It starts the way most things do, with Tony doing his level best to be an absolute dick.
"What about Charkiewicz?" Natasha asks one afternoon when the six of them are loitering in a hall of the helicarrier, waiting for Fury. Tony glances up from his phone at the question to see who it's directed at. Natasha's leaning against one wall blowing pink bubbles with her gum, a foot against the wall behind her and her arms crossed.
Steve's leaned up against the wall opposite her, hands folded in front of him and is the obvious intended receiver. He huffs, a disbelieving smile slipping across his face. "Natasha," he says repressively and Tony's curiosity is officially piqued.
Natasha smirks and cracks her gum.
"Who's Charkiewicz?" Tony asks, sliding his phone into his breast pocket. This conversation seems promising in its potential entertainment value.
Steve glances over at him, like he'd forgotten Tony was there. "No one," he says.
"Ouch, that's rude, Rogers," Natasha says and grins when he glares at her. She turns her head toward Tony. "He's a radar tech."
Tony frowns. "What do you need a radar tech for? Isn't that my job? What do you even use that has radar?"
Natasha laughs and reaches out to pat his shoulder. "Relax, Stark, we're not looking to replace you."
Tony scoffs, pretending he doesn't feel a faint rush of relief. "As if you could."
"It's not professional, it's personal," she goes on and waggles her eyebrows.
"Natasha," Steve repeats, voice harder, sharper.
"Oh, is Cap trying to make new friends? That's sweet," Tony says and earns his own poisonous glare.
"I'm not making friends," he says heatedly.
"Aw, now that's just sad," Tony says and reaches over to slap Bruce's arm with the back of his hand. "Everybody needs friends."
"Ooohh, I get it," Clint says, "Nat's gone all matchmaker on you hasn't she?"
Steve flushes—he's a very pretty blusher—and turns another glare on Natasha. "Look what you've done."
Natasha bites her lip, shrugs her shoulders. "Oops," she says innocently.
"Sorry, bro, that's rough," Clint says and goes back to fiddling with the arrows in his hands. He looks at them with a hilarious sort of reverance.
Tony gasps theatrically. "Is Baby taking himself out of the corner?"
"Shut up, Stark," Steve mutters, eyes dropping to the ground, his jaw clenching mulishly.
Then Tony rewinds a little and his brain stutters to a halt for a second. "Wait," he says and watches Steve's shoulders go up defensively, Natasha's smirk turn knowing. "You said 'he'."
Thor raises an eyebrow. "This comes as a surprise to you?"
Tony splutters. "You knew?"
He looks at Bruce who looks back at him and shrugs a yes.
"Didn't know," Clint says, "but suspected."
"It's not exactly a secret," Steve mutters and then meets Tony's gaze, his jaw set. "Is that a problem?"
Tony stares at him. "I'm pan, that would be just a little hypocritical, don't you think? I'm just...surprised." He lets his eyes go a little hooded and darts the tip of his tongue over his lips. "Didn't know you were on the table or I would have been all over that ages ago."
Steve gives him a flat, dry look, but he's flushing again. "Ha ha."
"I don't need to see this," Clint says, putting up a hand to block Tony's face from view.
"I don't mind," Natasha and Thor say in unison and grin at one another. Bruce just rolls his eyes.
"I can't believe there was a time I thought I worked with adults," he says to no one in particular.
"Now don't try and convince me you're the adult here, Banner," Steve drawls. "You call it tea time, but I've seen the mini marshmallows in your cup."
Bruce gasps. "Betrayer!"
A smile tugs at the corner of Steve's mouth.
"Seriously," Tony says, schooling his expression into total and complete seriousness, "I can show you a whole new world, Rogers."
"Oh my god," Natasha says and Clint and Bruce both groan. "You're the worst."
"That is from a Disney film, is it not?" Thor says, brow furrowed.
"Thanks," Steve says dryly, "but one new world was plenty for me."
