Tony was in the kitchen, making himself a sandwich, when someone stumbled in. Tony didn’t bother looking up, saying “Good morning,” over his shoulder, because it didn’t really matter who just entered the kitchen.
He was met with an unintelligible garble and at that he did look up. The sight was like a punch to the gut. Steve was bleary eyed, his hair sticking up on one side funnily, he was still in his pyjamas, had only thrown a robe with blinding colours over them. He looked entirely domestic, relaxed and utterly at peace, and all Tony could think was “I’m in love with this man.”
When he realized that he uttered a heartfelt “Fuck,” and then fled the kitchen, sandwich and ingredients forgotten on the counter. He rushed past Steve who looked a little bit more awake now, but he didn’t stop to talk to him. This was not something he could deal with right now and he needed to take his mind off it.
He went straight to Natasha’s door, where he knocked. When she opened, the first thing she said was “I’m not your therapist. So whatever it is, go tell it to someone else.”
Tony wondered just how much his face was really giving away, but snapped out of it when she started to close the door on him. He hastily shoved his foot in the way. When one of her eyebrows slowly arched up, he quickly retracted it.
“I know that you’re not my therapist. But you are my friend, are you not?” he asked her and she slightly cocked her head. He took that as confirmation. “You also happen to repeatedly tell me I need more training. And I need you to do something about that. Today. Now. I want you to train with me, so that I still won’t be able to move three days later.”
Her other eyebrow arched up as well.
“Why?” she asked him and he shrugged.
“You’re not my therapist. If you don’t want to know, let it go. Ask again and I will tell you.”
She smiled at him then and Tony knew she wouldn’t ask. She proved him right when she said “Meet me in the gym in five,” and then she closed the door on him.
Tony raced back to his room, hurriedly changing clothes and when he arrived at the gym he was already slightly out of air. Maybe he really did need the training.
Natasha was already there of course, and she didn’t waste any time. She charged at him, and he tried his best to defend himself, which wasn’t really all that good. He was man enough to admit that.
She kept this up for the longest time before she made him do some stretching and then she moved him through some figures and exercises. When he was sure his legs and arms were about to give out, she went back to sparring.
Tony wasn’t sure how long they kept alternating between these things, but he was convinced it was the better part of the day. When Natasha finally declared they were done, Tony was soaked in sweat and barely able to stand. He let himself fall down on the floor, chest heaving with the huge breaths he took, and Natasha gracefully sat down next to him.
The only indication that she had been training for hours was one lose strand of hair. She wasn’t sweating and not even out of breath. Next to her Tony felt horrible. He still couldn’t catch his breath, his muscles ached and protested every movement and he was pretty sure he already laid in a pool of his own sweat. It was disgusting. And also strangely satisfying.
He tried to lift his hand, to wipe his forehead but he couldn’t quite raise his arm. “You destroyed me,” he accused her and she smiled at him.
“It’s what you asked for, isn’t it?”
“I can’t even lift my arm!”
“I told you. More training. You need it.” She gracefully stood up while she said it and looked down at him.
“Understood,” he mumbled, and then louder “Help me up?”
“You asked me to train you. Not to pamper you. Get up yourself,” she told him, not without a fond smile, and with that she was out of the door.
Tony made a pitiful sound and tried to push himself up, but his arms wobbled and wouldn’t quite take his weight. He let himself slump down again and then said “Jarvis, call Rhodey.”
“Immediately, sir,” he replied and Tony could hear the dial tone.
“Tony?” Rhodey said when he picked up and Tony could tell he was confused. Usually Tony just came to see him when he wanted something.
“You have to come and pick me up, honeybear,” Tony told him.
“What? Why? Where are you?” Rhodey asked him and he sounded worried now. “Are you alright?”
“No,” Tony whined. “Natasha put me through the paces. I’m in the gym and can’t move. You have to come and pick me up.”
There was a beat of silence on the other end of the line and then Rhodey started to laugh. Tony was in the middle of saying “Platypus” when the clicking of the line let him know that Rhodey hung up on him.
Tony gaped at the ceiling, disbelieve clearly on his face, and then he said “Jarvis, make a note. My friends are assholes.”
