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A Fool's Name For Fate

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“Just so we’re clear, pal – I did not know this was a setup when I came here tonight.”

Darcy Lewis stubbornly holds his gaze, cool blue eyes daring Steve to doubt her. He gets the sense that she’ll judge him harshly if his stare wavers in return, so he resists the urge to glance away and relieve the tension.

Thankfully, Darcy’s boss interrupts, turning in her seat on the couch to face them.

“Darcy, you begged me for weeks – no, months, even – to make introductions.” Jane picks up her full glass of red wine from the coffee table and uses it to gesture toward her assistant. “Don’t lie to this poor man.”

Jane Odinsson is slight and delicate, and her often-reserved demeanor and restrained elegance might lead one to misread her entirely. Touch on the right topic or offer an ill-conceived opinion, and Jane turns feisty.

After a couple of glasses of wine, she can be downright fiery, and Thor has just refilled her cup for the third time.

“And if I knew tonight was the night that you were finally going to cave, I would have worn something better than these old rags and I would have bothered with my hair,” Darcy snaps back, touching her lustrous dark curls. To Steve, she looks perfectly beautiful, but he suspects that doesn’t actually matter.

It’s odd, because as much as Darcy claims to be humiliated, she’s enumerating her perceived failings very plainly without any semblance of embarrassment. Steve isn’t quite sure what to make of her.

He thinks he should be put off by her brash attitude. Instead, even as Jane and Darcy continue to talk about him as if he’s not sitting right there, he finds himself somehow charmed.

“Ever since you saw that photograph of Thor’s, you’ve been pestering me about him non-stop. And now here you are, the two of you, together, and what are you doing?” Jane makes a raspberry noise and makes a splat gesture with her free hand.

Darcy turns back to look at him, nonplussed neither by Jane so openly stating Darcy’s interest nor by Jane commenting so bluntly on how the evening has progressed thus far. She has her legs crossed, her silk stockings on clear display. She folds and rests her manicured hands over her knee as she squares her shoulders, ready to make a demand of him.

“Steve, answer me this. Just this one thing. Did they tell you I was going to be here? Did they tell you why I was going to be here?” Darcy points to Natasha and Bucky, who are standing at the record player, enviably comfortable in one another’s space. Steve knows they’ve heard every word exchanged, despite the fact that they’ve carefully engaged Thor in a separate conversation for the past five minutes.

“That was two things.” Jane leans over and points out, hiccupping in punctuation of the sentence.

“Natasha has a habit of doing this.” Steve shrugs slightly. He’s not happy about the turn the evening has taken, but he’s grown to expect it every now and again from his friends. Honestly, he should have known this wasn’t a simple dinner between pals. Bucky and Natasha might not be together at the moment, but they’re still thought of as a pair by others, and that means that Steve was the only one invited that’s not half of a two. A setup was practically a foregone conclusion. “I may not have been told in advance but I can’t say as I’m surprised.”

He lifts his drink to Darcy in a toast of commiseration. Darcy snorts a laugh and clinks her glass against his before taking a long, long sip. Steve’s eyebrows rise as she drains it empty.

Darcy leaves behind bright red lipstick on the edge of her glass. She’s got a pretty smile, and her eyes spark with mischief to accompany her wide grin.

“Maybe you and I should just run off together, Stevie, put a stop to these blind dates once and for all.” She pulls a cigarette from a slim silver case and holds it out to him between two fingers.

He doesn’t smoke, but he should really carry a lighter for these types of moments. That would be suave. Bucky is always ready for exactly these types of moments.

“Allow me, my lady,” Thor gallantly swoops in and provides Darcy a flame. Steve blushes sheepishly.

“Don’t worry, I won’t hold it against you.” Darcy winks at him, and he is actually a little shocked she doesn’t follow that up with a lewd come-on of sorts. When Natasha had told him that he would need a daringly bold woman, he thinks she may have conjured Darcy into existence.

“By the way, this,” Jane gestures around them in a circle. “This is not a blind date.” Jane takes Darcy’s cigarette from her, stubbing it out in the glass ashtray on the center of the coffee table, next to the candy dish.

“Hey, what –” Darcy’s protest is moot.

“I’m telling you right now, one day we’re all going to find out that these things are awful for us.” Jane holds her finger up in warning. Darcy attempts to counter yet again, but Jane brings it back to her main argument. “And it’s not a blind date if you saw his picture. His picture is what prompted this whole evening, if you recall.”

“But he didn’t see mine!” Darcy exclaims. “For god’s sake, Jane, you’re in public relations, yet you couldn’t smooth the way a little? Talk me up, sell the goods.” She fluffs her curly brown hair, then adjusts the off-the-shoulder straps of her red dress, pulling the whole ensemble lower, not higher.

Steve sends an entreating glance in Bucky’s direction, desperate for a rescue. Usually, he and Bucky are constantly in some kind of contact throughout an evening. Even if they aren’t by each other’s side, he’s always aware of where Bucky is and how he’s faring, while Bucky is silently watching out for him. Natasha refers to it as an unbreakable rubber band, only allowing one to stretch so far before snapping back within reaching distance.

So Steve knows that Bucky is deliberately avoiding his look now, that he knows Steve is trapped in this situation and he’s not going to do a thing to help him escape it. Bucky wants him to be caught here, between lushy Jane and lusty Darcy.

Steve chastises himself for the unkind thoughts. He’s clearly more agitated than even he realized.

“What exactly do you have in your pocket, Steve?” Darcy is asking him now, the conversation evidently rounding back on him. He’s confused by the question.


“You’ve been worrying something in your hand all night long, you keep taking it in and out of your pocket. It's clearly not a lighter," she jokes lightly. "So, what is it, a good luck charm?” She’s dialed back the flirtation a bit, but not by much. At least this seems more of a question borne of actual curiosity than the set up for another coy tease. A question about his hand in his pocket could easily have gone somewhere a lot less innocent.

Steve takes out the small piece of white paper stock, bent and folded and wrinkled and worn around the edges. He’s taken it out every night and considered just throwing it away, but he always places it on his night table instead, where it stays until he dresses the next morning.

He has not made use of the phone number embossed on its front, the black lettering starting to fade from where his fingers have traced over the lines one too many times.

“It’s nothing, just a business card.” Steve holds it up between two fingers, meaning to show it as nothing at all important. He didn’t expect Darcy to snatch it from his grasp, though he probably should have.

“Why are you carrying this ratty thing around? Looks beat to hell. Is it a treasured keepsake from a lady friend, you old dog? I bet you –” Darcy stops, taking in the name written on the card. “Tony Stark? Who are you really, that you just happen to have Tony Stark’s business card haphazardly crushed in your pocket?”

