When they finally go on their first actual, real, no-plausible-deniability date, through most of the night Tony forgets that it’s a date at all. Steve, for all of his recent obtuseness, sees this clearly in Tony’s face – he gets swept up in it: the chatter and good food and enjoying each other’s company, which they’ve been doing for months anyway, but every so often he does a little double-take at Steve like, oh. Right. Date. With intentions.
Steve gets that.
Steve also knows that Tony feels bad about how things played out between them in order to get here. He’d turned Steve down repeatedly, only to change his mind, but afterward has continued to be the way that he is. On edge. Wary. Tony wants this, but is so used to keeping that hidden that he’s still figuring out how to get used to being seen.
Steve gets that, too. They’re tied up in the same thing, really, because Tony’s been through a lot and is understandably cautious, while Steve hasn’t been that great at making on a good impression on Tony. If only he were smarter, faster, and quicker to pick things up, then maybe—
“There.” They’re walking side by side on the way back to the car, and Tony lifts a hand to Steve’s face, where his fingertips just whisper-light brush over his temple. Steve suppresses his shiver. “What are you thinking?”
“I thought we were keeping things light tonight,” Steve says.
“Oh boy.” Tony pulls his mouth into an exaggerated grimace, but he’s intrigued. Nervous, but also intrigued, and in this instance, at least, curiosity wins out. “Tell me anyway.”
“Feel free to forget everything I say after this,” Steve says, which makes Tony scoff, “but I was just thinking that I wish I knew the right things to say to you, so that you’d believe me. Tonight was wonderful, and any pace you want to set is perfect. I wouldn’t change anything.”
“Geez,” Tony says airily, though Steve doesn’t miss the way that Tony’s hands subtly clench at his sides. How did Steve miss this? “I thought you were just gonna ask if I’ll let you get to second base tonight.”
Steve laughs. “Only if you want to.”
“What do you want, though? If you could make a request.” There’s another quick flash in Tony’s eyes – that burning curiosity – before it’s gone, tempered. “Where no requests would be judged or held binding in any way.”
Steve knows this one already. “Holding your hand would be nice.”
“Really?” Tony makes a face and offers a hand out, making Steve’s breath catch. “C’mon, you’re easy.”
Steve doesn’t want to make a production out of it. But gooseflesh rises at the back of his neck as he reaches out to take Tony’s hand, their palms gliding together at an angle until Steve winds their fingers together in a casual but comfortable hold. Tony’s hand is calloused but well-cared-for, and fits perfectly against Steve’s.
Tony, though. He clearly didn’t think much of the offer, but surprise rolls over his face when their hands come together, followed by what seems to be subtle shiver in his shoulders.
Worried he may have gone too far, Steve immediately tries to loosen his grip, but Tony just scowls at him and squeezes tighter in retaliation. They walk like that, hand-in-hand, for rest of the block to where their car is waiting.
“Second base, though.” Tony clears his throat. “Still on the cards.”
“I’m fine with just—” Steve startles at Tony’s meaningful side-eye. “Oh. Okay, yeah, that’s good, too.”