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March Madness

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Steve lifted his head from his sketch pad with his mouth open as though ready to speak, but paused before any words left his mouth when he caught sight of Tony wandering around with a weird mark by his lip. Tapping his pencil against the paper absentmindedly, Steve eyed the glass in Tony’s hand warily, not liking the murky colour of whatever liquid was inside of it. He nodded down at it, changing his train of thought as he caught Tony’s attention.

“What is that?”

Tony startled at the sudden interruption from his usually-quiet lab guest and took a second to register what Steve had said. When he did he dropped his gaze, eyes zoning in on the thick liquid in the glass for a long moment before he finally shrugged. “I’m not entirely sure,” he admitted.

He sounded far too unconcerned for Steve’s liking and Steve narrowed his eyes as Tony continued.

“Dum-E made it for me. I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of coffee in it.” Tony squinted and tilted his head as he looked a little closer, swirling his wrist and frowning when the liquid didn’t move very much. “Or maybe there’s not. I don’t know. Dum-E finds it hard to know what’s suitable for human consumption and what isn’t. You learn to roll with it after a while.”

Steve wasn’t reassured by that at all and said as much with a pained expression. “How much did you drink?”

Tony’s brow furrowed in thought before he shrugged again and clicked his tongue. “Enough to keep me awake.”

Steve’s face dropped even further. “I know you have a coffee machine down here. I bought it for you.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Tony said with a roll of his eyes. “I know you did and I’m grateful, but I really don’t have time to stop and make a drink twelve times a day and Dum-E is usually free to do just that.”

Twelve? You know what…” Steve stared at Tony for a long moment before he let out a short puff of air and stood up with determination. He crossed the room and grabbed the glass out of Tony’s hand, ignoring Tony’s indignant yelp and heading over to where Dum-E was hovering near his charging station.

“Okay, Dum-E,” Steve started, placing the glass down onto one not-very-tidy workbench and beckoning the robot closer, “let me teach you how to actually make a drink, okay? No more potentially poisoning the boss, thank you. I kind of like him.”

There was a little beep that sounded somewhat inquisitive and Steve smiled when Dum-E rolled over to him. “Right. So first, you need a clean mug. That’s a pretty vital stage. If I bring some clean mugs down here on a regular basis, you think you will be able to find them?”

Steve waited for Dum-E to incline his claw in an imitation of a nod and his smile grew. “Good boy. So then you need to fill the tank at the back of the machine with coffee beans. Do you have a tin of beans down here?”

Steve turned to Tony expectantly when Tony didn’t answer, lifting his eyebrows in question.

“No,” Tony said finally, voice sounding a little stunned as he blinked slowly. “No, I don’t.”

“Right. I’ll leave some out for you.” Steve turned back to the robot and lifted his hand to stoke down his arm. “I’ll clear out a shelf for them and you have to promise me you’ll use them, Dum-E, okay? It’s very important.” Steve put on his sternest face and looked directly at the bot. “You have to know the difference between coffee and motor oil. I know they’re both black, but they are very different substances, kiddo.”

There was a strangled sort of choking sound from behind him and Steve looked over his shoulder in surprise.

“Are you okay, Tony?”

Tony spluttered for a moment before he visibly shook himself back into control. “I’m fine. Yeah, no, fine.”

Steve’s eyebrows only rose higher and higher when Tony cleared his throat and shook his head, still stuttering as his eyes flickered between Steve and the robot by his side. “Nothing - I, um. Yes. Fine.”

He turned back to his work and seemed to throw himself back into it with gusto. Steve watched him for a moment and bit his lip when he noticed that Tony’s tablet was blank and his holograms not changing even as Tony looked to be typing. With a soft smile, Steve waited another minute more before he turned back to Dum-E and stroked his arm again.

“Your daddy is a very silly man,” Steve murmured, purposefully loud enough for the fondness to be heard in his voice. “It’s a good job that he has you and I to look after him, right?”

Dum-E let out a series of loud and enthusiastic beeps and Steve laughed loudly, his smile only growing at the clattering and swearing he heard from behind him as Tony seemingly knocked nearly everything off his worktop. “Exactly, Dum-E. A very good job indeed.”

 

Chapter Text

Steve stood in the doorway of the room and watched Tony for a long and quiet moment. Tony was burrowed deep under his comforter with only his eyes and nose sticking out as he made little snuffles in his throat as he slept. While Steve looked on, Tony began to stir, blinking slowly as he came back into consciousness, sniffing a few times before sneezing and wincing as the action made his head pound.

It took him a moment to notice Steve leaning against the doorframe and watching him with a soft smile and he wriggled further up the bed until his hands and face were free from the blankets. Tony pouted at the other man and held his hands out when he was finally out of his confines. Steve bit back a smile; the image of Tony Stark making grabby hands was too funny a picture. He also knew that Tony was going to deny it tooth and nail, but Steve had seen it with his own two eyes and would treasure the memory for years to come.

Steve crossed the room towards Tony’s outstretched arms and took a seat on the edge of the bed, stretching out a hand to rest the back of it against Tony’s forehead, frowning at its temperature.

“How are you feeling?” he asked sympathetically, though he knew what answer Tony was going to give him.

“Like crap,” Tony mumbled, confirming Steve’s guess. He leaned into Steve’s touch, wiggling his eyebrows until Steve got the message and moved his hand up to stroke through Tony’s hair gently.

“You’re so cute. Can you stop being so cute?” Steve admonished, a soft smile on his face as Tony shifted to rest his head in Steve’ lap. “You’re meant to be ill.”

“I’m literally dying,” Tony said as he blinked owlishly up at Steve, words slurring into each other slightly. “I have a runny nose, I can’t see and I’ve sweated through the new clothes I put on about two hours ago. I’m not cute.”

Except with Tony’s cold it came out as “m’not cude,” which was, in fact, cute.  Steve pressed his lips together in an attempt to stop his smile from growing as he nodded.

“Right. You’re not cute. Of course not. What was I thinking?”

“Exactly. I’m glad you understand.” Tony sniffed loudly and let out a pathetic cough. “I’m hot.”

“Yes, you are,” Steve said appreciatively.

“What? No.” Tony squirmed and twisted his head to look up at Steve. “Physically hot. Heat-wise, you idiot.” He rolled his eyes and turned back to his previous position, cuddling even closer and wrapping his hand around Steve’s leg. “Anyway, if you were going to use any word to describe me, I would hope you would use devilishly handsome.”

Steve couldn’t help but let out a small laugh. “Of course,” he murmured as he stroked back strands of hair from Tony’s sweaty forehead.

Tony preened a little and Steve grinned, happy to sit there with Tony’s warm weight in his lap as the man slowly slipped off into a much-needed slumber.

“Sleep well, my handsome man.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“What did you do?”

“What do you think I did?” Tony asked incredulously. “I got the hell out of there!”

Steve threw his head back and laughed raucously, completely uncaring of the quiet atmosphere in the swanky restaurant. Tony watched him, his own smile nearly splitting his face in half. It hurt his cheeks, but Steve just seemed to have that effect on him and Tony was getting used to the beautiful ache by now.

“You idiot,” Steve finally managed to choke out, his face flushed and eyes bright.

“Rude,” Tony snapped back, but his tone had far too much fondness and not enough bite. “What else should I have done? Go on then, what would you have done?”

“I have no idea,” Steve admitted, reaching out for his wine glass, laughter still bright on his face. “Apart from not getting myself into that sort of situation in the first place, of course.”

“Right,” Tony grinned back, “of course. No way Mr Goody-Two-Shoes would ever find himself in such a scenario.”

“Oh, I am far from that.”

“Oh?” Tony’s eyes lit up at Steve’s new tone, intrigued by the flirty turn it had taken. He leant forward, drawing (and ignoring) the attention of the other restaurant-goers by resting his elbows on the table. Keeping his gaze locked on Steve’s, Tony lifted one eyebrow in encouragement.

Steve hummed an affirmative as he took a sip of his red wine, licking the remnants from his top lip without looking away from Tony. “I hope you’re not disappointed by that revelation.”

Tony reached out and took the glass from Steve, setting it down and twisting his fingers between Steve’s.

“Oh no,” he said honestly, smile still firmly in place, “definitely not.”

Chapter Text

“What the hell is going on here?”

Tony froze at the voice from behind him and he felt the colour drain from his face. He held that pose for long moment before he decided to face the music and he whirled around with a sheepish expression.

“Surprise!”

Steve didn’t say anything, didn’t even move a muscle except for his eyes flitting around the room as he stood in the doorway. Everyone held their breath and a room of 30 or so people suddenly falling deadly silent was extremely daunting to Tony. The silence ticked on and on, the hairs on the back of Tony’s neck standing up as he felt all eyes falling warily on him.

“Say something, Steve,” Tony finally begged, the weight of his partner’s stare too much for him.

“It’s a party,” Steve said slowly.

“Yes. For you. For your birthday.” Tony cleared his throat and resisted the urge to shuffle awkwardly. “I know you didn’t want to celebrate, but I also couldn’t let your birthday go without doing something. It’s your birthday. And in my defence, it was Clint’s idea.”

“Actually,” Clint chimed in, lifting his champagne flute high with a glaring party hat sitting askew on his head, “I asked if you were having a party. I didn’t tell you to have one.”

“Well that’s close enough,” Tony retorted, not taking his gaze from Steve. “You put the idea into my head. It was expected of me really. Did you really think I would just let that sort of comment go?”

Steve blinked and Tony sighed at the lack of response, his shoulders slumping in defeat.

“You hate it, don’t you?” Tony kicked the ground and shook himself before he lifted his head and gave a small smile. “I knew you would. I should have listened to you when you said you didn’t want a party. I’m so sorry, Steve. I’ll ask everyone to go. Or we can go–”

“No.”

“No?” Right. Tony guessed he could have seen that coming, but the disappointment surging through him was pretty devastating anyway. Of course Steve would want to go anywhere with Tony. He was probably mad as hell that Tony had thrown a party – a party that Steve notoriously hated. Tony cleared his throat again and forced his smile wider. “Of course. You can just go and I’ll catch–”

“No.” Steve’s face finally dropped its unreadable expression and a tiny smile pulled at the corners of his lips. He reached out and took Tony’s hand, slotting their fingers together. It was almost comical how Tony instantly relaxed.

“No, I don’t want to go anywhere. Maybe you’re right,” Steve continued quietly and Tony felt a warmth bloom in his chest. “Maybe it is about time I start to celebrate my birthday again.”

“You sure?”

Steve’s smile grew and his eyes flicked over Tony’s shoulder to his friends. “There’s a cake, right?”

“Of course there’s a cake,” Tony snapped back immediately, “who the hell do you think I am? A party without a cake.” He rolled his eyes and tutted. “Please don’t ever insult me like that again.”

Steve laughed and lifted Tony’s hand to his lips, pressing a tiny kiss to his knuckles. “Well, then, if there’s a cake I think that’s reason enough for me to stay. Let’s get me a drink and a hat.” His smirk grew and he squeezed Tony’s hand. “I want one even brighter than Clint’s.”

 

Chapter Text

“No.”

“Oh come on,” Clint whined and quickly stuck his foot out when Tony went to close the door on him. “You don’t even know what I was going to ask.”

Tony rolled his eyes as he pulled the door open again and headed back into the apartment, Clint following him into the living room.

“I know exactly what you were going to ask and the answer is no. A resounding no, in fact.”

“It would only be temporary. A trial basis, if you will.”

Tony fixed Clint with an extremely judgemental glare as he flopped gracefully down onto the couch. “No. You said us having Lucky was only going to be temporary and he ended up with us for four weeks.”

“And you loved every single second,” Clint shot back immediately.

Tony refused to answer. Having the daft mutt around hadn’t actually been that bad – not that he would ever admit it. Lucky was a very chill dog and who only required slow walks, lots of rubs and the occasional treat of pizza. Having an extra houseguest had actually been kind of nice, but that didn’t mean that Tony had changed his mind about the whole thing.

Clint’s shoulders slumped. “I really need someone to look after Lucy this weekend. I have to go on a mission and I don’t want to leave him.”

Tony really didn’t want to know, but he found himself opening his mouth and asking “Lucy?” anyway.

At Clint’s sudden beam, Tony realised that he was right. He really didn’t want to know.

“Yeah,” Clint said happily, “Lucy. Short for Lucifer.”

“I’m sorry. You want me to house an animal that you have named Lucifer?”

“Only for a week,” Clint promised. “Two weeks, tops.”

/

“Stay over there,” Tony said sternly, finger pointing in the dog’s face. Even as he looked into those big (beautiful) brown eyes, he hated himself. “No, I mean it, you little blob. Stay right there.”

Tony kept his eyes on the small animal for a long moment before he straightened up and let his hand fall back to his side. He turned back and pushed the front door shut before he took a few steps down the hallway, listening out for voices in the house.

Before too long there was a tiny patter of feet, the tapping of claws against the tiled floor as the small dog plodded over to join him.

“That was the opposite of what I told you to do.” Tony glared down at the small dog looking up at him innocently. “Literally the exact opposite. You are going to blow my cover and then Steve is going to make me sleep on the couch for a month. You got that? We were meant to be cool. Suave, even. Go back over there before somebody sees you.”

Lucy didn’t seem too bothered by Tony’s distress and merely poked his tongue out, his tail wagging happily.

“Who the hell are you talking to?”

Tony startled and hunched his shoulders up to his ears. He knew that voice and he could only hope that Steve was alone to make the whole process a little easier.

“No one,” he said entirely unconvincingly.

There was a small pause where Tony could feel Steve’s judgement before a tinny yap sounded from somewhere around Tony’s ankle and broke the silence.

“Puppy!”

Great. Tony dropped his head back and groaned long and loud. Steve wasn’t alone; that was just great.

“Puppy, Daddy! A puppy!”

Tony turned around to see Steve raising his eyes to the sky and their young son squirming in Steve’s arms, reaching out to the ground with grabbing hands as he tried to get down.

“Papa, puppy! I wanna see the puppy.”

Steve glared at Tony as he tried to keep a hold of the wriggling child.

“This is literally the exact opposite of what I told you to do, Tony,” Steve said and Tony winced at the bite in his tone. “You were meant to say no. I was very clear about that.”

“I did!” Tony cried, surging forward to grab Peter when the kid made a dive for the floor and finally made it out of a startled-Steve’s hold. “I told Clint ‘no’ about four hundred times, but he just brought the thing round and practically threw it at me. What was I meant to do?”

“Peter’s never going to let this go,” Steve groaned, just as Peter’s whines began to grow and he struggled in earnest. “Oh, just let him down already. It’s too late now.”

“No,” Tony said, aghast. “If I put him down then that’s it. We’re going to be stuck with the… p-u-p-p-y.”

Steve rolled his eyes as a small smile tugged at his lips. He took a step forward and plucked Peter out of Tony’s arms, setting the child on the floor with a fond sigh. As soon as Peter’s socked feet touched the floor, he dropped to his knees and threw his chubby arms around the tiny ball of fluff happily yapping away.

“I think we already are, sweetheart.”

Chapter Text

Thor leant over the back of the couch and clasped Tony’s shoulders excitedly. Tony winced ever so slightly under the weight but returned the man’s smile.

“I can’t believe you are engaged, my friend! This is a wonderful day.”

“I can’t believe he beat you to it,” Clint snarked from opposite them, sticking out his tongue at Thor’s playful glare. “Who would have thought the team’s commitment-phobe would beat Midgard’s power couple down the aisle?”

“I have to admit,” Bruce said, looking over at Steve and smiling warmly, “that I always thought Steve was going to be the one to ask,”

Steve blushed and turned away, burying his head in Tony’s shoulder for a moment as Tony laughed loudly, lifting his legs and tucking them up underneath himself.

“There was no way that Steve would ever have been the one to ask,” Bucky replied and grinned widely when Steve lifted his head just enough to shoot him a dark look, cheeks still stained red. “Have you actually met this guy? It took about six months for him to even confess he had a crush on Tony. No way he would ever be brave enough to pop the question.”

Before Steve could snap back an angry retort, Natasha collapsed on the couch next to Tony with a glass of wine in her hand and let out a very unlike-her sort of squeal.

“I need details!”

Steve kissed Tony on the cheek and stood up. “You know what; I’m going to call my ma. You can tell the story, but please don’t give Nat all of the details – just brush over some of them. You know the ones I’m talking about.”

Steve left the room and headed into the kitchen, grabbing a glass of wine from Sam and his cell from the coffee table on his way and only stopping to smack Bucky on the back of his head. Clint sat down next Tony in Steve’s abandoned seat and reached across him to share Natasha’s wine.

“Go on, then,” he said, nudging Tony as he took a sip. “Give us the details.”

Tony dropped his gaze to his lap and muttered something intelligible. He looked up in time to see his friends exchanging confused glances and shrugging.

“--what?”

“--wait, what?”

“--say that again--”

Tony sighed and threw his head back onto the couch cushion behind him with a groan. “I didn’t do it on purpose.”

“What?”

“The proposal,” Tony clarified, letting his gaze wander over to Bruce. He figured Bruce would be the most sympathetic to his idiocy at that moment. “We just hadn’t spent any quality time together for the last few weeks and I missed him. The other night we were in the bath after a day spent just the two of us and it was nice and…” Tony’s voice trailed off again as his cheeks flamed a vicious scarlet.

There was a long moment of silence before Clint suddenly burst out laughing.

“And what?” Bruce asked kindly, ignoring Clint as he nearly chortled himself right off the couch.

“He was giving me a massage,” Tony practically whispered, “and it just sort of slipped out. It felt good and I realised I wanted to feel that way forever so I asked him to marry me.”

There was another moment of quiet, broken only by the occasional snort from Clint and the smack of Natasha’s hand against his shoulder. Just when it sounded like Clint had gotten himself under control, Sam’s restraint broke and he set Clint off again, their loud laughter filling the air.

Tony resigned himself to his fate and leant back, letting his friends – well, maybe he would rethink that description – get it all out. Eventually, Bucky cleared his throat and leant forward to rest his elbows on his knees, fixing his eyes on Tony.

“Did you not mean it?”

“I meant it!” Tony hastened to say, voice strong as he lifted himself up to protest in earnest. “Of course I meant it. I just didn’t mean to do it when we were naked in the bathtub.”

At that, Clint completely lost it again and Natasha didn’t look too far away from joining him. Bruce was trying to be loyal to him, pressing his lips together in a weak attempt to prevent himself from adding his laughter to Sam’s raucous sniggers, but Bucky was definitely judging him and not trying to hide it in the slightest.

“I meant to ask him next week,” Tony continued a little defensively, dropping his gaze from everyone else’s once more and picking at his nails. “I had a lot of planning and reservations in place for a big grand proposal; I bought the ring about six months ago and I was hoping to give it to him during the speech, not about 12 hours later. Was gonna take him to the – well, it doesn’t matter now, does it? It just, it just sort of slipped out. I couldn’t stop myself.”

“Well, you’re a disaster,” Bucky said with a roll of his eyes, a fond smile tugging at the corner of his lips. “But it’s the thought that counts, I guess.”

“Yes, it is.”

They all startled when they heard Steve’s soft voice from behind them and Tony winced. He turned slowly, his expression sheepish and his shoulders up near his ears.

“Hey, baby. How’s your mom?”

“Good,” Steve said, his face calm and not giving away a thing. He held out for another moment before he cracked and let the corners of his mouth quirk up into a smile, growing wider when Sam started laughing again. Steve slid his phone into his pocket as he pushed himself off the doorframe and walked further into the room, kicking at Clint until the man got the hint and gave up his seat, throwing himself to the floor instead. “She sends her love.”