It's one of the stupider things Tony's done because he's harboring an enormous, school-girl-esque crush on Steve. It's just a freaking bad idea to hit on him when he knows nothing will ever come of it. He should get a prize for world's biggest masochist.
But the ridiculous lines get tiny smiles out of Steve that he's pretty much hopeless in the face of. Plus, sometimes he catches Steve off-guard and makes him blush and how's he supposed to resist that?
Which is all well and good until they're sparring one afternoon and Steve takes him to the mat for the eighth time and Tony groans, "Jesus, Rogers, you suck," and Steve breathlessly quips, "Like a Hoover," and Tony proceeds to choke on his tongue.
Steve pushes off of him—oh god, the thought of Steve on him, no, no, bad brain!—and grabs his hand, hauling him upright.
Tony takes several ragged breaths and can feel a blush crawl like fire up the back of his neck.
"Tony?" Steve says, voice thick with concern and Tony manages to rasp, "Better watch what you say, Steve, people will get the wrong idea."
Steve relaxes, sits back on his heels. "Well that would be something different for a change."
Tony snorts and sweeps his sweaty hair off his forehead. "No fair beating me on and off the mat."
Steve's eyes glint with mischief. "Oh, were you winning before?"
Tony groans and flops back on the mat. Steve's bark of laughter is the best thing he hears all day.
After that, Steve starts doing it all the goddamned time.
Natasha and Bruce whip up spice cookies and Tony makes grabby hands when they finish divvying up the batter onto the cookie sheets. "I wanna lick the spoon."
Steve, who's in the corner reading a book as thick as Tony's arm says, "I've got something else you can lick," without even looking up and Natasha has to yank the spoon out of Tony's throat when he almost swallows it.
After a twenty-two hour marathon in the workshop, Tony hobbles into the common space. He's sore all over from being hunched over a workbench. “God, I'm tight,” he groans and drops face-first onto the couch next to Steve.
Steve looks at him, his eyes dark in the twilight dim. “I could loosen you up,” he says and his fingers flex around the remote. Tony stifles a whimper, heat going through him like a rolling boil. Fuck, he likes flirty Steve, but he kind of wishes he wouldn't. It's just encouraging Tony's crush and it's starting to get depressing imagining Steve actually being interested in the stuff they flirt about.
He mutters back, “I bet you could,” and lays there quietly wishing he would.
Then one morning Tony's in the kitchen getting his first cup of the day and Steve comes in, sweaty from his run and wearing some of the tiniest shorts Tony's ever seen, his face flushed with exertion and he just crams three-quarters of a banana right down his gullet. Tony sprays his first sip of coffee all over the cabinets. “You okay there?” Steve asks, quirking a brow.
Tony wipes his mouth and then croaks, “Okay, I give.”
Steve's other eyebrow joins the other, high on his forehead. “You give?”
“Yes,” Tony says, grabbing handfuls of paper towels and starting to dab the coffee up. “I give. I give up. You win.”
“Context, Tony, I need context,” Steve says, with a hint of wryness.
“You win the flirting thing!” Tony says heatedly and Steve's eyes go a little wide. “I can't do it anymore. I want—” He smothers that thought down and then amends, “It was fun, I'm over it now, so let's not, okay? You win.”
When he glances back to gauge Steve's reaction, he starts, because Steve's standing right behind him, his eyes a little hooded.
“Jesus, Steve, make noise when you move,” he breathes, hand coming up to cover the arc reactor.
Steve doesn't seem to hear him. “What do I win?” he asks, voice coming from deep in his chest. A shiver races down Tony's spine.
“What do you—what do you mean, what do you win?” Tony says, backing into the counter. Steve's so close he's practically on top of Tony, so close he can smell him, warm curls of sweat and salt underlaid with his deodorant, the soft smell of soap. It's intoxicating and Tony has to resist the urge to lean forward and bury his face in the sweat-slicked skin of Steve's throat.
