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All's Fair In Love

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“Has anyone seen my screwdriver?” Tony asked, popping his head in to the television room. Steve peered at Tony over the top of his book. Jan and Peter didn’t look away from the television screen, having taken it over some hours before to play some new game.

“You only have one?” Peter asked. Tony made a sound of annoyance, a huff of breath, and crossed his arms over his chest.

“No. But this is a special screwdriver.” Tony informed him. “It’s about three inches long, red handle, really small Phillips head.” Tony explained, like this was somehow going to express just how important this thing was.

“I use it for my gauntlets. The circuitry is too tightly packed and too delicate to use a power drill on.” Tony continued. Jan was looking at him now, and Peter had seemed to stop paying attention to Tony at all, in favor of watching the cut scene that their game had just gotten to.

Steve closed his book.

“I’ll help you look for it, Tony.” Steve said. He set it down on the table beside him and stood. “So, where did you have it last?” Tony gave Steve an incredulous look. And gave another annoyed sort of cat-like sound.

“I use it for my gauntlets, Cap.” Tony repeated. “The last place I had it was the lab.” Steve nodded and pushed past Tony.

“Well, let’s go find it then.” Steve smiled faintly, reassuringly, and headed down to the lab with Tony on his heels. When the two of them got to the lab, Tony split it in half with an invisible line, claimed there was no way it was down here, and that they were just wasting time.

“I bet Hank stole it.” Tony was saying, voice carrying across the lab. “I mean, it isn’t like he needs it. He could buy his own. I bought mine off the internet, but I bet he could find one in a hardware store.” Tony was sounding annoyed again, looking under papers, in filing cabinets, and even in boxes that were collecting dust on the corner shelves.

Steve had dropped to the floor on his stomach, peering under the shelf where Tony’s server was set on when he saw a glint of silver and red. He stuck his hand under the metal rack, caught the silver shank in his thumb and forefinger, and tugged it out. Steve crossed the lab over to Tony and dropped it on the desk in front of them.

“Here you go, Tony.” Steve said.

“You found it!” Tony said, he turned, and threw his arms around Steve. “Thank you.” He said, grinning up at Steve. And that was sort of an unexpected benefit to finding something. Steve blinked at him.

“You’re welcome.” Steve said, like it hadn’t been a big deal. It hadn’t been. But Tony was still grinning like Steve had done something amazing for him. And Steve smiled back. “Good luck working on your gauntlets.” Steve told him, heading for the door.

“Ha! Luck is only for people without skill.” Tony called after him, but he went over to where his gauntlets were to work on them. Steve was still thinking about the hug, even when he had returned to the living room and his book.

* * *

Steve was having breakfast with Ororo and Logan, sipping a cup of coffee while she peeled and ate an orange, and Logan attacked a bowl of cereal like a lion at the kill site. Steve was sort of reading the paper, scanning through headlines, and listening to the morning news talk about the fair that was coming to town this weekend. Tony walked in, looking very alert.

Either he’d been up for a while and had already consumed copious amounts of coffee or he’d not been to bed yet. Considering he was in the same clothes from yesterday, curly hair sticking up in all directions, and had the beginnings of circles under his eyes- Steve was going to guess it was the latter.

“You guys wouldn’t happen to have seen a flash drive, would you have?” Tony asked, sounding sort of desperate. Steve felt a little bad, but he kept his face impassive. Logan grunted at him and Ororo shook her head. Steve frowned slightly.

“What does it look like?” Steve asked. Tony looked at him.

“Well, it’s like this big.” Tony showed the approximate size by holding up his hand, curling his last three fingers into his palm, and spacing his thumb and forefinger out. Logan snorted and it might have been laughter. Tony shot him a look. “It’s red and it has the Stark Industries logo on it in black. There’s a little LED light on the plastic right near the USB port to show it’s plugged in and working.” Tony explained.

Steve knew it well, it was in his pocket.

“Oh, I see Tony.” Steve said and he stood, folding his newspaper and draining his mug of coffee. “Well, do you remember where you left it?”