“Good.” Tony leant into Steve’s side automatically, dropping his head onto the other man’s shoulder and rubbing his cheek against the wool of his sweater. He stared resolutely down at the floor as he tried to keep his voice even. “Still on for Sunday?”

“Yeah,” Steve said, his hand curling around Tony’s knee as his fingers began to rub absentmindedly over the worm denim. “She said she can’t wait to see everyone. I am thinking about uninviting Clint though.”

“Oi!”

Steve grinned at the indignant expression on his friend’s face. “I absolutely will if you don’t stop laughing. I mean it, man.”

Clint held up his hands placatingly. “Sorry, sorry. It’s just classic Tony.” He pressed his lips together for a long moment in a clear attempt to stop any laughter from sounding before he gave in and pushed himself up to stand. “Nope, I can’t. I thought I could, but I’m sorry – I just can’t.”

Tony buried his face in his hands with an embarrassed groan as Clint and Sam left the room holding each other up as they struggled to walk and laugh. Bruce looked between Steve and Tony before he too let a loud chuckle escape from his mouth and quickly stood to follow the others.

“Hey,” Steve murmured, reaching out to pull Tony’s hand down. “Look at me.”

Tony just whined loudly into his palms, causing Steve to sigh fondly. Steve met Natasha’s eyes pleadingly over Tony’s head and she jumped into action, standing gracefully from the couch and grabbing the far-too-interested Bucky and Thor to empty the room.

“Sweetheart, please. They’re all gone. Just look at me, please.”

Tony finally did as asked, though he made his reluctance clear as he pouted dramatically, eyes hooded and lip jutting out almost to the point of pain. Steve gave a sweet smile and lifted his hand to cup Tony’s cheek.

“I don’t care how you proposed, Tony,” Steve promised, his words and the soft look in his eyes for Tony only, “I only care that you did, you fool. You could have asked me anywhere in any way and I’d still have said yes. Who cares what anybody else thinks? It wasn’t them I was saying yes to. Because it was a yes, just like it will always be. Whether you ask me outside or in, come hell or high water, in snow or on a beach. If it’s you asking, I will always say yes.”

And really, when he was staring into Steve’s loving gaze and feeling the coolness of the man’s ring against his cheek, it didn’t even matter that Tony could still hear his friends’ collective laughter from down the hall. Nothing mattered except the perfect way that Steve’s lips moulded against his own.

Chapter Text

“God, I love you,” Tony muttered, his head falling backwards and hitting the wall as Steve began to press open-mouthed kisses down the column of his throat.

“I love you, too,” Steve said before he started to suck a deep bruise just below Tony’s pulse point.

They could have happily stayed there in their own little bubble, sharing long kisses and lazily grinding against the other with no intention to move things further had there not suddenly been a loud throat-clearing from behind them.

Tony ignored Pepper and just spread his legs a little wider to let Steve press even closer as his lips rose to trace the curve of Tony’s jaw.

“You have a meeting to be at in ten minutes.” Pepper’s  toe started to tap a rapid staccato against the tiled floor as she lifted her voice to be heard above Tony’s moans. “You either give Steve up now or I will take him by force.”

Steve let out a startled snort of laughter, but neither Tony or Pepper acknowledged him. His laughter was short-lived, however, when Pepper reached out and took his arm to pull him gently - but with a surprising strength - away from Tony.

“No,” Tony whined, his hands still tightly twisted in Steve’s sweater as he pulled him back, “don’t take kissing away from me.”

“You can have him back after the meeting,” Pepper said firmly, “but I really need your undivided attention for the next hour.”

“An hour? Nope, you’ve blown it. No way am I letting Steve go for an entire hour.”

Steve smothered his laugh into Tony’s neck and jolted with a start as his arm was tugged on again by Pepper. “Okay, one of you is going to have to let me go.”

“Not me,” Tony said and yanked on Steve’s sweater. It was now stretched beyond belief, but when Steve stumbled into him and pinned him to the wall, Tony he found he didn’t really care. “Pep can give you up.”

Pep will do no such thing,” Pepper said haughtily. “I need a signature on a stack of paperwork the size of this tower and I’m damned if I’m letting you get away without doing it for another month. Now, surrender the Captain.”

“But I don’t wanna.”

Steve chuckled and pushed himself up to stand on his own. “You need to go with Pepper, Tony,” he said softly and grinned when Tony’s bottom lip jutted out. “The faster you go, the quicker you can come and join me in our bed, after all.”

Tony’s eyes lit up and he pretended to take a moment to think about it. All pretence was lost when Steve leant in again and whispered in Tony’s ear, something dark and dirty that Tony was all too glad Pepper couldn’t hear.

“Right then,” Tony said loudly, letting go of Steve’s sweater and straightening his own suit jacket. “Meeting it is.”

Steve gave Tony one last dirty kiss with enough tongue to make Pepper crinkle her nose in disgust before he pulled away. “Try to hurry up, darling. I’ll be waiting for you.”

Chapter Text


Tony liked clothes. That much was obvious. Looking good, always looking the best that he could, had been ingrained in him since he was a child. As the only son of a billionaire he was expected to uphold certain standards and always present himself in a particular way. He was meant to look presentable, not approachable, and very photogenic. Suits were tailor made to fit his slim body and heaven forbid he ever get a speck of dirt on his impeccable clothes. The older he got, the more Tony learnt about what he was wearing and the more he began to care. It was obvious that he looked forward to business trips that took him to Europe and that he relished in spending days trawling the finest tailor shops and attending fittings for bespoke suits. 

Even Tony’s lab clothes were expensive and unique pieces made from the finest materials. Nothing but the best for Tony Stark after all. He had designers all over the world falling over themselves to be in with a chance to create pieces for him; suits with bold colours and edgy designs, form-fitting shirts with wacky patterns or ass-hugging pants with delicate stitching. 

Shoes, ties, hell even his boxers were all crafted by hand with a price tag that made even Pepper’s eyes water. 

 

So when he suddenly appeared one morning in a baggy sweater nearly down to his knees with a hole in one sleeve and a truly hideous zig-zag pattern spread across his chest, it raised some eyebrows. Nobody had a chance to question him as Tony barely stopped in the kitchen long enough to be spoken to. As soon as he had made a beeline for the coffee pot and practically inhaled his first mug, he had disappeared down to his lab.

When he reappeared again a couple of days later, Tony was back to his designer clothing, impeccably picked to highlight every aspect of his body. Three weeks went by without a repeat of the strange incident before Tony attended a meeting dressed in another giant sweater, this time in a disgusting shade of beige with a stretched-out collar that revealed a lot of skin. It nearly brought the whole meeting to a halt and, had it not been for Pepper’s ability to keep everyone on track, the entire day would have been lost. Whispers made it through Stark Tower within an hour of the meeting being over and it wasn’t much longer before betting pools began to open.

The next time Tony turned heads with his bizarre clothing was at a press conference for a project launch. As eccentric as he was, nobody had really been expecting Tony to rock up to the podium of such a high-profile event in an argyle jumper. Seeing the owner of Stark Industries in a blue mottled sweater that looked like it had been buried in a closet since the 1960s had thrown a number of reporters and Tony had quickly taken advantage of the stunned silence to flash a couple of flirty smiles and bundle himself and Bruce from the stage and into the back of his limo in record time.

/

“Okay, who keeps stealing all my jumpers?” Steve glared around the room, taking the time to stare down each of his teammates one by one. Each of them stared right back at him with the most overly-innocent eyes and soft shrugs that had ‘suspicious’ written all over them.

“It has to be one of you,” Steve continued with narrowed eyes. “My wardrobe is looking particularly sparse this morning and there’s nobody else that would dare take from me.”

“Don’t look at me,” Bucky said around a mouthful of a cheese sandwich. “What the hell would I want your clothes for? I finally have enough money to own my own things; I don’t have to go anywhere near your mess of a fashion sense.”

“I can definitely see why you’re looking at me,” Clint said with a resigned nod, “but this time I’m not guilty.”

Sam just lifted his eyebrows in derision until Steve huffed and turned away and Natasha grinned unrepentantly when Steve looked at her.

“Have you checked the garbage?”

Rhodey snorted at Clint’s comment and quickly schooled his features into a perfect mask of virtue when Steve’s glare shot to him. His mouth quivered with the effort to hold back his smile and Steve’s face darkened when Rhodey’s smirk broke free.

“What about the local Goodwill?” Sam called out, amusement clear in his tone, “or an old folk’s home?”

“It’s not funny, guys,” Steve muttered, his brow furrowing as he folded his arms across his chest. “I know you all seem to hate my wardrobe, but I really don’t have time to go shopping today.”

“You really don’t know?”

“Whenever one of my jumpers goes into the laundry, it never makes it back to me,” Steve said, a hint of anger bleeding into his tone. “Whoever is taking them, give them all back right now. If I find out which one of you it was, so help me God. I’ll have you sent on every two-bit mission I can find. I’ll even invent some just for fun. I hear Siberia is nice this time of year.”

Rhodey finally took pity on Steve and cleared his throat. When Steve looked to him he gave another quirk of his lips and stretched his arm out along the back of the couch casually. “You really don’t know? You don’t have even the slightest clue?”

Steve’s eyes shot between all of his friends, noticing and hating the looks they were all sharing that screamed that they were all in on some big joke that Steve didn’t get.

“I don’t have time for this,” Steve sighed irritably and his patented Captain-America-is-Disappointed-in-you face came into play. “Whoever took them just give me them back. I have a date tonight and I need-”

Steve’s voice trailed off into nothing when Tony suddenly entered the room, his eyes down on the tablet in his hands as his mouth moved silently along with whatever he was reading. He was wearing artfully ripped jeans and bright socks, but Steve’s eyes were drawn to Tony’s chest. His whole torso, really, where one of Steve’s own jumpers was wrapped around him, shielding him from the bitter New York winter and then some. The jumper was an old one, even by Steve’s standards, with a frayed hem and loose thumb holes worn into the cuffs. It had long since seen better days and wouldn’t look out of place in a dog’s bed, but Steve felt his mouth drop open at the sight before him.

He knew Tony was an attractive man. Anyone with eyes knew that Tony was an attractive man, but seeing him in Steve’s clothes awakened something that Steve hadn’t known he had in him. It was like a flame deep in his stomach, hot and burning as it rose up his chest and all the way into his throat. It was almost clawing at Steve, this sudden sensation, the urge to march across the room and take. Not take his clothing back, no, but rather to take Tony. To mark Tony with his lips as well as his clothes, to wrap him in his arms and hold him safe and tight against his chest so that everyone would know. So that the whole world would know that Tony was Steve’s, and in the same vein, know that Steve was Tony’s.

It was sudden and it was scary. It was a thought that had come seemingly out of the blue, but one that somehow made perfect sense at the same time.

How was Steve only just realising that Tony’s lips were that full and that his hair wasn’t actually that dark at all, but more of a golden brown? How had it taken him so long to see the laughter lines around his eyes or the tiny splattering of grey along his hair line?

“Oh, hey, Cap.” Tony must have felt the heavy gaze burning a hole in the side of his head as he finally lifted his eyes from the screen in front of him and gave a small smile. “What’s going on?”

“Where did you get that sweater?”

Tony looked down, his face morphing into something close to surprise as he took in what he was wearing.

“I’m not sure,” he finally said and looked back up to Steve with a shrug, a hint of confusion slipping into his eyes and colouring his tone. “I don’t recognise it, but it was in my wardrobe. Thought maybe it was Rhodey’s; it’s ugly enough to be.”

Steve couldn’t even find it in himself to be mad at Tony’s comments when the colour of the wool, as faded as it was, made the man’s eyes so much brighter.

“Why do you ask? You after something as sophisticated as this? I know how much of an influencer I am these days.”

“No,” Steve finally managed to say. He swallowed and licked his lips, suddenly aware of how dry they were as he prepared himself to dip his toe into the water. “It suits you, is all.”

He relished in the rare and wonderful sight of Tony Stark lost for words as he turned on his heel and left the room. As much as Steve would have loved to have stayed and savoured the sight of tanned skin made so much darker against the tone of the washed-out maroon, he had a phone call to make and a date to cancel.

 

 

 

And maybe a few more items of clothing to throw to the tower’s laundry service.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Oh, so you’ve started stealing my socks now, have you?”

Tony shoved his leg between Steve’s and curled closer into his side. “You have no proof.”

Steve laughed and wrapped his arm tighter around Tony, digging his fingers lightly into the man’s sensitive side to feel him squirm. “I can see my name stitched around your ankle, sweetheart.”

Tony lifted his head just high enough off Steve’s chest to squint down the bed. “Who the hell has their name stitched into their socks?”

“People who need to be wary of thieves,” Steve replied, tugging Tony back down and running his hand through messy hair, “that’s who.”

“Surely you have bigger things to worry about than losing your socks?” Tony asked around a yawn and Steve chuckled.

“Maybe. But I thought we’d curbed your stealing habits with the sweaters, anyway. ”

“Woah, stealing?” Tony’s fingers danced up and down Steve’s treasure trail absentmindedly. “What’s yours is mine and all of that. It’s not stealing if I’m entitled to it.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s only true if you’re married,” Steve commented lightly, his eyes slipping closed with the warm weight of Tony comforting him.

“Oh.” Tony was quiet for a moment before he slid one of his stolen-sock-clad feet up and down Steve’s calf. “Did we not take care of that already?”

“No,” Steve said, his smile clear in his voice, “we did not.”

“Huh.” Tony pressed even closer and kissed Steve’s chest, his breath hot when he spoke again. “Maybe we should get on that.”

Steve smiled into Tony’s hair. “Yeah, okay. Maybe we should.”

Chapter Text

All Tony wanted was to curl up into bed with his husband and to switch off the whole world for at least eight hours. Twelve, if he thought he could get away with it, but that was probably asking for too much. He was proud to say that he had even left the workshop at a relatively reasonable hour for once, so that must make him deserving of a good, uninterrupted sleep.

As he stumbled his way up to their floor fighting off yawns, his blinks got longer and longer as his eyes ached to stay closed and start their slumber early. Finally, the elevator stopped and opened into his living room, waking Tony up with the annoying beep that it played. He needed to look into sorting that out, he told himself as he finally walked into his bedroom.

A small smile pulled at his lips at the sight of Steve already in their bed, sitting up and leaning back against the headboard, though it froze when he saw that Steve wasn’t alone.

Tony stopped in the doorway at the sight before him: namely, Bucky Barnes curled up beside Steve with his head resting in Tony’s husband’s lap. Steve was using the hand that wasn’t holding his book open to stroke softly through Bucky’s long hair and down over his back, fingers soothing out creases in Bucky’s worn sleep shirt. Tony half-recognised it as one of Steve’s, actually, one that Tony himself had often worn.

The two men in the bed both tensed up when they saw Tony standing in the doorway, Bucky’s hands sliding subtly up the bed until they could wrap around Steve’s leg. Tony’s eyes wandered to where Bucky’s fingers were tightening until they were digging into Steve’s calf with a pressure that would have been painful to a normal person. It was clear that he was drawing strength, though his face remained impassive as he stared straight ahead at Tony, eyes apprehensive but jaw locked tight.

There were a few tense moments before Tony did nothing more than shrug lightly as he crossed the room, continuing into the bathroom to get ready for bed. He pottered around whilst he cleaned his teeth and washed his face and when he exited the bathroom he saw both Bucky and Steve looking at him. It was clear that neither of them had moved, with their expressions reading almost nervous and even a little incredulous, the two of them just as still and as tense as they had been when he had walked into the en-suite.

“What?” Tony asked slowly, voice unsure as his eyes flickered between the two men on the bed. His gaze settled on his husband and Tony quirked an eyebrow in question, trying to come off as cocky even as his shoulders slumped.

Steve didn’t say anything and Tony groaned inwardly. Of course he had done something, he thought to himself. It was obviously his fault, hence the silent treatment, but maybe he could push the argument back until tomorrow morning so that he could get some much needed sleep. “What did I do this time?”

“What – no; why aren’t you mad?” Steve asked after a moment, squinting over at Tony sceptically.

“Why would I be mad?” Tony asked in confusion. Huh, okay. So maybe it wasn’t actually something that Tony had done for once, and a small hint of relief seeped back in. He thought about the situation for a moment more before he reworded his question. “Should I be mad?”

Steve levelled Tony with a strange look, a little reserved even as he continued his argument. Tony wasn’t used to seeing Steve guarded around him, and he wasn’t sure that he liked it.

“I mean, I am in our bed with another man.”

“Well, yeah, but not really. It’s just Bucky,” Tony said simply, as if that cleared things up.

It hadn’t been all that long since Bucky had reappeared in Steve’s life, but everybody knew the story of the two men, practically brothers, that had lost each other and been reunited nearly ten decades later. It was a legend and reporters had been jumping on the story since Bucky Barnes had been found alive and… not quite well. Bucky had been welcomed by everyone with open arms, fitting in like a missing piece, and was doing fantastic when one considered what he had gone through in his life.

“He’s in our bed,” Steve said, softly but insistently. “Tony, it’s just – well… there have been so many rumours printed lately that–”

“Steve,” Tony interrupted, holding up a hand as a small smile played around his lips. So that’s what this was about; it wasn’t Tony’s fault after all. In the several years that he and Steve had been married, they had never once doubted the other, even when the papers were filled with ridiculous gossip and libel in weak attempts to hurt them. Sometimes pictures were printed in an effort to support the lies, but they were scarily easy to brush to one side when you loved someone as much as Tony loved Steve. “If we were the sort of people that listened to rumours then you would never have gotten with me in the first place.”

“All the rumours about you were baseless accusations and downright slander.”

Tony couldn’t help the smile that graced his face at Steve’s unhesitant and protective defence and shook his head lightly. It was just typical Steve. No matter who he was in front of, Steve had always gone out of his way to defend Tony; he often even went as far as to take his defence to the press themselves with all the fury of Captain America, seeking reporters out to give his piece of mind. Steve had done so since before they had even gotten together officially and he hadn’t slowed down for a minute since their wedding. Tony swallowed down his grin as much he could as he crossed the room to the wardrobe and bent down to the drawers near the bottom, reaching in to find a fresh pair of pyjamas.

“Well then, there you go. The ones about you two are just the same.” He froze as he pulled out his clothes and turned his head slowly, eyes widening as a thought struck him suddenly, panic rising in his chest and up into his throat. “Aren’t they?”

“Yes,” Steve said quickly, immediately. It was said with such conviction that Tony couldn’t help but give another smile. If that hadn’t been enough to make Tony believe it – although he had never really doubted Steve for a second – the way that Bucky’s face screwed up in involuntary disgust before soothing back out to a careful blankness a mere second later sealed the deal.

“Fine, then,” Tony continued, his heart rate dropping back down to something close to normal. He turned back to the wardrobe and closed the drawer with his foot as he began to get changed, completely uncaring that Bucky was in the room. The man was now looking the other way, but even if he wasn’t Tony wasn’t exactly shy and it was nothing that no one on the team had not seen before anyway.

“Besides, I’m so much cooler than Barnes anyway. Why would you pick him when you could have me?”

Steve’s mouth quirked up into a grin as Tony shot a wink over his shoulder. “Why, indeed?”

“I get it, babe” Tony continued as he shimmied into his sleep pants and kicked away his jeans. “It’s okay. Bucky had a rough day today. I saw the little panic in the kitchen earlier long before the press conference even started and I–”

“It was more than a little panic,” Bucky said suddenly, his voice quiet even as a growl underpinned his speech.

“Not really,” Tony disagreed lightly before Steve could say anything. Tony purposely kept his tone causal and breezy as he pulled his shirt over his head, turning around when he was done but not looking down at Bucky. “It was totally justified if you ask me. I’d have done a hell of a lot worse. Have done a lot worse, actually.” 

