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Tall drink in the desert.

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"So what will it be today?" Tony asked, and Steve almost replied with a you. Tony was giving him that look again, Steve was pretty sure Tony directed it towards all his customers, Steve was not special, but damn if it didn't make him want to pull Tony over from across the counter and kiss it thoroughly off his face, just so those doe eyes of his would stop driving Steve mad. Steve looked away quickly, taking in the rest of the place.

The bar had its faithful clientele, not fancy enough to be anyone really important, while having enough change in their pockets to order a couple of rounds and then some. The lights were warm and dimmed, so unless Steve looked for it, he would not be able to see the wear and tear that bespoke the aged furniture. There was an older gentleman to his left, and Steve watched as he eyed Tony's form with interest.

"Hit me with the special," Steve asked.

Tony slid his eyes towards Steve and then slid them back to the counter where he was wiping down some moisture, "Ever the adventurous one, aren't you." The condensation smeared against the surface the first time Tony swiped along it and then sponged away on the downstroke.

"What can I say, I'm an adrenaline junkie." Steve shrugged.

Tony paused in his actions and assessed Steve with an appraising eye. Steve found himself sucking in the air and tightening his abdomen. He worked out regularly, Steve had nothing to be conscious about, but Tony gave an approving hum, and Steve felt a spark of pleasure in his chest at the sound.

"Is that where those muscles come from?" Tony asked, a teasing lilt to the end of his tone.

Steve had to remind himself that it was Tony's job to flirt with his customers, he did it for the tips and not because he was actually looking at Steve's muscles. Well, okay, he was looking, Steve wasn't that oblivious, but that didn't mean he implied it any other way apart from the friendly bartender guise he wore on the job.

Tony made his drink for him with his usual quick movements. His wrists flicked in graceful gestures, and Steve watched, hypnotized, as Tony poured some orange juice into the glass before topping it off with Vodka. Tony had gorgeous hands, long lean fingers, brown skin darkened at the knuckles, the flash of calluses on his palms, a bulging vein running down from the back of his thumb (that Steve itched to drag his tongue across), smoothing into his slender wrist, and even the gentle curve of his pisiform was pretty to Steve.

With a fluid roll of his palm, he pushed the glass towards Steve, pressing down an orange quarter to the rim with a cheeky wink. Tony had nice brows too Steve noted, not for the first time. The bone behind them was fine, aristocratic, and the hair neatly groomed with a curve that tapered to a point before slanting down a sharp slope, framing a pair of intelligent and calculating eyes.

Tony cleared his throat, and Steve snapped out of his reverie with an embarrassed flush. He liked looking at Tony, not just because of his obvious crush on the man, but also because Tony was aesthetically intriguing. His expensive vests, pants that looked tailored to his form, his cultured speech pattern, the way he didn't meld his words, but instead spoke in gravely tone that dragged a shiver along the shell of Steve's ear- spoke of wealth and a lavish life, but the way the corners of his eyes were kissed deeply by age, his physique had musculature that did not appear cultivated to the trained eye, and even the way he mixed drinks, graceful, but more an art of experience than flourish told Steve there was more to the man than met the eye.

Tony jerked his chin towards Steve's glass in curiosity, "Does that even taste good?"

No, it didn't. But Steve liked watching Tony make drinks, he was curious about how Tony would handle the different ingredients at his disposal, so he found himself ordering the most outlandish things he could think of, which tended to coincide with the day’s specials. 

" Slow and comfortable screw against the wall," Tony's mouth, abused by a habit he had of constantly gnawing at his lower lip, quirked up at the corners, "You sure know how to pick them, Rogers."

Steve swallowed down the thickness in his throat, imperceptibly shuddering at Tony's emphasis around the name. So maybe there was an indecent cognition to his request. The way Tony's tongue rolled around the words salaciously, was compelling. Steve had developed an addiction to listening to Tony talk. The man could read a phone book, and Steve would be right there in the front row, raptly catching every utterance. 


It wasn’t the only thing about Tony that caught Steve’s attention

Steve rested his cheek on his knuckles, elbow propped up on the counter, "Wanna give it a taste? And I told you to call me Steve." He asked, nudging the glass back towards Tony with his index finger.

