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To Strike A Match

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Apparently, everyone used to have the marks. Until they didn’t anymore.

It had been bred out of humanity like a recessive trait of some kind, or as Thor suggested, when people had stopped believing, they had faded and disappeared, like most of the original seven wonders of the world.

Tony snorted. “That’s a ridiculous and unscientific theory. The library at Alexandria didn’t disappear because people stopped believing in books.”

“It is allegory,” Thor said with a frown.

Though Steve considered that if everyone had had the marks, they wouldn’t have been a recessive trait. They did teach Mendel’s genetic laws in 1930’s Brooklyn high schools, after all. The news said the same, trotting out anthropology and medical experts on 24-hour news channels as part of the wall to wall coverage of the strange phenomenon.

“It is perhaps similar to vestigial tails,” Thor rubbed his chin. “Humans no longer have these, either.”

Steve sighed. He supposed it could have been worse. Tony caught his eye and started laughing, and Steve knew he’d been thinking the same thing.

“Imagine the alteration bills,” he said, and Steve managed a tight grin in reply.

The marks that appeared on nearly every human one day weren’t very obvious -- a pattern resembling the whorl of a fingerprint and almost as unique, on the inner wrist, tinted the color of coal-black ink. Almost as unique, because everyone was supposed to have a match somewhere on earth, and when the match was found, with a solid press of bared wrist to wrist, mark to mark, the pattern disappeared, followed (so they said) by an intense flood of emotion. Love. A match meant you’d found your soulmate.

“Mumbo-jumbo,” Tony muttered. “Fucking magical witchcraft crap.”

“It is like very old magic,” Thor said with a nod. “It is not to be dismissed as ‘crap’.” His pronouncement was incongruous; solemn-voiced, but his mouth and beard caked with powdered sugar from his donut.

“It’s sorta like the opposite of wedding rings,” Clint said. “Somebody’s missing a mark, means they’re taken.”

“Or,” Tony said, “Or they could just put on makeup to get creeps of their back, or draw a mark on with a Sharpie to cheat.”

The thing was, the marks would have been pretty hard to draw, though a modern-day tattoo artist could probably create a fair facsimile if someone was really determined. When someone lost their matched love due to an unfortunate circumstance, the mark reappeared...but only if they truly wanted to move on. But apparently, nobody without the mark wanted to cheat; couples already in love or in happy relationships felt their bond strengthened when their marks disappeared. Couples in not-so-happy ones became instantly happier and sought counseling when the mark indicated that they were with their soulmate (sometimes the problem was that they weren't sure the other was really into them) and existing couples who weren’t a match, well..that could be a problem.

“It’s not a problem, Tony,” Pepper said, when they pressed their wrists together and their marks stayed resolutely black. “It’s not, well, it’s not like we’re still together.”

“No, but, Pep-” Tony’s forehead wrinkled.

“You think it’s all crap anyway,” she jostled him gently with her elbow and rolled her eyes. “Soulmates.”

“It is crap, totally,” Tony insisted. “I mean, biological determinism? Come on. But...we had some great years.”

“We did,” she nodded back and gripped his shoulders until his eyes met hers. “This doesn’t mean our relationship was a waste of time.”

“I know,” Tony said. “Of course not.”

“Did you try it with JARVIS?” Pepper’s eyes sparkled. “Can you make JARVIS a wrist?”

“Oh, shut up,” Tony said, pressing a finger to her lips. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

That was ridiculous, right?


Clint came back from a long weekend away without a mark. Natasha opened a bottle of vodka to celebrate with him, but she was the only one who knew. Clint took to wearing Adidas wristbands or a Fitbit when he wasn’t in his Hawkeye costume, but he never made it obvious.

Thor didn’t have a mark, but he was a god, not a human. Jane Foster didn’t have one, and didn't mind, because she was a scientist. “I care about him,” she told Darcy. “It doesn’t matter if he’s my soulmate or not.”

Darcy nodded. “He has a great ass. I wouldn’t care either.”

