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The Way to His Heart: A Guide to the Care and Feeding of Tony Stark

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“Hello?” It was Tony’s phone that rang shrill interrupting movie night and he scrambled to answer it, grimacing apologetically at the team as he hurried towards the other side of common area. “Hey! Hey, no I can talk for a minute, nothing’s going on, what’s up? How are you? I uh--” 

Tony glanced back at everyone in the room and admitted softly, “I missed you.”

Whatever the person on the other end said had Tony laughing in quiet delight and moving further into the kitchen, and the moment he was out of hearing range, a collective yet quiet groan went up from the gathered team.” 

“Nothin’s goin’ on?” Bucky was the first to complain, folding his arms over his chest and doing his best approximation of a pout. “We’re havin’ movie night, what does he mean nothin’s goin’ on? This is something!” 

“Stop that.” Steve looked equally upset but he still pressed at Bucky’s thigh warningly, shaking his head and lowering his voice so Tony wouldn’t over hear. “Don’t be like that. We’re all supposed to be happy that Tony isn’t lonely anymore, remember? We talked about this, remember?” 

“I remember.” The former Winter Soldier had a scowl that could peel wall paper. “I also remember tellin’ ya that Tony wouldn’t be lonely with us but you all shouted me down about it.” 

“Don’t say we shouted you down like we were happy about it.” Natasha spoke up from her seat in the recliner, legs tucked under her body and a pillow clutched to her chest as she watched the movie, green eyes sharp in the glow from the TV. “Not a single one of us are happy that Tony has a new boyfriend, Bucky. But we all agreed we are happy that he’s happy, so leave it alone.” 

“The hell we are happy.” Clint was wearing coordinated jammies all in an atrocious shade of purple, his designated movie night spot on the floor littered with two bowls of popcorn, half a dozen full size candy bars and a 2-liter of something horrifyingly caffeinated. “It was my night to get to sit next’a Tony and all the sudden he’s got a call from the newest boy toy? No, nobody’s happy about that.” 

“Now now, Clint.” Bruce never watched movies, but he was always happy to sit alongside his teammates, housemates, friends and read while the movie played in the background. “No need to be petulant about anything.” 

“Now hold on, I never thought I’d say this, but I actually agree with Clint.” Sam was sprawled out on the white couch, lounge pants riding low on his hips and upper torso on full bare display. “I’m over here laying all strategic beneath this light and Tony was definitely checking me out right up until the phone rang. Nobody’s happy about that.” 

“Nobody’s happy about your shirt bein’ off either.” Bucky retorted, and Sam countered right back, “Everyone’s happy about it, Frosty. Don’t be upset just cos you and Cap asked Tony out and he laughed in your face.” 

“He didn’t laugh in our face.” Steve flushed dull red, clenching his jaw in frustration. “He just thought we were kidding.” 

“No, he laughed at you, I heard it.” Bruce turned a page in his book. “That’s what prompted the whole conversation about how you all should stop trying to get in Tony’s pants and just let him be happy, remember?” 

Another collective albeit quiet groan, and Clint’s attention shifted to Thor who had yet to add anything to the conversation. “What do you think, Thunder from Down Under? Think our idea to let Tony find happiness and companionship outside the team is bullshit? Or do you think we have a right to be pouty that for whatever reason the smartest guy in the world can’t figure out that we full on heart eye for him?” 

Thor took up an entire sofa just by himself, shoulders stretched far and big feet planted wide as he pursed his lips and thought Clint’s words through. And then without so much as blinking, the God of Thunder snapped his fingers and a spark of light sizzled in the air for a few seconds, just long enough to burrow itself into Tony’s phone and effectively end the call with a pop

“Shit!” Tony yelped when the phone damn near melted in his hand. “What in the fuck--?” 

That’s what I think.” Thor rumbled and Natasha laughed softly to herself over it. 

“Everything okay, Tony?” Sam called as nonchalantly as he dared. “Phone okay?” 

“I must not have fixed that shorting issue we found in those first tests.” Tony frowned down at the disfigured phone, then tossed the whole thing in the trash and made his way back into the common area. “Oh well. It’s not like I don’t have six other phones and we’d figured everything important out anyway.” 

“Oh yeah?” Clint didn’t have a nonchalant bone in his body, so when Tony settled back onto the floor to share the popcorn and continue the movie, Clint scooted right over so their shoulders and legs were bumping. “What’s the important things you figured out?” 

“A very stupid thing.” Tony popped a handful of popcorn into his mouth and sighed loud, entirely oblivious to how everyone in the room instinctively leaned closer at the distressed sound. “He uh-- he wants us to have a cooking date.” 

“A cooking date.” Bruce’s eyebrows twitched only slightly upward in surprise. “As in, he comes over here and you two cook together?” 

Bucky’s hand flew to his side feeling around for a knife as if he could stab away even the thought of having to hang around while Tony and his boyfriend got schmoozy in the kitchen, and Sam winged a pillow at him to get him to cut it out. 

“Oh I wouldn’t bring him here.” If Tony noticed Clint inching closer to his side, he didn’t comment. “Not for any particular reason but also for the very particular reason of my roommates being the Avengers.” 

Kotenok.” Natasha murmured, the nickname kitten slipping off her tongue in Russian. “We wouldn’t hurt your friend. He is welcome here.” 

Thor looked like he wildly disagreed with that premise but before the demigod could argue one way or another, Tony continued, “No, I’m not worried about that. It’s just that the Tower is home, it’s one of the only places we are all free from gawkers and paparazzi and I wouldn’t want to change that by inviting a stranger in. Plus it would do terrible things for my ego if I invited someone home and they took one look at any of you and decided to upgrade, if you know what I mean.” 

“Why would that happen, Tony?” Sam made a disbelieving noise, thoroughly trampling their promise to back off as he blurted, “Have you seen you?” 

“Sure I have.” Tony’s nose wrinkled when he laughed and it was cute enough for Steve to have to muffle a curse into a drink. “But have you seen you? Or Steve and Bucky? Thor in the morning? Bruce working at his desk? Clint in those ridiculous yoga pants or Tasha when she’s dancing in the studio? I don’t stand a chance against you guys and I’m fine with that, but my ego literally wouldn’t survive being swapped out for one of you. Ask Rhodey. One time a girl asked for his number before she asked for mine and let’s be clear, I’m not blaming her because Rhodey is a fox but I still pouted about it for a month.” 

“Fuck me, he’s adorable.” Bucky muttered, scrubbing at his face in exhaustion before saying louder, “Tony, ain’t no one gonna see us and change their mind about you.” 

“Right.” Tony laughed again and settled in further to Clint’s side, not seeing how Clint nearly melted into the innocent touch. “The other day you went running without a shirt on and I almost had a heart attack watching your nip nops in the morning air. I would leave me for you all so I certainly can’t blame anyone else for leaving too. There’s no hard feelings, I just want to have a boyfriend for a tiny bit longer before introducing you guys. So no, no cooking date here.” 

The room was quiet as the movie played on, the team exchanging meaningfully pointed looks over Tony’s head for a few minutes. It was Thor who broke the silence with his deep voice, rumbling a curious, “Anthony. Why is cooking together a stupid thing?” 

“Hm?” Tony’s expression wrinkled in confusion, then cleared a moment later. “Oh, yes cooking together is a very stupid thing. I’m actually shocked I agreed to it, but we all do crazy things whilst horny so--” 

He shrugged, mistook Tasha’s strangled cough of agreement about the horny, and clarified, “I said yes to a cooking date when I can’t cook at all. Don’t know what I was thinking.” 

“You cook all the time, Tony.” Steve laced his fingers with Bucky in an effort to get his boyfriend to relax, since Bucky had tensed up anticipatory the moment Tony had mentioned his nip nops. “You made us chicken just the other night and it was great.” 

“Uh no.” Tony broke his candy bar in half and tossed the other piece to Bruce. “No I definitely didn’t make you chicken. I ordered in chicken and put it on regular plates so when you came for dinner it looked homemade.” 

“You made us a pie for my birthday.” Thor countered. “Twas delicious. Peaches if I remember correctly.” 

“Paid this sweet lady I met at the store to cook it for me.” Tony shook his head. “I’ve never even put anything in the oven, much less baked it.” 

“Tony.” Natasha’s brow furrowed. “Tony, I have seen you make us pancakes.” 

“Have you though?” The gorgeous little brunette challenged. “Or have you been sitting in here working off a hangover and seen me carry in plates of pancakes?” 

“Wait wait wait.” Sam finally sat up, swinging his feet off the couch and clasping his hands between his knees to stare Tony down. “We alternate who cooks. It was your idea as a way to bring us all closer. Are you telling me that you have never cooked? Not once? Ever?”  

“One day you can ask Rhodey about the toaster strudel incident in MIT.” Tony offered as explanation. “And then ask Pepper about the birthday cake fiasco the first year she worked for me.” 

“So you said yes to cooking with this guy when you can’t cook at all?” Clint asked in disbelief. “Tony, what were you thinking?” 

