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Can't See the Forest for the Pine

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 Tony doesn’t realize it’s happening until it’s too late.

He’s not even sure what it is that causes the revelation, just—one minute he glances over Rhodey’s shoulder as they’re discussing a few of the tweaks he wants to make to the propulsion system in the suits and his gaze lands on the four by six full-body portrait of Captain America he put up on the wall six months ago and wham.

“—to reduce the amount of Gs oh my god I’m in love with Steve.”

“Uhh,” Rhodey says, and when Tony’s brain catches up with his mouth and he realizes what he’s just said, his eyes snap to Rhodey, panic sparking up the back of his neck. Then he looks around, sees the portrait of Captain America over the far sofa, the glass cases against the wall near the elevator with the retired-but-not-destroyed Captain America suits, the other portrait of Steve in his military uniform over the fireplace.

Holy God, he’s in love with Steve.

Rhodey’s forehead furrows. Then he says, “Wait. Did you not know that?”

Tony feels his eyes go even wider. “Did I not—you knew? And you didn’t say anything?! What the hell kind of best friend are you?”

Rhodey gives him an incredulous look. “What, because I assumed you were self-aware enough to realize you’ve been mooning after Steve Rogers for nearly a year? How is that my issue? What the hell, Tony. How did you not realize you were in love with the guy?”

Tony splutters.

“Jesus, you were pining and you didn’t even know?” Rhodey says, and his face says he is impressed, but Tony’s pretty sure it’s not in a good way.

“I didn’t…” he protests, half-heartedly, and his eyes sweep around the room again, taking in all the Steve-related memorabilia and imagery. “Oh god,” he groans and leans forward, covering his head with his arms.

“Tones, you are a piece of work.” Rhodey pats his shoulder sympathetically. “I guess that explains why you haven’t done anything about it.”

Tony looks up at him through the gap between his arms. “Of course I haven’t done anything about it, are you out of your mind, I’m still not going to do anything about it, Steve is out of my league. Our leagues are not even in the same sport. Our sports are not even in the same realm. I’m pretty sure Steve is Qudditch and I’m, like—” He flails around, searching for something pathetic enough to represent himself. “I don’t know, like, curling, or chess or something. No contest.”

Rhodey frowns at him. “I hate it when you talk like that. He is not out of your league, Tony. If anything, you’re out of his.”

Tony snorts. “Either way we’re not in the same one. It’s never gonna happen.”

“Okay, man, shut up,” Rhodey says severely. “That’s bullshit, and I don’t want to hear you saying things like that.”

Tony lets his head drop to the side, a fond smile tugging at his lips. He reaches across the table to squeeze Rhodey’s hand, ignoring the way his eyes narrow in response. “You’re the only one for me, Snugglepuss.”

Rhodey rolls his eyes.

~ * ~

Once he’s aware of it, Tony can’t stop thinking about it.

He’s suddenly aware of the hundreds—no, literally, hundreds—of images he’s put up in the Tower featuring Steve or Steve’s patriotic alter-ego. They’re everywhere. How the hell had he done this without realizing?

And why hasn’t Steve said anything?

That’s what gets Tony the most. The Avengers are sitting in the common room listening while Steve tells them about his latest shenanigans with Sam, and all Tony can focus on is the majestic Captain America portrait hanging on the wall behind him. And the way his shirt stretches taut over his pecs.

But mostly the portrait thing.

Maybe he should take them all down.

Then he looks at the way Steve’s face lights up when he breaks down laughing halfway through his story and back at the perfectly rendered line of his jaw in the portrait behind him.

Well, there are worse things he could have on the walls.

~ * ~

He’s kind of a stuttering idiot around Steve now.

Not having the block between his consciousness and his interest in Steve is actually a huge inconvenience. It means he can’t focus whenever Steve’s around. He loses track of what he’s talking about because Steve licks his lips and shoves aside important projects at the drop of a hat to do things for Steve and forgets what he was doing mid-motion because Steve smiles at him.

It’s a disaster.

And he just keeps having more feelings.

Steve’s an asshole who thinks he’s always right and who downplays his pain with even more determination than Tony does—for God’s sake, at least when he’s dying inside Tony bubbles over with it. Steve just winds up tighter and tighter until he snaps under the pressure. But he’s the goodest, kindest person Tony has ever known. He wants to do the right thing no matter what it costs him and after a lifetime of putting his needs ahead of everyone else’s, Tony is in fucking awe of his selflessness.