Bucky looks at him, eyes narrowing.

Steve has everyone’s attention now.

“Where did you get that?” Bucky asks, and Steve very nearly wants to ignore him, annoyed that this of all things is what gets Bucky to finally step in.

“I ran into him on the lot. The other day.” Steve mumbles, not wanting to make it a big deal.

“And he just…gave you his number.” Steve can hear the suspicion in Bucky’s voice.

“I told him I was in set design; he mentioned possibly having some work for me.” It’s not exactly a lie; Tony might instead be interested in him as an actor, but he had offered him a job opportunity. “And my crew,” Steve adds belatedly, trying to sell the encounter better.

“Well.” Bucky crosses his arms over his chest, and for a moment Steve thinks he’s actually angry at this lie of omission. “Guess you’re caught out, pal - you owe me a dollar.” Steve’s brow furrows, it taking him a moment to remember the wager from so long ago. Bucky shakes his head, scoffing at Steve’s incorrect prediction. “You said we’d never even meet the man, and here you are with an engraved personal invitation to his office.”

Steve reaches for the business card, wanting this conversation to be over, but he can’t get it without rudely invading Darcy’s space and outright snatching it from her hand.

“That’s hardly –”

“Did you call him?” Jane inquires, taking the card from Darcy to inspect it herself. Steve doesn’t respond immediately, not sure how to explain why he hasn’t made an overture if it in fact does mean more work. Everyone always wants more work.

His unease must be written all over his face.

“You didn’t call him? Why in the world would you not call him?” Darcy and Jane are both appalled; out of the corner of his eye, Steve can see Natasha lift an eyebrow at him archly, lips pursing. She’s displeased, but probably not for the same reasons as the two women sitting beside him.

“We’re not big on the Starks,” Bucky provides, crossing the room to Thor’s bar to fix himself another drink.

“Why ever not? This Tony Stark is quite a powerful man, from my understanding. Would it not be beneficial to have him as a business associate, and perhaps a friend?” Thor glances between Steve and Bucky, genuinely perplexed.

“Bucky has opinions on New York hot shots swanning into Hollywood thinking they can fix it.” Natasha cuts in, rolling her eyes, evidently familiar with Bucky’s diatribes from other occasions. She saunters toward Steve and takes a seat on the armrest beside him. Her long fingers curl over his shoulder, her arm a reassuring weight against his back. Her position might seem improper and casual, perhaps even too intimate, if taken by someone else, but she makes it look perfectly acceptable.

“But you are both from New York, are you not?” Steve snorts over Thor’s question; the man has a point.

“I’m touched you think I’m some kind of hot shot, Thor,” Bucky smirks as he clinks fresh ice cubes into his glass. He gestures to Steve with the tongs before dropping them back into the ice bucket. “Steve, however, he did some work with Howard Stark, once upon a time. Darcy, you may be too young to remember –”

“Buck, don’t.” At his plea, Natasha’s hand tightens on his shoulder.

“ – but Jane, you certainly recall –”

Please, Bucky, I –”

“ – Captain America?”

Steve slumps. Of course, it was only a matter of time before their newest friends discovered this information about him. It wasn’t exactly a secret. But he’s not really in the mood for the usual song-and-dance tonight: smiling when someone inevitably remembers the theme song, laughing when another someone recalls the tight costume, pretending not to be flustered and embarrassed by his brief time in the spotlight.

Captain America is not who he is, yet it always comes back to this.

Bucky’s right, in his way. Captain America is precisely why he didn’t call Tony Stark. He became Captain America because it was the best option available to him at the time. He became Captain America to do something, as a means to an end – a mere stop on the way to being a better soldier, becoming a more useful man. It was never meant to define him, and he doesn’t want that kind of attention ever again.

Steve braces himself for the familiar reaction.

“Never heard of him.” Jane nudges Steve with her elbow lightly, conspiratorially, and relief washes over him. Her gaze ticks upward to Natasha, who must signal her own approval because a small smile curls at the edges of Jane’s mouth and Natasha’s hand relaxes on his shoulder. “And did you just imply that I’m old, Bucky Barnes?”

“I think he did.” Darcy agrees. She continues over Bucky’s blustering protest. “And if you aren’t going to call Stark, can I keep this?” She retrieves the business card from Jane’s grasp and examines it. “A big get like Stark for our client list might mean someone might actually have to start paying me to do this job.”

“You’re paid!” Jane protests. Darcy shoots her a dark look.

“At an assistant’s wages, I may as well be working for free.”

Steve holds his hands up to signal that there’s no need to hand it back.

“It’s all yours.” There’s no good reason for him to ask for its return if he’s never going to call the man. He shouldn’t have held onto it this long, and he should probably be glad the decision of whether or not to keep it is not really in his hands any longer.

Instead, he feels panicked as Darcy opens her purse and slides the card carefully into her pocketbook. It feels like he’s losing something.

Steve abruptly gets up from his seat on the couch.

Once he’s standing, he realizes he has nowhere to go.

“I’d love some air – it’s growing quite warm in here, don’t you think? Steve, perhaps I could show you the veranda?” Jane rises as well, her hand curling over his forearm. She’s already leading him from the room.

He always thought Natasha was just quite adept at reading him, but maybe all women are this remarkably astute and he’s simply never been around them enough to realize it.

“My darling Jane, should I be concerned?” Thor gestures between his wife and Steve, but his smile is broad and his tone jovial.

“Yes, dear, be desperately jealous.” Jane deadpans back, and opens the double French doors leading to the patio and the backyard.

Dugan and Morita have houses like this now too, ranch-style homes with full yards and attached garages, situated on quiet cul-de-sacs twenty minutes outside downtown. Thor and Jane’s home is only one year old, just like their marriage, and their backyard is still sparse. Flat green grass and growing saplings where once a dense forest stood.

Jane brought her wine glass outside with her, and she smiles at him around its rim as she takes a sip.

“Bucky teases you like he’s your older brother,” she comments, and Steve smiles wryly.

“I think sometimes he gets confused and thinks that’s what he is.”

“You seemed a little uncomfortable back there.”

“Please don’t take offense. Sometimes I think uncomfortable is my natural state.” Steve feels his face heat, only proving his point. “I’ve never been all that great with people.”

“I think you’re being hard on yourself,” Jane shrugs. “Bucky wasn’t helping, and Darcy can be a bit overwhelming. Perhaps Natasha and I should have given you a little warning.”

