It had started when Steve was just a little boy.
He had always thought girls were "icky," as all young boys do. His parents told him that he would get married to a fine young woman, and he'd laughed and said, "Eww, that's gross."
When Steve was about eight years old, he had proudly announced to his parents that he was going to marry a boy instead of a girl, because girls were scary and gross. His parents had gaped at him, telling him he shouldn't say such a thing. Steve had been confused. What was the problem? Couldn't he marry whoever he wanted? His parents had pulled him close and spoke to him in slightly worried, but gentle tones. They told him that God didn't like people of the same sex to get married, that it was a sin, that it was unnatural. Steve had been horrified. He hadn't realized it was such a bad thing. From then on he forced himself not to look at other men for too long. On the other hand, though he didn't realize it, he hardly spared attractive women a second glance.
Then he met Bucky.
James Barnes was everything someone could want from a man. He was kind, caring, stood up for the weak, and was pretty easy on the eyes as well. Steve admired him from the beginning. They became the best of friends. Bucky would protect Steve when he got into his many fights, and he was always there to talk if Steve needed to. In a way, he became like a father figure for Steve in place of his own father, dead a few years from the first World War. It was only natural Steve would feel a special connection, something stronger than friendship, for Bucky.
Steve was about fifteen when he realized he might be in love with Bucky. The thought scared him. Hadn't his parents warned him against this? Wouldn't being in love with a man make him a sinner? He tried to force the thought out of his head. Of course he wasn't in love with Bucky. That was absurd. They were just like brothers, nothing more.
He was seventeen when he accidentally admitted it.
Steve and Bucky were lounging around Bucky's bedroom, just talking about things. They had hit a silence in their conversation when Steve let slip, "I love you, Bucky."
Bucky had just chuckled and smiled at Steve, saying, "I love you too, Steve," He meant it platonically, of course, and thought Steve did too.
Steve's eyes had brightened, "Really? You mean that?" He asked, thinking he meant the same thing he meant himself.
"Yeah, of course. You're like a little brother to me," Steve's expression dropped just a bit, and he turned his face just enough that Bucky couldn't see it. Of course he didn't mean he was in love with Steve. He couldn't mean that. It was wrong. So Steve put a bright smile on his face, ignoring the slight ache in his heart.
He probably wasn't in love with Bucky anyway. Bucky was just like his brother. That was it. That had to be why Steve felt so close to him.
Or at least, that's what he kept telling himself.
Steve kept his romantic feelings completely to himself after that. He tried to look at girls the same way he looked at Bucky. But girls intimidated him, and he found it so much harder to talk to them than other men.
Then he'd met Peggy, and it finally felt like he was normal. He had finally fallen in love with a girl. He wasn't a dirty sinner; he was just like everyone else. And when he fell for Peggy, he fell hard. He was completely, unconditionally in love with her.
And then he "died." And he woke up seventy years in the future.
Everything had changed. The cars, the buildings, the weapons used in war...
And the lovers.
Saying Steve had been shocked at the changed attitude toward same-sex couples would be an understatement. Here was something he'd been told specifically was sinful and wrong, and it was being displayed proudly, fought for, and supported.
At first, Steve wasn't sure what to think. Wasn't this wrong? But the more he thought about it, the more he began to accept that it wasn't so horrible. He thought about maybe letting go of his old fears, embracing the fact that he seemed to prefer men over women. (Aside from Peggy, but she would always be an exception.)
And then he found the other side of the coin. The people who thought that those proud, happy people were going to burn in hell.
He realized that, whether it was more widely accepted now or not, Captain America simply could not be a part of something so controversial. So he locked his feelings away once again, denying his emotions for the sake of the image that people held of him, that people took comfort in.
If it was for the American people, who he loved so dearly, it would be worth it.
Currently, the Avengers were lounging around the living room of Avengers Mansion. They had just gotten out of a battle on the outskirts of the city. It hadn't been a particularly hard fight, but it had been early when they'd gotten the call. Steve and Bruce had been the only ones awake. Clint had whined the whole way to the area where the generic bio-engineered monster had been, and complained quite a bit during the fight until Natasha threatened him with violence if he didn't shut the hell up.
After the fight, everyone had been too hyped up on adrenaline to go back to bed. So here they were, all sprawled around the living room, exhausted. Bruce sat in the corner reading. Thor surfed the channels on the giant flat-screen TV. Natasha was curled up in an armchair, staring at the TV with little interest. Clint, Steve, and Tony were all reclining on the couch, Steve and Tony sipping at strong coffee, while Clint had managed to doze off.
Tony yawned loudly. Steve thought that he looked like he could pass out any second. He chuckled, "Is the great Iron Man tired from fighting one little monster?" He teased lightly.
Tony scowled, "Shut up. I was up all night working. I had just gotten into bed when we got that damn call." Steve sighed. He hated Tony when he was sleep deprived and cranky. Even drunk Tony was somewhat preferable over this. He decided to just leave Tony alone until he'd slept.
Tony set aside his mug and leaned back against the couch, closing his eyes. Steve looked at him. He was an attractive man, that much was definitely true. Of course, that was sometimes hidden when he opened his mouth. At the same time, though, he was intelligent and had a great sense of humor. And his voice was beautiful...