Maria Hill matched someone at SHIELD, a computer technician. Fury rearranged their schedules without asking, which she appreciated more than she could express, so she gave him a spontaneous hug, which made him profoundly uncomfortable. But he knew the feeling. He had a match too.

Like Jane, Steve didn’t have a mark. He figured Peggy had been his soulmate. Or maybe Bucky. Or maybe the Vita-Ray process and the serum had altered his body chemistry so that he wouldn’t have a mark anyway. That was a theory of Bruce’s. Bruce had a mark though, and it didn’t change when he transformed. Bruce would rub his opposing thumb against it distractedly when deep in thought, wondering where Betty might be. He thought it would be worse to test his mark against hers and fail. The Hulk, however, liked testing his mark against random strangers, with a surprising amount of gentleness.

“Pretty,” he’d rumble. “You pretty man,” he’d say. Or “pretty lady.” “We match?” He’d tried it with cell phone kiosk operators, a cluster of firefighters in the middle of a conflict with Hammer drones, and even a couple of villains. More than one civilian had completely freaked out at the possibility of being soul-matched with a massive green being, but Hulk hadn’t found a match yet.

Steve imagined Hulk dragging some hapless match up to the top of the Empire State like King Kong with Ann Darrow. Tony had laughed himself sick at that.

“I don’t think he would,” Bruce said. “But I can’t get him to understand that he shouldn’t try.”


“I gave my best friend a high-five,” said a man in his seventies on CNN. “And boom. Sure was a surprise.”

“How did you feel?” Anderson Cooper asked.

“Real strange. I lost my wife in oh-eight. Al’s my fishing buddy. He was always there for me and all, but I don’t know. I never thought about him like that. It’s crazy.”

“And now?”

The man colored under his beard. “We’re takin’ it slow,” he said.


“It’s older than modern society,” said an anthropologist on yet another talk show. “Now that we know what to look for, we’ve found cultural evidence to confirm that…”

A guest on NPR quoted Plato, from The Symposium:

“...and when one of them meets the other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy and one will not be out of the other's sight, as I may say, even for a moment...”

Matches weren’t that random; many couples were already contented matches, and usually they were someone people had known or went to school with or lived in the same town. Ages were generally close, but either way, marks didn’t appear until someone was in their late teens, if not later. A shy Danish college student matched up with her tour guide at the Great Wall of China, but she’d developed a crush on his gorgeous smile hours before their wrists touched. Two opposing politicians in the British House of Commons were secretly matched but of course the Daily Mail and the Sun found out. There was no scandal. Everyone thought it was adorable.

The Pope revisited the Catholic church’s position on celibacy, making it optional for priests and nuns who found their soulmates, as long as they were wed in the church first.

A young developer in Menlo Park worked out an app for iPhone and Android that let people across the world search for matches via images, but they still had to be confirmed in person. The success rate was something like 81%, though, which was pretty good. Sighing, Tony allowed her to create something for the Starkphone, too, tweaking the closed-source code to make that version better than the competitors’.

“It’s just business,” he bitched in his lab, removing his own unmatched mark from the database after beta tests. “But I still think this whole soulmate thing is superstitious baloney.”

“Whatever you say, Sir,” JARVIS wisely kept the statistics to himself, that time.


“This is unlike you. Aren’t you even slightly curious?” Natasha asked Tony. She was making a sign for the team refrigerator warning anyone who touched her leftover steak salad: ASK BEFORE EATING ANYTHING THAT IS NOT YOURS. (ASSHOLES!)

“Not really,” he replied. He’d made a show of pressing his wrist against those of a couple of pole dancers at an old school titty bar in Williamsburg and Rick’s Cabaret the other night when he went out with Rhodey, for a laugh. He’d also had three lap dances, which was nice. Of course he hadn’t matched anyone online, but it’s not like everybody in the world was using a phone app to test for a soulmate match anyway. “Mine’s probably a goat herder in Nepal who hates technology, or an actual Luddite. Do they still exist? That would be perfect,” he said sarcastically. He caught Steve’s eye. “You’re lucky.”