“No. I thought it was in my office, but when I went to retrieve it, I couldn’t find it. It has some blueprints and specs on it, I was working through the math on some upgrades for the suit. And I grabbed my laptop for a business meeting this morning, but the flash drive wasn’t in it anymore, but it wasn’t on the desk either.” Tony shoved his hands into the pockets of his slacks.

“Okay, well, I can help you look for it.” Steve offered and Tony looked rather pleased at the offer.

“I’d really appreciate it, I’d hate to have to do all that work again.” Tony said. He might have been pouting. Steve tried not to think about it too much. He followed Tony up to his office and while Tony darted down to the lab to check to see if he left it there, he let Steve search through the office.

A half an hour later, Tony came back to his office, he was empty-handed and looking a little forlorn. Steve was knelt down under the desk, checking under there. “It wasn’t in the lab.” Tony stated. As soon as Tony started talking though, Steve interrupted with a triumphant sound.
“I found it.” Steve told him, moving out from beneath the desk, flash drive in his palm. Tony all but leapt over the desk in his haste to get it from Steve.

“You, my friend, are awesome.” Tony said, completely sincere. He hugged Steve tightly. Steve flushed a little under the praise (and maybe with a bit of guilt), as Tony pulled back. “Seriously, you’ve saved me from having to re-do hours of work.” Tony said. He grinned and headed off to get his laptop, leaving Steve standing in his office.

* * *

“Has anyone seen my car keys?” Tony asked, coming in on the others, who had sat down for lunch. Tony was looking rather harried, briefcase in hand and all dressed up in a suit. Steve felt really bad now- because it seemed like Tony was going to be late for a meeting because he had taken his car keys.

“You only have one car?” Peter asked, incredulous. Tony’s expression matched Peter’s voice.

“Don’t be ridiculous. I have an electronic lock on all my cars that are set to different frequency and I created this thing like a pog where I can change the channels on it to unlock the car I want. The one down side being that they’re all on the same key ring.” Tony pouted.

“Don’t you have the regular keys and can just open the doors normally?” Hank inquired. Tony blinked at him.

“He has like a hundred cars, Hank.” Jan supplied helpfully, “It’d probably be faster if he just called a locksmith or broke in.”

“I am not breaking in to my own Lexus.” Tony said, sounding rather offended by the idea. Steve pushed his plate away from him and stood. “I thought I put them on the coffee table.” Tony said, already knowing what Steve was going to ask him. Steve put his hands in his pockets to prevent the keys from making noise while he walked.

“I’m pretty sure if we both look, we can find them in no time.” Steve told him. Tony nodded a little.

“But hurry, the board is going to skin me alive if I’m too much later.” Tony gave Steve a sheepish smile. Steve patted his shoulder and headed off to look in the television room, while Tony went to check his bedroom... just in case. Tony came back down- looking like he’d been pulling at his hair.

“They must have gotten knocked off of the coffee table and kicked under the couch.” Steve said, dangling the key ring from his pointer finger, and dusting off his jeans with the other hand. Again, he got a hug, but quicker than normal.

“You’re a lifesaver.” Tony said and then he rushed out, leaving Steve alone with his thoughts again. He really, really needed to stop this before it got out of hand. Well, it already was out of hand. So he needed to stop it before it got more out of hand.

Steve ran a hand through his hair and stood in the living room for a few more moments. But instead of heading back to lunch, he headed off to find something else he could help Tony find.

* * *

Steve was sprawled on a couch in the library, reading The Sketch Book of Geoffry Crayon, Gent by Washington Irving. Tony passed the doorway to the library, then he did so again, then he actually came in to the library and started looking around. On the tables, on the couches. Steve rose his brows and memorized the page number he was on, he closed the book, and set it to the side.

“Everything alright?” Steve asked. Tony jumped a little, like he hadn’t seen Steve there. He hadn’t, he’d been focused. A flush rose on Tony’s cheeks and he dropped down on the couch across from Steve.

“Well, I guess it is.” Tony replied after a minute, running a hand through his hair. “Actually, it isn’t.” Tony decided.

