When Tony thought about it later, he realized that he never got flowers. He gave a lot of them away, yes; to his mother and grandmother, and later to a few girls he dated, and to Pepper. But he never got any himself. He didn't question it, it was normal. Women got flowers from men, not the other way around. It was a habit, and one so well established that no one even thought to consider it. Men only got flowers when they were already lying in the cold ground.
But Steve saw it differently.
When he first had them sent to him, Tony was at work. He was walking down the hall, sipping coffee from a cup, holding his cell phone in his other hand, playing Water Solve Puzzle . He caught a glimpse of the messenger out of the corner of his eye, and only because of the huge bouquet he was carrying. Wow, Pepper hadn't mentioned that she had another secret admirer!
"Potts isn't here, but you can leave it on her desk," he hollered at the messenger. He turned to him, grinned, and looked at the papers.
"Actually, it's for Mr. Stark."
Tony stopped mid-step. He pocketed his cell phone, snatched the papers from the messenger’s hand, and ran his eyes thoughtfully over the names and addresses. And yes, indeed, he found himself. Anthony Edward Stark, it was him. His eyebrows quirked.
"Yes. Here, sign it for me," he demanded, handing him a pen. Tony took it, formed a sweeping signature on the paper, and the next moment he was holding the huge bouquet in his arms.
He didn't remember how he'd stumbled into the office, and he didn't know where he'd gotten the vase of water. All he knew was that he had been sitting at his desk for the last ten minutes, propping his head up and looking in confusion at the flood of white flowers. Lily of the valley. Why would anyone send him lilies of the valley?
Pepper walked into the room and Tony jerked. He leaned back in his chair, ran his palm over his face, and looked at her in confusion. With his other hand, he gestured furiously to the vase.
Pepper looked up and inspected the bouquet. She quirked her brow. "They're flowers, Tony. They grow from the ground, sometimes they bloom. People like to pick them and tie them in bouquets," she uttered with a clear hint of sarcasm in her voice. Tony frowned.
"I know that! But why are they here?"
"Someone probably brought them. Ask at the front desk, I'm sure they must have signed them in," she continued calmly. After so many years working for him, she was used to his sometimes completely nonsensical questions.
"Why would anyone send me flowers, Pep?"
It finally seemed he get her attention. She set her things down on the table and approached the bouquet curiously. "Are they for you?"
"Hmm," she said simply, and from a fold of decorated paper she pulled out a plain white card that Tony hadn't noticed until now. A soft smile appeared on her lips. "Yeah, that's a good question. Who n Earth would send you flowers, right?"
She turned the card over to him and Tony read the few words. He felt his cheeks heat up (inappropriate, Stark, what are you, ten?) and embarrassment rise in him.
I’m thinking of you.
Tony was unable to speak. He was looking at the white flowers and the card, and his brain was working too slowly. Did Steve really send him flowers? Just like that? If it was his birthday or they had an anniversary, maybe Tony wouldn't be so surprised. But it was an ordinary Wednesday in March.
"Interesting choice," Pepper mused aloud, her fingertips gently touching one of the flowers. Tony had a hard time not hissing angrily at her. "Lily of the valley. Did you know that's the flower of your birth month?"
He didn't. Never in his life would he have thought such a thing existed. He sank deeper into his chair, his face burning and his heart clenching with emotion. Pepper never took her eyes off him, her face still bright with a smile. She walked over to him, wrapped her arm around his shoulders and laughed softly.
"You caught the most romantic guy in all of New York, do you know that?"
"He wants to break up with me," Tony decided suddenly, straightening up. Pepper patted him on the head lightly.
"Asshole," she hissed.
"That's the only thing that makes sense! Why would he send me flowers if it wasn’t something serious?"
"Because he's thoughtful?" She suggested, and this time she twisted his ear. Tony hissed. "And you really think flowers and an I’m thinking of you note means a breakup? Where's that genius you keep bragging about?"
She laughed and Tony just looked at her, offended. But he knew she was right. He took a deep breath, calmed himself, and took another good look at the flowers. Finally, he smiled.
"Birth month flower you say?" He muttered. Pepper nodded thoughtfully.
"Yeah. If I remember correctly, lilies of the valley are supposed to signify chastity, purity, and sweetness. Neither of which are a good match for you. I'd rather send you thistles."
"Oh! Leave me alone!" He laughed, and Pep immediately joined him.