When Steve had signed up to choreograph the school musical, he had thought for the first time in his life that being a small, scrawny, artsy kid would work in his favour. He had been beaten up for taking ballet and jazz tap instead of “real sports” his whole life, and had thought that high-school would be no different; this musical, to him, was a chance to change how everyone saw him, to prove to them that he was just as capable, just as worthy of athletic praise as all the huge jocks out on the football field.
And Tony Stark was ruining it.
Tony Stark, who was only doing the damn musical because theatre girls were the only remaining clique he hadn’t screwed his way through yet; Tony Stark, who was unfairly talented for someone who was also so smart and popular; Tony Stark, who knew he was talented and therefore slacked off as much as humanly possible, making it impossible for everyone else to truly get their bearings. It was completely unfair to all the rest of them, and Steve, frankly, was getting sick of it.
“Why don’t you just go over there and give him a piece of your mind?” Bucky asked, shovelling pudding into his mouth from his seat next to Steve in the cafeteria.
Bucky was one of the football guys, and one of the only exceptions to Steve’s generally low expectations for jocks. They hadn’t always been friends, though; Bucky had originally been one of many bullies who liked to make Steve’s life hell. Finally, one day, Steve had had enough, and smacked Bucky around the head with a lunch tray so hard that it had given him two black eyes. They’d been best friends since.
The other exception to Steve’s rule was Sam Wilson. Another jock, Sam had always been the only football player that absolutely paid no part in bullying. He and Steve shared a few classes, had been paired together for quite a few assignments, and Steve respected the guy’s morals.
Sat at the other side of the table, Sam hummed his agreement as he crammed half a burger into his mouth.
“I can’t say anything,” Steve sighed, running a hand across the back of his head in frustration. “He’s the lead; if I piss him off, he might quit, and his understudy’s already down with mono. It’s only a couple more weeks until show week – I’m just gonna have to suck it up.”
“Doesn’t sound like you,” Natasha, Bucky’s girlfriend, commented from Bucky’s other side. “Usually you’re straight in with a lunch tray when someone pisses you off.”
“I promised my Ma I wouldn’t get suspended again,” Steve grumbled, jabbing a bony elbow into Bucky’s side when he snorted out a laugh. “Shut up, jerk.”
“Punk,” Bucky replied, prodding Steve with his spoon. “Need me to fuck him up?”
Steve honestly thought about it for a moment, glancing across the room to where a group of kids seemed to be laughing at something Tony had just said, but ultimately thought against it. Shaking his head, he said, “Nah. Can’t ruin his pretty face right before the show.”
Bucky smirked, and then hummed. “Pretty, huh?”
Steve baulked, taken aback by his own words, and felt a blush rising on his cheeks. “I didn’t – that’s not what I said -”
“Sure, string bean,” Sam chuckled.
Steve just planted his head on the lunch table and waited for the floor to swallow him.
Possibly the most annoying part of Steve’s whole situation was the fact that Tony was just so damn charming. It would have been bad enough if the guy was an asshole – that, Steve was very well versed in – but he really wasn’t. When he bothered to show up for rehearsals, his infectious personality immediately shone through, and he charmed the pants off everyone in attendance; there was really no wonder he had gotten the male lead.
It wasn’t even like he was particularly disrespectful. Sure, he didn’t show up most of the time, and he didn’t always listen to what he was being told, but he had memorised everything he had been set by the time he came back for the next rehearsal. He was surprisingly willing to learn, even if he wasn’t the most focused, and hadn’t once made fun of anyone for their passion, Steve included.
It was quite the opposite with Steve, in all honesty. Tony had a habit of seeking Steve out during rehearsals, swaggering up to him with that dazzling smile on his face and his hair swept tantalisingly back, and would speak to Steve for full minutes at a time without insulting him once before he was ushered back onto the stage to rehearse.
It was very distracting.
“Stark, I swear to God, if you don’t get your butt back on stage and into position -”
“Whoops,” Tony grinned at him, and Steve refused to admit that his heart skipped a little at the sight. “Looks like I gotta go, sugar plum. I only wanted to drop by and say your ass looks great in those shorts, anyway.”
Despite desperately trying to force it down, Steve felt a blush forming on his face as Tony bounded away. He hated that he got like this – it really didn’t mean anything, after all. Tony flirted with everyone, did it as easy as breathing, and there was no point getting worked up about it – it was just how Tony was.
Steve turned away momentarily to help a chorus boy with his footwork for the dance finale, letting his blush disappear in its own time, but had to come to a stop while they ran the number they were practising on stage. Tony was in position, Pepper, the female lead stood opposite him; behind them, the set team were busy painting a library backdrop.
The band struck up, Tony was counted in, and then he began to first dance, and then sing.
“Marian, Madam librarian -”
Steve tried to be subjective as the number went on, tried to focus on Tony’s dance efforts so he could give him some tips afterwards, but the longer he watched, the more he got caught up in Tony’s voice, in the curve of his spine, in his face. Pretty soon, he was transfixed.
