Note: Is there a category for Romance that's more friendship with a dash of love on the side? Just a thought.


Public Displays of Affection:

It Could Have Been Worse

Because they were the Avengers, things could never be quiet for too long. A group of would-be terrorists attempted to kidnap Bruce that night.

Apparently Bruce was on a grocery run. Tony later scoffed at this, reminding them that Jarvis had full control of their kitchen and could have whatever they wanted at their front door more quickly than they would have it getting it themselves. Regardless, Bruce had gone to the store down the street, and a couple of men with guns attempted to snatch him.

Steve was in the middle of telling Tony about growing up in Brooklyn when the man's phone beeped, and Jarvis suddenly spoke in his typical calm, British drawl.

"Sir, Dr. Banner is currently destroying a motor vehicle on Seventh Street."

Tony stared at Steve, who looked at the phone in shock.

"Please tell me he's using explosives," Tony murmured.

"The news feed shows him using his fists."

"Damn it," Tony grumbled, tossing his napkin on the table. "Tell Happy I need the Mark V."

"Yes, sir."

While Steve was disappointed at the abrupt end to the night—as far as dates went, it wasn't bad (and that was saying something, considering his first date since waking up from the ice was with the guy he had initially thought to be a colossal asshole)—he was not displeased. Tony's response was automatic and comforting, regardless of his complaining.

"Thor had to choose this week for a home visit," Tony griped. The waiter came hustling over as they left the table, looking frantic. Tony held out a business card before the poor man could guess at why such a valued customer was stalking out. "Contact my assistant for the bill. We're in a hurry. Cap, I hope you're okay without the uniform."

"The food was great," Steve assured the baffled waiter. He hurried after Tony, who was almost to the door. It was rather impressive how fast the guy could be while appearing to be moving at a leisurely pace. "What's the plan for keeping the Hulk from destroying anything else?"

"I thought we could appeal to his inner child," Tony said, accepting the metal suitcase Happy handed him. Steve never said anything, but it was always an impressive thing to watch the result of Tony's ingenious engineering unfold into the Iron Man armor. He kept an eye on it, always fascinated and a little leery of the machinery and how the people around them were suddenly enraptured by their presence. Happy handed him his shield, to which Steve nodded his thanks.

"Meaning?" he asked as the helmet clanked into place, hiding Tony from view.

"We'll wave shiny things in front of him and hope he gets interested." People were cheering now, but Steve was focused. He hooked an arm over Iron Man's shoulder, felt the solidness of the metal arm hug tight around his waist, and they were airborne.

Flying with Iron Man was always an interesting experience. Tony sometimes forgot that his passenger did not have the kind of protection he did. It was difficult to breathe at the speeds Iron Man traveled, but the trip was usually short enough that it never became an issue. The only time it ever had, Jarvis had been kind enough to alert Tony as to the discomfort of his passenger, and the situation was immediately rectified.

They landed less than thirty seconds later. Hulk was not so far from Stark Tower. He was as Jarvis had called it, big and green and stomping on the remains of what had been a large white van. The damage did not appear to be all that bad yet. Most of the destructive force was focused on that van. The window to the boutique behind the Hulk was broken, the still body of a man draped over fallen mannequins. Otherwise, the street had mostly cleared, and it was just Hulk and the offending vehicle.

"I'll check the civilians," Steve said, slipping easily into Captain America mode even without the full uniform. "See if you can calm him down."

"Calm him down," Tony echoed.

"You were the one who wanted to wave something shiny at him," Steve said. "Shiny armor. Go distract him."

"You're hilarious." Despite his sardonic words, Tony had already turned toward the Hulk.

Steve hurried over to the boutique. He would have traded places with Tony—gladly would have taken the risk he was asking Iron Man to take—but he knew the situation well enough to know that would have been a bad call. In the suit, Tony could move much more quickly than he could, and there was the convenient fact that Tony could fly up, out of range in an instant if need be. Plus, Hulk seemed to like Iron Man and was that much less likely to kill him in his rage.