“Duly noted, sir. Would you like me to send you a reminder every now and then?”
“You’re an asshole, too,” Tony said matter-of-factly.
“I’m glad to be counted amongst your friends,” Jarvis smoothly replied and Tony rolled his eyes.
Tony continued to lie on the floor, even though he was beginning to freeze, and he was in the middle of gathering the strength to at least roll over when the gym door opened and Rhodey walked in.
“I take it back, I love you, Jarvis delete that note,” he rambled while Rhodey walked up to him.
“You weren’t kidding, huh?” he asked.
“What do you take me for? Would I ever lie to you, honeybear?” Rhodey raised an eyebrow in answer and Tony sighed.
“Okay, yes, I probably would,” he admitted. “But never about this.”
“Did you piss her off?” Rhodey questioned and helpfully extended a hand.
“No,” Tony answered through gritted teeth and in a herculean effort raised his hand to clutch Rhodey’s. “I asked her to. I had an epiphany and needed to take my mind off that.”
“Oh? And what would this mysterious revelation be?” Rhodey asked while he pulled him up. Tony could barely stand on his own two feet and he slumped against Rhodey, who took his weight without much effort. Unlike with Natasha, Tony was certain that Rhodey did want to know and so he told him.
“I’m in love with Steve.”
Rhodey patted his arm. “At least you’re already at the stage to admit that. So no drink binges in order to forget that?” he asked him and Tony thought back to their time at MIT, where that had usually been the course of action.
“Nah. I’m gonna be an adult about that and pine in silence.”
“You’re an idiot, is what you are. Where to now?” Rhodey asked him and propped him up a bit. Tony took the hint and supported his own weight.
“Shower. I’m disgusting.”
“Nothing new there,” Rhodey teased him, but moved with Tony to the bathroom.
“I’m afraid to ask, but do you need any help?”
“Oh, platypus,” Tony said with an exaggerated leer. “You could get my pants, if you’re so keen to.”
“Thanks. I saw enough of that skinny ass in MIT. I do not need to refresh my memory on that.”
“But it looks like you do,” Tony said, voice muffled while he pulled his shirt off. “My ass is anything but skinny. Look at it,” he told Rhodey and turned around to wriggle his ass in Rhodey’s direction.
“Bleach! I need eye bleach!” Rhodey shrieked and covered his eyes with his hands.
Tony laughed and Rhodey chuckled as well before he said “No seriously man. Can you do this without breaking your neck?”
“I think I’m good. The hot water will do me some good. Thanks for your help.”
“Anytime. You know that right?” Rhodey asked him, suddenly serious again and Tony turned around to face him.
“Yeah, I do, muffin. Thank you.”
Rhodey nodded once and then walked out of the bathroom. Tony was pretty sure he would ask Jarvis for updates on his state and whereabouts, and it only warmed his heart.
The shower did relax his muscles a bit, but he knew that he would be in pain for a couple of days, just like he asked to be. He would need to thank Natasha for that again.
When he made his way back up, slowly and taking every step very cautiously, he met Steve in the living-room. He was sitting on the couch, paper spread in front of him, and pencils scattered everywhere.
“What are you doing?” he asked and Steve looked up, obviously startled, but he nonetheless stayed relaxed. Tony’s heart swelled with fondness at the sight.
“Just drawing some things. I need the practice and thought some furniture studies would be good to get started again.”
“Sounds good. You want something from the kitchen?” Tony asked him and got himself a bottle of water from the fridge. He drowned it almost in one go and could feel Steve’s eyes on him.
“Natasha and I trained. I’m beat. Quite literally actually.”
Steve huffed at that. “Need to sit down? You can keep me company if you’d like.”
“Sure. Sitting is definitely the better alternative.” He shuffled over to the couch and plopped down next to Steve. He had meant what he told Rhodey: no hiding, no drinking to forget. He could behave completely normal around Steve.
“Don’t mind me if I drift off,” he mumbled and already closed his eyes.
“No problem,” Steve replied and Tony felt how he pulled a blanket over him.
“Thanks,” Tony muttered and was out like a light.
