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Meeting the Monsters

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It was second period math class when Tony first saw him.

At the back of the room, head bent low, scribbling quickly into his book. He hadn’t looked up when Tony had entered, so all Tony had been able to see was a blond head and wide, broad shoulders. He sat alone.

The teacher, as usual, had taken a glance at him and then raised her eyebrows when he’d mentioned his name. Tony Stark was definitely one that was… recognisable, that was for sure. But she’d quickly gotten over it, waving a hand and then assigning him a seat in the back row, next to some girl with mousy brown hair and a bored expression on her face. He was stared at as he walked down the rows, but it was something he was used to by that point. And starting at a new school was never going to be easy.

He made sure to keep his head held high though, and did so until reaching his place at the back, next to the girl. She glanced up at him, nodded once, and then looked away. She’d obviously deemed him completely unimportant- again, something that, over the small space of a few hours, he’d become woefully used to.

Tony wondered if this was what high-school was really going to be like, or if maybe he’d just started on the one day in which everyone behaved like a douche. He briefly checked his phone for evidence to support his theory, but it told him it was a Friday. If anything, the kids should have been happier on this day- it was the end of the school week, after all.

Apparently not, though. What the hell did he know anyway? He’d been homeschooled every day up until this one, so he wasn’t exactly an expert on teenage social concepts and structures. He’d briefly considered doing a few social experiments beforehand, but had ultimately decided against it when he’d realized the variables were too difficult to measure, and that was possibly one of the fields of life in which he had the least amount of practical knowledge in.

He blinked to himself slowly, and then made an effort to wipe those thoughts from his head. God, fuck, step one: Don’t talk like that. Kids didn’t talk like that. The whole point of this was to try and learn how to be normal, not some scientist freakshow.

He took a small breath, and then quickly bent down to grab his bag and pull out the books he needed for the lesson. He’d put them all in chronological order the night before, so he knew exactly where it was in his bag, and also exactly where his pencils and calculator were too, because he’d made sure to buy a bag with specific compartments, just so that they didn’t get lost so easily. He was precise like that.

He shoved a hand in and then glanced up, and as he did, his eyes met with the other boy’s deep blue ones across on the desk over from him as he too leaned down and grabbed something from the ratty gray bag underneath his desk. It was the shortest of moments- just a second, really- and Tony only caught the barest glimpse before the boy turned away, but that was all it took.

All it took, for the air to slip right out of Tony’s lungs. For his hands to stutter and freeze up, and his eyes catch unmovingly on the boy’s solid frame as it turned back to the book and then began to write again.

That was all it took for Tony realize he’d just seen the most beautiful boy in his entire life.

It took an embarrassingly long amount of time for him to snap out of his trance and sit back up again. He’d been frozen to the spot; body folded up as he’d reached into his backpack and head craned to look at in the boy’s direction, but luckily it was only a few moments later when the teacher began her lesson at the front, and his focus was forced back onto her. He sat up clumsily and breathed in a calming breath, facing forward. It was just the nerves, and he knew it. This was the first time in… well, probably ever, that he’d been in such a small space with such a concentrated amount of children his age in it. He was bound to get carried away. He needed to keep his head straight- it was the goddamn second lesson, and math was something he could do.

Shit, that boy’s eyes. They’d been so very very blue- Tony wanted so bad to turn around and look at them again. But he didn’t. He refrained. The poor guy would probably find it creepy. New kid, ogling him from the desk over? Yeah, no. Not a good first impression. And judging from the way the guy looked, he was probably a popular kid. So Tony didn’t exactly want to get on the wrong side of him.

God, he hadn’t thought there’d be this much sensory information to process when he’d come through these doors that morning.

Public School had been a very spur-of-the-moment decision for Tony Stark. He honestly hadn’t even considered the idea until a few months ago; it had just been something that everyone else his age had done, but not him. He’d been homeschooled, because he was a Stark, and Starks needed the very best when it came to education. That’s what his father always said, anyway. And for the most part, Tony had just gone along with it. It was all he’d ever known anyway- and it was just easier to keep Howard happy.

Or at least, it had been, until Tony had been thinking about what he was going to do for his seventeenth birthday party, and then realized that actually, he had absolutely no-one to spend it with.

That one had been… kind of a bummer. It was something that he stupidly went through every year, but for some reason on this particular instance, Tony had decided that he was sick of it.  Sick of spending his birthday alone, sick of getting a thousand dollars thrown at him by his parents as they got on the jet to their next country, sick of being the only one in that huge fucking house.

So that night, on a whim, Tony had put his brain to good use and managed to sign himself up to the nearest public school there was. Just like that.

He’d expected the fallout when his parents had come home a few weeks later and heard the news. Howard had screamed so loud Tony had thought he’d start shattering glass, and his mother had just shaken her head and told him that he couldn’t. Stark's didn't associate with the common folk, after all. They went private, they went big- public school was barely even a comprehensible concept to them.

But what his parents had not accounted for was how much Tony would argue his case. And oh, how he argued. He’d put his foot down and nagged and yelled himself hoarse, because it had been seventeen years and he hadn’t ever made a friend- and eventually, magically, amazingly- Howard had conceded.

“One year,” he’d hissed, stabbing a finger into Tony’s chest, “one year to shut your ungrateful little ass up, and then you go to MIT, you hear? You don’t get a choice in that. It’s where you’re going. If you want to ruin your last schooling year in some shitty public school, mingling with the scroungers and the street rats and the goddamn monsters, you go do that. But don’t come crying to me when it all turns to shit. I’m not bailing you out.”

Tony had taken those words to heart. And now here he was; sat in the back of a math classroom with peeling paint, mouldy walls and a bunch of kids who didn’t seem to acknowledge his existence, and he was already starting to wonder whether he’d made the right choice.

Highschool had looked a bit cooler in the films.

 

“Helloooo? Are you listening to me?”

 

Tony blinked, turning to the sound and snapping out of his reverie. The girl next to him was looking at him in mild curiosity, which honestly was better than the boredom, so Tony would take it. “Uh- yeah?”

She blew a bubble with her gum and then stared at him blankly for a second, before tapping a nail against his book. “You’re Tony Stark? The genius one, yeah?”

Tony noticed a movement to his other side and turned, just in time to catch the other boy’s eye once again. This time, his gaze lingered on Tony’s for a second, analytical as he cocked his head a fraction and then let his eyes trail down to the name at the front of Tony’s book. He knew the name, obviously.

“Yeah. I… I guess so, yeah,” Tony spluttered in the end, pulling his head forcibly back over to the girl who was speaking.

Again, she stared for a moment, before pushing her book over to him. “Can you answer the first question for me then? I don’t get it.”

He stared blankly for a moment, before swallowing and nodding, pulling the book closer toward him. Alright- not what he’d been after, but better than nothing. He was clever, after all- and favours got you places, right?

He bit back on the sigh as he filled out her book quickly, all while trying to not to stare across at the boy next to him with his ocean-blue eyes and golden blond hair. He was pretty sure he was so distracted that he answered the damn question wrong though, which was definitely saying something- but the girl took it happily, and she even smiled, so Tony counted it as a win.

First smile of the day. See? He could do this.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

Break was a whole different issue that he hadn’t even taken into consideration.

That being- there was an entire cafeteria full of people, and Tony knew absolutely none of them.

Where did he sit? Was there an order to it? Did he need to find his own special space? God, maybe there had been something about this in the leaflet that they’d given him in reception. Or maybe he could just sit wherever he wanted, and they would just welcome him openly into the conversation.

Ha. Yeah right. Tony had been there for less than a day, and even he knew how laughable that concept was.

Staring around the room a little helplessly, he searched for a single face he could recognize in the crowds. Someone had shown him around, and they’d seemed okay- maybe they’d let him sit with them. Or that kid in his English who’d offered to let Tony sit at his desk. He’d been okay too.

Shit, he was just standing in the middle of the cafeteria like some sort of freak. He needed to move.

Jerkily, he wandered forward, pretending as if he had a destination in mind as he slipped through the crowds and passed various tables of people. Hell, if push came to shove, he could just go to the library and sit there. They had some cool books in there when he’d had a look. Although it would kind of defeat the whole purpose of coming to school to make friends in the first place.

God, why was this so fucking difficult? He was a genius, for Christ’s sake, he solved the world’s problems in his spare time and yet he couldn’t work out this? For fuck’s sake.

It was in that moment, as he was having his small mental breakdown in the crowded cafeteria hall, that he once more spotted the boy from earlier. Almost missed him at first, actually; his eyes just moving over the frame and then passing them off as just another blur in the crowd.  But then they slowed down, took in what they were actually seeing, and he stopped in his tracks hastily.

They’d shared eye contact, right? And for some reason, he was sat in the corner all alone, so he might like the company. Plus, Tony could admit, he himself may have been starting to panic a little.

So he walked over confidently, and tried to make sure that he had words to say when the situation arose in which he’d have to use them.

It was actually easy, in the end. Tony got closer, and realised that the boy was yet again working, his head buried in the same book he’d been using during math class. He obviously hadn’t finished the work, and so was just doing it now instead. Tony wondered curiously where all his friends were. Because really- a guy like that had to have friends.

“Square root of 25,” he blurted, loud enough that the boy jumped and then immediately whipped around and locked his eyes with Tony, an almost unnatural quickness to the speed of his actions. Tony stared at him as the boy stared back, before he added on, “the answer, I mean. It’s. Uh. Square root of 25.”

Those eyes were like something Tony had never even seen, and they stared at him intently for a very long time, something curious and slightly apprehensive there. Tony had no idea why- it wasn’t as if he was scary.

“Uhh- thanks,” the boy said after a second, brow furrowing a little. His voice was deep, like warm velvet.

He’d thanked Tony. He hadn’t immediately told him to fuck off and leave him alone. That was good enough, right? Well- whether it was or it wasn't, Tony was desperate enough to just take it. So without another moment of hesitation, he sat himself down on the section of bench opposite the other boy and grinned his most friendly grin, hoping to God that it would work.

“So I’m Tony.”

It was probably in his head, but for some reason, it felt like the whole damn cafeteria got a little bit quieter as soon as he sat himself down.

The boy was staring at him openly now, outright bewilderment and a little bit of suspicion on his face. Tony’s heart was already sinking, and it hadn’t even been more than three seconds. “Okay,” his math friend (friend? Associate? Colleague?) answered slowly, “I’m Steve. What are you doing right now, Tony?”

That threw him for a loop a little, he could admit. His brow creased, trying to think of something. If Steve didn’t know what Tony was trying to do, then he was obviously doing a part of it wrong. “I’m making friends. You seem friendly. Ergo, uh, I thought I’d come sit with you. There’s… I don’t know anyone else here.” Tony shrugged somewhat helplessly, feeling as if the entire room was staring at his back. “And you were sat on your own too. I thought…”

Steve was just staring at him. There was a blank look on his face, and then he breathed quickly through his nose, just once, before his eyes widened a fraction. “You’re being serious,” he said, huffing a little and then looking down, something wry in his expression, “I’m also assuming that you, ah, aren’t aware of… what I am?”

Tony blinked. “Uh. You’re not like, some young-looking teacher are you, because that’d be awkward-“

Steve smiled with his teeth, and Tony’s mouth snapped shut as he spotted it, things suddenly clicking in his head.

Shit. Fuck. Balls. Steve was a goddamn vampire.

There were barely even a thousand of them left in New York, from what Tony had heard last. They were kept on a register, along with all the other monsters that were living in the US. It wasn’t unheard of to see a vampire or a werewolf or whatever in a mainstream school these days, but it was still… frowned upon. A lot of people had a hell of a lot of misconceptions about the type of people these guys were, and their reputations through various folklore meant that everyone tended to distrust them by nature. Tony had… well, as Steve had pointed out, he hadn’t even noticed- but now he was looking, the characteristics were definitely there. The unnatural purity in the colour of his eyes. The pale skin. The perfect body and the quick reflexes- and then of course, the fangs. Pretty obvious once you saw those things.

In the one lesson that Tony had ever been given on vampires and other Domesticated Monsters, his tutor had told him to avoid them at all costs. Untrustworthy and manipulative by nature, those sorts of creatures tended to be dangerous or criminal. Especially the vampires, with their unfortunate tendency to suck the blood out of humans.

Then again. Tony was lonely. And he had a terrible self preservation instinct anyway.

He knew that Steve wouldn’t actively kill him. For now, Tony would take it.

 

“Cool,” he said, because that was the only thing that really popped into his head before he attempted to steer the subject onto safer ground, “so do you need any more help? With the math stuff? I’m pretty good at it-“

“Uh…I don’t know if you got this, Tony, but- but I’m a vampire,” Steve repeated, saying it slowly, as if Tony had simply not caught on, “like… I’m not joking.”

“Yeah, I got that,” Tony responded, shrugging, “but you’re not going to kill me right here right now, so I’m good.”

“You don’t know that,” Steve said blankly, his jaw tight, “you’ve got no idea about me.”

Feeling as if this was going into territory that wouldn’t lead anywhere good, Tony paused and tried to take control of the situation once more, before eventually settling on something light-hearted. “I figure they wouldn’t let you into a school full of delicious-smelling children if you were one of the killing-sort of vamps, Steve.”

Amazingly, that actually sprung a laugh out of Steve, and Tony’s spirits dared themselves to rise a little. The boy crinkled his nose in slight distaste. “You obviously haven’t smelt the boys’ locker room if you seem to be under the impression that they smell delicious.”

“Okay, fair,” Tony grinned, running a hand through his hair and then letting it fall back onto the table. “I’m pretty sure if I had to suck on something that smelt like that, I’d go vegan too.”

