So Steve might get accused of being a little old fashioned. Tony teases him all the time about being an old man, but it really wasn’t his fault that he got frozen for seventy years and is suddenly in the 21st century. Okay, maybe it’s a little bit his fault, for crashing into the ice and all, but that’s beside the point.
So, Steve might get accused of being old fashioned, but that doesn’t mean he’s in any way closed minded. He likes to think that he’s very open minded, if people would just stop expecting him to be racist, or sexist, or whatever other -ists there are out there that they think he might be. He was raised by a single mother, idolised Peggy Carter, and worked with the Howling Commandos, who were a very diverse bunch of fellas. He didn’t discriminate against anyone for things that weren’t in their control. Just because he is a straight, white male from the 1940s, Steve really wishes that people would stop expecting the worst of him.
Which is why it is really freaking him out right now that he’s looking at his roommate and good friend Tony, cuddling up to Peter Quill, and the sight of it just makes him want to throw up.
He didn’t mean to suddenly turn into a homophobe.
Steve tries to squash it down, tries to push all those feeling of disgust away so that it doesn’t get in the way of his friendship with Tony. It bothers him, because Tony has been his friend since he got here, since they’d been paired as roommates. And he’d known that Tony, well... that Tony liked fellas. Tony wasn’t subtle about it, so Steve had known, and Steve thought that he was okay with it. They even got to the point where Tony would pretend to flirt with him and he’d pretend to flirt back. That’s why when seeing Peter and Tony together makes Steve feel so sick, it really irks him that he reacts like that. He doesn’t want to be disgusted by Tony.
He really doesn’t want to ruin their friendship.
Whatever it is that Tony has with Star Lord doesn’t last long. After a couple days, Quill is back hanging out with his friends, and Tony spends his evenings in Stark Tower in his workshop. Steve tries to go back to his usual routine of hanging out in Tony’s workshop with him, tucking himself into a corner and doing his homework or sketching. But it’s hard. There’s this ever present gnawing feeling of guilt, because Steve can’t stand the fact that seeing Tony with other fellas makes him feel sick.
He thinks it’s almost behind him. Steve thinks that whatever horrible bigotry he’d developed might have lapsed, but then the Black Knight attacks and Captain Britain and Union Jack arrive to fight him.
It isn’t any more threatening than any of the other attacks on the academy, after they free Captain Britain and Union Jack, it’s just a matter of the magic users trying to break the curse and then trying to defeat the Black Night.
That isn’t even the part that bothers Steve. Fighting he can do, cursed swords and medieval knights aren’t any weirder than a brainwashed best friend and faceless Nazis. What does bother Steve though, is Brian.
Steve doesn’t want to have an issue with the fella, he seems nice enough, he knows a lot of tricks, and he’s very helpful in trying to fight the Black Knight. It’s just, when Jan drags Steve to Club A one night to dance, Tony’s there at the bar and Brian is right there next to him. Too close. It makes Steve feel sick, but he tries to stamp it down. Tries to ignore it and focus on dancing with Jan and Nat and just having a good time.
It works, sort of, until he looks over at one point and Steve sees Tony and Brian kissing. It makes his stomach roll and he stumbles over his own feet. He feels sick, like he’s going to throw up, and he hates it. He clenches his jaw and sets his shoulders and tries so hard to be a good man.
Nat asks if he’s okay. Jan glances rapidly between Steve and the bar and by the way that her face screws up and her fists clench, Steve knows that she can just tell. She knows that he’s a horrible, despicable bigot, just by looking at his face.
He thinks he says something, he doesn’t know, but Tony suddenly breaks away from Brian and looks over at him, lips bruised and eyes wide.
Jan punches him in the arm and Steve knows that he’s a terrible person. He can’t look at Tony, or Jan, or even Natasha. He just turns and leaves heading straight for the Robo Dojo.
As he slams his shield into one robot after another Steve hates himself. Why does he have to be disgusted by something that obviously makes Tony happy?
They free Dane from the Ebony Blade’s curse and other than Taskmaster trying to constantly goad Steve into fighting, it goes back to being school as normal. Steve tries to avoid the Enchantress, because her flirting makes his skin crawl. He tries to avoid Tony too, because he’d seen the hurt look in Tony’s eyes that night at Club A. He can’t stand the idea that he’s hurting Tony because he can’t keep his disgust in check.
It comes to a head when Steve comes back to his room one afternoon after working out his frustration fighting Taskmaster, to find Tony already in the room.