“Uhhh…” Tony scratched at his chin sheepishly. “That I’m pretty enough for him to not realize I don’t know the difference between baking soda and baking powder?” 

“Oh my god.” Bruce put his book down. “Which meal are you trying to cook together?” 

“Dinner.” Tony answered promptly, then a little embarrassed, “And he suggested I could cook breakfast. Cos you know, I’ll hopefully still be there for breakfast? And I got so excited about an overnight date that I said yes without thinking and now-- now I’m stuck.” 

Once again Thor was the one to break the silence, and the huge blond looked as if the words physically pained him, the idea of helping Anthony impress someone else sitting like acid on his tongue. “Anthony my-- my friend. Would you like me to teach you to cook?” 

“I could teach you something too.” Sam managed to only half grumble. “I’ve got good breakfast type recipes.” 

“Me and Stevie got my Ma’s recipe for cookies. They’re real good.” Bucky offered and after a moment of clear indecision Clint added, “I got a few ideas that’ll work Tony. And they’re me proof so they should be good even for a kitchen disaster like you.” 

“Really?” Tony’s smile was so happy, so thrilled that they all felt immediately guilty for not-secretly hoping the whole boyfriend thing didn’t work out. “You guys would help me?” 

“Of course we will, Tony.” Out of everyone, Bruce was the least romantically inclined but he had a soft spot for Tony that was damn near love and it layered his voice warm. “I’ve got a recipe you’ll like too.” 

“I’ll go first.” Natasha smiled sweetly at Tony and shot lasered glares at everyone else so they wouldn’t dare protest. “I’ve got a baked French Toast recipe that will fix all of this, alright?” 

“You are all the best.” Tony’s eyes were sparkling, cheeks flushed in surprise and open appreciation. “And Natasha thank you. Our date is for Saturday and I’d settle for just learning to properly scramble an egg--” 

Bruce coughed shocked into his drink and Tony nodded emphatically, “Yeah, that’s why we had to throw away that one skillet pan. Can’t scramble eggs worth a damn. And yes, I’d settle just for learning that but if you will help me with more, I will absolutely buy you something pretty.” 

“I’d like a new handgun.” Natasha answered coolly. “And we’ll start lessons in the morning.” 

“I can’t wait.” 

********

Tony arrived in the Tower kitchen promptly at nine-thirty the next morning, and Natasha’s full lips tilted into a bemused smile when she saw him readily attired in the most ruffled apron she’d even seen in her entire life. 

“Tony.” Nat was standing on tip toes on the counter straining to reach the biggest baking pans in the very top, seldom used cupboard. She was shorter than everyone else on the team, shorter than Tony by a solid six inches so she thoroughly enjoyed the chance to chuckle down at Tony from her counter top assisted height. “What on Earth are you wearing?” 

“Pepper lent it to me.” Tony smoothed the ruffles with both hands, grinning at the wildly floral print. “She promised me her most ridiculous apron. I thought she’d give me the one that said Kitchen Diva but this one is nice too. Do you need help down from there?” 

If anyone other than Tony had asked, the fearsome ballerina would have more than likely kicked them in the head and then somersaulted her way to the kitchen floor effortlessly, but because it was Tony Natasha carefully set the baking pans down then took the offered hand and allowed Tony to help her down safely onto the tiles. “Thank you, darling.” 

“Sure thing.” Attention caught by the array of ingredients lining the counters, Tony missed the flicker of adoration in Natasha’s green eyes. “So. Blueberries? Is that why Sam is scowling and muttering in the dining room?” 

“Yes.” She answered promptly. “He came sneaking trying to steal my blueberries and got a fork through the palm for it.” 

“Ouch.” Tony winced sympathetically. “I shouldn’t laugh about that.” 

“I disagree.” Natasha tied an apron around her tiny waist, a rather muted affair when compared to Tony’s floral printed eyesore. “I think in all cases, we should laugh at giant stupid boys who get stabbed for trying to steal food.” 

Tony did laugh then, nearly shouted with laughter in fact and Natasha murmured something approving and sweet under her breath as she moved to start the oven. “Ready to learn a breakfast recipe?” 

“Absolutely.” Tony declared excitedly. “Tell me what we’re making.” 

“Baked Blueberry French Toast.” Natasha motioned to a loaf of bread sitting off to the side. “First things first, the bread needs to be crustless and cubed. Can you handle that?” 

“I…” Tony turned the loaf over in his hands hesitantly. “...understand what those words mean separately. Crustless and cubed.” 

“They mean exactly the same thing in this context.” Natasha busied herself greasing the baking pan and opening bars of cream cheese. “Cut the crust off, cube the loaf. You could tear the bread into pieces too, but it’s prettier if we cube it.” 

“Sure.” Tony picked the largest, shiniest knife from the drawer and Nat made a negative noise, exchanged it for one with a serrated blade that would slice through the soft pieces. “Wow, wait till Bucky hears that the biggest knife isn’t always the best knife.” 

“Every man in the world and several women need to hear the biggest knife isn’t always the best knife.” Nat replied dryly, expertly cutting the blocks of cream cheese and setting them aside. “The size of the knife is only thirty percent of what matters. The other seventy percent is how you use it.” 

“Ms. Romanoff.” Tony only glanced up briefly from his studious attempts at cubing. “Was that almost a dick joke? Size doesn’t matter, it’s all about how you use it?” 

“It was almost a dick joke.” Nat winked at him. “And provides an excellent segue into my next question-- careful, those pieces are almost too small. Cube it, don’t dice it-- how big is your paramour?” 

“How big is my--” Tony nearly dropped the knife and only just managed to recover it without losing a finger or four. “Tasha!” 

“From a scale of Clint to Thor.” Nat swept towards the fridge for milk. “With Clint being ‘just right to get the job done’ and Thor being ‘you aren’t sure if you’ll ever be able to swallow again because you’re pretty sure you felt it coming up the back of your throat every time he jammed it in you’.” 

Tony stared horrified for a few seconds, long enough that Natasha almost regretted asking the question...

…but then, “I feel like Clint’s on the bigger side of just right to get the job done.” Tony neatly sidestepped the question about his paramour and went back to cutting. “Have you seen him in the yoga pants?” 

“Yes, Tony.” Tasha didn’t miss Tony’s avoidance of the question, and filed that information away in her mind for later. “Yes, I’ve seen Clint in the yoga pants. And I agree. Probably the bigger side of just right to get the job done.” 

“Definitely.” Tony spread the fairly cube-ish bread into the pan where Natasha indicated. “But since I can’t comfortably talk about uh… girth… while wielding a knife, tell me how the heck you know this recipe.” 

“Why do you say it like that?” Natasha held up the container of fresh blueberries, handed Tony a measuring cup and pointed him at the pan again. “As if it’s weird that I know a recipe at all?” 

“Mostly because one time I heard you argue with Steve that a shot of adrenaline into the heart produces an equitable amount of calories and energy as a full meal and therefore you should be allowed to skip dinner every now and then?” Tony scattered the blueberries, frowned down at his attempts and then rescattered them with his fingers until the bread pieces were well covered. “Partly because I can’t imagine the Black Widow lifestyle lends itself to much time for home cooked meals, especially ones that require lots of different ingredients, a pan, oven and fresh fruit.” 

“You are correct on both accounts.” Nat picked up another handful of bread and spread it over the berries and waited while Tony picked up the remaining cream cheese and added it in. “Even though the shot of adrenaline argument was solely to see that big vein in Steve’s forehead throb.” 

“That thing is ultra scary, looks like a damn alien under his skin.” Tony blanched when Tasha handed him a whisk and a bowl full of milk, a weird amount of eggs and maple syrup. “Also uh what am I doing right now?” 

“Whisk.” Nat made the motion with her hands. “All of it.” 

“This is a chicken coops worth of eggs.” 

“It’s called a dozen eggs.” She corrected teasingly. “But you’re cute so I’ll let it slide. And you’re right, being a Black Widow left very little time for recipes like this.” 

“So how do you know it?” Tony’s first attempt at whisking went unfortunately awry and he gasped out something strangled when a splotch of egg flung up and hit him right in the eye. “Ack! I didn’t know I needed protection for my face!” 

“Whisk slowly first until everything is mixed and then whisk quickly.” Nat wiped the egg away with a corner of her own apron. “My god, you really are a disaster in the kitchen aren’t you? You built an AI system that runs this entire place but can’t handle French Toast?” 

“All geniuses are bad at normal things.” Tony sniffed. “If I was a great cook and amazing at everything else, the world would never stand a chance.” 

“Of course it wouldn’t.” Natasha took the bowl and poured it over the layered dish, then popped the whole thing in the oven and pointed so Tony would set the timer. “This will take about an hour to bake so let’s clean up, then I’ll show you how to make the syrup for it.” 

“You never answered my question.” Tony rolled his sleeves up and turned the water on, readying himself for the stack of dishes Natasha loaded into the sink. “How did you learn the recipe?” 

