"Wrong (But So Right)"
Tony Stark was always trying to introduce Steve to new-fangled things. Without other people around to set him straight, Steve was – sometimes – led down the wrong path. He'd taken to calling Agent Coul— no, he was supposed to call him Phil. He'd call Phil to check up on what Tony said if there was no one else to ask. Steve didn't trust Tony not to rig the internet so that it would confirm what he'd said. It was much safer to ask other people.
New Half-Year's Day didn't exist; Tony had admitted that. But he'd still insisted on making it official, and by the end of June there were New Half-Year's Day parties pop up all over the place. It was the most ridiculous thing Steve had heard of; but it made more sense to him than Christmas in July. Jesus wasn't even born in December; why not have a second celebration at the right time, instead of five months early?
So anything related to this new holiday was basically being made up by Tony and posted on his New Half-Year's Day website. Again, though, Steve didn't exactly trust the internet, or at least what Tony could make it show.
However, this new 'tradition' wasn't something he could discuss with Phil.
"Really?" he said. "You've got it up on your website that a midnight kiss applies to this, too?"
"Absolutely," Tony said, rocking on his heels, hands behind his back. "Haven't you checked it?"
"Uh, not yet."
"But you're going to, right?"
"Steve," Tony said, drawing out his name. "Don't you trust me?"
"Whatever could make you think otherwise, Tony?" he asked, baring his clenched teeth in a big, fake smile.
"I have no idea," Tony said, and he grinned before he turned away. "Ask Agent if you don't believe me."
But Steve couldn't bring himself to speak to Phil about kissing. Otherwise it might lead to him saying that he wanted to kiss Phil. Everywhere. Preferably all night, and all day if he could get away with it. Somehow he didn't think the agent would be all that interested, though. At the beginning, Steve might've had a chance, not that he'd ever want to take advantage of a fan's crush. But after he got to know Phil, and after Phil got to know him, Steve began to fall head over heels just as Phil's crush was waning. It was unfair, and unprofessional.
Not that that stopped the pining.
Romanov and Barton could tease him all they wanted; he knew it just meant that they cared. They could taunt him about his feelings for Steve (remember to call him Steve), even though the term 'crush' was not only childish but wildly inaccurate.
It was… it was something a bit more. The love that dare not speak its n… Oh. Well, all right. He'd now put the name to it. Love. Phil was pretty damn sure he was in love with Steve Rogers. That was… problematic. Steve was the kindest man Phil had ever met, polite, smart, handsome as all get out, and an artist to boot. He had excellent fighting skills, but he only fought when necessary, and never sought out trouble. (It just sort of came to him.) He could be gentle, he was humble, self-effacing, and just… wonderful, in a nutshell.
Phil was so gone on him that it was getting ridiculous.
He attempted to distract himself by going over the plans for Stark's New Half-Year's Day party. It was starting at nine o'clock this evening, the last day of June, and was going until one in the morning, first of July. Steve's birthday was three days later – how more patriotic could the man be? – and he knew that the soldier was planning to attend a street party in Central Park. Maybe Phil would go along; say that he'd always wanted to go, and that work had gotten in the way, but Fury had given him the day off, so—
It was now officially ridiculous.
"Boss, dress down tonight," Clint said, his upper body hanging from the vent in the ceiling. "Not too much – you don't want to look daggy – but good jeans, the tighter the better, and a nice shirt. No tie! Natasha's going to dress you herself. I'm not worried; we all know you have the hots for Cap."
Phil's jaw dropped. "The what for…? No, I don't! I don't know what gave you that impression, Bart—"
"You're no fun," Clint said. Then he stuck out his tongue and disappeared back into the vent without so much as a clang of metal-on-metal. Phil sighed, and tried to focus on his work. When it didn't work, he checked Stark's site again. Good. Nothing about any midnight kisses. As long as that tradition wasn't being enforced, there was no possibility that Phil might try to hang around Steve at eleven fifty-nine and then just go ahead and lay one on him. That would be a bad idea. Very bad.
When it was time to go home, Phil checked one last time. Was he simply paranoid?
Or was he wishing for the impossible?
Everyone was dancing with each other. The idea was for all barriers to drop, and you couldn't dance with someone more than once unless you were dating (or married to) them. Steve found it hard to keep away from Phil, but he didn't want it to be over with so soon, which it would be if they danced early. At least it was hard in the sense that he just wanted to sweep Phil up for a dance already; but it was easy in that Phil hadn't been near him since they said hello at the start of the night. Either Phil wasn't interested in dancing with him – an idea which hurt too much to consider for more than a second – or he wanted to wait awhile, too.