“What’s wrong?” Steve asked, leaning forward.

“Well, see, I’ve been misplacing things a lot lately.” Tony replied. Steve felt bad again. Not guilty enough to stop, but well. “Which is alright, I can be absentminded sometimes.” Tony’s brows furrowed in to a ‘v’ and he ran a hand through his hair.

“But well, I’ve looked everywhere and I cannot find my pen.” Tony told him. Steve’s brows rose.

“You have a ton of pens.” He pointed out. Tony huffed a little and sighed.

“I know, but this one is important.” Tony’s voice came out as a whine, “It’s a fountain pen, Steve.”

“They’re messy.” Steve said, resisting the urge to reach in to his pocket and close his hand around the ludicrous looking pen that spelled Tony Stark in all it’s gold, silver, and diamond cog glory.

“This one isn’t. Or if it is, I’m going to complain.” Tony said, miffed all of a sudden.

“Why?” Steve asked. All the fountain pens he had seen had leaked. That’s why he preferred ballpoint pens. Stick pens, even, they were Steve’s favorite. Tony wrinkled his nose.

“Well, I paid two-hundred and seventy thousand dollars for it, for one.” Tony started and Steve’s eyes went wide, and he choked back a sound. But Tony didn’t notice, as he continued speaking. “And second, it’s hand crafted by people in Switzerland. It’s beautiful. Gold and silver, got diamonds in it, and little cog wheel patterns. Are you okay?”

Tony had looked up to Steve, who looked rather floored.

“You paid over two-hundred thousand dollars for a pen?” Steve asked. His voice might have cracked. Tony nodded like it wasn’t that big of a deal.

“You think that’s expensive, you should see the invoices for sponsoring a superhero team.” Tony told him with a wry smile. Steve was worrying his lower lip and frowning.

“I think we should find your pen.” Steve said, quite adamantly. Tony nodded.

“I swear I turned this house upside down looking for it already.” Tony pointed out, frowning. “I think I had it with me when I was going through some reports while I was in bed the other day.” Tony added.

“We’ll start in the bedroom then.” Steve said with a nod. He pretended to find it in a pair of Tony’s slacks that were in the laundry basket.

“I don’t know how I missed that.” Tony mentioned as he pulled Steve in to a hug. Which, in spite of the grand larceny, was kind of worth it. That thought should have been really worrying and it wasn’t. “You’re my hero lately, you know?” Tony told him.

Steve flushed a little. “Ah, thanks, it’s nothing.” Steve said. Tony grinned at him.

“Maybe, but it means a lot to me.” Tony told him before he pocketed the pen. “Well, I need to go finish some reports before Pepper notices I haven’t done them and polymorphs into a dragon and puts a fire under my ass.” Tony waved and headed out of the room.

“You’ve got to stop doing this.” Steve said to himself. He paused in Tony’s room... and swiped the paperback book from Tony’s nightstand with the bookmark Tony always used in it, before he finally left.

* * *

The bad thing about the book, however, was that Tony didn’t need it in his every day like he needed the other things that Steve had taken. Steve realized it had been a bad decision when a couple of days had gone by without Tony asking for his help in finding it. He supposed he could put it back and then take something else instead...

When he had walked Tony to his room the other night, finishing up discussing a new team work training program they had been working out together, he’d noticed where he kept the pair of gold cufflinks that he wore almost every time he had to dress way up. Steve flipped through the book and stood, going to return it.

“Why do you have my book?” Tony asked, startling Steve who’d been lost in his own thoughts. Steve looked at Tony. And Tony was eyeing him somewhat suspiciously now.

“I recognized your bookmark and was returning it to your room.” Steve said, “I found it in the library.” He added. Tony frowned a little, running a hand through his hair.

“You just walked out of your bedroom.” Tony observed. Steve tilted his head to the side.

“Well, I was dropping something off there first.” Steve added. Tony’s suspicious look faded away and he smiled.