“Well.” Nat popped a spare blueberry into her mouth as she thought through her answer. “At the risk of sharing long buried agency secrets, when I was a child I was brought to America along with two other agents and another little girl for a secret mission. I was at least nine when we arrived, and we stayed for three years.” 

“What, as a--a fake family?” Tony scrubbed at the mixing bowl, brows lifted curiously. “Where at in the states?” 

“The Midwest.” Another blueberry, Natasha’s expression dreamy and almost sad as she remembered. “I was old enough and already well trained enough in the Red Room to know it was an assignment and I knew not to look too far into the way the agents were parental and caring to us, but the little girl, the one who played my sister-- she didn’t know so the agents were extra careful with her.” 

“The woman who pretended to be our Mother made the same five meals every week, it was all she knew.” One of Tasha’s shoulders rose and fell in a half shrug. “Her part of the mission was far beyond even what I understood, so she learned only the basics of cooking to fit in to the neighborhood. We had the same five meals on the weekdays, Saturday night we would order in pizza and on Sunday morning, she would make this.” 

Nat inclined her head towards the stove. “Blueberry French Toast. The entire house would smell sweet all day Sunday, there was always extra syrup and more helpings than we could possibly eat. She made it on Sundays, on birthdays or holidays and when I ate it, sometimes I would allow myself to forget  that we were pretending. It felt like something a real mother would make me, a labor of love because it was time consuming and sometimes berries were expensive and there was always a mess…only a real mother would be willing to do all that effort, hm?” 

She smiled, only a little. “The night we ran, I took the recipe card from her box and put it in my bag because I thought it would be important.” 

Tony slowed in washing the bowl, sympathy dimming his dark eyes. “It wasn’t important.” 

“Not to anyone except me.” Nat shook her head. “I memorized it on the journey to our rendezvous point and when they took my bag, I never saw the card again. I never forgot it though. It was the first meal I made when Fury recruited me to SHIELD, a meal of freedom. I make it for myself sometimes and eat it for days after a mission and Clint begs me for it when he is sick because he is entirely incapable of feeding himself.” 

“And now you’re passing the recipe to me so I can get laid?” Tony asked hopefully, a hand at his heart because he was both sad for Nat’s story but also aware enough not to pry. “My god do I appreciate that.” 

“Yes.” Natasha hid a flash of jealousy in a quick smile because ugh she didn’t really want Tony laid by anyone but her. “Now I am passing this recipe to you so you can get laid. Guard it with your life.” 

The dishes were done in a relatively short amount of time and the conversation turned to more mundane things as Tony and Natasha wiped down the counters and readied the simple syrup that would top the French Toast once it was finished. 

Tony stole a drink of Natasha’s orange juice and nearly died coughing when he realized it was mostly Vodka with only enough orange juice to color the alcohol, and  Natasha laughed until her sides hurt as he screeched, “Who the hell drinks vodka in the morning! It is ten in the morning Natasha!” When the noise and laughter drew inevitable looky-loos and nosiness from other members of the team, Natasha rested a slightly possessive hand at Tony’s back and glared lethal at the interlopers until they scurried away. 

This was her morning with Tony, damn it. They needed to stay away. 

Lips stained with blueberries, laughter louder after sharing the barely-juiced vodka and the syrup spreading thick and sweet over the fresh from the oven French Toast, the kitchen smell wonderful and Tony’s cheeks were flushed with happiness as he dug into the portion on his plate.

“This is amazing!” he cried out loud. “I helped with this! I cut the bread that made this delicious!” 

“Of course you did, my love.” Nat smiled over her own bite of the admittedly yummy breakfast. “The cut bread is obviously the star of this whole dish.” 

“Thank you for this, Tasha.” Tony sobered up enough to say, entwining their fingers and squeezing at her hand quickly. “I messed up that syrup three different times--” 

“-- we don’t just dump cornstarch into water, no, we need a slurry for that.” she nodded good naturedly. “But that’s okay, you learned.” 

“-- and you didn’t give up on me and I appreciate that.” Tony’s cheeks tinted lightly pink. “Especially since it’s probably not super fun to teach someone to cook just so they can use it to seduce someone else.” 

“It’s fine, Tony.” Nat set her fork down and reached to very carefully, very gently sweep her thumb over the bow of Tony's lips, wiping away a bit of syrup with a near tender smile. “And if your boyfriend isn’t already in love with you, this should absolutely seal the deal.” 

“Um--” Tony’s heart did something odd in his chest when the little redhead stood on her toes to kiss his cheek. “Th-thank you.” 

“It was my pleasure, love.” Nat stepped away before she did anything impulsive, and whistled sharp out into the living room. “Alright Clint and Sam! We’re done cooking so you can come eat!” 

Whatever Tony felt, whatever way his heart flip flopped or stomach swooped when Nat winked at him quickly derailed when he was nearly trampled as Sam and Clint beelined into the kitchen, closely followed by Thor and Steve who body checked Bucky out of the way to get to the pan first. 

Tony tucked that reaction away alongside all the other ways Nat made his heart flutter and set to work copying the recipe onto a card for himself. 

He had a date to plan for. 

*********

Chapter Notes: 

 

I’ve officially been writing fan fiction for five years now, so it felt right to revisit one of my earliest fics (Rules for Dating Tony) and use that same formula for an anniversary fic. 

This is going to be nothing but everyone flirting with Tony, lots of fluff and laughter, and Tony getting spoiled and flattered and taken care of just like he deserves. Also Kitchen Gremlin Disaster Tony is one of my favorite versions of him!

Oh and Bonus! Every recipe in the fic is out of my personal recipe book! So you can make it too! 

Next Up: Steve and Bucky , and Clint! 

********

Baked Blueberry French Toast: 

Makes 9x13 Pan

*Note-- I usually make this the night before and keep in fridge overnight then bake

French Toast Ingredients:

 

12 Slices White, Crustless Bread

2 8oz packages softened cream cheese

12 eggs

2 Cup Milk

⅓ Cup Maple Syrup or Honey

1 Cup Frozen or Fresh  Blueberries

Syrup Ingredients

 

1 Cup Sugar

2 Tbsp Cornstarch

1 Cup Water

1 Cup Blueberries

1 Tbsp Butter

Directions: 

 

Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees

Cube Crustless Bread, Place ½ in Bottom of Greased Pan

Cube 1 Package Cream Cheese over Bread

Top with ½ Blueberries

Repeat until Pan is Full

Mix Eggs, Milk, and Maple Syrup/Honey and Pour Over Pan

Bake Approx. 1 Hour, 30 mins foil- covered, Remaining Time Uncovered 

Prepare Syrup (20 mins cook time) 

 

Whisk Cornstarch and Water into Slurry 

Over Medium Heat, Whisk in Sugar and Let Mixture Thicken

Add Blueberries

Once thickened to taste, remove from heat and add Tbsp butter, stirring until melted. 

Serve Over Warm French Toast

Chapter Text

The sight of two over tall, over beefy, over a hundred years old, over super serum jacked soldiers in checkered aprons was both the funniest and also somehow quite possibly the most arousing sight Tony Stark had ever seen. 

It just wasn’t right for the huge Tower kitchen to be dwarfed beneath two sets of massive shoulders, for the steadfast timbre of Steve’s voice and the rumbling pitch of Bucky’s drawl to both blend with and also overpower the steady whir of the stand mixer and the easy jazz from the speakers. Tony was used to feeling short-- damn his average Italian height-- but he wasn’t used to feeling small and somehow in the same moment feeling smitten especially when that same moment involved checkered aprons and the former Winter Soldier and a living breathing All American Fossil arguing about how much cinnamon was too much cinnamon and whether or not ginger could be eyeballed.  

It didn’t seem right but was perfectly right all the same, absolutely hilarious but also a turn on and the way Tony felt whenever Steve or Bucky found a reason to touch him as they passed in the kitchen was… 

…well, it sure was something, wasn’t it? 

“Think you look better in that apron than I do, doll.” Bucky jabbed a silver finger into a couple sticks of butter to test their softness, then dumped them into the mixing bowl. “Where’d you get all those ruffles?” 

“Uh, Pepper gave this to me.” Tony plucked at one of the ruffles, cursing the heat he knew was crawling up into his cheeks. After what had been a surprisingly fun, surprisingly flirty cooking session with Natasha just yesterday and with his stomach still rioting butterflies every time the slightly murdery ballerina smiled at him, Tony was feeling prone to blushing and damn it if Steve and Bucky didn’t seem prone to making him blush

“I’ll hafta write her a thank you note for it.” Bucky elbowed Steve and inclined his head only briefly to where Tony was shading delightfully pink. “You’re sure pretty right now, Tony.” 

“Don't mind Bucky, he thinks anyone in the kitchen cooking him food is pretty.” Steve had no real reason to brush his fingers over Tony’s waist as he passed to get eggs from the fridge, but he did it anyway, relishing the slip of Tony’s always fancy shirt beneath his fingertips and the near inaudible hitch of the genius’s breath that only a super soldier would hear. “I on the other hand think you’re pretty all the time.” 

