‘Steve, I need a favor from you,’ James ‘Bucky’ Barnes said to his best friend.
Steve was sitting at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper on his table, his breakfast sat on the table in front of him. He looked up when his friend walked in, but he frowned at the request. ‘What kind of favor?’ he asked. ‘I’m not helping you to pull a prank on Clint again, especially after what happened last time.’
‘No, no, it’s nothing like that,’ Bucky said as he sat down at the table as well. ‘Ever since I broke up with my girlfriend, Nat has been trying to set me up with a whole bunch of people. Why isn’t she doing that to you? You’ve been single for years!’
‘Natasha does that to everyone,’ Steve answered. ‘She tried to make me date pretty much all of her friends and only stopped when I told her I was waiting for misses or mister right. She moved on to Sam then, he was single too and he actually enjoyed meeting new people. He has been on a few hundred dates and he is still single. Nat isn’t the best matchmaker in town.’
‘She arranged a blind date for me, tomorrow evening,’ Bucky groaned. ‘How do I get out of it?’
‘You don’t,’ Steve answered. ‘You either go and suffer through the evening, or you won’t go and suffer Nat’s wrath for the next few weeks.’
‘You make her sound terrible,’ Bucky said.
‘I know you still have a crush on her,’ Steve said, looking back at his newspaper. ‘And I know Natasha is amazing, but do you really think it was Clint who pulled that revenge prank on us? Nat was the mastermind behind it.’
‘You have to help me,’ Bucky groaned.
‘No I don’t,’ Steve answered. ‘Just go, you might actually have fun.’
‘Don’t use my own words against me!’ Bucky said. ‘I’m already having a date with a girl from work tomorrow. I told Nat, but she didn’t believe me, thought it was an excuse to get out of the blind date. Could you go for me, please? I wouldn't ask but I really think things could work between this girl and me.’
Steve sighed as he put his tablet away again. ‘Alright, but just this once, and you owe me!’
‘Thanks Stevie, you’re the best! Just act like you’re me, so I have a backup when things don’t work out with my colleague’ Bucky said as he jumped up and happily walked out of the kitchen.
‘Tony, I need a favor,’ James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes said to his best friend.
‘No,’ Tony answered. He was arms deep into some robot that he was trying to fix. There was grease all over him and the goggles messed up his hair.
‘You don’t even know what I was going to ask!’ Rhodey said.
‘Whatever it is, I’m really busy right now,’ Tony said, still not looking up.
Rhodey grabbed his phone from his pocket. ‘You still owe me 274 favors, see? If you don’t want to be in debt until you die, you better help me out now.’
‘How the hell do I owe you 274 favors?’ Tony asked, this time he did look up, leaving the robot alone for a moment.
‘Rhodey, get me a date with your hot friend. Rhodey, let me copy your homework. Rhodey, try out this new machine for me. Rhodey, I’m drunk as fuck, cover for me when the teacher asks where I am,’ Rhodey mimicked a few of the favors Tony has asked him over the years. ‘Sounds familiar?’
‘Not really, but if I was drunk that might make sense,’ Tony said. ‘What do you want from me then? I’m still not building you a suit of flying armor, if that’s what you’re here for. If I ever create flying armor it’s for me, not for you. You’re a pilot, you can already fly.’
‘Pepper arranged a blind date for me,’ Rhodey sighed.
‘Why do you need my help then? Need me to go shopping with you and dress you up like prince charming? I can do that. I’m pretty much a fairy godmother.’
‘Oh yeah, look at you, just like a fairy godmother,’ Rhodey said sarcastically as he pointed at all the grease and disgusting stains on Tony’s clothes and skin. ‘And I can dress myself up, thank you very much.’
‘Then are you here to gloat?’ Tony asked. ‘Because I can have any person I want, you know that, right? I just chose to be a disgusting engineer for now.’
‘Keep telling yourself that,’ Rhodey answered. ‘But I need you to go on that blind date for me.’
‘What?’ Tony asked. ‘Why don’t you just go yourself and have a fun date. Bring the chick here for the night if you want, I don’t care, but why would you want me to take your place?’
‘Because I feel like Pepper is going to set me up with a guy, and unlike you, I’m only into girls,’ Rhodey explained. ‘She said ‘you’ll love it, he’s great’. You don’t say that when it’s a girl.’
‘Maybe she just made a mistake and she meant you’re great for her,’ Tony said, a frown on his face. ‘Just go, and if it’s a guy you tell him ‘sorry mate, Pepper made a mistake’ and you leave again.’
‘Oh, come on, Tones, you have to do this for me,’ Rhodey said. ‘If you don’t do this I use all 274 favors to make you personally clean my house for the next 274 weeks.’
‘You can’t do that!’ Tony said.
‘I think I can,’ Rhodey answered with a smirk. ‘Go on that blind date for me and pretend to be me. If it’s a cute girl I’ll go myself next time and tell her you stepped in for me, because I was ill.’
‘So I don’t get to take her home for the night?’ Tony asked.
‘Definitely not!’ Rhodey warned. ‘I don’t care if it’s a guy, a girl, or an asshole, but you’re not taking that blind date home.’
‘You’re so boring!’ Tony whined. ‘I’ll do it, but this is worth at least five of the favors I owe you. I only ever asked you for small favors and this is huge.’