“I don’t remember leaving it in the library, but thanks for bringing it up. I was just about to settle in for the night and read some.” Tony told him. He held his hand out for the book and Steve handed it over to him. Their fingertips brushed and Steve tried to ignore the feeling that rushed through him.

Not that he’d been doing a particularly fantastic job of that as late.

“Well, you’re welcome.” Steve said and tried on a smile. If Tony noticed it was forced, he didn’t say anything.

“Good night, Steve.” Tony said, resuming his trek down the hall.

“Night, Tony.” Steve said to his retreating form. He rounded his shoulders in a sort of slump, and then ducked back into his room.

Steve had it bad. He actually felt rather bereft and neglected that he hadn’t gotten a hug. He told himself to stop being a fool. He ran a hand through his hair and collapsed in to his own bed. He covered his face with his pillow.

He needed to stop. Really this time.

* * *

“Guys? Have you seen my phone?” Tony asked. The other Avengers were settling in for movie night.

“You know, I didn’t want to say anything,” Peter piped up, “But you’ve been really forgetful lately.” Tony frowned at him.

“He is getting kind of old.” Jan told Peter, Tony’s frown shading into a scowl, “Maybe he’s going senile?” She suggested. Tony scoffed a little.

“I am as sharp as a tack.” Tony protested.

“He is. Brilliant.” Steve jumped in support of Tony.

“Thanks!” Tony said, beaming at Steve. Who smiled back just as widely.

“No worries, at least finding cell phones is easy.” Hank said. He pulled out his own and dialed Tony’s number. The room fell silent as they waited for it to ring. There was only a few second delay when the familiar sounds of “White and Nerdy”, Tony’s ring tone for Hank, emanated. From Steve’s pocket.

They all stared.

“Steve, why do you have my phone?” Tony asked as Steve pulled it out from his pocket. Steve blinked.

“Uh- I saw it laying on the counter and was... going to give it to you, when you joined us for movie night.” Steve told him.

“Is there a reason you didn’t say anything when I asked if anyone had seen my phone?” Tony inquired, brows raising to his hairline, and that suspicious look from the other day returning.

“Um...” Steve started.

“Come to think of it, how is you’ve been able to find all of the stuff I’ve been missing lately?” Tony pressed. Steve’s cheeks went a little red. And he stammered, not forming words, as he tried to think of a response.

“Well, he is the peak of human perfection.” Ororo said, calmly, “It doesn’t explain the phone, but his eyesight is likely better than yours to find smaller objects.” She pointed out.

“Yes. Exactly that.” Steve agreed. Tony didn’t look entirely convinced though. He walked over and took his phone from Steve. And for the first time since Steve had joined the team... Tony sat with someone else to watch the movie.

* * *

Steve really tried to help himself this time. He didn’t want to make Tony angry again, but it was obvious that Tony was beginning to realize that Steve was too good at finding his stuff. But his good behavior didn’t last long, because Steve was feeling a little like an addict.

It didn’t even occur to him that it’d probably be perfectly fine, not weird at all, if he just asked Tony for a hug. Tony might even give him one. But in spite of that, Steve found himself in Tony’s room again. Going for the cufflinks that he’d seen what seemed like a lifetime ago.

But Steve hadn’t planned for it very well, and while he was lifting the cufflinks from the box they were kept in, Tony stepped out of his attached bathroom, toweling his hair off. When he dropped the towel on the floor and saw Steve, he yelped.

“What’re you doing?” Tony said, his voice hitting an octave Steve was pretty sure he’d never heard before. Steve was valiantly trying to keep his eyes on Tony’s face. But well, the towel he’d been using on his hair was the only one he had. And Tony wasn’t exactly ashamed of his body, so he made no move to cover himself. Steve’s eyes drifted down.

Tony, however, was focused on something else.

“Steve, what the hell do you have my cuff links for?” Tony started, “And don’t say you were returning them because I know damn well I put them in the box when I got in from that fundraiser that Van Dyne Industries sponsored last night.” Tony’s voice was accusatory, arms crossing over the arc reactor.

Steve kept staring.

“Why, why in the world have you been taking my things?” Tony sounded hurt now. “I thought we were friends and you- Jesus. What the hell is wrong with you?” Tony asked him.