“If we’re being honest, I’m sure Natasha thought I’d make excuses not to come if given the opportunity. Nothing against Miss Lewis – I’m just against the general idea of being set up at all.” He’d been done with that even before the war, thanks to the thoroughly unsuccessful double dates that Bucky would arrange.

“Well, if we’re being honest,” Jane echoes, “I should also probably tell you I already knew you were Captain America. Before tonight.” She leans into him in the way that slightly tipsy people do when they’re unsteady on their feet. “In fact, I had my picture taken with Captain America when he was in Pittsburgh for a show in ’42. I was seventeen and my girlfriend dared me to kiss you on the cheek.” She laughs and kisses her hand, then presses it to his cheek playfully.

“Oh, that was you!” Steve kids, joining her in laughter. He has absolutely no recollection of this. By Pittsburgh, the crowds were a blur.

“I still have the photograph,” Jane grins, and then gasps, looking back to where her husband stands in the living room, gesturing wildly as he regales Bucky with some crazy story from his youth. “Maybe Thor should be worried.”

“I’ll be on my best behavior, try not to sweep you off your feet.” He manages a charming smile despite his blush.

“Good. Darcy might turn green with envy,” she stage whispers, and then pushes his arm gently with one hand. “Hey – does this mean I’ve known you longer than anyone else here besides Bucky?”

“I think it does,” Steve plays along with the joke.

“Then, Steve, as one of your oldest friends, let me give you some advice.”

“I’d welcome it.”

“Call Tony Stark. Just…call him. You have nothing to lose.”

“I don’t know about that.”

“At the very least, you would get a good story out of it. We can only hear about Thor’s hunting expedition in Lapland so many times.”

“Well, something truly extraordinary would have to happen to top that particular tale. I don’t think that’s a challenge I want to take on.”

“You won’t know until you try.” Jane pats him on the elbow and heads inside, passing Natasha on her way. Natasha clinks glasses with her as they exchange places, Jane returning to her husband’s side indoors and Natasha joining him on the patio.

She’s quiet for a long moment, the chirping of crickets soothingly filling the silence.

“She’s not wrong, you know. Stark could be a good thing for you. A boost for your career.”

“Bucky doesn’t think so.”

“And Bucky knows what he’s talking about?” Natasha’s amused chuckle is throaty and deep. Her low voice has always been more of a cat’s purr than a birdsong. “I know Bucky’s opinion matters the most to you of anyone’s, but you’ve never had a problem forming opinions of your own, Rogers. What did you think of Tony Stark when you met him? Anything like his father?”

“I think he might be even more of an asshole than Howard, if you pardon the language.”

“Oh, my delicate ears, how will I recover,” Natasha sighs in a Southern accent, fanning herself. “Assholes are a dime a dozen in this town, Steve. If you avoid them, you’re going to be out of a job. So the question is, is Stark the kind of asshole you can work with, or no?”

“Maybe. I don’t know.” Tony leaves him unsettled, and if he’s honest with himself, it’s not just because Tony had been rude and arrogant. It’s because despite those things, Steve had still felt drawn to him. That spark of annoyance had lit something else on fire inside of him, something much, much harder to douse.

As scared as he is of being a powerless cog in someone else’s machine, he’s equally scared of being powerless to this immoral desire, the need to touch Tony’s dark hair and press his lips to that wicked mouth.

“Just…make sure you’re not turning things down for the wrong reasons, okay? You can handle whatever comes your way, and you deserve to be successful. Your past is nothing to run from. You should be proud of what you’ve done.”

“You make it sound like I’m ashamed of the Captain, Nat. I’m not, not really. I just…I don’t want to go back.” Steve rests his weight against the wooden railing of the patio and looks out over the yard. It’s dark out now and getting darker, but in every direction Steve can see the warm, glowing lights in the windows of neighbors’ homes.

“That’s easy enough, because there’s really nowhere to go but forward.” Natasha leans her head on his shoulder, tucking one arm around his elbow. Steve turns his own head and buries his nose in Natasha’s hair, breathing in her warm, flowery smell. He presses a brotherly kiss to her temple and pats her hand.

“We should go back inside before both Thor and Bucky think I’m trying to steal both their girls.”

“Can’t steal what can never be had, Rogers.” Natasha pinches his thigh and pinches it hard. “I am no man’s.”

“Ow, by the way.” Steve pushes her hand away with a mock scowl. He then realizes he has the perfect opening to make his own case. “If you’re no man’s, can we agree that I’m no woman’s? Please? Meaning no more surprise Darcy Lewises?”

“You don’t like Darcy?” It’s not a real question; she’s smiling and completely unsurprised.

“I don’t dislike her. She’s keen. Just not for me.”

“This was actually Thor’s idea, if you can believe it. Jane has been putting her off for ages.”

“Natasha, I really do mean it. I appreciate the effort but –”

“I get it. No more blind dates.” Natasha takes his hand and pulls him back toward the house. Bucky and Darcy are laughing raucously over something now, Thor holding Jane in his arms as they look on, fondly. “But Steve, you’re kidding yourself if you think you’re not someone’s.


Tony has been staring at the silent telephone for so long that he physically startles when it finally rings, the button for line one blinking bright white.

He’d been resting his head on his hand, elbow propped on his desk. In his scramble to answer, his elbow slips and he falls nearly face forward against the hard mahogany with an inelegant thunk.

It takes some fumbling before he manages to bring the receiver to his ear, only catching the tail end of Pepper’s sentence.

“ – oss is holding on the line for you.”


“Mr. Ross. He wants to discuss your hiring of his daughter?”


“Betty Ross, Tony,” Pepper drops the formal tone quickly, exasperated by his forgetfulness. He might be having a hard time focusing over the past week, and it’s beginning to get to her.

Still, the name doesn’t ring a bell.


“Makeup artist? She specializes in those monster movies, so I’m still not sure why you asked for her.” Tony isn’t sure either. Pepper huffs, knowing what his continued silence means. “Thaddeus Ross is a bigwig over at Universal?”

“Oh…right, right, right.” Tony smiles a little to himself. Honestly, he doesn’t know what he’s going to do with Betty’s talents, but when he’d met Thaddeus at an industry function earlier in the month, he’d witnessed firsthand the way the man treated his daughter; it had been with absolutely no respect.

It may have pushed some of his well-worn buttons.

“He’s very unhappy. I warned you this might happen if you hired away his own daughter.”