Steve’s smile was small, but he rolled his eyes as if he was actually amused, which was definitely a plus. “You ever met a vampire before, Tony? You seem remarkably… unafraid.”

“Homeschooled,” Tony shrugged nonchalantly, leaning back and winking, “I have been blessed with absolutely no friends and ignorance to the modern world for my entire seventeen years of living. Lucky me.”

Steve’s eyebrows rose, and Tony felt as if that was a cue for him to explain further. He was almost about to open his mouth and do exactly that, but was stopped when he suddenly felt a sharp jerk against his back. He turned in time to watch a bunch of boys pass him by, thoroughly amused looks on their faces.

“New kid’s feeing brave,” one of them said to the other, as another added, “or he’s just one of those kinky ones that likes to fuck the monsters.”

They all laughed at each other as they walked off, and Tony watched in dismay as Steve’s face fell rapidly, turning back into blank disinterest before Tony could even hope to stop it. He swallowed, and then glanced once at Tony before looking back down to his book.

“You should go,” he said bluntly, which was shit; for a moment it had actually been going okay- “I don’t hang out with baseliners. And I’m not someone you’d want to be friends with.”

It took Tony a moment to remember that that was the term the Domesticated Monsters used to refer to the normal ones, like Tony and- well- the rest of the school, it seemed. He paused, looking across at Steve, who was now firmly embedded back into his book. His jaw was set in a grim, unmoving line.

“You’re the only person in the room I felt comfortable enough to actually try and talk to,” Tony said quietly, his heart sinking. “But yeah. I get the whole… baseliner thing. Uh. I’ll go. Sorry for bothering you.”

He could admit, he felt too humiliated to look Steve in the eye as he got up and left, although he did feel the other boy’s gaze on his back as he turned and left. It seemed everyone was doing the same thing though- and hell, was it really that uncommon for someone to go up and talk to a vampire? Is that even what it was, or was Steve just some kind of freak in a completely irrelevant and different way?

Who knew? Who cared? All Tony had discovered was that not even a lonely vampire wanted to sit with him. That…

Well. He was pretty sure that was a new low.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

The next few days went roughly the same.

He didn’t go into the cafeteria. It was huge and loud and scary and overwhelming, and Tony had no one to sit with anyway. Instead, he sat in the library and read a lot of books. Books about the bones in the human body and the first trip to the moon and, at one point, he memorized all the capital cities of Europe (thank God for his eidetic memory). It was interesting, that was for sure.

It was still lonely.

But it was okay. Tony had a lot of time to make friends, and he was also a quick learner. It seemed kids had a pattern of behaviour that involved a lot of subtle gestures which slowly led up to what Tony could (semi)confidently call a friendship. All he needed to do was learn it, and then he’d be fine.

Fuck whatever Howard said. He could do well at public school, and he could make connections, and he could have the best of both worlds. He was still a genius. But dammit, this genius just wanted someone to call a friend that wasn’t paid for. Would make a nice goddamn change, that was all.

He got home at the end of the fifth day to find his mother at the table, reading the newspaper. She smiled as he walked in, her eyes as glassy and uncaring as always, but Tony kissed her on the forehead anyway. It was their funny little routine of pretending like they cared about one another the way that most families did, as opposed to simply just two people who shared the same roof occasionally.

“How was school?” She asked as she turned back to what she was looking at.

He shrugged, pulling down the box of cereal from the kitchen cupboards and then pouring it into a bowl efficiently. “Decent, I guess. Still learning my way around it-“

“Anthony, for Goodness’ sake, don’t eat cereal now when the cooks have already started to prepare dinner.”

Tony looked down, and then back up to his mom, who was giving his bowl a look with more emotion in it than the one she’d given him upon returning. That was funny. Sort of. “It’s a small bowl, come on.”

Maria watched him for another moment, before simply sighing and turning back to her book. Well. At least she could tick off the ‘tried’ section of her parenting book. More than could be said for Howard, who hadn’t asked a single thing about school since the moment he’d started there.

Tony wandered upstairs with his bowl of dry cereal in hand, quickly slamming the door of his room shut with a foot and then falling forward into the bed, eyes shutting automatically. God, he was tired. But he couldn’t sleep just then- DUM-E still had upgrades that needed finishing, and if he left them any longer it would only mean the ridiculous helper bot ended up destroying something later on when he mistook the ceramic vase for the oil dispenser.

He ate lazily, until scraping at the bottom of his bowl and sitting up. “Right,” he muttered, “Come here you useless bucket of bolts, let’s see what we can do with you.”

He whiled away the next few hours on that task; happy to allow DUM-E to take up that part of his evening with his stupid noises and sad snappy claw that told Tony he needed recharging at some point. See- at least robots were easy. Tony could understand them. They beeped when they wanted attention and didn’t feel embarrassment or the need to be cool. They loved their creators, pure and simple. Robots were numbers and codes and rules, and that was something Tony’s brain knew how to work.

He just really wished he knew how to work actual humans, too. It had been… well, it’d been a lonely seventeen years. That was all.

He wasn’t desperate for friends. Seeing as he’d never truly had any, he didn’t know what he was missing out on. But- well, the concept of having someone to talk to, someone he could rely on? It was something Tony longed for, more than almost anything. Hell, he needed someone to talk to if only for the fact that he sounded mad whenever he had conversations with himself, and Maria had been starting to consider taking him to homeschooling conventions to try and make some friends there, which, just no. Homeschooled kids were weird. He knew because he was one.

DUM-E beeped at him then, and his claw turned, pressing into Tony’s shoulder like a hug. The bot could be dumb as a brick, but he was strangely intuitive when it came to emotions. A bit like a puppy, really. Tony smiled softly, patting him on the claw which made DUM-E chirp in pleasure.

“Think you could dress up and pretend to be human for a bit?” Tony whispered to him, “you’d be my friend, right?”

God, he sounded so pathetic. Seventeen, and he was asking a robot to be his friend. Fucking hell.

Of course, seeing as DUM-E (unsurprisingly) could not pass for a human, Tony went to school the next day on his own once more. As usual, people stared at him- he was still new, and people undoubtedly knew who he was related to by that point, so of course they were going to stare. He was used to that much, at the very least.

The work was easy- too easy, really, and Tony ended up finishing it all with half of the lesson to spare. He supposed that was why Howard had never really wanted him here; it wasn’t exactly the most taxing of environments. After spending ten minutes trying and failing to nap on his desk, he sat back up and began to stare vacantly around the classroom. They were in math class again, and the girl next to him was studiously writing down all his answers, completely ignoring him as she did so. Everyone else was either working or chatting to one another, while the teacher at the front sat and drank coffee and generally looked kind of depressed. Tony didn’t blame her. He’d rather jump out of a top story window than be a teacher.

To his left, he heard Steve sigh irritably, and glanced over just in time to watch the boy toss his pencil onto the desk and then lean back defeatedly, eyes staring at the wall. Tony glanced down at his book automatically, the answer already popping into his head from memory. But he wasn’t sure whether Steve would want the help- he hadn’t said a word to Tony since their conversation in the cafeteria nearly a week ago now, and Tony didn’t particularly want to piss off a vamp-

“I can feel you staring,” Steve said without looking away from the ceiling, and Tony felt his cheeks burn as he quickly turned his head back to his own desk, muttering an apology. God, that was freaky. He forgot that Vampires were super perceptive.

Again, Steve sighed, but this time Tony kept his eyes firmly on his own book. Shit- Steve had seen him staring, that was so embarrassing. Talk about ridiculous- those kids from earlier were right, Tony probably looked like he was one of those weird monster fetishists or someth-

“Go on then,” Steve said quietly, “I can see you’re dying to tell me what the answer is. For both of our sakes, just say it.”

“You have to simplify the brackets before finishing the equation,” Tony blurted, still not looking up, “you missed out that step earlier and it’s messing up your answer. Uh. Yeah.”

Steve was quiet for a moment, but then Tony heard his hum of understanding. He spared a daring glance upward, and saw Steve turn back to his own work, not bothering to look back at Tony.

Right.

“You know, most people would say thank you when someone helps them out,” Tony couldn’t help but say a little irritably, because come on, he was goddamn trying his best here.

 When everyone in his immediate vicinity suddenly stopped speaking and stared at him, however, he figured he’d somehow fucked up there.

Tony looked at them all in surprise, watching as their gazes flicked apprehensively from Tony to Steve. One of them actually shuffled their chair backward a little, like they thought- what, that Steve was going to pounce or something?

Shit, he wasn’t going to pounce, was he? Did vampires get easily offended? Tony had no idea. Fuck.

The boy himself was just looking at Tony blankly, like it was the first time anyone had ever dared say anything like that. Tony, with no other option, just stared back. Hell, if he was about to die, then he might as well do it looking into the eye of the storm.

But then Steve laughed.

“My bad,” he said through a chuckle, showing the barest hint of sharpened teeth as his mouth split into a grin, “thank you, Tony. You’ve- uh, you’ve got balls, I’ll give you that.”

Realizing that a fight wasn’t about to erupt, everyone began turning around again, shooting Tony slightly wary looks as they did so. Tony just watched them all, before turning back around to Steve. “Do most people not call you out when you’re being a dick, then?”

Steve just raised an eyebrow, and then he pulled up his lip and ran his tongue over the fangs on the top set of his teeth. “No,” he shrugged, something almost like amusement twinkling in his eye, “I can’t say they do. Makes a nice change.”

He looked at Tony for a second longer, before shaking his head and turning back to his book. Tony, with a lack of anything better to do, just turned and did the same thing, staring at the completed answers and trying to figure out what the fuck had just happened there.

Steve had a very nice smile. That was… pretty much the only thing running through Tony’s head just then.

Uh oh. That was a remarkably bad train of thought to get into. He should definitely not go there.

When the bell rang for next period, Tony pretty much flew out of the classroom, making sure to not look at anyone as he went. He still felt kind of embarrassed about the whole debacle, really- the only time that anyone seemed to actually take more than a passing notice of him was when he was talking to Steve, and that was more of a morbid curiosity thing than anything else. Like, ‘oh, what the fuck is the new kid doing trying to talk to the vampire? Maybe he’s gonna get his ass beat in the middle of class, better turn and watch’.

They probably weren’t that far off-bat with that one, though. Tony was remarkably good at painting targets on the back of his head, after all.

Jesus. He was realizing now that he may have been a bit hasty with this whole Public-School thing. It wasn’t nearly as easy as what he’d been hoping for. And there were vampires, apparently.

Well. At least that made things a little more interesting.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

By the end of two weeks, he’d managed to make one friend- and calling it that was pushing it,

Jane was pretty cool. She sat next to him in Bio, and had been the first person to actually talk to him like he was normal. They’d had some cool conversations, and Tony had found out she was actually super smart, which was always a plus. Although she was small in her stature, Tony could sense the determination and drive in her personality, and he liked that. She was cool, and sweet, and she smiled at him.

It was probably the most positive interaction he’d had since arriving.

But despite the fact he’d written down and evaluated the whole sequence of events that had led up to his and Jane’s interaction, he still couldn’t spot any visible pattern with it, and it seemed she was sort of an outlier in the grand scheme of things. Most people would have rolled their eyes at Tony’s carbon-based lifeform joke, but Jane had actually giggled. So that meant that she had to be an anomalous result, and not one he could truly count. He knew if he really wanted to make friends, then it was him who had to change himself a bit. Whatever he was doing now was obviously not working too great.

In fact, he’d go as far as to say it was actively singling him out to be downright bullied, which definitely wasn’t fun.

The boys had only started following him after the second week- mostly out of curiosity at first, Tony was sure. But after the following had come the wry comments. After the wry comments had come the shoving in the corridor and laughing when he went careering into the walls. And After that- well-

“Hey Tony,” one of them said, shoulder-barging past him and then turning around so that he was facing him, “how you doing, huh?”

Tony swallowed, a hand going around his shoulder strap. “I’m alright, thanks,” he said, keeping his head down and then turning on his heel, walking quickly the other way. Or at least, until the kid wound a hand around his hood and yanked him back. Tony stumbled in surprise, hearing people laugh as they passed by him to get to their next class.

“That’s kinda rude, don’t you think?” He asked, as Tony smacked his hand away roughly and glared, “you haven’t even asked me my name, even though I know yours.”

Yeah, because you knocked me over and spilled the books with my name on them all over the floor before ‘accidentally’ stepping on them, Tony thought mutinously. “Yeah, sorry about that, but I have to g-“

“Nah you don’t,” the hand grabbed his shoulder again, holding him in place, “ask me my name, Stark. It’s only polite.”

Tony was stubborn, and he kept his mouth shut. But then the hold on his shoulder tightened, and suddenly he was shoved backward, into the locker behind him. The corridor went silent, people starting to drift toward the action, and Tony looked at them all nervously. God, this was not how he wanted everyone to get to know him- the kid who got beat up in the hallway by some douche who thought he ran the school.

“What’s your name?” he said, holding back the urge to sigh. He’d only get punched.

The kid glared at him for a moment, before suddenly releasing his grip and smiling. “Schmidt. You’ll want to remember that, yeah?” He finally backed up, waving a casual hand at Tony and then pushing through the crowd, “I’ll see you around, Stark.”

Tony watched him until he’d rounded the corner, before leaning his head against the lockers and shutting his eyes. He was tired already, and they were only in third period. Fuck. He hoped Schmidt would just forget about him soon. He really wasn’t that significant, apart from the fact that he was rich.

Which, now he thought about it, was probably what Schmidt was after.

Brilliant.

And of course, his prayer about the kids all just forgetting about him and leaving him alone was left unanswered, because God really did just hate him like that. It was barely three days later when he was wandering down the corridor and spotted a whole group of the same kids walking towards him, laughing obnoxiously loudly and clearing the halls with their presence. Tony blinked, and then tried to find a quick exit, but it was just a straight narrow corridor with no doors in sight.