‘Alright, alright,’ Rhodey said. ‘This is five favors. You only owe me 269 after tomorrow. Unless you screw up, then I’m taking them back.’
Tony snorted. ‘Like I’d screw up! I’m Tony Stark.’
‘That’s exactly what worries me.’
‘How do I look?’ Bucky asked as he walked into Steve’s bedroom. He turned to show off his outfit. His long hair was neatly tugged into a bun and his clothes were casual, but stylish. It was weird to see him so dressed up, normally he just wore simple t-shirts or hoodies.
‘Great!’ Steve said. ‘I’m sure she will love it.’
‘Yeah, unlike the blind date you are going to meet,’ Bucky said when he eyed Steve. ‘Really Steve, you look like an old man, take off those pants and wear the jeans Natasha bought for you.’
‘But they’re so tight,’ Steve complained.
‘Exactly,’ Bucky answered. ‘Your ass is one of your best features, so try to show that off. Put on the black jeans!’
‘I thought I just had to entertain your back up date,’ Steve grumbled. ‘Why do I have to try and seduce them? If they like me for my ass, they’re definitely not going to like you. Your ass is non-existing.’
‘You just try to keep their attention with your butt, and when my date doesn’t work out, I take over from you with my great body. Now take off your shirt, plaid is way too hipster. Why don’t you wear that dark blue shirt? And those black shoes. That will look good.’
‘Can I at least wear my leather jacket, or isn’t that good enough either?’ Steve asked with a sigh as he buttoned up the dark blue shirt. He knew this combination looked great, but this wasn’t his date he was going on, it was Bucky’s date.
‘Which leather jacket?’
‘The new black one I bought a few weeks ago, of course,’ Steve said. ‘I’m not completely stupid when it comes to clothes.’
‘I just had to be sure,’ Bucky defended himself. ‘I know you love that old brown one and that is definitely a no go. I don’t want people to think I wear hundred year old leather jackets.’
‘Maybe you should just show up at your own dates then,’ Steve shot back.
‘Okay, you’re right, thanks for doing this,’ Bucky said. ‘You look great. Now go and get that dude for me!’
Steve sighed and shook his head. What had he gotten himself into?
‘Tones, are you done already?’ Rhodey asked as he knocked on the door of Tony’s bedroom. ‘You have to be at the restaurant in half an hour. Please tell me you’re dressed. Please tell me you’re not sleeping.’
‘Stop yelling at my door and come in already,’ Tony shouted from inside. When Rhodey walked in, Tony came out of his bathroom. ‘I’m not that much of an ass that I would forget about your date. I still don’t know why I agreed to this.’
‘Because you’re my friend,’ Rhodey answered. ‘You look good, by the way.’
‘Of course I do, I’m Tony Stark,’ Tony said, like it was obvious.
‘No, tonight you are James Rhodes,’ Rhodey answered. ‘Don’t add too much Tony Stark to your James Rhodes, it’s not giving the blind date a good image.’
‘Rhodey, I’m going on this date in your place,’ Tony said. ‘You’re taller, I’m more handsome, you’re stronger, I’m smarter, we don’t even have the same skin color. This date will get the wrong image of James Rhodes, even if I add a little Tony Stark to it. Why do you even care? You didn’t want to go!’
‘If I was wrong and it’s a hot girl, I’ll gladly take over from you,’ Rhodey said. ‘We’ll come up with an excuse.’
‘If it’s a hot girl and she and I have a spark, I’m not going to give her to you,’ Tony said as he fixed his tie. ‘Jacket or no jacket?’
‘No jacket,’ Rhodey said. ‘If you’re taking her for yourself, you still owe me 274 favors and I will make you clean my house. I’m not kidding here, Tony, you’re not going to steal a girl away from me, you did that too many times already.’
‘Not on purpose,’ Tony answered. ‘Never on purpose, Rhodey-bear. I love you so much more than some girl. Bros before hoes.’
Rhodey rolled his eyes. ‘You’re horrible, why am I even friends with you?’
‘Because you secretly love me, but you’ll never admit it!’ Tony commented in a sing-song voice. ‘But I gotta go now, pumpkin, or I’ll be too late for your date. You can’t make a bad first impression. So, how do I recognize this mystery date?’
‘Wait, you’re supposed to wear a white flower,’ Rhodey said as he pulled Tony back. ‘Also, it’s cold outside, so take your jacket, wear this flower in the button hole.’
‘Seriously?’ Tony asked. ‘A flower? Why not a red rose, isn’t that more romantic? Pepper came up with this, didn’t she? Ever since she got married she is in that super romantic phase and she thinks everyone needs that in their lives. I can live without the honeymoon happiness.’
‘Your date is wearing a white flower as well,’ Rhodey said, completely ignoring Tony’s rant. ‘Now, be a gentleman and pay for this date. I’ll pay you back if it’s a hot girl. If it’s a guy you can pay yourself, you’re rich, your bank account won’t even notice.’
‘Of course I’ll pay!’ Tony said, almost insulted, but Rhodey wasn’t listening. He just pushed Tony out of the door, handed him his car keys, and made him hurry up. He couldn’t be late!