“Put them down. And please get out.” Tony said this, rather calmly, for being naked and having caught out his best friend in the act of stealing his things. Steve reached blindly behind him to drop the cuff links on the bedside table behind him.

“Uh- Tony?” Steve said, he needed to explain. Tony shook his head.

“Just, get out, Steve. Please.” Tony was being polite, but the anger was apparent in the set of his jaw. And Steve knew better not to press the issue.

“Sorry.” Steve mumbled as he passed and hurried out.

* * *

A week after that little encounter and things still hadn’t returned to normal. Steve was reading the paper, Tony was drinking coffee, and Steve was feeling really down because he’d not talked to Tony since he’d been caught last week.

Peter was eating cereal, Logan was drinking orange juice, and Jan was looking between Steve and Tony and trying to pretend like she wasn’t. Ororo stepped in, looking refreshed from her break from the Avengers- she’d gone off with Thor to Asgard for a while.

“Good morning, everyone.” Ororo said pleasantly.

“There’s nothing good about it.” Tony said acerbically. Steve didn’t pull the paper away from his face. Ororo’s brow rose.

“Don’t worry, Ororo, mom and dad are fighting.” Peter said, pleasantly.

“Don’t call us that.” Steve said, sounding more glum than angry.

“I think they’re going to get a divorce.” Peter continued on. Steve lowered the paper to glare at Peter. He pretended not to notice. “They haven’t talked for a week. And the week before that, Tony sat with Hank and Jan during the movie. It was even a romantic one- you know, the ones where mom and dad make eyes at one another and get all misty-eyed...”

“Peter. Stop. Now.” Tony hissed at him through clenched teeth.

“Why are you fighting?” Ororo asked.

“We’re not.” Steve pointed out, “We’re not speaking to one another. It’s completely different.” Steve set the paper down and walked out. He wanted to make up with Tony, but it was difficult when the other man was ignoring him. And didn’t even want to hear why he’d been doing it.

Steve had acted totally inappropriately, he knew that. And now he was feeling even guiltier about everything that had happened. It had been worth it while it was happening, though now it wasn’t worth it at all. This wasn’t worth losing his friendship with Tony. For a little bit of affection that Tony would probably have given anyways.

If Steve hadn’t been too shy to ask. Or been too afraid to speak to Tony about how he was feeling. Steve had wandered back to his own room and he sat in the center of his bed, trying to best figure out what to do next. Because they couldn’t go on like this. It was okay for now, but they were the team leaders. If they were still fighting in the field it was bad news. Steve sighed a little and he closed his eyes.

He’d have to corner Tony. And try and explain. Then if Tony still wanted to be mad he could be, but then Steve would have said his piece and that was all that he could do. Steve made up his mind and decided to get it over with. Tony had probably gone to his lab after breakfast to work on things.

Maybe Steve should get him flowers or something. But no, he didn’t want to come on as too forward, just explain things, and let Tony make his own decisions about it. He would anyways, but still. With a sigh, Steve left his room in search of Tony.

* * *

To Steve’s general delight, Tony was indeed in his lab. He was hunched over a table, a bright light shining down on it, working on a piece of the armor. One of the boots, he noticed, from the other one sitting just on the side, soles already removed to reveal the circuitry on the underside. Tony was down to a tank-top and a pair of well-worn jeans, working oblivious to Steve’s presence.

Steve stood in the doorway and watched him, worrying his lower lip a little. Now that he was here, he had to work out what, exactly, to say. It all seemed rather foolish, in retrospect. The desire which had overtaken him and his want to act on it. His inability to stop himself from acting on it. All to feel Tony’s arms around him.

And, more recently, fantasies involving Tony’s naked body- even if they had been fighting the entire time since he was privy to that particular image of his closest, dearest friend. Steve eventually cleared his throat and Tony jumped, knocking a plastic package of tiny screws all over the concrete floor of the lab.

“Damnit.” Tony hissed. Tony turned to look at Steve and then frowned when he saw who it was.