“Fuck off Stevie.” Bucky snorted. “You’re tall now remember? Don’t gotta upstage me with the compliments anymore.” 

“Anymore?” Tony didn’t let himself linger on the idea that the super soldiers were trying to upstage each other to compliment him and instead latched onto the thought of not tall Steve competing with Sergeant Barnes for someone’s attention. “What does that mean?” 

“It means that back when we were kids, I used to be uh… over eager… in romantic pursuits because I was shorter than most the women we chased.” Steve handed Tony a jar of old fashioned molasses and a measuring cup. “Bucky was tall but I was witty and clever so…you know.” 

“I know what?” Tony obediently poured the molasses into the mixing bowl alongside the sugars. “That you got more girls than Bucky cos you’re clever?” 

“Clever ain’t a match for this.” Bucky cracked both eggs in one huge hand and flexed his other arm dramatically, the checkered apron pulling tight across his abdomen as he did. “Don’t matter anyway. Only took a few dates for us to figure out we wanted each other and not some dame.” 

“Bucky’s only saying that cos he lost to me a lot.” Steve grabbed down the flour sifter and measured out the dry ingredients. “People think pre-serum me was awkward but I had some game. Bucky had some too but it took alot of his charm to get me into bed. It took very little of my charm to get Bucky into bed. He’s easy.” 

“Fuck off, Stevie.” Bucky growled it this time and Tony giggled until his sides hurt as the cookie recipe devolved into super soldier sized squabbling over just how difficult it had been for Steve and Bucky to end up together and who had seduced who and whether or not Steve had been overcompensating because he was short while Bucky got to rely on his brawn instead of his brains. 

It was fascinating to observe them together, to see a literal hundred years worth of love and companionship surviving in the wake of separations, horrifying grief and a reunion that had been christened in blood as Hydra’s ships fell from the sky. On paper, both Steve and Bucky should have been solemn and withdrawn and traumatized after those events. They should have been huddled together away from the world and hiding from the harsh reality of the years neither should have endured. 

At the very least, Captain America and the former Winter Soldier should have found other things to do with their time besides bake cookies in hilariously small aprons but here they were anyway. They were laughing and teasing, flirting and touching, and not just with each other but with Tony too and that was hard to comprehend. 

…why are they flirting with me?

Tony pushed that particular thought away and chided gently, “Boys boys boys. You’re both very brawny and at least mildly charming these days, no sense in fighting about it. Besides, I think the cookie dough is ready.” 

“Just so you know, Tony? I can bench press a helicopter.” Steve couldn’t resist one last jab as he pulled out cookie scoops and a cookie tray. “And for future reference, Bucky can’t walk through a metal detector without getting a full body cavity search so take that as you will when planning which one of us to take on vacation.” 

“You weren’t complainin’ the last time I gave you a full body cavity search.” Bucky grumbled and Tony shrieked in laughter at Steve’s wholehearted embarrassment. “C’mon sugar, c’mere and I’ll show you how’ta scoop these out right here.” 

“Why cookie scoops?” Tony tamped down the urge to ask if Bucky had used his left hand to explore Steve’s whole body, and focused on the recipe instead. “Why not a regular spoon?” 

“Meatballs.” Steve readied another tray and retrieved another cookie scoop. “For a while Ma used to help with dinner at the church and she could feed the whole damn neighborhood out of a pot of her spaghetti and meatballs. You make enough meatballs, maybe you get a scoop to help portion so your hands don’t cramp rolling them, right?” 

“....right.” Tony watched curiously as Bucky employed just a hint of that super speed to quickly and efficiently portion out two and a half dozen cookie dough balls on the tray. “And now, cookies?” 

“When Stevie’s Ma wasn’t making spaghetti and meatballs for the church, she was baking cookies with my Ma to take to the shelter or to visit some’a the shut-ins.” The huge brunette clarified. “Don’t make sense to have more than a few kitchen utensils, specially when we had’ta think about heating bills and groceries durin’ the winter so Ma Rogers’s meatball scoop became my Ma’s cookie scoop. Portion it out like this, drop’em in the ice box and bake them when ya got time.” 

“You freeze the dough?” Tony took the offered scoop from Steve and dug into the bowl, both surprising and embarrassing himself with the amount of effort it took to get the thick dough out in one smooth scoop. “Why?” 

“Cos it keeps good.” Steve was already starting another batch of cookie dough, tossing everything together in the other stand mixer. “Cos when you’re poor you only got a little bit of time to do fun things that aren’t chores or necessary to survive, so you make as much as you can then store it so the next time, it’s only a few minutes to have cookies ready for guests or for church or for a welcome basket.” 

“Cos ingredients didn’t keep back then how they do now.” Bucky grunted. “So you gotta use ‘em, freeze ‘em or lose them and we didn’t have the money to lose stuff.” 

“Molasses?” 

“Cheaper than honey and better for you.” Steve eyed the ground gloves, then tossed some in the bowl. “Ginger cos it helped keep my stomach settled.” 

“Stevie couldn’t keep half of nothin’ down back then, but snacking on these helped a lot.” Bucky wiped his hands on his apron then retied the messy bun at the nape of his neck. “Smoosh it, Tony. Smoosh the dough down flatter. Not too thin, we want thick cookies but not too thick or else you need more time to bake.” 

“How thick is too thick?” Tony was not a natural in the kitchen, he didn’t measure things with his soul or eyeball recipes so he stopped before smooshing anything just to double check. “How do I know if it’s too thin?” 

“S’gotta be thick enough to taste real good on your tongue but thin enough to leave you wanting more.” Steve’s blue eyes dropped to Tony’s mouth, to the bottom lip the genius always chewed on as he thought, to the peek of pink as Tony wet his lips trying to force the cookie dough to be just thick enough. “Just uh-- always wantin’ more.” 

“Always.” Bucky’s drawl thickened a little, his own eyes considerably lower on Tony, lingering at the curve of his butt in the always distractingly snug pants. “Always wantin’... more.” 

“So what do we do after they freeze?” Tony was either oblivious to or studiously ignoring the way Bucky and Steve were staring at him. “Aren’t ginger snaps usually dipped in sugar?” 

“Sugar was real rationed during the war, but yeah when we had some to spare, Ma would roll these in sugar.” Steve set out a bowl of sugar while Bucky pulled an already chilled pan of cookie dough from the freezer. “Good thing we don’t ration a damn thing in the Tower, huh?” 

“Not a damn thing.” Tony grinned unrepentantly. “I believe in excess and I realize that might be difficult for two grandpas like yourself, but I have to spend my money on something. Might as well be ingredients for old fashioned cookies for my favorite hundred year olds.” 

“We’d teach ya to bake whether you were spendin’ your money on us or not.” Bucky touched Tony that time, silver fingers sending shivers up Tony’s body where they grazed his bare skin. “But thanks all the same.” 

“Are we your favorite hundred year olds, Tony?” Steve tugged at Tony’s apron strings teasingly. “Huh?” 

“You’re the only ones I know, so I feel like it’s an easy competition.” Tony’s nose wrinkled in delight. “But yes, you two are definitely my favorite.” 

“You’re our favorite too.”

“Hell, you sure are.” 

The cookies had to bake for ten minutes, which was just enough time between opening and closing the oven for each batch to get the kitchen cleaned up, counters wipes and floors swept and dishes done. The jazz music was turned up loud, Steve riffed along to the beat under his breath while Bucky alternated between scrubbing bowls and grabbing at Tony’s hands to twirl him along to the livelier measures. Steve joked about Bucky hogging Tony, Tony didn’t dare get his hopes up about that statement but let himself be twirled by the blond as well, shoulders brushed and hips bumped and the first taste of fresh from the oven cookie was so good it made Tony moan

“Is it good, sweetheart?” The name slipped out unconscious, Steve too focused on the crumbles at the corner of Tony’s sweet mouth to realize what he’d said and Bucky too busy cataloguing every flicker of happiness across Tony’s face to catch it. “You like it?” 

“Enough that I’m gonna tell JARVIS to order my pants a size up so I can eat as many as I want and still fit into my clothes next week.” Tony grinned around another bite. “These are amazing! Bucky, this is your Ma’s recipe? It’s so good!” 

“It’d make her real happy to know it's still bein’ used.” Bucky tapped the recipe card against his palm a few times before handing it over, his pale eyes uncharacteristically soft. “When Becca got married, Ma gave her the recipe to make for her babies and uh-- me and Stevie don’t have babies but Ma would be happy all the same to know it’s gettin’ passed down.” 

“I don’t have any of my Mama’s recipes.” Tony held the card almost reverently. “So I’ll make sure and take good care of this one.” 

“You ready to make another batch?” Steve motioned towards the second batch of dough he’d readied. “We got to make enough for the jackals to eat too.” 

“Jackals?” 

“Fuckin’ Sam and Clint.” Bucky interjected and Steve added, “And Thor. I saw him eat a whole watermelon the other. A whole one. Just cracked it open and went to town. He needs three dozen of these just to himself.” 

