A/N: Response to a prompt over at avengerkink. I'd classify this as friendship, but if you want to, you can see the beginnings of slash.
Genius. Billionaire. Playboy. Philanthropist. It's how Tony described himself when Steve asked him what he was without his suit, but Tony should've added something else to that list. Liar. Though, if he told the truth by saying he was a liar, did that make him a truth teller? These were the kinds of puzzles that the genius in him loved. That part of his little self-description was true at least.
Though he supposed none of it was exactly untrue. The playboy thing was a little misunderstood, but watching Steve shift uncomfortably at the term was worth it. So was the look over Natasha had given him. Yes, technically because of the vast number of people Tony had sexual encounters with, he was a playboy, but he was also Tony Stark so he despised labels. He was too unique for a word or phrase to neatly sum up who he was.
He slept with people, but it wasn't for his reputation or because he was particularly horny. He did it for the rare moments that someone's hand cupped his cheek or danced their fingers down his chest or even held his hand on the walk home. He did it for the little moments that most people forgot in the rush to get naked.
He liked to linger in bed after sex, but that pleasure had been denied to him as his reputation grew. Women, and men, assumed that all he wanted was sex, and they would get up to shower or leave right after making him feel dirty and used.
Things had changed once he became an Avenger. There were now five other people living in his Tower, making it more difficult to bring people home, and he had a new reputation to uphold now. As a member of the group dedicated to saving the Earth, he couldn't afford to rent a couple hours at a motel just for the distant hope that he would feel something.
That wasn't the only reason his image had started to change. Thor was also a part of it. Thor who always greeted everyone with a solid slap on the back or a firm handshake, and those moments were what Tony craved. He let Thor almost knock him off his feet to feel the touch of Thor's hand on his back, to feel like he was one of the team. Sometimes, when he was feeling particularly brave, he'd even clasp Thor's shoulder in return.
"Again?" Clint asked, casting a critical eye at Tony who was struggling to stay on his feet, even as he took another sip of his whiskey.
"I have to take two drinks every time," Tony said, weaving his way over to the couch where Steve was pretending to flip through a magazine as he kept an eye on Tony. "One for me, and one for the dear Captain who can't get drunk."
Steve's smiled was forced, stretched too tight across his face. "I explained to him that that wasn't necessary and to stop calling me Captain, but I don't think I got through to him."
"Oh Captain, my Captain!" Tony proclaimed, falling into Steve's lap. Steve automatically reached his hands out to keep Tony from tumbling to the ground, and pulled him firmly onto Steve's lap.
Steve rolled his eyes and cast Clint a 'you see' look. Clint shrugged, decided that Tony was officially Steve's problem, and headed out before someone could find a way to saddle him with the responsibility of looking after their resident alcoholic.
Steve sighed and ran his hands through Tony's hair, something the man would never allow if he was sober. As it was, Tony curled up on Steve's chest like a cat, tucking his head beneath Steve's chin.
"Why do you do this to yourself?" Steve asked quietly, but Tony didn't answer him.
Steve pried the glass from Tony's hand and carried the half-conscious man back to his bedroom. Tony's room was dominated by his bed, a piece of furniture far larger than two humans could ever require. Even Steve and Thor could fit easily on Tony's bed. All of the Avengers could probably fit as long as Bruce wasn't Hulked out.
Steve had heard rumors of Tony's bed, and he had an idea of why it was so big, but he hadn't seen anything since he had started living at Stark Tower. He wondered if Tony was beginning to turn his life around. It was what happened when you were handed responsibility, especially the responsibility of protecting the world. You had to grow up. Tony was a little late to the maturity game, but he had never been one to do the expected.
Steve smiled as he tucked Tony into bed, hoping that he had been at least a small part of this change. He had taken a liking to Tony, even though he was loud, crude, and sometimes offensive. Maybe it was because of those things that Steve liked him, because he was everything Steve wasn't. Steve was drawn to this side of Tony but worried for him when he started to tip toward the side of self-destruction. It was why he worried whenever Tony started drinking.
Hopefully everything would be better in the morning. Tony would wake up hungover, but after some coffee, he and Bruce could go down to the lab to tinker around. Steve didn't understand anything that they did down there, but he knew when Tony wasn't in invention mode or research mode or general knowledge mode then he drank more, and if he drank too much then when he woke up he wasn't in the mood to work and thus started a vicious cycle.