The still man in the window was unconscious, not dead, which was a relief. Steve glanced around, spotted a few people hiding in the back of the shop, and looked back to the situation on the street. It… did not look good.

Hulk had gotten hold of Tony. His big hand was wrapped around the Iron Man armor, giving every appearance of being a large green kid playing with an action figure. Steve had seen small girls hold their Barbie dolls like that, and it was so wrong, but that was exactly what this reminded him of.

"Damn it." He twisted, prepared to throw his shield. If he could hit Hulk's arm, it might startle him into dropping Tony.

But Tony's mask suddenly flipped up. Their eyes met, and Steve felt his arm lowering, warned off by that look. It took a moment to hear anything over the sudden rush of blood in his ears, but he could see Tony struggling to smile and talk to the Hulk, wincing a bit when the Hulk gave him a rough shake once. Steve tensed again, forcing his ears to hear over the distant sirens. They needed to have this figured out before the police arrived, or this could get very bad very quickly.

"So… back to the Tower?" Tony was asking, sounding caught between hope and terror. The fear was fairly well expected. They had faced down demi-gods, alien races, and press conferences, but that was the Hulk, and he could crush Tony to death in a second if he chose to do so. Steve was ready to step in again. He was beginning to think this had been a mistake. They should have called in backup.

Then Hulk looked at him. Steve froze up solid, because of all the things he had faced in this world, the Hulk was the one thing he was certain would crush him like a bug. He wouldn't stand a chance. He was not at all soothed when Hulk started growling, even when Tony tapped at the arm holding him to regain his attention.

"Hey. Hey, buddy. You're scaring Captain America." As unflattering as that statement was, it was true, and it got Hulk to look back at Iron Man. Tony's smile looked a bit shaky. Steve was amazed he could manage it at all. Especially when faced with sudden and loud snarling, and Hulk giving Tony a rough shake. They would be lucky if Tony didn't have whiplash after this. "Right. Augh. Shit. Bruce. Hulk. Buddy, you… just tell me what's wrong."

Hulk was not a talkative fellow. He could talk. Steve had heard it. But it obviously took effort, and he did it only infrequently. Tony, on the other hand, probably had to expend more effort not to talk than it did for Hulk to spit out a few words.

Steve would have smiled at the thought had Hulk not been a fist away from killing Iron Man.

"Stupid kidnappers."

He frowned. Wait. What? Tony looked equally confused, but only for a moment. The man blinked and looked over at Steve, then at the unconscious man behind him. It clicked then, and Steve hurried to restrain the man for when he woke.

"Yeah, that was kind of stupid," Tony remarked. "Hey. Why don't you head home, and we'll do the cleanup here, okay? Just… try not to scare Barton, okay? He's been touchy all week since Doc Oc broke his favorite bow."

Hulk grunted and frowned at Tony. It was a very human reaction, and Steve was not overly surprised that it was directed at Stark. That man could baffle anyone into an expression like that. Obviously.

Apparently the rapid fire talking had a soothing effect because Hulk suddenly started shrinking. He gave a grunt, opened his hand (Tony hit the ground with a startled yip, flailing a bit to keep upright), and staggered back into Banner's half-clothed form.

Steve hurried forward, steadying Banner and wincing in sympathy at the oversized finger-shaped grooves in the armor. They didn't seem to be causing Tony any problems with movement, though, so he suspended his worry for the billionaire to make certain Dr. Banner was unharmed.

The police arrived while Bruce pulled on Steve's sports coat. While Steve was sure they were all grateful for their lateness, he still had to wonder what they thought they could have done against the Hulk had they been much earlier. Tony largely ignored them, his attention on the wreckage of the van. Banner smiled wryly at Steve, and they faced the officers together.

Fortunately, the damage was minimal. There were a few cracks in the sidewalk and pavement that had probably not been there before. The boutique needed a new storefront window (Stark Industries would be footing the bill for that). Happy showed up, and Steve had to wonder how he had started his evening with Tony but was going home with Bruce. Because Iron Man was taking the remains of the van to the police impound.

Still. As far as first dates went, Steve had to admit that he had suffered through worse.


