but his voice was faint, and getting fainter. “I’m okay.”
“God dammit.” He whispered under his breath. The kid needed medical help, but it wasn’t as if he could take him to the hospital. Legally, he wasn’t anything to this boy. And they didn’t have time to wait on May. He pulled out his phone, pressing the button so his suit came back over him.
“Doctor Strange,” Came the familiar voice, too much of a comfort at the moment for Tony’s liking.
“I have a bit of an emergency. Can you meet me at the tower, please?” He blew over the main part of the city, seeing his home tower in the distance, getting ready to go through the motions of entering it secretly.
“Of course.” And the line was gone, Stephen standing right where he needed him in the minutes that followed. He led the suit slide back into its disguise in his clothing, still holding Peter, who now felt much heavier in his arms.
“Really, Mr. Stark, I’m okay.”
“Your kid is Spiderman.” Peter’s head rolled as fast as it could to look at Stephen, who was watching the pair of them with serious trepidation as Tony set Peter down on the table, working on peeling the mask of his suit off.
“Yes.” He said finally. “Can you please help me?”
It was as if then that the blood registered for Stephen, who pulled his thick brown gloves off. Only when they had been in the dark of Tony’s bedroom had he ever seen Stephen’s actual hands, but now, he could see them fully, including the fact that they were shaking madly at the moment until they were shrouded in an odd sort of light and steadied themselves as he began to examine the deep wound in Peter’s side. Webbed over his fingers were thick white scars in the exact pattern of the tendons underneath, as if someone had rebuilt them piece by piece. They reddened with blood as he worked over Peter, who’s natural abilities were healing him rather quickly, the boy starting to stir. But Stephen helped both magically and with his actual medical abilities and Tony’s rather large cache of supplies to provide the needed attention until Peter’s bleeding stopped and his breathing evened out, the boy starting to stir.
“Thank you,” Tony breathed, not realizing the level his adrenaline was at until he could feel his body becoming more and more rigid with stress. He felt like he needed to sit.
“Do you mind if I use your sink?” Stephen held up his hands, but didn’t look Tony in the eyes. He knew, then, that Tony had been staring at his hands, had seen whatever story he had been hiding there. He didn’t wait on a reply before he went over, but Tony followed, turning it on for him, resisting the urge to massage the fingers himself and was the blood from his hands, to reach out and pull him close, to press his head to Stephen’s chest where a living, breathing heart was. But instead, he turned to Peter, to help him off the table as he sat up far too quickly and nearly fell over.
“Goodnight, Mr. Stark,” Peter said, sleepy from pain medication and a rough night of being the friendly neighborhood Spiderman.
“Goodnight.” Tony said, and shut the door, leaning back on it. Part of him wondered if the Sorcerer Supreme would still be in his living room, or if he had portaled away, possibly forever, from Tony’s life. To his half-surprise, he found him sitting, gloves pulled back on, on the couch.
“Hello,” Stephen said, looking over at him, leaning back from the couch. Whatever he was going to say next stopped as Tony slid his legs around his waist, putting his hands on either side of his face and pulling him into a deep kiss. He could feel Stephen stiffen, startled by Tony’s near-aggressive advance, before he relaxed into it, his mouth opening to keep pace with his lover.
“Thank you for coming when I needed you,” Tony pulled back, pressing a kiss to the side of Stephen’s mouth, still-open, before moving to his jaw, slightly stubbled from a couple days of not shaving, before moving to his neck to suck hard kisses there.
Stephen let out a soft noise, one that made Tony want press closer to him, but then he spoke. “I haven’t done anything like that in a long time.”
Tony stopped, pulling his head back and blinking down at Stephen, wasn’t looking at him. He reached around, taking the hand that had been steadying against his waist and pulling the glove off of it, looking at Stephen’s hand again in the full light, the shaking having started again as Stephen’s breathing quickened.
He pressed his lips to Stephen’s center finger, letting them trace all the way down until he reached his palm where he pressed a kiss and then another at each joint of Stephen’s fingers. In the overwhelming silence, he pulled off the other glove, repeating the motions gently before he held the hands between his own.
“I think I love you.” He said softly.
Later that night, his hands shaking gently against Tony’s side, when Stephen clearly thought he was sleeping against him, he whispered against Tony’s shoulder, “I think I love you, too.”