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Love the Player, Love the Game

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Steve looked around the stadium, amazed at the leaps and bounds the future had taken. Back in his day, sports were physical and rough. In his wildest dreams, he’d never thought that sports could evolve to the electronic and the imagined. But with the surge of technology, now even online games have evolved into a full-fledged sport. A very competitive sport at that, as per Peter, and a very lucrative one, as per Tony.

There were screens everywhere, literally everywhere, even in the bathroom. And just as many speakers, lights, phones, laptops, and all sorts of stuff Steve could only marvel at. E-sports were still a bit confusing for him, but sports and the excitement and electricity that came with it were all very familiar to him. So standing there, at the Stark E-sports Stadium, and with his husband and his son being so involved in this, Steve couldn’t help feeling just as giddy as everybody here.

And honestly, he liked the energy this event had compared to all those stiff galas and dinners he and Tony had to attend for Stark Industries. People here were friendly and passionate and so excitable. Plus, he didn’t have to wear a suit, unlike some of the announcers and the reporters. He was comfortable in a dark blue t-shirt with Captain America’s shield on it, and a really spiffy and comfortable black jean jacket with jeans and boots.

Steve was watching a promotional video for the event. They were holding the Opening Ceremony in a few hours and Peter told him there were even a few celebrity performers lined up. Steve didn’t know any of the bands or acts he named, but he was just glad his son was so excited.

“Pops! Look! Look!”

Peter came running through the doors in full force, Ned and MJ at his heels and VIP passes swinging from their necks. He was in a red and white sports jacket, a black shirt which looked like one of Tony’s band shirts, skinny jeans, and white sneakers with plaint splatters on it that Steve decorated and gave him for getting all As last semester. That was part of his and Tony’s condition to allow him and his friends to come to this event.

Peter bounced up to Steve, brandishing the Program. “They’re going to showcase the new Stark VR console! The same one I helped Da design!”

“I guess you found that already.” Steve grinned, ruffling Peter’s hair affectionately. “Yeah, Da told me. He wanted it to be a surprise. We’re so proud of you. He said you, Ned, and MJ can even try it out before the Opening Ceremony before everybody else.”

Peter beamed and he and his friends immediately started gushing about the new toy Tony and Peter built.

Like a sixth sense, Steve turned towards the doors just as Tony and Pepper stepped in. Pepper was in a sleek, peach-colored pantsuit and Tony was in a dark blue shirt, a suit jacket, white pants and white sneakers with plaint splatters, also painted by Steve to match Peter’s pair.

Steve’s boys both looked so dapper.

Neither Pepper nor Tony were going to make a speech, which was unusual for any Stark Industries major event, but Tony claimed it was better to let their e-sports team handle it and get the credit. With the way the two were now, so relaxed and laughing and smiling, it was obvious they enjoyed taking a break from being hosts.

“Hey, beautiful,” Steve greeted. “And hello, Tony.”

“Hello, Steve.” Pepper laughed behind a hand.

Tony humphed, crossing his arms and obviously fighting a grin. “Try again, Rogers.”

“It’s Stark-Rogers,” Steve said, sliding an arm around Tony’s waist and kissing his cheek. “Hello, my love.”

“There, that’s better.” Tony winked, pressing a kiss to his lips.

“Da! Pops! Stop kissing in public!” Peter piped up, waving his hands at them. “And MJ, stop that!”

“Like hell I will.” MJ scoffed. She had her phone out and trained at them. “I’ll get a hundred more followers after this.”

Tony chuckled and waved to the camera, but Steve dutifully took a step back.

“Oh, yeah!” Peter perked up. “Da, you added the new VR console to the exhibit! The one we made!”

Tony beamed. “Of course I did, kiddo. I’m super proud of the work you did on that. Plus your grades were all topnotch this sem, of course I was gonna add it in.” He smacked a kiss to Peter’s forehead, who flushed and then tried to kick MJ on the shin for getting that on video.

“I'm so proud of you too, Peter,” Pepper said, smiling. “Stark E-Games Division has been drumming up attention for it and a few investors have even expressed interest. We’re all very excited for the showing.”

Steve felt pride bloom in his chest at the absolute look of delight and pride on Peter’s face.

Ned grabbed Peter in a headlock. “That is so cool, man! All those all-nighters paid off! And you were so worried about it.”

“Can we take a turn, Mr. Stark-Rogers, Ms. Potts?” MJ asked, always far politer than the boys.

“Oh, definitely,” Tony said, checking his watch. “We’ve got some corporate sponsored gamers coming in to try, and you can either join them or go before them, whichever you guys wa–”

“Ms. Potts! Mr. Stark-Rogers!”

A young man approached their group, college-aged, probably about three or four years older than Peter and his friends. He was in a Stark Industries E-Games jacket, white with red piping and a patch on the chest of what looked like… Hello Kitty with twin katana blades? The jacket hood was up and the boy was wearing a black face mask and glasses with thick red frames, but even that couldn’t hide the scarring on his entire face. He even had on black gloves.

“Hey, kid,” Tony said, even bumping fists with him. “Good to see you.”

“Wade!” Pepper grinned him warmly. “How are you, dear?”

Steve noticed that Ned and Peter were gaping and whispering furiously and slapping each other as MJ trained a camera on Wade.

