Notes: Apparently I must also write the thing where Captain America and Iron Man start dating. Yes, I have fallen into this trap. There were so many little scenes caught in my head, and I just could not resist it.
This is set post Avengers movie-verse for the most part (maybe by about six months to a year. Time has passed). Again, my knowledge of the series is sadly limited, so I do apologize for inaccuracies and any ooc-ness you may find within. (Oh, and further apologies for the severe lack in Thor and Natasha. I love both, but they both elude me, and somehow they end up on the periphery for most of the story. I am making the effort to fix this for my next foray into the fandom.)
Warnings: No major warnings for the story. Some language, an attempt at romance, and probable ooc-ness. Not beta read.
Public Displays of Affection
The conference with SHIELD took longer than usual that day. Perhaps it was unfair of Steve to think it, but he thought things would have gone much more quickly if Tony had not shown up to this particular meeting. The blame for that, of course, did not entirely fall on the billionaire, since it had been Steve who talked the man into coming. If Tony had his way, he would still be in his workshop ignoring the world in general.
But Tony was there, and he was worse than usual with his sarcastic banter. He did bring up several fair points, but all of them seemed especially slanted to cut down Fury and SHIELD To be fair, SHIELD had enough shady methods to make all of them uneasy, but Tony was being particularly argumentative today. Steve was secretly of the opinion that it was a passive-aggressive form of revenge on him for having dragged Tony along to the meeting none of them wanted to attend.
"You were just being difficult back there," he said when the meeting finally adjourned, and they made their way through the helicarrier's labyrinthine corridors. He was proven right when Tony tossed him a haughty look.
"I'm always like this," Tony retorted, despite the fact that he must have known Steve did not believe a word he said. "It's part of my natural charm."
"Fury didn't seem to find you charming," Steve said, but he was smiling, which really detracted from the way he was trying to be stern.
"That's because Fury's a big scary spy who has an image to uphold." Tony was never without a smartass remark. It was, as he said, part of his charm. Steve had to admit, Tony's charm was not in his words but in his actions, which were frequently more philanthropic than he probably realized.
For example, they were heading back to Stark Tower, which had become home to many of the Avengers. Even Steve, who had an apartment back when he was getting a regular salary from SHIELD, had moved in, along with Banner, Barton and sometimes Natasha and Thor. Those two were in and out, what with Natasha being Natasha and Thor being a god from another world with a girlfriend in New Mexico.
Tony had not so much offered them a place to stay as just presumed they were going to live there. Steve had only stopped in to visit after a lengthy trip across country. The next thing he knew, he was living in a room in Stark Tower and not knowing quite how it had happened. Tony had never officially made the offer, just the assumption that Steve would be staying. He still recalled the way Tony had never looked away from his computer tablet when he had mentioned getting an apartment.
"Do you intend to keep it close to the Tower, or should I arrange to upgrade their gym to accommodate you?" he had asked, casually and utterly serious, and Steve had not known quite how to respond.
"What…?" Steve had stammered, completely caught off guard. "Why would you do that?"
"You visit the gym when you're overloaded on energy," Tony had looked at him like it was the most natural thing to offer. "You should have one nearby that can take your kind of beating."
Steve had thought staying at the tower was an imposition, but moving out was seeming like even more of one.
"You have an income, don't you?" For some reason, the question Tony had asked was not embarrassing because of Tony's direct manner. The following question, however, was unpleasant, even with the casually dismissive manner. "Is SHIELD paying you still, or should I put you on payroll?"
"You can't put me on your payroll!" Steve had been utterly mortified. "I don't work for you!"
"I'll have Pepper put you down as my nanny." And Tony's fingers had danced across that crystal screen as he walked away, completely oblivious to what he was doing to Steve. "Don't think I haven't noticed you forcing meals on me. Bruce looks less wan too."
Steve was good at reading people, but Tony was always hard. It had taken a conversation with Banner to figure any of it out. Somehow the physicist understood Stark. He got him in a way no one else did—the way no one else even tried.
"You did your research back when SHIELD first brought you in," Bruce had set aside his glasses and focused on him. "He's a public figure—up there with Hollywood stars and Bill Gates."
Steve later had to look up Bill Gates, but he accepted the words as important. At least he understood the concept of Hollywood stars, so he got what Bruce was saying.
"He likes having people around him," Bruce had explained it so clearly. "He needs it. He just hasn't figured out how to say it yet."
"What should I do?" He had asked because he trusted Bruce to be straight with him. The man was always forthright.
"He'll be less unpleasant to be around if you just don't talk about it," was the suggestion. "Stay. Your checking account will be pleasantly padded by this time next week whether you do or not. I'm assuming you only talked about moving because you felt you were imposing."
