Before Steve can finally convince Tony he really wants him, he has to be careful with his attempts at showing them. Tony's insecurities make it very difficult to publicly show.
One attempt had Steve putting a giant banner on the sky saying “I like you, Tony. Mate me.”
Tony stood in place to stare at it with wide eyes and for a moment Steve dares to believe the dense alpha finally got it. Finally understood Steve wants him! But then Tony frowns, looks around, and walks over to where Rhodey and Jan are standing. His shoulders are hunched and his head is down. Something an alpha would certainly never do but it makes Steve’s heart sink because why? Why would he react in such a way? Did he not want Steve? That hurt a little thinking about.
He jogs over, needing to know Tony’s response. He basically propositioned him. All that’s missing is to put a ring on it and forever keep the others away but Tony has his head down and Steve needs to know.
He gets within hearing range and listens. “Hot tub?” Tony says and sounds so sad just asking that. Rhodey and Jan agree.
The alpha's back is to Steve so Rhodey and Jan are able to look over Tony’s shoulders at him and shake their heads in sympathy before following after Tony to the Stark hot tub.
Pepper appears from somewhere behind him and grips his shoulder hard, making Steve jump and shiver. “Might want to rethink your plan, Captain. Next time put your damn name on the banner. Tony will always, always, misunderstand. In your case I don’t think just telling him you’re interested will help you at all. Might make it worse, actually.”
Pepper pulls him in and glares at him, making Steve feel small. “Unless you have a full-proof plan that doesn’t involve a crowd, don’t try again for the rest of the week. Tony thinks that banner is mocking him and won’t respond to anyone while he licks his wounds. Your next plan better damn well have positive results.”
Steve gulps and nods, standing straight when Pepper finally lets go and walks away. He’s more determined than ever now. Tony didn’t jump or bat an eye after someone practically gave themselves on a silver platter. He thought he was being mocked. How can such a gentle soul have such low opinions of himself?
Steve clenches his hands, plans already forming in his head.
After much trial and error Steve thinks he’s finally found a way to convince Tony that, no, it’s not a joke. No, he doesn’t want to fight. No, he’s not making fun of him and no, he’s not trying to prove some point of superiority or independence by choosing the crippled alpha, like many asshole alphas seem to think he’s doing.
He plays it carefully and gets Tony a present, something akin to a promise ring, except not an actual ring since it’ll probably get ruin with all of Tony’s engineering and fighting with the Iron Man suit. Something that even Tony recognizes no matter how much in denial he is in.
Steve leaves campus with Jan, relying on her to help choose something proper and something Tony would proudly wear. Something that just screams Tony. Something that shows the whole world how much Steve knows about Tony.
It takes five grueling hours of browsing through accessories for them to find something even close to perfect. They go through rings, through bracelets, even through collars and piercings, but nothing screams Tony, nothing screams ‘I care deeply for you, Tony, and I want you to be mine and for me to be yours, if you’ll take me,’ and the longer they search the more his hope diminishes. Maybe he’ll never convince Tony to give them a chance. Maybe it just isn’t meant to be.
“We could try across the street. It’s highly recommended, according to this. Perfect place to buy a gift for your mate,” Jan offers, smiling and not giving up, but Steve’s tired and his heart is not in it anymore. He’s starting to give up. “How about we try again tomorrow?”
“Maybe. It’s just… none of these things say ‘Tony,’ and now that I think about it he can easily afford all this stuff. What can I buy that he hasn’t already considered? I don’t know why I thought getting him a gift would work.”
“Oh no you don’t mister! You can’t start thinking like that. Tony can afford everything in this store, that’s true no doubt, but it’s not about affording, it’s about giving! The thought that counts. I bet there’s a lot of omegas out there who thought the same thing and didn’t bother getting him a gift. Not for the Holidays and not for his birthday. How do you think he feels? You’re probably the first one who even thought of trying this!”
The more she talks the more Steve’s determination grew. What she says makes perfect sense. In all the time he spent on campus he never saw one of his omega or beta classmates give Tony anything. No one even thought to discuss it. What if Tony really had been going for years without receiving a single gift from the heart?
Steve would really be the first.
“But what if we don’t find anything for him?”
Jan pokes his chest. “We won’t give up so easily. There is something here. We’ll search every corner until we find it. If not, we’ll make it with our bare hands!”
They didn’t need to go that far. Not when Steve finally, truly, thought about it. The answer is so easy, so obvious.
“Jan… we don’t need to shop anymore.”
Her eyes lit up. “You have the perfect gift?”
“I’ve been having it.”
How is he so blind to not have thought of that before?
They plan it down to a T. Make sure everything is perfect and nobody’s there to get in the way or ruin it. Jan is in charge of bringing Tony to the Avengers park while Steve hides behind a tree waiting. Rhodey, Pepper, and Jarvis are on the outskirts of the park, making sure no one wonders inside while they have their moment or someone tries to object.
“Jan this is the park.” Steve hears Tony say as they get closer to his spot.
“What do you have to show me that involves the park? And what is that smell?”
“Fresh air, Tony.”
“I don’t like it.”
“Just a little bit further. You’ll love this. Trust me.”
“Is it a new outfit inspired by nature or some animal?”
“Nope. It’s a someone.”
“A some-” Tony’s eyes widen when he spots Steve make his appearance from behind the tree “-…one?” he trails off.
“Hi, Tony,” Steve gives him a small wave with a nervous smile.
Jan slides away without the two realizing it.
“Hi, Steve,” Tony says back, confused, wary, “fancy meeting you here.”
“Actually it was planned.”
“Planned? Did you need something from me?”
“Yes,” Steve takes a deep breath. “I need you to accept something of mine.”
“Oh, sure. Easy enough.”
Steve got the feeling it wasn’t going to be so easy for Tony if he understood what Steve meant by it. With sweaty fingers, he reaches into the pocket of his jacket as he starts walking closer to Tony, careful not to spook the alpha in any way. He gently pulls out something and holds it between his fingers.
He hears the audible and confused gasp from Tony. He understood.
“I want you to have these.”
Hanging from a chain held between his fingers are his dog tags. Old and worn and had been with Steve for some time now. They are one of few things Steve managed to keep from his time and they’re precious. Tony understood just how precious.
“Steve…” Tony is eyeing them as if they were a ticking time bomb, ready for it all to fall apart right before him.
“Will you have me?” Steve braces himself.
“You can’t mean it -”
“Tony, will you have me?”
Tony doesn’t reach for them. He actually takes a step back. He’s terrified, ready to bolt and hide away, but Steve can’t let that happen. He holds the chain out, his dog tags dangling. “I’m not messing with you and I’m not pranking you. I want you to have my dog tags, Tony. Will you take them?” Will you date me?
It took nearly a minute for Tony to react. He takes a shaky step forward in order to stand under the chain and allow Steve to put it on him. The tags rest right over his arc reactor.
“Steve… are you sure?”
Instead of saying anything because actions speak louder than words, Steve let his hug be his answer. He pulled Tony closer and held him tightly. Tony came carefully. “Are you?”
Tony wrapped his own arms around Steve’s waist as his response. The gauntlet digging into his back a comfort he didn’t know it could be.