Steve's voice pulls him out of his thoughts, and Tony's neck flushes hot with a blush. He jerks his gaze back to Steve's face. “Um. What?”
Steve moves that much closer, looming over him, and he puts a hand down lightly on the counter on either side of Tony, effectively trapping him. Tony's breath catches in a bubble in his throat. Voice low, Steve murmurs, “I said, if it was a game, then I should get a prize. So tell me, Tony, what did I win?”
In an effort not to make contact with any part of Steve's body, Tony is pressed back into the counter, bending the opposite direction. What is Steve doing? Why is he so close, Tony can't think straight with him so close and it feels like he's burning up. “I don't—um—you, you name it Cap, wh-whatever you want, you can have it.”
“Whatever I want?” Steve asks, and if it weren't for his proximity, Tony would be sure he hallucinated the way Steve's eyelashes dip low as he looks down at Tony's mouth.
Tony's heart starts to pound. “Um, y-yeah,” he stutters. “Whatever. Name it.”
Steve hums thoughtfully. Then he says: “You.”
Tony's brain goes blank. “Sorry. I. What?”
Then Steve moves one hand to rest lightly on Tony's chest, the weight of it, and the warmth, making Tony's ears flare hot. He slides it up over Tony's collarbone, curls it around Tony's neck, and Tony feels a little lightheaded. This isn't happening. He's imagining things. He's been gassed. Something.
Steve meets his eyes and Tony's thoughts screech to a halt. “If you don't want me to kiss you,” Steve murmurs, “you should say so now.”
But Tony's brain has caved in on itself. He doesn't respond at all until Steve leans in, painfully slow, giving him all the time in the world to pull away, and presses his lips to Tony's.
Then he makes a high, thin noise, not wholly unlike a whimper, and his hands come up to grip at the front of Steve's t-shirt.
Steve. Steve is kissing him.
And it's not—he's kind of uncertain and clearly inexperienced, but it's Steve and Tony has never wanted an awkward first kiss so much in his life. He's actually kind of dizzy when Steve pulls back.
His expression is almost painfully hopeful and Tony, still dazed from the kiss, from the shock, takes a second to loosen his grip on Steve's shirt and smooth his hands over Steve's pecs, his shoulders, letting himself feel the way he's wanted to a hundred times. It is, unsurprisingly, better than imagined.
“Tony?” he says, voice gentle, “Is...was that okay?”
Tony laughs a little hysterically. “Okay?”
Steve relaxes a hair. “I didn't realize you thought we were fooling around, Tony. I mean—” He tips his head to the side. “—we were. But I thought you knew how I felt.” He looks down between their bodies, embarrassed. “It wasn't until that day on the helicarrier that I realized you didn't know about how I was carrying a torch for you. And when you started flirting...”
“What?” Tony demands. “You've—for that long? And we never—I thought you were just playing along! Being a smartass!”
Steve blinks. “Wait...so you...felt the same way?”
“Yes! Oh my god, we're both idiots,” Tony groans.
“Wow,” Steve says. A dopey grin starts to spread across his face. “Wow.”
“Shut up and kiss me again,” Tony demands, and hauls him back in, relishing the weight of his body.
Steve reaches up to cup his face in both hands. “Just so we're clear—Tony, I think you're incredible. You gave me a home. You're the most generous, intelligent, and decent guy I've ever had the honor to know, and I want every bit you're willing to give me, for as long as you'll give it to me.”
Tony shies back from him, hands tight around his wrists. “C'mon, Steve,” he mutters. “I already said yes. No need to flatter me anymore.”
“I mean it, Tony,” he insists. “More than anything you have to believe that. You're a good man, and I'm lucky to know you.”
Tony's face feels like it's on fire, and he presses his face into Steve's throat, the way he'd wanted to earlier. “Okay, I'm great, got it. You can shut up now.”
Steve huffs and runs his fingers through Tony's hair, presses a tentative kiss to the curve of his skull. “Now that's one thing I'm never gonna do.”
Tony smiles into his skin.