Steve was a little nervous. He was a bit early in the restaurant and he was surrounded by couples, who’s tables were covered with flowers and candles. Everyone seemed to know he was waiting for a date, and with every minute that past, Steve felt more uncomfortable. It felt like people were looking at him, like they were pitying him, and he felt like a fool, sitting there with that white flower in his breast pocket. He didn’t even know who he was waiting for!
For a moment he was tempted to order a drink to calm himself down a little, but he never drank much alcohol and he wasn’t sure how well he would handle it with an empty stomach. He didn’t want to end up embarrassing himself, and Bucky as well in the process. Why did he agree to do this? Steve almost convinced himself that he should just go home and tell Bucky his date didn’t show up, when a very handsome man walked in with a white flower in his jacket.
Steve took a deep breath and pulled his shirt straight. He could stay a little longer and see how things would work out. For Bucky of course. If things didn’t work out with the girl he would still have a backup date. Steve knew he was being stupid. This guy was his type, the dark hair, the way he carried himself, those clothes, Steve wasn’t sure if he could handle seeing Bucky date this man. He wasn’t the jealous type, but this could definitely make him jealous. Maybe this guy was an asshole. That was totally possible, maybe this would be a terrible date.
The moment the guy looked at Steve, Steve felt his cheeks heat up. He really needed to get himself under control! He put on a smile and raised his hand to greet the other guy. The closer the guy came, the more nervous Steve got. He really was a beautiful man. Steve never really cared about facial hair on a guy, but this man had a neatly trimmed goatee, and he rocked it. He had a wonderful olive complexion and dark hair that had a slight curl to it. But his eyes stood out most. They were a beautiful shade of brown and his eyelashes would make any woman jealous.
‘Hi, you must be my date,’ the guy said as he pointed at the white flower. ‘I’m James Rhodes.’
Steve grabbed James’ hand and shook it. ‘James Barnes, nice to meet you.’
‘James and James,’ James chuckled as he sat down across from Steve. ‘My friends call me Rhodey.’
‘Mine never call me James either,’ Steve lied. ‘They call me Bucky, after my middle name, Buchanan.’
‘That makes sense then,’ James said. ‘Well, nice to meet you, Bucky. So, how do you know Pepper?’
Steve frowned. Pepper? Thankfully their conversation was disturbed by the waitress who asked them if they wanted something to drink.
‘Do you like wine?’ James asked.
‘Yeah, I love red wine,’ Steve answered. He knew he had to act like Bucky, but Bucky didn’t like any kind of wine and this atmosphere was not okay for beer.
‘A lovely red wine it is then,’ James said.
When the waitress left Steve remembered that he had to answer a question. ‘You asked how I know Pepper, but I don’t know who or what Pepper is,’ he confessed. Better to tell the truth.
‘Oh, she is the woman who set me up on this date,’ James answered. ‘Her name is Virginia Potts, but for some reason people all call her Pepper. It suits her better, to be honest. I figured since she set me up on this date she would have done the same to you, but if you don’t know her, how did you get here?’
‘One of my friend just told me she arranged this for me,’ Steve said. ‘Her name is Natasha Romanov. She’s been trying to get all her single friends dates. My friends complain about it, but I don’t really mind. It’s nice to meet new people.’
‘Natasha sounds like she could be one of Pepper’s friends,’ James laughed. He told how his friend was always trying to get him on dates as well, and how things had gotten worse in her honeymoon phase. They talked and laughed about how their friends kept trying to hook them up with people, until the waitress poured them both a glass of wine and handed them a menu. They both ordered something, before they moved back to their conversation. It all went so smooth, like they had known each other for years.
Steve didn’t like to hear that James was in the air force. It meant that he would probably be out of the country a lot. Hearing that he could pilot a jet was a lot better. Steve loved hearing all his amazing stories about the things he had been through in those jets. Some were dangerous, some were hilarious. James was amazing at telling stories. Steve himself told that he had been in the army, but that he quit when his arm got hurt. He told Bucky’s story, about how he was still in revalidation, but how he tried to do simple jobs, inside and outside the house, while his friends, and housemates worked to pay the rent.
James was listening to every word Steve was saying, and Steve was tempted to tell his own stories instead of Bucky’s. He really wanted this man to know the real him and not the weird combination of him and his best friend. James seemed to be really interested, he even asked all kind of questions. They didn’t steal food from each other’s plates and they didn’t share a dessert, but it felt strangely romantic anyway. Maybe it was because of all the candles and flowers, or maybe it was the flirting lines James weaved through his casual conversation. Only when the restaurant was about to close the two of them got up and left.
Tony was having the worst date ever. It was the best date he had been on in years, but he had to act like he was Rhodey, so he couldn’t get attached to this super hot guy. Tony had be on several blind dates in his life, and he had ended up very disappointed most of the time, but this time walking into the restaurant had been a pleasant surprise. James looked like a model. He was tall, had nice blond hair, beautiful muscles and a tiny waist. He even managed to match his shirt with his eyes, Tony had to try his best not to stare at him all evening.
It wasn’t just his looks, James was really nice too. He was funny and he blushed adorably when Tony complimented him. This guy was almost too good to be true. They had clicked, it just worked out, and Tony had an amazing evening, until he remembered he had lied to James. Even if Rhodey was okay with Tony dating this man, James would probably be angry that he lied to him. Who would trust a guy that lied like that on the first date? Tony definitely wouldn’t.
