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played for fools

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“Darling!” Tony says, making his way to where Steve was mingling with some elegant types. “You simply must try the canapes.”

He holds one up to Steve’s mouth, and Steve blushes a little but opens his mouth and lets Tony place it on his tongue. He licks his lips after.

“It’s very good,” Steve says, cheeks still dusted pink, but he doesn’t look excessively embarrassed.

Tony loops his arm around Steve’s waist, nuzzling against him. “I knew you’d like it.”

“You two seem very… happy,” says a woman Tony is pretty sure he’s made out with in a coat closet before, but don’t quote him on that. He thinks she’s a duchess. Or a countess? God, he can’t keep track. Is she jealous? She hadn’t really seemed like the jealous type, and their encounter would have been ages ago, but you never really know.

Or maybe she’s just surprised Tony has an interest in men too?

Tony’s thinking he’s going to dial it back a bit until she’s gone off somewhere else, just to be safe, but apparently Steve cannot actually read Tony’s mind. No matter what it seems like sometimes. Tony does realize that this is a good thing, but it’s a little unfortunate right now because Steve is batting his eyelashes down at Tony. Are you actually supposed to be able to bat your eyelashes down at someone?

“Well, we have every reason to be happy,” Steve says, gazing at Tony adoringly. He’s the picture of infatuation.

“Of course we do,” Tony says, not wanting to come across as distant but still worrying about provoking a scene. He pulls his arm from Steve’s waist so that he can take his arm instead. “Would you do me the honor of a dance, love?”

“Gladly,” Steve says, and allows Tony to pull him out onto the floor.

It’s a slow dance, so they wrap their arms around each other and sway while making their very best doe eyes.

“I think we’re doing a really great job,” Steve says, voice barely a whisper.

“Me too,” Tony says. “We’re amazing actors.”

“I’m pretty sure we could give Natasha a run for her money,” Steve says, grinning.

“Totally. I, uh, may have underestimated the number of old flames who would be at this party, though.”

Steve’s face remains set in an expression of perfect bliss, but there’s a note of exasperation in his voice when he says, “Tony.”

“Oh, come on. I don’t care if this is some grand ball for the international elite; Victor von Doom is hosting. You’d think people would have the sense not to show up!”

“Maybe they don’t want to risk antagonizing him,” Steve says. “Even we’re trying to avoid that, and I’ve personally hit him on the head at least three times.”

Tony huffs and lets himself just relax against Steve’s chest.

“Excuse me,” says a familiar voice after a few moments of Tony pretty much just zoning out. He looks over to see T’Challa, looking resplendent. “Might I steal your partner for the next dance, Captain?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Steve says, looking forlorn. T’Challa shoots him a look that Tony learned long ago is the premium Black Panther ‘having none of your bullshit’ look. It’s funny, seeing it turned on Steve.

“Well, who are we to refuse a king?” Tony says, mouth quirking.

Ah, now the look’s all for him. Balance is restored to the universe.

“I’ll go see if I can chase down some more of those canapes,” Steve says, and hands Tony off to T’Challa with an amiable nod.

“So,” T’Challa says, taking the lead on the dance. It’s rather more demanding than the last one, but Tony’s taken his fair share of dance lessons in his life, and T’Challa is an excellent partner.

“So,” Tony says, waggling his eyebrows.

“Would you care to tell me what’s going on with you two?” T’Challa asks, whisking Tony around the dance floor without seeming to need to pay the slightest attention to his footwork.

Tony’s actually kind of struggling to keep up, not that he’d ever admit it. He wonders if this is some kind of interrogation technique. “Don’t know what you mean.”

“A very lovely young Marquess mentioned to me that she was worried that the two of you might have been drugged,” T’Challa says, voice dry.

Oh right, a marquess. “She’s just jealous. Trying to start something.”

“No, she noticed that you were acting absurdly and expressed concern,” T’Challa says. “Honestly, I’m a little concerned. I recognize that some amount of foolishness is part of the package with you, Stark, but I cannot imagine why Captain Rogers is encouraging you. Clue me in, or I’ll be forced to assume Doom did something, and I was really hoping to avoid conflict tonight.”

“Are you saying you’d fight Doom to defend my honor, Panther?” T’Challa makes the unimpressed face again, and Tony relents. “Don’t worry, Doom didn’t do anything. Except invite me to this thing. Which is weird, right? He didn’t even invite the president.”

T’Challa shrugs. “He doesn’t like your president.”

“Do you recall how many times he’s tried to kill us? It’s not as if he likes me.”

“Of course he does,” T’Challa says. “His version of liking is just uniquely unpleasant.”

“God, don’t make me think of it that way.”

T’Challa shrugs again. “Tell me why you keep behaving like the lead of a bad romance novel and you may forget this conversation ever happened.”

“I had a plus one. It was decided that Steve should be here, in case things got hairy. We’re trying to sell it.”

“Sell what?” T’Challa asks, raising an eyebrow.

“Um. That we’re dating?” Tony shakes his head. “I know, I know, it’s far-fetched, but everyone just laughed at me when I mentioned that maybe someone else on the team would be a better choice.”

To T’Challa’s credit (and Tony’s bewilderment), he does not miss a beat on the dance, even though Tony feels him stiffen in surprise. “Stark,” T’Challa says, slowly. “Tony.”


“You’re pretending to be a couple? That’s what you’re saying?”

“Yeah,” Tony says. “Does this reaction mean we’re incredibly convincing or not at all?”

“You’ve been doing terribly tonight,” T’Challa says, rolling his eyes. “But you've certainly had me fooled for the last... several years.”

The dance ends, and Steve waves at them from the edge of the floor. When Tony waves back, his smile is so bright it almost makes up for Doom’s medieval idea of what counts as good decor.

Tony feels heat rising to his cheeks, and T’Challa pats him on the back. “Sometimes I really do worry about you.”

“Did Doom expect me to bring Steve?” Tony hisses.

Everyone expected you to bring Steve. It’s painfully obvious you would follow each other anywhere. Now stop frightening innocent partygoers and go ask your boyfriend if he wants to date you.”

“T’Challa," Tony says, aware that he's staring at Steve but unwilling to stop, "you are my very favorite person."

“No, I’m not,” T’Challa says, smiling slightly as waves Tony away.

Once he's successfully dodged a cluster of enthusiastic dancers and stepped off the floor, Tony pounces on Steve with what might be considered a little too much enthusiasm, but he thinks the innocent partygoers will probably survive.

“We need to talk,” Tony says. “Somewhere private.”

“Won’t it look suspicious if we go off in the middle of the party?” Steve asks as Tony snags his wrist and pulls him away from the crowd.

“With my reputation, I’m pretty sure they’ll draw their own conclusions.” Tony grins. “Coat closets and such.”

Steve frowns in apparent confusion, but he follows Tony all the same.