"Are you buying me a drink, Steve ?" Tony asked, eyes shining with amusement. Charm came to him as easy as breathing, and sometimes, Steve envied his ability to ask questions like this in a nonchalant manner. He had to hold himself back from asking Tony out. Tony probably got propositioned everyday, Steve had seen it happen a few times, Tony would let them down with an easy, flirty smile. He had a talent for making a person feel good even after turning them down, they were always laughing, the teasing looks and relaxed conversation continuing without disruption.

"Sure," Steve said, shrugging a little and hoping it looked smooth and not awkward on his posture.

The corners of Tony's eyes crinkled, the laughter on his lips echoing in them. "It's against the rules," he cautioned ruefully, shaking his head a little.

"I didn't pin you as someone who abided by the rules, Carbonell."

Tony threw Steve a curious look, “Didn’t pin you as the one who would tempt me to break them.” 


And god, Steve could probably get kicked out of the establishment for this, but he only inched the glass further towards Tony, “You know you want to,” he teased with a cheeky grin. 


Tony blinked at him, looking caught off guard for a second, then he threw his head back and laughed. Steve was drawn in by the sound of his voice, and the arched line of his throat. This was a rare sight and he was pleased with himself for inciting it. 


“Alright devilboy, I’ll drink your poison.” Tony acquiesced, and then with a quick glance around to make sure no one was watching, he whisked Steve’s glass off the counter and took a quick sip. Tony was probably a good drinker, Steve mused. He licked his lips when he was done, and pursed them. “Still don’t see the attraction, but whatever gets you going, blue eyes. Here, let me get you a new glass.” 


“No it’s fine.” Steve stopped him, “I don’t need a new one.” He clarified when Tony stared at him for an extra beat. 


Tony clicked his tongue and then slid the glass back over to Steve, “If you say so.” And then he was off to cater to the gentlemen who had been shooting Tony furtive glances. Steve looked away from them pointedly. 

Steve stared at his glass, at the exact spot Tony had pressed his lips to have a taste. He was not fourteen, and he was not going to do that. No Steve, he thought to himself, and pushed the glass firmly out of the way.

The joint was bustling and Bucky raised his brows in question at Steve from the other end of the room. Steve pretended like he didn't know what that look meant and went back to what he was doing, which did not include staring at the imprint Tony's lips had left on the little shot glass. Steve's lips were parched and he licked them to drive away the haunting little tingle.


What would it feel like, he wondered, not for the first time. Kissing Tony was something Steve thought about a lot. Tony had a good pout, and he was probably a bit of a biter. 


Steve swirled the liquid around in the glass, listening to Tony flirting with the other customer, and watching the reflecting lights glinting off the glasses hung on an overhead rack.




It was Bucky who had brought Steve to the bar, the punk had called Steve in the middle of the night just as Steve was settling down into his bed, and he was out of the apartment and on his way to yet another unknown address in town.


The night had been chilly, and in Steve’s rush he had forgotten to take his jacket, so he pushed himself harder while running, grumbling about how Bucky better have a good damn reason for dragging Steve out of bed at this hour.


The bar had a vintage look on the outside, and something about it had immediately appealed to Steve. It was not flashy, the lights were not too bright, and the yellowing posters covering the glass door had names Steve recognized. It was not a common occurrence for him to like a joint like this, and Steve found himself hoping Bucky had not trashed the place.


Some sixties soul record was playing as Steve walked in, and Steve immediately caught sight of Bucky on entry. It was hard not to. His best friend was being held in check, while Bucky yelled profanities to the burly man standing opposite him. Just as Steve was about to sigh in relief that no irreparable damage had been done, the man shouted something at Bucky, incomprehensible from where Steve was standing, and the brunette who had been holding Bucky in check turned around with one of the best swinging left hooks Steve had ever seen that crashed right into the man’s nose. 


Things were a bit blurry after that, the fight erupted, and Steve jumped into the fray. Steve analyzed people, and while he was kept busy handling his own share of thugs, he had to appreciate the brunette stranger’s ability to turn everything he could get his hands on into a top notch weapon. 