It was actually pretty fun. It was nice to have a party that wasn't because they'd survived another disaster or averted another apocalypse. They didn't even really hold birthday parties that much, because they were usually busy, and planning these things ahead of time tended to invite catastrophe. Friends and… well, no family, but friends and colleagues were there. There were different-coloured lights breaking the darkness, and JARVIS was playing a well-rounded selection of music.
"This is great," he told Agent Hill as he spun her around. She'd had a few drinks, and was smiling more than usual.
"Tell me about it," she said. "Only sorry I can't be here to see July in, but I've gotta get back to SHIELD. The director will take over here, though."
"I sure hope he smiles," Steve said without thinking. Hill laughed, to his relief.
"I won't tell him you said that," she said.
"He'll know anyway."
"He probably will."
"Are you sure he hasn't got some kind of brain-scanning machine in that eye-patch of his?"
"That's classified," Hill said. Then the song came to an end, and she had to leave. Steve saw her off to the balcony, where a Quinjet was waiting. He waved until the hatch was closed, and then headed back inside. The music seemed much louder after the still of the night.
"Hey, Cap!" Tony called, and he waved Steve over. "You haven't danced with Agent yet."
"He doesn't have to if he doesn't want to, Stark," Phil said, nearly scaring Steve out of his skin. He swivelled around, and gulped as he took in the sight of the agent close up. He was wearing nearly-black jeans (really, really tight ones) and a dark blue button-up shirt. The top two buttons were undone, showing some of Phil's collarbone. Steve just nodded, his tongue itching to taste, and he held out his hand.
"I'd like to, Phil," he said. Phil seemed to light up, and everything else sort of went away as they walked onto the dance floor. The music began, a piano playing familiar chords, and Steve recognised the Cole Porter song immediately.
"In the still of the night as I gaze from my window," the singer crooned. It sounded like Rosemary Clooney.
"It's a slow dance," Phil said. Steve wondered why it sounded like Phil was warning him.
"I don't mind," he said. Phil's eyebrows rose a little bit; but he stepped closer, and rested one hand high up on Steve's side, beside his chest, and raised his other hand. Steve took it, and slipped his free hand around Phil's waist to the curve of his lower back. His super soldier hearing picked up a tiny gasp, and he almost let go. But then Phil relaxed, and Steve remembered that the SHIELD agent could easily fight him off if he wanted to. He told himself to stop worrying, and just take advantage of his one dance for the night.
"Are you enjoying the party?" Phil asked. "You look like you have been."
"You've been watching me?" Steve said, heart starting to race. Phil looked to the side.
"I'm your handler, Steve," he said, and he glanced back up. "It's my job to make sure you're okay. And I know this isn't necessarily your thing—"
"No, no, it's fine," Steve said, even as he got a sinking feeling in his stomach. Phil was only being a good handler. That was all. He shouldn't read any more into it.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. Good. Great. I haven't been to a New Half-Year's Party before, but I've gotta say, it's a pretty good holiday."
"It seems that way," Phil said. He was giving Steve the piercing look he dreaded and desired. He feared that, one day, the agent would work it all out, and then everything between them would be ruined. But, conversely, he wanted to be the only one who bared all to Phil's gaze (in more ways than one). It was conflicting, and Steve just wanted it to be over.
And then the music stopped, and it was. And that was it for the night.
"Seven… six… five…"
When had the counting started?
"Happy New Half-Year, Steve," Phil said, and he smiled. It was the shy smile he used to give Steve, not long after they met.
"Happy New… ah, hell with it," Steve muttered. It was New Half-Year, after all. He cupped the back of Phil's neck and pulled him into a kind of uncoordinated, but definitely heartfelt, kiss.
It wasn't until he felt an answering hand on his neck that Steve realised, with a heady rush, that Phil was kissing him back. He was kissing back! Steve entangled his fingers in Phil's hair as he pulled the agent closer.
As the cheers quietened around them, Steve vaguely recalled that they were in public, at one of Tony's parties. He drew back, slow and reluctant, and marvelled at Phil's shiny red lips. They reminded him of Lola.
"Wow," Steve whispered.
His head whipped around and he stared at Barton, who saluted them with a cocktail. Then Steve realised that a lot of people were watching them.
"I didn't know kissing was supposed to happen," Pepper said, and she glanced at Tony. "That wasn't on the website."