“Tony, we need to talk.” Steve said. Tony snorted a little, but didn’t say anything. Steve frowned a little too. They were both quiet for a few moments.

“Steve, I don’t really have anything to say to you.” Tony finally said. “So either you talk, or I’m going to go back to working. I’m busy.” Steve stiffened a little.

“Look, I wanted to explain...” Steve started. Tony snorted, but Steve was undaunted, he continued. “It was a dumb thing to do-“

“No, really?” Tony interrupted, fake and mocking expression of surprise on his features.

“- but I wasn’t doing it to hurt you. Or make you upset.” Steve continued talking. He noticed Tony roll his eyes. This wasn’t exactly going very well.

“Look, I get it.” Tony said, “I guess you must have thought I didn’t have enough stress in my life, so decided that adding the worry that I might be losing my marbles was a great idea.” His tone was dripping with sarcasm.

“It wasn’t like that.” Steve’s voice was emphatic.

“Then what was it like, Steve?” Tony wondered, voice rising. Steve sighed heavily.

“I just...” Steve started, his fists balled. “The first time I helped you- the screwdriver?” Steve saw if he remembered. Tony gave him a blank sort of look for a moment, and then nodded.

“That- it wasn’t me. It must have rolled under the computer thing-“

“Blade enclosure.” Tony corrected automatically.

“It doesn’t matter what it is!” Steve said, “The thing was I helped you find it and- well, you hugged me.” Tony gave him an incredulous look.

“I liked it, it was nice, and I didn’t want to ask so-“

“You took my things so I’d hug you? What the hell, Steve?” Tony sounded frustrated. “Look, whatever the reason, you don’t have to play another joke on me about it. That makes even less sense than you wanting me to think that I was going on insane.”

“But it’s the truth.”

“Nice try, but...” Tony turned back to his boots.

“I wanted you to pay more attention to me.” Steve blurted out. Tony stilled, shoulders bunching.


“I know it doesn’t excuse anything...” Steve bowed his head and then frowned, when he realized that Tony was laughing.

“Do you realize how you sound?” Tony interrupted his apology, hitching in a breath while he tried to stop laughing. “Are you five, Steve? Any attention is good attention so you misbehave?”

“No! I...” Steve realized that he didn’t actually have a very good excuse at all. “I wanted to be close to you. Having you in my arms, I.” Steve stopped, flush covering his skin. But at least Tony stopped laughing, brows raising to his hairline.

“And you thought the best way to win my affection was to steal my things?” Tony asked, back to incredulity. Then he was snickering again, “Good lord, Steve. You are five. Pulling my pigtails because you like me.” Tony rolled his eyes.

Steve’s flush possibly got darker. Tony sighed a little and rolled his eyes again.

“We’re really going to have to update your courting skills if that’s what you’re bringing to the table.” Tony said, thoughtfully. Steve was no longer sure what was happening now.

“Well, I’m actually a pretty decent cook, I could make you dinner?” Steve offered. Tony’s brows rose again.

“Are you asking me on a date, Cap?” Tony asked. Steve nodded a little and Tony looked thoughtful again, then a slow smile spread over his face. Steve was still looking a little wary. “Okay!” Tony agreed, smiling wider at him.

Steve hadn’t expected it to take quite this turn. Steve fidgeted. “So, uh, I’ll come get you around seven?” Steve said, tentative. Tony nodded cheerfully. Steve worried his lower lip. “You’re awfully forgiving of this.” Steve’s tone was still tentative.

Tony nodded again. “Of course. It’s alright if you pull my pigtails, Steve. I’ll see you at seven.” Tony said then he stood, pushing Steve from the lab. “But I do need to get this finished before we go.” Tony shut the door on him.

Steve stared at the closed door for several moments and then smiled. He turned to see Peter and Jan standing there behind him. Steve tried to wipe the smile from his face, but failed miserably. “So I take it you’re not getting a divorce?” Jan asked. Steve rolled his eyes at her, shaking his head, he pushed past them to head to his room.

He had a dinner date to prepare for.