After the fight had simmered out, the last straggler getting booted to the road by Steve, he turned around to ask Bucky what the hell was going on, and Steve’s breath caught in his throat. Brunette stranger was standing in the middle of the wreckage left behind, he was tall, not as tall as Steve, but enough for his presence to make a mark. His hair was a ruffled mess, with one half slicked into what might have started out as a fashion statement. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled back, his forearms were well muscled and covered in fine hair. There was a rip at his bicep, revealing tan skin and developed muscle. He was looking at Bucky, who was standing a little off from Steve wearing a sheepish grin on his face. What really caught Steve off-guard, was the manic grin on Tony’s face as he glanced around the room, tossed his head back and laughed. The corner of his mouth was purple, bruise starting to darken, and his piercing blue eyes shined with excited mirth. 


Steve took in a breath. 


Steve made a mental note to buy Bucky a pack of his favorite beer. It was easy enough to connect the dots from all the stories Bucky had told him and figure out who the handsome stranger was. 


Tony Carbonell, owner of the Bar, and a man Bucky considered a good friend in the modern world. 


“You sure know how to attract trouble, Buck,” was what Steve finally said when he found his voice again. He was looking at Tony as he said it, unable to take his eyes off the other man for a second. 


Tony looked amused when he noticed Steve’s staring, “To be fair, I threw the first punch. And those assholes totally deserved it.” 


“Did they now?” Steve asked, raising both brows. 


“Yup, they-” Tony glanced towards Bucky, “they didn’t like the hot fudge cake, it’s my grandmother’s recipe. I take that very personally.”


Steve caught the grateful look Bucky shot Tony, “You punched a guy because he didn’t like your grandmother’s cake,” he deadpanned, but decided not to push any further, “We’ve gotta get outta here Bucky, the cops are gonna be on our asses soon and I’m not gonna be the one to call Nat and ask for a bail.” 


Bucky paled at that and nodded his head quickly, “Thank you Tony, I really appreciate you- uh, caring so much about your grandmother’s cake.” 


Brunette stranger, Tony, smiled warmly at Bucky, “Hey, family is important,” he stated, and then snapped his fingers, “Wait a sec before you vigilantes run off into the night,” He crouched down behind the counter, and Steve’s eyes slipped to the pants stretching across his thighs and ass. That was a nice ass, Steve thought, thoroughly distracted again. 


Tony jumped up, balancing himself on his heels as he teetered a little, he tossed them little ziplock bags filled with ice. “That should help with the bumps, travel safe boys,” he gave them a jaunty little salute and then his attention skipped over to righting the tables.


“Thank you,” Steve said, grateful. 


“Sorry we can’t stay to help clean up. I’ll try to come by tomorrow if the cops clear out by then.” Bucky looked abashed, but Tony waved him off, “No harm, no foul, a few cracks always gave this place more character, I say.” 


Bucky and Steve left shortly after that. They jogged the rest of the way home, cold air biting into their cheeks. Steve stopped Bucky beside the door with a gentle hand to his arm, “You doing okay Buck?” he asked. Bucky looked down at the arm Steve was holding, flesh on metal, and he nodded slowly. “Maybe not now, but I will be.” He replied, and then he lifted his gaze up to Steve, searching, “What about you?”


“I’ll be okay too, Buck.” 




Bucky headed back to the bar the next day, he was sure Tony wouldn’t have pressed charges and even though Steve didn’t know the guy, he was inclined to agree. Steve was still concerned about the property damage, but Bucky shrugged, “I don’t know where he gets it from, but the guy’s loaded, pretty sure he’s got it covered.” 


Steve frowned a little, he wasn't comfortable with leaving things at that. Bucky caught his look and placed a hand on his shoulder, “Hey, don’t worry about it. Tony...he’s a good kinda guy. I’m gonna make my way over and offer to help, but I’m pretty sure he’ll kick me out if I mention anything monetary.” 


Steve nodded and gave Bucky a relaxed smile, “You know I’d come with you if I didn’t have to leave on a mission in half an hour.” 