“I’m going to be poaching talent all over town, Pep. That’s the way this works. We’re gonna have to get used to a few ruffled feathers now and again.” Tony shrugs to himself. Ross could thunder until he's red in the face, it makes not the slightest difference to him. He gets the sense that not many people actually like the cigar-chomping blowhard anyway, and the last two pictures he produced wildly underperformed. There are worse people to upset.

“Would you like to take this call, or not? He’s still waiting.”

“Ah, take a message. Tell him that I’m in a meeting with Hitch and cannot possibly be disturbed.”

“Don’t you think I would have known that you were in a meeting with Alfred Hitchcock before I placed him on hold?”

“Ok, fine. Don’t go that big. You can come up with something, I trust your instincts.”

“I thank you for the overwhelming vote of confidence, sir.” Pepper hangs up, and that once-promising light on the telephone goes dark a moment later.

Tony sighs and resumes his earlier position, slumping even lower this time.

He lasts five minutes, every tick-tock of the clock taunting him with its utter slowness, before he can’t take it any longer.

He throws open his office door and crosses to Pepper’s desk.

“Any messages?”

She peers up at him over the top of her glasses, unamused.

“Besides the message I literally just took from Mr. Ross?” Pepper hands him the pink While You Were Out slip. Tony takes it, crumples it up, and tosses it over his shoulder.

“Besides that one, obviously.” He looks at her expectantly.

“Oh, yes, let me…” Pepper rifles through some of the papers on her desk. “No, Tony. No new messages since the last time you asked half an hour ago.”

Tony throws himself down onto one of the leather armchairs arranged along the wall across from Pepper’s desk, slouching petulantly like an angry child. Pepper eyes him wearily.

“Do you think I’m keeping phone calls from you or something? Why, exactly, would I do that?”

“Well, I mean…that is kind of your job. To keep the undesirables from bothering me and all. Sorting through the riff-raff.” Tony waves his hand.

“I promise you, Tony, ‘riff-raff’ or no, I’m not keeping any important messages from you.” Pepper eyes him warily. “You know, you could just tell me who it is that you’re expecting to call.”

“Who says I was expecting a call from someone specific?”

Pepper levels him with a scornful stare, the one that just dares him to treat her like an idiot again.

Tony quickly scours his brain in search of an adequate cover story.

“Rhodey’s out in Reno for an airshow. You know how I get when he’s at those things.”

“Jealous. You get jealous. And then you beg him to take you along.”

“I do not…I…I just feel better when he’s here in L.A. working under the AMPP, that’s all. Those airshows have all the safety precautions of the Flying Wallendas, for Christ’s sake.”

He’s really just digging himself a bigger hole here.

“Are you ill?” Pepper asks point blank, rising from her seat and coming around the corner of her desk. Her hand’s already out to feel his forehead as she approaches him. Tony ducks away from her reach, getting up and going back to his office doorway.

“I’m fine, I’m fine.” She doesn’t look at all convinced. “I’m just bored. I’m used to having more to do.”

The phone rings then, and Tony’s heart jumps up into his throat. He steps toward Pepper hopefully. She holds a finger up as she answers, warning him off.

“Stark Pictures, Mr. Stark’s office. Miss Potts speaking. How may I help you?” Pepper glances at him as the person on the other end of the line speaks. “Oh, yes, Phil, hello. How are you?”

Tony backs away quickly, signaling to Pepper that he’s not here, definitely not available to take Phil’s call. Pepper nods, barely stopping herself from rolling her eyes.

“I’m so sorry, Phil, Mr. Stark has just stepped out to lunch. May I have him ring you when he returns?” She jots down another note on the pink pad and then says her good-byes.

After she hangs up, she rips off the piece of paper and holds it up in the air.

“Should I even bother?” Pepper asks Tony. Seeing the expression on his face, she just sighs, crumples it up and tosses it over her shoulder in mimicry of Tony’s earlier actions.

Tony retreats into his office, pushing the door closed behind him. At a loss for what to do, feeling like he’s crawling in his own skin, he crosses to the clock on the mantel and winds it, just in case it needs it.

Perhaps time really had been slowing down.

Then he goes to the window, pulling down on the slats of the blinds and surveying the parking lot below. The day is blindingly sunny, the sky a cloudless blue, and Tony’s already growing tired of this endless summer. He wants weather to match his mood, but Los Angeles never seems to change.

He closes his eyes, thinking of his last night in New York, reflections of neon lights streaking and shimmering over wet pavement, wind whipping down the sidewalk and around street corners.

He thinks of sitting in his favorite coffee shop, warmth of a cup of coffee cradled between his hands fighting off the damp chill seeping into his bones. In his imagination, the bell above the door chimes, and along with a gust of cold air and rain, Steve enters.

What once was a memory slips easily into fantasy, safe yet sensual. There’s intense desire there, but it feels more like completion, something slotting into place that he’s always needed but never had, rather than something he merely wants.

In his mind’s eye, every detail of Steve’s appearance seems heightened, as if the rest of the world has gone blurry and soft and Steve is brilliantly defined. Steve’s blond hair is darkened to brown with rain, matted and messy across his forehead until he pushes it back with those long, strangely delicate fingers. Tony can jealously trace the path of each droplet of water running down Steve’s chiseled face, rain caressing the sharp lines of his cheekbones and his strong jaw like Tony’s hands long to do.

He’s still dressed as he had been on the backlot, and his white t-shirt is soaked through, clinging to his biceps and chest like a second skin. Tony blinks and Steve is already across the room and at his side. He’s slightly out of breath and his cheeks are flushed with varying shades of pink, his lips tinged red as if they’ve been bitten, or maybe kissed. His bare arms are covered in gooseflesh, and so pale that Tony can see the blue-green of his veins running underneath the thin, delicate skin. His blue eyes are dark in the dimness of the café, and even his eyelashes – black despite his fair hair and so impossibly long – are damp. Water drips from his body onto the floor, and Tony watches as the pool of liquid seeps from around Steve’s feet to creep toward his.

Every cell in his body sparks toward Steve’s, and Tony swears there’s strain from resisting his pull, like it’s a physical act, like it actually aches not to reach out and touch him.

“Hello,” Steve says softly, looking at him in a way that Tony can feel right down to his toes. Suddenly it doesn’t matter that they’re in public.

“Hello,” Tony answers and rises from his seat. His hand is on Steve’s stomach, peeling that wet fabric upward so he can touch bare skin, feel the lines of muscle shifting underneath his fingertips. His belt buckle is mere inches from Tony’s hands and Tony reaches down, pushes worn leather through metal. He pushes the copper button through its hole, drags the zipper down. There’s nothing but bare skin underneath. Steve inhales sharply. Tony looks up at him, finds Steve staring down at him with barely concealed lust. He's trembling.