Steve tore himself away from those thoughts and his eyes away from Tony. Tony was his colleague, his co-worker! He couldn't be thinking like that about him! He shook his head lightly and took a long drag from his coffee, trying to clear his mind.
He was pulled out of his thoughts by something hitting his shoulder. He looked over to see Tony's head laying there. The man was clearly fast asleep. Steve blushed lightly, but didn't move Tony. He looked comfortable, and Steve didn't want to wake him up. The only thing worse than Tony when he'd been up too long was Tony when he was woken up after being up too long.
Steve was relieved that none of the other Avengers seemed to spare the position he was in a second glance. He was sure that if he was asked about it he would get embarrassingly flustered.
Steve didn't realize he'd dozed off until he was opening his eyes and stretching with a yawn. He looked around the room. It was now empty aside from Clint, who was playing something violent and bloody on one of the video game systems.
"Morning, Cap," Clint said distractedly, his attention firmly on the game, "Sleep well?" Steve muttered in the affirmative. Clint grinned, "Thought so. You looked pretty comfy with Tony there before he got up."
Steve blushed slightly at that, "He fell asleep on my shoulder. I didn't want to wake him up. You know how he is when he's woken up."
It wasn't an excuse, he told himself. That really was all there was to it.
Clint shrugged, "I was just kidding, Steve. No need to get defensive."
"I'm not being defensive," Steve said, maybe a bit too quickly, "I'm just saying." Clint raised an eyebrow.
"Okay then," he said slowly.
Steve didn't see Tony for the rest of the day. He had probably retreated to his workshop as soon as he'd woken up. Sometimes Steve worried about the way Tony holed himself up down there, but everyone else told him that as long as they forced some food on him every once in a while he'd be fine.
Still, Steve figured it wouldn't hurt to go check on Tony. The worst Tony could do was kick him out, after all.
Tony glanced up slightly as Steve entered the room, “Hey Cap. You need something?” He asked absentmindedly as he turned his attention back to tinkering with what looked to be an internal component to the Iron Man suit.
“Not particularly,” Steve answered, taking that response as a confirmation that he could come farther into the room, “I was just wondering what you were doing.”
“The suit needed some minor adjustments after that fight,” Tony muttered.
Steve nodded. He came up beside Tony, watching him work with mild curiosity. Tony glanced over, but kept working.
“You know, you make an excellent pillow,” Tony said nonchalantly as he turned to type something on a screen beside him.
Steve flushed, turning away slightly in hopes of hiding it from Tony. “Oh. Uh. Thanks?” he replied, not having a better response.
Tony chuckled, “Oh, how cute, he's blushing,” he teased, nudging Steve gently with his elbow.
Steve flushed darker, “Shut up, Stark.”
“What, does a little man cuddling offend your masculinity?” Tony mocked.
“No, it doesn't,” Steve replied with a slightly irritated tone. Tony just smirked and continued to work.
Steve cleared his throat, “Right, well, I'm going to head to bed. I would suggest you do the same, but I know you won't listen to me,” He said as he headed for the door of the workshop.
“Mm. Night, Cap,” Tony called back distractedly.
“Good night, Stark.”
Steve stood on the large balcony outside the living room, looking out over the city. He had woken up frighteningly early, as he always did. Usually he went straight down to the gym for a workout, or out for a run if the weather was particularly nice. But today he decided just to relax and enjoy the cool morning air as he watched the sun come up over the horizon.
He also needed some time to himself to just think. Steve had decided to keep his attraction to men hidden, but that didn't mean he could just ignore it. So he was using this time, while he was the only one awake (aside from Bruce, who was down in his lab), to sort through his thoughts on the matter.
There was another part of it as well, though Steve was reluctant to admit it even to himself. And that part had to do with one Tony Stark.
When Steve had first met Tony, he had thought he was a pompous asshole. But as he got to know him better, he found that Tony wasn't as bad as he seemed. He was still a pompous asshole, of course. Anyone who knew Tony Stark would agree with that. But those who knew him well knew that under that abrasive, rich-boy, better-than-you attitude was a man who was funny, kind, and selfless, if in his own twisted way.
As Steve discovered this side of Tony, they had gotten closer, and now you could even say they were friends. In fact, Steve was probably closer with Tony than anyone else on the team.
Maybe a bit too close.
The more Steve thought about it, the more he realized that this was just like Bucky all over again. A man who doesn't understand the situation that Steve is in, and doesn't even pretend like he does, but is still willing to help Steve through his situation if he can. The only difference was that with Bucky it was being an orphan in 1930s Brooklyn, while with Tony the situation was living in a world seventy years ahead of his time.
It also didn't hurt that Tony was the son of Howard Stark. Howard had been one of Steve's best friends. If Steve was being completely honest with himself, he would have to admit that he had been attracted to Howard. So it was no surprise that he found Howard's son, who looked so much like him, attractive as well. (Steve decided to completely ignore the part of him that found it creepy to be attracted to a former crush's son, because really, these were special circumstances.)