“I could bake another batch.” Tony popped another cookie into his mouth and retied his apron. “But if you guys have things to do other than this, that’s okay too.” 

“We got all day to bake with you, Tony.” 

“...yeah?” 

“Sure thing, sweet thing.” Bucky winked and squeezed at Steve’s hand before reaching for Tony and physically --gently-- dragged their favorite little genius up towards the counter. “You mix this batch, alright? We’ll keep an eye on things.” 

“Oh…kay.” Tony gulped when both the soldiers pressed at his side, feeling butterflies riot all over again. “I can do this.” 

********

*Gentle TW for mentions of depression from Clint and Tony*

“So rumour has it the old men taught you one of their grandpa recipes.” Clint rifled through the cupboards in the kitchen looking for box mixes and various canned goods. “What was it? Ginger snaps for incontinence? Molasses for memory loss? One of those weird war-time desserts that isn’t a dessert at all and is something horrifyingly gelatin instead?” 

“What?” Tony laughed at him. “No! They were ginger molasses cookies! You should know that, you had a whole dozen.” 

“Yep, and my tummy was very happy about it.” Clint apparently found what he was looking for and banged the cupboards shut in satisfaction. “How was cooking with the geezers?” 

“It was…” Tony paused thinking about how Steve had called him sweetheart, how Bucky had crooned sweet thing right into his ear and how the words had rolled around in his mind all damn night, far longer than the last moderately spicy text from his boyfriend had. 

“Fine.” Tony cleared his throat, then cleared it again, trying to push that particular thought away. “It was uh-- it was fine. What are we making today? What’s your super secret guaranteed to get me laid recipe?”

“Nothing as complicated as what Ye Olde Centenarians gave you.” Clint arranged all his supplies on the counter then dug out a big bowl and a sturdy mixing spoon. “Here’s the thing. Those boys have had an actual hundred years to bake shit, right?” 

“I mean, give or take several decades in the freezer, sure.” Tony tied his newly laundered ruffled apron around his waist and secured it snug. “Wait, don’t you need an apron?” 

“No apron.” Clint snatched several eggs from the fridge. “We make messes like men in this house.” 

“Kay.” Tony bit back a smile. Clint was always so funny but honestly, Tony was never really sure if the mouthy archer was being serious with some of his more outrageous statements or not, so he tried not to laugh too loud and potentially hurt Clint’s feelings. “I’m gonna keep mine just in case.” 

“Fair enough, those booty hugging jeans of yours probably cost more than my entire wardrobe.” Another bowl joined the first and Clint switched around a few of the ingredients to coordinate with which bowl they went into. “Anyway, none of this is complicated. Steve and Bucky had decades to figure out their cookie recipes. Us mere mortals don’t have that kind of time in the day or actually in our life, so we use shortcuts.” 

“I’m a fan of short cuts.” Tony breathed a quick sigh of relief. Baking with Natasha and Steve and Bucky had been fun, but the recipes had multiple multiple steps and something simple seemed much more up his alley. “How’d you come across this recipe?” 

“A charming mixture of growing up poor, always being too busy to actually cook and an often losing battle with my mental health that meant sometimes managing real food was difficult so this was how I fed myself when the sweet tooth got too cranky to ignore.” Clint switched the oven on, then turned and winked when he saw Tony grimacing sympathetically. “Hey now, none of that. I am a full on excellent person thanks to all that shit. Bucketful of childhood trauma, a sprinkle of depression and a slightly manic urge to work a bunch and hardly ever sleep so I don’t have too much time to turn that sprinkle of depression into a downpour? Totally fine. Don’t even worry about it.” 

“Sometimes I can’t tell if I’m supposed to laugh at what you say.” Tony admitted self consciously. “Joking about mental health…I don’t know. We kept that sort of thing secret around the Stark house. Didn’t talk about it, didn’t look at it too closely. I don’t know. It’s weird that you just blurt it out.” 

“Yeah and maybe if you didn’t keep it so secret, all the side effects of it wouldn’t have ended up splashed across tabloids for several years?” Clint suggested, tone snarky but smile sad in an understanding sort of way. “Like maybe if you’d made depression cake every once in a while instead of having a depression fifth of vodka you might actually remember your 20s?”

“Point taken.” Clint’s blunt but well meaning advice made Tony feel unexpectedly seen just then. The admission of depression and working at a manic speed just to keep it at bay was a habit Tony knew well, self coping in the form of insomnia and forgetting meals because sometimes food was too difficult… yeah, Tony recognized himself in all those words and felt unexpectedly seen

It was…nice. 

“Alright c’mere babe.” Clint snagged Tony’s hand and pulled him up to the counter. “This bowl right here is for when I’ve got time and a little pocket money and feel like being fancy. This other bowl? This is for when I’ve got no time and very little pocket money and just need to eat something. Since you always have time and lots of pocket money and have handkerchiefs fancier than most people’s houses, let’s start with the first one.” 

“On it.” Tony tore the top off the chocolate cake box mix. “This says we need three eggs and--” 

“Nope.” Clint smacked the empty box right out of Tony’s hands. “Ignore that. I got my own recipe. Pay attention now.” 

Tony watched closely as Clint added a box of chocolate pudding to the mix, a splash of vegetable oil and some water, then not three but four eggs. “Do you measure anything? I feel like you just tossed it all in there.” 

“I…” Clint pursed his lips. “Measure some times? That was probably a quarter cup of oil, maybe a cup and some change of water?”

“That doesn’t help me at all.” Tony frowned, then frowned harder when Clint flicked cake mix covered fingers at his nose. “Clint! I’m serious! I’m trying to make something to impress a boyfriend! Help!” 

“Calm down kiddo, I’ll write down something readable.” Clint grinned when Tony scrubbed at his nose crossly. “Alright, the best thing about this recipe is you don’t need a mixer. Grab that spoon and stir it good, won’t take more than a few minutes.” 

“Kay.” Tony set to work mixing while Clint retrieved one of the glass cake pans. “What’s the difference between this recipe and the other one?” 

“The other one only has two ingredients and I can make it for under three dollars. It makes a whole cake or a super dense sorta cake-bread that could feed me for a couple meals, so it was always worth making if I could.” Clint brandished a spatula playfully and took the bowl to scrape the ingredients into the pan, then popped the whole thing in the oven. “But see that? Five minutes to mix it. No real measuring, not a whole lot of ingredients, we throw away the pudding and cake box and wash the bowl and spoon. We go from no cake, to dishes done and kitchen clean and cake out of the oven all in about thirty five minutes.” 

“Oh and also?” Clint held up a smaller cake pan. “You can nuke it! Did you know you can make cake in the microwave? Mix it all up the same then put it on blast for eight or nine minutes and then check it, maybe nuke it a little longer? I learned that trick while living out of a motel for an unfortunate week and a half.” 

“When was that?” 

“Budapest.” Clint put the smaller pan away. “Well, pre-Budapest is when I figured it out then showed it off for Tasha in Budapest. She wasn’t as impressed as I would have hoped. The Black Widow’s sense of humour was way undeveloped back then.” 

“I bet it was.” Tony eyed the still cake batter covered spatula longingly as Clint carried it to the sink. “You’re right, though. The super soldiers needed a hundred years to settle into that cookie recipe, I’ll be a pro at this thing in less than an hour.” 

“Exactly right.” Clint briefly wondered if anyone on the team would kill him for what he was going to do next, but he decided it would be worth whatever they unleashed and swiped his finger into the cake batter, holding it up between them. “C’mere and get a taste, you know you want to.” 

“I--” Tony turned about six shades of increasingly brighter red in about three seconds. “Clint, that sounded dirty.” 

“Tony.” Clint gave his best effort at being scandalized. “What’s a little cake batter between friends? Come on now, don’t be like that about it. C’mere and get a taste.” 

“Sounded worse the second time.” Tony hesitated, hesitated, looked into the sparkling, playful blue eyes and hesitated one more time…then leaned in and opened his mouth to lick the batter right off Clint’s finger. 

It was delicious of course, it was double chocolate cake batter with added chocolate pudding, but Tony couldn’t think about that when he was busy thinking about how Clint had somehow snaked an arm around his waist and hauled him in close and was currently tracing the line of his mouth with a wet fingertip…. 

…boy howdy. 

“Clint?” Tony squeaked a little but Clint just waggled his eyebrows and let him go with a casual, “Alright, depression cake next. Come on.” 

“There’s only cake mix and pumpkin here.” Tony had to work to keep his voice even, his mouth tingling where Clint had brushed at his lips and tongue tingling from the sweet cake batter. “Aren’t we missing a few key ingredients?” 

“Nope.” Clint opened the pumpkin quickly. “You can sub pumpkin for eggs and oil content in baked goods. Four eggs is about a cup of pumpkin, toss in a little extra--” 

“Honestly, I’ll need actual measurements at some point.” 