Steve shrugged. “Whatever you say, Tony.”

“What, you want a creepy biologically-determined magical love destiny? Did you read your horoscope today too? Throw some runes?”

“Stop it, Tony,” Natasha said, her sharp tone softening as she rubbed Steve’s shoulder. “It’s sad.”

“Plenty of people are in relationships without matches. They’re happy. It’s not like Cap can’t find a willing partner to get Yankee Doodle Randy with.”

“It doesn’t matter for Thor and Jane, and they don't have marks either,” Steve pointed out. “I’m not worried. I’m too busy to date anybody anyway.”

“Busy…?” Tony looked bewildered. “You’re not busy. I’m busy. You’re a slacker. Working out isn’t work.”

Steve bristled and stalked out. Lately Tony hadn't been rubbing him the wrong way quite as often, but it happened.

“You can be such a dick sometimes,” Natasha said after Steve had left. “Can’t you see he’s lonely?”

“Yeah, by choice. He wouldn’t even go out with us the other night. Or ever.”

“He doesn’t have a mark. He’s not over whoever he lost, apparently. What if he spends his whole life without finding someone to care about?”

“I recently cared about two hardbody dancers. At the same time. Now that was magical.”

Natasha rolled her eyes and chucked a fat marker pen at him. Tony ducked too slow and a streak of black marred his cheek. “There’s another mark for you, you little shit.”


One typical Thursday several weeks later, Steve woke up, brushed his teeth, showered, and went to SHIELD headquarters. He was listening to Fury drone on about...drones, ironically, a postmortem of their mission in Miami, when he realized that he wasn’t talking anymore. He looked up and Fury nodded at Steve’s arm.

“Check your wrist, Cap.”

Steve looked, and there it was.

A mark.

“Oh,” he said.

“'Oh,' he says. 'Oh'.” Fury shook his head. “Congratulations are in order.”

“I’m not…” he paused, uncharacteristically unsure. “I don’t think I’m...exactly...I didn’t expect this.” He cleared his throat. “I’d appreciate it if, uh, we kept this classified.”

“Fair enough. Better roll down your shirt sleeves then,” Fury suggested. “The press is outside and they’ll want a statement about the drone thing.”

“On it, sir,” Steve said. On the way home, he bought a watch...a big Timex expedition model that he quickly put on in the store after paying. He could use it to check his running times.


Tony was reading an article on his Starkpad about a polyamorous threesome that had turned into a group marriage involving four parties, after matches meant one of the people was destined to be with her ex-husband’s brother, or something.

“Weird, but sorta sweet,” he mumbled.

Steve looked up from his crossword. “What?”



Steve managed to keep his mark hidden.

Well...truth be told, he’d run the app on the phone Tony had given him. No one matched. That didn’t mean he didn’t have a soulmate match, but it meant that his match hadn’t uploaded theirs. That probably meant they didn’t want a match, Steve thought. At any rate, he took it as a sign; he had a dangerous line of work, and perhaps it was best to limit romantic entanglements. What if he did match and his mate wanted him to stay away from dangerous activities? He hadn’t even asked anyone out on a date, not that he had much practice doing that in this century, or the last. There was the very nice waitress at his favorite cafe, but she lacked a mark and had a shiny new engagement ring anyway.

So he wasn’t sure it mattered.

Not to mention the fact that maybe the mark sort of ruled out free will? Everyone seemed happy to find their match, but Steve wasn't sure.

It was kind of...well, maybe it was kind of un-American, Steve thought. In fact, he voiced that sentiment when the topic came up the next time, after a battle, well, more of a skirmish, facing down a mecha-zombie in Teardrop Park. They were eating in a McDonald’s.

“Figures you’d say that,” Stark said, wiping a stream of grey goo off of his chestplate with his bare hand and grimacing at it. Natasha tossed him a napkin from her tray. "Why are you always pelting me with stuff, Tash?"