“It’s raining,” Steve states, and Tony doesn’t know why. It sounds like the words actually mean something else.

“You’re cold.” He replies, equally bewildering.

“I know.” Then they’re kissing. New York continues to pass by the large plate glass window in a waterlogged blur of trench coats and black umbrellas, and the rest of the café becomes nothing more than warm light and a murmur of chatter and clinking dishes.

Tony comes back to himself with a shaky gasp, startled by the force of the simple daydream. His lips are tingling as if the kiss were real. His heart beats wildly in his chest; sweat breaks over his skin. His cock is blindingly hard, bulging insistently in his trousers, but that seems desperately beside the point. He reaches back behind him, finding the edge of his desk in order to steady himself.

He looks around the room, a little panicked, searching out the clock yet again. He’d been lost in the fantasy for mere minutes, but it feels like he’d lost hours to it.

Something in this infatuation with Steve Rogers has just shifted, and it seems wrong that all that could have happened in between three or four pushes of that tiny black minute hand.

Tony sits down at his desk and lays his palms flat on its cool surface. He wills himself to calm, his arousal to abate. But just shifting in his chair feels like too much, the fabric of his pants brushing against his skin nigh unbearable.

Pulling his handkerchief from his breast pocket, Tony unfastens his trousers and pulls his hard length out with a sigh of relief. He doesn’t bother to get up and lock the door. It only takes a couple of rough pulls and the thought of Steve’s lips sucking at his tip, blond head bobbing between his thighs; Tony comes quickly and quietly, one surprised gasp pushing past his lips, and the heavy load caught carefully in the red square of silk covering his other hand.

Beleaguered, he stares at the sticky mess, the wet warmth seeping through the thin fabric to his palm.

“Well…fuck.” Tony crumples up the handkerchief and tosses it onto his desk, the trash too far away at the moment. Dejectedly, he looks down at his lap. The sight of his softening dick just lying there, and knowing he just impetuously jacked off like a fifteen year old kid who couldn’t help himself, makes him sigh with embarrassment.

Tony fixes himself up as best he can, tucking his still sensitive cock back into his pants and zipping up, then smoothing down his clothes, straightening his tie. He runs a hand through his hair and then stands up, surprised to find his legs are still shaky underneath him.

After throwing away the evidence of his less-than gentlemanly activities, he opens the door once more.

Pepper looks concerned.

“Are you sure you’re not coming down with something? You’re all flushed, Tony, and you don’t seem well.”

“I have had better days,” Tony admits without actually telling the truth. “But I’ll be fine.” Before Pepper offers more observations regarding his awful appearance, Tony presses on. “I’d like you to set up a meeting with Steve Rogers. You can do that, right? You said you had his information, or something?”

“I have his old agent’s number…a Miss Peggy Carter. We’ve already been in touch with her regarding the Captain America items in storage; she’s offered to reach out to Mr. Rogers on our behalf.”

“Okay. Well, have her reach then. I want to meet with him. Make it dinner somewhere.” Pepper seems surprised at the suggestion. “Uh, I thought I’d keep it casual. Already enough heaviness there with my father and everything, right? Let’s not make it worse.”

“I’m pretty sure that all of the… ‘heaviness’…is on your part here, Tony. So I think it’s probably all up to you how this meeting goes.” Pepper is already flipping through her Rolodex, muttering to herself. “Carpenter, Carson…Carter, here we go.”

She picks up the phone, finger poised to turn the rotary dial.

“You’re sure about this?”

Tony pauses to consider it, but not for long.

“Set it up.”


Steve tries not to fidget as he sits silently in the passenger seat; the red leatherette upholstery squeaks a little whenever he moves.

While he’s never been comfortable with sitting in the back alone with the driver up front – he’s a poor kid from Brooklyn and that whole class division reeks of snobbery – he’s stuck here now next to Tony’s driver in the small front cab of the coupé, and sitting beside someone demands conversation. He can’t think of a single thing to say to the man.

Happy senses his discomfort; Steve’s simultaneously embarrassed and grateful.

“I apologize for the unusual arrangement. Tony insisted I pick you up in the Delahaye. Between you and me, pal, I think he might be showing off a bit.” Happy actually nudges him with his elbow good-naturedly, and Steve tries to loosen up.

“I did tell Miss Carter that I was perfectly fine to get there on my own, but apparently Mr. Stark insisted…” Steve easily could have walked the short distance from their apartment to the hotel, though he’s slightly glad he wouldn’t be showing up to the meeting in a sweat-stained suit. He’s already positive that he’s going to look underdressed and out of style when sitting beside Tony Stark. “I’ll make sure to tell him that I was impressed, though. You sure don’t see a car like this everyday.” Steve runs a hand along the chrome detailing on the inside of the bright red door.

“She is a real beaut.” Happy pats the dash like a proud father. “One of the perks of this job. Not that I need perks, mind you. Tony’s a great boss. Helluva guy.”

Steve gets the distinct feeling that he’s being sold on something, and he wonders if he’s been as obvious about his unease with Tony as he was about being chauffeured. He smiles at Happy and nods, hoping it will pass for tacit agreement.

Not sure what else to say that won’t be a lie, Steve turns his focus out the window, watching Sunset Boulevard slip by. Shortly after they pass the Garden of Allah, Happy signals and pulls to the right.

“Here we are, Chateau Marmont.” Happy announces as he slows to a gentle stop in front of the shaded entrance to the hotel, marked by white stone walls and a small sign that one could easily pass by if one weren’t looking closely. The building itself is hard to miss, however, the gothic architecture reminiscent of a small, strange castle – part French, part L.A., and, Steve thinks, wholly out of place.

Steve thanks Happy for the ride, opting to walk the short, stone driveway up to the arched doorway. The lobby is small, and despite the large windows, it is rather dark now that the sun has dipped below the hills. It’s not uninviting however, as the table lamps are all shaded with golden yellow glass or beige linen, throwing pockets of warm light over richly upholstered chairs and dark cherry wood tables.

There is no sign of Tony, so Steve uncomfortably loiters in the lobby, feeling entirely out of place. His suit is old and ill-fitted, a tad too short in the legs and tight in the arms, and a rather unfashionable shade of drab brown. He straightens his navy blue tie for what must be the third or fourth time and then shoves his nervous hands into his pockets to still them.

No one approaches him, but he’s sure there must be someone on staff eyeing him skeptically and wondering what he’s doing there. They probably have him pegged as some kind of poor, aspiring screenwriter hoping to catch someone important in the lobby to pitch them a script, or perhaps a tourist hoping for an autograph or snapshot with a famous actor or actress on their way out for a night on the town..