And he’s not alone.
Dane’s lying on Tony’s bed, his stupid mohawk squashed against the bedhead, and Tony straddling his hips.
For one horrifyingly, sickening moment Steve thinks he’s walked in on them having sex, but they’re still wearing pants.
Not that it makes it any better.
Steve stands there frozen, his whole body rigid, his stomach turning over. He wants the throw up, he wants to punch something. He’s breathing hard, his chest tight like it used to get before the serum.
Tony scrambles up, tripping off the bed, Dane following close behind.
“Steve!” Tony starts talking fast, the way he does when he’s feigning confidence. “I didn’t think you’d be back until later. I’m sorry. Should have locked the door.”
Dane hunches his shoulders, grabbing up the sheathed Ebony Blade from beside the bed and starting towards the door. “I’m sorry, I’ll clear out.” He looks back at Tony. “Another time, hey, Knight Bro?”
Steve can’t even bring himself to move aside when Dane approaches, he just glares at him, feeling his stomach clench and bile rising in his throat. “You’re not welcome here.”
Dane ducks his head, pushing past Steve and out into the hallway. Even with him gone, Steve doesn’t feel any better.
Steve snaps his attention back to Tony, who’s standing there running his hands over his face.
“What is your problem, Cap?”
What’s his problem? His problem is this horrible irrational disgust that he just can’t get rid of. But he can’t tell Tony that.
“I don’t have a problem.” He says through gritted teeth.
Tony drops his hands and glares at him. “Don’t you try and bullshit me, Rogers, all you’ve been doing lately is glaring at me and running away. What have I done to upset you?”
“It’s not you,” Steve lies, knowing that it’s all over his face. He’s never been a good liar. “I’m just tired.”
Tony gives him a betrayed, hurt look, but Steve ignores him, going over to his bed and dropping his shield onto it.
“Sure, okay, Cap, whatever, I’m going to Dane’s room.” Tony mutters.
Steve hears the door slam behind him. Apparently it doesn’t matter if Tony and Dane are together in the room or another, the idea of it still makes Steve feel sick.
Jan corners him the next day in the Timeless Achieves.
“What is your problem, Steve?”
He looks up from the history book he’s flicking through. Jan’s standing there with her arms crossed, face scrunched up in anger.
His blank look doesn’t earn him any reprieve.
“You’ve upset Tony! After all that Civil War crap I thought you two had made up!” Jan glares at him, words short, tone clipped.
Steve feels his stomach drop and his heart hurts. He really didn’t want to upset Tony. That’s why he had been so carefully trying to avoid him. So Tony wouldn’t notice how homophobic he is being. “I didn’t mean to.”
Jan’s arms drop down to her sides, fists clenching tightly. She stamps her foot. “Well, you’d better watch it, mister, because if you keep upsetting Tony, accidentally or not, we’re going to have a problem.”
Steve just nods. Once Jan leaves he drops his head onto the book, hoping that it’ll knock some sense into him. He looked up homophobia online the other day, reading all sorts of horrible case studies of the sort of things that bigots were capable of. He just hopes that Jan makes good on her promise. If he ever starts getting violent, he hopes that the rest of the Avengers will take him down before he manages to hurt Tony.
Tony doesn’t come back to their room that night. Steve knows because he stayed awake all night because he wanted to apologise for how he’d been acting.
Steve looks up from his sketchbook. Natasha and Bucky are blocking his view of the fountain in Avengers Park. He gives Natasha a puzzled looked, mulling over her words, but they don’t really make sense.
“What am I jealous of?”
Natasha sighs and rolls her eyes. “You’re jealous of Tony.”
That really doesn’t make any more sense. Steve shakes his head, looking back down at his sketch. “Why would I be jealous of Tony?”
Natasha drops down to the ground besides Steve. Bucky crouches down a few feet away, arms tucked against his chest.
“Because Tony’s been hooking up with guys, and you’ve been acting like a right crank ever since.” Natasha says, like it explains everything.
Steve frowns at her. “I don’t want to hook up with those guys. I’m not jealous.”
It was never about jealousy. Steve is pretty sure about that. He doesn’t want admit the real issue. He can’t tell Nat that in the truth. She won’t ever forgive him if she knows the truth.
Natasha rolls her eyes again, lifts one hand and smacks Steve across the back of the head. Bucky smirks at Steve’s spluttered protests.
“That wasn’t what I meant, you oblivious walnut.” Natasha grumbles.
