Public Display

Done. All done. The bad guys were dead and fallen, citizens saved once again by the Avengers, cue the confetti and adoring fans, probably a parade and a lot of press contact that Tony Stark didn't want any part of. He stood in the middle of the rubble and settling dust, catching his breath, the crowd around them either cheering or pushing themselves off the ground and helping their loved ones up as EMTs stormed the area for the wounded. Bruce had gone off to collect himself somewhere, Natasha and Clint looking each other over, trying not to be too obvious in their anxiety to be sure the other was okay. He turned looking for Steve, knowing he'd have that simple smile on his face with that stupid mask over his eyes like always. Their eyes -well, his weird light things and his eyes anyway- would meet and Steve would quickly look away, blushing just a little because he was still too afraid for anyone around them to know.

This time, though...

Their eyes did meet, but Steve was getting a lot closer than he would usually allow, finding the small button beneath his jawline that pulled back his mask, taking the hard metal of his waist in his hand, moving too quickly and acting on whim. Before Tony could do anything, pull away, warn him, anything, Steve had tilted his chin and placed the softest, most passionate and innocent kiss on his lips that had ever graced them before.

Granted, he had kissed Steve many times before, but there was something different about this. About right now.

He kissed back without hesitation, gripping his shoulder to steady himself, lost to the rest of the world and content to stay that way.

Steve jerked away abruptly, parting their lips with a quiet smack. He looked around, at all of the people that had stopped to stare, paling to a ghostly color, tinged green. The super-soldier, Captain America, was absolutely terrified.

"Steve?"

What did he have to be afraid of? Yeah, relationship publicity wasn't the best in the world but what does this enormous -gorgeous- guy have to be afraid of? It's not like people will-

Oh.

Oh.

"Steve," he said, reaching out to touch his shoulder. He pulled away, tearing his eyes away from the onlookers to the pavement, confused and still... "Steve, it's alright, they-"

"I have to go."

He stalked away, waiting until he was almost out of sight before he started running, bolting in the opposite direction, mask already off, shield left behind because someone would get it and take it with them, surely.

Tony will. Tony'll take it with him, because Tony does that kind of stuff for you. Tony...

He'd kissed another man in public. In front of all of those people, cameras. He saw some of their faces. Some indifferent, some surprised, some smiling...some scowling with disgust. Shame crept inside his mind and his heart, Biblical verses bombarding his memories and screaming at him he was wrong. Those people's faces told him he was wrong.

He leaned his head back against the wall behind him, the alley giving him enough cover not to be noticed by passerby, so torn, so confused at what his heart was making him feel.

The moment made him do it. Being so happy, that triumph of winning and the adrenaline all contributing to the urge to just, just kiss him because he wanted to. Because he could and it would release some of that energy. He was happy, and kissing Tony just made him all the more happy. It was a logical step!

He still felt so wrong. He thought of his father, of his friends, all of those people that must be so disappointed in him, so disgusted and horrified by what he was doing.

And on the other hand there was Tony.

The snarky, witty asshole that could be a complete and total jerk eighty-five percent of the time. The same man he caught in his arms while he was on the verge of tears and held him with no questions asked. To this day he never knew why. That other fifteen percent, alone, or sometimes not so alone, he could be sweet, caring, compassionate and brave. He'd seen that bravery firsthand. Every time Tony came into the room his heart sped, his stomach turned over and he fought the smile that always wanted to spring to his cheeks. It scared him, feeling this way. He fought himself at every turn and finally agreed that yes, in private, he would allow himself to be in love with Tony.

He wasn't ready to be this public. Wasn't ready for the publicity and the chaos that would surely ensue. He thought the press was bad before but this...this would be global in seconds, milliseconds even, which is something he still didn't have a grasp on. He wasn't ready for this.

He closed his eyes, the screaming in his head, the fighting making his temples throb. He slid to the ground, face in his knees. Tearing himself apart from the inside out.