Bucky rapped his knuckles gently on Steve’s head, “I’m the one who called you there in the first place. Don’t worry about it Steve, Tony and I have it covered.”


Tony Carbonell, owner of the “Iron Maiden bar and grill”. Bucky had met the guy in a fateful accident if Steve was to judge the story. Bucky still couldn’t get through the story with a straight face, but it had to do with clowns, an escaped lion and a cabaret girl. Tony had sort of taken Bucky in since then. All the time he was not spending fighting over the remote with Steve, he spent over at the bar. Steve had been curious, but he wanted Bucky to have a life of his own, so he didn’t pry. 


Bucky gave Steve a smack on the back and then a short hug before he left through the door. Steve had to appreciate the progress Bucky had made since they found him. Steve quickly got ready himself and made his way over to SHIELD headquarters.  


Agent Hill herded him into one of the conference rooms, and Fury was on call with someone. 


“-I need updates on the new helicarrier Iron man. And you promised to fix up new coms by Saturday.” 


“It’s like you think I'm in a monogamous relationship with you Fury. I do have other clients! And with everyone on my ass about a deadline-” 


“You were the one who wanted to play this underground Iron man. You sign a contract with SHIELD and I’ll give you all the extensions you need.” 


“Sorry princess, I’m kinda commitment phobic. It’s not you, it’s me, and all that jazz. I’ll get you your specs on time, but I want the information I asked for in return.”


Fury sighed. “I told you it’s not possible-”


“Then it’s going to be tough for me to get you want you want, Fury. We have a symbiotic relationship, you and I. And if you can’t pull your end of the deal, I can’t pull mine.” 


Steve could see Fury’s exasperation, Steve didn’t think he’d seen the man as riled up as he got around Iron man. 


Iron man was an underground contractor Fury had commissioned to design a lot of the Avenger’s tech. Steve didn’t know how Fury, who was known to hold his cards close to his chest, came to trust an anonymous contractor. The two had an odd camaraderie. Iron man had been operating within SHIELD for years before Steve had come out of the ice. Steve was pretty sure Fury knew the identity of the voice on the other end of the call, but he had guarded Iron man’s identity carefully and Steve thought, maybe, there was a story there. One he wasn’t privy to. 


Steve knocked on the door, making his presence known before he entered. Fury didn’t look up, and Steve knew that he had probably been informed of Steve’s presence in the building the moment he had stepped in. Fury just beckoned Steve over with a wave of his wrist, still focused on his conversation with Iron man.


“You need to keep your nose clean, we’ve got a lot of bozos running around the city stirring up a ruckus under aliases, and I really don’t want to pull that file of yours out from storage.”


“Fury!” Iron man gasped in false exclaim, “I’m sure your band of rugrats are trying to be sneaky as they can. Hard to do so when you’re big and green.” 


“Or covered in red, white and blue.” Steve injected dryly and couldn’t help grinning as the technologically modified voice of Iron man laughed in robotic peals. 


“Poor Captain America,” Iron man crooned, “Don’t worry, this nerdy tech guy sympathizes with all your inner teen angst, ‘say no to uniforms!’”


“It’s a hard life,” Steve admitted, failing to keep a straight face as Fury shot him an unimpressed look.


“You’re the one who designs the suit Iron man,” Fury aggrieved.


“I only take credit for the kevlar and awesome tech additions, all garish fashion statements, especially Banner’s tweed jackets are all on you Fury.” Iron man countered, cheerfully. 


“Well, I’m not Banner’s goddamn mother”


“Pretty sure you have at least one apron in your closet, and maybe even a frilly eyepatch.”


Steve snorted and Fury gave him a chilling glare, “I’ll get you your information Iron man, but I want those specs by sundown.” 


“Aye aye Cap’n!” 


Fury cut the call on Iron man’s robotic laughter. 


He rubbed the bridge of his nose and then turned to Steve, “Shall we move on to the mission briefing Captain? Or would you like to lodge a formal complaint about your attire?” He asked with a raised brow.


“Well,” Steve hedged, “Since the topic’s come up,” 


“Pull out a fucking chair and sit your smart ass down Rogers.”