“Toss in a little extra if the mix is too dry!” Clint raised his voice over Tony’s protests. “Maybe a little water, but usually the pumpkin will do it. Mix until the consistency feels right. Carrot cake mix and pumpkin is delicious. Throw in some chocolate chips just for good measure and you’re golden.” 

“Okay.” Tony glanced at the bowl and then up at Clint uncertainly. “How do I know when the consistency feels right?” 

“Like this.” Clint swiped his finger through the bowl still in the sink and held it up so Tony could watch the batter drip. “See that? Just regular cake mix consistency. Toss it in a pan and then we’re done. Easy peasy, didn’t even take up a whole hour.”

“Kay.” Tony felt a wriggle of disappointment realizing their cooking session was already finished. “So um--” 

“You know what the best part of all this is?” Clint interrupted. “Besides us getting to eat cake?” 

“What’s that?” 

“The cake was so easy that now we have time to eat left over pizza and gossip!” Clint rummaged around in the fridge until he found pepperoni pizza and a couple beers. “It’s the best part about cooking!” 

Gossiping while the kitchen began to smell like first chocolate cake and then carrot cake really was the best part about cooking, and by the time the last buzzer went off for the carrot cake Tony was sitting cross legged on the counters across from Clint, three beers in and giggly and absolutely enthralled by the idea of Bruce having secret tattoos that Clint had somehow found out about.

“Don’t look so excited, I didn’t find it out in the naked sexy way you think.” Clint warned over a large bite of pizza. “It was more of a…. Right place right time when the big guy de-Hulked and whoops caught sight of a bare butt cheek with a smidge of ink right there!” 

“That’s the best thing I’ve ever heard.” Tony decided. “I wonder if he’d ever let me see it.” 

“Tony, I’m pretty sure you could ask Bruce for anything and the guy would give it to you.” Clint rolled his eyes. “You could ask any of us for anything and we’d give it to you. Hey on that note, definitely go ask Stars and Gripes to get a tattoo. I’ll design it. Put it right on one of them tig ol’ biddies. It will be awesome.” 

“Why would you guys give me--” Tony shook his head, changed the subject. “Do you have any tattoos in compromising places?” 

“Nah not me, I’m a good boy.” Clint said as blandly as possible with as devious a smile as he could manage. “What about your boyfriend? Does he have any tattoos or uh… identifying marks?” 

“Stop that.” Tony pointed at him sternly. “No, I’m not going to give you information on identifying marks just like I’m not going to give you his name or where he works or anything else like that. No way.” 

“Why not?” Clint protested. “I won’t do anything sketchy with the information!” 

“Okay see that right there?” Tony took a swig of his beer. “That right there where you pretend to be innocent but aren’t actually pretending to be innocent? That’s why I don’t talk about him around you people.” 

“You people.” Clint scoffed, then scoffed again. “What do you mean you people?” 

“I mean you people who are the world’s most successful ghosty super spies.” Tony answered pointedly. “You people like you and Tasha who could track down my boyfriend with nothing more than a few random details and then proceed to make his life miserable.” 

“We wouldn’t--” 

“And by miserable, I mean investigating every nook and cranny of his upbringing and habits and lifestyle and then inviting him over for dinner to grill him on that same information until he breaks up with me right then and there or runs away screaming, whichever comes first.” Tony levelled his best glare at Clint. “Sound familiar?” 

“Okay.” Clint had the decency to flush at least a little. “Okay, I can see your point. But in me and Tasha’s defense? Tiberius was a wanker, alright? It’s a good thing we broke you guys up. He was actual scum and you just couldn’t see it around his veneered smile and box died platinum blond hair.” 

“Ty was a natural blond!” 

“Aw honey.” Clint cocked his head and clicked his tongue. “No he wasn’t. That was the first thing me and Tasha found out about him.” 

“I hate both of you.” Tony pointed at him in aggravation. “So no. I’m not going to tell you even a tiny thing about the current boyfriend. Not even a tiny thing. Nothing you can use to track him down, nothing, nada, no way.” 

“Alright now hold on.” Clint laughed and batted Tony’s finger away. “Tony, wouldn’t you rather us be nosy and figure out which boyfriend is terrible rather than let you get your heart broken?!” 

“Clint.” Tony’s smile lagged. “Don’t you think it was pretty heartbreaking to have Ty publicly dump me because my home life was quote ‘too weird for any sane person to deal with’?” 

“He said that about us?” 

“He said that about me.” Tony pointed at himself this time. “Said that if I was okay living with all of you, then clearly there wasn’t room in my life for anyone else and when I tried to argue, he threw the ‘too weird’ comment at me. That wasn’t particularly fun.” 

“Shit.” Clint slid off the counter to start the frosting, a frown etching into his rugged features. “We didn’t really think about it that way. We just figured if we scared the bad guys off you’d end up with the good ones.” 

“Okay but.” Tony huffed. “But it’s not as if I have lines of people who want to date me. It’s not like there are dozens of eligible bachelors out there who want to try a real relationship with me! The whole Iron Man thing, the billionaire thing, the general--” 

Tony waved his hand around to encompass everything that was him. “-- I have to take what I can get. You guys scare everyone off and I’ll end up having to date someone in the Tower.” 

It was meant to sound bitter, meant to even sound ludicrous, and Tony visibly startled when Clint muttered, “Well maybe that’s where you should look for a relationship then.” 

“...what did you say?!” 

“I said it’s time to frost the cake.” Clint held up a jar of whipped white frosting. “Fancy right? I’m sure you can handle the recipe for this.” 

“Kay.” Tony got off the counter slowly, fairly certain he’d heard exactly what he thought he’d heard and not entirely sure what to think about it. “Do you have an actual recipe for frosting?” 

“Nah, but Sam’s got a good one.” Clint offered. “And don’t worry, even though my cake recipe is super easy, I’ll write it down for you too.” 

“Thank God.” Tony rolled up his sleeves and tore the wrapping off the top of the frosting. “So what, we just glob this on the cake?” 

“Neanderthal.” Clint sighed theatrically. “You gotta smooth it! Smooth it Tony, damn! Do you just glob paint on your Iron Man suits?” 

“No, but those cost millions of dollars at a time to make.” 

“And this cake will make your eyes roll back in your head, so which one is more valuable??” 

“Fine.” Tony grinned and Clint nudged into his space to bump shoulders again. “I’ll smooth it. Sheesh.” 

Carrying the smoothly frosted cake down to the gym for everyone to eat meant Tony forgot his phone in the kitchen and hours later as they were all still laughing and talking and watching Steve get his Star Spangled Tuchus handed to him courtesy of Natasha’s newest take down, Tony still didn’t realize the device wasn’t in his pocket. 

There were several text messages and two missed calls from his boyfriend when Tony finally picked it up before bed, and he read the screen…then put it right back down. 

Replying and calling back could wait till morning. Clint had suggested a near midnight round of charades and everyone else had agreed and that sounded like more fun than a phone call. 

“Tony!” Clint hollered and Tony sent off a quick text-- Talk to you in the morning-- and hollered back, “I’m coming! Just a sec!” 

********

Chapter Notes: 

 

I adore Stucky in the Kitchen and the way Tony is so flustered. Also disaster!Clint speaking truth about how difficult just feeding ourselves can be when our mental health is at a low point. I started baking as a way to cope with my Eating Disorder (if I made it, I should eat it and not feel guilty, right?) and the cheater cake recipe is a nice, mentally easy adjustment on the days when the Executive Function isn’t quite working. 

Next Up! Sam comes through with a top tier Cinnamon Roll Recipe. 

And thanks for all the comments last chapter! I’m so glad you guys are enjoying the fic and the recipes!

*******

Ginger Molasses Cookies

*Makes approx 36 cookies

Ingredients

 

1 ½ Cup (3 sticks) Softened Butter

1 Cup Sugar

1 Cup Brown Sugar

½ Cup Molasses

2 Eggs

4 ½ Cup Flour

4 tsp Baking Soda

1 Tbsp Ground Ginger

2 Tsp Cinnamon

1 Tsp Cloves

1 Tsp Salt

Granulated Sugar to Roll Cookies in 

Directions

 

In Stand Mixer Cream Together: Butter, Sugar, Brown Sugar

Add Molasses

Add Eggs

Sift Together Dry Ingredients and Add Slowly to Mixture

Form Dough into Balls (I use a #40 Cookie Scoop) and Place on Parchment Paper lined Pan and Chill in Freezer for Minimum Two Hours

Roll Frozen Dough in Sugar

Bake 350 Degrees, 9-10 minutes 

Cheater Cake Recipe: 

 

1 Box Cake Mix (Any Brand, Even Sugar Free Options!) 

1 Small (3.4-3.9 oz size) Package Dry Instant Pudding Mix (Vanilla, Chocolate, or Sugar Free Depending on Cake Mix)

4 Eggs

⅓ Cup Oil

1 Cup Water 

Directions

 

Mix. 