“Why wouldn't I? You don’t believe it that stuff either,” Steve pointed out.

“True,” Tony agreed. “I don’t. Also, one person, one person only, forever? Pssssh.”


One night a few weeks later, Steve stepped out of the shower and toweled off, then dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt and made popcorn before grabbing the corner of the leather sectional in the team’s common area with a book. He didn’t feel like being alone, really, and even though nobody was gathered to chat, members of the Avengers were usually passing through, grabbing drinks in the big kitchen or stopping to ask “Whatcha reading?”

Offered a Coke -- one of the bottled ones from Mexico that JARVIS ordered because he knew what Steve liked -- Steve kept his eyes on his novel but held up a hand and Tony deposited the bottle there.

“Homeslice,” Tony said.

Steve gave him a quizzical look.

“Term of endearment. You know we have exquisite surround sound in here. Movie?”

Steve poked a receipt into the book he was reading to save his place. He was a little fatigued being informed about the decline of Western civilization for the day anyhow.

“Sure. Do we have something that’s not...depressing?”

“Shit. You know, I was planning on popping in a double feature. Angela’s Ashes and Requiem For A Dream. But fuck it-”

“Stark, whatever you want to watch is fine.”

Tony grinned. “Nah, I like upbeat cinema. Let’s do Cool Runnings.”


Steve hadn’t had much opportunity to spend time with Tony before today, not one-on-one. It was unusual that the others weren’t around, and that Tony wasn’t spending the evening in his workshop doing whatever it was he did down there every other night of the week. And they'd been getting along better, he and Stark. Steve guessed it was because they were getting used to each other. Tony brought out beer a few minutes into the movie after he’d noticed Steve had drained his soda, and halfway through the film (which Steve was really enjoying,) he produced a bottle of scotch and two glasses from the bar.

“This is extremely good shit, Cap. I would’ve given you some before, but I didn’t think you drank.”

Steve eyed his glass. “I don’t think I can get drunk anymore, but I do like the taste.”

“You don’t think…” Tony blinked. “You mean you don’t know? You haven’t tried? You haven’t tested to failure yet?”


“Well, we don’t have to be up early tomorrow, so there’s no time like the present for a little experiment, is there?”

Steve shrugged. “Why not?”


It turned out Steve COULD get drunk; it just took him about four times the effort that it took Tony, and they both definitely put in the effort.

“Hey, hey hey hey. Why aren’t there any Captain America knock-knock jokes?” Tony slurred in Steve’s ear.

“Why?” Steve couldn’t wipe the grin off his face, no matter how hard he tried. “This is gonna be stupid.”

“'Cause freedom rings!” Tony replied with a snort.

It was stupid. But Steve laughed so hard he fell off the sofa.


He woke up to the sound of window blinds slithering open and bright light and Tony groaning “Turn down the sun, JARVIS, for god’s sake.” The room dimmed again. Swiping a hand across his face, Steve wasn’t surprised to find a bit of drool. He glanced at his pillow but it didn’t look too bad, before he realized that it wasn’t his pillow and that he was in fact in Tony’s room.

He was in Tony’s room, wearing nothing but his boxer shorts, and it looked like Tony wasn’t even...Tony turned over and no, he wasn’t wearing anything but a smug grin, “Hey, soldier.”

“Hi,” Steve croaked.

“Hung over?”

Steve squinted at his bedmate. “Uh. Not so much.” Were those red marks on Tony’s neck and had he…? Oh god, he’d put them there. Everything rushed back: Tony remarking that there was more scotch in his room, there had been a lot of talking, and then...kissing. A lot of kissing. Everywhere. And okay, they'd been drinking, so not everything really worked properly, on Tony's side, anyway. 'I'd apologize for my age, but it happens when un-enhanced mortals drink too much, and hey, you're older than me, technically, Steve,' but that didn't matter at all, because Tony was so good with his hands, drunk or not, and later some snuggling. And-

“Of course you’re not. Your hair even looks sober.” Tony groaned again, tossed a black tank top he'd shed at some point at Steve, and pulled a silky dark grey sheet over his own head. Steve could see the faint glow of the arc reactor underneath. “Mouth’s dry and my tongue tastes like a cat’s ass. Not that I’m a cat's-ass connoisseur. Grab me a bottle of water? Aspirin’s in the cabinet.”