"I am confused," Thor admitted, breaking the awkward silence -and stares from the highly rude Natasha and Clint- that had fallen over the team in the middle of this crowd, the police still gathering evidence around them and shooing the citizens back to their lives. "I was certain Master Stark and the Captain of the America were merely good friends."

"Trust me, I did too," Widow admitted, looking at Tony. "I wonder if Ms. Potts does."

"Either way, it's none of your business, is it?" Tony said curtly.

"Kind of came out of nowhere," Clint added.

"Do I ask about your personal life, Robin Hood?" He snapped, looking between the two. Thor frowned.

"Hey," Bruce said, jogging over to them. He paused, looking around at everyone. "I missed something, didn't I?"

Tony ignored the question, plucking Steve's shield from the ground. "Jarvis, let's go home."

"Of course, sir."

He kicked off the destroyed concrete into the air, away from their stupid questions and stupid faces. "Flying music, please."

AC/DC blared in his ears, drowning out the thoughts he'd have plenty of time to dwell about at home while he waited for Steve to get his spangled ass back there.


Tony had been staring at the bottle for a good forty minutes, tracing the lines on the shield absently, arguing as to whether he should simply get rid of the entire thing all together, or just have one.

C'mon, Tony, let's be realistic. As if you could just have one.

He shook his head, sighing. "Twenty minutes," he said to himself. "Twenty minutes and I'm not waiting anymore. I'll go look for him myself."

"Look for who?"

He whipped around, relief settling over him, his shoulders relaxing, a long exhale leaving his lungs. "You," he said simply. "I was starting to worry."

Steve came closer, his uniform discarded for a white T-shirt and sweats. "Did I mess anything up? What I did today, I mean."

"Saving an entire city from being destroyed by a psychopath? What's wrong with that?" He teased. Steve didn't smile. He looked at the floor, speaking softly.

"No...the...the other thing." He glanced at him, revealing a vulnerability Tony didn't see often. No one saw it often. Soldiers are meant to be strong and protect, not look like lost puppies that fear they've done something to upset you.

"Let's see," he began, peering outside. "Hm, sky's still in tact...the world isn't in a frenzy. The only aliens we know are either locked up or snoring downstairs, so there's no fear of that. My company's stock went up, the world didn't collapse underneath us." He smiled gently, walking toward him and handing him a drink. "One little kiss won't end the world, babe."

Steve took the drink out of courtesy but left it untouched. "Was it on the news?" He whispered.

"Yep. Fox, CNN, local, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, every blog and Facebook status all over the world had something to say about it," he said simply, watching his face. Steve winced, setting the glass on the counter beside him. "Steve," he said gently, grasping his arm and ducking to meet his eyes. "It's not like it was back then. People don't get into trouble for this kind of thing anymore."

"No, but people think they still should," he said firmly. "Senator Rick Santorum said-"

"Oh, honey, he's full of more ungodly crap than Hell's sewage system," he scoffed. "Look at me," he lifted his chin. "I promise you, there's nothing wrong with what you're feeling. If people don't like what you and I have, they can get the hell over it. I like you. I want to be with you. I'll find a way to write it in the sky if I want to, but I'm not going to do anything that makes you uncomfortable."

"I didn't want everyone to know," he said, so desperate and...and hurt. "I didn't want them to think we were bad people or-"

"Damn it, Steve, listen to me," he demanded. "This," he took his hand, "is okay. It's okay, now, you don't have to hide-"

"It goes against what I was raised to believe!" He spat, pulling away from him. "Everything my parents, my preacher, everyone around me said told me this, " he roughly grabbed his wrist, brandishing it in front of his face, "was wrong. I have my faith, my religion, Tony. Am I...I just supposed to abandon that, abandon a God that keeps me going and allows me to do the things that I do for someone I lo-" He swallowed, clearing his throat. "For someone I really care about?"