“Good morning,” A voice said suddenly from directly behind Steve, causing him to jump and whirl around.
“Oh, Natasha...” Steve sighed, “You startled me.”
Natasha gave a small laugh, “You need to get better at anticipating sneak attacks. If you can't handle me coming up behind you in my pajamas, then you'll be screwed if someone sneaks up on you on the battlefield.”
“I'll keep that in mind,” Steve replied distractedly, turning back to look at the sky, where the sun had long since risen over the city.
Natasha frowned, “Alright, what's eating you?” she asked as she came to stand next to Steve.
“What makes you think something's wrong?” Steve asked, glancing over at her.
Natasha raised an eyebrow, “I've been trained to read body language and facial expressions since I was in grade school. I know something's up,” Steve frowned, but knew he couldn't argue with that, “So come on. You can tell me.”
Steve bit his lip. He knew that Natasha would never tell a soul if he asked her not to. The only problem was, what would she think of it? Although, Steve couldn't imagine Natasha being the type to worry about something as trivial as sexuality. And he was sure he'd feel better if he talked about it with someone. He let out a sigh.
“Alright... Just... Promise me that you won't think any different of me if I tell you?” He asked with a glance toward the glass door.
“I don't really think I'm in any position to be judgmental, Cap,” Natasha said as she hopped up to sit on the railing.
“Right, okay... But it's, uh... It's really sort of private, so... I need you to promise me you won't repeat any of this to anyone.”
Natasha smiled, “Ooh, girl talk. Never got to do that as a teenager,” Steve gave her a look that was somewhere between pained and annoyed, “Alright, go on. What is this big secret I need to take to the grave?”
Steve took a deep breath, “Well... I, um... I think that I... Prefer men. Over women,” Steve said, his voice getting quieter as he spoke.
Natasha's eyebrows rose, “Wow. Captain America is gay. Can't say I expected that one,” She spoke completely nonchalantly.
Steve flushed. Hearing it like that from another person was strange and a bit unsettling, like it hadn't been entirely true until it came from the mouth of someone else. But it was the truth, “Y-yeah. Something like that...” he said, turning his face back to the city.
“I'm sure there's more to it than that though?” Natasha said, tilting her head curiously.
“Yeah. I'm just... Sort of worried that if people find out, it'll ruin the image people have of me. Captain America is supposed to be the perfect American, a symbol of hope. But what if the people don't think that a homosexual can fill that roll?”
Natasha frowned, “Well. If you want my opinion on it, I'd say fuck what people think and do what makes you happy. After all, why should the public trust you if you lie about something so simple?”
Steve nodded. She had a point there.
“So then have any boys been lucky enough to catch the eye of Captain America?” Natasha asked with a smile.
Steve blushed and looked down, “Uh... I guess you could say that...” He answered quietly.
“Oh? Who?” Natasha asked, her smile widening a bit.
Steve frowned slightly, “I can't tell you that.”
“Fine. Just tell me about him then?”
Okay... Well, he's got dark hair, brown eyes, and he can be kind of a jerk sometimes, but--”
“It's Stark, isn't it?”
Steve tensed and looked at Natasha. He tried to keep his expression neutral, but he could tell by Natasha's smirk that he was failing miserably.
“You sure about that? He's hardly decent relationship material,” Steve's brow furrowed, “Kidding. You take things too seriously, Rogers.”
Steve sighed and turned to lean back against the railing, crossing his arms over his chest, “What do you think about it?” He asked a bit nervously.
Natasha looked at him, “I think he doesn't deserve someone like you.” she said honestly, “But if he would make you happy, then what I think doesn't matter.”
Steve smiled, “Thanks, Natasha.”
Natasha hopped down off the railing and patted Steve's shoulder, “Any time,” she said before heading into the house.
Steve kept mostly to himself for the rest of the day. Natasha kept giving him knowing looks whenever she saw him, and it had started rubbing him the wrong way. He took the time to himself to do a bit of drawing.
He hadn't done much drawing since he'd woken up from his seventy-year sleep. So when he put his pencil to the paper, he was immediately lost in his work.
He started out drawing a small flower, just to get used to drawing again. He was pleased to see that his skills hadn't been lost as he'd slept. After that he drew a portrait of Peggy. He was surprised he was able to remember her face so vividly, and prayed that that didn't change. Then it was other small sketches- his shield, the lamp on his bedside table, a tree outside the window. He didn't think much about what he was drawing, just let his hand do what it wanted. So he was startled when he came out of a daydream to see Tony's face staring up at him from his paper.
Steve flushed lightly and closed his sketchbook. He glanced at his clock, which informed him it was just after eight thirty. Steve could have sworn the last time he'd looked at it it had said five. He realized he'd completely missed dinner. He stood from his desk and stretched before wandering out toward the kitchen.
Steve was halfway through his piece of pizza left over from the rest of the Avengers' dinner when Tony came wandering in. It was clear he'd been up for a while; his hair was a mess, and there was grease smeared under one of his eyes, likely from rubbing it.
Steve tried hard not to find it horribly attractive.
“Any of that left?” Tony asked, pointing at the slice of pizza in Steve's hand.