Deciding to act like he belongs there, Steve is about to take a seat and force himself to relax, perhaps read an abandoned newspaper, when Tony arrives. He’s like a rock in a small pond, rippling people into motion around him wherever he goes. The concierge who had studiously ignored Steve’s presence approaches Tony quickly, offering to call for a car.

Tony waves him off and approaches Steve with a confident smile. He’s wearing a gray double-breasted suit that’s tailored perfectly to his lithe frame, his shirt crisply ironed and ivory white, and his black tie held straight with a beautifully designed ruby and gold tack. His black shoes are polished to a high shine; a deep red pocket square caps off the ensemble with a bright dash of color. His mustache and beard are immaculately trimmed, his dark brown hair impeccably styled.

He looks like the most put-together, in-control man that Steve has ever seen. It exhilarates him even as it unnerves him, makes him feel small and unsure even though he’s so much broader and taller than the man walking up to him now. He feels like the old Steve Rogers for a brief moment, frail and forgotten.

“There you are,” Tony greets him as if he’s the one who’s been waiting. Steve squares his shoulders and stands up straight as he takes Tony’s proffered hand for a shake. “Thank you for coming to meet me here. I’m having some renovation done on the Malibu house, it’s a bit of a mess. Well, it’s a huge mess, actually. I may have accidentally blown something up. Not a big deal, but it’s a thing and it’s gonna take awhile and all that.”

Steve hesitates for a moment, wondering if he should inquire more about that whole blown something up remark, but decides to let it pass.

“I live nearby, so it was no trouble,” Steve replies, his conversation with Happy coming back into mind. “Thank you for sending Happy. The Delahaye is a beautiful automobile.”

“Oh, is that what he drove?” Tony asks with a practiced nonchalance. “I was wondering which one he’d choose to take out today.”

“Which one? How many cars do you have?” The question seems impertinent the way he asks it, which Steve automatically regrets. He doesn’t mean to be rude, even if he’s not entirely sure he wants to be here. “I mean…”

“I have too many, is the answer, but never enough.” Tony grins at him. “Happy could pick you up every day in a different car for near a month, I think.” Tony’s extravagance should repel him, but that smile sends a spark up Steve’s spine. There’s something about Tony that’s electric, something that makes Steve feel like his whole world is made dull by comparison. Even when he’s saying rude or obnoxious things that logically make Steve recoil, there’s part of him that just wants to hear Tony keep talking if only for the sound of his voice. “You drive, Steve?”

“I learned how, in the war. Never had much need for it before, living in the city, and I guess I don’t have much need for it now.” He shrugs. “I do own a motorcycle.”

“A motorcycle?” Tony’s eyebrow lifts like he’s pleasantly surprised. “I wouldn’t have guessed. What’s the make and model?”

“It’s a Harley WL 45 Flathead, 1946.”

“Good condition?”

“She does okay.”



“Hmm.” Tony nods once and Steve just sort of shrugs again, not sure what else to say now that the vehicular inquisition has ended.

“So, should we –” Steve gestures toward the nearest set of armchairs, about to ask Tony to sit down, when Tony steps toward the door and gestures outside.

“I got us a table next door at Players. Are you hungry? I thought we could do this over dinner.”

“That would be fine.” Steve isn’t clear on what this is, exactly. Peggy had been slightly vague on the details. He’d been surprised by her call in the first place, not having heard from her in going on two years. He may have agreed to the meeting partially because he’d been so happy to hear her lovely British lilt after such a long time apart.

He follows Tony to The Players Club, a long, three-level white building with terra cotta shingles and burnt orange awnings that sits in the shadow of the Chateau. Cars are lined up near door-to-door along the building’s front, lights from inside the three different restaurants and the dance hall making all that chrome and polished glass twinkle and shine against the darkness.

Steve feels a bit like a puppy lagging after his master as they are led through to the restaurant on the top floor. Frequently people look up from the dinner and drinks and nod hello to Tony; a few even get up and stop him to speak for a moment. Steve stands silently as Howard Hughes briefly pays his regards, mentioning something about his days tinkering alongside Tony’s father.

Steve is ignored by nearly everyone who looks Tony’s way, and he would feel out of place if not for the way in which Tony seems to subtly touch him at all times, checking in and making eye contact even when ostensibly conversing with someone else.

When they’re finally seated at their table, Tony heaves a sigh of relief and apologizes.

“It’s like running the gauntlet, isn’t it? But we made it out relatively unscathed.” A much too expensive bottle of wine is brought tableside without Tony placing an order; Tony foregoes a tasting and just signals the waiter to fill both their glasses. When the waiter departs, leaving them to their menus, Steve decides that it might be best to be frank now while they’re alone and the night is still early.

“Mr. Stark –”

“Tony, please.”

“Tony, I don’t want to be rude, but I really have no idea what I’m doing here.”

“We’re having dinner.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

Tony’s slight smirk shows that he already knew that full well. He picks up his wine and takes a sip, lips lingering on the edge of the glass and his fingers delicately cradling its curve.

He sets it back down, pointing at Steve with one finger.

“I’d like you to star in my picture. That’s what this is about.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Look,” Tony holds up his hands in a gesture of surrender, as if Steve is already fighting him on it when in truth he’s still processing the words. “I’d be the first to admit that I didn’t want to go anywhere near that Captain America bull shit when I first got here.”


“You should probably know right now that my father and I didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye, to put it lightly. I really want no part of whatever he did here in Hollywood before.”

“All right…” None of this seems like it would lead to this evening, to Tony’s strange request.

“Then I met you. And I get it, I see it. You have the makings of a star, Steve Rogers.”

“Except I really have no desire to be a star, Tony Stark,” Steve replies pointedly. “I’m a set designer.”

“A good one at that.”

“I try to be.”

“You’re too modest. I’ve seen your work, I’ve heard the talk around town. You’re in demand.”

“Why ever would you think I’m looking for anything else, then?” Steve is truly perplexed. Tony is taking another drink so instead of speaking, he shrugs his shoulders a little like the whole argument is of no matter.

“Maybe you’re not looking for anything. Maybe it found you. Life works that way sometimes.”

“Not usually, it doesn’t.”

“It does tonight.” Tony retorts, the statement charged with something darker and more promising than any business offer. A look flashes across his face, so quickly that Steve wonders if he’s imagined it. If it had been real, it had also been unmistakably sexual.