Bucky scoffed and twisted his head to bury himself in Steve’s leg, hiding his face as though the memories of the day could be wiped away if no one could see him. Tony was used to that feeling, but he had learnt from personal experience that life didn’t work quite like that. Sharing a look with Steve over the top of Bucky’s head, Tony bit his lip and climbed into bed.

“Jarv? Get the lights, please. Leave the lamps, though.”

Jarvis obeyed Tony’s command and just as Tony had gotten himself comfortable under the intimidating amount of blankets that Steve liked to pile on top of them, Bucky sighed deeply and disrupted the whole bed. In the dim light, Tony saw how Bucky’s hands began to shake around Steve’s leg as he pushed himself up and made to get out of Steve’s embrace.

“Where are you going, Buck?” Steve asked immediately, his hands hovering over Bucky’s shoulders as he leant forward, alert and concerned.

“To bed?” Bucky said hesitantly, lifting an eyebrow at his friend as his eyes glanced over to Tony before back to Steve quickly.

“Um, you’re in a bed,” Tony pointed out, squinting at Bucky as he patted the comforter back down around him before any cold air could get in. “I know it might have been a while since you had one, but…”

Steve rolled his eyes at Tony and reached over to poke him lightly in the side. Tony fell back dramatically with the movement, a soft huff of laughter escaping him as he righted himself and gave Steve a cheeky wink.

“But–”

“Just go to sleep,” Tony said in response to Bucky’s stuttering as he adjusted the pillow under his head. “This bed is big enough for seven, so don’t worry, you won’t touch me in the middle of the night and offend your delicate sensibilities.”

Bucky huffed at that but made to keep protesting when Tony sighed loudly and pushed himself further up the bed.

“You obviously won’t sleep if you go to your room and if you don’t sleep then that means that Steve won’t sleep because he’ll be worrying about you all night long. If Steve won’t be able to sleep, I won’t sleep and I actually need to get some shuteye for once because I have a presentation in the morning so…” Tony reached out a hand and grabbed a hold of Bucky’s sleeve, yanking him back to lie down on the bed between him and Steve. “Lie down and shut up.”

It was a testament to how much Bucky didn’t want to be alone that he actually let himself be pulled back onto the bed, not fighting the touch at all like he would have done once. Hell, even that morning he would have shied away from any and all forms of contact.

Steve watched with a smile as Tony shuffled around a little bit more, scooting back obediently when Tony pushed Bucky gently into him and off of Tony’s favoured pillow.

“Oh my… how many blankets do we… this is getting out of hand.”

When Tony was finally settled and comfortable beneath the four hundred layers he lifted his head expectantly and met Steve’s gaze over Bucky’s awkward body.

“Goodnight, darlin’,” he said and smiled when Steve didn’t hesitate for a second about leaning over his best friend, obediently squashing Bucky between them as he bent down to drop a long kiss to his husband’s lips.

When he pulled away, Tony watched as Steve twisted to place his book on the bedside table and flicked off the lamp before he lay down too. It was a little strange, sharing their space with someone else and therefore not being able to cuddle close to Steve as he would normally do every other night, but when Steve held out his arm above Bucky’s head, it felt just like usual. Tony took his husband’s hand eagerly, linking their fingers together.

Steve lifted his head to whisper a goodnight to Bucky before they noticed that the man was fast sleep between them already, the lines of his forehead smoothed out and his whole face looking a lot younger than he usually did. Tony grinned at the softness on Steve’s face at the sight and squeezed his husband’s fingers a little tighter as he let his eyes finally slip closed.

It had been a funny year and in some ways it wasn’t getting easier but in other ways, well, maybe it was.

Chapter Text

“You owe me a kiss.”

“Please do not start that again.”

“What? You promised me way back when you were twelve that when you graduated, you’d give me the first kiss of the day.”

“That was because I was a young, broken-hearted and extremely affectionate kid. Gwen had just ended things with me when I made that promise, remember?”

“And I was the one who consoled you. It was me who told you that there were bigger and better things and that you should focus on homework instead of silly girls. Now look at you! A high-school graduate who owes me a hug, at the very least.”

“Get the hell away from me.”

“Excuse me?” Tony clapped his hand over his heart as he stared at Peter in faux-horror. He looked over to Steve who was doing his best to look as though he wasn’t with them, though the corners of his mouth were definitely curved upwards. “Who the hell taught you to swear like that?”

Peter rolled his eyes impressively hard as he let out a loud sigh and dodged out of Tony’s reach, pulling out his phone when it pinged obnoxiously loudly. “I swear, you are the most embarrassing parent in the world. Dad, help me out.”

Any words Tony had been about to say died in his throat, but Peter didn’t notice.

“MJ just texted. She’s heading over to the restaurant. Are we gonna meet her there?” Peter finally looked up from his phone at the lack of a reply and glanced between Steve and Tony in confusion, his brow furrowed. “What?”

“Parent?” Tony finally choked out.

Peter’s brow creased even more as he stared long at hard at Tony before turning his gaze to Steve, his fingers going slack on his phone screen. “What? Are you joking?”

“Peter, you know I’m–”

“My parent,” Peter finished decisively.

Steve was stood there frozen and Peter glared at him for another moment until the lack of his dad’s response caused him to shake his head derisively.

Tony’s shoulders fell and his eyes flickered over to Steve for a second in a clear panic. “I’m just–”

“Just as embarrassing as my actual dad,” Peter cut in, his voice hard. “I think you’ve won the title of parent.”

“But…”

“For God’s sake, Tony,” Peter snapped angrily, stamping his foot on the floor, “you know you’re my dad. You’ve been dating my actual dad since I was what, ten? Eleven? Hell, you’re marrying him; we’re going to have the same name soon enough. You live with us, for crying out loud.”

Now that he’d started, it seemed that he just couldn’t stop, the words tumbling out in a rush as his cheeks flushed a dark red. “You’ve been around since I can remember and you’ve never once walked out, no matter what I did. Tony, you’ve taken me to gym practice and picked me up from school for years, bought me clothes and food and spoilt me since day one. What the hell did you think a parent did? Wiped away tears and teased me about having crushes? Helped me with homework and embarrassed me in front of my best friends? Because you’ve done that nearly every day since we met.”

Steve took a step closer to Tony in a silent show of support, but otherwise made no motion to interrupt his son. Tony’s gaze was flicking between the two of them, unsure, confused, and a far cry from his usual confident persona.

“Tony,” Peter said softly, calling Tony’s attention to stay on him. His face was open and honest with the barest hint of hurt shining in his eyes. “You are my dad. It’s been… you really didn’t know?”

“Well, you never called me…” Tony said, his voice hoarse before he trailed off. “I was always just ‘Tony’, so I, well. I’m just your dad’s… you know. Yeah.”

Steve wrapped his arm around Tony’s waist and held him close. Tony leant into the touch and turned his head to look up at him, though he kept his eyes on Peter’s until the very last moment.

“You’re okay with sharing him with me?”

Steve smiled and leant forward to press his lips to Tony’s forehead. “Sweetheart, ever since that first time you comforted him after a nightmare and brought him into my bed instead of just putting him back in his own, he has been yours as much as mine. And I couldn’t be happier for it.”

Tony gave a strangled sort of cough and cleared his throat, though when he spoke his voice was still choked up. “Well, who would have thought it? Me with a husband and a kid.”

“Now you just need a dog and you’ll have the full set,” Peter snarked and Steve’s hand shot out to point at him.

“Do not start,” Steve said, doing his best to hide his smile, “you are about to leave for college and I’m not getting stuck with tidying up after a dog.”

Peter rolled his eyes, but his own smile was pretty clear. He shoved his phone into his pocket and stepped forward, stretching out his arms and sliding them around Tony’s waist.

“Thanks for everything,” he whispered into Tony’s neck. “Dad.”

Peter relaxed into Tony’s body as the man’s arms wrapped around his shoulders and held him tight. He didn’t say anything about the way that Tony’s body was shaking minutely, or the way that his breathing was a little ragged above his head. Peter didn’t even complain when Steve joined in the hug, squishing him even further into Tony’s chest and no doubt in full view of his entire class. Oh well, at least they’d graduated now and Peter wouldn’t have to face them again.

“You’re welcome, kiddo,” Tony murmured into his hair, his arms squeezing until the embrace was on the verge of being painful. “You are so welcome.”

Chapter Text

“How did you get in here?”

Tony paused in crossing the hospital room to give Steve a funny look as if the man had lost his mind. Steve resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the insult; he’d only been in a small explosion, thank you very much. His brain was very much intact – it was just the rest of his body that needed some rest and relaxation. And maybe a bandage or two.

“The door,” Tony said slowly.

“Let me rephrase that,” Steve said, dryness flooding his tone. Typical Tony Stark, bringing out the sarcasm in everyone. “What did you say to them them to let you in? They told me I wasn’t allowed visitors yet.”

“Oh.” Tony flushed almost scarlet and Steve’s eyebrows hit the ceiling. He’d never seen Tony look embarrassed before. He was used to seeing Tony bright and in control at all times, not shying away from meeting Steve’s gaze. “There may have been some yelling.”

“Yelling?” Steve questioned. He was pretty sure that this wasn’t what the lovely nurses had meant by him ‘keeping calm’ and doing ‘nothing strenuous’. Whenever Tony was involved, things tended to get strenuous. And not even in the fun way. Unfortunately.

“Mhm.” Tony nodded and ran his tongue over his teeth sheepishly. “It might also be possible that the nurses think you’re my husband. Apparently only family is allowed in in these sorts of situations. So I may have embellished the truth.”

“What?” Steve coughed and spluttered when the wound in his side protested to the force of his yell. “You’re my what? And what truth is there to embellish?”

“Shush!” Tony hissed. “Pretty sure you’re not meant to yell at your beloved – the nurse will kick me right out.”

Steve blinked. “My what now?” Maybe he had hit his head, actually. Because there was no way any of this was happening right now.

“Alright, alright.” Tony sighed and his shoulders slumped in defeat, his eyes betraying his hurt even as his words came out light and easy. “I just wanted to check for myself that you were okay, but if it’s such a hardship for you to pretend for all of five minutes that–”

“It’s not a hardship.”

Tony’s mouth snapped shut in surprise and his eyes widened. Steve kept their gazes locked despite the feeling of being over-exposed and vulnerable. It was a weird sensation, but Steve was enjoying the sight before him far too much to look away. Though he hadn’t seen Tony speechless before, he was beginning to think that he could very quickly get used to it. It was definitely strange, but there was also something dangerously cute about the flush creeping up Tony’s cheeks.

“It’s not,” Steve continued, deciding to be honest to his heart for the first time in years, “not really. I think I’d like to be going steady before becoming your husband,” – he carefully ignored the way that Tony mouthed ‘going steady’ with a dumfounded expression and carried on before he lost his nerve, – “but it’s not a hardship to pretend.”

“Huh.” Tony was strangely quiet for a long time, stood frozen in the middle of the room.

With each passing moment, Steve felt the urge to flood his system with his pain meds and fall back into a blissful sleep. Although it was hard to stay awake, he managed to push the aches to the back of his mind and keep his eyes open. He had been brave and confessed to a secret that had been pulling him down for a long time; he needed to hear the answer now.

And if it wasn’t the one he had been hoping and praying for, then he would pass it off as a medication-induced moment of weakness that he couldn’t remember. Well, no one ever said he was good at dealing with his problems.

Finally Tony took a step forward and then another and another until he reached the uncomfortable-looking chair by Steve’s bed and sank down.

“So,” Tony started eventually, the word obviously hesitant. He took a deep breath and reached out slowly, Steve watching with bated breath and a hastily-beating heart. “If I did this it would be okay?”

Steve’s eyes fell to where Tony’s hand was slowly stretching along the bed until it very carefully curled around Steve’s. The touch was cold, but oh so welcome.

Their dance had finally reached its crescendo, Steve realised as he settled back against his pillows and let himself relax. They had finally come together and it was time to start the new movement.

“Yeah,” Steve replied, squeezing his fingers as much as his bruises would let him. “That would be okay.”

Chapter Text

“I don’t really have a choice,” Tony said as he walked into the coffee shop, “I have to get this project finished.”

“Yes, but you don’t have to stay up for four days,” Rhodey replied in exasperation, following Tony up to the counter. “Nobody can stay awake for that long.”

“You know me, honeybunch, I’ve stayed awake for three days before. I can do four with no bother.”

“For starters, that’s impossible. Morning, Rhodey.”

Tony’s head shot around to stare at the barista when his warm voice joined their conversation. It was the tall, blond man that Tony had had his eye on for the four or five months that he and Rhodey had been frequenting the small shop and Tony felt his stomach swoop at the chance to talk to him. Most mornings when they went in, Tony was quite tired and wasn’t exactly up to making conversation with the gorgeous man, choosing instead to lean on Rhodey until the caffeine entered his bloodstream. But today he was surprisingly with it and ready to charm.

Tony pulled himself together and gasped dramatically, throwing his hand over his heart. “It’s like you don’t even know me,” he said in faux-horror before Rhodey could say anything.

“I don’t know you,” the man said, clearly prepared to give as good as Tony could take.

“Yeah, well,” Tony grinned, leaning on one arm against the marble counter as he batted his eyelashes. “What does impossible even mean?”

“It means don’t do it,” Rhodey cut in smoothly. “Hi, Steve. Two black coffee and a latte, if you would.”

“With a few extra shots in the black-”

“With nothing added to the coffees,” Rhodey said firmly and Tony pouted, Steve smiling to himself as he tapped away on the cash register.

“Boring,” he sing-songed. “Anyway, I don’t care what you say. Steve clearly wants to see me do it.”

“Actually,” Steve cut in quickly, panic written all over his face as his gaze shot up from the till, “he doesn’t. It doesn’t sound at all safe.”

“Too late. Challenge accepted.”

“There was no challenge!” Steve’s eyes flickered between Tony and Rhodey, wide and bright. “I didn’t give you a challenge.”

Rhodey sighed in defeat as he fished out his wallet. “You said the trigger word, Steve. Don’t ever tell Tony that something is impossible. He’ll disprove you or die trying.”

Tony grinned widely. “Science, baby.”

Rhodey rolled his eyes and Tony laughed loudly, moving out of the way when Rhodey hip-checked him to reach the card reader.

“You worry too much, sugarplum,” Tony said. “After all, I have an everlasting caffeine supply.”

“Oh no.”

Tony turned with a heartbroken expression and stared at Steve with wide eyes. “What?”

“Absolutely not,” Steve continued, shaking his head. “Not if you’re going to do that to yourself. You can’t be awake for four days straight.”

“You have a duty to your customers.”

“I also kind of like you being alive.”

Tony blinked in shock at Steve’s retort before his smile grew, slow but wide. “Yeah? Why’s that then?”

Steve lifted his chin and held Tony’s gaze with confidence. “Because I think I like you.”

“Oh.” Tony faltered for a second. “Really? Why?”

Rhodey laughed and Steve smiled sweetly.

“No idea,” Steve said, “but I’m pretty sure I do. Want to get a coffee some time?”

“Yes,” Tony answered almost immediately before he bit his lip and looked over to Rhodey for support. Rhodey nodded at him enthusiastically and Tony seemed to glow. “I do really have to get this project finished though. I don’t have a lot of time to get it done now.”

“Well in that case,” Steve said calmly as he turned around to grab a takeaway cup and flick on the machine behind him, “I guess I have no choice but to help you then, do I? Fancy a pastry to go with your coffees?”

Tony’s smile almost hurt his cheeks. “Go on then. I haven’t actually eaten in a day or two.”

Steve’s squawk was almost louder than Rhodey’s and Tony laughed. It was the start of something fun.

Chapter Text

Tony let out a loud noise of dismay. Steve lifted his head from his book and looked over to where Tony was pouting down at his tablet. That was just one more difference between the two of them, Steve thought idly, their preferred methods of relaxation. There were quite a lot of differences, actually, for a couple so solid as they were. For instance, Tony loved his tech, but Steve was still of the firm belief that there wasn’t a greater feeling than a solid book in his hands. Steve smiled at the thought of long-forgotten but frequently repeated arguments and put his finger on the page.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, expecting the answer to be something work-related and to therefore fly right over his head.

“I failed a survey.”

“You… what? How do you fail a survey?”

“The questions were wrong.”

Steve stared at Tony and Tony lifted his gaze to stare right back. Neither of them moved, neither so much as blinked.

“The questions were what now?” Steve asked, his voice monotone and flat. He wasn’t sure what he could say to that, really. Didn’t know what he could say.

“They didn’t have the right answers so I made up my own.”

“…naturally,” Steve said dryly.

“Yeah, you get it.” Tony nodded happily and went back to his tablet, burying his head as he tapped away.

Steve watched him for another long moment. “You’re crazy.”

Tony hummed in reply, his fingers a blur over the screen.

“I meant it,” Steve continued faintly, “you’re insane.”

Tony looked up again and grinned widely. “Problem?”

“Not at all,” Steve said and wasn’t surprised at how true it was. Tony winked at him and Steve felt something inside of him slot into place. “Marry me.”

The way that Tony startled and dropped his tablet would have been comical if Steve hadn’t been so totally focused on the man’s answer with his heart beating almost out of his chest.

“What?”

“I mean it,” Steve replied, voice softening as he held Tony’s gaze. Maybe it wasn’t the right place to propose to a long-term partner – or to propose to anyone for that matter. They were, after all, just sitting in their living room; Tony curled up on the one-person armchair in ripped jeans and a baggy sweater and Steve all the way over on the opposite side of the room, stretched out on the couch and halfway through a crime thriller that would have been terrifying if Steve hadn’t lived through most of what it was describing. “I want to marry you.”

“Because I failed a survey?”

Steve laughed at the blank look on Tony’s face and finally put down his novel. “Yes,” he replied honestly. “Because of that and more. Because of every stupid thing you end up doing and every mess you get yourself in to. I want you no matter what you’re doing.”

Tony stared at him for a long, silent moment before his face split into a beam, bright enough to light up the room. “I want you, too.”

“Yeah?” Steve could hardly dare to believe his luck even as Tony threw down his tablet and stood up to cross the room.

“Yeah. I want to marry you, too.”

With a grin big enough to rival that of the Cheshire Cat, Steve reached for Tony when the man got close enough, grabbing him by the waist and pulling him down sharply. Before he could say anything else, Tony bent down and took Steve’s lips, the kiss automatically becoming hot and wet. Without breaking it for a moment, Tony threw one leg over Steve’s waist and settled himself into Steve’s lap, rocking down into him and groaning. Steve surged up, one hand tightening on Tony’s lap as the other slid up to cup his cheek, and pushed back harder, biting Tony’s bottom lip to hear him moan loudly.

“You mean it?”

Tony panted against Steve’s cheek, his chest heaving as his hands played with Steve’s hair. “Mean what?”

“You’ll marry me?” Steve clarified, leaning forward to lick up Tony’s throat when the man rolled his hips down. “You’ll actually take me?”

“Oh,” Tony said, pulling Steve’s head back up to catch his lips again. “Yes. Always yes.”

“Thank you.” Steve’s leg twitched when Tony started sucking a bruise into his pulse point and his eyes rolled back into his head. “I still think you’re insane.”

“Noted,” Tony replied. “But you still want me, right?”

Steve grinned. “Always yes.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“My God, are you ever going to kiss me? We’ve been dancing for months, Steve; put me out of my misery already.”

“Maybe if you weren’t so drunk, I would.”

“Well, that’s perfect,” Tony murmured into Steve’s neck, pressing closer into Steve’s embrace and relishing in the feel of Steve’s hands around his waist. “You can kiss me now.”

“What did I just say, Tony?” Steve sighed. Steve should never sigh around him, Tony thought absentmindedly as he took a deep breath of Steve’s heavy cologne and exhaled thankfully, he should always be happy. “Not whilst you’re drunk.”