Steve nodded, “Refrigerator,” He said, pointing, “How long have you been in the workshop?”
Tony pulled a slice of pizza out of the refrigerator and took a bite, thinking as he chewed, “Well I woke up around noon yesterday, made myself coffee, then went down, so...”
“Jesus, Tony, you've been down there for almost thirty-two hours?” Steve gaped at him.
Tony shrugged, “I've stayed down there longer.”
Steve shook his head. That couldn't be healthy.
“What, have I disappointed Mama Rogers?” Tony teased, sitting on the stool next to Steve. Steve rolled his eyes, deciding not to dignify that with a response. “So what were you doing down there all that time? I thought the suit only needed minor adjustments?” He asked instead.
“Yeah, well, I got a new idea for some software to put into the suit. Just basic stuff, nothing completely altering. you probably wouldn't understand it. In fact most people probably wouldn't,” Tony punctuated that with a loud yawn.
“You need to sleep.”
Tony laughed, “I swear you're as bad as Pepper. I know my limits.”
“Is that why Pepper's found you passed out on the floor of the workshop on multiple occasions?”
“Those were- Wait, you've been gossiping with her?” Tony gave him an incredulous look.
Steve chuckled, “We've talked a few times. You just seem to be such an interesting conversation topic.”
Tony rolled his eyes, “Right.”
They finished their dinner in silence, which was broken by another yawn from Tony.
“Seriously, Tony, go to bed,” Steve said with a glance over at him.
“Fine,” Tony said with a smirk, then flopped sideways to lay his head on Steve's shoulder.
Steve tensed, “Tony, what the hell are you-”
“Come on, Cap, you're comfy.”
“But you're... In my personal space...”
“Don't be greedy, Cap. Didn't Mommy teach you to share?”
Steve's tone must have been harsher than he'd meant it to be, because Tony promptly sat straight up and looked at him.
“I didn't realize you were so obsessed with personal space. Sorry,” It wasn't exactly a sincere apology, but getting any kind of apology from Tony Stark was rare, so Steve felt a bit guilty. He supposed that he may have overreacted.
“No, it's fine. Don't worry about it,” Steve assured him, perhaps a bit to quickly, “Well, I think I'll turn in. Goodnight, Tony,” Steve quickly put his plate in the sink, then hurried off toward his room.
“Night,” Tony called tiredly after him.
I'm not running away, Steve told himself over and over as he made his way back to his bedroom.
It was about five o'clock when they got the call. One of Dr. Doom's robots was causing trouble downtown. Nothing difficult; they figured they'd head down there, smash the bot, and be back before dinner.
And they were right. They had the bot subdued within half an hour. It lay in the road, with practically nothing left intact aside from an arm.
Steve turned away from the wreckage of the robot to survey the damage done to the city. It was fairly minimal- a few broken windows here, a banged-up sports car there. Nothing Tony couldn't pay to have fixed.
“Cap, watch out!” A voice yelled. Steve couldn't register whose it was before he was bowled over by something heavy and metal and red.
Steve blinked, looking around, trying to figure out exactly what had just happened. The arm of the robot was buried in a wall that had been directly behind where Steve had just been standing. There were scorch marks where it had previously been laying, suggesting that it had been propelled by some sort of rocket. There were strong metal arms locked tightly around him- wait.
Steve turned his head quickly to see the Iron Man mask. Tony flipped up the faceplate and gave Steve a small smile, “You alright?”
“Yeah, uh, I'm fine. You can let me go now,” Steve answered stiffly.
Tony laughed a bit and released Steve, who immediately jumped away. Steve prayed it that wasn't too obvious that he'd been desperate to get away.
“I thought friends weren't supposed to date friends' ex-boyfriends, Steve.”
Steve blushed profusely as he turned to gawk at Pepper over the back of the couch, “I don't know what you're talking about,” He said quickly.
Pepper gave him a teasing smile and dropped a copy of The National Enquirer into Steve's lap. The headline read boldly, “Gay Superheroes?”, accompanied by a picture of Steve in Tony's arms from the fight the day before. Steve nearly spit out the coffee he had just been drinking.
“What the- That wasn't- We-” Steve stuttered, looking desperately at Pepper.
Pepper held up her hands, “I know, Steve, calm down. Obviously there's just a reporter at the Enquirer with a very vivid imagination. Take a look at the article.”
Steve looked back at the paper and read aloud from halfway through the article, “Captain America and Iron Man shared a longing gaze after Iron Man bravely risked his life to save Captain America from a rogue missile.”
“We did what now?”
Steve and Pepper both turned to see Tony walk into the room with an eyebrow raised. Before they could say anything, Tony leaned over Steve's shoulder and grabbed the paper out of his hands. There was a long silence as Tony read the article. Then Tony suddenly burst out laughing.
“This is ridiculous,” Tony chuckled.
“You're taking this quite well, Mr. Stark,” Pepper said.
“Are you kidding me? This is hilarious!”
“What about this is funny, Tony?” Steve asked, frowning at Tony.
“Seriously, 'gay superheroes'? Please. You're like the straightest guy I know.” Tony tossed the paper down on the couch.