And then they looked right at him.

“Hey, it’s Stark!” One of them yelled to his friends, as Tony stopped dead in his tracks and debated how embarrassing it was going to be to just turn on his heel and sprint away. He decided against that a second later though- he might be smaller than them, but he wasn’t a fucking coward, and anyway, he was far too stubborn to just let them scare him off. He’d gotten black eyes and split lips before. He lived with Howard fucking Stark, after all.

He stared at them and continued to walk, hoping against hope that they’d just leave him alone this time.

They didn’t leave him alone.

“How’s school treating you, Tony?” He heard Schmidt’s voice rise above the others, and shut his eyes in dismay. When he looked up again, they were all blocking his path. “You having fun here?”

“Would be having a bit of a better time if you’d just let me get to lesson,” Tony gritted irritably, feeling, once more, the crowds start to draw in. They were like sharks smelling blood in the fucking water.

The boys all laughed, and then Schmidt’s eyes went to his bag. “You a little goody-two-shoes then, huh Tony? Like to get all your work done on time and stuff? Hey- let’s have a look at it!”

And then they were grabbing him, ripping the backpack off his shoulders.

He didn’t even bother yelling. What was the point? There were five of them and one of him, and when he tried to snatch it back, he got elbowed sharply in the stomach for it, sending him to the floor. Around him, all the kids were just watching- although at least they weren’t laughing. Tony probably wouldn’t have been able to take the laughter.

“Oh look at how neat his bag is!” One of them yelled, laughing in delight, “it’s fucking color-coded and everything! Little bitch boy probably hasn’t ever even seen what an actual highschool looks like before in his life, or he’d never have shown up with this. He’s just begging to get his rich ass beat.”

Tony got to his feet with an irritated sigh, but before he could attempt to take it back again, the kid with all his books in his hand threw them straight up into the air. Tony just watched, helpless, as they all fell to the floor in a heap, papers scattered everywhere.

Fuck. He’d spent hours making that as neat as possible. God fucking dammit, why did they have to just come and fucking ruin it?

He snarled in helpless, desperate frustration, and before he even thought about it, he’d snapped out his hands and shoved the nearest kid off his bag, hard enough that he went rolling to the floor.

The whole corridor fell silent.

“Get your hands off my shit, dickwads,” he hissed, snatching his bag back up off the floor and breathing heavily. The kid he’d pushed was staring at him as if he’d just grown a second head- like he’d never in a million years expected him to fight back.

Well. As Tony was finding- life was full of anomalies.

“Ohhh, you’re gonna regret that, Tony,” Schmidt said softly, which, yeah, Tony had been expecting that one.

He braced himself and pretend his hands weren’t shaking as Schmidt and the others slowly approached, and the crowd drew tighter, trapping him in. Tony had only ever been hit by one person before, and there’d always been an escape.

Welcome to highschool, he thought miserably, as Schmidt stepped forward and started to raise his hand.

 

“Hey, Tony.”

 

The semi-familiar voice rang through his ears, and he swung his head to the side, spotting none other than Steve as he slipped easily through the crowd which parted automatically for him.

Tony paused, staring at him in confusion. So did Schmidt, and all the other boys who’d been rounding on him.

Steve looked at him for a moment, and then at the sheets and books that were scattered all over the floor. Then he turned his head slowly to Schmidt. “I suggest you go, Jonah,” he said quietly.

Schmidt- Jonah, as Steve had called him, blinked in surprise, before turning to Tony with a raised eyebrow. “Oh, so you’ve made yourself the bloodsucker’s bitch, huh? Smart move, Stark.”

Steve stepped forward again, and Tony didn’t notice how the entire crowd, Jonah and his friends included, all took an instinctive one back. Tony watched, dumbstruck, as Steve curled his lip just a fraction, exposing one razor-sharp canine. “Now, Jonah,” he repeated, an almost tangible sense of danger radiating under the words this time.

Tony felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.

It seemed Jonah’s survival instinct kicked in, because after one more second of glaring, he stepped away with a nod of his head, looking Tony dead in the eye. “Until next time, Stark,” he said, and it sounded a little like a promise.

Then he turned on his heel and walked away, all his buddies following behind with angry mutters and sideways glares at Tony and Steve. The crowds dispersed at the same time, leaving Tony stood in the middle of the corridor, his bag and its contents scattered all over the floor.

“You okay?” He jumped at the noise, turning to look at Steve, who was still there. His face was a confusing array of emotions, but Tony thought he saw at least a vague sense of concern there.

He nodded roughly, starting to bend down and pick up his stuff. “Fine,” he gritted, “I’m fine, I- thanks. Saved me a bit of time there.”

He sensed Steve slowly start to crouch down as well, shuffling around and collecting all the papers as Tony simply paused and stared at him. Why the fuck was Steve helping?

Apparently able to sense the question (could vampires do that? Were they mind readers? Or was Steve just intuitive?), Steve smiled in something similar to amusement. “Hey- you did me a favour first,” he explained, waving Tony’s math book in the air, “by helping me not fail calculus. This is me returning it.”

“Oh,” Tony said, nodding, “oh, okay. Although to be honest, as much as I appreciate not getting beat up in the middle of the school corridors, they’re only gonna do exactly the same thing at lunch break today. So I mean, it wasn’t really much use.”

Steve looked up at him for a second, his hands still collecting papers on the floor. But he said nothing, and just sighed as he neatened them up and then stood, taking Tony’s bag with him as he went and sliding them carefully into place before handing it back. Tony took it with a nod of thanks, and when their fingers touched, he felt the automatic shiver in response to the feel of his skin. Steve was- his skin felt electric. Was that a vampire thing too?

Steve looked at him for a moment, something intense in his eyes. Then he sighed. “If you had any sense, you’d avoid me like everyone else,” he told Tony quietly, hands falling into the pockets of his jeans. Tony’s heart tightened at the feeling of an unfortunately-familiar rejection on its way- but then Steve raised one eyebrow, and something sort of… amused, passed over his face.

“But if you don’t have any sense at all,” he added, stepping back and beginning to walk off, “you know where I sit at lunch.”

Tony said nothing at all- choosing instead to watch Steve as he turned away and then walked off down the corridor, the crowds of kids automatically moving away to make room for him as he went. He turned his head and looked once more at Tony, the tiniest flash of a smile on his face before he turned the corner and disappeared out of view, leaving Tony stood in surprise on the other end of the hall.

Had that been an invitation? Tony hadn’t just hallucinated that, right?

No. No he hadn’t. Steve had definitely said that Tony could come and sit with him at lunch if he wanted. Admittedly, he’d implied that Tony would have to be stupid to do so, but then again- Steve was pretty much the only person who’d been even vaguely nice to him this whole damn time. Tony was willing to be stupid just so that he’d have some company for once in his goddamn life.

The fact that his company was with a vampire was just an irrelevant extra little tidbit. Tony honestly didn’t see what all the fuss was about. A school full of supposedly ‘pure’ humans, and yet it was the monster who’d actually talked to him. Go figure.

“Okay,” he said to himself, hitching his (messy messy messy, but it was fine, he could sort that out later) bag higher onto his shoulder and then nodding to absolutely no one, “okay then. Alright. This is progress.”

He’d have to write this down into his research tonight. There was no way he could make this shit up.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

He spread out his sheets on the table in front of him, taking a deep breath before beginning to pick up and reorder them.

Those pricks sure had done a great job at messing up his order. And- well- he could just leave it, yeah, but he liked his logical placement of everything. In an environment like this, when he knew nothing about it or how to navigate it, these were some of the few things he controlled. Or at least, he had controlled. It all seemed pretty pointless now, after Jonah Schmidt had just come and messed it all up with a wave of his hand, of course.

Around the cafeteria, people were side-eyeing him from other tables with confused looks on their faces as they leaned around and whispered to their friends. Tony tried to just ignore it- he knew that none of them had the balls to go and talk to Steve at all, apparently, but Tony didn’t really have the self-preservation instinct that they did, and Steve had offered. So Tony was taking him up on it, and using the surface as a nice little organizing station while he tried to fix his shit.

The food smelled good around him, but he tuned it out. There was a kid who’d been hanging around with the group that had trashed Tony’s bag earlier that day in the queue, and right now, Tony was sat in the only safe spot in the whole damn cafeteria. He didn’t really want to risk a broken nose for the sake of a burger. So he just got on with his reorganizing, and tried desperately not to be bothered by the fact that everyone was fucking staring at him-

“Don’t worry about any of them,” Steve said from behind him, and Tony jumped wildly, turning around and looking at the boy as he held his tray of food in his hands and glanced down at Tony with a raised eyebrow. He was damn good at the sneaking-around thing. “They just think that I’m going to eat you.”

Tony blinked. “Oh. Uh. Okay. Why do they… you’re not going to eat me, right?”

Steve just shrugged, sliding into the spot next to Tony and then unwrapping his own burger. “Let’s hope not, for both our sakes. I don’t really fancy getting lynched, and I’m sure you’d be averse to being drained of all your blood.”

The bland way in which he said it made Tony laugh, and he shook his head as he glanced over to Steve with a dry look on his face. “I really don’t think they’d lynch you for getting rid of me. I’m sure most of them don’t even know I exist.”

“Oh, they know,” Steve said, looking up and staring around the room at the various tables, “they know exactly who you are. You fascinate them…. like a zoo animal. They can look all they like, but they’re too nervous to touch, because no-one else has yet.” Steve continued to watch them all for a moment, before blinking and then turning around to Tony with a smile. “Also, believe me when I say that they would need the very barest of an excuse to lynch me. I’m sure eating the son of Howard Stark would not sit too well with the community- ‘specially not the Hunters.”

Tony frowned a little. He thought that there weren’t even any hunters operating any more- the hunting of Domesticated Monsters had been criminalized years and years ago, hadn’t it? That’s what Tony had heard, anyway. “Well, guess I’m just gonna have to go without my blood being drained from my body then. Shame.”

Steve huffed, looking down at Tony’s hands as they moved around and reordered the piles of sheets in front of him. Having run out of things to say, Tony just swallowed and then slipped his paperclip into the bundle of sheets in his hands, trying not to spare a glance up in Steve’s direction. It was very difficult not to just… stare. He was- well- completely and utterly beautiful seemed almost like an understatement. Perfect, perhaps, fitted better. Tony felt as if he was somewhat out of his depth with this whole interaction- not only was Steve overwhelmingly attractive, but he was also not even the same species as Tony, and seemed completely unfazed by anything and everything that happened around him. He just… watched, with those incredible blue eyes, and then moved on.

“Can I ask you something?” Steve said after a few beats of silence, making Tony look up from his work in mild confusion as the other boy turned to him, leaning his elbows onto the table and facing Tony fully. There was a spark of curiosity in his eyes, and an almost-amused smile playing around on his mouth.

“Shoot,” Tony waved a hand openly, “I’m remarkably terrible at ever shutting up though, so be warned.”

Steve huffed, another ghost of a laugh, and then he cocked his head and rested his chin on his hand, looking across the table and right into Tony’s eyes. He felt somewhat trapped in the intensity of the stare.

“Why aren’t you afraid?” He asked in the end, short and sweet as he suddenly looked away, back into the room. “Everyone else is afraid. I’m sure people have warned you about me, and about vampires in general. They all avoid me. Instinctually, you should be doing the same. It’s a pack-mentality thing. Follow the herd, avoid the things the others avoid because they’re dangerous.” He frowned, and then shot another glance at Tony again. “But not you, apparently,” he said, almost as if he was speaking to himself, “you don’t even smell scared; there’s no underlying trepidation or anything like what I can smell on everyone else when they see me. You’re just… intrigued? Curious?”

Tony gaped. “You can smell all that?”

Steve shrugged indifferently, opening up his burger and then tossing the actual meat filling onto the side before tearing off a chunk of the bread and popping it into his mouth. “The fear, yes,” he explained, “not anything above a notion, really. I can’t like… read your mind via smell. I just kinda- know, when there’s fear in the air. Not like Bucky, who can smell a god-damn skip of your heartbeat- not that that’s relevant,” Steve waved a hand and shook his head, leaving Tony to wonder about who Bucky was, “and as for the curiosity thing? Nah, I can’t smell that. I can just tell.” Another chunk of bread went flying into his mouth, and Steve’s eyes twinkled in amusement. “You’re not exactly subtle.”

Shit. That made Tony blush, and he looked away quickly, trying to find some words. “Uh. Well. I mean. I’m just… I’ve never met a Vampire before? So it’s- it’s just interesting? I’m a scientist, what can I say,” Tony waved his hands through the air, “it’s in my nature to be curious.”

“You’re a scientist?” Steve asked, sliding a finger through the file that read ‘Prototype-B19’ and opening it up. His eyes widened when he saw the messy scraps and lined sheets, full of various equations, symbols and diagrams. “Whoah- okay, no fucking around then. Is this some sort’a robot?”

Tony hummed in confirmation, leaning forward and pointing to one of the diagrams. When he felt Steve tense up against his shoulder, however, he paused and then drew back quickly. “Sorry. Personal bubbles, right- I was just gonna show you-“

“No no, it’s not… you just… uhhh-“ for the first time since Tony had met the guy, it seemed that Steve suddenly didn’t know quite what to say as he made a vague gesture with his hands and looked as if Tony had just swept the rug right out from under him. But then he blinked and smiled shortly, pushing the file over so Tony didn’t have to brush against him as he explained this time. “Just surprised, that’s all,” he eventually said, “I’ve never had a baseliner get that close before. Shock to the system. You… yeah.”