Being kicked out of the restaurant made things a little awkward for the two of them. They stood on the sidewalk, buttoning up their coats, surrounded by some others who just left as well. It was time to say goodbye, but how did you say goodbye to a guy you never met before, but that you wanted to kiss, even though you weren’t allowed to? They had to exchange number at least!
‘Do you need a ride home?’ Tony asked. The moment the words left his mouth he realized his mistake. ‘Not because I want you to invite me in for coffee or anything. But you mentioned you’re here by public transport and it’s really no problem to drive you home.’
‘Thank you, that would be great,’ James answered. ‘Do you really not mind driving all the way to Brooklyn?’
Tony was so surprised that James agreed that he almost forgot to answer. ‘Eh…yeah, no, no problem at all. My car is the red one over there.’
Tony walked them to the car and unlocked it. He tried to get his head back in the game, as James sat down next to him. They were so much closer together now, Tony could feel his warmth. It was awkward and amazing at the same time.
‘Wow, you have a really nice car,’ James said as he fastened his seatbelt.
‘Thanks,’ Tony said. ‘I love cars. Saved for a long time before I could afford this baby, but she was worth it. Do you like cars? Do you own one?’
‘I love cars,’ James said. ‘But I have a motor bike, it’s easier to use in the city, I never end up in traffic jams. I can’t afford both a car and a bike, so I stuck to my first love.’
‘Why didn’t you take your bike to the restaurant?’ Tony asked.
‘Because taking off the motor suit in public is a bit awkward,’ James answered, rubbing his neck. ‘And I’d end up with helmet hair, it doesn’t look very good.’
‘Well, thank you for going through the trouble of taking public transport, just to look good for me,’ Tony joked. ‘And it was worth it, your hair looks very good, but I bet a motor suit and flat hair works just as well for you.’
James laughed and thanked him, but there was another little blush on his cheeks, Tony couldn’t help but feel a little proud of that.
‘I don’t really know my way around Brooklyn,’ Tony continued. ‘Maybe you can tell me where to go?’
‘Oh, yeah, of course,’ James said. ‘Go left at the traffic lights.’
Tony did as he was told, but when they were on a long road, he started chatting about James’ love for cars and the models he liked the best himself. James drove a few big ones when he was in the army. Tony wanted to brag about the sports car he had tried, but just in time he remembered he was supposed to be part of the air force. He was supposed to like jets.
‘I like cars better than any kind of plane,’ Tony said. ‘But it’s hard to find a job with cars if you don’t want to just repair them or sell them. I picked a job with another one of my great loves. Jets are just amazing. It feels so free to fly, even when it’s your job.’
‘I’ve only been on a plane a few times,’ Steve said. ‘Always to fly me to a war zone, so I don’t have many great memories about it. It was….oh, shit, we were supposed to turn right there. Sorry, I was distracted. Take the next one right instead.’
‘Okay,’ Tony answered, a smile on his face. He managed to distract this hot guy. ‘So planes don’t do it for you? I’ve actually never been on a bike before. They just look scary. Whenever I see someone on a bike I’m afraid they will crash.’
‘It feels different on a bike,’ James answered. ‘Take the third street on the right. The way you feel free in a plane is probably the same as my bike feels for me. You have a lot more freedom than in a car, but you also have to deal with a lot more people who don’t know how to drive.’
Tony laughed as he turned right. ‘Those people are annoying when you’re in the car, they’re probably so much worse when you’re riding a bike.’
‘They are,’ James said. ‘My place is at the end of this street. Maybe you can join me on my bike one day and find out for yourself what it feels like.’
‘Can I sit on the back?’ Tony asked as he parked the car. ‘Because then I would like to try it.’
‘Maybe you should give me your phone number then,’ James said.
‘That was smooth,’ Tony laughed. ‘Alright, here’s my phone, give me yours too.’
They exchanged phones and put their number in each other’s phone. Tony almost typed his own name, but he noticed his mistake just in time and changed it before he handed the phone back.
‘So, we’re seeing each other again?’ Tony asked.
‘I sure hope so,’ James said. ‘I’d really like to.’
‘Me too,’ Tony answered. ‘Tell me if I go to fast, but maybe we could meet Sunday, for lunch or coffee or something? I know that’s in two days and it’s really soon, and I don’t want to sound desperate, but…’
‘Sure,’ James said. ‘I know a really nice play a few blocks away from here. I could text you the address and we could go there.’
Tony felt really nice and warm inside. This amazing guy wanted to see him again too. ‘Okay, great,’ he said, almost relieved. ‘See you Sunday then.’
‘See you Sunday,’ James answered as he opened the door and got out of the car. Right before he closed the door he looked around and gave Tony a sweet smile. Tony felt like he melted. He waited until James got inside safely, before he made his way back to Manhattan.
Steve walked into the living room and was surprised to see both Sam and Bucky watching television. There was some sort of sports game on and they were both so into it that they didn’t even notice Steve at first. Only when he took the beer from out of Sam’s hand and took a sip did his friend look up.
‘Hey, you’re back!’
Bucky looked up as well now. ‘You’re late. We were almost sure that you had gone home with whomever you had that blind date with. Was it a guy or a girl? Where they hot? Tell me everything!’
‘Tell me first why you’re here already,’ Steve said. ‘You said you had a shot with this girl, why aren’t you at her place right now?’