“Oh...” Steve bit his lip to keep himself from saying anything else.
Tony flopped down in an armchair, “And it's not like me swinging both ways is exactly news to anybody anyway. The paparazzi got that story years ago.”
Steve blinked. He hadn't known that. Though he wasn't entirely surprised.
“Don't let it get to you, Steve. You're straight, and as long as you know that yourself, then-”
“But what if I'm not?” The second it left his mouth, Steve's eyes widened. He hadn't meant to say that.
Tony was silent, staring at Steve with a surprised expression. Steve would be proud of rendering Tony Stark speechless if he wasn't completely mortified at what he'd said.
Steve stood, “Well, I'm going to head down to the gym,” He said before retreating quickly away.
Tony looked up at Pepper, his face still locked in stunned disbelief, “Did he just...?”
Pepper looked back at him, “I'm not positive, but I think he did.”
Steve was taking a water break when Pepper came into the gym. Steve tensed slightly as he watched her enter, but still gave her a smile, “Hey Pepper. Did you need something?”
Pepper smiled back as she took a seat next to Steve, “Just to make sure you're alright. You left pretty suddenly.”
Steve blushed lightly and glanced at the floor, “I'm fine. I just wanted to come down and work out. I was already behind schedule.” It wasn't a complete lie. He had been delayed a bit in getting down there.
Pepper raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment, “So what you said up there... Is it true?” She asked instead, voice gentle.
Steve sighed deeply before nodding, “Yeah. It is.”
Pepper put a hand on Steve's shoulder, “You know none of us will see you any differently either way, right?”
Steve nodded, “I know. But it's not the other Avengers or the people at SHEILD that I'm worried about. It's the public.”
“What's the point in appealing to the public if you aren't happy yourself?” Pepper asked, squeezing his shoulder gently.
Steve smiled, “Funny, Natasha said the same thing.”
“And she knows what she's talking about.”
“I just wanted to be able to tell the world on my own time if I chose to, you know?” Steve said, “And now I'm either going to have to admit that it's true, or deny the truth like a coward.”
Pepper frowned, “Well, that's a decision you're going to have to make on your own,” She said. She stood up, “But if you ever need someone to talk to, you know where to find me,” She started toward the door.
“Thanks,” Steve called, smiling faintly. Pepper turned and smiled back at him before leaving.
All of the Avengers, sans Tony, were sitting at the kitchen table. They were eating spaghetti that Clint had made. Bruce was chatting with Steve about what he was doing in the lab (and Steve nodded and pretended like he understood), while Clint and Thor argued about who could eat more in five minutes. Natasha was watching Thor and Clint with a faintly amused expression.
Tony came wandering in about halfway through dinner. He helped himself to a large bowl of pasta.
“Hey Tony, why didn't you tell us about your secret affair with Steve?” Clint asked with a grin.
Tony smirked back, though Steve swore he glanced at him to see his reaction, “I dunno, why didn't you tell me about yours with Bruce?”
Bruce nearly choked on his pasta, “Tony!”
“Hey, what JARVIS gets on camera is not my fault. Think about that before you two go at it in the lab.”
Bruce covered his face with his hands, blushing deeply, while Clint just glared at Tony.
“Well, on that note, I'm headed back to the workshop.” Tony turned back to the doorway, “Oh, Steve, do you think you could meet me down there when you're done?” He asked over his shoulder.
Steve nodded, “Sure.”
Steve walked into Tony's workshop and looked around. It was a mess, as always. Tony was sitting at a work table, welding something. Steve approached him, clearing his throat to get Tony's attention.
Tony looked up from his work, “Hey,” He said as he flipped up the welding mask.
“You wanted to talk to me?” Steve asked. He leaned against to table.
“Oh, yeah. About what you said earlier,” Tony said. Steve tensed. He had honestly been hoping this topic wouldn't come up again, “Is it true? I mean, are you really...?” Tony trailed off, knowing Steve would understand what he meant.
Steve ran a hand through his hair. Well, there was no use lying about it now, “Yeah,” he replied in a small voice.
“Wow. Uh, okay. Didn't see that one coming,” Steve must have made a face, because Tony quickly added, “Not that it's a bad thing! I just never saw you as being gay.”
Steve wasn't sure how to respond, so he just shrugged.
“You know none of us give a shit about whether you like men or women, right?” Tony asked, his voice uncharacteristically gentle.
“Yeah, I've been over this twice already with Natasha and Pepper. And the fact that I shouldn't care about what people think as long as I'm happy.”
“Well they're right, you- Wait, you got advice from Natasha?” Tony gave him a disbelieving look.
“Yes. She was surprisingly helpful,” Steve smiled a bit.
“Right. Moving on. So what are you going to do when people ask you about that article?”
“I'll tell them the truth. That I do prefer men, but I wouldn't date Iron Man because he's an arrogant jerk,” Steve smirked teasingly.
“You wound me, Steve. You really do,” Tony held a hand over the arc reactor, feigning offense, “Though that's quite mild compared to what others have called me.”
Steve chuckled, “I can't imagine why.” He ignored the part of him that told him he was still being a coward.
