Steve sits opposite Tony’s desk, fidgeting. As nice as it is to see Steve as Tony Stark rather than as Iron Man, Tony had been a little surprised when Steve had asked to speak with him about a personnel matter.
“I’m here for whatever you need, Cap,” he says, trying to put Steve at ease.
Steve lets out a long breath. “Would it be a problem,” he asks eventually, picking at a thread on his uniform, “If I asked a fellow team member out on a date?”
The thought makes something twist painfully in Tony’s chest, but he’s practiced at hiding that sort of thing. He shrugs. “I don’t see why. There isn’t any Avengers policy against fraternisation.”
Steve doesn’t look certain. “Would it be a problem if... the team member I wanted to ask out was a man?”
Tony’s eyebrows raise and his heart skips a beat. He’d never imagined Steve was anything other than straight. Did that mean he might actually have a chance with Steve?
But no, surely not. Steve barely knew him as Tony Stark, and he couldn’t possibly be interested in Iron Man that way.
Tony determinedly pushes his own feelings aside and focuses on Steve’s question. He clearly doesn’t have an issue with Steve dating men -- that would be rather hypocritical.
“That wouldn’t be a problem at all,” Tony says firmly. “The Avengers are all about equality and acceptance.”
Steve’s shoulders slump in relief. “Thanks, Mr. Stark. That makes me feel a whole lot better.”
“I don’t want to pry into this person’s identity,” Tony continues, tactfully. “But I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask: It’s not going to cause any tensions on the team, is it?”
Steve considers. “I shouldn’t think so.”
“Because I know Hank and Jan are close, and getting in between that could be trouble --”
“It’s not Hank,” Steve reassures him quickly.
Ahh. Of course. It must be Thor who had Steve’s interest. No wonder! He was handsome, charming, and -- oh yes -- a Norse God. Who wouldn’t be attracted to Thor?
Tony gives Steve a cheeky wink. “Gotcha.”
Steve remains sitting in front of him, shifting awkwardly in his seat.
“Was there anything else?” Tony asks. He’d normally be delighted to have Steve’s company for as long as he wanted, but he was looking dreadfully uncomfortable.
“I’m not…” Steve is actually blushing. “I don’t really know how to say this, but could I ask for your help? With, you know, how to ask someone for a date? The wooing part, I’m not really sure how to go about that.”
Tony is taken aback. It pains him to think of coaching Steve on how to win someone else’s affections, but he can’t very well turn down an honest request for help.
“It’s just,” Steve starts again, fidgeting still. “You’re a real classy guy, Mr. Stark, and you seem to know all about… wooing and such --” Tony vaguely wondered if Steve was calling him slutty. “-- And I don’t know much about how it works these days.”
Steve hangs his head, and Tony’s heart goes out to him. Whatever his own feelings towards Steve might be, it’s his duty to help his friend.
“Of course I’ll help, buddy,” Tony says, forcing himself to smile. “The first thing you’ve gotta do is figure out what your special someone likes. What are their interests? What do they care about? That sort of thing.”
Steve nods attentively.
“Then you need to find a way to express your feelings that they will appreciate.” He racks his brains, thinking of what Thor might enjoy. “Perhaps you could perform a drinking song for him? Or write an epic poem?”
Steve squints, apparently unconvinced. “Epic poetry seems a bit… much.”
“It’s not too much! It’ll be great. It’s about knowing the person, see. Not going for some generic expression of interest. Make it personal.”
“Right. And then, after I’ve expressed my feelings?”
“Then you invite them to something they’d enjoy. Take him to Waffle House for bottomless waffles.”
“Waffles? Are you sure?”
“Who doesn’t like waffles?” Tony replies with a shrug. He’d seen Thor put away entire stacks of waffles in the morning. He couldn’t imagine any place Thor would enjoy more than somewhere with literally endless waffles. "You just have to take the plunge and ask him."
Tony could see Steve him steeling himself the same way he did before a battle.
"He's worth it," Steve nods decisively. "Thanks, Mr. Stark."
The next day, Tony doesn’t have time to dwell on Steve’s love life. He’s needed at a Stark Industries board meeting and an Avengers mission at the same time, which is the kind of hiccup that’s tryingly familiar when you adopt two separate identities. He chooses the mission, obviously, making his excuses to the board and running to his office for the Iron Man armor to suit up and help his team.
They’ve been called in to diffuse a situation involving spherical, rolling robots which are terrifying tourists in Times Square. The little bouncy bots are actually sort of cute, at least until they start shooting laser beams at anything that moves.
Tony and Steve set about choraling the frightened crowds of tourists to safety, and Tony admires the way Steve instills such confidence even among people who don’t know him personally. With the help of Jan shrinking down to miniature size to investigate the bots up close and identify their weaknesses, and Thor using his lightning to overload their circuits, the team disable the threat in short order.
A bot rolls to a stop in front of Tony and he picks it up, carefully turning it over with the chunky fingers of the Iron Man suit.
Cap comes up next to him and Tony acknowledges him with a quick nod. “Looks like Latverian technology to me,” he shares.
Steve’s lips twist in annoyance. “Doom.”
“I’d guess so. I’ll need to take it back to my workshop to be sure.”
Steve shots him a strange look.
“To, uhh, Mr. Stark’s workshop.”
Steve squints but nods.
“Listen, Shellhead, about that --”
Tony realizes Steve is blushing under the cowl, and he’s twisting his fingers together the way he does on the rare occasions on which he’s nervous.
“I wanted to tell you how great you were today.”
Aww. That’s sweet.
“And I. Uhh. I’m adding the events of today to the poem I’m composing about your heroic deeds.”
Tony is sure he’s mishead. “The what ?”
“The. Uhh. Epic poem. Telling the tale of Iron Man and his adventures.”
“Oh, Iron Man, truly my heart is full to bursting with my regard for you.”
Tony stares some more.
“For your fine character, and you brave comportment.”
The crowds huddled behind the safety barriers and the SHIELD agents arriving for clean-up are starting to stare at the pair of them.
“Your honed battle skills and your unparalleled selflessness.”
Steve seems to have an entire speech prepared. Just as well, because Tony hasn’t the slightest clue what to say.
“And more than that, your warm friendship and charming companionship, which have been a balm to me in trying times.”
Tony keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“What I’m trying to say is,” Steve doesn’t get down on one knee, but it looks like he’s thinking about it. “Iron Man, will you go on a date with me to the Waffle House?”
Tony can’t help it -- he bursts into giggles.
Steve… likes him? As Iron Man? Steve wants to go on a date with him ? And has decided to express this desire through serenades and offers of waffles?
That’s what comes of taking advice from alleged playboy Tony Stark, apparently.
As Tony is laughing, delighted by the ridiculousness of the situation he finds himself in, he catches sight of Steve. Steve looks like a kicked puppy, and he’s growing more despondent by the second.
“Aww, Winghead.” Tony goes to him, carefully cups a cheek with the palm of his metal glove, and brings their foreheads together.
“I don’t know about the waffles,” Tony begins, because really, how is he going to eat with the helmet on? Steve’s face droops. “But how about we start with a date to an art gallery?”
Steve’s eyes lift and he beams like the sun. “I’d love that, Iron Man.”
“There’s just one thing,” Tony says, and Steve nods earnestly. “I think we may have to do a little work on your approach to asking for dates. I’m not sure epic poetry should become your go-to move.”
“That was Mr. Stark’s idea,” Steve says, a little defensive. “He said it would be appropriate.”
Tony laughs again. “Yeah, you shouldn’t listen to that guy. He’s an idiot.”