Tony watched Steve as he swallowed quickly, and then turned his head back to the sheets in front of him. “So what were you saying about the robot thingy?”

He paused, stowing away the interaction for another time as he launched into a rapid explanation of what he’d been working on for the past few weeks. He didn’t exactly forget Steve’s presence, but he did find himself relaxing around him a little, losing the tension he’d been carrying as he got into the details of his invention with enthusiasm. It was, in his humble opinion, quite a work of art. Steve seemed to agree with that as well, as he leaned forward and stared at all the workings in something that definitely seemed to be fascination, fingertips brushing along the pencil-lines of Tony’s rough sketch. Tony found out that Steve was pretty damn smart himself, and he could keep up fairly easily with Tony’s words, responding to the wit and sarcasm with a humour of his own that had Tony laughing when he least expected it.

He thought briefly back to what Steve had said, about how everyone was scared of him. How they avoided him, how baseliners never even got close.
Tony wondered what the hell everyone else’s problem was: Steve seemed to be pretty great, once you managed to get past the moody exterior.

They managed to talk right up until the bell went for the end of lunch, and Tony had finally sorted all his shit out by that time, which was definitely a plus. He just had to hope that the other kids wouldn’t come back and just immediately mess it up again. Maybe he could invest in some sort of lock for it, or defence system which stopped others from touching it without receiving a minor electric shock.

Steve stood slowly, handing Tony his bag with a small grin, and Tony quickly decided to veto his plan. He didn’t want to end up electrocuting Steve accidentally- what if he handed Tony his bag again? “Where’s your next class?”

“Chemistry,” Tony told him, taking the bag and then swinging it onto his shoulder. As they walked, he once more realized people were staring at him and Steve. Mostly him. Probably wondering how he hadn’t been eaten yet.

“You know, if you’re going to keep sitting with me at lunch, you’re only going to ostracize yourself from all the normal kids,” Steve told him casually, not looking him in the eye as he wandered along through the corridors with Tony by his side. “They’ll avoid you in the same way they avoid me.”

Tony just laughed, and their shoulders bumped together as he moved. “Steve, they already avoid me.”

“Yeah, but that’s because you’re new- sitting with me is just going to ruin your chances at making fr-“

“Steve, if they’re seriously going to refuse to associate with me just because I talk to a vampire?” Tony pulled a face and then shrugged. “Then why the fuck would I want them to be my friends?”

Steve stared at him, his face completely dumbstruck for a moment- as if that was something he’d never expected Tony to say. Was that weird? Maybe he was being too forward. Maybe vampires didn’t even want Baseline friends, and Steve had just been trying to be subtle about it. “I mean- like- if you’re just trying to make me fuck off, then that’s alright too, I get that… well, I mean, I don’t, it’s not like you have any other friends either and I’d like to think we get on okay, but I mean, I’ve been homeschooled my whole life, so what the fuck do I know about friendships? I’m sheltered and weird and you can totally tell me to fuck off if you don’t want anything to do with me. Like. Just so you kn-“

“I don’t want you to fuck off,” Steve rolled his eyes, snapping out of his surprised little stare as he looked down, somewhat bemused, at Tony. “I just… you don’t know me, Tony. I could be a piece of shit. I wouldn’t waste your one shot at making friends on a vampire if I were you.”

Tony considered that for a second. Steve wasn’t wrong; he was putting all his eggs in one rather mysterious basket here. But then again- no one except Steve had really talked to him in two weeks, and he’d meant what he’d said about the whole ‘I won’t be friends with people who are such pricks about vampires’ thing.

“Like I said,” Tony waved a hand at himself, “homeschooled. I don’t know shit about making friends, but right now, you’re the only one I’ve got. So I’m keeping you.” He turned and smiled, before blurting “hey, do you show up in a mirror?”

Steve stopped in the middle of the corridor, looking at Tony as if he were some sort of Chinese puzzle box that he couldn’t for the life of him figure out. Tony didn’t blame him- it had been a bit of a weird question to ask out of the blue, but it had just occurred to him, and suddenly that had been the most pressing thing in his brain.

“No,” Steve said, a small smile on his face as he shook his head minutely, “no, uh- we have to get special mirrors made.”

Tony’s eyes widened. He’d never even heard about vampire mirrors before, but they sounded fascinating. What could the science be behind that particular contraption? In fact, he was a second away from opening his mouth and asking, when suddenly he realized that the hall had emptied out, and it was now just him and Steve, facing off in the empty corridor. They were late already.

“I’m totally expecting you to show me a vampire mirror at some point,” Tony held up a finger and pointed at him with a serious face as he walked backward toward the science corridor, “preferably tomorrow. I’m gonna sit with you at lunch again, is that okay?” He tightened his hand around his bag and then popped his chin out a little triumphantly, “I never knew vampires were such good asshole-repellent. I think Schmidt genuinely thought you were going for the jugular when you bared your teeth at him.”

Steve laughed, beginning to turn around. Tony watched shamelessly, because Jesus, how was Steve’s body even real? “I’m more of a people-repellent in general, I think.” He shrugged, looking back at Tony for a second, that same vaguely puzzled expression on his face, as if he was trying to work Tony out.

“You’re strange, kid,” was all Steve said in the end, as he turned and walked the other way.

Tony pouted. “Not a damn kid! We’re in the same y- wait… how old are you?”

“One thousand eight hundred and thirty four,” Steve told him easily, and Tony’s mouth dropped open in complete shock- or at least, it did until Steve turned back for a second and laughed. “I’m eighteen, you idiot. Vampires aren’t fucking immortal- did you not take a single class in Domesticated Monsters?”

Tony spluttered, feeling his cheeks flush. “I told you a million times- homeschooled! All my teacher explained was a brief history about the fight for equality, how the hell was I supposed to know you’re not immortal?”

Steve just looked at him, a truly adorable expression on his stupid perfect face. “I’ll see you later, Tony,” he said in the end, his voice soft as he turned away once more. “And tell anyone if they touch your bag again, I’ll find them. I spent a long time organizing that math folder. I damn well hope it gets kept in that state.”

Tony watched him turn the corner, hands in his pockets, and then just nodded slowly, his pleased grin unable to keep itself from blooming across his face. Because he’d finally goddamn done it.

He had a friend.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

He did his research later that night.

As any good scientist would- as any good friend would- he wanted to get all the information he could, so that he had things to talk about with Steve. Also, he didn’t want to seem like some sort of ignorant prick for not knowing anything about Steve’s culture or lifestyle or whatever. It was only polite, really. And Steve knew all about baseliners, so it was only fair that Tony extended the same courtesy.

Not even five minutes into his research, however, he wished he’d never bothered.

There were pages and pages of information, of discussion and forums, about the ongoing debate into whether Domesticated Monsters should be allowed in mainstream society. There were news reports of killings- a werewolf who’d kidnapped and killed a young girl, a shapeshifter who’d performed a string of murders, multiple reports of vampires who’d committed a whole array of crimes. Tony didn't fail to notice, however, that it seemed all the information about any kind of Domesticated Monster came from a thoroughly Baseline viewpoint though. 

The general assumption seemed to be that the monsters couldn’t be trusted. That they were evil, that they were criminal, that they preyed on the innocent Baseliners and infested nice neighbourhoods with their very existence.

Oh. And Tony discovered that Hunters were definitely still around. It seemed they were outright applauded for their work, too, despite it being thoroughly illegal. They hunted the monsters. Made a sport out of it, apparently. There was… God, there was a special ‘hunting season’ and everything. And worse- it seemed as if the Police did very little to stop it. The monsters just had to… fend for themselves. They weren’t protected by many laws; it was perfectly legal to kill a ‘Dem’ as they called them on the forum, if they were expressing any threatening behaviour. Fuck- there were even special weapons people could buy. Weapons that hurt vampires, or werewolves, or demons or demi-fae’s or goddamn any sort of non-baseline human that was out in the world.

Were they really that dangerous? Was Tony in over his head here, making friends with Steve so easily?

He blinked, rubbing his tired eyes and sitting back against his desk-chair with folded arms and a deep frown. It was well into the early morning, and he had school in less than five hours- but he couldn’t stop looking. Part of him was… well, scared, to put it lightly. Scared that there seemed to be so much evidence pointing to the nefariousness of those kinds of people, that so many seemed to distrust and actively want them gone.

But there was also a bigger part of him that wondered how much of this hatred was just stemmed from a deep-rooted fear of beings that were stronger than you. How much was just stereotypes and bigotry? Because Steve hadn’t wanted anything bad for him. Steve had helped him when no-one else would, and he talked to him when no-one else did.

He was probably just as lonely as Tony was. Maybe even more so, considering the fact he was in a building full of thousands of kids, and not one of them wanted anything to do with him.

“DUM-E,” He said in the end, turning to the bot that has rolled its way over to his side at some point in the night, “this stuff is bullshit, isn’t it?”

The robot chirped and knocked its claw against Tony’s shoulder. He was going to take that as a yes. “I thought so too,” he declared, grimacing as he slammed the lid of his laptop and then rolled away from the desk on his chair, until he was in the centre of the room, his head pointed up to the ceiling.

He was going to see Steve tomorrow. And he was going to look at Tony with his vampire eyes and smile at him with his vampire teeth, and everyone would look at him as if he was absolutely crazy when Tony smiled back. Maybe he was. This was probably an incredibly bad idea, and if he ended up in a ditch with a bite-mark in his neck and a body that severely lacked in blood, then he would absolutely admit defeat and declare those websites to be correct.

Until then, though, he was going to assume they were talking shit and continue to just do what felt right in his gut. He was very good at that.

 




*

 

 

 

 

As it turned out, his assumptions were correct.

Those websites? Absolute bullshit.

Tony started to spend his breaks and lunches with Steve at their table in the corner of the cafeteria, and in that space of time, he had more fun than he thought he’d ever had in his whole life. He’d never even realized how… how nice it was, to have a friend. To have someone listen to you, and talk to you, and make you laugh. Steve was great. He was dry and sarcastic, but not in the same way that Tony was. It wasn’t hot and rapid and obvious- it was cool and subtle, and it would take Tony a good few moments to realise that Steve was actually joking at all.

He was… wonderful.

Everyone else still avoided Tony. He heard what they called him now, the things they whispered behind his back. They didn’t trust him, purely because of the fact that he did trust Steve. It was totally stupid. They were all idiots. Tony was damn grateful that at least Steve seemed to have his head screwed on right, otherwise he would have had to go through the entire school year without achieving the one thing that he’d actually set out joining a public school for- making friends.

“Hey,” Tony said one day, checking his phone and then looking up at Steve, who was sat picking at the bread of his burger, the filling tossed to the side the same way it always was, “I’ve officially been at school for a month, you know.”

Steve grinned. “You’re one-twelfth of your way to an anniversary with that. Tell me Tony- how are you finding the gloriousness of public school, huh?”

“A load of shit, if I’m being honest,” Tony said with a shrug, which made Steve laugh, “I had no idea how crap kids my age were until I met them. Hey, can I eat the rest of your burger?” He didn’t wait to be allowed, just dived in and then plucked the beef patty from Steve’s plate and shoved it into his mouth as Steve looked at him in judgment. “Why d’nt y’eat th’s’anway?”

Steve’s look of judgment got judgier. “You do realise that literally wasn’t even coherent, right?”

Tony swallowed and then rolled his eyes. “I said, why don’t you eat this anyway? It’s like, the best part of the burger.”

He watched as Steve’s nose scrunched up adorably. “It tastes… fake. Not proper meat, there’s too many chemicals.”

“God, you vampires are so picky,” Tony huffed as he finished off the patty, bumping their shoulders together. Steve purposely refused to be moved, because he was a spoilsport like that. “Embrace the chemical products of the food industry, Steven. It’s the future.”

“It’s fucking disgusting, that’s what it is,” Steve told him, waving his bread in the air haughtily, “now let me eat my bread in peace.”

Tony laughed, shaking his head as he pulled his own tray toward him. “I pity you and your sensitive senses. Sorry if I smell terrible to you, I promise I showered at least three days ago.”

“You don’t smell bad at all,” Steve said, faster than normal, “you smell- uh- really good, actually.”

 

Hm. Okay. That was… surprising. Tony blinked, looking over to Steve in confusion as the other boy just stared back like a rabbit caught in the headlights. His mouth was slightly open, like he was trying to think of something to say.

“Well,” Tony said, laughing nervously, “that’s… good?”

“I don’t mean like- not in the Creepy Vampire way, I’m not saying you smell tempting or- I mean, you kinda do, but I wouldn’t ever… fuck, okay, that sounded bad,” Steve breathed out quickly, shuffling back a little, and Tony just watched him in complete confusion. “I was just… okay, forget I said anything. It was stupid.”

“Hey, no, I wanna get told I smell like roses and daisies, keep going,” Tony told him with a smile, trying to lighten the mood a little, because Steve sure as hell looked like he wasn’t having much fun any more. He seemed about a second away from bolting entirely, actually. “I thought I just smelt like engine grease and possibly poptarts.”

Steve smiled a little bit. “You’re not wrong. You- uh- you do smell like that. Metallic. And sort of… sweet? I don’t know, there’s a lot of it- your scent in particular is pretty strong to me. Again, that sounds fucking weird, okay let’s move o-“

“What do you mean, ‘me in particular’?” Tony blinked, picking up his shirt and sniffing it, “do I need to shower more? Shit, that’s embarrassing, I just forget sometimes, I promise I’m not like… unclean, I’ve just been working on DUM-E’s upgrades and it’s been taking up a lot of my-“

“You smell great, Tony, I promise,” Steve was sort of laughing now, although it was still a little nervous as he shook his head, “you… really great. Yeah.” He swallowed, looking away and then pursing his lips.