"Well, yes, actually. I was under the impression he didn't much care for me." To that, Bruce had only smirked.
"If he didn't want you here, you wouldn't be."
That had been weeks ago, and Steve was still at Stark Tower.
"Earth to Captain Rogers." He blinked, then blushed when he realized Tony was holding the door for him and probably had been for quite some time while he had been wandering around, lost in his thoughts. Tony grinned. "Welcome back, Cap."
"Sorry, I was thinking."
"Something truly fascinating, then, since you were ignoring me."
"It was about you, actually," he said, enjoying Tony's startled blink. If he was to put a word to it, especially after he opted not to elaborate on his statement, he would have to admit that Tony actually looked quite adorable with that bemused look in his eyes.
"Right." A moment later the response came, Tony apparently deciding he could live with not knowing everything. Or perhaps plotting to find out later. Steve was going to have to watch the billionaire closely for a while. "So I was thinking food. Dinner."
"It's getting to be that time," Steve agreed. "We have chicken in the cooler. I could bake it. Or maybe cut it up and make chicken tacos."
"Actually, I thought we could go out," Tony said, and if he sounded a little stiff, Steve was not going to mention it. He was curious though, as to why Tony would be uncomfortable suggesting they have dinner out. "You and me? Celebrate another day Fury didn't break down and kill me out of frustration."
Steve frowned, processing this. Tony was studiously not looking at him, fussing with his high-tech phone as he was often wont to do. A glance to the side saw Natasha, Clint and Bruce walking along nearby, looking at them. Natasha had no expression, but that was not uncommon. Clint, on the other hand, looked utterly shocked, his eyes wide, gaping mouth working, trying to choose between a grin and a twist of something unpleasant. Steve had no idea which would be worse with Clint, so he looked to Bruce. The scientist's lips thinned, and he nodded curtly.
By this point Tony was fidgeting badly. Steve had taken way too long to reply.
"You know, it's okay," Tony said with a tight smile. "I've got work to do. I'll just order in—"
"I think dinner out sounds good," Steve interrupted. It was rude, but Tony never seemed to mind poor manners. Besides, if he let it happen, Tony would talk himself into a corner. He might not stop talking until they were completely off the helicarrier and then some. It was better to talk over him to shut him up. "Should I change, or is what I'm wearing okay?"
"Holy shit," Clint breathed, then grunted. Presumably Natasha elbowed him in the side. Steve appreciated the gesture. He was damn grateful for it when Tony's face lit up like a child presented with a treat.
"Excellent!" the man beamed. "I'll have Jarvis make reservations. You look fine. You always look fine. Have you seen a mirror lately, Cap? It's unfair to the rest of us that you can wear old man clothes and still look good."
"He has a point," Bruce murmured.
"No," Tony blurted. Steve looked at him in alarm. The others just seemed amused when Tony jabbed a finger at them (rather, more pointedly at Clint). "No. You're not invited. There's chicken in the fridge. Bruce can—"
"Relax, Stark," Clint cut in. Everyone knew the best way to get a word in edgewise with Tony was just by interrupting. Although, Clint had a look of unholy glee on his face, and Steve was tempted to cut him off to spare them all from what horrors he might spout. Tony was snarky, but Clint had a vicious streak. "Even I wouldn't try to sit in on a first date."
Tony quieted. His eyes flicked from Clint to Natasha to Bruce, who offered a faint smile. Bruce had a sly side too, one Steve frequently forgot about. The man was just so unassuming, all but blending into the background when he could. He did not actually Hulk out that easily, and while it was impossible to ever forget about the big guy, it was easy to forget what kind of things would frequently come out of Banner's mouth.
"Just watch the media circus," Bruce advised. "PDA could destroy you two."
Steve frowned and looked at Tony. PDA? Wasn't that one of the gadgets Tony liked to play with? That did not fit the context, so obviously Bruce meant something else. Tony was not forthcoming, but that was okay. Because Tony was completely silent, fussing with his phone, and looking like he would rather be anywhere else but in this place, having this conversation.
It was easy to forget his own embarrassment when Tony was that flustered. Steve claimed the seat next to him on the jet, nudged him with an elbow, and was gratified by the halfhearted glare Tony sent him from the corner of his eye.
This was so very worth Clint's muffled snickering.
Note: Tony is probably a bit more subdued in this story than he is in most stories I've read. True, he was always a womanizer, but when it's someone he actually wants as more than a quick lay, he seems to dance around a bit before actually diving in. (That's my interpretation anyway.)