"What am I going to do with you?" Steve asked, running his hands through Tony's hair again. It was a personal gesture, and he felt guilty for doing it, but Tony smiled, his eyes half-lidded and glazed.
"Stay," Tony said, his hand tugging on Steve's.
Tony always asked Steve to stay when he was like this, and Steve always said no. Tony didn't know what he was asking for, and Steve didn't want to imagine Tony's reaction if he woke up with Steve in bed with him. They were teammates and Steve considered them friends, and that meant not sharing a bed.
"Good night," Steve said, pulling his wrist free. "Try not to wake up hungover."
Tony woke up with his head pounding. He groaned and buried his face in his pillow wishing that either his head would explode or there would be someone lying next to him to comfort him. He reached an arm out and hit empty air before his arm dropped to the bed.
He was almost desperate enough to get drunk and come onto Thor but not quite. Part of him knew that sleeping with his fellow Avengers was a very bad idea and even though Tony Stark had a reputation for very bad ideas, this was one he should definitely not follow through on. The self-preserving part of him knew that he probably wouldn't survive sex with Thor. If a casual back slap could knock Tony off his feet, he didn't want to think what sex would do.
Wincing at the very thoughts he promised himself he wouldn't have, Tony contemplated the chances of not having to get out of bed today. Or at least getting to sleep in.
"You have a full schedule today," Pepper said, way too cheerful for this early in the morning as she flounced into his room with a cup of coffee.
Tony groaned and covered his face with his pillow in a childish attempt to make her go away. A moment later his pillow was snatched away, and he was given a steaming mug of coffee to make up for it.
"This is your own fault," Pepper said like Tony needed the reminder. "I told you to stop drinking so much. You were doing so well. What happened?"
He got lonely, Tony thought, but instead of saying anything he took a drink of his coffee. It was hot and burned down his throat as he swallowed. He knew he was an affectionate drunk, and usually he could find someone to reciprocate. Of course, he didn't usually drink around the Avengers. That was probably why he wasn't having any luck. Maybe he should go out to the bar tonight. He had promised himself he would stop, but it had been so long, and all he wanted was to be held.
He knew this came back to his childhood, hell, didn't everything? His father had never loved him, and maybe he still hadn't gotten over that. Maybe he was still looking for that one person to know everything about him, every flaw, every imperfection, every annoying habit, and tell him that he loved him. Or maybe Tony read too many pop psychology books.
He sighed, feeling a whole new kind of headache coming on and waved off Pepper's concerned look. "What's first on the list?"
"Shower then suit because you have a meeting with the board of directors," she said. "I'll put your briefcase and a summary of what's going to be talked about on the kitchen table with your toast."
She waited for him to get out of bed before walking briskly out the door to get everything ready for him.
Tony was well and truly wasted, clinging to the lip of the bar counter to keep himself standing. Everything around him was swirling in slow motion and his limbs felt heavy, almost pleasantly free from responsibility. Maybe he should sit.
He plopped himself down onto a bar stool, looking around to see if he could find any possible candidates for the night's adventure. He had a hard time focusing on people, their features blurring together, but it didn't really matter what they looked like, did it? He just wanted a body after all.
"Sir, I think you've had enough," the bartender said as Tony motioned to his already full glass for a refill.
"Preposterous," Tony said. He could say the word preposterous. He clearly wasn't drunk. He slowly rotated in a circle until he was leaning on the bar again, or maybe that was just his vision playing tricks on him. He should wear the suit sometime when he was drunk so JARVIS could take stats and tell him what exactly being drunk did to his senses. He made a mental note to remember that in the morning.
"Is there someone I can call for you?" the bartender asked.
Phone call! That was a brilliant idea. Tony pulled out his phone and started scrolling through his contacts, searching for the name of someone he'd taken to bed before. He was sure they'd be up for seconds, and he was having difficulty finding someone here. He was also having difficulty reading his contacts.
"I'm getting old," Tony said, mournful as he stared at the screen. "I can't read anymore."
"Let me," the bartender said, taking the phone out of Tony's hands. A moment later, the man was talking to someone on the other line. "Yes, hello. Are you a good friend of Tony Stark? Would it be too much trouble for you to come get him? I think he's had a little too much to drink. Yes, no thank you."