Tony nodded jerkily. “Right. Okay. Cool. I’m glad I don’t smell like shit, that’d be kind of a bummer. Hey- if I ever wear something that like, irritates you or something, you can just tell me, okay? Can vampires sneeze? Do you have allergic reactions to stuff? I mean, even if you don’t, still tell me-”

“I’ll make sure to let you know,” Steve said with a small smile, “and for the record- no, we don’t get allergies. We’re immune to disease and illness. Heightened healing abilities and stuff,” he shrugged nonchalantly, “unless you’re a hunter and you’re dedicated, we’re pretty hard to injure.”

Tony felt something tighten in his heart as watched Steve’s fingers brush subconsciously against a scar just above his collar. “Hey. You haven’t… you haven’t ever been targeted by a hunter, right?”

Steve was silent, and Tony felt the tightness clench down. “Steve… tell me you haven’t,” he whispered, his eyes widening in horror, “I looked that shit up. It’s fucking disgusting, it’s… Seriously? How long ago? Did y-“

“They weren’t hunters, Tony, don’t worry,” Steve told him, raising his eyebrows, “just kids. Scared kids who saw me on the street at night and assumed that I wanted to try and kill them. So they just tried to kill me first.” He shrugged, face blank, “not that they did much. Gave me a nice scar from where one of them cut me, but I’m pretty strong. So… It’s fine, it- it happens.”

Tony stared at him in shock, watching Steve just look down at his food and then pick absently at the chips, popping them into his mouth as he attempted nonchalance. Tony… he’d just tried not to think about that sort of stuff, in all honesty. He hadn’t wanted to; it was something he’d rather have been ignorant about. But Steve… Jheeze, Steve lived with that fear every day. That someone was going to try and kill him out on the street. And all they’d have to say was that he’d looked threatening, and the likelihood was that the crime would end up going unpunished.

Wow. That was a bit of a mood-killer.

“Sorry,” Tony mumbled, looking down at the table, “shouldn’t have brought it up. Just shut me up next time.”

“Well, I mean, you should know who you’re hanging out with, I guess,” Steve told him. His face was tight, now- no indication of the easiness from earlier. “Not only am I dangerous, but just being around me puts a target on your head. It’s stupid for you to still even be here, really.”

Tony just watched as Steve speared a few fries with his fork and then shoved them into his mouth. When he caught Tony looking, he just shook his head. “I… I need to go and get something from art class. I’ll see you ‘round, okay. Sorry for- everything.”

He pushed away from the table and then slipped out before Tony could even try and stop him, his head down and steps fast. Tony knew that he’d fucked up there- it was probably incredibly invasive to ask a question like that – ‘oh, have you ever been hunted down and attacked for just existing?’ God, what the fuck was he thinking? Fucking idiot.

He shut his eyes and sunk his head into his hands, sighing loudly. He hated to think of Steve ever being in that situation, and fucking despised the thought of anyone ever laying a hand on him- okay, yeah, part of that was probably because Tony was half in love with him and just the general idea of someone else touching him made his heart twist painfully, but there was just the whole idea of hunting that made him feel sick to his stomach. Steve was still a teenager, and people wanted him dead. It was repulsive.

The next ten minutes of lunch were spent alone, until the bell rang for next period and he snatched his tray up, storming out of the cafeteria and glaring at anyone who so much as dared to look twice at him.

Okay. Note to self- don’t fucking ask stupid invasive and triggering questions at the lunch table next time you see him.

God dammit.

 

He kept his mind on the subject all the way up until the end of school, when he’d finally decided on how to go about fixing the fuckup on his part. He knew that Steve got the bus home from the stop at the bottom of the school, and as soon as the bell rang, he was off like a shot, racing down the hill to try and get there before Steve managed to get the early ride home like he usually did. There were already kids milling around everywhere, and they looked at him in annoyance as he pushed past them, but honestly, he barely even cared. It’s not like they gave much of a shit about him, was it?

“Steve!” He yelled out a second later, as he caught sight of the blond hair a few feet away from him, “hey Steve, wait up.”

The boy turned in surprise, his brow creasing and his mouth beginning to open at what looked like the beginning of Tony’s name- but Tony’d thrown himself forward and leaned onto his tiptoes to pull Steve into a hug before he could finish the word, and just hoped to god that he’d made the right call with this. Otherwise he was going to get yelled at in front of a lot of people.

“I’m stupid,” Tony said into his ear, as his hands gripped Steve’s shirt, “if hanging around with you is stupid, then that’s what I am. Also I don’t think before I speak. That makes me kinda stupid as well.”

For a few seconds, Steve just stood there, stiff as a board as Tony hugged him in the middle of the sidewalk, completely uncaring of the people staring at them both as they passed by. But after a second, Steve’s hands slowly came up and hugged back, as he relaxed and sunk into the hug somewhat tentatively, like he expected Tony to pull away as soon as attempted to reciprocate.

“You’re not stupid,” Steve said in the end, and Tony had the feeling that he’d wanted to say something else, but had ended up holding it back in the end, “I… thank you. That means a lot.”

Tony’s hands squeezed against Steve’s shoulders, and he shut his eyes in relief. It really would have sucked to have Steve mad at him. “Okay. Cool. We’re cool?” He asked tentatively, as Steve laughed lightly and broke off in order to look at Tony with an amused expression on his face.

“We’re cool,” he said, “and I’m late. I have to get my bus, Tony. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

“Yeah yeah, okay,” Tony nodded with a smile, readjusting his bag and then looking up, “by the way- did I do that right?”

“Do what right?”

“The whole…” Tony waved a hand vaguely, “hugging-and-making-up thing. Was it okay? Any improvements you think I need to make?”

Steve just laughed, shaking his head as he stepped onto the bus. “I hate to break it to you, Tony, but friendship isn’t a scientific experiment. There isn’t a ‘right way’. But if you want some confirmation, then yeah. You did good.” He smiled again, before ducking into the bus and taking one of the seats at the front. He turned to the window and waved, and Tony felt something loosen up in his stomach at the relaxed look that was now back on Steve’s face.

He’d done okay. He’d made it better. See, he was getting good at the friendship shit, wasn’t he?

 

“Dude, if I were you, I’d be running the fuck away right now.”

 

Tony turned away from the bus as it left down the road and faced the person whose voice he’d heard. It was a stranger- he hadn’t ever seen him at school before, but he was definitely around his age. But his eyes were serious, and his face concerned as he stared at Tony and then flicked his gaze to the bus as it turned the corner on the road and disappeared out of sight.

“What?” Tony asked, pulling a face and giving the boy a once-over. He didn’t look threatening, but then again, who knew?

The kid just jerked his head to the direction the bus had gone in. “The leech. He was totally smelling you out just then.”

He still had no idea what the guy was talking about, but he could already feel his temper start to shorten. Because he was talking about Steve. “Don’t call him that, asshole. You don’t know shit. And I have no idea what you’re even talking about, so just-”

“Hey man, I’m just trying to look out for you here,” the guy raised his hands defensively, stepping forward and pointing a finger, “and if you don’t know what he’s doing, then that’s even worse. If he’s sniffing you out like he was back there, then it means he thinks you smell good. And if he thinks you smell good…” The kid shook his head, swallowing nervously, “you just- we all know how dangerous they are, and what they do when they’re interested in one of us normal people. We’ve all heard the horror stories. Just stay safe, yeah?”

“How about you just stay the fuck out of things that don’t concern you, yeah?” Tony growled, shoving past him with a heavy shoulder, “and maybe don’t make sweeping assumptions about someone just because you don’t understand them. Ignorant fuck.”

He marched off, not looking back at the other boy’s “I was trying to help, asshole” as he stormed down the sidewalk shaking his head. Jesus, the audacity of some people. He’d had a lot of things said about him in his time- he was a Stark after all, and it was bound to earn him some comments on the street now and then. He’d gotten used to hearing the bad things people said about him. But hearing them about Steve? Steve, who was funny and kind and wouldn’t even squish flies because he felt too bad? That made him a hundred times angrier.

He was still stewing in his annoyance nearly thirty minutes later, when he heard his phone starting to buzz in his pocket. It was probably going to be Jarvis, asking where he was- he’d had to take the long route home because he’d run down to the bus stop, and his butler was going to be pissed that Tony was running late when he’d promised that he was going to-

With a frown, he stopped his train of thought. It was Steve. “Uh- hey?”

“Hi, are you free tonight?” Steve got straight to the point, not bothering with smalltalk, “and if you are, do you want to meet some of my friends? They’d really like to meet you.”

Steve sounded almost nervous when he said it, and Tony paused on the sidewalk, eyes going wide. “Uhh. You have friends?”

Wow. Brilliant. That sure was a great fucking response. “I mean, obviously you have friends, I just- I mean- I was under the impression-“

Steve had started laughing at that, and Tony hastened to try and correct himself. “Hey, look, when have you ever sat with anyone other than me! It’s a fair assumption to make, come on!”

“Sorry, sorry, you’re just…” Steve said nothing, but Tony felt as if he was shaking his head, “you’re just funny, that’s all. But yes. I do actually have some friends. Do you want to meet them?”

“I mean… sure.”

“They’re Unhumans. Like me. Just so you know.”

Tony paused. “Unhuman? Oh- oh you mean like, Domesticated Monsters?”

There was a sound that sounded like a small hiss of displeasure down the line. “Uhh- we don’t really like to go by that term, Tony. It’s kinda… derogatory. We prefer Unhuman.”

Tony opened his mouth in surprise. “Shit. Sorry. I didn’t know. Okay, Unhuman then. They’re all… what, vampires?”

Steve made a non-committed humming noise. “Ehhh, not really. Bit of everything. My friend Bucky’s a werewolf. Got two demons. A shapeshifter. An elf.”

“Wow, okay, whole squad then,” Tony laughed, running a hand through his hair. He felt nervous and he wasn’t quite sure why. “I mean, yeah. I’d love to meet them. If that’s… if they’d be okay with that.”

“Tony, they’re the ones that have been begging to meet you since I told them about you,” Steve said fondly, “they’re real nice, I promise. You’ll like them.”

God. He was going to have to reschedule his workshop time. And possibly get yelled at by Jarvis for abandoning him to dinner alone with Howard and Maria- although he was sure he’d be forgiven, seeing as it was in order to make friends and actually have some social time for once, which is what his butler had been trying to get him to do since he was like, ten, so. “I’ll be there. Where are you meeting?”

“We’re still arguing over that. I’ll text you in a bit, okay?”

“Alright.”

Steve paused, and then Tony head a small huff of laughter through the speaker. “I’ll see you later then,” he said, before adding, “don’t wear anything you don’t want to get ruined.”

“Uh, okay- but why? We’re not gonna paint anything are we, because I’m telling you now, I can’t do art for shit-”

“No, my friends just can’t stay tidy to save their goddamn lives.”

“Oh.” Tony grinned- he liked the sound of them already. “Noted. Later, Steve.”

He hung up and looked down the sidewalk, a pleased smile on his face as he tucked his phone back into his pocket. Steve actually wanted to invite him somewhere outside of school. To meet his friends. That had to be important, right? That meant Steve wasn’t just humouring him. He must actually like Tony.

That jerk who’d talked to him earlier could suck a dick. Tony was going to a place full of Domesticated- wait, Unhumans- and he was going to be the only baseliner there. And you know what? He was going to have a goddamn great time. So take that, assholes.

It was going to be fine.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

“This is absolutely not going to be fine,” Tony said quietly, grabbing hold of Steve’s sleeve and stopping them as they got to the door of his friend Bucky’s house, “what if they don’t like me? You know what I’m like- I’m a fucking asshole and I’m terrible at first impressions. This was a mistake. I don’t know how to make friends, I’m terrible at this, they’re gonna think I’m a goddamn prick or someth-“

“Tony, breathe,” Steve said, turning to him and trying to hide what was obviously an amused smile, damn him, Tony was having a crisis over here, “they’re not going to think you’re a prick. They’re going to like you, I promise. They’re super chill.”

“Yeah, but I’m not super chill, what if I don’t have anything to say the entire time and they think I’m like, mute or something? And then I can’t exactly make them feel like idiots for thinking I’m mute when I’m not, so I’ll have to just never talk in front of them again and they’ll think you have a mute friend, which is obviously fine, but how do we communicate? We have to plan this out Steve-“

He was interrupted by a hand clamping swiftly down on his mouth, and blinked up at Steve, who wasn’t even trying to hide his smile at that point. Tony had to try very very hard not to give in to the lizard part of his brain that was yelling ‘lick hot boy hand, taste good’.

That would just be… terrible.

“Tony,” Steve said amusedly, “you are not going to have to pretend to be mute for the rest of your life. You are going to go in there, and I’m going to introduce you, and they’re probably going to be assholes to me because they’re always assholes to me, but I’m sure they’ll be perfectly lovely to you. We don’t have to go if you really don’t want to, but I swear, they don’t bite.” He paused, before adding “that’s my job.”

Tony rolled his eyes, took a breath and then stepped forward, pulling the last remains of courage from deep inside of him as he walked up the last few steps and then raised a hand to the door. As he paused for a second, he felt Steve’s own hand settle reassuringly against the small of his back, and when he turned around, the other boy was smiling. “Don’t mean to hurry you, but it’s kinda cold out here, Tony.”

“Right,” Tony nodded and then before he could think twice, rang the bell at the side of the wall. Not even a second later it was flung open with enthusiasm, and Tony stepped backward in surprise, nearly falling off the top step until Steve’s hand at his back quickly pushed him back upright. Stood in front of him he saw a tall, shaggy-looking boy with icy grey eyes and a wicked smile. He looked Tony up and down, shot a look over Tony’s shoulder and toward Steve that probably held an entire conversation that Tony was not privy to, and then stuck out a hand.