“I’m not,” Tony said, his brow creasing. When he heard Steve give a slight scoff, Tony pushed himself up to stand straight. “Hey, seriously, Steve. You know I’m not drunk.”

“What?”

Tony squinted and leant a little closer, Steve leaning back to counteract the movement. There was a definite air of confusion about Steve and it was clear in his eyes that he was having trouble believing Tony.

“I’m teetotal,” Tony said flatly. “Did you – how did you not know this?”

“What?”

“I don’t drink.”

Steve blinked. It was clear that he wasn’t quite sure what to say, except “ever?”

Tony rolled his eyes. “Yes, ever. Come on, Steve. You’ve worked at the company for years. Did you never think it was strange that I hardly ever come out for works drinks when you pick a bar, or on the times that I did I only ever drank a soda?”

“Huh,” Steve muttered. His hands were still on Tony’s hips, muscles flexing as he thought. “I guess I just assumed that there was something in the soda, you know, or that you had a meeting the next day. You’re a very busy man.”

Tony smiled bitterly. “That I am, darlin’. But no, I don’t drink. I haven’t touched a drop since Rhodey had to pick me off the floor in the second year of my first degree. I was a total mess back then, trust me. Out nearly every night and then stumbling back to the dorm at all hours of the morning in various states. Most of them dreadful. How I even passed my classes, I’ll never know. It was awful, Steve, really.”

Tony swallowed and dropped his gaze to where his fingers were rubbing over the lapels of Steve’s jacket. It really was a lovely material – Tony was going to have to find out where Steve had bought it. It provided a wonderful distraction as well; Tony didn’t often like to talk about his wilder younger days, but some people were worth remembering it for.

“You’d have hated me so much. Most people did, and I was definitely not the sort of person that an upstanding member of society such as yourself would have gone for.” Tony quirked a cheeky smile and was pleased to see that Steve returned it for a moment before he looked back down at his fingers.

“I was just so young and being released into college was my first real taste of freedom. I’d never known anything like it. I went crazy with the independence quite often, too often, but that time I really pushed it too far. Rhodey just completely freaked out.” He took a deep breath and lifted his gaze to Steve’s. The way that Steve’s mouth was hanging open, his lips parted wide enough to catch flies as he stared at Tony in horror, would have been funny if it wasn’t so heart-warming. It meant that Steve really didn’t know.

“It was at a frat party. God, I can still remember it even this many years later. I hadn’t come home by the time Rhodes had gotten up to go to his first class and he, well he said that he ‘had a feeling’ that something had happened to me. Turned up at the house and, yeah, he was right. I was… well. It wasn’t a good sight, trust me. Rhodes took one look at me before screaming at everyone there. The stories are still going round campus, even now. Rumours of the crazy guy who broke into the Cappa House and broke a window, a TV, everything including the President’s nose. I’m still not quite sure how much of that was actually true, but it’s safe to say I wasn’t invited to another party on campus.”

“What happened?” Steve’s voice was soft and he took a tiny step forward, almost subconsciously. Tony felt his shoulders relax a little and he swayed into the touch.

“Rhodey took me to the emergency room. Don’t know how long I was in for – Rhodes hates to talk about it, so don’t ever ask him. I always play him up for overreacting, but granted, I did nearly die so I guess he did the right thing. It happened three more times after that before he got through to me. I was just such a stupid kid and yet he stood by me for so many years. I owe him my life. When I finally realised what an idiot I was being, I ran straight to him and begged him to help me. Begged him to drive me to rehab and lock me away until I could stop the binging and the drinking until I was sick.”

“And he did?”

“Yeah,” Tony said quietly. “He did. The best facility in the state and he didn’t even go to my parents to pay for it. Dad found out somehow and sent the money, – with the condition that it was never spoken of in public, mind you, – but Rhodey and Mama Rhodes were prepared to fund it out of their own pockets. From the day I went in, I promised him I’d never drink again from then on.”

“And you…”

“Never did again. Well, never did from about a year later, at least, when I finished the programme. Sixteen years and counting,” Tony said proudly. It was the one thing in his life that he felt okay for puffing up his chest about. His company had been through and achieved a lot, but that stint in rehab was one thing that he had done all on his own and he carried his chips with pride. “I don’t miss it, either.”

“So what happened tonight?”

“I’m just tired,” Tony said with a soft smile, twisting his fingers into that truly gorgeous material stretched over Steve’s chest. “When I get overly-exhausted, my body acts like it’s drunk. Always has, ever since I was a kid. Jarvis, our housekeeper and the man who basically raised me, used to think it was so funny to have this little six year old tottering around like a drunken man, stumbling and slurring. As soon as my head hits the pillow, I’m out like a light.” He paused and sniffed his collar. “And Carol dropped nearly a full beer down my back in the bar, which didn’t exactly help. That’s no doubt what you can smell. Clint isn’t exactly steady after a couple, either. Scary that he’s my head of security, isn’t it?”

“I’m sorry, Tony,” Steve started contritely, looking like he wanted to sink right through the floor. “Oh, God. I had no idea. Tony, I am so sorry, so–”

“It’s okay.”

“It’s not.” Steve finally pulled his hands away from Tony’s waist and stared at him imploringly. “You’re clearly very proud of your sobriety – as you should be – and for me to accuse you, well.” He shook his head and swallowed. “It was out of line.”

“You didn’t accuse me,” Tony said. And it was true. Tony had had a lot of people try and drag him down over the years or throw his sobriety in his face. He’d had people try and get him to drink by spiking his sodas and he’d had people try and blacken his name by insisting they’d seen him with a glass of whiskey in his hand, or smelt beer on his breath. Steve wasn’t like that; Steve could never be like that. “You didn’t know. I’m not sure how, but you didn’t.”

“I should have known. It’s no excuse. We’ve known each other for a long time, we’re…” Steve trailed off and hesitated for a moment before a light blush crawled up his cheeks. Tony couldn’t help but be charmed by how seriously Steve was taking it all; at how angry he seemed at himself about the whole misunderstanding.

There was another long moment where Steve’s anguish was written all over his face before he took a deep breath and reached out to take Tony’s hand in his. “You were right. We are friends. We’re… well. You should know these things about the people you love.”

It was Tony’s turn to be the one with his mouth hanging open and he gaped for a moment. There was a long silence until he shook himself back to the present and squeezed his fingers around Steve’s, his mouth curving up. “Well, then. Now you know. And now you should kiss me.”

Tony leant forward but Steve jerked his head back at the last second.

Tony’s face fell. “Oh. I’m sorry. I thought – I guess I misread the signs. It’s just that, you said… God, I’m sorry. Please forgive me, Steve.”

With some effort, Tony rolled his shoulders back and stepped away from Steve. It was back to being cordial and Tony swallowed as he brought out his business persona. “I’ll talk to Pepper in the morning. I do hope that you can overlook this and continue with our company, but I totally understand if–”

“What? No, Tony. Stop… please.”

Tony’s expression fell even more, totally crushed by the sudden turn of events. He’d screwed this up remarkably well and now he was going to have to find another brilliant, qualified, talented Head of Marketing and Pepper was going to kill him. Not to mention the whole losing-Steve-thing. Damn. “Of course. I’m so sorry. Pepper will draw up the papers tomorrow and you’ll be offered the most comphren-”

“No, you fool,” Steve cut in and reached out to take Tony’s hand again and yank him closer, sliding his arms around Tony’s waist. “I want to kiss you. I want to do everything with you, you brilliant, brilliant man.”

“But?”

“But I’ve been drinking tonight,” Steve said, regret colouring his tone. His hands linked together at the base of Tony’s spine as Tony slid his hands up Steve’s chest. “Sixteen years sober, Tony; that is amazing and you’re not going to throw that away for one kiss.”

Tony smiled and jumped up onto his tiptoes to press a kiss to Steve’s cheek, trying to stamp down on the swooping in his stomach. “Well, then. You’d better come and find me tomorrow morning, hadn’t you?”

 

Chapter Text

“That’s not even fair.”

Steve smiled as Tony rolled over and threw himself on top of Steve at the loud blaring of the alarm, burying his head in Steve’s neck and muttering darkly. Lifting his hand to soothe through unruly hair, Steve shifted his hips so that Tony could curl more comfortably against the line of his body.

“Life so rarely is, my darling.”

“But I swear I just went to bed,” Tony whined, pressing even closer and pouting, his lips brushing Steve’s pulse point as he tried to shut out the world. “Literally just. The alarm can’t be going off already.”

“That’s the thing about mornings,” Steve said, a smile clear in his voice, “they come round so quickly when you actually go to sleep.”

“It’s a trap. This is why you shouldn’t sleep.”

Steve laughed as his hand ran down Tony’s back, his fingers dancing over every bump of Tony’s spine. “No, this is why you should get more sleep. So that you stop being so surprised by the sun and so you can wake up feeling refreshed.”

“I don’ wanna be refreshed,” Tony muttered, pushing up his hips back slightly into Steve’s touch, “I wanna be asleep.”

Steve laughed and straightened his leg, nudging at Tony’s until the other man got the hint and threw his own leg over Steve’s. “Then go back to sleep.”

“Really?” Tony murmured, his eyes already closed despite his words, “you’ll let me? Don’t we have to get up and do super secret spy stuff? Meetings and all that nonsense to save the world.”

“I think we’re okay, sweetheart. The world can wait for us to enjoy five more minutes. Just this once.”

“Okay,” Tony sighed thankfully, his words slurring, “night, babe.”

Steve chuckled again and craned his neck to kiss Tony’s head. “Just this once.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Tony!”

Tony startled when he heard his name being yelled across the quad. He looked around and saw a tall, blond man looking around him as he shouted.

“Tony, come here!”

What had he done? Did he even recognise that guy? Tony didn’t think he had seen that man before, but then again he’d been up for about 30 hours and he didn’t know what he knew anymore. When the man shouted his name again, he figured he had to know him. Why else would the guy be screaming at him?

Maybe there was a study group that Tony was meant to be at or something along those lines. Or he could have skipped a lecture with a quiz or there might be a reading discussion he’d forgotten he was meant to be at. He wouldn’t be surprised, but Pepper was very good at letting him know where he was supposed to be. Especially if he was meant to be running said discussion or handing out the quizzes to his class. It was kind of important for him to be at those sorts of things.

With a sigh, Tony collected himself and headed over to the still-shouting man. Time to face the music.

“You looking for me?”

The man jumped half a mile in the air when Tony sidled up to him and spoke.

“Sorry?” he asked slowly.

“You called for me,” Tony said slowly.

The man’s brow furrowed in confusion and he narrowed his eyes. “No, I didn’t?”

“Oh.”

Damn, Tony was tired. If he was hearing things then he definitely needed sleep. It didn’t usually get to that stage until about the 40th hour mark. With that thought, Tony garbled an apology and gathered himself to begin heading home again, back across the quad towards the bus stop.

Tony!

That was definitely his name that time, no doubt about it. Tony whirled around again and narrowed his eyes at the man. There was just no way that that wasn’t his name and he was the only guy near at such a late hour on a Tuesday. So, by that logic, this man must be calling out to him.

“Tony, seriously. This isn’t funny. Come here, boy. I’ll give you a cookie.”

He tried! He’d gone over there once and he was told to leave. What more could he do? Tony sighed and rubbed his hand over his forehead in an attempt to stave off the oncoming headache. One last try and he was going to go home and bury himself in his bed, forgetting about life for the foreseeable future.

“Hey!” Tony started walking again, lifting his hand and waving at the man. “What do you want?”

The man squinted at him as though Tony was the crazy one. “Excuse me?”

“You keep shouting my name,” Tony said, throwing his arm out in explanation. “You keep telling me to come to you and when I do, you tell me to go away!”

“And what exactly is your name?”

Tony lifted his eyebrows and crossed his arms across his chest. “You know what my name is; you’ve said it enough times.”

“Your name is ‘Tiny’?”

Tony’s words failed him and he snapped his mouth shut, the fight draining out of him as he squinted. “Wait, what?”

“Tiny,” the guy said with a badly disguised smile. He held up a dog-lead and shook it lightly. “My dog. He ran off earlier when my best friend was walking him, but he knows the campus pretty well so I figured he’d be around here somewhere. I often sit with him by the art block; it’s basically our second home. They let him in when I’m teaching because he’s so docile.”

The guy shrugged and gave a small laugh. “In fact, I’m pretty much willing to bet I’m going to find him being spoilt with treats and pets by the live-drawing class on the first floor. My dog, that is, not my best friend.”

Tony could feel a blush beginning to form and he swallowed. “So you were saying… Tiny?”

“I was. Am I right to assume your name is Tony?” the man asked, amusement flooding his tone and his smile growing. “I guess that they could sound quite similar.”

Tony pressed his lips together as his cheeks flamed a bright red. He nodded minutely and shifted on the spot.

“When was the last time you slept, Tony? Because I have a feeling it was quite a while ago.”

“Yeah,” Tony ran his hand down his face, both in an attempt to wake himself up and a way to hide his blush, “I couldn’t tell you, to be honest. I’m swamped with a project.”

“Well, far be it for me to dictate how you live your life, but maybe you should try and make some time for a nap.”

Normally Tony would hate to be told what to do or how to live his life and would have snapped back with a scathing comment, but there was something sweet about this man. His voice was very kind and his smile warm, not judgmental or mocking at Tony’s expense. Tony appraised him for a long moment, feeling something stirring in his stomach and a flush staining his cheeks for a whole new reason.

“I’m Steve, by the way.”

Tony took the offered hand and shook it quickly. It was time to try and take control of the situation, he told himself as he gave a small smile in return. “Well, nice to meet you Steve. I hope you find Tiny where you think he is, but before you go, I do believe that you promised me a cookie.”

Steve’s mouth quirked up again, his eyes bright and dancing. “I promised my dog a cookie,” he corrected, slinging the dog lead around his shoulders and tugging on each end as he looked down at Tony.

“I don’t think dogs are allowed to eat cookies,” Tony said, his own smile only growing and his voice deepening, “I’m pretty sure I should have his, to be safe.”

“These are dog cookies. I mean, you’re more than welcome to have one, but I don’t rate them for humans.”

“Oh.” Tony knew a rejection when he heard one. Even if it took him a few times to get it through to his sleep-deprived brain. Of course there was no way this Adonis was going to be in to Tony, especially after a lab-binge like the one he’d just had. “Okay-”

“But I’ll happily buy you a human-friendly one from the coffee shop on the other side of campus,” Steve continued, one corner of his mouth a little higher than the other as if he knew exactly what he was doing to Tony. “If you’re free, that is. You do look a little like you could do with a good night’s sleep.”

Tony couldn’t help his smile. “That I could.”

“You do know the coffee shop by the library?”

“I do.” Tony hid a yawn behind his hand as he nodded. “I’m a frequent visitor – one of my students has the morning shift four times a week so I can usually persuade him to throw a few extra shots into my espressos that normal places wouldn’t do. They claim it’s ‘unhealthy’.”

Steve let out a laugh at Tony’s air quotes. “Well, Tiny loves their dog-friendly pastries. But they do human-friendly ones too, if you want to meet there on, say, Tuesday morning?”

Tony’s heart skipped a beat. He hoped a good night’s sleep would sort out that sort of nonsense, though when he looked at Steve’s bright smile again, Tony didn’t think that it would. “It’s a date.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Tony Stark lived a busy life. If he wasn’t in meetings he would be in his workshop working hard on a new invention for his company. If he wasn’t down in the lab, he would no doubt be in a battle with the Avengers fighting to save the entire world from some invasion or other. Failing those three options, he could be found training with his team.

The point was that Tony didn’t get a lot of free time to spend by himself. So when he was thankfully free from meetings and video calls and conferences and when he’d finally cleared all of his most pressing projects and the world wasn’t being invaded, it was no surprise that he craved a way to get out of his head.

Relaxation wasn’t something that came easily to Tony so, more often that not, he needed help. The best way was through the presence of someone else, curled up into the side of a warm body and fingers stroking over his arm or knotted in his hair.

He needed a distraction, needed something else to focus on rather than the numbers and equations going around in his head. Anyone worked, really, as long as they cuddled Tony and showered him in praise. It was a sure-fire way to release the tension in his shoulders and to make his head fall back in pleasure; all it took was a whisper of how good he was or how clever. Not even in an egotistical way, because if someone complimented Tony whilst he was at work he would brush them away with a roll of his eyes and a shake of his head. But said to him when he was hovering in a dazed subspace and Tony was putty in someone’s hands.

That’s why trust was so important. When the Avengers had first moved in, Tony had been terrified. Terrified of trusting the wrong person again and finding himself in an extremely vulnerable position and helpless to break himself out, or even just scared of being seen as weak. These people, these weird and wonderful people who had flocked to Tony’s side and regularly worked with him to save the world, couldn’t see Tony as anything less than the hero he pretended to be and if they did, well then Tony just wouldn’t know how to cope.

It hadn’t happened, though. Not in the way that Tony had been expecting, at least. It had been Steve who’d found him curled up against Rhodey when the Lieutenant Colonel been visiting one weekend and, despite Tony’s worst fears, Steve had made no comment. In fact, he had been the first one to volunteer and step up to the plate when Tony had next needed to be taken out of his own head and Rhodey hadn’t been around.

Tony hadn’t sought anybody else out since.

 

 

It had started with a hug, with a tight arm holding Tony against a solid chest and a hand gently massaging his scalp. Soft kisses against his temple or leaving teasing trails up and down his arms. It progressed pretty quickly until there were fingertips dancing across a bare back, cool air hitting overheated skin.

Tony hated being alone. He hated feeling empty, either physically or emotionally. Whenever he finished his work, Tony finally had time to think about the emptiness he felt and it freaked him out, every time without fail. Having Steve upstairs and waiting for him made things a little easier and Tony spared no time in throwing himself into the other man’s embrace as soon as he had a spare moment.

It was so easy to forget everything wrong with the world and all of the pressing emails on his computer when Tony had Steve’s hands rubbing circles into his back and his warm body radiating heat.

 

 

/

 

 

Steve laughed when Tony flopped down on the couch next to him. Without losing his page, Steve lifted his book up for Tony to duck under his arms and lay his head down on Steve’s lap, a soft sigh of contentment escaping his lips as he curled up.

“Hey, gorgeous,” Steve said, raking his hand through Tony’s messy hair. “Didn’t expect to see you up here for a while.”

Tony hummed something illegible in reply as he turned to bury his face in Steve’s stomach.

“What was that?” Steve asked, a smile clear in his voice.

Tony huffed but dutifully twisted back to blink up at Steve. “I said ‘I missed you’,” he muttered, lips forming something close to a pout and his cheeks starting to flush ever so prettily.

Steve tightened his fingers in Tony’s hair as his heart skipped a beat. “Well, I missed you too. Did you get everything done?”

Tony leant back into Steve’s touch, his back bowing when Steve tugged a little harder. He let out a breathy moan before he spoke.

“Enough for me to take a break,” he murmured, letting his tongue poke out to wet his lips and his tone drop low enough to emphasis his meaning.

Steve got it immediately and carefully placed his book to one side, taking note of his page, before he turned his attention back to Tony. He let his hand dance up Tony’s chest, his fingers trailing along the low collar of his baggy shirt.

“You tired, sweetheart?” he asked softly, keeping his gaze locked on Tony’s as he scratched his nails ever so lightly over Tony’s collarbones. “When was the last time you slept?”

“I don’t want to sleep,” Tony said, arching his back when Steve’s wrist brushed his nipple, the touch clearly electric even through material. “I want you.”

Steve’s smile grew as he bent down to brush a kiss to the very corner of Tony’s mouth. “Did I ever tell you how beautiful your eyes are?”