Steve swallowed and went to the mini-bar along the far wall. There was a small refrigerator with an icemaker, and Tony’d taken an ice cube in his mouth and run it down…”I think I’m gonna go for a run.”

“Oh Jesus, Cap. You would.”

Steve nudged a bottle of cold water against Tony’s exposed knuckles. “Okay, um.”

“Enjoy being not-hungover, gorgeous.”

Steve took a deep breath, and considered maybe getting back in that very, very comfortable bed again, but this was, well, it was awkward, to say the least. They’d been drunk. This wasn’t special to Tony or anything, or even unusual. Stark slept with lots of people. “Sure. Okay. Uh, seeya.”


Back in his own quarters, and in something like a daze, Steve showered quickly and dressed again in running clothes before taking the elevator down to the main floor and the park. He did four circuits, not thinking of anything but the wind in his damp hair and the pounding of his shoes, before remembering he’d neglected to time his run, and glanced at his watch.

Which he’d left behind, probably in Tony’s room. Steve closed his eyes, remembering more. There had been dirty talk. He'd liked it more than he'd ever thought he would. He sighed and turned the inside of his wrist inward, self-consciously, rubbing at the skin.

He’d taken another two rapid laps before suddenly realizing he was missing more than his watch. Maybe he actually was hungover, because he sure was slow on the uptake this morning. Steve stopped short on the edge of the sidewalk and sunk to the grass, staring at his bare wrist.

He’d had a mark last night.

He didn’t have one now.

He’d touched...Tony Stark.

That had to mean that Tony was...Steve flopped backward on the grass, staring up at the tableau of high, slowly drifting clouds.


“Blah,” Tony said, waking again later, an empty water bottle clutched to his chest. His head was no longer pounding, but his mouth was still dry. He set the bottle on the nightstand and focused on the digital watch sitting there. He smiled. Oh yeah. Last night had been something else. “Hey, JARVIS.”

“Finally joining the living, Sir?”

“You know, just because you can’t drink is really no reason to rub it in. Call Rogers.”

After a pause: “There’s no answer.”

Tony sighed. Steve had just up and left this morning. Not that he’d really expected him to hang around and snuggle. Actually, he wondered if he’d technically...taken advantage of Steve. “I mean, he’s an adult, and he has a much higher tolerance than I do, and he was definitely enthusiastic, and it’s not like I planned any of that…”


Tony sighed. “Nothing.” He picked up the cheap digital timepiece with the Army green rubber strap. “This is a really shitty watch. Do me a favor, JARVIS; order Steve a new one. Something nice, digital like this, with a timer. Omega Speedmaster or whatever’s hot.”


“Have it gift-wrapped and delivered.” Tony stood and stretched. “You know what? No. Just wrapped. I’ll deliver it myself.” And maybe apologize. Probably a good idea. Tony rolled his shoulders and yawned, just as the alarm to assemble went off, startling him. Heart pounding next to his arc reactor, Tony skipped his shower, summoned a suit, and flew off the balcony towards Boston.


Cap suited up at headquarters and climbed into the Quinjet just as Clint began lifting off. He nodded to Bruce and Natasha. “Thor coming?”

“Yeah,” Clint yelled back. Meeting us there. So’s Iron Man.”

Steve nodded and gripped his shield.

“Where were you last night?” Natasha asked.


“Last night. You know, Friday? Bruce and I got in after dinner and there was a bunch of nacho debris and a scotch bottle in the TV room. It wasn’t even late.”