“Hi,” he said, “I’m Bucky. And you must be Tony, yeah?”

He nodded, taking Bucky’s hand and shaking it. The boy was hot to the touch; an opposite of Steve, whose skin was always cool. “Yep. That’s me! Hi.”

Bucky opened up his body, gesturing them both inside. “Everyone’s already here,” he said when he shut the door behind him, “why were you just stood outside for so long anyway?”

Tony blinked, thrown by the question- until he realised that Bucky was the werewolf, and the werewolves were the ones that could smell a man from a mile away. He’d probably caught scent of them the moment they got onto his street.

“Just tieing my shoelace,” Steve said easily, gently nudging Tony further into the house, “did Thor bring the booze this time, or is he being stingy again?”

“Nah, he coughed it up,” Bucky told him with a grin, before shooting a look over to Tony. “Do you drink? Shit, I forgot to get baseliner booze- uh, I think we’ve got some beers in the fridge? Maybe a coke or something?”

“Uh, I’ll just have whatever you’re all having,” Tony said as they wandered through the corridor, “you don’t need to stick your neck out or anything.”

“Yeah, sure, I mean, you can try the booze we drink,” Bucky said with a shrug, but then Steve made a noise of displeasure behind him, and Tony turned to see a disapproving look getting thrown in Bucky’s direction.

“No he can’t,” Steve said, shoving Bucky through the door and then turning to Tony, “it’s… really fucking strong. It’ll make you sick.”

“You worry too much, Steven!” Bucky called out from the other room, “he’ll be fine!”

Steve just rolled his eyes, stepping through into the room and then shoving Bucky once again, until he fell backward and landed on the couch. On the other side of the room. Bucky seemed remarkably unfazed by that, however, and just sat up with a pout, chucking a pillow at Steve’s head.

Right. Super-strength. Okay.

Tony stood awkwardly in the corner of the room, his eyes travelling across the people that were sat around him as they slowly stopped talking in order to stare right back. There were eight of them, not including himself- three girls, six guys. Two of them had red eyes, and Tony’s brain supplied the species of that particular Unhuman: they were Demons. Tony had never even seen a demon before, let alone two. They were rare- usually inhabiting areas in the North of Europe, last of what he’d heard. Seeing them both was completely fascinating, and he had to bite down on his tongue to immediately start asking questions. That would probably be rude, right? He didn’t want to sound like an asshole during his first impression with Steve’s friends. He’d have plenty of time to fuck things up later- best just play it safe for now.

The girl with the red eyes, which, incidentally, almost matched the colour of her deep red hair, gave him a small and rather amused smile. “I’m sure you won’t fuck anything up,” she told him, which made Tony stare in shock.

Steve, once more, made a disapproving noise. “Nat, what did I say about reading his goddamn mind? I’m sorry Tony, she doesn’t mean to be-“

“Hey, it’s not my fault! His thoughts are really loud!” Nat waved a hand defensively and then turned back to Tony, looking apologetic. “Sorry. You’re not the only one who’s shit at first impressions. Most people take one look at the eyes and turn and run in the other direction.” She smiled wryly before standing up and extending a hand.

Tony took it with a small smile. Her skin felt like normal skin- not too hot or too cold. “I’m Natasha. I’m a demon. I can kind of read your mind, but only if they’re very obvious thoughts, and I promise I’ll never try and probe any deeper without your permission. I can also possess you. But only a little bit. Thought I should just get that out in the open, so you know what you’re walking into.”

Tony heard the room go silent, waiting for his reaction. And really, how did he react to that? He was stood in front of a girl whose eyes were blood-red, and if she wanted to, she could probably make him do something embarrassing, like make out with Steve or say he wanted to play strip-poker.

She looked as if she was holding back another grin, and Tony made mental note not to think about making out with Steve. Or stripping. Or stripping with Steve-

Okay, and now she really was laughing. He felt himself go slowly redder, looking anywhere but her piercing eyes as she undoubtedly read every loud thought about Steve that he had in his mind. Oh God. That was mortifying-

I won’t tell anyone, don’t worry, a voice- Natasha’s voice, holy shit that was freaky- popped up in his mind, and he blinked in surprise as she just patted him on the shoulder. Okay; so that must have been the whole ‘getting inside your head’ thing. That was… strange. But also kind of awesome. In a really freaky way.

“I like him,” she declared suddenly, turning back to the rest of the room and then linking arms with him. He stood there in surprise for a moment, before feeling himself begin to grin. She seemed friendly. Kind of terrifying- but she was holding his arm and smiling at him, and there weren’t a lot of people who did that, so he wasn’t going to complain. “Steve, it may have taken you several years, but I’m glad you finally made a friend.”

“Ha ha,” Steve pulled a face and then caught a bottle that one of the boys tossed his way, cracking open the lid with a thumb and then taking a swig, “he’s homeschooled, so he never got taught how to hate us like everyone else.”

Tony shrugged. “It’s true. I don’t have any other friends either, so really, it was Steve or no-one.” He grinned over at the other boy as Steve raised a wry eyebrow at him, and then watched as another boy stood up from the couch, striding forward across the room in three massive steps. Tony glanced at him, briefly overwhelmed by the sheer intense radiance that the boy seemed to give off. He had golden hair, tied back in a braid, and the size of him made him look more like an adult than a boy Tony’s age. Built was hardly a word that accurately described him- he had muscles on his muscles, and when he smiled at Tony, there was a brief moment in which he could think of nothing else but throwing himself at the boy. The feeling lasted only a moment before it faded into something a little less, and at the look Tony showed on his face, the boy grinned.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said with a wave of his hand, “it happens to everyone. My aura is strong- even Bucky thought of kissing me when we first met.”

“Shut up, you lug,” Bucky tossed a peanut at him in embarrassment, which the boy simply caught and popped into his mouth before turning back to Tony and then opening his arms. Before Tony could even acknowledge what was going on, he was being embraced.

“Hello, my name is Thor,” the boy said simply, “I am an elf! It is wonderful to meet you- Steve has told us many stories.”

Tony blinked in surprise as Thor let go of him and stood back. “You’re very… tall,” he said in surprise, which just made everyone around him chuckle. “I thought elves were all, like, small and stuff.”

Thor’s eyes twinkled, and again, Tony felt a swoop of intense affection for the boy. It was a very unusual feeling. “No, that is a misconception that many have. Some are small, but others are like me. Also, my mother was a land spirit, so I am somewhat of a hybrid.”

Tony nodded dumbly, knowing that he was staring at the boy’s face, but being somewhat unable to stop himself. He was just so very very pretty-

“Thor,” Tony blinked, registering Steve’s voice once more and snapping out of the strange trance in order to look over at Steve, who was looking at his friend with an unimpressed glare. “Cut it out,” he snapped.

Thor grinned, and then a moment later, Tony suddenly felt as if he’d zoned back in again. Thor patted his shoulder jovially as Tony blinked in confusion. “My apologies,” he said, turning his head to Steve, “your friend is very attractive, I cannot help it.”

One of the girls in the room rolled her eyes and then threw a pillow over at Thor. “Ignore him,” she told Tony with a shake of his head, “elves haven’t got a care in the world, and they’re shameless. He’s only kidding around.”

“Look at Steve- boy’s about to blow a gasket,” another said, and Tony turned his gaze to Steve, who was in fact glaring at Thor with a very unamused look on his face as he nursed his drink.

When he noticed everyone looking at him, Steve just huffed. “Shut up, Sam,” he said, sticking up his middle finger. Tony had no idea what they were talking about, but he chose to just let it slide. They probably all had a billion inside jokes that Tony had never heard of.

 

One by one, everyone in the room introduced themselves. There was Bruce and Sam, who were both shapeshifters. There was Clint, who was the other demon, and then Sharon and Peggy who were pixie and fae. The last two made his skin feel somewhat tingly when he shook their hands; almost as if they carried some sort of electric charge, and he felt his curiosity spark in interest. “Do you mean to do that, or is it just natural?” He couldn’t help but ask, looking at them both with wide eyes.

They paused, and then turned to one another in confusion. Steve, who had walked back over to Tony’s side, quickly chimed in. “He’s talking about the electric shock you give everyone.”

“Oh,” Peggy nodded, leaning forward and pressing a finger into Tony’s chest, “that’s just our magic. That’s what it feels like to everyone else.”

Tony breathed out in fascination. “Cool,” he said, before turning to Steve and shaking his head, “why don’t you have magic, Steve? All you do is run fast and drink blood. These guys have actual magical powers.”

Steve’s lip jutted out a little. “I have magical powers,” he muttered, “I’d like to see you try and smell how I feel.”

In response, Tony leaned in and took a sniff. “I’d say you feel offended right now,” he said with a grin, and then laughed as Steve just rolled his eyes and pushed him gently in the direction of the couch.

They sat down together, and Thor switched off the lights and then threw himself back into the beanbag to the left of Tony. “What are we watching today?” He asked everyone, pulling up Netflix with the remote. “We can pick whatever we want as long as it’s not horror.” He glanced up at Tony and pulled a face. “I don’t like jumpscares.”

“We can pick whatever we want as long as it’s Marley and Me,” Sam said, “I feel like crying tonight.”

“Uh, veto that immediately,” Sharon said, “I am not watching that horrible film and I will curse you if you even speak the name of it again.”

“You can do that?” Tony asked in surprise, turning to the girl as she lay sprawled over Peggy and Bucky’s legs.

She raised an eyebrow. “Not like… eternal life curses or anything. I’m not that powerful. But I can make you spill your cereal seven times in a row for a whole week.”

“I still hate you for that,” Steve muttered at Tony’s side, which made him chuckle in amusement at the mental image. Tony knew from experience that Steve was very passionate about his food. It must have driven him mad.

“What about The Princess Diaries?” Tony said as he spotted the title flashing on the screen. When everyone turned to look at him in amusement, he blushed. “What? It’s cute.”

He spared a glance over to Steve, and to his surprise, found that the boy’s face was soft and he was smiling gently down at Tony. Upon realising he’d been caught staring, he quickly turned away, but the smile didn’t fade. “Put it on, Thor,” he declared, poking the elf in the shoulder with his toe, “we all love Anne Hathaway.”

Thor nodded sagely, clicking the movie. “That is very true,” he said, “Tony has good taste. He shall be an invaluable member to our group.”

The words came casually, and Thor wasn’t even looking at him as he said it, but something impossibly hot exploded in Tony’s chest at the words. They… they wanted him in their group? Really? Tony had never had a group of friends before. How did it work? Was he supposed to say something to that? Was there like, an initiation ceremony? No- that would be stupid. Or maybe it was different for Unhumans? What if Tony couldn’t-

He felt a hand settle gently on his arm and then squeeze, and turned to look at Steve. “Stop overthinking it,” the boy whispered quietly, leaning his head a little closer, “they like you, and that’s that. I told you they would.”

Tony looked at his lap and smiled a little, before turning back to Steve with a raised eyebrow. “I’m very curious as to what exactly you told them all to make them like me so quickly. Seem to remember it took you a good few weeks to warm up to the very concept of me.”

Rather than respond, Steve just blushed, which was a little odd. He opened and shut his mouth a few times, before just pursing his lips and then glancing over to the TV again. “Just told ‘em the truth,” he said, and then threw a look over to Natasha. “Shut up.”

Tony blinked. “Huh?”

“He’s talking to me, don’t worry,” Natasha told him, smiling wryly at Steve, “you’re not the only one with very loud thoughts, Tony.”

Steve pulled a face at her, and then Tony watched a Natasha just cocked her head and raised an eyebrow in response. Bruce, who was sat on the other side of Tony, leaned over and whispered, “they’re bickering, just ignore them. They do it a lot.”

It took a moment for Tony to realise that the bickering was actually going on inside Steve’s head, which was definitely very disorientating. Obviously Unhumans just interacted with one another in a whole different way, which would… probably take a little bit of getting used to, Tony wasn’t going to lie.

It was really, really fascinating though. Tony didn’t think he was ever going to get bored of that.

 

As the night went on, everyone relaxed further, and the movie was left on as white noise in the background whilst everyone talked and laughed with one another. Bucky did manage to find a beer in the bottom of his fridge for Tony to sip on, but everyone else seemed to be having lots of fun with their own special Unhuman drinks, and after a lot of begging to Bucky whilst mother-hen Steve wasn’t looking, the boy eventually succumbed and allowed Tony to have a sip.

Oops.

Steve was definitely correct. That was strong stuff, as Tony found out less than two minutes later, when he suddenly felt very light-headed and giggly. Unhumans must have one hell of a tolerance, he thought as he looked around the room for the boy who’d just popped into his mind. When he realised the living room was distinctly lacking in what he wanted, he frowned. “Steve! Steeeve! Where are you? Come over here!”

Barely a second later, the blond tuft of hair peeked around the corner, quickly followed by the rest of Steve’s face as he popped his head through the doorway. “Yeah?” He asked, looking at Tony.

In response, Tony just grinned and waved. “Hi,” he said simply.

Steve looked at him for another moment, before snorting and rolling his eyes. “You’re annoying,” he responded before ducking back out into the kitchen again. Tony remembered he’d been going to get more drinks and snacks, and so decided, for the good of the group, not to interrupt him again.

He turned when Bucky poked him in the side with his toes and waggled his eyebrows. Pretty much everyone in the house was at least halfway to wasted by that point, Tony included, and so all previous nervousness was forgotten as he grabbed Bucky’s feet and then tickled the soles in response. Bucky yelped, spasming wildly and then scowling as Tony just laughed at him.

“I didn’t know werewolves were ticklish.”