Steve straightened his tie with a heavy sigh. He'd really hoped it wouldn't come to this, but Fury had insisted he and Tony set the record straight about that stupid article before any more rumors started spreading.
So here he was, striding out to a podium, wearing his best Captain America smile as he waved to the sea of reporters. Tony walked next to him, his own signature Tony Stark charm turned on full power.
Steve took a deep breath as he stepped up to the microphone, “Hello, everyone. Thank you for coming,” Steve looked out over the crowd, “Now, you all have probably read the article in a recent issue of The National Enquirer suggesting that Tony Stark and myself are in a relationship. That is not the case, and was not at any point in time.”
“And we're sorry to the people at The Enquirer that can't tell looking at someone to make sure they're not hurt from a 'longing gaze',” Tony added a bit smugly.
Steve rolled his eyes, “We will take any questions you have now.”
A young woman in the front row shot her hand up, “Captain Rogers, you've denied the claim that you're in a homosexual relationship with Mr. Stark, but what about the claims questioning your sexuality?”
Steve's blood ran cold. So much for glossing over that detail. He glanced quickly at Tony, who gave him a faint reassuring smile.
Well, this was it. He was going to have to admit it at some point.
“Though thoroughly baseless in that article, the claims were correct. I do identify as homosexual.”
There was a huge roar in the audience as people started talking all at once. Steve tightened his hands into fists, steeling himself against the part of him that wanted to turn and run off the stage.
The next question came from a conservative-looking woman who appeared to be in her fifties, “Surely you realize, Captain Rogers, that in choosing this lifestyle, you no longer stand for the traditional values of America?”
“Ma'am, I fell in love with a boy at the age of ten. I don't feel as though I've 'chosen' anything. I've preferred men over women for as long as I can remember. In fact I tried to 'choose' to be straight. It didn't work.”
“But you are Captain America. You're supposed to stand for the values of this country,” the woman argued.
“He's also a human being.”
All eyes turned to Tony, who had stepped back up to his own microphone, “Steve's not just some mascot here to promote patriotism. He's a goddamn human being. And if you don't understand that, then you don't deserve to have him protecting you,” With that, Tony turned and walked proudly off stage.
Steve turned to his microphone and quickly said, “Thank you all for your time,” before following after Tony.
Steve sat on the couch in the living room. His feet were tucked up on the couch cushion, his sketchbook propped against his thighs as he worked on a charcoal drawing of Bucky. He was alone in the room (or so he assumed- Clint did tend to hide in the rafters), and the only sounds were the muted noise of the city below and the soft scratch of pencil on paper.
Steve turned at the sound of footsteps to see Tony enter the room. Tony gave a small wave as he headed to the bar on the far side of the room.
“You alright, Cap?” He asked as he poured himself a martini.
“I've just been outed as gay on national television. I'm not sure that 'alright' is the word I'd use,” Steve said, setting aside his sketchbook.
“Fair enough. You want one?” Tony held up his glass.
“No thanks. Won't do me much good,” Steve muttered.
Tony shrugged and sat down next to Steve on the sofa, “Seriously, though, Steve. Are you going to be okay?”
“I hadn't realized Tony Stark was capable of worrying about other people's feelings,” Steve laughed at the look that got him, “Kidding. I'll be fine. I just need some time to let it sink in that everybody knows something I've been hiding all my life.”
Tony nodded, sipping at his drink.
“Oh, and... Thanks for defending me up there. I really appreciate it,” Steve added, giving Tony a thankful smile.
Tony grinned and threw an arm around Steve's shoulders, “Hey, no problem. That chick was being a bitch.”
Steve leaned into Tony slightly. Tony just squeezed Steve's shoulder comfortingly and pulled him a bit closer. They fell into a calm silence, just sitting and enjoying each other's company.
Steve's eyelids started to droop as he rested against Tony. He suddenly felt exhausted and weak, the day's events starting to really settle in his mind.
“Thank you, Tony... Really... This means a lot,” Steve mumbled.
And then, his judgment dimmed by his exhaustion, he leaned up and kissed Tony.
Steve didn't register what he was doing until he realized that Tony was kissing back. Just slightly, but enough for Steve to notice. Steve flinched away from Tony, “I-I'm sorry, I didn't- I don't know what I was-”
“Easy, Cap. It's no big deal,” Tony said with a shrug, “You've had a long day. You're exhausted.”
“Y-yeah...” Steve murmured unconvincingly, avoiding Tony's gaze.
Tony's eyes narrowed, “That's all it is, right?”
Steve winced, “And... What if it isn't?” His voice was small and almost weak.
There was a long silence between them before Steve felt a hand gently cup his cheek. He looked up, surprised. Tony looked back at him as if trying to see if what Steve had said was true through his eyes.
“Is it not?” He asked softly. Steve looked away again, biting his lip and keeping silent.
“Oh,” Tony sounded like he was finally figuring out something he should have figured out ages ago. He tilted Steve's head up and kissed him again, softly and much more chastely than Steve would have expected Tony to be capable of.