Bucky taps his metal fingers against his knees. “What she means is you’re worse than I am when it comes to pining, Stevie. Seriously, epic songs could be written about the how oblivious and pathetic your crush on Iron Man is.”
Steve’s stomach drops and churns and he thinks he’s going to be sick. They think it’s something innocent like a crush, they don’t know just how sinister and twisted he is on the inside. He promised Dr Erskine that he would be a good man, and really he was just as despicable as the Nazis he was meant to fight. His voice cracks when he admits the truth. “I don’t have a crush on Tony. I’ve developed an irrational fear and hatred of people like him.”
Bucky quirks an eyebrow, dropping his flesh hand to the grass and plucking at the blades. “What people like him? Loud mouthed geniuses?”
Steve glares at him, hands clenching into fists, because not only is Bucky being deliberately obtuse and Steve knows he isn’t still brainwashed, but he’s insulting Tony too. And that just makes Steve want to punch something.
“Gay people.” He spits out the words, hating himself for even saying it. For reducing Tony down to a label that he has so many unexplainable issues with right now.
Natasha smacks him over the back of the head again, and he can’t even bother reacting. He deserves it for being such an ignorant bigot.
Steve drops his face into his hands, trying to will his heart to stop pounding in his chest. “I’m a horrible person. I’ve turned into a homophobe. I never meant for it to happen. What if I hurt Tony because of it?”
Natasha’s hand settles on the back of his head, but she doesn’t smack him this time, just strokes her fingers through his hair. “Oh, Steve, you really are an oblivious walnut.”
“Yeah, Rogers, the kid I remember wasn’t a bigot.” Bucky adds, voice sounding more certain than it has since they freed him from Hydra. “The Steve Rogers I knew used to pick fights with bullies, used to stand up for those getting discriminated against. You made friends with Arnie Roth even when everyone else thought he was a fairy. A homophobe is the last thing that scrawny little kid from Brooklyn I used to know would ever be.”
Steve looks up again, meeting Bucky’s gaze and trying to figure out what had happened to the good man that Bucky remembered. “Then why do I feel sick every time I see Tony with anyone?”
“Because you’re jealous.” Natasha informs him, fingers still stroking through his hair.
Bucky nods, smirking again. “Yeah. Think of this, Stevie. How would you feel if you saw Tony making out with The Enchantress? Or Jan?”
Steve tries to picture it. Tony and Amora making out in Tony’s hot tub, or Tony and Jan dancing at Club A and it makes his stomach twist and his heart beat too fast and he wants to throw up and punch something all at once.
It’s the same way he’s felt every time he saw Tony with any one of those guys.
“Now,” Natasha says, fingernails scraping against his scalp. “Think about how you’d feel if it was, say, Brian and Loki that you saw making out at the bar that night.”
Steve cringes, because the idea of Brian making out with Loki is wrong because Loki is Loki, and Brian could do so much better than him. He says as much, and earns a chuckle from Bucky.
“Okay, well what about Brian and Sam? Or Sam and Rhodey? Or any of the guys here?”
He thinks about it, and is uncomfortable in a way that comes from imagining public displays of affection between any of his friends. He feels like a voyeur, but it doesn’t disgust him. “So, I haven’t suddenly developed homophobia?”
Bucky shakes his head. “Captain America wouldn’t do that. You, my friend, are pining over Tony in a big way.”
“But I’m straight. I liked Peggy.” He protests.
Nat’s fingers tighten in his hair, then loosen and start stroking soothing patterns again. “Bisexual is a thing, Cap, along with so many other sexual orientations, and romantic preferences. Just because you liked Peggy Carter doesn’t exclude you from liking Tony Stark.”
Steve nods, because it makes sense. But it doesn’t really solve any of his other problems. Like the fact that seeing Tony with other people makes him feel sick and prone to violence.
And the fact that with the way he’s been acting like a right twit, there’s no hope of Tony ever liking him back.
Knowing that he isn’t a bigot and that it isn’t disgust he feels doesn’t really make things any better. When he sees Tony with anyone now it makes his stomach twist and he has to squash the jealousy down because he really can’t afford that to ruin his friendship with Tony.
Things with Tony slowly go back to normal. They spend time together in Tony’s workshop. They don’t avoid each other in their room anymore, and Steve’s happy. Mostly. Except when Tony spends time with Dane, which he’s been doing more and more frequently.
Jan and Nat corner him when he leaves the Stadium one morning after his run. Behind them he can see Dane and Tony working together on something in Pym’s lab.