Tony nodded, lips pursed. "Baptist?"

"Catholic," he corrected.

"Alright, I see your Catholicism and I raise you a Jesus," he smirked. "Jarvis, look up everything Jesus said about homosexuality."

There was a beep before, "there are no results, Mr. Stark."

Tony waited, looking at Steve as he stood there with his eyes shut, head down.

"So, if the guy that changed all the rules and made better ones doesn't think it's a big deal, then what's the big deal?" He offered quietly.

Steve finally looked up, stagnant tears in his eyes. "What if...what if my dad isn't proud of me anymore?"

That's what did it, the blow that he may never recover from. "Come here." He wrapped his arms around him, holding him, smoothing his hair. "Shh...shh...You can't think like that, okay? He'd be crazy not to be. You save so many lives every day doing what you do."

"But, but now I'm-"

"Wanting to be with me and being gay are two totally different things, sweetheart," he assured, cradling his face. "Look, let me handle the press. What we do together, who we are to each other is none of their business. Whatever you want to tell them, I'll tell them. If you don't want me to tell them anything I can do that too. It's whatever you want. As long as you're with me I don't really give a damn either way."

"Whatever I want?" Steve whispered. Tony nodded, hugging him again simply because the look on his face was too painful.

"Whatever you want."

"I..." He swallowed, trying to find strength to put in his voice. "I just want you to hold me."

"Done," he said immediately. "But let's go upstairs first."

"To, um, to your bedroom?" He asked, cheeks flushed. Tony smiled.

"Don't worry, I'm not out to steal your virtue. Completely innocent sleepover. Scout's honor," he smirked. Steve grinned, the tears on his face drying slowly.

"I get it, I understand that one. That was a joke, right?" Tony laughed, shaking his head.

"Come on, old man."

Steve looked around the bedroom, the dim glow from the reactor illuminating it enough to let him see.

"Sorry about the night light," Tony said breezily, knowing Steve saw right through the insecurity. He smiled shyly, sitting on the bed, adorably uncomfortable and unsure precisely what he should do with his hands. He looked up at him, offering an offensively cute half-smile.

"I like it," he whispered, tracing it through his shirt. "I spent seventy years in the dark. I don't think light'll bother me again." Tony frowned, touching his cheek.

"I can kiss you right now, right?" He said. Steve's smile grew.

"Absolutely."

He pressed their mouths together, suckling his lower lip, trying not to smirk when Steve gasped and kissed deeper, cradling Tony's face while his fingers were tangled in the captain's hair. His free hand slipped down his chest, feeling the hard muscles surrounded by soft, warm skin beneath the straining shirt. Hunger to feel him burned in his stomach, sending his hand under the shirt to feel just how soft he knew he was.

"Tony," Steve protested, receding into himself and pulling away, the blush back.

"Sorry, sorry," he said, shaking his head and retracting his hand. "I get carried away." He sat beside him, swinging his legs around so he was laying down. "Come here, I'll hold you."

Steve turned, curling against him, his head on his chest beside the reactor, shutting his eyes.

"You sure this thing doesn't bother you?" Tony whispered. Steve smiled, placing his hand over it.

"It's keeping you alive and keeping a lot of really bad memories away by doing so. How could I not like it?" He mumbled, half asleep. Tony sighed.

"Good point." He kissed the top of his head. "No nightmares, okay?"

"I'll try," he said truthfully, looking up at him again. "As long as you will too."

"Promise."

They laid in silence for a moment, Tony gently rubbing Steve's back, hand over his, comforting him as best as he could.

"Hey, Tony?" Steve muttered.

"Mm?"

"Tomorrow, can you show me how to use video games?"

Tony grinned, chuckling softly. "It's your day off, babe." Steve smiled.

"Swell."

They drifted off to sleep, the hum of the reactor lulling Steve to slumber while Tony simply listened to him breathe.

Everything else could wait.

Tbc...