He also, distantly, realised that his own life was beginning to mirror that of the musical. Tony (the Music Man) was constantly pestering him, while Steve (Marian) tried to bat him away while he actually got some work done. It was uncanny, really, and more than a little annoying, though Steve couldn’t quite figure out why.
Tearing himself away as the song came to an end, Steve got back to helping the chorus boy with his footwork. He decidedly tuned out the words drifting back and forth from the stage, knew that if he was needed to help out, they’d call for him, and let himself get lost in his work.
“You’re not pointing your toes, Peter,” he instructed, showing the kid how to properly execute a move. “Half of your problems would go away if you just pointed your toes. The other half would go away if you spread your weight more evenly on your feet. Stop tilting forwards and hunching over – you’re going to pull a muscle. Push your chest forwards and your shoulders back.”
Peter was a strange one. There were moments where he showed real progress, where Steve thought he had the potential to actually take dancing further if he wanted to. Other times… he looked like a newborn giraffe learning to walk. He was a weird mix of perfect grace and unending clumsiness, and Steve was still trying to figure out which was the dominant trait.
“That’s better!” he praised as Peter got the hang of it, grinning proudly. “Good job, Peter! You’ve got it!”
Peter beamed back at him mid-move, but must have stopped concentrating, because he almost immediately tripped over his own feet and went toppling over. Steve sighed and slapped a hand over his face, exasperated.
“That’s okay, Peter,” he sighed, leaning down to help him to his feet. “You’ll get it next time, okay? You all right?”
“Yeah,” Peter sighed, rubbing his elbow. “Thanks, Steve.”
“It’s okay,” Steve smiled. “Good job today.”
Everyone else was starting to pack up as the rehearsal came to an end, so Steve sent Peter on his way with a pat on the back. He’d get there; Steve was sure of it.
Moving quickly towards the back of the auditorium, Steve made for his gym bag and unzipped it, pulling a small towel out of it to dry his sweat damp hair. He was so busy reaching for the back of his head that he didn’t see Tony Stark approaching, and nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt Tony prod him in the ribs.
“Jesus,” he squeaked, startled, and then frowned when he spotted Tony grinning at him. “That wasn’t very nice, was it?”
“Sorry, sugar plum,” Tony replied with a charming smile, and, against his will, Steve found his annoyance quickly melting away. “I was actually wondering if you could help me out.”
“How so?” Steve asked warily, and bent down to scoop a water bottle up out of his gym bag.
“I, uh, I think I need a little help with the choreography in Marian, The Librarian,” Tony told him, eyebrows drawn together as though he were nervous, though that, of course, was a ridiculous thought. Why would Tony be nervous about speaking to Steve?
“Oh, really?” Steve replied, a little confused. “It looked pretty good to me.”
“Thanks,” Tony grinned, and Steve rolled his eyes. “But I’m serious. It’s the middle section, when I’m dancing with Pepper in the dream sequence. I feel like I’m going to trip her up by accident. Could you maybe stay a couple minutes longer and take me through it?”
Steve thought about it for a moment. His Ma would probably worry if he was home late, always was worried about him for whatever reason, but… getting to spend a few moments alone with Tony? To dance with him? Steve found himself inexplicably drawn to that idea, and found himself nodding his head before he’d really thought it through properly.
“Okay,” he croaked, and then cleared his throat by taking a swig of water. “Yeah, okay, I guess I can stay a little while.”
Tony’s smile was definitely worth the screaming match with his mother that was sure to come.
“Great,” Tony beamed, and then snatched up Steve’s hand and tugged him forwards. “Come on, how many times do you actually get to be on stage?”
“Uh…” Steve replied intelligently, staring at where their hands were linked as Tony tugged him forwards. “Not very often, I guess.”
“Right, and you should be on stage,” Tony told him. “You’re really good.”
Steve felt a little dazed as he was tugged up onto the stage, and even more so when Tony reeled him in and held him close. His breath caught in his throat, feeling Tony settle, pressed against his body. They stayed like that for a few, loaded moments, Tony staring down at him with a strange, intense expression on his face.
“We, uh…” Steve cleared his throat, and it felt like he was splitting the silence with a knife. “We don’t have any music now the band has gone. Would you – could you sing so I -”
“Yeah, sure,” Tony nodded, clearing his own throat. “Um, yeah.”
While Tony hummed his way through the few bars leading into the dance sequence, they both got into position. Steve allowed Tony to take the lead, because there was really no point in them doing this otherwise. It had nothing to do with the fact that he was still struggling to process the moment they had just shared, and needed Tony to take charge.
“Hmm, hmmm, one, two, three, four,” Tony hummed, and then they were dancing.
Steve was immediately caught up in the pageantry of it all, just like he always had been, and grinned as Tony led him across the stage. He was still humming, close to Steve’s ear, and a shiver ran up his spine at the feeling of it.