Those words broke the spell. Horrified and embarrassed, Steve let go of Phil abruptly and moved back a couple of steps. Unable even to look at the agent, he turned his glare on Tony.
"In my defence," Tony said, "you did say you'd check the website."
"I was taking you at your word for once!" Steve said, waving his arms and nearly knocking someone over. "I trusted you, Stark. You told me that a midnight kiss applied, just like at New Year."
"Maybe we should take this somewhere more private," Phil said, quiet and authoritative as always. Steve caught a peek of his stony expression and looked away again. He'd be lucky if Phil ever forgave him for this. He probably already thought that Steve was an idiot.
"Yeah, you two should," Tony said, waving them away. "Absolutely."
"You're coming, too, Tony," Steve said. He wasn't dealing with this on his own. The billionaire sighed, and followed them to the kitchen, which was fortunately empty at the moment. He gestured them in, and Steve shuffled into the room first. Phil followed him a few paces behind. Then he fell against Steve when Stark shoved him forward and made sure the door was sealed behind them.
"Don't let them out until I say so, JARVIS," Steve heard him say.
"And no letting them over-ride, either."
"I wouldn't dream of it, sir."
"Smartass. Enjoy the party, boys!"
Phil rubbed his shoulder where Stark had pushed him. His injury from that alien sceptre still irritated him sometimes, even though it had healed over months ago. At least Stark had made contact with the other side. That didn't stop it from feeling tender.
"Are you hurt?" Steve asked softly. Phil smiled, and shook his head.
"Nothing to write home about," he said. "I'm… sorry that Stark tricked you."
"I just… you know I worry that he might fool me with some kind of fake webpage. But I really thought that he might've been telling the truth, not just pulling my leg. I mean, it seemed logical. I think everyone's singing 'Auld Lang Syne' right now." Phil could hear it, now that Steve had pointed it out.
"Why didn't you ask me?" he said. "I could've set you straight on it."
Steve shifted his weight from one foot to the other, and looked at the floor like it was the most fascinating thing in the world. "Well… I just couldn't… I couldn't talk about that with you. Kissing. I couldn't talk about kissing with you."
"Oh. Is it because, uh, the idea disgusts you?"
"No!" Steve's eyes nearly bugged out of his head as he looked up at Phil (finally). "No, that's not it at all."
"Then why didn't you—"
"I wasn't going to kiss anyone at all," Steve said. "Really. At least not like that. Just on the cheek, unless I thought I was gonna be decked." Phil looked like he really wanted to ask 'Why?' again, so Steve barrelled on. "You see, it's the opposite. With you. Always. I…" He rubbed the back of his neck. Why was this so damn hard to say? "I kissed you because I wanted to. And I didn't ask you about it because I was worried that I'd just come right out and say that. I figured that if I got to kiss you just once, I may as well have a good excuse for doing it, since you wouldn't want to under ordinary circumstances and it's not like you could really say no and I'm so sorry, Phil. I made you uncomfortable out there, and if I could take it back…"
"…Steve, I'm trying to understand here. Could you help me?"
Steve exhaled slowly. Phil wished his heartbeats would settle before he could go into cardiac arrest. That would really break the mood of the party, and Steve would fret over it again… Oh. He was speaking.
"…know you don't love me, which is why it's been so awful, and I never would've forced a kiss on you. I swear, even at Christmastime, I'll just avoid all the mistletoe, I prom—"
"Do you love me?" Phil blurted out. Heat flared in his cheeks, but he had to know. He just had to. Steve looked uncertain. Rather than risk getting stuck in a vicious cycle, Phil knew this had to end now, and let all the hope he felt inside show on his face. He stripped his emotions naked, letting Steve take them in. He could see the comprehension dawning, and it felt like an age before Steve's mouth curved into a smile. It grew wider and wider, until he nodded.
"Yeah," he said. "Phil… Phil, do you—"
"God yes," Phil said, and this time he initiated the kiss. It was probably twenty minutes past midnight by now, but as far as he was concerned, any time was a good time to kiss Steve Rogers. His Steve. No one else's.
In fact, he would have to make that his New Half-Year's resolution.
This is for seerlupe on Tumblr. The request was for 'sweet, oblivious' Capsicoul, 'particularly with everyone else knowing'. I hope I filled this prompt sufficiently. I do love this pairing, ever so much, and I will go down with this ship. (Along with many other ships in my armada, but we'll ignore that at present.)