Tony’s blush darkened and he tried to turn his head back into Steve’s stomach, only to be stopped by the lightest touch. It only took Steve’s fingertips on his cheek to halt Tony’s movement and Steve’s smile spread even more at the response.

“So beautiful, Tony,” he said, stroking his fingers down the column of Tony’s throat. “So precious to me.”

It wasn’t long before Steve had urged them into the bedroom where he had systematically taken Tony apart until the man was writhing and begging so beautifully on his bed, his hands leaving marks down Steve’s back and his voice hoarse from moaning so loudly. It was a wonder that Tony’s legs weren’t screaming at him from their positions locked around Steve’s waist, ankles crossed to hold Steve as close as he possibly could.

“Stay.”

Steve paused his movements and looked down at Tony when the man spoke huskily. “What, sweetheart?”

“Don’t go.”

Steve smiled and bent down to press a kiss against Tony’s temple. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“No,” Tony protested when Steve tried to move back again. “Don’t even pull out.”

“What? Darlin’, I need to, I need to clean-”

“No.” Tony tightened his arms around Steve’s shoulders and let out a soft groan, digging his heels into the base of Steve’s back. “I want to feel you.”

Steve only hesitated for a moment, but when Tony clenched around him, he gave in and rocked forward again. He was only slightly oversensitive and it was nothing unbearable as of yet so he was more than happy to oblige.

“Okay,” he murmured, bending down again to lick a stripe up Tony’s neck, groaning at the taste of sweat. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Promise?”

Steve kissed his way up Tony’s throat and caught his` lips in an open-mouthed kiss, sloppy and uncoordinated but passionate and exactly what they both needed. Biting at Tony’s bottom lip as he pulled away, Steve smiled at the loud whine that escaped the other man.

“I promise.” He pulled back ever so slightly before he pushed forward again, lips curling up when Tony’s eyes rolled back into his head. “That’s it, baby. I’m here.”

 

Chapter Text

“I don’t know which way to put him in the crib.”

Steve startled and cut off his conversation with Sam, twisting to look over the back of the couch with a furrowed brow. “What?”

“Which way?” Tony repeated, his hands flitting around his sides as he rounded the sofa and started to pace in front of the TV, ignoring Clint’s protests as he carried on ranting. “On his back, yeah? But then what if he rolls over? What am I meant to do then, Steve? Because even I have to go to bed at some point, or at least close my eyes. I can’t spend the entire night watching over him. I mean, I would if I could, but I feel like there must be some sort of better solution. What do other parents do?”

“Tony–”

“And baths,” Tony continued, blind to Steve’s attempts to derail him. “Babies are pretty slippery at the best of times, but when they’re wet I think they’re going to be worse, right? The chances of me dropping him are going to go up by a lot of percent – I can do the actual calculations if you’d like to know them.”

“Woah,” Sam said, his eyes flicking between Steve and Tony worriedly, leaning over the arm of the couch to whisper to Bruce sitting in the armchair next to him. “How long do his rants usually go on for?”

“About this long, most of the time” Bruce said, concern colouring his tone as he looked up at his friend, “but this one seems to be getting worse the more he talks. I haven’t seen him this worked up in a while.”

“Choking,” Tony suddenly blurted out, his voice loud and panicked. “Even if he won’t be on solid foods for a while, he can still choke on liquids. Steve, this was such a stupid idea. I’m not a dad,” he continued, eyes wide and his fear clearly reflected in them. “I can’t take care of myself without you there to feed me and remind me to stop staring at screens all day long. How am I meant to look after a baby? A baby, Steve! They can’t hold their own heads up, never mind–”

Steve was up and across the room in a flash. He crowded close to Tony and grabbed the man’s hands in his own.

“Hey,” he murmured, “hey, sweetheart, calm down before you’re the one to choke. You’re okay; it’s all okay, hm? Don’t panic, Tones, we’re okay.”

Tony didn’t try to struggle against Steve’s hold, just stood there with his hands cradled against Steve’s chest and stared up into his eyes, mouth hanging open as though expecting to continue his sentence.

“We’ve got this,” Steve continued when Tony didn’t speak again, keeping his voice low for Tony’s ears only. “You and me? We’ve got this. There’s a reason we’re doing this whole baby thing together, isn’t there? It’s to split the load, babe. So if you fall asleep on watch, I’ll be there to roll him over. If you drop him in the bath, I’ll be there to catch him.”

“Don’t even joke about that,” Tony managed to croak out and Steve quirked a smile, tactfully ignoring Clint’s snort and Sam’s slap.

“I’m scared too, Tony. This is a big thing – it’s natural to panic. Every new parent worries; in fact, I’d worry if you weren’t. We’ve got parenting classes, babe, so we can learn everything that we need to before he gets here. So please don’t work yourself into a state prematurely because,” Steve lifted Tony’s left hand and pressed a kiss to his ring, “I’m not going anywhere, sweetheart.”

“Bleugh.”

Tony jumped half a mile when Clint let out a loud retch and glared over Steve’s shoulder at his grinning friend. Clint stuck his tongue out and mimed being sick.

“That was so sappy I might vomit all over you.”

Tony’s eyes narrowed, “do that and we’ll see when you get your next set of arrows.”

“I don’t know,” Bruce said lightly, keeping his eyes on his book as he turned a page, “maybe you should let him. It’ll be good practice for having a baby in the house.”

“Oh yeah? Well maybe Clint should be sick on you, see how much you like the practice? Uncle Bruce needs to learn to deal with bodily fluids too.”

When Sam let out a snort, Steve looked back over his shoulder and grinned, a dangerous edge to it that had Sam throwing his hands up in surrender.

“Uncle Sam has had plenty of practice, thank you,” Sam said quickly, “I don’t need no more. Nothing funny here at all. I’m not laughing.”

“Yeah,” Steve said, his eyes twinkling as he turned back to Tony, “that’s what I thought.”

Tony rolled his eyes and fell forward, resting his forehead on Steve’s collarbone as he sighed. “What am I stressing about? I’ve been taking care of children for years.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“I’m not playing truth or dare. I’m not eight.”

“Spoilsport,” Tony muttered darkly, tilting his head backwards on the arm of the couch to pout up at Steve who had been walking past, completely innocently. “Tell him to play with him.”

Steve took a moment to assess the situation before he shook his head and bent down to press a kiss to Tony’s plump lips. “There’s no either of you can be drunk enough to play that.” He waited until Tony sighed in defeat and smiled, letting his hand dance down Tony’s exposed throat. “Besides, I know his answer to any question you could ever ask him. I could tell you them all now if you wanted. There’s no need to actually play the game with him.”

Tony huffed and threw his arms up, turning away when Steve tried to kiss him again. “Well, excuse me for trying to get to know the newest member of our team. That’s the last time I try to introduce bonding methods in this place.”

Bucky rolled his eyes, barely lifting his gaze from the tablet in his hands. “You don’t want to play with me.”

Tony let out an offended noise, shooting into a sitting position to scowl over at the other man, ignoring Steve’s chuckle from behind him.

“I do–,” he started before Bucky put down his tablet and fixed Tony with an extremely unimpressed look.

“No, you don’t. If you wanted to get to know me, you’d have taken Steve up on his offer to learn all my answers. All you actually want is to get me to pick truth every time and give you dirt on Steve.”

Tony’s mouth dropped open in faux-shock and another insulted sound escaped his lips. “That is so–”

“The truth,” Bucky finished, fixing his stare on Tony for a long moment as if daring the man to deny it. When Tony wisely closed his mouth, giving in, Bucky let his lips curve upwards sharply. “You don’t need to go down that route, Tin Can; I’ll give you that info for free. I have so many years worth of gossip - it’ll make even your ears bleed.”

It was Steve’s turn to cry out, a wordless noise of protest leaving him as Tony surged forward to the other end of the couch in his excitement, leaning over with a beam spreading over his face.

Yes, Buckaroo. Welcome to the team!”

Chapter Text

Steve wasn’t a violent man by nature. He really wasn’t. He had a lot of violence in his past and had been a part of some very violent events, but he liked to think of himself as a calm and rational person. Which was why he was so very surprised by his sudden urge to commit cold-blooded murder.

It had all started about two hours before, earlier in the evening when Tony had come home. Normally, Steve couldn’t wait for when Tony would come home, even when he had to share the other man with the rest of the Avengers for family night or deal with a grumpy and sometimes downright livid Tony after a long day of meetings and idiotic board members. Any time with Tony was always going to be better than time without.

But tonight?

Tonight had Steve rethinking that assessment. Because tonight Tony had brought someone else home with him, some preppy intern supposedly working with Tony in his labs as part of a new scheme for the foreseeable future. Steve didn’t care what he was there for, to be honest, only that the man couldn’t take his hands off Tony’s arms nor his eyes from Tony’s face.

Weren’t interns meant to be kids, anyway? Steve wasn’t entirely certain on that, but he was sure that most interns weren’t 30-something men who could pass for a male model without much preparation.

“You’re late,” Clint called from the couch, throwing pieces of popcorn up into the air and ducking his head to catch them in quick succession. “The movie was meant to be started at 6.30, not 7.”

“And you’re a pig,” Tony replied easily as he flung his arm around the shoulders of the man standing next to him. As Tony’s hand curled around the man’s neck, Steve suddenly had an image of the stranger being knocked unconscious.

It was surprisingly pleasant.

“Touché.” Clint swung himself of the couch, brushing his hands over his pant legs before he stuck out his arm to Tony’s guest. “Hey man, I’m Clint.”

The man took it with an easy smile. “Nice to meet you. I’m Mark.”

Steve watched cautiously as Mark was introduced to the rest of the group, smiles and handshakes all around. It was a nice fantasy of Mark’s hand being crushed under Thor’s freakishly-strong grip; too bad that Thor was still on Asgard and his unsuitable-for-human handshake was there with him. Oh well. Next time.

 

/

 

“Strawberry margaritas.”

“—so when we get them back, the prints will show… I’m sorry, what?” Mark cut himself off and turned to look over at Natasha with a slightly stark-struck expression.

“I think I feel like a strawberry margarita. Have you ever had one?”

“Um, no. I can’t say that I have.” To his credit, Mark didn’t seem that startled by the sudden interruption. But then again, the man had been working with Tony Stark for a few weeks down in the labs. He was probably used to it.

“They’re so much better than regular ones,” Clint chimed in, dropping down on the couch with a fresh bowl of popcorn and throwing his legs up onto the coffee table, “and Steve makes the best ones.”

“Oh?” Mark sounded interested and Steve wanted him to choke. Just a little. Nothing too life-threatening, of course. Just enough for him to have to go home and rest.

Unfortunately, everyone turned to look at Steve right at that moment and he had to quickly school his features into some kind of proud smile.

“It’s true,” Steve said, his smile becoming a lot more real when he made eye-contact with Tony and saw his best friend’s cheeky grin. “I do.”

 

/

 

Steve had switched off after that when Bruce had started asking Mark about something or other science-related and far too complicated, so he wasn’t quite sure how he found himself suddenly in the kitchen standing over a blender making margaritas for everyone. That bit wasn’t so bad, really; he was used to making drinks for his friends. No, the bad part was the companion that had been pushed into the kitchen with him. Mark… something. He probably had a surname, but Steve hadn’t bothered to learn it. Sue him.

They worked in silence for a while, Steve squeezing fresh lemon juice and Mark slicing strawberries, until Steve was ready to throw it all in the blender. It had been a while that they’d been in there and maybe it was time that Steve made an effort at conversation.

“So, how are you finding working with Tony?”

Steve waited until Mark opened his mouth and flicked on the blender. Was it childish? Possibly. Was it fun? Absolutely.

After a moment, Steve let out a fake laugh and turned it off. “Sorry, I couldn’t hear what you were saying. Let’s try again. How is Tony as a boss?”

Mark only got as far as smiling and saying one word before Steve turned on the blender again. He waited until Mark politely closed his mouth again to wait for silence and then he turned off the loud appliance.

“Sorry, I just can’t get the timing right,” Steve laughed tightly, far too amused with his stupid prank for the age that he was. Mark, to his credit, joined in on the laughter.

Prick.

“Tony’s a great boss,” Mark finally got the chance to answer when Steve lifted the jug and fetched a few glasses to pour the liquid out into. “We have a lot of fun. He’s a very clever man and always knows how to have a laugh.” Mark paused and quirked a smile – Steve hated how it made his eyes even greener and hated even more how he had noticed that – before he continued, “but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that.”

Steve wasn’t proud of the mental picture that popped into his head, but he had to admit that the idea of Mark accidentally tripping over his own feet and sprawling out on the floor in an embarrassing and ultimately career-ruining display in front of Tony and all of the Avengers, maybe even a perfectly-placed camera crew, had him grinning.

 

/

 

“Hey.”

Steve swallowed thickly and turned to face Tony, his eyes automatically taking in the flush high on the man’s cheeks and his bitten lips. He tried desperately to will away the thoughts that his traitorous mind came up as to why Tony looked so thoroughly debauched – though he didn’t succeed very well – and saluted the man with his martini glass. “Hi.”

“I, um, well, I heard something a little surprising a moment ago,” Tony started. It was so unlike him to be stuttering and unsure that Steve jolted a little in surprise and twisted on the couch to look at him intently.

“Yeah? What was that?”

Tony’s gaze was on the mug in his hands, his fingers tracing absentmindedly over the worn pattern as he spoke again. “That someone here doesn’t like Mark. And that they didn’t want him coming round again.”

Steve crafted his expression into one of forced disbelief, letting a shocked grunt pass his lips. “Oh? Wow. No way. He’s such a nice guy; no idea why anyone wouldn’t want him hanging around with us. He fits in so well as well.”

Lying had never been Steve’s forte, but he had to admit he was proud of himself for keeping his voice steady. Although, the last part hadn’t been a lie unfortunately. Mark had stayed for the movie and had somehow been convinced to hang around for the takeaway they always ordered after. Somewhere through the evening, the casual team evening had turned into a mini party and Mark had been the shining centre of attention, effortlessly charming everyone he had met. With one exception, of course.

All Steve wanted to do was throw himself down at Tony’s feet and scream that this Mark person was clearly the devil incarnate and that Tony deserved to be with someone who could treat him like the King that he was... i.e., Steve. But he didn’t; he merely swallowed a mouthful of rapidly-warming cocktail and pretended to shake his head in suspicion.

“Right.” Tony ran his tongue along his bottom lip and nodded. “Good. Great, actually, because I’m thinking of extending his apprenticeship into an actual job. If he’s working so closely with me down in R&D, he’ll be hanging around up here a lot more.”

Steve clenched his teeth with enough force to actually hurt before he managed to turn his mouth up into something he hoped was close to a smile. “That’s great. I’m so glad that you’ve finally managed to find someone to offer the position to. I know how much it’s been playing on your mind.”

“Yeah.” Tony nodded and turned to look up at Steve. “Right. That’s why I wanted to ask you, you know? I want him to get on with everyone. Those important to me. All my closest… friends.”

Steve could have cried. “That’s me,” he said. He reached out and curled his hand over Tony’s knee. “That’s always going to be me.”

 

/

 

“You’re not very intimidating.”

Steve bit back a sigh when Clint sidled up to him, strawberry margarita in hand and his cheeks already flushed.

“I’m not trying to be.”

Clint scoffed, “right. Like I believe that. You’re three seconds away from running over there, throwing Tony over your shoulder and carting him off to your bedroom to lock him away from the rest of the world. So what I want to know is why you aren’t being as intimidating as we all know you can be. You could have this Mark guy running away screaming with one glare. So, why aren’t you?”

Steve let his shoulders slump and stole Clint’s margarita. “He’s just so damn nice,” he moaned, downing the drink and thrusting the glass back at Clint with a frustrated sigh. Damn, how he wished Thor was back on Midgard with his magic getting-Steve-drunk mead. “How am I meant to be mean to him? Every time I go to glare at him or say something cutting, he flashes a smile or…”

“Or he makes Tony laugh and you would rather see Tony happy than let yourself be.”

“Aw, crap.” Steve scrubbed a hand over his face and groaned at Clint’s surprisingly-astute suggestion. “Are there any margaritas left?”

 

/

 

“He’s straight.”

Steve startled and looked to his left to see Bruce leaning against the bar by his side. “What?”

“Mark,” Bruce said with a small smile, holding out a beer in Steve’s direction. “He’s straight. Married, actually. Got a kid and everything.”

Huh. Steve hadn’t seen that coming.

Not that he cared, mind you. Steve didn’t care about Mark in any way, no Sir. It was a profession interest that had Steve watching his every move and fully appraising all the ways that he touched Tony – a tap on his arm or a brush of his hand being the most common, if anyone cared. Steve just didn’t want anybody working with Tony that was going to hurt the other man or get too close and compromise the Avengers. That was all it was. Professional.

Steve suddenly realised that his face was probably showing something a little too revealing and he tried to school his features into a mask of nonchalance. When he snuck a look at Bruce out of the corner of his eye, the man’s amused grin told Steve that he hadn’t been too successful with his attempt.

“You know he likes you,” Bruce said nonchalantly, as though he was commenting on the weather and not changing the way Steve viewed his closest friend. He kept up the faux-casual tone even as Steve choked and spluttered on his drink.

“You’re all he ever talks about with Mark down in the lab. Even when I’m there, Tony just can’t seem to control himself. It’s Steve this and Steve that; ‘did you know Steve had done this’ or ‘can you believe Steve had said that’? Mark created a betting pool, actually, to see when Tony was going to suck up enough courage to ask you out.”

Bruce took a sip of his own garishly-pink cocktail and met Steve’s eyes. “In fact, though I’m pretty sure it’s cheating and definitely in his own interests for the sake of winning the loot, Mark’s nearly convinced him it’s time to confess.” Bruce fished out a slice of strawberry from the bottom of his drink and popped it in his mouth, chewing happily. “Just saying.”

“Huh.” Steve took a taste of his beer thoughtfully, his mind playing over everything that Bruce had just said. His eyes danced out over the room, landing on where Tony was tucked up under Mark’s arm and laughing brightly as Clint re-enacted some dramatic tale.

So maybe Mark wasn’t the spawn of Satan himself, after all. “Well, how about that?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Steve was in awe. Total awe. In his arms, he held the most precious gift. Peter was four now and Steve still wasn’t over the feeling of having a son.

Tony stirred slowly and Steve turned his head to watch his husband blink awake. He knew that Tony would stretch his arm out to reach for Steve before long so he whispered into the low morning light.

“I’m over here.”

Steve waited until Tony was awake enough to register the voice and turn his head to squint over at Steve in the rocking chair by the window. It might have been an odd addition for an adult’s bedroom, but Steve had many sleepless nights that he whiled away by staring out at the city and watching it slowly wake up. Once Peter had come into their lives, it had only gotten more use and had quickly become their favourite spot to curl up in when Peter woke up too early for the day and needed to be rocked back to sleep. He was a pretty spoiled kid, but Steve found it hard to care too much with Peter’s warm weight in his arms.

“What are you doing over there?” Tony’s voice was hoarse with sleep and he nuzzled into the pillow as he chased the last few moments of peace.

Steve soothed his hand down Peter’s back and lifted his legs over his lap more securely. “Pete woke up – had a nightmare. He wasn’t going back down so I brought him in here.”

Tony pushed himself up onto one elbow and squinted. “Is he okay?”

“Yeah,” Steve said with a soft smile. “Yeah, he’s fine. How are you; you sleep okay?”

“Yeah.” Tony yawned and shuffled up the bed until he was sitting up against the headboard. Once settled there, he held out his arms and beckoned Steve over with his fingers. “Come over here.”