The inner rim of Tony’s mouth is stained dark red from the wine, and Steve wonders what he would taste like if they kissed. Steve drinks from his own glass to busy himself, letting the earthy flavor explode over his tongue.

“I don’t want to be in it. Your movie. That’s not for me.” Steve states as he stares across the table at Tony, feeling strangely compelled to clarify that it’s just the film specifically that he’s turning down.

“We can talk about something else then.” Tony leans back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. It reads as lazy, casual, rather than churlish. The rest of his body language is open and he keeps looking back at Steve as if he can’t be the first one to look away.

“What would you like to talk about?”

“You grew up in Brooklyn. Tell me about that.”

“Not much to tell.”

“I highly doubt that. You’re incredibly compelling.”

“I am?” Steve has to laugh, loudly and honestly, at that. “You’re going to be so disappointed if that’s what you think of me.”

“I don’t think you’re capable of disappointing anyone, Rogers.”

Tony’s laying it on a bit thick, now, and it makes Steve doubt that this attraction he feels is actually going both ways. Tony could just be playing at this in order to get what he wants. He’s brilliant enough and beautiful enough that it’s likely worked well for him in the past.

For whatever reason, Tony has stubbornly set his mind to Steve in a starring role in whatever this picture is that he’s got lined up. Steve can’t say he entirely understands that, but he does understand that someone rich and powerful like Tony is probably used to getting what he wants.

“You can flatter me all you like, Stark, I’m not going to change my mind about the film. Like I told you first time we met – I’m no actor.”

“But we’re not talking about the film anymore, are we? That was just flattery for flattery’s sake. You need to be flattered more often if you’re still so unwilling to believe it.”

Before Steve can respond, the waiter returns to take their dinner requests. Tony orders for them both, arranging for hors d’oeuvres and multiple courses followed by dessert, all without so much as consulting Steve. The meal will be lengthy, and he calls for another bottle of wine to be prepared.

Steve wants to feel outrage over the presumption, but the fact of the matter is that he hadn’t so much as glanced at the menu and he has no idea what he might have done instead.

But he lifts an eyebrow in challenge anyway, waiting for Tony to read his expression as the waiter departs with a small bow. He’s certainly pleased with the rather expensive tab Tony’s ringing up.

“I tend to get bossy, and I tend to overcompensate when I’m nervous.” Tony explains matter-of-factly, then winces. “I may also overshare.”

“Why are you nervous?” The knot of anxiety that’s been coiled inside Steve’s stomach relaxes as he recognizes something akin to vulnerability in Tony for the first time all evening. It’s even more winning than that armor of self-confidence.

Without thinking, he extends his hand halfway across the table, resting it against the pristine white linen with his palm up. It’s not as if Tony can take it, but they both see the gesture for what it is.

Tony smiles slightly, a different smile that curls gently at the edges of his lips.

“You should tell me about Brooklyn,” Tony says again. He doesn’t address Steve’s question aloud, instead sitting up in his chair and reclaiming his glass of wine. The reflection of candlelight dances in his brown eyes. “I grew up in Manhattan, so you’re basically from a foreign country as far as I’m concerned.”

Feeling daring, Steve leans forward in his own chair, gesturing for Tony to lean in. The other man complies. He wets his lips, watching Tony’s gaze catch on his mouth, and lowers his voice to a deep whisper.

“I think I need to tell you…” He looks up at Tony demurely through his lashes. “Your Brooklyn jokes weren’t funny the first time we met either.”

Tony blinks at him owlishly, then nearly busts his gut laughing. It’s enough to draw some attention from the surrounding tables, but Steve doesn’t care.

“You’re a real surprise, Rogers,” Tony says, the last name sounding affectionate. “I really didn’t expect to like you so much.”

“You have an odd way of giving compliments, Stark.”

“I have an odd way of doing everything. I’m an odd person.”

“I believe the rich are called ‘eccentric’.”

“Eh, I don’t think I’ve quite hit that mark yet. Give me a few years, though, I’ll see how crazy I can go.”

They press pause on their conversation as the hors d’oeuvres arrive – shrimp cocktails, rolled toast with mushrooms, and stuffed olives with bacon. Steve’s glass of wine is refilled before it can go empty.

“Don’t think I haven’t noticed you dodging my question twice already, by the way,” Tony picks up the abandoned thread, gesturing at him with a piece of shrimp in hand. “Is there a reason you won’t talk about Brooklyn?”

There might be. His childhood hadn’t exactly been idyllic, and Steve’s not sure he wants to share anything so personal with Tony Stark. In spite of – or maybe even because of – the strange pull of attraction between them, Steve doesn’t quite trust the man, or trust himself around him.

“It’s a story for another time.” Steve finally settles on replying, tilting his glass and looking down at his wine in order to avoid Tony’s piercing gaze. He takes a long drink, buying himself some time to figure out what to say next. He could ask Tony about his own childhood, but that hardly seems like a fair tack to take.

“Why don’t you tell me about the movie you’re working on?”

“I thought you weren’t interested.” Tony starts to look a little self-satisfied, so Steve dashes his hopes quickly.

“I’m still not interested in a role. But does that mean I can’t be interested in your work?”

“Of course you can. Just didn’t think you would be.”

“We’re part of the same business,” Steve replies by way of explanation. What he does and what Tony does are really worlds apart, but maybe he can learn something.

“We don’t necessarily have to talk business.”

“I thought that this was a business dinner.” Even as Steve says it, he knows that’s an utter lie. The second he’d seen Tony walk into the lobby that evening, the pretense was rendered useless. He’s here because he’s attracted to this man. And Tony, Tony doesn’t really care about Steve being in his movie. It’s all lame excuses made in order to sit across from each other and vaguely flirt while looking their fill.

“It doesn’t really have to be either. Business or dinner." Tony states, and his voice does something then, something sensual and sultry yet entirely offhand and casual. Steve would be hard pressed to explain what it does to him to hear it. “I’d rather get to know you …” Tony pauses for a sip of wine, staring at Steve over the rim of his glass. His gaze is mesmerizing; Steve can’t look away. Steve feels his face heat, and arousal tightens low in his stomach as if Tony’s already touching him, kissing him, fucking him.

“Besides, I’m not particularly hungry.” Tony’s pouty lips twitch into a small, teasing smile. “For anything we ordered, anyway.”

It’s a definite come on, and from anyone else’s lips, Steve might have had to roll his eyes. It’s blatant and not even all that clever. But from Tony…

Steve shifts in his seat. He’s growing hard, right here, in the middle of the restaurant. As he moves, his leg brushes Tony’s. He hesitates for just a moment but then decides to let it rest there. He knows the signal that sends and right now, he wants to send it. He can feel Tony’s skin, warm against his own body, even through the fabric of their trousers.