He was in pain for the next few days, but it was a satisfactory kind of pain, that resulted in the knowledge that he had done something good for his body. Maybe too much, but that would change if he kept up his lessons with Natasha, which she actually offered to him.
After another one of their sessions, Natasha was still going light on him, so that he wouldn’t strain his muscles any more, she asked “Okay, spit it out. What’s gotten into you? You never wanted to train.”
Tony shrugged. “I like it. It’s just like building things. Only that I’m building something on my own body. It’s a good feeling.”
“Glad you finally realized that.” She paused for a few seconds. “Okay, I’ll bite. What was this first session about?”
Tony felt an odd sense of pride at that, because Natasha had not been able to find out about his feelings and that was the highest praise he could get. Before he answered he briefly looked around, making sure that they were still alone. He wasn’t ready for Steve to know that yet.
“I’m in love with Steve.”
“Huh,” she said. “Good for you.”
Tony was about to ask what in the hell that was supposed to mean, when Steve entered the gym.
“Tony, I was about to draw again and wanted to ask if you’d keep me company?” he asked him but then he stopped. “Sorry, I didn’t realize you were still training. Have fun,” he said and quickly turned around.
“We’re done here, Tony is all yours,” Natasha told him before he could leave the gym and Tony nodded.
“Gimme fifteen minutes to shower and change and then I’ll be up, okay?” he said to Steve, who nodded in response.
They had done this several times over the last couple of days, and while they didn’t always talk, it was still a companionable silence. Steve drew a lot and Tony had time to catch up on some of his work. It was great.
Not to mention that by now, Tony used every excuse he could to spend more time with Steve, but he didn’t need to know that.
When he came up to the living-room Steve wasn’t there but his papers and pencils were already scattered across the table and Tony figured that he forgot something and would be back in a few minutes.
He sat down on the couch, tucked his feet up and settled the tablet he brought on his thighs. He briefly thought that maybe he should have worn some socks, but he was too lazy to get up again and so he just wedged his feet between the couch cushion and the arm rest. This would have to do.
His hair was still damp, slightly dripping on his neck and onto his shirt, and he rubbed at his neck. He was engrossed in reading a report about the energy output of the arc reactor when Steve walked back in.
He only made it a few feet into the room before he suddenly stopped and that alone was enough to make Tony look up.
Steve was staring wide eyed at him and Tony was beginning to wonder if he had something on his face when Steve said “Fuck!”
Tony briefly wondered what could possibly be wrong, when he recalled a very similar scene a few days ago. A slow smile spread across his face and that seemed to bring Steve out of his thoughts.
“I, eh, forgot something,” he stuttered and pointed behind him, already retreating again.
“I’m in love with you,” Tony said and that stopped Steve dead.
He raised a hand to his head and then slightly shook it. “You cannot actually read minds, right?” he asked Tony doubtfully.
“No, I cannot,” Tony answered and was filled with a lot of warmth at Steve’s response.
“Then how would you know?”
“Remember that morning a few days ago? You shuffled in, all sleepy and relaxed, and your hair was a mess, and you wore that hideous robe.”
“That robe is the most comfortable thing I own,” Steve protested.
“Not arguing that. The point is, you walked in like that and all I could think was ‘I’m in love with you’. And I said fuck in just the same way you just did.”
“You did,” Steve whispered and then he smiled brightly at him. “I’m in love with you,” he told Tony who smiled back at him.
“Good to know. Now get over here.”
Steve quickly walked over to the couch and he sat close next to Tony, who immediately snuggled into his side, turning a bit, so that he could still work.
“This okay?” he asked Steve.
“Just a moment,” he replied and slung an arm around Tony’s shoulders to steady him while he leaned forward to get his pad and a handful of pencils. He settled back into the couch, pulling Tony closer to him, and pressing a lingering kiss to his head.
“Now it’s okay.”
Steve still had his arm around Tony’s shoulder and by now Tony had spent enough time with Steve to know that he really only did need one hand to draw, so he threaded their fingers together. He could work with one hand as well.
“Great,” Tony mumbled and really rested his weight against Steve. He was pretty sure he could stay like this forever.