Bucky turned off the television. ‘A few minutes before I wanted to leave she called to tell me she was in bed with the flu. We’re meeting each other next week, she’ll be better by then.’
‘No, no, you can’t,’ Steve said as he sat down, Sam’s beer still in his hand. ‘I had to go on this date for you, and if things didn’t work out with your colleague, you would take over. You have to figure out if you want to date her by tomorrow, because you have a coffee date on Sunday.’
‘You planned me a date?’ Bucky asked. ‘What if things worked out between me and her? What if we were like soulmates? I couldn’t go on another date if she was the one.’
‘Then you could have texted this guy and cancel it,’ Steve said.
‘Oh, so it was a guy, huh? Was he hot?’ Bucky asked.
‘Did he pay for the food?’ Sam asked.
‘Ugh,’ Steve groaned. ‘Does it even matter? You’re not planning on going out with him, so just give him a call and say Sunday is not going to work out for you and that it probably will never work out for you and that you don’t wanna see him anymore, but I don’t want anything to do with this anymore.’
‘Why are you so angry?’ Bucky asked.
‘If your date was cancelled you could have called me and took my place instead,’ Steve said. ‘I wouldn’t have to lie to this guy.’
‘Was he nice?’ Sam asked.
‘Yes!’ Steve said angrily as he put the beer on the table with a little too much force, before he stood up. ‘He is nice, he is funny, he is hot and yes he paid for the dinner. He is absolutely perfect, so you better text him the address of a coffee place, because you’re meeting him this Sunday.’
With that said Steve walked into his room and slammed the door behind him. He didn’t even know why he was so angry. He agreed to go on this date in Bucky’s place, he knew that one day Bucky would take over, or the contact with James would be broken off. Steve wanted to see James again, he wanted to go on another date, even though things were never going to work for them. Steve had lied about everything. If he ever tried to tell the truth James would think he was crazy.
With a heavy sigh Steve fell on his bed. He really didn’t know what to do next.
‘Tones, you’re back,’ Rhodey said from where he was lying on the couch. He sat up, turned off the television and grabbed another beer, which he handed to Tony. ‘How did things go?’
‘It was a guy,’ Tony said as he took the beer. ‘He was extremely hot, Rhodey, if you’d seen him you would have agreed. I know you’re not into guys, but he might have convinced you that you’re maybe not that straight. And not just that, he was super nice, even a bit shy. That guy was both frightening and adorable. I didn’t know that could be such a turn on.’
‘Seeing that it’s pretty late he thought the same about you?’ Rhodey asked, a grin on his face.
‘I think so, yes,’ Tony said as he took another sip of his beer. ‘I asked if he wanted a ride home and he agreed. That’s why I’m so late, had to go all the way to Brooklyn to drop him off. And no, stop grinning like that, nothing happened.’
‘I’m just happy for you!’ Rhodey defended himself. ‘So, what is the name of the guy who stole Tony stark’s heart?’
‘James,’ Tony answered. ‘Which was very awkward, since I was acting like you, so I was James too.’
‘Why did you act like you were me?’ Rhodey asked. ‘It was a guy, you know I wasn’t going to change my mind and try dating a guy. You could have just acted like yourself.’
‘Oh my God,’ Tony groaned. ‘You told me like two hundred times that I had to act like I were you and that my name was James Rhodes. I actually remembered and did everything you asked me to do and now you’re saying I could have just been myself. Be a little more clear about what you want next time. If I’m going to tell James that I’m not really James, he is not ever going to want to talk to me again.’
‘I thought you were supposed to be a genius,’ Rhodey said. ‘You’re pretty dumb for a genius sometimes.’
‘Tell that to the robots I made!’ Tony defended himself. ‘I got James’s number and I even got another date out of him!’
‘Technically, I got another date out of him,’ Rhodey said. ‘Since you were acting like you were me.’
Tony gave his friend an angry glare. ‘It was love at first sight. The poor guy didn’t stand a chance, there were hearts in his eyes from the moment he looked at me. It had nothing to do with you.’
Rhodey laughed. ‘Sure, sure, I believe you. Good luck on your next date with mister handsome, James.’
‘Why am I doing this again?’ Steve asked as he tried to find another amazing outfit in his closet. It was Sunday an in about an hour he had another date with James.
‘Because I’m going to see if this girl is into me and you’re my best friend and you’re keeping this James interested for me,’ Bucky answered. ‘And because I’m on toilet cleaning duty for a year.’
‘I still think a year is not equal to going on two dates with a guy for a friend,’ Steve said as he put on his jeans. ‘Maybe we should add a year of dusting off the living room to it. That sounds more fair to me.’
‘Stop talking,’ Bucky said. ‘You liked this guy and you had a great time last Friday. Don’t try to tell me otherwise, Nat told me so. You can do another date for me, until I can make a decision. You’re a great friend Steve, you’d never disappoint any of us.’
‘I seriously hate you right now,’ Steve said as he buttoned his shirt. He looked more casual than last time, they were just going to a coffee shop, no need to look all formal and neat.
‘I’ll pay for the coffee and everything,’ Bucky promised. ‘Just keep this guy happy.’
Steve grabbed his wallet and his keys and put them in his pocket. ‘I wasn’t kidding about that year of dusting duty in the living room,’ he said. ‘You owe me, James Buchanan Barnes. No amount of toilet cleaning is going to get you out of this.’