The bartender slid Tony his phone. "Someone is coming to get you."
The bartender shrugged. "I called your emergency contact. He sounds like a decent guy."
Emergency contact? Since when did Tony have one of those? He thought he might have put Pepper as his emergency contact once, but she wasn't a guy. Maybe she was tired and her voice was gravely and the bartender was confused. Tony couldn't wait to tell her that she'd been mistaken for a guy.
"If you're going to drink like this, could you at least do it in the Tower?" Steve asked appearing at Tony's side.
Woah, Tony thought, spinning to face him. Did he have teleportation powers now? Or maybe this was Loki playing tricks. Or maybe, wait, were those arms picking him up?
Steve sighed when Tony turned to look at him and almost fell over. He had thought last night was bad, but apparently Tony was in a rare mood. He picked Tony's phone up off the counter, closed Tony's tab, and thanked the bartender before heading back to the Tower. He was having a serious talk with Tony in the morning.
Steve knew he couldn't control Tony, no one could, but if he was going to get out of control like this, he needed to keep in the Tower. What if someone found him while he was vulnerable and attacked him? Alone, drunk, and without his suit, Tony made an easy and very tantalizing target. At the thought of Tony getting hurt, Steve held him closer, and Tony nuzzled his cheek.
"So what happened today?" Steve asked as they walked the few blocks back to Stark Tower.
"Nothing," Tony mumbled, his words barely understandable. "Bored."
Steve laughed. "You were bored? You're a billionaire business owner and charity founder, you have an entire building filled with anything you could possibly imagine, and you're part of a superhero team that's tasked with defending the Earth. How do you get bored?"
"Sorry we can't all be perfect like you," Tony said, giving Steve a weak push, but even at full strength Tony couldn't budge Steve.
"I'm not perfect," Steve said. "I just don't understand why you're acting out."
He sounded like Pepper when she was gearing up for one of her lectures. Tony didn't want to hear it.
"I told you, I was bored."
"It's a weak excuse," Steve said. "I'd expect better from a genius."
"Trying to keep things on your level," Tony said. A moment later he found himself on the ground, Steve having let go of him. "Mmph," he said, looking around at the dirty sidewalk. "Why'd you drop me?"
"Why are you doing this?"
Tony wasn't sure what Steve was asking about. Why was he talking back? Why was he drinking? Why was he such a mess all the time? Why couldn't he just be happy with everything he had in his life? Why couldn't he be normal? Those were too many questions, and Tony didn't even know where to start answering them. He didn't even want to answer them. His business was his business, and Steve should stay out of it.
"We need you," Steve said. "Not just your brain or your money or even your stupid pretentious tower. We need you to make our team complete. Please stop doing this to yourself."
Of course they needed him, Tony thought. He was the glue that held the Avengers together. They'd be a bumbling mess without him. Hearing Steve say it though, felt good. It made him regret going out tonight. It made him regret making Steve come all the way out here to get him. Steve hadn't said it, but he was disappointed. It rolled off of his perfectly broad shoulders in waves. He was Captain America, literally the American Ideal, and Tony was the bad boy screw-up.
He raised his arms up, not caring how ridiculous he must look. "Carry me?"
Steve nodded and scooped Tony up into his arms, carrying him back to his room. Tony was asleep by the time Steve reached the Avengers' suite, and he didn't linger tonight after putting Tony to bed. Instead, he went back to the kitchen where Pepper was sitting with two cups of tea. She pushed one across the table, and Steve sat down in front of it.
"How bad?" she asked.
"You should clear his morning."
She sighed and rubbed her temples. "I don't know what happened. He was doing so well."
"He said he's bored," Steve said.
"Well if that's the case, I'll pack his schedule even tighter." She tried to smile, but the attempt at humor failed. This was too serious to joke about.
"It makes sense," Steve said. "Saving the world from Loki was a whirlwind of activity, a constant adrenaline high. He must not be adjusting as well as he was letting on."
"Are you?" Pepper asked, concerned at how well he seemed to understand Tony's condition.
Steve's smile didn't quite meet his eyes. "You can't worry about everyone. I'll see what I can do about getting Tony in better shape. It might require rearranging his schedule."