“Hey, we’re not ticklish- we’re sensitive,” Bucky jutted out his chin petulantly and looked away, before adding with a wink, “makes us very good in bed. Natasha, darling, you can vouch for that, right?”

Natasha turned, looking Tony dead in the eyes as she said, “shockingly average at best. I stay because he gives nice back-rubs after.”

Bucky gasped, holding a hand to his heart. “Betrayed by my own lover!”

“God, don’t call me lover, it makes us sound like we’re in a sixteenth-century romance novel-“

Bucky just pouted, and then turned to Tony, taking his hand and patting it fondly. “Tony will be my new boyfriend from now on. Fuck you, Romanov.”

Natasha just outright laughed at that, as she took another swig of her drink and then shot a small glance over to Tony. “That’s funny, Barnes. Say that when Steve’s in the room, I dare you. He’ll rip your fucking head off.”

Tony watched the interaction in confusion. For a couple, they didn’t seem very… couple-y. More like enemies, if he was being honest.

“You’ll get used to it,” he turned and saw Peggy lean over, looking at him with a fond shake of her head, “this is their version of foreplay. Don’t think Bucky’s being serious with you- he’s devoted his entire soul to that girl.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt it,” Tony gave her a wry smile and then looked over to Natasha, whose dark red eyes were flashing under the light of the TV, “she seems like the soul-snatching kind.” He stopped, eyes widening as he realized what he’d said. “Not like- not because she’s a demon. I don’t… I’m not saying she’d… just that she’s very- she’s very-“

Peggy rolled her eyes and waved a hand, and Tony suddenly found himself briefly tongue-tied. As in… he literally couldn’t move his tongue. He looked at Peggy with wide eyes, and the girl simply grinned mischievously  back at him, before waving her fingers and then releasing his mouth again. “Fae, remember?” She asked, before carrying on, “ a useful trick when a man won’t stop wittering on about something they think they know better than I do- although in this instance, I just wanted you to stop working yourself into a tizz. It’s fine. We all know you’re not an Unhuman-hating bigot. Just… relax about it.” Peggy smiled and patted him on the cheek fondly.

Tony nodded, a small blush creeping up on his cheeks as he quickly stole a sip of Steve’s drink. It was very nice- sweet, but not overpoweringly so. Tony liked it a lot. Bucky gave him the side-eye and made a tutting noise as he watched Tony, but didn’t say anything other than “don’t blame me for your hangover tomorrow.”

It took another two minutes of everyone talking around him for something to click in his fuzzy brain, and he sat up straight, looking at Natasha with a deep frown as he leaned forward. “Hold on a minute,” he said, lifting a finger, “why would Steve have ripped Bucky’s head off?”

The room went a little quieter at that, and then everyone began to chuckle and shoot one another looks. Tony’s frown got deeper. “Hey, what is it? Am I missing something here?”

Sat on the beanbag by his legs, Thor raised a hand and patted his knee, mouth opening to speak. However, before he got the chance, the door was pushed open and Steve himself came back into the room, stumbling a little and balancing five different trays on his arms. “I got food!” He said happily, cheeks rosy from the booze. He set it all down on the coffee table and then spun around, looking for his seat. “Did one of you fucks steal my drink?”

Tony pinched Bucky before he could open his mouth, and Steve wandered over to Sam as he held out his own bottle and offered it to the other boy. “I’m done with mine anyway, big guy. Go nuts.”

He knew he probably shouldn’t stare at Steve’s ass whilst his back was turned, but damn. Tony felt himself sigh before he could even stop it- Steve was just so… so… great. He could have any Unhuman he wanted- they all seemed to be unnervingly attractive, and so much more interesting than Tony ever could be. He was still surprised he’d even managed to make friends with the guy in the first place, to be honest. It wasn’t as if he had much to offer.

Thor turned back to Tony quickly, whilst Steve was still talking to Sam. “Would you like me to show you the quickest way to find out what exactly it is that you are missing?” He asked politely, an amused spark lighting up in his eyes.

Tony nodded, leaning closer. “Yes please,” he responded, glancing back at Steve and feeling his curiosity mounting.

Thor smiled again, and then shuffled around until he was fully facing Tony. This time, Tony didn’t feel anything other than normal levels of fondness for the boy as he got a closeup view of that radiant face. Thor must have been toning it down. “Then I shall require a kiss. Just one.”

That threw him for a loop a little, and he paused as he processed the question. Seemed like an odd way of doing things- Tony had been hoping for a little more of an oral explanation.
Wait. That sounded like he wanted Thor to blow him. He didn’t want Thor to blow him, nor did he want to blow Thor, he’d been talking about Thor just explaining… oh God, he really hoped Natasha and Clint weren’t reading his trainwreck of thoughts right now-

“This is not for payment,” Thor clarified, hands going up reassuringly, obviously thinking that was the reason for Tony’s little freeze-up, “it is merely for proof. May I?”

He was pretty sure that everything he’d ever been told about Elves had been along the lines of ‘whatever you do, don’t let them kiss you’. But, in all fairness, Tony was drunk, and so was everyone else. It didn’t seem like a bad idea in his head. He wanted to know what all the cryptic talk about Steve was, and Thor was saying that a kiss would explain everything.

“Why the hell not?” He said, before leaning in.

Kissing Thor was okay. It would probably have been better if Thor had been putting on his weird elfy magic stuff, but he wasn’t, and Tony simply wasn’t that attracted to him without it. Yeah, he was… he was super hot, but being half in-love with someone else tended to put a dampener on kissing other people.

Still. Tony could check ‘kiss a Viking Elf Dude’ off his bucketlist. Or he would, if he had one. Actually, that gave him an idea: he should totally make a bucketlist though, those sounded aweso-

Something shattered off the side of them, and Tony jumped and broke away, looking for the source of the noise in surprise. As he turned and looked across the room, he noticed Steve, standing rigidly and staring at Tony and Thor with a blank look on his face. In his hand, the neck of Sam’s bottle had snapped right off.

The room went quiet again, as Tony caught Steve’s eye across the room. For a moment, something overwhelmingly sad crossed over Steve’s features, and it made Tony’s heart plunge right into his shoes- but then a moment later Steve looked away, down at the mess he’d made, blinking rapidly as he quickly put the broken bottle back onto the table.

“Shit,” he said, not looking at Tony, or anyone for that matter, “sorry, sorry, I’ll just… I’ll go get a dishcloth and- yeah.”

And then before anyone could say anything at all, Steve was stumbling out of the room, head down and staring resolutely at the floor as he crossed the length of the living room and then shouldered the door open, slipping out and shutting the door with a soft click.

Tony stared at the spot he’d left behind. “What the fuck?” He asked, “what just…”

Thor shrugged. “You wanted an answer. There is your answer. That is what you are missing, Tony.”

When Tony continued to stare at him in bewilderment, Thor sighed, but when Sharon rolled her eyes and then began to open her mouth, Thor just waved a hand and shushed her. “Give him a second to think about it,” he told her wisely, before looking back at Tony.

He had to admit, in total, it was more like seven seconds before the penny dropped. Three of those he could discount due to drunkenness. The other four were just to do with that fact that he had a complete lack of social skill and was as dense as a brick.

He looked back at Thor in shock.

“Shit,” he blurted- and then without another word, he jumped to his feet unsteadily and ran out of the room, hearing as the others started cheering and whooping behind him.

He was going to kill them for not just letting him know sooner. But for now, he had a Steve to find.

He didn’t know Bucky’s house well, but he did know Steve, and he knew that the boy absolutely hated inconveniencing anyone or making a mess. So breaking a bottle of dark red booze onto Bucky’s nice polished floor? That wouldn’t stand, not for Steve.

So Tony went straight to the kitchen, hands grabbing the walls to steady himself when they started spinning just a little. Jesus, Bucky was right- he really was going to regret taking those three sips in the morning.

Unsurprisingly, Steve was hunched over the sink when Tony walked in, hands moving up and down as he anxiously soaked a cloth in a bubbly solution. He kept his eyes fixed on the fabric he was wringing out, but Tony didn’t doubt that Steve had realized he’d entered, even if Tony was stood ten feet behind him. He was just freaky like that.

“Hey,” he began, only just realizing that he didn’t have a clue what to say.

Steve paused, just for a moment, before lifting his head and turning briefly. The smile he gave Tony was absolutely plastic. Tony hated it a lot. Steve’s actual smile was far far better. “Hi, Tony,” he said false-casually, “I’m just gonna sort out the mess, and then I’ll talk to you- although now I’m thinking about it, I’m actually kinda tired, so I might bounce-“

Tony marched up to him confidently, not letting a single one of his strides falter until he’d reached his destination. Steve had stopped talking once Tony had begun his trek across the kitchen, and was looking at him with wide, confused eyes that just got steadily wider the closer Tony got.

When he felt his chest bump Steve’s, he stopped moving. Tony looked up at him- almost had to strain his damn neck, the boy was so tall- and then cocked his head. “Steve?” He said questioningly.

“Yeah?”

“I’m gonna kiss you now,” he declared, and Steve only had time to blink in surprise before Tony leaned up onto his tiptoes and then pressed his mouth against Steve’ own.

It was nothing like kissing Thor, that was for sure. As soon as Tony’s lips touched Steve’s, he felt like something exploded under his chest- a spark that quickly ignited into a full-on firework, electric and bright and beautiful and loud. Steve’s skin was cool, but his mouth warm, and he gasped in surprise for a second before his hands tentatively wrapped around the back of Tony’s neck and pulled him in closer. Tony went happily, tilting his head and angling for a better position as he opened his mouth and slipped his tongue along Steve’s bottom lip.

Good idea, apparently, because Steve moaned in delight and just… melted into him completely, spinning them around and pushing them back until Tony was against the wall and Steve was crowding over him, hands stroking down Tony’s neck, across his collar bones and then curling around Tony’s arms. Steve’s fingers were delicate on Tony’s skin and cool to the touch, and the contrast made him shiver in delight. When Tony moved his head and pushed up into Steve’s mouth, he felt his tongue brush along the sharp jut of one of his canines, and he opened his eyes in surprise. That sure was different to a normal kiss. It was also kind of… really hot.

And then, tragically, Steve broke away.

Tony frowned, looking up at him in confusion. Steve’s nose was still brushing against Tony’s own, and his eyes were on the floor as he said, “so you just going ‘round kissin’ all the people in the room or something?”

Oh right. He’d completely forgotten he’d even kissed Thor at all, to be honest.

“Okay, so this is going to sound completely stupid, but he was trying to show me that you liked me,” he explained rapidly, rolling his eyes and waving a hand, “ ‘cause you got all sad and stuff after, and that’s kinda when I realised that you didn’t- uh- you didn’t like me kissing other people. And I thought, huh, why’s that? And then… here I am.” He made a small gesture with his hand and smiled nervously. When Steve finally looked back up at him with his ridiculously blue eyes and his ridiculously perfect face, Tony felt his breath catch in his throat.

Steve’s brow creased a little, and he leaned forward again, capturing Tony’s mouth in another soft kiss as he breathed in. Tony let his eyes flutter shut, but it only lasted a second before Steve pulled away again, lifting a hand and then brushing his thumb across Tony’s bottom lip before slipping the digit into his own mouth and frowning. “Bucky gave you the Unhuman booze, didn’t he?” He said with a raised eyebrow.

Tony rolled his eyes. “Three sips. Three! That’s nothing.”

“It is when you’re a Baseliner. You must be fucking wasted right now.”

“Am not!” Tony said stubbornly, pouting and folding his arms. Steve laughed softly, before stepping back five steps and opening his arms.

“Walk in a straight line toward me, Stark, I dare you.”

Tony shot him a glare and lifted his chin in defiance. Never be told that a Stark ever backed down from a challenge. He looked down to the floor and then put one foot in front of the other easily. See, he didn’t even need to hold out his arms or anyth-

Uh oh. His balance was a little off to the left. He needed to tilt a little to the other side to keep himself balanced. No- no shit, that was too much, uh oh-

He sighed in defeat as he tipped over to the side, hands out and reaching for the nearest available surface to cling on to. Luckily, Steve’s fast reflexes caught him by the waist before he could plummet to the floor and concuss himself, which was nice, and it meant he got to be held by Steve too, which was even nicer. Their faces were very close- Tony could see the amused little tweak of the other boy’s mouth as he hoisted Tony back upright. “Yeah, you’re absolutely fine,” he said dryly.

Tony just shut his eyes and then rested his forehead against Steve’s shoulder. “I just wanted to get you to hold me, sweetheart,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows and then snorting in delight. Ugh, okay, so maybe he was a little drunk. In all fairness though, there was no one in the house who wasn’t.

“Tony,” Steve’s voice was quiet and his hands still on Tony’s hips as he looked down, biting his lip in what seemed like nervousness, “why did you kiss me?”

That… seemed like an obvious question. “Uh, because I like you?” He answered, cocking his head, “and kissing you has been something that I have thought about at length since like, the first time I looked at you?”

“So it’s not just… curiosity?” Steve whispered, eyes flitting around the room, “you know- ‘I want to kiss a Monster and see what happens’ sorta thing? Because I don’t think I could- I wouldn’t be able to do that, Tony, I don’t want to just-“

“Hey, whoah, no,” Tony shook his head vigorously, looking at Steve in horror, “why would you think that? No, Steve. I like you because you’re funny and kind and selfless and sweet and you actually, for some strange reason, seem to like me too. It’s not just… that. Never.”

Steve looked at him for another few seconds before breathing out and nodding. He seemed relieved. “Okay,” he said, “I… alright then. That’s- that’s good.”

They both looked at once another for a moment, before both of them began to giggle a little nervously. Tony could feel his own cheeks heating up, and Steve’s own face was no better- his pale skin left no room for hiding any blushes of his own.