‘I know!’ Bucky said. ‘Now hurry up, or you’ll be late.’
Steve rolled his eyes and he walked out of the door. He really didn’t understand how Sam and Bucky talked him into this. Sure, he didn’t mind seeing James again, not at all, but this had no future. He was just going to torture himself more by doing this. He didn’t want to lead James on either, the guy deserved so much better.
The coffee shop was only a few blocks from his place, so he walked there. Steve came there often, he would bring his laptop and get some work done when Bucky and Sam were too loud again. It was fun to live with friends, but it was impossible to work when the two of them were home as well. Sometimes they were like kids, always trying to distract him.
When Steve arrived at the coffee shop, James just got out of his car. Immediately all Steve’s angry thoughts were gone. James looked amazing and the smile on his face when he spotted Steve was breath taking. Steve knew he should stop this and just tell his date the truth already, but he wasn’t sure if he could. James looked so happy and Steve didn’t want to be the one to wipe that smile off his face. When it would come to it Bucky could be the one to tell him the bad news instead.
‘Hi!’ James said happily as he gave Steve half a hug. ‘Really nice to see you again.’
‘Nice to see you again too,’ Steve answered, returning the awkward hug. It was a bit strange how they greeted each other like they hadn’t seen the other in months, even though it was only two days ago. And yesterday they might have been texting each other the entire day, but no one needed to know about that.
‘Where is the coffee place you were talking about?’ James asked. ‘You made it sound like it was heaven on earth.’
‘Just around the corner,’ Steve said. ‘It’s not in plain view as the rest of the shops, so only people who know about it come in there. It’s never too crowded to relax.’
Steve walked into a small street and pointed at a door to the right. There was a sign above the door, but nothing else indicated that there was a coffee shop in there. But the moment the door opened the smell of coffee and freshly baked pastries was overwhelming. There were about fifteen people in there and there was some chatter in the background, but it wasn’t loud. The tables weren’t so close to each other than you could hear everything the person at the next table said, and the soft music gave it all a relaxed atmosphere. Steve and James sat down at one of the tables in the corner and ordered coffee with the pastry of the day.
‘Okay, I have to admit that this is so much better than the average Star Bucks,’ James confessed. ‘I can understand why you rather go here to relax.’
‘Told you so,’ Steve said, a happy smile on his face. He was at his favorite place in the world, with an amazing person. Things could only be better if James would actually know who Steve really was. But the moment the coffee was served, Steve forgot about Bucky and about how none of this was real. He wanted to enjoy it as long as it would last.
‘Hmmm, you were right, this is heaven on earth,’ James moaned as he chewed on his pastry. ‘This is delicious. If this place was near my house I’d be here every day and get super fat.’
‘I’m sure you’d still look great,’ Steve said. ‘You have to keep training if you want to stay in the air force, right? You can probably eat a lot and still don’t gain weight. How else would you get such muscles?’
James snorted. ‘Muscles? Me? What was the last time you looked in the mirror? Your arms are like twice the size of mine. If anyone could eat pastries forever and not get fat it’s you.’
Steve chuckled. ‘Training in the army was hard,’ he said. ‘I had to stay in shape. And when I got home training became something to keep my mind off things. Still going to the gym once or twice a week.’
‘Keep your mind off things you have been through while you were in the army?’ James asked, suddenly serious.
Steve nodded. He had been in the army himself for a few years. Not as long as Bucky or Sam, but he had seen enough. He had seen too much already. It wasn’t a lie that he went to the gym on bad days to just go crazy on a punching bag for an hour.
‘I live with two friends who were in the army as well, that’s how we met,’ Steve explained. ‘We’ve been through a lot. We didn’t have much money when we quit, so we decided to share a place. All of us make more money now, but it’s still nice to live with people who understand you and who you can talk to. You probably understand it as well.’
James agreed. ‘Yeah, sometimes you see things you can never wipe from your memory,’ he said.
‘Let’s not think about that too much now,’ Steve said. ‘These pastries are way too good to spoil with bad memories.’
James moaned again when he took another bite. ‘This is all I’m going to eat for the rest of my life. Training or no training, I will get fat and I won’t even mind!’
Steve laughed. ‘You’ll have to buy a bigger car.
‘Ugh, a tragedy, but worth it,’ James said overly dramatic. ‘I’ll need a driver, I won’t be able to reach the wheel with my tiny short arms when I’m fat. Will you be my driver, please? You’re the only one I know who is not embarrassed to drive a Range Rover.’
‘There is nothing wrong with Range Rovers,’ Steve laughed. ‘I’m not driving you around unless you admit that.’
‘Never!’ James said before taking another bite. For a moment the two looked at each other and both started laughing. For a few minutes they could do nothing else but laugh. The whole army situation was forgotten. When they both caught their breath again all the awkwardness was gone and things turned out just as great as on their first date. They talked for hours and had two more coffees, before it was time to leave.
For a moment they stood together next to James’ car. Steve wanted to ask him if he wanted to have dinner somewhere, but then he remembered he was in too deep already. He shouldn’t make this harder for himself than it already was.
‘Well, I… I had a great time,’ Steve said instead.
‘Me too,’ James answered. He bent forward and pressed a short kiss on Steve’s lips. Steve was too stunned to say or do something, but James didn’t seem to care. ‘I’ll call you. I really want to see you again soon.’