Something in Steve snapped. The relief of no longer having to hide his sexuality, as well as finding that Tony was apparently not horrified at Steve's interest in him, made him melt into Tony and kiss back fiercely. He wrapped his arms tightly around Tony's waist.
Tony pulled back slightly and rested his forehead against Steve's. He smiled, “You really don't have much experience with this, do you?”
Steve blinked, then shoved Tony back, “No, I don't. I was kind of busy being in the closet and at war.”
Tony winced at the hurt in Steve's voice, “I was kidding, Steve,” He said, resting a hand on Steve's arm, “Sorry.”
Steve sighed, “Why are you doing this, Tony?”
Tony gave him a confused look, “Doing what?”
“Humoring me. Getting my hopes up that maybe you feel the same way about me that I do you.”
Tony's mouth twisted into a frown, “And who the hell says I don't?”
“You sure as heck don't act like someone in love!”
Tony stood, glowering down at Steve, “In case you haven't noticed, Rogers, people aren't exactly my strong suit. I'm sure Pepper has mentioned in your little gossip sessions how shit I am at relationships,” Steve blushed faintly- he thought nobody knew about that, “And not only that, but I thought there was a snowball's chance in hell that you would feel the same way, so I pushed you away.”
Steve stared up into Tony's eyes, searching for any hint that this was just a big joke to him. But despite Tony's hardened expression, what he found instead was the most sincerity he'd ever seen there. Steve swallowed, “Tony, I-”
“I've got work to do. I'll be in the workshop. Don't bother me unless the city's being blown up,” Tony scowled as he made his way into the elevator.
Steve let his head fall against the back of the couch as the elevator doors closed. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed loudly.
“I am such an idiot.”
“I just don't know what to do, Pepper. I got everything I wanted handed to me on a silver platter, and I pushed it away.” Steve was sitting on the couch in Pepper's apartment. They were eating ice cream and watching chick flicks (which Steve would die before admitting) while Steve told Pepper everything that had happened the previous night.
Pepper patted his shoulder, “Just give him some time to cool off. I'm sure he'll forgive you once he's let off some steam.”
Steve sighed, “You really think so? I mean, I was sort of cruel...”
“He can be pretty cruel himself. Just give it time. He'll come around.” Pepper assured him, pulling him into a one-armed hug.
Steve smiled a bit, “Thanks, Pep.” He honestly was horribly grateful to her. He had come to her apartment with no invitation, and she'd taken one look at him and ushered him inside. He'd explained what had happened, and Pepper hadn't even flinched when he admitted to being in love with Tony, she'd just nodded understandingly.
Pepper smiled back sweetly, “That's what I'm here for.”
Steve didn't see Tony the rest of that day or the next. They eventually met up in the kitchen when Tony had come up for his morning coffee.
Steve was coming out of the gym after his morning workout for breakfast. He tensed a bit when he saw Tony at the coffee machine, but took a deep breath and walked up to him, “Good morning.”
Tony glanced over at Steve and grunted in response. He looked like he had been in the workshop since the night they'd fought (which, in all likelihood, he had). Steve frowned, “Have you slept?”
“Been busy. No time,” Tony muttered as he poured his coffee.
“Right,” Steve sighed, “Well, do you have time to talk?”
Tony looked like he was going to say he no, but he gave a slightly defeated sigh and leaned against the counter, “Okay, sure. Fine.”
“Look, I'm sorry about the way I reacted the other day. I'm just a little... Unsure when it comes to relationships.”
Tony looked at him for a long moment, then sighed, “Yeah, okay. I guess I kind of overreacted a little too,” He admitted.
Steve let out a breathe hadn't realized he'd been holding, “Great. So... What does that mean for us then?”
Tony looked up at Steve, “I'm not sure. I think I need to sleep before making any major decisions.”
Steve smiled, “Good idea. You look exhausted.”
“See you later, then,” Tony said through a yawn. He patted Steve's shoulder as he walked past him toward the direction of his bedroom.
It was well into the evening before Steve saw Tony again. All of the Avengers were gathered in the living room watching a movie. Pepper had decided to join them, as she had already been at the tower to visit Steve (to gossip about Tony, but nobody needed to know that), and was sitting next to Natasha on one of the loveseats. Bruce rested slightly against Clint's shoulder on the other loveseat, while Thor and Steve sat at opposite ends of the large sofa in the center. They were watching The Wizard of Oz , partially for nostalgia and partially so everyone who wasn't Steve could laugh at the bad effects.
Tony stretched as he entered, looking far more well-rested than he had that morning.
“It's about time you woke up,” Pepper said as he walked in. Steve turned as she spoke and looked at Tony, offering him a small smile. Tony smiled back at Steve, ignoring Pepper's comment as he settled himself comfortably between Steve and Thor.
“The Wizard of Oz? Seriously?” Tony asked as he finally gave the TV his attention.
Steve made a face that was most definitely not a pout, grown men do not pout, thank you very much, “I like this movie.”
“I seem to remember that coming up before,” Tony fought back a chuckle as he relaxed back into the couch to watch. Steve rolled his eyes, then turned back to the TV.