“Steve,” Tony said quietly, stroking his hand through the others boy’s bangs and brushing them behind his ear, “I would like to kiss you a lot. Regularly. In the way that couples do. Is that… would you want that as well?”

Another laugh. It really was the most wonderful sound in the world. But then Steve’s face sobered up for a second, and he started to bite his lip again as he looked away. Tony’s brain blanked for a moment, before he felt his spirits start to sink. Steve… didn’t seem like he wanted that. Shit. Had Tony pushed it too far? Was this only supposed to be casual?

“I mean,” he hastened to clarify, “we don’t have to if you don’t- if that’s not what you want, I get that, obviously, I’m super boring in comparison to every other person you associate with and if this is just a one off then that’s fine too, I don’t-“

“Hey, no, that’s not what I…” Steve shook his head and then sighed in despair, pressing a kiss against Tony’s nose. “You are probably the most interesting person I’ve ever met. This is definitely something that I- I want. I have wanted for, uh, a long time.”

And there went those hopes, soaring right back up again. He felt like an emotional rollercoaster. “Well me too! That’s- that’s good, see, that’s always a good thing to have in any blooming relationship-“

“Tony, are you sure that this is what you want?” Steve asked him seriously, hands falling against Tony’s shoulders. “You don’t… I don’t think you fully understand the complications that are gonna come with this. I’m a vampire and you’re a Baseliner. This… this is not something that people do. You know how they always make us look in the media,” Steve’s face turned bitter as he looked away, “we’re just manipulative criminals to them. People will ask you if you’re being coerced, or forced. People are going to hate you and- and degrade you, just for being with me-“

“Steve,” Tony pressed his palm to the side of Steve’s jaw, turning his head back so that he was looking Tony right in the eyes again, “Steve, listen to me. I have been hated and degraded and laughed at my entire life. By my own family, by people passing me on the street who know my face, by kids who were supposed to be my ‘friends’.” He shook his head and then sighed, leaning up once more and kissing Steve on the cheek. “In seventeen years, I’ve never met someone who’s been good to me in the way that you have. You are… the first person who’s ever actually liked me, I think.”

Steve’s eyes were wide and sad, but Tony just shrugged indifferently. “People will talk shit. People have always talked shit. But I know what I want.” He smiled, thumb running across Steve’s cheekbone as the other boy breathed in, still seemingly conflicted.

But then his hand moved down and met with Tony’s own, and he locked their fingers together. That was definitely promising. “We’re going to talk about this again in the morning,” he said, “when you’re sober, okay?”

“My answer won’t have changed.”

Steve just shook his head fondly, pulling Tony back toward the living room where the rest of his friends were. “Humour me.”

Tony just sighed dramatically, stepping into Steve’s side and then making his way down the corridor. “Fine- but you have to deal with all of Bucky’s teasing now, okay? They’re your friends.”

Steve’s hand went to the door, but he paused just before opening it, turning back with a small smile. “They’re your friends too,” he told Tony- and then before he could respond, Steve had pushed it open and gone back through.

Of course, Tony heard the whooping and cheering before he even walked through the threshold. Goddamn Unhumans- with a Werewolf, a demon a pixie, a fae and an elf all in one room, the likelihood of anything in the house going unnoticed was slim to none. And Tony would bet money that those assholes had been listening in to every word they’d said to one another anyway.

Tony should probably feel more embarrassed than he did.

But honestly? He was too happy to care.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

Waking up was a bittersweet experience.

The worst part, he realised pretty quickly, was that he appeared to have fallen asleep on the floor. That, or the mattress he was lying on was made of concrete. He could already feel his back ache in protest, and he’d been conscious for all of three seconds.

He also immediately felt like he was going to vomit. Which wasn’t too great, if he was being honest.

He whimpered in distress, curling in on himself and wincing at the pounding in his head. Fuck; he got migraines pretty regularly, but this one seemed particularly sucky. He was never drinking Unhuman booze again. Cancelled. Done. Over. Ow ow ow ow ow-

“Told you you’d regret it in the morning.”

Tony blinked, noticing the voice came from directly over his shoulder. At that moment, he also realised that, despite the fact that he appeared to be lying sprawled out on the floor, he was also feeling pretty cosy. A pair of arms were wrapped securely around his waist, and he discovered that he was being spooned from behind.

He turned his head and cracked his eyes open the tiniest bit, watching as Steve smiled down at him fondly. He appeared to have also fallen asleep on the floor, and seeing as Tony had absolutely no recollection of it at all, Steve must have been the one to take some initiative and pull a blanket over the both of them. A terrible, too-small, beer-and-dip-stained blanket, but a blanket all the same.

“Ughgn,” Tony responded, shutting his eyes again and curling further into Steve’s side. The coolness of his body was a nice contrast against his horrible clammy skin.

Steve just laughed, sitting up a little bit. “Okay guys,” he called out, “you don’t need to whisper any more- he’s awake.”

And just like that, suddenly the whole room erupted into chatter. Tony pushed his eyes open again, and realised that everyone from the night before was still in the room, all of them having either having made nests on the floor, curled up onto beanbags or just made small human piles on the couches. To be quite honest, everything after making out with Steve was sort of blurry. He just remembered going back into the room and then finding their seats had been stolen by Thor and Sam, and so they’d just sat on the floor instead. And then apparently fallen asleep there too.

“How’s that hangover feeling, buddy?” Someone slapped him jovially on the back, and he cursed and batted their hand away weakly. He could hear Bucky’s laughter and just scowled. “Hey, you promised not to blame me in the morning.”

“Take it back,” Tony muttered, rolling around and turning his head into Steve’s shoulder where it was mercifully dark, “totally blame you. All your fucking fault.”

Bucky made a disagreeing noise in the back of his throat, but Tony ignored it in favour of burrowing further into Steve’s arms. “God, you’re nice and cold,” he sighed in relief, pushing his forehead against Steve’s sternum and feeling the lovely cool skin against his too-hot face.

Steve laughed, and then Tony felt fingers brush through his hair, the pressure on his scalp a wonderful contrast to the crushing sensation going on underneath his skull. Steve knew just where to press.

“Tony!” Someone- Thor, by the sounds of it- said loudly, and Tony sighed as he realised that his moment of peace with Steve was not going to last very long in this room, “I hope you had an enjoyable evening, yes? It must have been very nice to finally admit your feelings for Steve and seal your relationship with a beautiful kiss!”

Tony blinked, slowly looking up at Steve. “Does he always talk like that?” He whispered, and then when Steve nodded, Tony just made a face. “I thought it was only when he was drunk,” he muttered, before looking back to Thor and smiling weakly, “yes, Thor, I had a very nice night, thank you.”

“Very good,” Thor nodded wholeheartedly, before winking, “you can thank me for my services later.”

“I already thanked you, remember?” Steve called out sweetly, and when Tony looked over to him in confusion, Thor just grinned and then turned his arm, showing a nice bruise just beginning to form on his bicep.

“He was very grateful that I kissed you,” Thor explained with a wink, “this was his way of showing his… gratitude.” He leaned in closer to Tony as he whispered, “it is only because I allowed him to. Elves are far stronger than Vampires.”

Steve scoffed, poking Thor with his toe. “Keep dreaming, buddy.”

“I can control the weather, Steve. You can bite things.”

“Hey, that’s not even the elf side of you, that’s land spirit, so shut up,” Steve huffed out petulantly, “all you do is make people want to kiss you. Big whoop.”

“Okay, enough with the magical dick-measuring competition,” Bruce interjected into the conversation before anything else could be said, waving a hand and then throwing a pillow over to Bucky, who was sprawled out over Natasha’s chest, apparently having fallen back into a doze. Or at least- until the pillow hit him, that was. “Bucky, you’re the host, so you’re on breakfast duty. Chop chop. We’re all hungover and if you leave it any longer, Steve and Thor are going to duel and you know what happened last time.”

Bucky harrumphed and shot both his friends a mutinous glare, which had Steve turning away in embarrassment. Tony’s eyebrows raised, and he flicked Steve in the temple. “I don’t know what happened,” he declared, “tell me what happened.”

“Nothing, it’s not important-“ Steve began, but then Clint leaned forward before he could finish, grinning at Tony as he spoke.

“Steve threw Thor through the wall, and then Thor accidentally set the living room on fire when he sparked up and tried to lightning-bolt Steve.”

Tony could admit, he’d heard a lot of weird things in his time. This- this sure was one of them. “You… Thor…” he turned to Steve and then squinted incredulously. “Through a wall?”

Steve’s hands rose in defence, and then pointed over to Thor accusingly. “He started it!” Was what Steve eventually managed to counter with, and even he knew it was pretty pathetic, because immediately after he just shut his mouth and then lay back down on the floor, tugging the blanket over his head and curling up. “Go away everyone,” he declared, “I am too hungover to be bullied.”

Tony laughed, sitting up and then stretching as various bones and vertabrae popped uncomfortably. God, today was going to be hellish. He could just tell. “No one talk to me until I find a coffee somewhere,” he muttered, standing up slowly and then feeling his stomach convulse in protest. ”Ugh, fuck, I’m never drinking again.”

He stumbled out to the sound of various agreeing murmurs, heading left to the kitchen before remembering that actually it was to the right and retracing his steps. The sunlight shone like a terrible bright thing, and Tony winced in disgust. Terrible, awful. He was cancelling daytime. Hey, maybe Steve had a coffin somewhere where he went to sleep- maybe Tony could use that for a bit.

He found the coffee through smell alone (and a bit of pointing on Bucky’s part, but whatever), and he could almost feel the headache lifting as soon as he got his hands on it. “Oh sweet mercy,” he breathed, beginning to create his beloved espresso whilst Bucky hummed and moved around behind him, preparing bacon and eggs at the stove.

It was strange, how after one night, Tony felt… he felt comfortable around these people. Like he’d known them for months, rather than less than 24 hours. It was kind of freaky- a good sort of freaky though. A comforting kind.

Maybe Tony wasn’t so hideous at making friends after all.

 

“You should talk to Steve about what happened last night,” Natasha’s voice came out of absolutely nowhere and he jumped wildly, nearly spilling coffee beans everywhere as he turned to her. Jesus, what was with it with these damn Unhumans and their sneaking-tendencies? Tony was going to have a fucking heart attack one day.

She wandered over from behind him and then leaned against the counter casually, before deciding to just hop up onto it with a dainty jump. “What do you mean, talk to him?” Tony looked back to the coffee machine and frowned- he was a genius, he should be able to work out how an espresso machine worked, “I already did, last night.”

Natasha rolled her eyes and then leaned forward, quickly pressing a combination of buttons that set the machine working. “Yeah, when you were wasted off Thor’s special magic booze.”

“So was he, to be honest.”

“Yeah, but-“ Natasha huffed, and then tapped her fingernails along the sideboard absently, “it’s different. Boundaries and stuff are important to him, and he’d hate to think he took advantage. He’s stressing about whether you were serious or just drunk- I can hear his anxiety going off in my head. Just reassure him you mean what you said.”

Tony nodded at her, and then stifled a yawn with his hand and prodded a few of the buttons on the machine- or at least, he did until Natasha smacked his hand away. “You’ll mess it up,” she warned him, “only I know how to make good coffee on that machine.”

“It’s true,” Bucky said as he passed them with a plate of bacon, stopping to give Natasha a greeting-kiss and let her steal a slice of the plate, “she’s magic. Even more magic than the rest of us.”

When Tony came back into the living room, this time armed with coffee, he glanced at Natasha and then made a beeline for Steve, who was, unsurprisingly, still curled on the carpet with the blanket splayed over the top half of his body. Tony looked at him in amusement for a second before just huffing and placing the cup of coffee on a stable surface. After that, he got to his knees and, despite his stomach complaining rather viciously at the sudden movement, lifted up the blanket and then crawled into the space right in front of Steve.

“Hey,” he whispered, letting the sheet drop and cover them both. It was absolutely useless, but still gave the deception of privacy, which was nice.

Steve looked at him, and when he smiled, Tony wondered how he hadn’t seen the affection there before. “Hi.”

They grinned nervously at one another for a few more moments until, without another second of hesitation, Tony kissed him on the cheek. “I still wanna date you,” he said, “even now, when I’m hungover and grumpy. That’s saying something, Rogers. Usually, I don’t wanna do shit when I’m hungover and grumpy.”

Steve took a moment to fully process it, but when he did, his face broke out into a ridiculously huge grin that showed off his fangs. Tony really shouldn’t have thought that was adorable- but fuck it, he’d already declared himself pretty much a lost cause to Steve Rogers, and he’d never been much for staying within statistical averages anyway. He could be an outlier who found fangs that could kill you to be hot. That was fine.

“Okay,” Steve said softly, trying and failing to tamp down on his smile, “I’d like to date you too.”

“Cool,” Tony nodded, sticking out a hand, “then it’s settled.”

Steve just looked down at it in confusion, before glancing back up and cocking his head. “Are you- are you trying to get me to shake your hand?” He asked.

Tony just nodded. “Well, we’ve made an agreement, haven’t we? My dad always said I should shake on agreements. Thought it might be fitting.”

Jesus. Tony was never going to get tired of hearing Steve’s snorting laughter. Even when it was at his expense.

“God, you’re so weird,” Steve said as he snuck his arms around Tony’s waist and pulled him closer, “how about we seal it with a kiss instead?”

Tony snorted. “With morning breath? Uh, no thank you. Brush your teeth and I’ll think about it.”

 

No word of lie- he’d never seen Steve move so fast in his life as sat up and made his way to the bathroom, his own laughter trailing behind him as he left the room.

 

Okay. So maybe the day wasn’t going to be quite as terrible as Tony had predicted, then.