"Why didn't you come forward before?"

It seemed to be the repeated question. I knew Steve was getting a little tired of answering it but there wasn't anything I could do about it.

At least the work I was here for didn't mean I had to try to capture that tiny flicker of 'here we go again' on Steve's face. At least this time I wasn't the press photographer who had to try to capture that tiny flicker of 'here we go again' on Steve's face. Quitting the Bugle (well, telling Jameson to go to hell) had been a great day in the Life of Peter Parker (no more third person, brain!). That was an up side to my life at the moment.

On the other hand, the down side was I was almost a full time student, and a full time hero, and at my current rate will would be likely to die three times as fast from purely having spent all my life force at once.

How did it go? Live fast, leave a tired corpse?

On the other, other hand, and please god don't ever give me more than two hands, it did mean that I spent more time around Steve. That was good. That was actually so beyond good it was somewhere in the ultraviolet awesome spectrum. Even if since they'd repealed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and he'd promptly come out, all of the Stark Press conferences that Captain America was needed at followed a predictable arc of questions.

"Because then it would have been turning myself into a political icon," Steve said, patiently. "Look, it wasn't a policy that I agreed with, but it was still policy, and I didn't feel I was best serving my country by taking that stand, at that time," he said. "I realize there are people who will disagree with that decision, but it was my choice, and if it was a mistake, it's not one worth dwelling on."

I'd heard that before. I'd asked him once, while were were still naked, half tangled with each other, and fully tangled in the sheets, if he would ever come out, and he'd said as soon as it was feasible, but he'd been a soldier all his life, and the rules DID apply to him...

I knew he'd exerted what pressure he could, to speed it all along, but he'd never admit to it here. Or anywhere. Hell, I was only really guessing.

"And are you seeing anyone now?" someone asked.

Oh, that was a question no one had tried for a while. I stopped fiddling with the tuning array that this press conference was theoretically supposed to be focused on and listened to see how he'd brush it off this time.

The first time someone had asked had been right after his 'no-questions-please' press conference to announce that yes, he was gay, had been since the thirties, a sort of version of the 'why I didn't want to get political about it', and that his personal life was his personal life and he'd like to have one, now, and when the question had been asked anyway, he'd just ignored it.

It was amazing people kept asking the 'why', since he always gave the same sort of answer.

"Yes, actually, I am."

My lips twitched a little. Ha, that oughtta bug them for a while, knowing he had a boyfriend out there and he wasn't going to tell them WHO...

And then all my senses went off at once. Sense of dread, spidey-sense, and an uncanny premonition. I looked up, and he was looking directly at me and oh hell he was.

"He's here today, actually," Steve went on, pulling the cowl of the uniform back, exposing mussed, slightly sweaty blond hair and if he thought that being cute was going to save him an almighty ass whupping for this he was wrong, because just as soon as the blood stopped draining to my feet I was going to KILL him. "Ah, Peter, can you come up here or will something blow up if you're not pretending to push that button?"

It is an important button! I wanted to yell. The head of every reporter in the room - every human, really - was pivoting and following Steve's gaze to the dweeb in the safety glasses and the lab coat with the stupid look on his face.

Usually when I'm put on the spot like this it's from behind the safety of a mask. It might not be a thick mask, but it would have hidden the fact that I could feel my cheeks start to redden up miserably. "It's an important button," I managed, because half a minute had scraped by and it was still the best I could do. "Very important."

"I can push it for you," said one of the interns, shouldering me out of the way. That girl with the little shield pin with the rainbow star on her lab coat when we were working and not in public. Susan? Sally? Jamie? Something? She was giving me an arched eyebrow look now, and my coworkers were staring and... "Go on, Parker," and now the reporters had my full name and were taking notes.

Except for Ben Ulrich, who was starting to develop a bad case of shit-eating grin.

I swallowed, carefully, tried to compose myself, and resisted the urge to run the hell away and move to Brazil and live on Brazil nuts for the rest of my life. Possibly other things. That was all I could recall of Brazil at that exact moment, though.

I was lucky that I didn't grip the floor so hard the carpet tore up. Bad enough to be outted as a queer in front of the fucking press, but loosing my secret identity, too, would be...

And Steve was starting to get that look, like he'd just realized he'd made a mistake. Like he was sorry, like he wanted to take it back... And he better take it back, later...

No, I decided as I walked toward him, face pale with red cheeks, not take it back, but... Apologize. I wasn't going to make him... I wasn't going to make him feel...

I was going to kick his ASS for surprising me.

"Sorry," he murmured when I got to him. He slipped his arm around my waist, and it was SO hard to be mad at him, but I stepped on his foot as hard as I could anyway. Well, as hard as I could discreetly.

"Shut up, jarhead."

"That's Marines," he murmured, but his lips were on my forehead.

"Rough neck, then. Jack ass. You are so lucky that I love you," I said, trying to sound intimidating and probably coming across as slightly small. He can make me feel so small.

The flashes were tangible in the air when I put my arms around his shoulders, felt the skin-warmed armor of the uniform, nose against his exposed, still slightly sweat damp even in the cold blast of the conditioned air. Kissed his pulse.

"You would say that now."

"You deserve it. Love me back?"

"Of course."

At least the mic was on a stand, not clipped to his chest. I took a deep breath, and let go of him enough to face the room.

Forced a smile. "Hi. My name is Peter Parker." I swallowed. "And, yes. I am. And, with him," And that's all you fuckers need to know. "And that's all you need to know. Now, we're here to talk about particle dispersal fields and how last week's use of one did not, in fact, cause the Central Park early labor of Marie St. Jonah, who at last report was doing quite well."

"How long have you two been intimate?"

I could FEEL myself turn vividly red. "That's got nothing to do with the partial dispersal field, now does it?" I managed.

"I don't pay him to have a personal life," cut in a deeply amused voice.

Steve got moved to number two on my ass kicking list because Mr. Stark sounded too damn amused. Like the amused he got when he'd planned things out, or when he'd carefully planned out a snappy, witty retort and finally got a chance to use it.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this isn't a press conference for Captain America's love life, he's merely here to facilitate the demonstration," the jack ass went on, with a slightly drawled tone.

"Were we just saved by the smarm?" Steve asked.

"You... just... Shut up, pigeon."

"That's the Air Force."

"Give me an army slang term then?"


"Fine. Shut up, dink."

"Shutting up."

I knew it was going to make the front page of some stupid trashy tabloid, hell, probably even the Bugle, but I kissed him anyway. Took off my stupid plastic eye protection and put an arm around his neck and decided it if was going to be on the front page it was going to be a real kiss, a proper, fade to black, end of the rom-com kiss complete with my toes balling up in my sneakers, the material of my socks clenched tight.