Tony sets down his wine glass and then pulls his money clip from his pocket. Steve should protest but instead all he does is watch Tony’s deft fingers peel off a number of large bills and place them face up on the table. Then Tony signals to their waiter.

“The last time I visited this fine establishment, Preston kindly offered me a tour of the wine cellar. I wondered if I might make use of that offer now?”

Steve’s momentarily confused, but then the waiter glances at Steve with a slightly panicked look that’s quickly masked by a polite, eager smile. Steve instantly knows that this is not about any wine cellar.

“Of course, Mr. Stark. If you and the gentleman would like to follow me, I’d be happy to arrange that for you.” He catches someone’s eye across the crowded dining room and nods once, then a moment later once again.

“Good man, good man.” Tony rises from his seat, palming the waiter a twenty-dollar bill. He winks at Steve and gestures for him to stand as well.

Steve does, adjusting his blazer to hopefully mask the indecent bulge at the front of his pants. Thankfully, he’s not entirely erect, but even when he’d been small and delicate, that part of his anatomy had been disproportionately large. It unfortunately doesn’t take much for it to become an obscene embarrassment.

He wishes that they hadn’t checked their coats and hats; at least then he’d have better cover.

He and Tony don’t speak as they follow their waiter toward the double set of swinging doors at the back of the restaurant that lead to the bustling kitchen. The front of house manager meets them there, appearing as if from out of nowhere. He must have been on the other end of the waiter’s nod.

He’s an elegant older gentleman with a carefully groomed mustache, reminiscent of John Barrymore in Grand Hotel. He reaches out to shake Tony’s hand, and then, surprisingly, shakes Steve’s as well.

“Lovely to see you again, Mr. Stark.” His accent sounds like Falsworth’s, but not quite. In any other circumstance, Steve might have introduced himself and asked him where he once called home, but Steve’s out of place here, and its feels safer to stay silent.

“Nigel, a pleasure as always. Some weeks ago, I was offered a viewing of your wine cellar, but I demurred. I do hope that’s still possible?”

“I am of course happy to oblige. I think you’ll find our wine collection most impressive. We will need to go down to the lowest level, so if you’ll forgive the short walk?”

“Of course.” Tony sweeps his arm out, gesturing for Nigel to lead.

They follow, but at a slightly slower pace that allows the manager some distance ahead. Steve dares to press close along Tony’s side, grabbing his wrist momentarily to get his attention.

“What exactly is going on?” Steve whispers, trying to ignore how it feels when his lips brush Tony’s ear.

“You’ve followed me this far,” Tony whispers back. Tony’s hand caresses his hip, innocent enough to be passed off as an accidental touch if anyone had been paying attention. They break away from each other as they approach a narrow back staircase that necessitates them to wind their way down in single file. It’s four flights before they come to a heavy oak door with an elaborate lock.

Behind it is the wine cellar, deep and wide with a rather low ceiling. The walls are a dusty red brick and the room is lined with rack after wooden rack of glass bottles. The floor is cobblestone and the lights give the room a warm glow as if lit by firelight. Steve eyes the labels as he’d led through the labyrinth of the expensive collection, the names impressive and the dates even more so.

Perplexingly, Nigel pauses along the back wall. Steve glances at Tony as they stop beside one another; it may just be the low light of the cellar, but Tony’s eyes are wide and dark. He’s already breathing slightly fast, however, and Steve doesn’t think he can attribute that to the location.

Nigel sorts through the large number of keys on his ring and selects one carefully. Steve doesn’t even see the door, much less the keyhole, until Nigel clicks the key into place and turns the lock.

“Here you are, sirs. If you just follow the corridor for about one hundred-twenty paces, this will lead you directly to the lower level of the Chateau. The elevator can take you directly to your floor. I will arrange for your personal items from the coat room to be messengered to the hotel to await you at the front desk, at your convenience, of course.”

“Thank you, Nigel. This is much appreciated.” Tony hands the man a bill as well, and Nigel simply bows and excuses himself, leaving Steve alone with Tony and a nearly dark, arched stone hallway that apparently leads back to the hotel.

The invitation is clear. Steve knows what he wants to do and what he should do, and they’re two entirely different things.

The sound of the wine cellar door closing echoes through the long room. They’re alone.

Tony’s hands are on his waist, slipping underneath his suit coat to grip his hips firmly. He’s so assured, like he already knows Steve’s body and what he desires; yet it’s still heady and new at the same time, a dangerous and exciting unknown. Tony presses him back against the open door and Steve lets himself be moved, lets Tony crowd against him.

Tony stops just short of kissing him, lips tantalizingly feather light against his as he speaks.

“You are…” Tony’s hard too, Steve can feel him rubbing against his thigh. “So. God. Damn.” Tony’s hands smooth over his waist and down to his ass, grabbing and holding rather than quickly groping. “Beautiful.”

Tony,” Steve breathes and closes the miniscule space between them. The kiss is immediately more than a kiss. It’s already leading somewhere, promising something. They tilt and shift to get deeper, mouths open, tongues sliding. Steve’s feeling too warm, his heart thudding out of time in his chest.

“I love the way you say my name.” Tony mouths along his jaw, down his throat. “I want to hear you scream it.” Steve pulls at Tony’s tie, brings him back to his lips. Tony’s eager hands are already untucking Steve’s shirt; when Tony’s fingers touch his bare skin, Steve groans.

He doesn’t want to stop this.

“So don’t.” Tony says. “No one has to know. No one will know.”

Tony kisses him once more, leading him backward into the tunnel with the promise of his talented mouth. Steve lets the kiss break. He needs a moment without Tony’s touch in order to properly think this through.

He’s denied himself this ever since he understood what this was. What it could be. He’s never put his whole life, everything he’s ever worked for, at risk just because one man was too breathtaking, too beautiful, to turn down.

Steve stands at the threshold, and looks back to the safety of the wine cellar. He could go upstairs, collect his coat, and go home. That would be the smart thing to do.

Tony Stark is rude, unpredictable, entitled, and comes with entirely too much baggage. Steve’s tangled up with Tony’s family’s past in ways that he doesn’t think he fully understands and probably never will.

He’s also rich, he’s famous, and that only makes him more dangerous.

But he’s the only person who has ever made Steve’s head spin like this. He's already afraid that Tony's the only person who ever will.

Steve looks back to the long corridor. Tony is waiting with his hand outstretched.

“Are you coming?”