It took Steve a moment to realize that Tony was sitting quite close to him. Closer than usual. He flushed lightly at this realization, looking around to see if anyone else had noticed. They seemed not to have, to his relief. Or so he thought, until Tony stretched and rested his arm on the back of the couch behind Steve and Clint called out, “Jesus, Stark, could you get any more cliché?”
Tony simply flipped Clint the bird and moved the arm closer to Steve's shoulders. Clint returned the gesture lazily as he turned away.
Steve looked at the floor, “So, does this mean you've made a decision, or...”
Tony smirked at him, “What do you think?” He asked as he pulled Steve against him.
Steve blinked as he came out of his light slumber, looking around. It seemed everyone had fallen asleep at some point. Clint and Bruce were slouched against each other, and Pepper had somehow ended up with her head in Natasha's lap. Steve lifted his head a bit reluctantly from its comfortable place on Tony's shoulder.
Tony shifted his gaze from his tablet to Steve as he stirred, “Morning, Sleeping Beauty,” He said, ruffling Steve's disheveled hair. Steve frowned and batted Tony's hand away.
“Mm. What time is it?” Steve asked through a yawn.
“Just before one AM,” Tony answered, going back to messing around with data on his tablet.
Steve mumbled in response, then rested his head back on Tony's shoulder and closed his eyes.
Tony glanced at him, “You should go to bed.”
Steve shook his head, “Comfortable here.” Tony chuckled under his breath and tightened his arm around Steve's shoulders, “I swear you remind me of a puppy sometimes.”
“I'll take that as a compliment,” Steve replied lazily, “Surprised you didn't fall asleep. You didn't seem thrilled with tonight's movie choice.”
Tony rolled his eyes, “I slept all day, Cap. I probably couldn't fall asleep now if I tried.” Steve shrugged and made himself comfortable against Tony, already starting to drift back to sleep.
Tony was still there when Steve woke up, talking to Pepper. They turned to him as he sat up and stretched, both giving him a kind “good morning,” to which Steve mumbled a response, before going back to their conversation. They were talking over Stark Industries business, which bored Steve, so he stood up and headed for the kitchen.
Natasha and Clint were in the kitchen bickering over something, Steve wasn't sure what and didn't exactly care to know. Natasha gave Steve a faint knowing smile when he entered. Clint turned to Steve, “Oh, hey Cap. There's coffee in the pot if you're interested,” He said quickly before turning back to his argument. Steve smiled and headed over to the coffee machine to fix two mugs of coffee, then headed back out to the living room.
He sat back down on the sofa and held one of the mugs out to Tony, who took it eagerly, “Steve, you are a saint,” and took a large sip, “Pepper wouldn't let me move until I finished this damn paperwork.”
Pepper sighed, “I was trying to motivate him to work faster by denying him his coffee,” she said in a mock-irritated voice. Steve chuckled, “Sorry, Pepper.”
Tony grinned deviously, “Maybe you can convince Steve to motivate me another way.” Steve nearly spit out his coffee at that, turning to stare at Tony as Pepper bit back a laugh. Tony smirked back at him.
“Alright, Tony, stop flirting and get to work. You're almost done,” Pepper ordered, pushing another paper toward Tony. Tony groaned and took it, “Not my fault you can't motivate me like that yourself anymore.”
Steve and Pepper both got horrified looks on their faces. Tony blinked, “Okay, yeah, that came out worse than I meant it to,” he admitted. Pepper frowned, “Yeah. So, back on track then.”
Steve glanced up from the book he was reading as someone knocked on his door, “Who is it?”
“It's me,” Tony replied through the wood. Steve shut his book and called back, “Come in.”
Tony stepped inside and shut the door behind him, “Okay, what I said back there was not cool and I didn't mean it and I'm sorry.”
“Tony, I''m not worried about it. I know your mouth doesn't have a filter,” Steve teased, “Did she seriously use that to motivate you though?”
“Yes. She can be a manipulative bitch when she wants to be,” Tony said with a grin. He walked over and made himself comfortable on Steve's bed. Steve raised an eyebrow at him, but didn't say anything.
“So what did you come in here for anyway?” He asked instead, setting aside his book and moving to sit next to Tony on the bed.
“To make sure you weren't pissed at me,” Tony said with a shrug, “And to find out how I could make it up to you if you were.”
“So, are we... Dating, then?” Steve asked quietly, looking at Tony from the corner of his eye. Tony looked back at him for a moment, then sat up, moving closer to Steve, “Do you want to be?”
Steve nodded, “Y-yeah. I would like that.” Tony's brows furrowed. “What?” Steve asked.
“You know I'm shit at relationships, right?” Tony looked straight into Steve's eyes.
“And I've never been in one that's lasted more than a few days,” Steve countered, “I think we could manage to figure it out.”
Tony seemed to be somewhat comforted by that answer. He responded by leaning forward and kissing Steve soundly. Steve sighed into the kiss, his arms winding around Tony's shoulders. They stayed like that for a long moment, their lips moving together in slow, languid kisses. Steve's mind was hazy, unable to process that this was finally, really happening.
They broke apart, Tony smiling as he leaned his forehead against Steve's. Steve smiled back, his face flushed a light pink.
“Yeah, I think we can make this work.”