"Anything you need," Pepper said. "I don't think he'd survive another complete breakdown."
Steve nodded and they sat in silence, sipping their tea.
Steve was completely unsympathetic the next morning, coming into Tony's room at exactly 10:05am after knocking unnecessarily loudly on the door.
"I hate you," Tony said, bleary eyed and blinking as Steve flipped the light on.
"I brought you coffee," Steve said. "You have to stand up and come over here to get it."
Under most circumstances, Tony would be intrigued by this bossy, demanding side of Steve, but right now all he wanted to do was sleep until he wouldn't hurt from last night. He tried to pull his blanket over his head to block out the light, he was going to have to talk to JARVIS about getting dimmer lighting, but the comforter was ripped out of his hands and tossed to the floor.
"Hey!" Tony protested. "How did you know I wasn't naked under there?"
"I put you to bed," Steve said. "Now get up."
Apparently Captain I've Got a Stick up my Ass wasn't in the mood for jokes this morning. Well, Tony wasn't in the mood for being harassed when he felt like his head was going to explode. His body felt too heavy, and all he wanted to do was go back to sleep.
"You're obnoxious, this morning."
"I'm on a strict schedule, today," Steve said. "You have ten minutes to be dressed before I'm leaving."
Leaving? Finally, Tony thought, grabbing an extra pillow to curl around. He wondered if Steve would give him his blanket back before he left the room. He looked over at Steve to ask and realized for the first time that Steve wasn't in his usual get-up. He was still wearing his impossibly tight pants and a non-descript white v-neck, but he had a Mets cap on his head. Was this Tony's mind playing tricks on him again?
"I thought you were a Dodgers fan."
"They moved to the other side of the country while I was asleep. I'm going to the game today. I have two tickets." Steve checked his watch. "I'm leaving the Tower in eight minutes."
Two tickets. A schedule. Things started to click. "You want me to come to the game with you?"
Steve grinned. "There's that genius mind you're famous for." He put Tony's coffee down on the table. "Seven minutes."
With that final warning, Steve strode out of the room, leaving Tony to throw himself out bed. The movement was too much too fast, and Tony's stomach revolted. He rushed to his bathroom, gasping for breath over the toilet, but luckily he didn't throw up. This was going to be one of those days where he got excited about the little things.
Such as the glass of water and Advil on his bedside counter. He wasn't sure whether that had been Steve or Pepper, but he was willing to kiss them both.
By the time Tony made it to the living room, he only had a minute left. He'd struggled getting into his jeans, the zipper and button almost too much for him, but he wasn't going to wear sweatpants to a baseball game with Steve. Not going wasn't an option either, no matter how tempting his bed was.
Steve was in his power stance in the living room, legs spread a little more than shoulder width apart, arms crossed over his chest when Tony walked in. The effect should've been ruined by the baseball cap, but it completed the 'I'm a super soldier from the 1940s' look. Or maybe that was the brown leather jacket Steve insisted on wearing everywhere.
"You want anything before we go?" Steve asked.
"Aren't you afraid to ruin your perfectly timed schedule?" Tony grinned and grabbed a granola bar from the cabinet. He didn't want it right now, but he'd be hungry later.
"I don't want us to miss the train," Steve said, heading toward the elevator. Usually he ran up and down the stairs for the exercise, but he was thirty seconds behind schedule.
"Train?" Tony echoed, following him. "Why are we taking the train?"
"I like trains."
Of course he did, Tony thought. He probably liked making model airplanes too. Tony made a mental note of that, deciding that if today went well then he'd buy one for Steve to put together. And by went well, Tony meant he really hoped he didn't throw up on the train. Close quarters, questionable smells, and sudden jerky movements didn't seem like very good idea in his state, but Steve's eyes were shining with boyish excitement under the brim of his hat, and Tony couldn't ruin that.
"How'd you talk Pepper into this?" Tony asked as they headed down into the subway.
"It was a mutual decision," Steve said, "and Sundays aren't a particularly busy day for you."
Tony had forgotten it was Sunday. It was a Sunday, and he'd gotten up before noon. If Steve didn't look so adorably perplexed by sticking his ticket in the slot so he could get through to the train, Tony might be angry.