Jan’s face is scrunched up again, the way it gets when she’s angry. “You should ask him out.”
Steve freezes, hands tightening around the towel he’d just finished wiping his face with.
Natasha nods but doesn’t say anything.
Jan stalks closer, the fact that she’s so much shorter than Steve obviously not fazing her one bit. She jabs a finger against his chest. “You’re making Tony sad because he thinks you aren’t interested. Ask him out. Or you’ll miss your chance.”
The thought of missing out on the chance of something with Tony makes Steve feel even more sick than seeing Tony with other people. So far Tony’s just been hanging out with guys, or casually hooking up with them. Steve’s not sure what he’ll do if Tony ever actually gets a boyfriend.
It’s that fear that Steve finally uses to spur himself into action. Because he’s never been a coward, and he knows that if he wants something to happen, he has to make the first move. Tony won’t, not after the way that Steve has been acting.
He finally works up the courage one night when they’re sitting in Tony’s lab, sharing Shawarma that Steve brought. Tony’s busy eating and doing something with one of the holographic screens and Steve’s sitting beside him, trying not to sweat right through his jacket because he’s so nervous.
“Tony, I want to apologise for the way I’ve been acting lately.” He finally forces the words out, knowing there’s no taking them back one their out in the open.
Tony’s hands freeze halfway through whatever they’re doing and he turns his head to look at Steve, cheeks puffed out with the food he’d stuffed in his mouth to free up both his hands. He raises his eyebrows questioningly and makes a mumbled noise that might have been “what for?” had he been able to form words.
Steve rubs the back of his neck, feeling his heart beating too fast in his chest. “I’m sorry that I was acting like such a jerk whenever you were with one of your, um, guy friends.”
Tony swallows his mouthful with an effort, blinking back at the holo screen. “That’s fine, Cap. Sorry if it was making you uncomfortable. Should have known it might offend your delicate old fashioned sensibilities.”
Steve frowns, because is Tony really going to make excuses for him and forgive him just like that? It’s not right. No one should ever feel like it’s okay for someone to discriminate against them. Steve has to stop himself from saying all of that; it isn’t what he needs to say. Though he really should bring it up another time.
“It’s not that.” He sucks in a breath. His palms are sweaty so he wipes them against his jeans and then pokes at the food in front of him because he can’t look at Tony even though he really thinks he should. “I was being a jerk because I was jealous.”
Tony snorts and rolls his eyes, already focuses back on the holograms in front of him. “Like you need to be jealous of me, Cap. Seriously, look in the mirror, or more, just look at the way Agent 13 and Enchantress just so blatantly flirt with you. If you want some action, I’m sure those two would be willing.”
The plastic fork in Steve’s hand snaps into four pieces and he can feel the sharp plastic cutting into the palm of his hand. He ignores it in favour of looking over at Tony. “That’s not why I am jealous.”
The words are barely whisper, and that seems to finally catch Tony’s attention. He drops his hands down to the bench top and turns to look at Steve. “Huh?”
Steve opens his hand and lets the pieces of fork drop to bench top, closing his hand around a napkin instead. He doesn’t break eye contact with Tony, even though he really doesn’t know what else he can possibly say, the words “I like you” are jammed in his throat and refuse to go anywhere. He tries to smile at Tony, hoping he’ll get what Steve means, feeling the nervous churning in his stomach turn to fluttery butterflies.
Tony’s eyes widen. “Oh.” He swallows nervously, his mouth opening and closing a few more times before he finally finds words. “Um, please don’t hurt me if I’m reading this wrong.”
He leans closer, and Steve moves to meet him, a little too fast, their lips meet a little too hard and their noses bump. Tony laughs, something shy and nervous against Steve’s mouth. Steve tries again, tilting his head a bit to one side, so when he leans in again, his nose doesn’t hit Tony’s and when their lips meet it’s gentler. His heart is beating flat out, pulse pounding in his ears, but he feels dizzy and light headed in a very pleasant kind of way. He doesn’t feel sick at all.
“Please don’t let this be a dream.” Tony whispers when he pulls back far enough so his eyes can search Steve’s face.
He isn’t sure what Tony’s looking for, but he shakes his head. “Not a dream.”
A smile flickers across Tony’s lips, and Steve give into the impulse to feel it, leaning in closer and kissing Tony again.
Turns out he really doesn’t mind Tony kissing fellas as long as he’s that fella.