‘Me too,’ Steve said, as he watched James get in his car and drive off. It was getting more chilly outside, but Steve didn’t notice it when he walked home. The warmth in his chest spread through his entire body and it was the best feeling in the world.
Rhodey was just done cooking dinner when Tony came back home. Rhodey hardly ever had time to cook, but when he had some time off from work he cooked for Tony, so he would get to eat a healthy meal too. Tony might be a genius, but he didn’t seem to understand that you couldn’t live on coffee and grilled cheese forever. The guy had some nasty habits sometimes.
‘I’m back!’ Tony shouted.
‘In the kitchen!’ Rhodey yelled back. ‘Dinner is ready, so you have better not eaten yet.’
‘I had the most orgasmic pastry ever, but it’s been a few hours, so I can eat,’ Tony said as he entered the kitchen and sat down at the table. ’What’s for dinner?’
‘Vegetarian lasagna,’ Rhodey answered as he put it on the table. He grabbed two plates and some silverware before he sat down himself. ‘You can’t stop smiling. Does that mean your date went well?’
‘My date went very well, it was just perfect, Rhodey-bear,’ Tony sighed happily. ‘It was just coffee, but James is just amazing. I could stare at him all day and not get tired of the view. He looks better than those old Greek statues. A real piece of art.’
‘I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted, because this has been your last date with him,’ Rhodey said as he put some lasagna on his plate.
‘What are you talking about?’ Tony asked. ‘He is amazing, Rhodey, I think he and I could be great together. He laughs at my dumb jokes! Nobody laughs at my dumb jokes.’
‘He must really like you then,’ Rhodey answered, pushing the lasagna in Tony’s direction, so he would get some food too. ‘But I don’t want you using my name for this anymore, it can only end with a lot of drama. You either tell this guy your real name, or I will.’
‘Don’t you want me to be happy?’ Tony asked. He started to get a little angry and he smacked the lasagna with too much force on his plate.
‘I do, Tones, and that is exactly why you should tell him,’ Rhodey said. ‘He is going to find out anyway, it’s better if you tell him about this stupid situation yourself and laugh about it together, before he finds out himself and thinks you’re have lied about everything.’
‘How would he find out?’ Tony asked. ‘I haven’t made a single mistake yet.’
‘What if he’s going to take a look on Facebook?’ Rhodey asked. ‘Or LinkedIn?’
‘I don’t have either,’ Tony answered. ‘That won’t be a problem.’
Rhodey sighed. ‘Don’t you understand? If he Googles my name he will find my Facebook and my LinkedIn and he will see that it’s not your picture on there, but mine. He won’t know we’re friends, because you don’t have a profile on either of those websites, so what will he thing? He’ll think you stole some random name and used it to get him. This won’t end well, Tones. You’ve really gotta talk to him.’
Tony stared at the lasagna that was all over his plate. Rhodey was right, he had to talk to James. He didn’t want to, he knew things would end when he would tell James the truth and he wanted this to last longer. But if he really wanted to have a chance with this guy he should tell him the truth. He’d hate himself forever if he ruined this for himself with a silly lie.
‘I’ll send him a text after dinner.’
Steve sat on his bed and stared at his phone. He hadn’t moved for at least five minutes, his muscles didn’t seem to work anymore. He just couldn’t stop looking at the text message James had send him.
We need to talk. Meet me at the ice cream factory next to the Brooklyn Bridge at 6pm tomorrow?
This could only mean one thing: James found out that Steve was lying to him. Why else would he send a text like this? All their texts had been jokes, complaints about boring work, and random pictures of cute things they found on their way about their daily lives. James had never been this serious and if he wanted to ask Steve out on another date he would have called.
I’ll be there.
It was all Steve had said when he replied. He didn’t know what else to say and he hoped that James would send him a text back about being too serious. Steve waited a few minutes, but he didn’t get anything in return. With a heavy sigh he fell back on his bed. This was all his own fault. He shouldn’t have listened to Bucky, he shouldn’t have gone on that first date. It was fun while it lasted, but it kinda hurt that it was already over so soon. Steve hadn’t felt a connection like this with anyone in a very long time.
The next day Steve went to the Brooklyn Bridge after work. He had texted Sam and Bucky that he had to do overtime, so that he’d be home late. It happened all the time, so they weren’t suspicious. He hadn’t told them the truth, not yet, he didn’t want them to talk him into something else he didn’t feel comfortable with.
As he got out of the subway Steve pulled his jacket a little closer around his shoulders. It was cold, the sky was grey, and a soft drizzle soaked his jeans. He knew he should have brought an umbrella, it would be really annoying if he got sick, but at the moment he didn’t care.
The ice cream shop was closed, because of the bad weather, but there was a single person standing on the covered terrace: James. He looked up when he heard Steve’s footsteps.
‘You’re soaking wet,’ he muttered as he pulled Steve onto the terrace. It was still cold, but at least it was dry.
‘It’s okay,’ Steve said simply. That wasn’t what he wanted to talk about.
‘No, it’s not, you might get sick,’ James said worried. ‘Let’s just sit down there in the corner, there is less wind there, you won’t be so cold.’
‘Just tell me why you asked me to come here,’ Steve said. It came out harsher than he had meant to.