“I...went to bed early.” It had been pretty early when he and Tony…he felt his face color. Steve turned to the window. “Watched a movie with Stark.”

“Wow. Exciting Friday night, right?”

“Yep,” Steve agreed.


Steve barely saw Tony at all during the mission; it was just people this time, crazy people with a homemade dirty bomb Hulk had to dispose of in a lead-lined box supplied by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, while Thor dragged the three bad guys into a government van and everyone else cleared the area. Still, it was nightfall by the time they headed back into the jet with an exhausted Bruce.

After the civilians had been evacuated, Steve had policed his quadrant. Normally, he’d have been bored. But after today, he was glad he’d finally had some time to think.

Back in the Tower, Steve cleaned up and changed. He was pulling a pot pie from the oven when someone knocked on the door. It was Tony, dressed in a deep navy blue tuxedo.

“Hiya,” he said.

“How’s your head?” Steve asked, after motioning him in.

“Great, never better. And not glowing from radiation, so there’s that.”

“I’d offer you some food, but…” Steve waved at the counter. “It’s not fancy.”

“I had a terrible but nutritious smoothie. Plus, I’m heading out to a function. Boring charity award dinner gala whatever thing, but Pepper called and threatened to have me shivved if I didn’t go. I tried to bribe Widow to do it instead, because she technically maybe still works for Stark Industries because we never got around to sacking her, but she told me to fuck off.”

“Ah,” Steve put down the dishtowel in his hand.

“I have something for you.” Tony produced a small box from behind his back. “It’s not much, but you know.”

“You don’t need to bribe me, Stark,” Steve sighed.

“I don’t need to...what?”

“It’s fine. I’m fine. I know you aren’t in the market know.” Steve really hadn’t thought this out, but he knew that he didn’t want Tony to feel obligated. Or whatever someone felt when they didn’t want to settle down with somebody they argued with most of the time just because of a half-inch black mark. Especially when they thought it was “stupid magical bullshit.”

Tony set the box on the kitchen counter. “You’re losing me.”

“Yeah, and you don’t need to make up for that, with...that.” Steve waggled a finger at it.

“Sorry? I’m completely confused right now, sweetheart.”

Steve swallowed. “And don’t say things like that.”

Tony leaned back against the stove, jumped at the residual heat, and re-positioned himself against the opposite counter. “I’m gonna be late, but I’m not leaving until you tell me why you’re upset. If you think I went too fast last night, or pressured you, I apologize for that. I didn’t get you drunk on purpose or for some nefarious reason. You do know that, right?”

“It’s not about that.”

“Then…” Tony squinted at him. “What? What am I doing wrong? Look, if you don’t like the watch, I’ll send it back. I just saw yours, which I still have, by the way, if you want it, and I thought…’gee, maybe Steve deserves something nice,’ so excuse me for wanting to treat you.”

“It’s about the mark,” Steve blurted out.

Tony pulled on Steve’s arm and led him to the living room. “Sit?” Steve sat. “Steve, it doesn’t matter, the mark stuff.”

Steve rolled his eyes. “I know it doesn’t. Not to you.”

“You know I think this mark stuff is crap.”

“Yes, exactly.”

“But you don’t. Even though you actually used the words ‘un-American’.”

Steve hesitated. “I did have reservations, sure.”

“So this is about what we did…”

Steve put his head in his hands. Why was this so hard to explain? “It’s just...I think I feel differently about it now.”

“And you don’t want to mess around with me because I have a mark and you don’t.”

“Right. Wait. No!”

Tony sighed. “Look, I like you. Just because we’re not a match, you don’t need to think that you’re keeping me from my 'one true soulmate' or whatever you’re thinking.”

Steve caught Tony’s gesturing left hand and pushed up his sleeve, then fumbled with his cufflink.

“Though I’m not really arguing if you want one for the road, can it wait until I get back, because Pep’s definitely gonna put out a hit…” Tony trailed off, staring as Steve bared his wrist. “It’s gone. My mark’s gone.”