Steve slid his arm under Peter’s body and stood up slowly. He walked the few steps to the bed and lowered himself down, smiling gratefully when Tony lifted up the comforter to let him under. Tony leant forward and dropped a kiss to Steve’s cheek, pressing their lips together when Steve turned his head. He sighed happily into the kiss for a moment, lifting his hand to stroke down Steve’s arm until it came to a stop on Peter’s back.

“Morning, angel,” Steve murmured when they broke apart. Tony screwed his nose up adorably and Steve let out a quiet laugh. “You still hate that name?”

“Yup.” Tony poked his tongue out at Steve before he dropped his gaze down to Peter still snoozing on Steve’s chest, his small body curled up and his hands tightly fisted on Steve’s pyjama pants. “You sure he’s okay?”

Steve wriggled one arm out from under Peter’s body and lifted it to curl around Tony’s shoulders, pulling him close. “I promise. And when he wakes up you can ask him yourself.”

“Okay.” Tony rubbed Peter’s back and smiled a little bit more easily, his shoulders relaxing as he was reassured that his son really was okay. “I will.”

Steve squeezed Tony tighter, holding both of his boys close to him. “I love you. Go back to sleep, sweetheart. We've got nowhere to be."

 

Chapter Text

“Don’t open that!”

Tony froze as he reached for the cupboard in Steve’s art room, his hand hovering in mid-air. “What? I just need a pencil, that’s all.”

“I have some over here,” Steve said in a rush, jumping up from the couch and steering Tony away from where was still standing like a statue and over to a different cupboard. “I moved them into this one a while ago.”

Tony squinted as he let himself be taken to the opposite side of the room. This whole situation stank to high heaven and Tony was determined to find out what his partner was hiding from him. He hated to be out of the loop, more than he hated decaf coffee and the shopping channels. Taking the pencil that Steve held out to him, Tony tilted his head to one side and clicked his tongue.

“So, babe,” he started casually, “what’s with the redecorating?”

Steve swallowed and shrugged, his shoulders too tight to be convincing as he tried to give a smile. “I just fancied a change, is all. Couldn’t sleep the other night so I came down here and tried to keep busy.”

“Huh. I didn’t hear you leave.”

The way that Steve flushed red as a couple of beads of sweat appeared on his forehead would have been comical if the man wasn’t meant to be a super-spy.

“No, no, you wouldn’t have. You were – uh, I think you were in the lab.”

Tony rolled his eyes and reached out to catch Steve’s arm. This was ridiculous and Tony had no time for nonsense. “What’s in the cupboard, Steve? Just tell me. If it’s a body, I can get you out of the country with minimal effort. If it’s multiple bodies, we might need to have a chat, but I could still get you out with relatively little fuss.”

Steve’s eyes widened and he shook his head frantically. “No! What? No!”

“Okay, okay,” Tony said, holding up his hands, “just saying I could help you. So, what is it? Worse than a body? I’m not sure what that would be, but I’ve got an open mind, babe. You can tell me anything.”

“God, no, Tony. What the hell is wrong with you? I have your birthday present in there. That’s all, I swear. No bodies.”

“Oh. Oh!” Tony made a dart for the cupboard but Steve stepped in front of him.

“No, Tony. Come on, it’s a surprise.”

Tony pouted. “Give me a clue? Just one clue. An incy, wincy, tiny, little clue.”

“What part of surprise do you not understand?”

“I understand it fine,” Tony said with a shake of his head, “I just don’t like not knowing things. I want to know all the things. Especially if they’re about or directly relating to me.”

“Well, you’re just going to have to wait for this one, okay?”

Tony narrowed his eyes as Steve let go of his arm and went to sit back down on the couch, staring up at Tony with his stupid, imploring eyes and his disarming smile. Now that he had shared a part of his major secret, he was back to being smug-and-smarmy Steve. Tony wanted to stick his tongue out at him and snog him in equal parts.

“I bet I know what it is, anyway,” Tony said, crossing his arms over his chest and sniffing.

“Oh yeah? What do you think it is?”

“I’m not telling you.” Tony walked over and perched on the arm of the couch, reaching out to kick Steve’s leg. “You’re going to have to guess.”

Steve’s brow furrowed adorably as he blinked up at Tony. “I have to guess what you’ve guessed your birthday present from me to you is?”

Tony waited for a moment as he thought that over before he gave a decisive nod. “Yes. If you don’t want to guess, I suppose I’ll just have to make you tell me.”

“Well, the probability of that happening is zero, but you go ahead and try, sweetheart.”

“Oh, baby,” Tony purred, a smirk spreading across his face as he stood up and sauntered over to stand in front of Steve. “You know what I like. Talk math to me.”

Steve laughed but happily reached out when Tony straddled his lap, settling his hands on Tony’s hips.

“You like that?” he whispered, leaning forward to blow against the shell of Tony’s ear as he let one hand dance up under Tony’s shirt. “How about fractions? Or cosine? Hypotenuse or variables?”

Tony threw his head back and laughed, a bright and happy sound that bounced off the walls around them. “You’re such an idiot,” he said when he looked back at Steve, grinning at the smug look on his face. “Just shut up and kiss me.”

Chapter Text

“That was by far the stupidest thing you’ve ever done.”

“Yes, thank you, Buck. I’m so glad that I have you for the hard times in my life.”

Bucky rolled his eyes as a small smile tugged at his lips. “I’m sorry. But you do have to admit that it wasn’t your finest hour.”

“Yes,” Steve deadpanned. “Believe it or not, I am very aware of that.”

“I just don’t understand what happened.”

Steve groaned loudly and threw himself back on his bed, his hands covering his face. “I don’t know.”

“You’ve been preparing for this for so long. I heard you practicing that speech so many times.”

“Please stop,” Steve begged, groaning again.

“I just don’t get what happened,” Bucky whispered.

“I have literally no idea. Suddenly I was standing in front of him and I just blanked out. I’m not sure I ever remember the whole encounter.”

“Well, let me remind you.” Bucky pushed himself off the doorframe and walked into the room, taking a seat on the edge of the bed where Steve was attempting to suffocate himself beneath a pillow. “You–”

“No,” Steve cried, throwing the pillow at Bucky. “I remember, I remember. Christ, don’t say it out loud. Don’t make me relive it.”

Bucky bit his lip and shook his head, placing the pillow by his side and reaching out to squeeze Steve’s shoulder. “I’m really sorry, Stevie. I know how much you wanted this. But hey, maybe Tony is into that sort of thing.”

“The having things thrown at him sort of thing?” Steve moaned into the comforter and Bucky winced.

“Yeah, that,” he said lowly, unconvincingly, “or maybe he just didn’t notice. He can be pretty wrapped up in his own thoughts, sometimes. Though how you wouldn’t notice a–”

Steve’s whine was almost deafening. “Please stop talking. Please. Just let me die of embarrassment here on my own, okay?”

Bucky let of a weak huff of laughter and patted Steve’s back. “God, you’re dramatic. You two were made for each other.”

Steve’s whine sounded suspiciously close to a sob that time and Bucky softened. “Seriously, Steve. It wasn’t that bad.”

“Wasn’t that bad?” Steve pushed himself up and twisted to blink at his friend blankly. “Buck, I’m pretty sure I gave my boyfriend a concussion. If he can even still be called my boyfriend, now. I doubt he’s gonna want to stay with someone who gives him concussions.”

“One concussion,” Bucky corrected, “I’m pretty sure it was just one.”

Steve glared and punched Bucky when the other man grinned.

“God, you suck. Why couldn’t Sam have followed me home?”

“Hey,” Bucky cried, rubbing his arm. “Since when is Sam the better choice for this sort of thing? And I’m the only other person with a key anyway; just me and… oh. Well. Just me.”

Steve rolled his eyes and fell back, turning onto his side and curling around the discarded pillow. Bucky sighed, deflating, and reached out again.

“I am sorry, Steve, really. I know these things ain’t easy for you. Want me to go?”

Steve sniffed and shook his head. “No, stay. I don’t really want to be alone right now.”

Bucky sighed, but dutifully lay down on the bed to stare up at the ceiling (keeping his booted-feet hanging off the edge just in case his Ma happened to be looking down). He threw his arm out and rubbed Steve’s knee – or what he thought was his knee, anyway.

“We’ll sort it out, Stevie, don’t worry.”

/

Bucky startled awake at the sound of a key in the front door. He blinked slowly having not expected to have fallen asleep and reached over to smack Steve awake.

“Wake up,” he muttered when Steve groaned and batted his hand away, “I think someone’s breaking in.”

“What?” Steve bolted upright and squinted against the low light of the sun still streaming in through the window. “Who?”

“How the bloody hell should I know?” Bucky hissed as he swung himself off the bed with a roll of his eyes. “If I’d have known who it was, I’d have said ‘oh, Steve, sounds like Sam’s here’, not ‘oh, Steve, someone’s breaking into the fucking apartment’!”

“Alright, alright,” Steve said, holding up his hands in surrender, “sorry.”

They both listened as footsteps drew closer and closer to Steve’s bedroom until the door was pushed open. Bucky was just about to launch himself forward onto the attacker when a familiar voice rung through the room.

“Bucky?”

Tony? You’re the one breaking in to Steve’s apartment?”

Tony’s brow furrowed and he looked at Steve in confusion before dropping gaze down to his hand where a brass key was glinting.

“I’m not breaking in?” he said, his voice lifting in a question. “Steve gave me a key. Though why he bothered if he was just going to set himself up to be caught in bed with you, I don’t know.”

Bucky opened his mouth to explain that he was very much not in bed with Steve in any context that Tony was obviously thinking about, but before he could speak, Steve’s uncertain voice rang out.

“You used the key?”

“Yeah. Was I not meant to?” Tony turned it over in his hand before he looked back up to Steve, his head tilted uncertainly. “I figured I was, after you threw it at me and ran. I thought it was a game. A sexy hide-and-seek, if you will.”

Bucky couldn’t help the laughter that broke forward at that and he shook his head. “Stevie, you’ve done it again. Time and time again you’ve ruined this relationship for it to fix itself without you trying. It’s almost as if this guy really is your soulmate.”

“What?” Tony narrowed his eyes at Bucky, “what are you talking about? What did Steve mess up?”

When it became clear that Steve wasn’t going to say anything, Bucky rolled his eyes again. Christ, they were going to fall out around these pair.

“This numbskull,” he started, throwing a thumb over his shoulder to point at Steve still on the bed, “had a whole speech prepared about how much he loved you and how he couldn’t face another day waking up without you beside him–”

“—jeez, Buck, come on––”

“—and then he lost his nerve when he saw you because he hasn’t managed a coherent thought around you in the last five years and ended up lobbing the box at your head instead of asking you like a normal human to move in with him.”

The way that Tony softened would have been disgusting if Bucky wasn’t used to it and also secretly thrilled that someone finally loved Steve the way that the man deserved.

“Haven’t had a coherent thought, huh?” Tony started with a wide grin, twirling the key between his fingers like a magician with a coin.

“And never will again,” Steve murmured, his eyes only on Tony as he rose from the bed and crossed the room. “Not for as long as you’re here with me. You are the only thing that will ever be on my mind, for the rest of my life.”

Bucky found himself strangely unable to look away. It was such a private moment, the amount of love being shared almost too much to stand, but he was drawn to it at the same time.

Tony looked up at Steve and halted the movement of his hand, holding the key between two fingers. “Ask me,” he whispered. “Ask me right now.”

“Move in with me,” Steve replied, lifting a hand to cup Tony’s, the shining key sticking out proudly. “Share this house and make it a home.”

And with that, Bucky reached his limit, turning away and dashing out of the room as Tony surged forward to take Steve’s lips, the two of them stumbling backwards to the bed that Bucky had just taken a very lovely nap on – and now never would again.  

 

Chapter Text

His legs shook a little as he walked over to the man. Was Steve really going to do this? He had had such a crush on the other man in high school and now they guy only grown up to be more attractive.

When the man turned his head and met Steve’s gaze, Steve’s heart thumped wildly in his chest and he started walking faster, dodging the crowds without breaking their eye contact. Steve barely slowed down as he crossed the gym and drew level with the man of his goal. He reached out and took the man’s face between his hands, bending just enough to catch those beautifully full lips with his own, tongue darting out to taste. The kiss was a long one and Steve moaned into it happily, changing the angle to deepen it.

“Well, hello to you too, handsome.”

Steve broke into a smile and swept his thumb over Tony’s cheekbone.

“You made it then,” Tony said, his smile wide and his eyes dancing, “I thought I was gonna have to send out a search party.”

“I got held up. You know how it is.”

Tony hummed, his gaze drifting from Steve’s face. “Oh yes. The delightful football team. I did wonder when they’d catch you.” He paused and readjusted his grip on Steve’s shoulders, his hands absent-mindedly drifting up to play with his hair. “Why are they all staring at me like you’ve turned purple?”

“Huh?” Steve said distractedly, before he followed Tony’s eyeline over his shoulder. “Oh, them… right.” He dug into his pocket and lifted up $100. “Fancy dinner?”

Tony’s mouth fell open and he laughed in disbelief. “They didn’t!”

“Oh yeah,” Steve grinned, “those fucking idiots just gave me $100 to make out with my fiancé. Champagne? It’s on them.”

 

Tony threw his head back and laughed loudly. “They look like they’ve just found out Santa isn’t real. Oh my God, did they really not know about you?”

Steve leant forward and pressed a kiss to the hollow of Tony’s throat. “Apparently not. Are they still looking?”

“Yeah.” Tony grinned and slid his hand down to cup Steve’s neck. “Don’t think they know how to look away, to be honest, babe. Pretty sure Chad’s just choked on his drink. Anyone know CPR?”

Steve nipped Tony’s neck lightly before he pulled away and straightened up. “Does it matter if no one does?”

Tony grinned and smacked Steve’s shoulder. “Stop it, you. You’re better than that.”

“Not when it comes to you, I’m not,” Steve replied and leant forward to catch Tony’s lips once more. “You should have heard what they were saying about you.”

Tony tangled his fingers in Steve’s hair and tugged ever so slightly. “Hey, stop it. I don’t care. They can’t hurt me anymore, alright?”

“No, it’s not alright. Tony, the stuff they said – it’s disgusting. It’s vile; hateful, even. It’s not true, either.”

Tony surged forward and kissed Steve on the corner of his mouth, hard and long. “Stop it,” he murmured, his hot breath tickling Steve’s lips. “I don’t want to hear what they said; I don’t care about them or their opinions.”

Steve sighed and looped his arms around Tony’s shoulders. “I still want to punch them in the face. All of them. Multiple times.”

“Well, you’re going to have to suppress that urge, babe, cause they’re coming over and I don’t want a scene.”

“What?”

“Mhm,” Tony pressed one last kiss to Steve’s slack moth and pulled away, dropping his hands to his sides. “Brace for impact in 3, 2 1…”

 

 

“So,” Chad started when the group arrived, breaking the awkward silence with his dulcet tones. “Science nerd.”

Tony clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth and lifted a hand to rest against Steve’s chest, almost holding him back from surging forward and decking the prick.

“I tend to go by Tony now,” he said smoothly, holding out his hand.

Chad just stared at him blankly, but Adam stepped forward and accepted the offering. “It’s been a while, Tony.”

“Hm.” It was obvious that Tony didn’t trust any of these men, his eyes darting from one to another in quick succession.

“Managed to bag the Captain, then,” Callum said, his eyes glinting dangerously as he took Tony’s hand next, his own grip visibly too strong. “Finally.”

Steve’s lips pulled back into a snarl, but Tony just shrugged lightly.

“Only had to get on my knees once and he was mine. Shame you never got to try me. Might have loosened you up.”

“Oh, you little fucking–”

Before Callum could finish his reply, Steve stepped forward, half-blocking Tony from the man’s sight.

“Don’t try it,” he said lowly, almost praying that his ex-linebacker was drunk enough to actually throw a punch. Callum had always been one of the quickest to resort to anger; his vocabulary not as biting as anyone else’s for him to win an argument that way and Steve could have done with the excuse to start something. Of course, Steve wanted a punch that he would easily block. If so much as a feather actually hit Tony then someone was going home in an ambulance – and it sure as hell wouldn’t be Steve’s partner.

“So this is actually a thing?” Adam cut in, voice incredulous and eyebrows raised. “You and Steve? Our Steve? Captain of the football team and the captain of the… what were you again? The nerd squad.”

“The Decathlon team,” Tony replied smoothly, not rising to the bait and ignoring Kyle’s snort. “Who knew that football players could be gay, right? Oh, and he was never your Steve.”

Steve grinned and turned to press a kiss to Tony’s temple. Once upon a time no one would have ever believed that Tony would stand up to the entire football team, not even to one of them let alone the whole group all together.

Tony caught sight of the looks on the faces of the men crowding him and rolled his eyes. Steve could feel his heart pounding away in his chest due to his proximity, but Tony made no show of it on his face.

“Why don’t you just take a picture?” he snarked, shoulders tense and mouth twisted. “It’ll certainly last longer. Maybe even long enough for you to get home and bea–”

“You’d better fucking watch it–”

“I swear, Cal,” Steve said, his voice almost a growl. He thought back to the one time Callum had actually been put in his place and lifted his chin, pulling out the one threat he knew would work. “Buck taught me a few moves if you’d like a demonstration. Take one step closer and I swear you’ll regret it.”

Callum let out an angry curse, but eventually let his shoulders fall as he straightened up, his eyes still throwing daggers at Tony.

There was a tense beat of silence before Tony patted his hand against Steve’s chest and coughed lightly, turning away from the group before he had finished talking.

“Well, as wonderful as this trip down memory lane has been, we really must be getting home.”

“How much did you pay him? Cause we paid him $100 to kiss you, so you must be offering something pretty good in order to get him here to fake this whole fucked up thing.”

Tony froze and Steve saw red as Chad’s voice rung out above the music, each word bitingly cold.

“Because there’s no way we actually believe this. Even if Steve did turn into… one of your kind, there have to better choices than you.”

Steve didn’t even take a breath before he spun on his heel and his hand shot out, twisting in Chad’s blazer as he glared with as much venom as he could muster.

“Don’t you ever, ever, insinuate anything like that again,” he swore, taking so much pleasure in the glint of fear he caught in the man’s eyes. “I won’t let you do this anymore. Not now, not ever. I love this man more than any of you would ever be able to un–”

“Oh, there you are.”

Steve cut himself off when a blonde woman came tottering over with a cocktail in one hand and a beer in the other. She draped herself over Isiah’s back as she pushed the beer into his grip, smiling at the group and seemingly oblivious to any tension.

Or maybe she was just used to it, Steve thought as a bitter taste filled his mouth.

Steve fell silent and uncurled his hand from Chad’s jacket, stepping back and feeling Tony’s hand smooth over his hip. As angry as he was, he wasn’t one to swear around women if he could help it and he relaxed into Tony’s touch, taking comfort from the barest hint of warmth seeping through his shirt.

“Who are these?” the woman asked, her smile too wide for her to be entirely sober and her neck so covered with jewels it was a wonder she could even stand up. “I haven’t met you two, yet. Did you go here too? Oh, are you two,” she lowered her voice and leant forward almost conspiratorially as her eyes zoned in on Tony’s hand creeping back up Steve’s heaving chest, “together?”

Steve stared at her with derision and could almost feel Tony’s lifted eyebrows and judgemental stare.

“Yes. Have been since we left here,” Steve answered as politely as he could manage with the red mist still blurring his vision. Reliving the memories of his relationship with Tony had him softening ever so slightly and he allowed his jaw to relax minutely so that his next words weren’t as bitten.

“As soon as we were away from this place and the people,” he said, throwing a glare to his side and watching as Adam shrank away, “we reconnected at MIT.”

Kyle muttered something under his breath to Chad and it took every ounce of strength in Steve’s body not to rearrange his face. It was only the woman’s impressed gasp that kept him in place; that and the sudden surge of pride that flowed through him.