For a moment James stood still to look at him, but then he nodded. ‘Yeah, sorry, I guess that text was a bit unclear, I just didn’t know how to tell you. I still don’t know how to tell you.’
‘If it’s bad news you should just tell me,’ Steve said. ‘I can handle it.’
‘Okay,’ James said as he looked at his shoes before looking back up. ‘Okay. I lied to you, I’m sorry. Pepper arranged the blind date for my best friend. He is straight and he thought he heard her say he was going on a date with a guy. Since I owe him a lot he asked me to go instead, and act like I was him. If you had been a girl he would have taken over from me after that first date.’
‘I don’t understand,’ Steve said.
‘My name is not James Rhodes,’ James explained. ‘James Rhodes is my best friend. I went on that first date with you, because he didn’t want to go on a date with a guy. He is straight, I’m bisexual, so I didn’t mind taking over. I don’t really know why I still pretended to be him.’
‘So, if you’re not James Rhodes, then who are you?’ Steve asked.
‘I’m Tony Stark. I’m a businessman, I was never in the air force, but most other things I told about myself are true. I came to our second date because I really liked the first one and I wanted to learn more about you. I’m really sorry I pretended to be someone else, but I couldn’t continue like this. I couldn’t lie to you anymore. I like you, and I really hope you don’t hate me right now.’
Steve stood there for a moment, not saying anything. He couldn’t believe what he just heard. James lied about who he was. No, Tony lied about who he was. Just like he did.
‘I have to confess something too,’ Steve said. ‘And it will sound weird after everything you just told me. I’m not James Barnes. My name is Steve Rogers and James Barnes is my best friend. Natasha got that blind date for Bucky, but he got himself a date with a colleague on the same evening. He begged me to take his place and go for him, so when things didn’t work out with his colleague he could take my place and date you.’
‘Are you kidding me?’ Tony asked.
‘No, I’m not kidding you,’ Steve answered. ‘It’s the truth. I went on that second date because I liked you too, but I told Bucky to tell you the truth. He refused, not until he wasn’t sure if he and that girl were going to be okay. I didn’t really know what to do anymore.’
‘Okay, so, Steve, were you ever in the army?’
‘I was,’ Steve answered. It was nice to hear Tony say his real name. ‘I was in the army for a few years, I went on a few missions, but I got hurt, Bucky lost his arm, I didn’t want to do that anymore. I’m a comic book artist now. But just like you , most of the things I told you were the truth. I really enjoyed our time together and I hope we can try again.’
‘Can’t blame you for doing the same stupid thing I did,’ Tony said. ‘We go from James and James to no James at all.’
Steve laughed. It was a lame joke, but with all the nerves gone and all this hopeful energy racing through his body, all he could do was laugh. He just couldn’t stop anymore and when he was practically slapping his legs from laughing so hard, Tony joined him. The whole situation was just ridiculous and they’d probably look crazy, laughing at a closed ice cream shop in the rain, but they couldn’t stop. It was minutes later when they were both catching their breath.
‘Let’s just start over again,’ Steve said as he wiped the tears from his eyes. ‘I’m Steve, nice to meet you. Would you like to go out and have dinner with me?’
‘Well, Steve, that sounds amazing, but you’re still soaked, and I wasn’t kidding when I said I didn’t want you to catch a cold,’ Tony answered as he shook Steve’s hand. He didn’t let go.
‘Oh, right,’ Steve muttered as he looked at his pants that clung to his legs. He had completely forgotten. ‘I guess not then. I’d invite you for a home cooked dinner at my place, but I think neither of us is ready for you to meet my housemates.’
Tony chuckled. ‘That can wait, but there might be a way for us to grab some food together. If you don’t mind a greasy burger place, that is.’
‘I really don’t care at the moment,’ Steve said. He just didn’t want to leave yet.
‘I always have some spare clothes in my car,’ Tony explained. ‘The sweatpants are a little too big for me, but they might fit you. The shirt might be a little too small.’
‘My own shirt is still dry,’ Steve said as he unzipped his coat to show it. ‘Let me try those sweatpants.’ He zipped up his coat again and pulled Tony towards the rain. Tony quickly grabbed his umbrella and opened it. It was difficult to hold it above both their heads while they were holding hands, but neither of them really cared much about getting wet.
‘It’s really too bad your own shirt is still dry though,’ Tony said suddenly. ‘I wouldn’t have minded seeing you in a tiny shirt.’
‘Oh, so that is the difference between Tony and James then?’ Steve asked, a wide grin on his face.
‘Forget I said that!’ Tony said quickly. ‘Terrible first impression. Tony definitely doesn’t make lame sexual jokes about people he thinks are hot. Nope. Definitely not. Never. I’m the most romantic guy ever. I’m all about candles and rose petals and holding hands. See, we’re holding hands. Totally romantic.’
‘Normally you offer your date your jacket when they’re cold,’ Steve said, holding Tony’s hand a little tighter. ‘You offered me your sweatpants. Not the same, but still pretty damn romantic.’
Tony smiled and laid his head against Steve’s shoulder. ‘I think I like Steve better than James.’
Rhodey just texted me that Tony can’t stop talking about Steve.
He was also rambling about sweatpants. Don’t know what
happened, but it sounds like things went well. I hope Steve is
just as enthusiastic! Mission accomplished!