“I’m doing okay, thought I’d say hi,” Wade spoke through the face mask. His bright blue eyes were smiling behind his glasses. “And to thank you both again for all your help with the sponsorship and the scholarship.”

“You deserve it,” Pepper said. “And we've been hearing good things about you from SI Scholars and SEG.”

Tony scoffed and waved a hand. “And honestly, your record speaks for itself, kid. SI Scholars was happy to offer you a slot. Didn't even have to do anything.” He waved a hand towards Steve. “Wade, this is my husband, Steve. Steve, Wade Wilson. He's going to be playing later.”

Wade noticeably perked up. “Captain America... Er, sorry. Mister Stark-Rogers. I am a big fan!” 

Steve grinned, and smiled wider at Wade's firm grip and honest smile. “Thank you, and yes, it's just Steve for today. Good luck on your match.” 

“You’re Deadpool!” Both Peter and Ned suddenly squeaked, apparently unable to help themselves.

MJ stepped forward. “Can you say hi to my live, please? I’m so going to trend with this.”

“Erm…” Wade looked confused, but waved gamely at MJ’s camera. “Yeah, I’m Deadpool. It’s nice to meet you all.”

Steve stepped back and whispered to Tony. “He’s who again?”

“Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool – he’s a gamer, honey, a really good one too,” Tony explained as Pepper did the introductions. “Stark EG scouted him three years ago and he's one of their sponsored gamers competing in this year’s e-sports tournament. He’s actually pretty popular and,” his voice lowered, “Petey-pie’s a fan.”

“–and this is Peter, Mr. Stark-Rogers’ son,” Pepper said, motioning to a flushed and fidgety Peter.

“H-Hi.” Peter waved awkwardly. “I’ve been such a big fan ever since I heard that you use the proceeds of your wins to set up CEGA and Sister Margaret's School for Wayward Children, and when you won the E-League two years ago against Ajax.”

Wade suddenly flushed behind his mask. “O-Oh, well that’s… yeah, I’m pretty proud of that, er, for both. T-Thanks.” His eyes crinkled behind his glasses and his mask creased in a big smile.

Steve exchanged looks with Tony. Even Pepper gave them a telling look. MJ was still taking videos.

As the conversation seemed to be dissolving into some awkward silence and staring between their son and this rather interesting young gamer, Tony stepped up.

“Petey, Wade’s being sponsored by Stark E-Games and he's a Stark Industries Scholar so he’ll actually be around a lot, isn’t that cool?”

“T-That’s great!” Peter said, glancing at Wade then looking away.

“I have an idea,” Tony said, so obvious and unconvincing that Steve just sighed and Pepper coughed lightly to hide a giggle. “Why don’t you, Ned, MJ, and Wade go and try out the new VR console before everybody else comes? Perks of being the one to actually design the system is that you get first dibs.”

Wade’s blue eyes grew so, so wide. “You designed the new Stark VR console?” He stepped forward.  “That’s so cool! I heard the new VR console has a totally different interface than other VR headsets and they even upgraded the command system!”

Peter flushed. “I helped, that’s all. Erm, nothing big.”

“Nonsense. You made it work when I couldn't,” Tony scoffed. “Now go on.” He shooed them off. “Opening Ceremony is in four hours, so go while you have a chance. I’ll catch up.”

“How’s the pixel density and the distortion in the new system?” Wade asked Peter as they walked off. “It gets so distracting when everything looks so heavy, really takes away from the experience.”

“Pete said the same thing. It was actually like, one of the first things he said he fixed with the new console,” Ned commented, ever supportive, as Peter flushed redder.

“MJ?” Tony called out.

MJ rolled her eyes, waving her phone. “I’m on it, Mr. Stark-Rogers.”

Pepper laughed as the teens all exited the room. “I’m going to go before I get involved in your shenanigans.” She kissed Tony’s cheek then Steve's. “But keep me updated on that cute little development.” She walked off, radiating amusement.

Steve sighed, even as Tony wrapped his arms around his waist. “Tony, don’t matchmake our son.”

“What?” Tony squeezed his middle and fluttered his eyelashes a Steve coquettishly. “This is the twenty-first century, darling. Flirting isn’t all just physical anymore. It can even start online. Imagine that.”

Steve just laughed and Tony smiled, kissing him and turning serious.

“Wade is such a nice boy though, very smart, and thoughtful. He’s an orphan, got into a bad accident when he was a kid hence all the hiding and the scars, and while he never got adopted, his current guardian’s a blind older woman. He actually got into e-sports to try and pay his way through college and to help his guardian, said it’s helped him stay away from drugs and fooling around. Part of why he got into SI’s radar is that he’s pretty involved with charity. He helped fund a school in his area and started up CEGA, their local Charity E-games Association.”

“You never know, he and Peter could become good friends.” Tony was really serious this time.

Steve smiled and agreed at everything he heard. “Yeah, I think that would be really nice. Wade seems like a good apple. And we should really thank Stark E-Games Division for helping a lot of these at-risk young people.” He shrugged. “I don’t know a lot about gaming, but maybe we could help them out with more of their projects.”

“I might just up their budget next year.” Tony winked. “Come on. How about I take you on a tour before we check on those kids?”

Steve grinned. “Lead the way, hubby.”