“Yes, Tony completed two degrees there before he went to Columbia for his second PhD. I followed him back to New York and we got married the following fall.”

Tony hissed his name, but Steve wasn’t deterred. He loved any chance to brag about his partner and these tossers deserved to know exactly how smart Tony was. The whole fucking world did.

“Oh, how wonderful,” Isiah’s wife cried, beaming up at her husband and curling into his side despite his grimace. “Our darling niece has just applied to Columbia. We’re ever so proud of her.”

Isiah saluted them with his beer, a look of pride taking over the discomfort in his expression, and Steve saw a wonderful opportunity fall right in his lap.

“So has my daughter,” Kyle butted in smoothly, his first genuine smile of the night growing on his face. “She’s on track to get in as well. About to graduate; from here, actually.”

“That’s great,” Steve enthused, suddenly all smiles and bright eyes. He wrapped his arm around Tony’s waist and squeezed his fingers into Tony’s hip once, twice, three times. Waiting until Isiah lifted his beer to his lips, Steve nodded conversationally, “you know, Tony’s actually on the admissions board at Columbia. Gets to read all the applications and have a say in the final decisions.”

Isiah spluttered on the sip he’d taken and Kyle paled dramatically.

“Right,” Tony said and clicked his fingers loudly, “I knew I recognised a few of the names on there.”

“Isn’t it just so wonderful when you know someone in admissions?”

Isiah’s wife lit up at Steve’s words and she bounced on her dangerously-high heels. “Oh, darling. You never said your friend was working at Columbia. Oh, gosh. You know, we’d never ask you for anything,” she simpered, batting her eyes and leaning against her husband’s shoulder, “but as you and Iz are such great friends…”

She trailed off with a hopeful bite of her lip and Steve nodded, his grin sharpening as he met Kyle’s eyes. “Mm. And thank God that there aren’t any grudges or old feuds holding the process up.” Steve let his smile drop as he tugged Tony even closer, voice sharper than steel, “because that would really fuck things up for everyone, wouldn’t it?”

Another silence fell over the group, this one thicker and even more tense. All of the men looked between each other until Tony leant closer to Steve and dropped his gaze to the floor in embarrassment.

“This time, we really are going,” he said, his voice soft and unsure, barely finishing his sentence before Callum stepped forward menacingly.

“You’ve overstayed your welcome,” Adam spat out, “get the fuck out, you disgusting fags.”

Steve held his breath, trying desperately to keep himself out of jail, but Tony just shrugged, lifting his eyes back up and meeting Kyle’s stare dead-on. When he spoke again, he had gained back some of his fire and a sudden burst of confidence that warmed Steve’s chest.

“Fine by me,” he snapped back, voice calm and strong. “I wouldn’t want to feel welcome in a place that you felt accepted anyway. Please pass my best wishes on to your daughter, Kyle, and your niece, Isiah.”

With that, Tony grabbed at Steve’s hand and pulled him towards the exit, striding out with his head held high. It wasn’t until they were out of the school building completely and standing by their car that Tony deflated like a burst balloon and his knees gave out.

Steve caught him and held him tight to his body, one hand curled around the base of his neck and the other around his waist, swaying them both slightly as Tony clutched almost desperately at his shoulders.

“It’s over,” Steve muttered lowly, “you don’t ever have to see them again. You did so well, sweetheart. So, so well. God, I’m so proud of you.”

Tony let out a shuddering breath and sniffed loudly, his body trembling in the crisp air. Neither men said anything more until Tony gave one last, sharp inhale and straightened up. Steve cupped his cheek and gave him a soft smile.

“You were amazing,” he breathed, his thumb wiping away any trace of a tear on Tony’s cheek before he leant forward and gave him a long, slow kiss.

“I’m nothing to do with admissions,” Tony murmured, tilting his head when Steve started working his way down his throat and opening his legs to let Steve crowd him up against the car door, “and even if I was, you don’t see names on the applications anyway.”

Steve grinned and ground his hips against Tony’s, pressing a kiss to the shell of his ear and blowing lightly. “I know that and you know that, but it’s pretty much a rule that everyone lies at reunions. And anyway, did you see their fucking faces? Let’s let the dickheads stew for a bit. They deserve it.”

“You’re awful.”

Steve hummed as he started leaving a trail of kisses along Tony’s jawline, nipping lightly at his chin before catching his lips for a deep kiss. “I didn’t protect you nearly enough back then, so let me start now.”

Tony smiled softly and tugged Steve closer. “Baby, you did everything you could without hurting yourself. It’s okay.”

“It’s not,” Steve whispered, catching Tony’s hand and lifting it to his lips, his eyes falling closed as he relished in the cold metal of Tony’s wedding band against his mouth. “It’s not and I regret it every day. Say the word and I’ll go in there and shout from the stage how much you mean to me and how little they mean to the world.”

Tony laughed brightly and took his hand back so that he could catch Steve’s lips with his own.

“Or,” he murmured without pulling away so that his lips moved against his partner’s, his voice low and husky, “you could take me home and show me.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Tony let out a happy sigh as he rolled over into a solid chest, feeling a hand slide up to tangle in his hair almost immediately. The feeling of naked skin under his cheek was one that he figured he could get used to pretty quickly; the soft thumping of Steve’s heart matching his own beat and the light dusting of hair brushing against Tony’s stubble whenever he moved.

“Morning, sweetheart,” Tony heard a soft voice say from somewhere above him and he hummed in response. Fingers trailed down his neck and started to dance up and down his spine, the barest hint of a brush making Tony shiver lightly as his lips opened on a breathy moan.

“Morning,” he muttered back, turning his head just enough to press a kiss to a frankly ridiculously muscled pec and letting his hand curve over Steve’s hip.

“Did you sleep well?”

That was Tony’s first clue that something was off, but he smiled in reply anyway and rubbed his cheek against warm skin.

“Surprisingly, yes,” he replied, “thank you.”

Tony felt a hand slide over his and fingers tangle with his own, the touch beautifully grounding but also so telling. Not willing to let it go too soon, Tony let his eyes fall closed once more and he concentrated on memorizing every aspect of the embrace. He catalogued every callus on the fingers entwined with his and the coldness of Steve’s legs as they brushed against his own. After a long moment, Tony let out a huff and pushed himself to sit up.

He looked down at Steve and shrugged in defeat, smiling ever so slightly as Steve’s hand tailed down his back and rested at the base of his spine, fingertips tapping at the waistband of his briefs.

“It’s fake, isn’t it?”

Steve gave Tony a sad smile as he lifted his other hand to cup his cheek, thumb stroking a soothing line across the soft skin. “It’s a dream, beloved.”

And that’s when one knows they are ruined, Tony’s mind screamed at him, when the dreams turn to cuddles and prayers for sweet morning kisses instead of fantasies about passionate sex and frenzied make-out sessions against the closest vertical surface. That’s when it’s gone beyond a crush and the feelings are already well on the way towards love.

“Which means it isn’t real,” Tony filled in, his shoulders falling and his cheek turning to rest in Steve’s palm as though it was made to fit there.

“Maybe not,” Steve said gently. “But it can become real, if you want it badly enough. It doesn’t have to stay here; we don’t have to stay here. We can have this, Tony. You and I – the real you and I can have this...”

 

 

 

 

 

Tony blinked awake, hating the ache in his chest and the stupid, stupid way that he looked to his left with some unbridled hope that there might actually be someone there. He caught his lip between his teeth as he tried to bite down on the disappointment building inside of him when it became clear that he was very much alone – just as he had been for the past however many years. It was ridiculous, but…

Tony let out an angry sigh as he rolled over and reached blindly for his phone, desperate to not let himself talk himself out of doing this again. Taking a deep and steadying breath, he unlocked the screen and scrolled through his contacts until he reached the letter S.

His thumb hovered over the second to last entry for a long moment before an image flashed into his mind; one of him with his head thrown back in laughter as Steve tugged him close, his own smile wide on his face as he leant closer and closer.

The daydream always ended there, as if Tony’s subconscious knew that it would never be able to get it perfectly right. Could the pressure of the kiss be guessed accurately? Would Steve’s lips be chapped or dry? Would Tony be the one to give up control and let himself be guided, or would it be Steve to yield to Tony’s demanding tongue?

Tony let out another breath, not letting himself think about why it was so shaky, and finally made his finger close the gap to tap against the screen. It barely got to through the second ring before a wonderfully familiar voice answered.

“…hey, Steve. It’s Tony…”

 

 

Chapter Text

This couldn’t be happening.

Tony hadn’t fought every monster known to mankind, and even more not known to mankind, to die like this. His heart was racing, his palms were sweaty. This was it…

The end.

This was how Tony would die…

He just hadn’t expected there to be so much glitter.

 

 

“…why – what, I… what?”

Tony struggled to form a coherent sentence as he took in the sight before him. Tony had come home to… well, he wasn’t quite sure, really. Four years previously – and as a huge surprise to everyone, herself included – Natasha had become the first member of their little group to give birth. She had popped out twin boys, born on the day after Tony’s wedding.

(“The day after by two hours, Natasha.”

“Still counts, sugarplum. It wasn’t your wedding day!”)

That had seemed to act as a catalyst and a few years later, Steve and Tony were well on their way to being the last childless couple in their friendship group. Everyone had seemed to grow up and had started heading off to make their own miniature humans. For some reason, Steve had been dubbed as the babysitter-extraordinaire of their small circle and was roped in to minding the children whenever their parents were called out.

Coming home to a sleeping baby on Steve’s chest or a Lego monstrosity in the living room wasn’t unusual, but this…

Tony stood and stared at Steve as he attempted to process the scene in front of him. The large man was sitting on a child’s chair on the opposite side of a small table to the Romanoff twins; clearly, Nat had been called out for a mission, or at least called into headquarters on short notice, and had required Steve’s services.

Steve was almost bent in half with his knees practically touching his chin, and perched on his bright red ears – aw! He was blushing! Tony had married the biggest dork – was a shiny silver crown. Harry, the eldest twin, had a similar one pressed onto his curls whilst Alex’s, the younger brother, was blue. On the table in front of the three tiny teacups, half-eaten sandwiches and empty bags of chips were laid out. That in itself was okay, but the glitter.

Oh, so much glitter. How was there so much glitter? It was literally everywhere that Tony could see. There was no way that he was going to be able to get rid of that, short of stripping and redecorating the entire room. If his husband didn’t look so damn cute with a stupid, plastic crown on his head, then he’d be cursing up a blue storm right now.

Steve winced sheepishly as he looked up and almost immediately noted Tony’s disbelief. “Hey, sweetheart. Didn’t expect you quite so early.”

“Hey, babe,” Tony replied absentmindedly, his eyes still darting around the room. “Why in the hell is there so much glitter?”

Another wince and Steve bit his lip. “We made pictures,” he explained after a beat of silence. He tilted his head backwards, “they’re drying in the kitchen.”

“Mine’s Chua!” Harry yelled as he jumped up and ran to hug Tony. Steve caught Tony’ questioning gaze and mouthed ‘dragon’ over the child’s head.

“Nice one, dude,” Tony held out a palm and grimaced as a sticky hand high-fived him and transferred even more glitter onto Tony, a shower of the stuff falling to the floor each time the little boy wriggled. “And you, little man?” Tony asked Alex as Harry detached himself and pulled Tony over to the bombsite. God, was Tony glad that he was in his lab clothes and not a business suit. “What did you draw?”

“I did the sea!” Alex sounded so excited about his masterpiece, but Tony took a wild guess that he had merely upended the entire pot of blue glitter onto his sheet and called it the sea. Oh well, who was Tony to stifle creativity at such a young age?

“Are they dry yet, Stevie?”

Two grinning faces turned to Steve and, yeah, that was another reason for Tony’s imminent death. Harry and Alex had decided somewhere along the way that ‘Steve’ was too hard to pronounce, so Natasha – the enabler – had dubbed him ‘Stevie’. How it was any easier to say was beyond Tony, but he couldn’t deny that it was adorable as hell. Especially when it had stuck with the other children in their family and Steve melted to the ground every single time it was said.

After sending the duo off to check on their paintings Steve unbent himself from his chair with a groan.

Tony very kindly reached out to help him up as he asked one more time, “glitter? Really, Steve; really? Did you hate our carpet that much? Because I gotta say, whilst artistic and very, very cementing, this wasn’t the easiest way to get a new one. You could have just said that you hated it. You didn’t need to destroy our entire house.”

“It was nothing to do with the carpet.” Steve avoided Tony’s gaze as he answered with a straight face and a steady voice. “The art needed to be fit for a prince to own.”

Tony openly gaped at his husband, all semblance of coherent speech lost to him. He’d thought would think that after four years he would be used to this, but no. Every single time that he witnessed his husband around children, it bowled him over.

 

/

 

Both boys were fast asleep, tiny heads dwarfed by pillows and frankly alarmingly giant stuffed animals. They’d been scrubbed down in the bath to within an inch of their lives, but there was still a shimmering fleck of blue glitter just below Alex’s eyes, and Harry’s hair was going to sparkle for a decade.

Tony stood in the doorway to their bedroom – because there was, of course, a room decorated for the children – watching over them, marvelling silently at how much his life had changed. Steve came up behind him and wrapped his arms around Tony’s waist.

“I’m gonna need one of these.” Tony spoke quietly but with utter conviction, even as his shoulders tensed when he felt Steve freeze. “At least one, actually. Preferably a whole bunch. Let’s say, seven; ball park figure.”

Steve inhaled sharply and spun his husband around, his eyes darting over the other’s face. “You mean that?”

Tony held Steve’s gaze and smiled softly. “Yeah, Stevie. We’re ready.”

Steve kneed Tony playfully even as his smile split his face and his hands tugged Tony a little closer. “If you want to make a baby with me, you’d better stop calling me that right now.”

Tony snorted, but let his hands lift to tug at Steve’s hair. “You know we can’t actually make a baby, right?”

“Well, Steve said with a bite of his lip, “nothing to say we can’t try. If at first you don’t succeed and all that…”

Tony laughed and leant in until he could feel Steve’s breath tickling his lips, “oh, you dirty tease…”

He pulled away from his husband as the front door opened and Natasha's voice called out softly. As he began descending the stairs he looked over his shoulder with a wink. “…Stevie.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“You gave it up.”

Tony had his back to the building, but had no doubt heard the door open and knew that it would be Steve stepping out to look for him. Steve took a moment to admire the view; Tony silhouetted beautifully against the sunset, his hair being blown by the late evening breeze.

“I never really had it,” Steve argued softly as he walked slowly across the rooftop. He stopped next to Tony and leant forward, resting his forearms on the glass wall overlooking the city. Relishing in the quiet, Steve took a deep breath. “It wouldn’t have been the same – and even if I had have gone back, then this wouldn’t be the same future, would it? We don’t know what it would have changed.”

“But you could have had it,” Tony said, voice quiet and his gaze remaining resolutely staring out at the view before him. “It wouldn’t have been the same, no, but it would have been something. Something better than this – something more… well, you, I guess.”

“I don’t need to go back, Tony. I don’t need to go anywhere.”

“But–”

“No,” Steve cut in, twisting to look at Tony, taking in the shining splash of grey in his temple and the laughter lines around his eyes. Taking in everything that was so wonderfully Tony; everything so perfect that made up the man that he loved. “No more buts, no more arguments about this, Tony. I don’t want to be anywhere that you aren’t.”

Tony was silent for a long time before he dropped his head and let out a long sigh, his voice coming out ever so slightly shaky. “It was home, Steve. He was offering a way to get you back home.”

“No, it wasn’t.” Steve didn’t say anything more, knowing that sooner or later Tony would get uncomfortable with the silence and lift his head. When he did, Steve let his lips curve up into a small smile. “It wouldn’t have been home, not really. There would still be no Bucky, and I’d still be fighting a war. If he sent me to the wrong year then Peggy would be married and… well. We don’t know where I’d have ended up and what would have happened. And what’s to say that it would have worked, anyway? You of all people should be trying to talk me out of making a deal with a mad scientist.”

Tony stared at Steve, an unreadable expression on his face, not cracking a smile like Steve so desperately wished he would.

“You could have taken the chance. You should have taken that chance. You might have been back in the 40s by now, dancing the night away in a speakeasy or a dancehall, or sitting in a diner eating a banana split. Whatever it was you used to do.”

Steve gave a tiny chuckle even as he reached out and let his fingertips brush Tony’s cheek. “There was no chance to take. You are it for me, sweetheart. It’s either you, or it’s nothing.”

Tony leant into the touch ever so slightly before he swallowed loudly, his eyes boring into Steve’s as though searching for something. “You said no. You had an offer to go back and you said no.”

“I did.” Steve bit his lip and nodded sincerely. “And I’d do it again. A hundred times.”

Tony stared at Steve with something hideously disbelieving in his eyes, but said nothing more.

“I would give anything up for you,” Steve continued firmly, letting his hand cup Tony’s cheek and his thumb stroke against soft skin. “You are worth everything. Yes, I’d have gained a lot by going back – if that machine would have worked – but I would also have lost so much. I would have lost you, Tony. It wasn’t an even trade. Believe me.”

“Well,” Tony swallowed and sniffed, turning his gaze away for a long moment before he quirked a small smirk and looked back to Steve,“I am pretty irresistible.”

Steve quirked a smile and darted forward to press a kiss to the corner of Tony’s mouth. “That you are, darlin’, that you are.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


The thing was, Tony was good at his job. Sure, he was unconventional and loud and quite frankly a pain in the backside for the board, but he was a good teacher. It had been a huge shock to everyone when he’d graduated and then decided to stay on after his PhD to do a teaching course as well, but he’d wowed nearly all of those who had had their doubts. He’d taken to teaching like a duck to the water and hadn’t looked back since his first job teaching high schoolers. College was by far his favourite, though, when the kids actually wanted to be there and were eager to learn and Tony had happily settled down as a part-time physics and engineering professor.

 

Getting a new class was one of Tony’s favourite things. As much as he loved the final weeks of term when he had had the time to get to know his students, form bonds and could then help them with essays and projects, sending them off to pastures new, he also liked a sparkly, new class that he could dive right into and mould in his image. He liked making lesson plans and scouring through textbooks to find the most interesting ways to teach the course he was required to.

Meeting the kids was always the most fun, though. The first lesson of that first term was always a good one - a way to weed out those who were actually serious about the course.

 

/


“How much would you give me to flip this table, right here, right now, in the middle of the classroom?”

There was a beat of silence before a hand went up at the back of the room. “Aren’t you the teacher? I’m pretty sure teachers aren’t meant to do that.”

“Well, yes,” Tony said, pointing his pen in the direction of the voice, “I am. But it would be a practical demonstration of physics as a little welcome to the class.”

“Why do you need to demonstrate physics?” another student asked, voice timid and coloured with confusion.

Tony turned and changed the direction of his pen. “Because I believe in hands-on learning and think that practical demonstrations are the way forward. And writing bores me, so I want to use my hands.” He wiggled his fingers and waggled his eyebrows.

There was a long silence in the room and several students exchanged confused glances. Tony ignored them as he rapped his knuckles on the solid wood of the table in front of him. There were always a few skeptical kids, but as soon as he performed his trick they were won over.

“So, anyone? How much? I mean, I’d do it for free, but teachers don’t make all that much so I’d take a bet.”

There was another pause and Tony bounced on the spot as he tried to catch the gaze of a few unfortunates on the front couple of rows.

“Are you sure you’re our teacher?”

“Yes,” Tony said at the same time a voice at the side of the room said “no.”

Tony turned and squinted across the room to see the door open and a figure standing in the doorway, nothing but a silhouette against the bright sunshine.