“- two, three, four,” Steve murmured, and Tony dutifully lifted him high in the air, bringing him back down in a graceful arc. “Perfect.”
“Hmmmmm – thanks,” Tony mumbled around a hum, a proud smile on his face as he led them back across the stage again.
They were almost at the end of the dance break, and Steve found himself not quite ready to let go just yet. Tony’s expression, when he looked up, seemed to portray something similar, and he was just opening his mouth to say something –what, he wasn’t quite sure – when he stepped on something small and cylindrical, and suddenly went toppling backwards. Tony made a hurkk noise as he was tugged down too, and Steve landed painfully on his back with Tony right on top of him.
“Oh my god,” Tony cackled after a moment of stunned silence. “Holy shit, oh my god. Are you okay?”
Wincing, Steve managed to get an awkward hand under him and pulled out a paintbrush that someone had obviously forgotten to put away. Collapsing back again, he let out a laugh of his own.
“I’m fine,” he chuckled, stretching out a little as Tony rolled off him and laid out beside him. “Are you okay?”
“Just peachy,” Tony replied, crossing his arms behind his head. “Was I at least doing it right before we both went tumbling to the floor?”
“It was pretty good,” Steve nodded, and then, stretching, pulled himself into a sitting position, “but it could be better.”
“Come on, get up,” Steve laughed, pushing himself to his feet. After a moment, he reached a hand out for Tony to take, and helped him to his feet, too. “Your footwork’s fine, but you need to work on your leadership.”
“I am a great leader,” Tony huffed, though he let Steve mould him into position. “What… what am I doing wrong?”
“You seem a little stiff, awkward,” Steve explained, moving Tony’s hand to his waist. “You need to relax. Don’t be afraid to pull me – Pepper closer.”
“Um…” Tony cleared his throat. “I – okay. I can do that.”
He pulled Steve in a little closer, so they were touching all the way from their chests to their thighs. Steve shuddered a little, couldn’t help himself, and when Tony caught his eye he felt the air leave his lungs in a rush.
“Is this… is this better?” Tony asked quietly, ducking his head a little to lean in.
“Yeah,” Steve nodded, still breathless. “Yeah, it’s – you could maybe even go a little closer.”
This time, Tony tugged Steve closer still, and wrapped the arm that had been around hip all the way around his waist, cradling him close to Tony’s body.
“Much… much better,” Steve stuttered, heart hammering madly in his chest. “Yeah, this is… yeah, much better.”
“Yeah?” Tony asked, smiling intimately down at him. “Am I doing a good job, boss?”
Steve felt a shiver run down his spine, infinitely charmed, and nodded his head. “Yeah, you’re doing a good job.”
“And what about this? Is this good?” Tony asked, and then closed the remaining gap between them and caught Steve’s lips in a wonderful kiss.
Steve squeaked, surprised, but immediately pressed back. He felt dizzy with adrenaline and endorphins, but also the smell of Tony’s cologne and how safe he felt in the circle of Tony’s arms.
“That’s, mmm,” Steve momentarily got distracted by Tony’s lips again. “That’s the cheesiest line I’ve ever heard.”
“I try my best,” Tony grinned, gently nudging his nose against Steve’s. Then, clearing his throat yet again, he continued, “So, um, maybe the wrong order, but… do you wanna maybe get some dinner with me after this?”
“You… you wanna get dinner with me?” Steve asked, uncomprehending. “What, like a date?”
“Well, yeah,” Tony replied softly, with a nervous smile.
“Because I’ve had a crush on you for years?” Tony replied, shaking his head as though he thought Steve was crazy. “Because getting to spend more time with you is the only reason I agreed to do this stupid musical? Because I’ve been building up the nerve to ask you out for weeks, and you kissing me back just now kinda made me think maybe you liked me too, even just a little?”
Steve couldn’t think of a single thing to say. All this time, all these years, Tony had been an asshole to get his attention? It didn’t make any sense.
“But you never even show up to rehearsals,” he replied, exasperated.
“Just because you’re the cutest guy in school doesn’t make singing and dancing any more fun, Steve,” Tony rolled his eyes. “I wouldn’t be here at all if it weren’t for you.”
“Huh.” Steve was still struggling to process.
“Is that huh a yes?” Tony asked hopefully, “because I’m gonna keep pestering you in rehearsals either way, and I guess I just thought it’d be nicer to be able to kiss you after I pester you -”
Steve shut him up by leaning up on his tiptoes and kissing him quiet. Tony grinned happily into the kiss, going so far as to dip Steve dangerously close to the ground like in the dance they had just shared.
“You’re ridiculous,” Steve grumbled. “Of course I’ll go out to dinner with you.”
“Really?” Tony squealed, and then had the decency to look a little embarrassed.
“Sure,” Steve replied with a smile. “But I gotta call my Mom and tell her where I am first.”