Bake According to Box

Eat Easy Cake

Alternative

 

Pumpkin Can Be Substituted for Eggs and Oil in Recipe. 4 Eggs= 1 Cup of Pumpkin, Add More as Needed to Achieve Proper Consistency!

Adjust Cooking Time Starting Ten Minutes Less than Noted on Box

Cake will be Dense, Thick, Will Not Rise as High. 

My Favorite Pumpkin Cheater Recipe: 

 

Carrot Cake Box Mix

1 ⅓ Cup Pumpkin

Chocolate Chips

Mix

Portion Into Muffin Pans (#20 Cookie Scoop!) 

Bake According to Directions, Checking for Doneness Sooner!

Chapter Text

Tony stood half bent over the kitchen counter, elbows propped and chin in his hands and eyes narrowed in concentration as he stared at the slowly bubbling mixture in the glass cup.

“Activate, damn you.” he muttered crossly. “I don’t have all damn day for this.” 

“Tony.” Sam appeared at his elbow and sighed loud at him. “You ever heard the saying ‘a watched pot never boils’?” 

“Yes.” Tony didn’t look away from the yeast and sugar mixture. “Why?” 

 Sam sighed louder when it became obvious his favorite genius was entirely missing the point. “Staring at the yeast isn’t going to make it activate any faster! It grows as it grows! Stop making it self conscious and come start on the rest of the recipe!” 

“You said this was quick rise yeast!” Tony protested as Sam gently but purposefully dragged him away from the cup and back towards a set of mixing bowls. “I expected it to puff up really fast!” 

“Look.” Sam tied a delightfully predictable ‘kiss the cook’ apron around his waist. “I know people say cooking is a science and that you should experiment in the kitchen and everything, but I know you and I know how your experiments usually end up exploding and I’m telling you that the yeast isn’t going to explode. And if you ever find yourself in a situation where your activated yeast does explode? You have done something very wrong.” 

“Fine.” Tony smiled begrudgingly, then bigger when Sam tugged at one of the ruffles at his apron and dragged him in closer. “What’s going on over here?” 

“Nothing as exciting as exploding yeast, but we’ll make it work.” Sam tossed Tony a package of vanilla pudding mix, then turned to tear the seal off a gallon of milk. “Most important thing about cinnamon rolls is the dough, so we gotta take good care of it.” 

“I disagree.” Tony handed back the open pudding box. “The most important part is unequivocally the frosting.” 

“Huh.” Sam huffed a laugh at him. “I’ll let that absolute buffoonery slide but only cos you’re beautiful.” 

“Um.” Tony blinked. “What did you just say?”  

“My granny always said, the most important thing is the dough.” Sam kept talking, ignoring Tony’s surprise over being called beautiful. “She always said if something was only delicious with frosting-- cake, cinnamon rolls, whatever-- then it wasn’t actually delicious, it was just sweet. Doesn’t take any skill to slap frosting on a sub-par product. Takes real skill to make something so good, frosting isn’t needed. Besides, a good dough can be the basis for a bunch of different things, so if you get at least one recipe down, you can sub in other ingredients for the filling.” 

“Um.” Tony was still stuck on Sam so casually calling him beautiful, and his hand flattened just briefly, just out of habit, just self consciously to the scars at his chest before he managed to clear his throat and ask,. “Okay so-- so good dough. This is your granny’s cinnamon roll recipe?” 

“She’s who I remember making them, so I consider it her recipe.” Sam’s smile was sweetly fond. “Every single time we went over to Granny’s she was pullin’ something out of the oven. Cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, cornbread, fresh baked sandwich bread, a pie for after church-- whatever it was, we’d walk through the door and she’d turn around with a big smile and tell us to come get some food. ‘C’mon and get some food baby’ and no matter what, there was always enough to eat. We didn’t always have much money but Granny always had enough food.” 

“I think it’s like a Grandma super power, to always have food right when people come over.” Tony took the offered whisk from Sam and mixed the pudding with a couple cups of milk, pausing long enough for Sam to crack two eggs into the liquid and then going back to work. “I only met Grandma Carbonell one time, but she had enough food to feed an army immediately prepared and kept telling me to eat cos I was nothing but skin and bones.” 

“Maybe it is a Grandma super power.” Sam grinned at the thought. “ Either way, we’re all real grateful for it. Go grab the butter out of the microwave for me.” 

“Why pudding in the dough?” Tony wanted to know. “Did your Granny use pudding?” 

“Granny used dry milk mostly, a little cocoa if she had it, and a little sugar if it didn’t taste just right.” Sam motioned for Tony to add the melted butter to the bowl. “She said the milk powder helped the dough rise better and kept it sweeter, added flavor without having to use too many other ingredients.” 

“...and pudding?” 

“Ma started using pudding mix.” Sam clarified. “Gettin’ an actual recipe from Granny was a chore and a half cos she measured everything by feel and taste, and pudding mix was a quick substitute for the dry milk and cocoa and sugar. Sometimes Granny used cornstarch too, it depended on what she had on hand. Pudding is just easier.” 

“Hmmm.” Tony hummed in agreement. “J? We need additional dry pudding mix in the house.” 

“I’ll add it to the grocery order, sir.” 

“Go get your non exploding yeast and bring it over here.” Sam passed behind Tony on his way to grab a big spoon, his hand resting steady and warm at Tony’s waist for a few seconds as he went. “Careful not to jostle it, we don’t want it to deflate.” 

“Oh look!” Tony’s gaze went hilariously wide when he retrieved the almost overfull cup. “It’s so tall and fluffy!” 

“There’s a method to my madness.” Sam chuckled at him. “Start the yeast early and then by the time you’re done with the base of the dough, it’s ready to add. See how big it got? Should be about a cup and a half, maybe two cups tall now. That’s what you want. Dump it in the bowl and whisk it through.” 

“And then… flour?” 

“And then a whole bunch of flour.” Sam thudded the container of flour onto the counter. “We add this in a cup at a time, mixing with the spoon for about five cups, then add three or four more with our hands.” 

“So eight or nine cups worth?” Tony eyed the flour in trepidation. “I dunno if I have the arm muscles for kneading bread. Maybe you and your biceps of glory should do that part.” 

“My biceps are very nice, yes, but I’ve seen the video footage of you turning your lab into a particle accelerator so you could create a new element and full on heal yourself from all that palladium crap.” The blatant admiration in Sam’s dark gaze made Tony blush. “I’m pretty sure you can handle kneading some dough, alright? Quit bitchin’ and get to work.” 

“You’re bossy in the kitchen.” Tony pushed his sleeves up and scooped out a cup of flour, dumping it through the sifter before adding it to the liquid mix. “What’s that all about?” 

“I grew up with a Granny, my Ma and my sister all over my shoulder tellin’ me how to cook.” Sam snorted. “It feels good to boss someone else around.” 

And then with a wink that sent Tony’s heart fluttering, “Don’t pretend like you don’t like it. I’ve seen you get all smitten when Pepper puts on her CEO voice and orders you around.” 

“Okay but---” Tony’s ears burned in embarrassment. “But everyone likes to be ordered around by Pepper. Especially when she taps one of her high heels while doing it. That’s not-- that’s not weird. I’m not the only one that likes that.” 

“Regarding Pepper? That is absolute truth. Regarding you just liking to be bossed around? Well I guess we’ll have to fool around and see.” Sam’s laugh was low and knowing, teasing as he crowded in close to sift another cup of flour for their cinnamon rolls. “Hey now, don’t add any more flour until the previous cup is all the way mixed in. You don’t want weird clumps. But hey hey hey--” 

His voice pitched warning when Tony mixed too vigorously. “Don’t over mix it either! Overmixed dough is tough dough!” 

“What’s the difference between undermixing and overmixing!” Tony was flustered flustered flustered after Sam’s comment about fooling around. What the hell was going with him lately? “I need better directions than this, did you hear the part about how I order in pancakes for breakfast?” 

“I heard it.” Sam’s mouth nearly touched Tony’s hair when he leaned further in than necessary to inspect the bowl. “And hell, I don’t actually know the difference between under and over mixing. I just know you shouldn’t do either.” 

“Your recipe is crap.” 

“Whoa!” Sam pointed a finger at him. “Don’t talk about my Granny’s recipe like that!” 

“Fine!” Tony scowled. “The way you’re telling me this recipe is crap! Talk better Sam!” 

“Okay! I’ll try to talk better!” 

Kneading dough was predictably tiring work and eventually even Tony’s sass fell by the wayside as he concentrated wholly on molding and shaping the dough under Sam’s bossy careful supervision. Once it was dubbed round enough and apparently neither under nor over mixed, Sam switched the whole mass to a greased bowl and popped it in a barely warm oven to rise in peace while they cleaned up. 

“Tell me about your boyfriend.” Sam rolled his sleeves up to his elbows and tackled the dishes. “Tash says you won’t give any hints about how he is in bed and Clint said you accused him of nefarious deeds when he innocently asked about a potential tattoo.”