"Here," Tony said, taking one of the tickets from Steve so he could show him how to do it. Their fingers brushed, for the briefest moment, and Tony couldn't help his small smile as the ticket popped up in another slot and the doors opened letting him pass through.
"Huh," Steve said, standing and just staring.
"Schedule?" Tony reminded, but there was a large smile on his face. He should take Steve out into the world more, if he got so excited about all the little things. He wished he'd been there when Steve first discovered automatic doors.
"Right," Steve said, collecting himself, and putting his ticket through.
"So, you're a big baseball fan?" Tony asked as they headed down yet another flight of stairs to where their train would pull up.
"Yep. Baseball and the army. Those were the only two things I cared about as a kid."
"You ever think about playing?" Tony asked, looking at the bench debating sitting for a moment before deciding he wasn't going to risk whatever disease might be on it. Steve, of course, sat down without a second glance.
Steve laughed, shaking his head. "I wasn't the athletic type. You want to sit down?" He motioned to the empty space beside him, and Tony wrinkled his nose. "You aren't this much of a priss when you're drunk," Steve said. "I distinctly remember you sitting down on the sidewalk last night."
"I believe that was because you dropped me," Tony said. He should probably burn his clothes from last night. It wasn't like it would be hard to get new ones.
"Come on, sit," Steve said, pulling Tony down onto his lap. "Pepper said that you're going to be tired all day. She also said you were going to be cranky."
"You and Pepper have been talking a lot," Tony said. It was supposed to come out accusingly, but then Steve lightly looped his arms around Tony's waist, folded his hands on Tony's legs, and rested his chin on Tony's shoulder, and Tony couldn't find it in him to be angry.
Steve's chest was warm against his back, and it was almost like he was holding Tony, and Tony had to fight the urge to curl up in Steve's arms like some kind of overgrown cat. They were on their way to a baseball game, and they were both grown men which meant no cuddling. This was why Tony got drunk all the time. That was the only situation it was acceptable for him to cuddle other people.
"We have similar interests," Steve said.
"What, me?" Tony asked, teasing.
Steve didn't have to answer, because their train arrived, and he almost dropped Tony to the ground in his excitement to get up. Tony laughed as Steve rushed him to the yellow line, trying to guess where the train's doors were going to open. When the doors whooshed open, Tony had to put a hand on Steve's arm so he wouldn't trample the people trying to get off.
"You really like trains," Tony said as Steve claimed a standing spot, wrapping one of his large hands around the metal pole coming out of the ground.
"It's nice to see that not everything's changed," Steve said.
Tony gripped the same pole, even though he knew he should sit down, but Steve had that enthusiastic smile on his face, and Tony didn't want to miss a minute of it. Of course, when the train lurched to a start, Tony almost fell, his balance not nearly as good as it usually was. Steve's free arm slipped around his waist, helping to hold him up.
"See? Aren't they fun?"
Tony's was stomach rolling, his head was pounding, and his knees were shaking from the lack of food in his system, but he nodded, because he didn't want to ruin this for Steve.
Tony suspected Pepper's influence in acquiring the tickets, because they were sitting right on the first base line, and he didn't think Steve understood computers or credit cards well enough yet to order tickets online. He'd have to do something extra nice for Pepper. A new pair of shoes? One of those fruit things that was supposed to look like a bouquet of flowers? He'd have to think about it, but not right now. Right now he was starving.
"I'm going to grab something to eat," Tony said. "You want anything?"
His question went unanswered. Steve was leaning forward in his seat, watching the players warm up like it was bottom of the ninth, two outs, bases loaded, and the home team down by 1. One of the Mets was sideways skipping through the outfield, rotating his shoulders, trying to get his body loose. Tony shook his head, deciding he'd buy enough food now to last them through the game, because he didn't think Steve was going to move until the stadium was empty.
Tony came back with three hotdogs, two hamburgers, cracker jacks, cotton candy, and two sodas.
"A little help?" he asked, trying not to drop anything.
Steve tore his gaze away from the field, shocked when he looked at Tony. Was that some kind of new magic or had he missed the man leaving? Tony impatiently cleared his throat, and Steve remembered he was supposed to be doing something. He took the drinks and set them down in the cup holders, before grabbing a hotdog and a hamburger. Tony put the cracker jacks and cotton candy down for later and dug into his hot dog.