Steve had been in Tony's penthouse a few times since its remodel. The first time he saw it, he admitted he had paid little attention to it. Loki had been there, and the place had been trashed, and there were so many other things he needed to worry about.

It looked much better now, of course. Everything about it was big and sleek and hard materials and soft edges, and it was so very Tony that Steve could not imagine anyone else ever residing here. There was even a workbench (Tony's word for it, since Steve never would have known what to call that futuristic-looking slab).

Tony was there now, oblivious to Steve's arrival. There was a glass next to him, empty aside from melting ice. His hand flitted about in the space before him, manipulating the three-dimensional laser display in ways Steve never could have dreamed in his wildest imagining. Fury had a difficult time surprising him anymore, but Tony still stunned him on a regular basis.

"Dr. Banner was heading for the grocer when three men attempted a snatch and run," Steve announced. This was information Tony would want to know, even if he had not yet asked for it.

"Anyone know where the other two got off to?" Tony asked, not pausing or looking away from his work.

"Police said they would look, but it happened quickly, and Banner wasn't able to give much of a description." He watched, fascinated by the dance of Tony's hands through the air and the light show that followed. "Hopefully, they learned their lesson."

"Well, attempting to kidnap the Hulk is never a good life choice," Tony said dryly. Steve chuckled and came to a stop beside him. Tony's hands stilled, and Steve turned, a little surprised to see that Tony was watching him. Usually when he encroached upon the man's work time, he was ignored but for some mild banter. Tony cleared his throat and looked back to his… well, whatever that was. "Is he okay? Bruce, I mean."

"Fine. Worried about you, actually."

"Me," Tony's lips twitched, a smile and then not. "Whatever for?"

"We all saw the damage to the suit," Steve reminded him gently.

"Ah, well that'll take some work to fix." Tony waved in a direction, and Steve looked, but the pathway where Jarvis would have removed Tony's suit was well over their heads, and he could not see anything amiss. "I've got other suits. It's fine."

"We weren't worried about the Iron Man armor," Steve scolded. "How's your neck?"

Tony gave the air in front of him a broad swipe, and everything disappeared. Steve blinked, briefly disappointed at the loss. But he had wanted to talk to Tony, and it was better that there were fewer distractions. He was not sure what to make of the cool look Tony was giving him now, though.

Experience told him that flat stare was not a good look. It usually preceded a comment that was contradictory, snide, or just plain hurtful. Steve was not as smart as Stark, but he was not stupid enough to let Tony have the next word. It was better to get to his real intentions as quickly as possible, or Tony would distract him, and he would leave wondering what had just happened.

"Since we didn't get to eat earlier, I took the liberty of having Clint order an extra pizza for us," he declared. "Then, I believe you mentioned you had a chess board."

It was impossible not to smile at the bewilderment on Tony's face. That was a much better look than the calculating one of before.

"It's not as traditional as dinner and a walk in the park, but you're not really a traditional kind of guy," Steve said. "You okay if we finish our date here? We can go out next time."

"You," Tony started, stopped, hmmed, and tried again. "Next time?"

Steve smiled, hoping he was not being presumptuous. But he had been having a good time, and it seemed that Tony was as well. He had caught Tony watching him over the past few weeks. The attraction was definitely there. Given Tony's reputation, Steve was surprised it had taken him this long to invite him out in the first place. Now, it was becoming fairly obvious that something was bringing him up short. Steve was going to have to make the next move.

"Unless the date was over for you before we were interrupted."

"What? No! Of course not!" Tony looked at him suspiciously. "I was having—and you were—the dinner… were you having a good time?"

He laughed and was struck by the urge to kiss Tony. He didn't. Not yet. They had not yet made it through their first date after all. He settled for giving Tony's arm a squeeze and tugging him out of his chair.

"Come on," he said warmly. "Let's have a drink."


TBC...

Yes, I made mention of a Spiderman villain. I need to familiarize myself with Avengers villains, dang it! (As a side note, I'm not one hundred percent on which armor is the one that opens from a suitcase. If I'm totally wrong in that and someone knows the correct name, feel free to tell me. I will fix it.)