He’d give his right arm—or he’d think about it anyway—if he could be half as good as Steve is.

“Hello, earth to Tony,” Rhodey says, and Tony jerks out of his thoughts. Both Rhodey and Steve are staring at him like he might be coming down with something.

“Hi, hey, what were we talking about?”

Rhodey sighs. “You know what, I’ll come find you later, when there are less…distractions.”

He glances significantly at Steve and Tony feels his damned face heat up like a frying pan. Steve’s brow creases as Rhodey leaves.

“What was that about?”

Tony turns around, trying to find something else to focus his attention on. “Nothing, nothing, Cap, don’t worry about it.”

“Okay…” Steve says slowly.

Tony fidgets around with the scraps on his workbench for almost ten minutes before Steve gives up and leaves. Belatedly, he realizes they’d probably been having a conversation before Tony zoned out and then tuned him out.

See, this is exactly the kind of shit that proves he’ll never be good enough for Steve. He’ll get over it eventually.

~ * ~

“Tell him,” Rhodey says and Tony sighs, cranking the wrench with sharp movements.

“Sugarbear, I am not telling him. I am suppressing this. Way, deep down.”

“Well, you’re shit at it,” Rhodey retorts. “Natasha called me to tell me you’ve been moping. Steve has texted me eight times in the last two days just to ask if you’re okay. So if you think suppressing it is working, you better think again.”

Tony hates the way his heart skips a little at the thought of Steve asking Rhodey about his mental well-being. “What do you want me to say?” he demands. “What am I supposed to do? Just go up to him and be like, ‘Hey, hi, Steve. How was your day? Oh, by the way, I’m in love with you, and have been for months. Whoops. Forgot to mention.’”

Behind him, something clatters to the ground.

Tony freezes.

“Oh, good,” Rhodey says in his ear. “He went. I told him you might need some food. You’re welcome.” Then Rhodey, traitorous, manipulative, son of a bitch Rhodey, hangs up on him.

Tony swallows, and then very slowly turns around.

Steve is standing just inside the doorway of the workshop, his eyes wide. There’s a plastic tray of food burst across the cement at his feet.

Cold sweat breaks out across the back of Tony’s neck. “Hi,” he croaks. “You, ah. Weren’t supposed to hear that.”

Steve shakes himself a little and shuffles forward a step. “Rhodey seems to think I was.”

“Yeah, well,” Tony mutters, eyes dropping. “Rhodey’s a dick. I’m never talking to him again.”

“That doesn’t seem like the best way to thank your friend for setting you up with your boyfriend.”

Tony’s gaze snaps up, his lungs and heart grinding to a stop in his chest. “You— What?” he rasps.

Steve is blushing, his expression determined and tinged with the faintest air of disbelieving happiness. “I’d like to be your sweetheart,” he says, calmly and clearly. “If you’ll have me. I didn’t think you thought of me like…like that, or I’d have asked you to dinner months ago.”

“Dinner?” Tony repeats faintly.

Steve nods. Rubs his palms against his thighs. “Do you…would you like to?”

“Yes,” Tony says, and then, “Yes. Jesus, Steve, I’ve been thinking about you for months. You really want to?”

His heart starts to pick up speed as Steve steps over the wrecked tray and crosses the workshop. He laughs, quietly, like he can’t quite believe what’s happening. “Yes, Tony.”

Tony scrambles off of his stool, reaching out to catch the hand Steve offers him. “Can we go now?”

Steve laughs, his face lighting up the way Tony loves and he nods, squeezing Tony’s fingers with his own. “I’d like that.”

Tony yanks off his goggles, dropping them on the floor, and waves his hand to shut down the station, still staring at Steve in amazement. “JARVIS, I’ll be back—”

“Tomorrow, maybe,” Steve says, eyes dark and voice low.

Tony nearly chokes on his tongue.

“You heard the man,” he rasps finally, and JARVIS replies, “Certainly, sir.” Then Steve is pulling him out of the workshop, his hand hot around Tony’s and maybe Tony isn’t good enough for him, but he’s damned well going to try.