"They don't have beer anymore?" Steve asked after he had finished chewing and swallowing his first bite of hotdog.
"They do," Tony said through a mouthful of bun and ketchup. "You want one?"
Steve shook his head, a smile on his face that Tony didn't understand. Tony shrugged and went back to his hotdog. He felt like he could eat for days. He really needed to stop drinking like he had last night. Not only did he feel like crap in the morning, but he was going to put on twenty pounds if he ate like this too often.
They finished their lunch as line-ups started being announced, and Steve went to throw out the trash while the Marlins were introduced.
Top of the fifth, the Mets were up 3-2, but the Marlins had the bases loaded, two outs. Steve was on the edge of his seat, watching as RA Dickey wound up for his pitch. The ball cracked off Giancarlo Stanton's bat, and Steve held his breath as the ball began to sail toward homerun territory.
The centerfielder hit the warning track and caught the ball, a relieved sigh passing through the crowd. Steve leaned back in his seat, shifting as he realized that stadium seats weren't made for men his size. He stretched his legs out, his knee brushing Tony's, missing the smile that crept up Tony's face.
It was four o'clock by the time they got back to Stark Tower, and Steve was wearing his Mets hat proudly after at 6-4 victory. Tony was exhausted, desperately in need of a nap, but he didn't want this afternoon to end. He was still grinning from the absolute delight on Steve's face when he discovered cotton candy, and he wondered how soon he could get a cotton candy machine installed in the Tower. He put it on his list of things to do tomorrow when thinking was easier.
"You should rest until dinner," Steve said, guiding Tony back to his room. "Pepper says you have a full day tomorrow, and you aren't allowed to be grumpy for it."
"Full days always make me grumpy," Tony said, but the idea of his bed sounded really good right now. The idea of Steve in his bed with him sounded ever better. He had reached the stage of overtiredness where it almost felt like he was floating, registering things just a moment too late, like the fact that he was sitting on the edge of his bed, and Steve was helping him get his shoes off.
"You just love getting me into bed," Tony said, waggling his eyebrows.
Steve's hands paused on Tony's second shoe before he took it off and brought them over to Tony's closet.
"I'll have JARVIS wake you when dinner's ready," Steve said, picking Tony's blanket up off the floor where they'd left it this morning.
"Wait," Tony said, reaching his hand out to grab Steve's wrist before he'd given what he was about to do any thought.
Steve stilled, confused, and Tony floundered around for something to say. He shouldn't have said anything after Steve didn't respond to his flirting, but he hadn't meant to be suggestive. That wasn't what he was looking for from Steve. He liked the easy way Steve's arm fit around his, the spark of warmth he felt whenever Steve's knee brushed his at the game, but it was missing something. Steve had done that out of necessity or by accident. Tony wanted to Steve to hold him on purpose, because he wanted to, because Tony was worth being with.
"Stay?" he finally asked, his fingers softening around Steve's wrist so Steve could leave if he wanted to but not willing to completely let go.
"You ask me this when you're drunk as well," Steve said, unsure what to do. He could brush Tony off when he was his eyes were lidded, seductive, but right now? There was a rare vulnerability in Tony's eyes, a desperation in the touch of his hand that made Steve hesitate.
"I just want you to hold me," Tony said. "Scout's honor."
A small smile curved Steve's lips. "I have difficulty believing that you were ever a Boy Scout."
Even so, he slipped his shoes off and climbed into bed with Tony. Tony rested his head on Steve's chest, and Steve's arms wrapped around him, almost surprised when there was no witty comment at hand or hand trailing up his thigh. This hadn't been a joke. Tony's fingers were fisted in the fabric of Steve's shirt, and Steve realized for the first time what Tony really needed.
"You should've said something," Steve said, even though he knew admitting weakness wasn't something Tony Stark was known for doing. All of the drinking binges suddenly made sense, how cuddly Tony got when he was drunk, how he'd started drinking more after the first time Steve caught him when he stumbled. It was all for a touch, for the hope of something more. Steve couldn't believe he hadn't seen it earlier.
"I did," Tony said. "Multiple times."
"When I knew you meant what you were saying," Steve corrected. He ran his hand through Tony's hair, and Tony let out a contented sigh before snuggling closer.