“Yes, Tony.”

“How did you know?”

“Think about it, Tony. Because mine’s gone, too.”

“But you don’t have a mark.”

“I did. That’s the point,” Steve said, exasperated. “I didn’t tell anyone about it.”

Tony gently freed his wrist from Steve’s grasp, and smoothed his fingers over his goatee, looking bemused, as Steve continued: “That’s why I bought the watch. I don’t even like wearing watches, but the timer function turned out to be pretty nifty. And I know you think the soulmate stuff is looney toons, so I didn’t want you to feel like you had some sort of obligation-”

“And you thought I was what, bribing you?”

“Yeah, I...I guess. To forget that we matched. It’s fine. This doesn’t have to change anything.”

“Of course this doesn’t change anything,” Tony said.

Steve let out a breath.

“Because I like you, idiot,” Tony said, after a beat. “I bought you a beautiful watch because I like you. I want to date you. I had no idea we matched before now, and I don’t care either way. Okay, I’m lying. I’m really fundamentally jazzed about this. Do you hate it, though? You probably wanted a Betty Grable type or something.”

“Not really. And probably wanted triplets!”

“I’ve had triplets,” Tony said. “It was one time. They were okay. I think, now, I want you, though.”

“Well, you had me.”

“Do you even remember much about last night?”

Steve looked down at his knees, cursing his tendency to flush. “Sure...I remember some. Everything, actually”

“And did you enjoy it?”

Steve nodded.

Tony dipped his head in an effort to catch Steve’s eye. “Then we can do that more, when we’re not completely fucking drunk, and it’ll be...awesome? You think?”

“But you're a playboy, right? You want this, and not that?”

Tony nodded. “Yes, I think I do. I've B-T-D-T anyway. Call me nuts, but somehow I think Captain America might be enough for me at this point. However, if I'm not enough for you, I'll just have to deal, because fair's fair.

“Tony,” Steve said.

“Can we continue this discussion later?” Tony asked. “You’re going to be here, right? Unless you can get dressed really fast and come with me. There’ll be food. Your pot pie’s probably cold by now.”

“I’m sure it’s not.”

Tony let out an audible breath, and gently caught Steve’s fingers in his. “Okay. Tonight though? Later? I’ll get out of there as soon as I can.”

“Okay,” Steve said.

“And that watch in the kitchen? It’s nice. You don’t have to wear it, though.” His phone buzzed loudly. “That’s Pepper. I’m dead.”

“Okay, Tony.” Steve smiled.

“I mean, it’s not like I got you a ring. Yet.”

“Is that a threat?” Steve felt something bloom in his chest, and it definitely wasn’t fear.

“Maybe,” Tony offered a devilish grin. “Here’s another one. I am going to get out of this gala affair as fast as I can, and then I’m coming home and I’m disassembling you, hot stuff.” Tony’s phone buzzed again. “Dammit.”

“Disassembling? Like one of your suits?” Steve groaned. “Your pillow talk needs work, Stark.”

“I beg your pardon. My pillow talk is incredible.”

Steve rolled his eyes.

“Fine.” Tony leaned forward and captured Steve’s face in his hands, leaning in for a kiss. “I’ll be back before 11.”

“Good,” Steve murmured against the edge of his jaw, and Tony kissed him again. "Go. Do your thing."

Tony stood. “Bossy. Guess I’ve finally...met my match.”

“Stark, please. No puns.”

Tony pouted, before winging a salute from the doorway. “Match made in heaven!”

“Stop. I’m serious!”

“And sparks flew!” Tony managed, closing the door against the cushion tossed in his direction.


Steve settled back on the sofa with his plate and turned on the news. A report on a gas leak in Boston (sure, tell us another, he thought) aired before yet another human interest story; a top-seeded tennis player and her opponent at the US Open had tested their marks for fun during the last match. It had made for an interesting final set.

He smiled into his pot pie before before checking the timer on his watch for the fourth time that hour.