“Excuse me, Sir,” Tony said, “but I do believe I am the teacher. Physics 101.”

“Actually,” the man corrected as he stepped into the room and closed the door behind him, “this is Introduction to the Civil War.”

Tony frowned, momentarily distracted by how well the stranger filled out his blazer - but dear God, were those tweed elbow patches? - and brown slacks. Huh. This guy would be a history teacher dressed like that, wouldn’t he?

“No,” Tony said, reaching behind himself blindly for the papers he’d thrown on the desk, “this is LP5 - Physics 101.”

“It’s LAP5, actually,” a student called from somewhere in the middle of the rows. “LP block is the one next to the gym, not the library.”

Tony opened his mouth to reply before he took another glance around the room. In fairness, it was a lecture hall as opposed to the lab that Tony had been expecting and the kids all had stacks of textbooks in front of them instead of a clock like he’d requested his students bring.

Whoops. Well, no one ever said he was a genius. Well, they did, but they never said he was with it all of the time.

Tony laughed awkwardly and tapped out a random rhythm on the desk as he thought over the campus map in his head. “Okay, yeah, I see the problem. That’s on me. But in my defence, who is at their best at 9am in a Thursday?”

There was yet another silence and Tony watched as the students all exchanged one more round of glances between themselves. When the other professor cleared his throat, Tony turned to look at his far-too-amused expression.

“It’s Wednesday today,” the man said, his smile soft as his eyes danced mischievously. “So at least you haven’t missed your class.”

Tony grinned, too used to his own scatter-brained ways to be too embarrassed at his blunder. “See? There’s always a silver lining. I guess I’d better let you actually teach your own class, hadn’t I?”

“If you wouldn’t mind,” the man laughed as he walked over to Tony and dropped his briefcase onto the desk. He held out his hand for Tony to shake. “Professor Steve Rogers. History.”

Tony took the hand and shook it warmly. “Tony Stark. Physics and Engineering.”

“Well, I must say that it sounds like you had a very interesting lesson planned, Tony. More so than mine, at least.”

Tony caught the way that Steve’s hand tightened around his and the quirk of the man’s lips. He tilted his head thoughtfully as his mind raced to find a way to test the waters.

“I like to think so,” he said, finally releasing Steve’s hand and stepping back to gather up his belongings. “Maybe I could show you how it goes at some point.”

Steve didn’t reply as he turned to his class slightly. “Morning, guys. Please refresh yourselves with the reading and share your findings with whomever you are sitting next to. Apologies for the late start, but please bear with me as I sort myself out. Parking was just utter hell.”

Tony smiled at the muttered curses of agreement that went up from the students and reached for his tablet, flipping the case over it and snagging the stylus just before it rolled off the edge of the desk. God, he couldn’t lose another one of those. As he tucked it in his pocket and bent down to unplug his charger, Steve spoke again.

“Physics classes are usually an hour, yes?”

Tony tried to bite down on his excited grin as he straightened up and grabbed his jacket, throwing it over his arm. Just this once he couldn’t find it in himself to care if he creased it as he lifted his eyes back up to Steve’s. “They are indeed. Tomorrow’s may be even shorter as it’s just the first lesson. A short introduction and a demonstration.”

“Of table-flipping?” Steve asked, shrugging out of his blazer and hanging it carefully over the back of the chair behind the desk.

“But of course! Got to grab the interest as soon as you can.” Tony’s smile spread as Steve let out a very soft chuckle, low and throaty. Wow , that was a good sound. The water was warm, Tony decided happily: it was time to wade in. “And I don’t have office hours on a Thursday, either. Nothing but that one class, in fact. Free for the whole day.”

“Hm.”

Steve said no more and Tony coughed lightly. Maybe those waters weren’t that warm after all. He checked he hadn’t left anything of his on the desk and made to leave.

“Well then, I shall leave you to the Civil War, Professor.”

“Thank you,” Steve said, opening his briefcase and pulling out a stack of neatly stapled syllabuses. Aw, shit - Tony had printed some of those off, he remembered suddenly. He needed to find those before his class; his actual class, that was.

“How do you take your coffee?”

Tony paused on his way out of the lecture hall and turned to look over his shoulder. Steve was standing near the first row of students, the syllabuses starting on their way around, with a blush high on his cheeks.

Tony grinned as he heaved his messenger bag up on his shoulder. “As black as the kid behind the counter will make it.”

Steve returned the smile warmly; “a man after my own heart. Maybe we should walk and drink - wouldn’t want you to flip the drinks with your skills.”

Tony let out a loud laugh before Steve straightened up and clapped his hands together, walking to the front of the hall.

“Okay, here we go! Welcome to Introduction to the Civil War. Please tell me you are all in the right place-”



Chapter Text

“Where’s Peter?” Tony asked as he walked into the kitchen, wiping his hands on his jeans absentmindedly. Huh, the jeans didn’t seem like his usual style and his shirt was definitely a little too old-manish for his liking. “That kid is always late home these days. Did he get detention again?”

There was a beat of silence and Tony looked up to see Steve and Bucky sharing a glance. Something started to stir in his stomach and he was suddenly on alert. What was wrong? What had he said?

“What?”

“Tony,” Steve started, voice soft as though talking to a frightened animal and, man, Tony had always hated when his husband spoke like that. “Peter doesn’t live here anymore.”

“What?” Tony felt his world slip sideways and he reached out to grab at the counter behind him. What was Steve on about? Of course Peter lived with them. He was their son. “Of course he does.”

They’d had Peter since he was a child, picked him up on a beautiful sunny day in May and promised him that he would be theirs until the end of time. They were good parents, him and Steve.

They hadn’t lost him, had they? No, he told himself fiercely, trying to keep the bile from rising in his throat, they were good parents. Peter was loved and there was no way that he would have been taken away from them.

Except that now Tony thought about it, there weren’t any sneakers by the door nor did he remember seeing any of Peter’s coats hanging in the cupboard when he’d hung up his jacket. There weren’t any textbooks littering the living room or any Legos on the floor for Tony to dodge. The kid had a habit of leaving a trial of his possessions behind him and Tony couldn’t see any dirty dishes in the sink – washing up was Peter’s job and he always did it when he got in from school. There wasn’t any music playing, either, and Peter always had music on, no matter what. So where the hell was he?

Tony let his gaze wander over to the fridge where there should have been numerous scribbled drawings that were meant to be representations of Tony and Steve but barely resembled blobs. Tony couldn’t see the unit very clearly without his glasses on, but he could see that there were less pieces of white printer paper and more sticky notes with very adult-looking lists on them. At the top of the door was a thin strip of photographs held in place by a large Mickey Mouse magnet. The photos were tiny, but Tony could just make out a graduation cap proudly taking up most of the frame. They didn’t know anyone that would be graduating, not for a few years at least. 

Tony tugged his gaze from the photos and looked over at Steve. His husband was looking back at him, sadness clear in those gorgeous blue eyes and Tony felt the strange urge to cry.

“He’s at college?”

Steve’s mouth twisted and Tony dropped his eyes. Ah. Clearly Peter was no longer at college – just how many years was Tony missing? 

“He graduated,” Bucky said. He took a final sip from the mug in front of him as he pushed his chair back and stood up from the table. “A couple of years ago now. Great ceremony, actually. We all went up and made a weekend of it.”

Bucky’s voice was unusually gentle and Tony looked up at him. It was a jolt to his system to see wrinkles on the face looking back at him, crow’s feet clear around Bucky’s eyes. Tony had been expecting to see a youthful complexion – the same one that he was so used to. To see evidence of years that Tony clearly couldn’t remember staring at him was one step too far. The urge to run to a mirror and simultaneously stay as far away from one as possible hit him suddenly and it was hard to breathe, pain striking Tony through the chest.

He looked back over at Steve and that time he couldn’t help but track every single change on his beautiful husband’s face that his subconscious hadn’t let him see before. This wasn’t right. It just wasn’t, couldn’t be, right.

Steve wasn’t old; he was still so young. They were both so young, running around their little boy kept them that way. Steve was meant to have smooth skin and dark brown hair – as attractive as the salt and pepper look was, it wasn’t right on his husband.

“So,” Tony cleared his throat, turning to stare at Bucky in disbelief, “where does my son live now?”

“Boston.”

Tony’s knees buckled and he was glad for the counter behind him. He couldn’t look at the pain etched in Steve’s face or the sympathy in Bucky’s so instead he focused on the floor. Even that made him want to sob; the kitchen had had grey tiles when Tony had last looked, so why were they now blue?

His little boy, his mind flickered back to. Tony’s little boy was apparently no longer a child. He was living in Boston and Tony didn’t even remember saying goodbye.

“I’d better go, Stevie,” Tony vaguely heard Bucky saying. “Let’s leave dinner tonight, yeah? We can do it tomorrow instead. Call me if you need anything.”

Tony nodded some sort of assent when he felt a hand squeeze his elbow and a body brush past him, but he didn’t move until he heard the front door close and arms wrapped around his shoulders.

Tony fell into Steve’s embrace without a second thought – whatever had changed, Steve’s touch would never be any different, nor would the comfort that it brought.

“Hey, sweetheart. It’s okay, I promise.”

Tony clutched at Steve as he tried to calm himself. It was frightening, but he trusted Steve’s whispered words. Steve would never steer him wrong; if he said they were okay, then they were okay.

“What’s wrong with me? And don’t you dare lie.”

Steve let out a sigh as he gathered Tony even closer, a hand cupping his neck and squeezing ever so lightly. “Dementia,” he finally replied, flat and dull. “You have dementia.”

Tony didn’t really know what to say to that. He was glad that his head was buried in Steve’s chest and he spent a long moment trying to breathe, in and out and in and out.

He knew what dementia was, of course. That much he would never forget. His grandad had had it, after all. Way back when he was a teenager, Tony had spent hours flicking through photo albums and talking to his grandad in a soft voice, reminding the man of his name over and over again. And now Peter was going to have to do the same.

“Am I…”

“No,” Steve was quick to reply, pressing a kiss to Tony’s head and letting out a shuddering breath. “It’s just a bad day, Tony. That’s all it is. You haven’t had one in a long time – we thought you were... It’s alright, though. Everything’s okay. It’s just a bad day.”

It wasn’t. Tony knew that much and he knew that Steve knew it too. He’d lost years in the space of an hour. He had gone to sleep seemingly in the present and when he’d woken up from his nap, he’d thought his son was still at high school. But apparently Peter had graduated from college and moved out of state. When Tony had woken up from his nap, he’d expected to walk into a grey-floored kitchen and to go out to dinner with a fresh-faced Bucky Barnes. But no. Their kitchen was now a hideous shade of blue and his husband’s best friend was pushing sixty.

Tony took a deep breath and reached around Steve’s waist to link his hands, twisting his wedding ring around his finger to ground himself.

“Do you want to call him? We were meant to talk to him tomorrow anyway.”

Tony didn’t trust his voice, but he needed to hear his son’s. He nodded against Steve’s chest and let himself have one more moment of calm before he pulled away.

 

/

 

“Hey, kid,” Steve said, setting the phone down between them on the coffee table and sitting back on the couch.

Hi,” came Peter’s lovely voice through the device and Tony felt a rush of relief wash over him. That was his kid alright, safe and alive. So close and yet so horribly far away at the same time. “Everything alright, Pops? I thought we said tomorrow, didn’t we?”

Steve squeezed Tony’s arm and gave a soft smile. “Yes, we did. Your Dad just wanted to talk to you.”

Okay,” Peter said, something in his tone that Tony didn’t want to dwell on. His next words were a lot brighter and Tony swallowed. “How’s the fence looking, Dad?”

Tony couldn’t remember for the life of him what was wrong with the fence or what he’d been doing to it. “It’s looking like a fence,” he replied and Steve chuckled. Clearly their stupid sense of humour hadn’t changed. “How’s Boston?”

There was the smallest pause before Peter started talking, well, gushing, really. “It’s incredible, Dad! The weather’s been really nice this week so I’ve been walking to work more and more…

The more that Peter talked, the more obvious it became that he knew what the purpose of the call was. It was clear that Peter had been living in Boston for a while though he was trying to disguise that, changing tenses or dates when he was recounting stories and telling Tony about all of the places he liked to go to eat.

Every time it happened it tugged at Tony’s heart, knowing how much Peter was accommodating to help him, but he chose not to focus on it too heavily. This was his beautiful little boy, the light of Tony’s life. No matter what else was happening in Tony’s life, he had Peter. He leant back against the couch cushions and closed his eyes, letting his darling boy’s voice wash over him. As much as he was desperate to remember every tiny detail that Peter was sharing and to file it away and never forget, Tony knew that it was never going to happen.

 


Tony was jolted back to the present by a voice in the background of the call. He couldn’t make it out too clearly, but Peter turned away from the speaker to answer whoever it was.

I’ll be there in a moment, sweetheart.”

“He got that from you,” Tony commented, trying not to think about the ache in his heart at the sound of his little boy addressing someone he didn’t know with that endearment. It was easier to think about what he did know, who he knew. Focus on the things that would never change.

Steve smiled and leant over to press a kiss to Tony’s temple. “That he did, sweetheart.”

Dad, I’m sorry, but I have to go. Is everything okay, Pops?”

Tony wanted to cry, but he wiped at his eyes to stave away any horrible tears. “Okay, kiddo. That’s okay.”

“Yeah, Pete, we’re fine. Aren’t we, Tony? We’ve got this.”

Tony swallowed and nodded as firmly as he could. “Of course we do. It’s only a fence, right?”

It was the right thing to say as Steve and Peter laughed together, a little wet but bright. “Of course.”

That it is, Dad. You can manage a fence, surely. But I can come over next weekend, if you need an extra pair of hands. In fact, we’re both free that whole week. Shall I look at flights?”

Tony looked down at his hands, counting the age spots that hadn’t been there last time he had looked. But last time he’d looked, his boy was also just a baby in his arms. Or at middle-school science club. Or in detention at high school. Well, wherever he was, it wasn’t in Boston living with a partner.

“Maybe, kid,” Steve said quietly, thoughtfully. “If you can.”

“Of course. That fence can be a right bastard, can’t it? It won’t hurt to have a few people keeping an eye on it.”

“That would be lovely.” Steve patted Tony’s knee and fixed his smile.” Okay, we’ll let you go. Have a good night, Pete.”

You too, Pops. Love you, Dad.”

“Love you too, Peter-Pan,” Tony said quietly, wishing that Peter had hung up the phone before he had let out his loud sob.

 

 

 

“He’s married?” Tony asked when Steve had placed the phone down on the side table, call ended and just the two of them left in their far-too-big house.

“Engaged.” 

“Oh.” Tony tried to smile. “Least I haven’t missed the wedding, then.” 

Steve’s face crumpled and he pulled Tony into his arms. “Do you want to know who, when?” he asked into Tony’s hair.

Tony shook his head. He did, desperately, in fact, but he really didn’t think he could cope with it just then. He didn’t want to have lost all of this. He didn’t want to have missed out on so many precious years.

How could he have forgotten Peter’s graduation or his own son’s first kiss? How did he not remember seeing the first streak of grey in Steve’s hair and the no-doubt-countless hours of teasing him about it? Tony wanted to remember; he wanted it all back to normal.

He shook his head again and reached out for Steve. When Steve tugged him into his hold, he collapsed into his chest almost desperately.

“He’s upstairs,” Tony whispered into Steve’s shoulder and tightened his arms. “Just tell me he’s upstairs. Please.”

Tony tried not to let tears escape when he felt Steve press a kiss to the top of his head. 

“He’s upstairs,” Steve agreed almost immediately and Tony did his very best to not listen to the tremble in his voice. He shut his eyes and let out a breath, casting his mind back to the very first day they’d brought Peter home, so tiny and fragile.

“He’s just upstairs. Science homework, you know how it is. We’ll have to drag him out for dinner.”

“He’s going to do great things,” Tony said, swallowing hard. “My little scientist.” 

“That he is,” Steve replied, his hands soothing over Tony’s back. “Oh, sweetheart, that he is.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“Why don’t you just go and see him?”

Tony’s mouth dropped open in horror and he twisted his head to stare at Rhodey. “I can’t.”

“You’re driving me nuts,” Rhodey said with a long sigh, flicking some lint from the hem of his trousers, “just please go and see him before I murder you.”

“Do you want this marriage to fail? Do you?”

Rhodey rolled his eyes in exasperation, staring back at Tony’s betrayed expression. “Of course I don’t want your marriage to fail. But–”

“Well, clearly you do,” Tony snapped. “You know that seeing each other before the ceremony puts a curse on the marriage and yet you were quite happy to suggest it.”

Rhodey scrubbed a hand down his face. “I don’t want to curse your marriage, you idiot. I just don’t want you to burn a hole in the carpet with your pacing or for you to work yourself up into a panic. Steve is the best person to calm you when you do this, Tones, you know he is.”

“Well,” Tony swallowed, “you’re pretty good too.”

“Oh, I’m amazing,” Rhodey shot back with a smile. “But I’m okay with passing the reigns over now.”

Tony gave him a soft smile as he finally stopped moving. “I’m nervous.”

Rhodey laughed as he pushed himself up from the chair by the window and walked over to Tony, reaching out to clap a hand to Tony’s shoulder. “Yeah, I got that. But it’s all alright; it’s just Steve, after all. You’ve wanted this for a while and it’s finally happening.”

Before either of them could say anything else, there was a light knock on the door. Rhodey’s brow furrowed as he dropped his gaze to his watch. Tony could sympathise: they still had a while before the ceremony was due to start, so nobody should have been coming to their room.

What had gone wrong now? It had to be something, of course it did. The caterer had probably cancelled, or the band had gotten lost. The wedding was doomed from the start; he just knew it was.

“Tony? Tony, are you in there?”

“Steve?” Tony said, his head whipping around to stare at the door in disbelief. He ignored Rhodey’s laugh from behind him as he tried to look through the solid door. “What are you doing here?”

They had booked rooms on opposite sides of the hotel to diminish the chances of bumping into each other as they got ready, but clearly that plan had failed. Why was Steve here? Was he here to cancel the wedding?

“I gave Bucky the slip. He might honestly kill me before I can get up the aisle, but I just needed to see you. Are you okay?”

Tony stumbled over the door and placed his hand against the cool wood. “I’m scared,” he whispered, letting his head fall forward and his forehead touch the door. God, he had been so terrified for so long and the wave of relief that had crashed through him was almost painful. “I thought you might have bailed.”

There was a pause before Steve let out a soft sigh. “Open the door.”

“You want to curse this marriage too?” Tony muttered with a shake of his head, trying not to listen to the tremble in his voice. “What is with you people?”

“Oh, just open it. Turn around and face the room, but put your arm out.”

Tony pulled back after a moment and slid the lock over, pulling the door open just a crack. He turned almost comically quickly as though Steve was about to storm his way into the room, but nothing happened. After a moment, just as Tony was about to open his eyes and poke his head around the door, Steve’s arm slid through the gap. He reached blindly for Tony’s, his hand bumping against his arm lightly.

“See?” he said softly, when Tony returned the touch and let his fingers slip between Steve’s. “I’m still here. I couldn’t wait even an hour to see you.”

Tony let out a slow breath as he caught Rhodey’s eye, almost taken aback by the pride and sheer, unbridled joy in his friend’s expression. It made everything quite real all of a sudden and he swallowed down the burn in his throat.

“We’re really doing this, huh?”

“Looks that way,” Steve quipped back, his own voice a little choked.

Tony coughed and reached up to rub his nose, tightening the fingers of his other hand around Steve’s. “Does this count as seeing you before the wedding? Because I really hope not.”

Steve laughed, low and throaty and Tony couldn’t wait to hear that sound for the rest of his life. “I promise you, Tony, nothing could curse this marriage.”