“First of all.” Tony inwardly groaned, because of course everyone was gossiping about the cooking sessions, the team gossiped about everything. “First of all, Tasha was trying to use both Thor and Clint as a measuring device so I could tell her how big he was--” 

Sam cackled and Tony groaned out loud this time. “And then yes, I absolutely accused Clint of nefarious deeds cos the last time he and Tasha found out anything about who I was dating, they ran him off.” 

“Uh huh.” Sam put the clean bowl on the drying rack. “I remember hearing about that dinner. Nat and Clint interrogating the guy, Bucky using one of his goddamn daggers to cut his steak just so Ty had to look at a big ol’ blade the entire meal. Steve with that patented Captain America Scowl of Disapproval on his face and Thor…” 

“Thor set his hair on fire.” Tony finished flatly. “Thor snapped lightning at him and set his hair on fire.” 

“Which rumour has it, wouldn’t have happened quite so fast if it had been natural blond and not chemically treated blond.” Sam ducked a spoon that came winging at him from the other side of the kitchen. “Tony! Don’t throw shit at me! I didn’t even do anything that night!” 

“No you didn’t, but I feel like that was only because you happened to be out saving the world.” Tony snapped, and after a few seconds, Sam admitted, “Yeah okay, that’s true. Otherwise I would’a been right there next to Bucky.” 

“You all are like the world’s worst older siblings.” Tony groused, scrubbing at the counter to get rid of egg residue. “And those of you that are younger than me are like bratty, nosy, little siblings who would gleefully ruin my chances at happiness cos you’re fucking gremlins.” 

“Damn Tony.” Sam whistled under his breath. “You’re a single child, how the hell are you so bitter towards siblings?” 

“Because I live with a feral pack of forever adolescents.” Tony was frowning, but the heat was gone from his words. “I know you all care about me and that’s why you’re chasing off the bad boyfriends but--” 

“Tony,” 

“--all I’m saying is I just want to have one relationship that doesn’t directly involve--” 

“Tony?” 

“--the Avengers in some way, whether it’s you all meddling or my partner getting all starry eyed over Thor’s biceps or Steve’s--” 

Tony.” Sam wiped his hands down his jeans and reached to grasp at Tony’s wrist, slowly but steadily pulling the still grumbling genius into his space and then right up into his body. “Stop talking for two seconds.” 

“Sam?” Tony gaped down at the absolute lack of space between their bodies and then up in confusion at Sam. “What are you doing?” 

“This.” Sam let go of Tony’s wrist only so he could frame Tony’s face in both his big hands, calloused finger tips gentle sweeping at Tony’s hair line, his thumbs brushing over the ridge of Tony’s cheekbones almost tenderly before he bent to touch their mouths together. 

…Tony went blank for one, two, three seconds…

…and then he kissed Sam back

******

“You did what?!” The tip of the pool cue tore right through the felt and splintered against the surface below when Steve miscalculated his shot and thoroughly ruined the pool table in the game room. “Sam! You kissed Tony?!” 

“Uh yep.” Sam nodded a few times. “Sure did. Literally couldn’t help myself.” 

“Damn you, Sam.” Natasha aggressively chalked her own pool cue, alternating between glaring daggers at Steve for fucking up the table and practically snarling at Sam for the information he’d just dropped. “I thought we were trying to help Tony with his boyfriend, not seduce him away from his boyfriend!” 

“I was trying to help!” Sam protested loudly. “But you know-- it’s Tony! He was wearing ruffles! What was I supposed to do?” 

“You could’a not kissed him.” Bucky grimaced down at the torn table in distaste. “Man, Pep’s gonna kill you for that Stevie. That’s the second pool table we messed up in six months.” 

“What happened to the first one?” Bruce looked up from his tablet, then almost immediately put his hands up and shook his head, “Actually never mind. I don’t want to know about your activities. Forget I asked.” 

“Calm down Bruce, it wasn’t like that.” Steve tsked at the Doctor, as if there hadn’t been several times various furniture around the Tower had been ruined because he and Bucky were being active. “We tried to move it and ended up cracking it, it wasn’t anything inappropriate.” 

“Inappropriate.” Clint mocked high pitched. “Sure it wasn’t. Just two of the beefiest beefcakes ever ‘moving a pool table’. Is that what you old guys call it these days?” 

“Stop.” Bucky shook a silver finger warningly at the archer. “Tasha, are you mad cos Sam’s playing tonsil tennis with Tony or are ya mad cos he got to kiss Tony before you?” 

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Natasha put her nose in the air. “I thought our intentions were well placed to help our teammate and friend have a good date with his current boyfriend.” 

Everyone just looked at her, and after a moment Nat groaned and added, “And because Tony batted those stupid long eyelashes at me as he explained that he couldn’t cook worth a damn and needed help! Of course we had to help him! But that doesn’t mean Sam had to kiss him!” 

“Oh no, it absolutely did.” Sam shrugged off her glare. “We were making cinnamon rolls, he was being fussy about how we chased off his last boyfriend…absolutely needed to be kissed.” 

“I agree with Samuel, Widow.” Thor didn’t play pool, but he was happy to watch the team play so long as it kept them away from the tray of cinnamon rolls that was left over from Sam and Tony’s baking spree that morning. The huge blond had already eaten six and was halfway through his seventh sweet pastry, but paused long enough to flash Sam a thoroughly understanding smile. “I too would kiss our Anthony if given the chance, especially if he was wearing ruffles.” 

“Oh absolutely.” Clint was on his third cinnamon roll, posted up across the small table from Thor and licking his fingers in satisfaction to get every bit of the cream cheese frosting. “Chance to kiss Tony? Especially when he’s makin’ good stuff like this? Anytime.” 

“I didn’t know kissing Tony was part of the deal.” Steve looked more upset about missing a chance at a kiss than he was at the ruined pool table. “Me and Bucky damn near kept our hands to ourselves the entire time! Only slipped up and called him sweetheart once or twice!” 

“And I wasn’t grabby with him.” Clint agreed. “We just found other stuff to do while the cake was baking.” 

“Like what?” Sam threw his hands up. “What else could I possibly have done for the forty five minutes the dough was rising and Tony was looking at me?” 

“Dishes!” 

“Gossip!” 

“Clean!” 

“At the very least you could have asked him about his boyfriend.” Bruce added after everyone else had yelled. “Isn’t that the whole point of this?” 

“I asked him about his boyfriend.” Sam countered stubbornly, and Thor clarified, “And then kissed him anyway? You are a bold man, Samuel.” 

“Is bold the right word?” Nat huffed. “Presumptuous is more like it. Reckless. Rude--” 

“Yeah, you’re just pissed you didn’t get to kiss him first.” Sam waved her off uncaringly. “And here’s the thing-- not one of you have asked if Tony kissed me back.” 

Absolute silence in the game room, and even Bruce’s jaw dropped in shock before he gathered himself enough to ask, “Sam. Did Tony kiss you back?” 

“...yeah.” Sam’s smile was a little goofy. “Yeah, he sure did.” 

“Anthony is not in love with his current partner then?” Thor suggest almost hopefully, but Bucky disagreed, “Nah, he could still be in love with that guy. Kissin’ Sam doesn’t mean half of anything.” 

Rude.” Sam slanted an annoyed glance at the super soldier. “Kissing me means lots of things.” 

“No it doesn’t.” Steve agreed with his boyfriend. “It doesn’t, because lots of people would kiss you Sam. You’re a great looking guy, you’re charming, stable… Lots of people would kiss you. I would kiss you. Doesn’t mean I love Bucky any less.” 

“Ohhhhhkay.” Sam cocked his head curiously at the Captain then turned back to the others. “Well I’m telling you Tony kissed me back. He looked just as surprised as me afterwards and we didn’t talk about it, just sorta laughed it off and went back to cooking, but he definitely kissed me back. Got all blushy and cute about it too.” 

“Well…” Nat tapped the point of the pool cue into her hand. “I suppose that changes things. Less about you just laying one on him and potentially ruining things for everyone and more about Tony maybe… maybe being into us?” 

“So maybe we up the ante a little bit?” Clint suggested when no one answered Natasha. “Tash, you said he was flustered around you when you flirted with him. Steve and Bucky called him all sorts of sweet names. I didn’t kiss the guy but I wasn’t exactly platonic either and Sam just straight up laid one on him and Tony hasn’t run away yet.” 

“Perhaps our little love carries feelings for us but doubts we feel the same for him.” Thor pulled the center of a cinnamon roll out and popped it into his mouth. “His looking for companionship outside these walls could be a result of his own insecurities, we all see the way he carries all the negative comments from the press and the papers into his heart.” 

“How he pretends he ain’t sad even though he is.” Bucky spoke up, and Bruce commented quiet, “The way he defends all of us but brushes off our attempts to defend him.” 

“He seemed surprised I was willing to help him cook, almost seemed shocked I thought he was worth the time.” Natasha finally set her pool cue down and went to sit neatly on Thor’s lap, peeling off the edges of his current cinnamon roll and chewing at them slowly. “Does Tony think we don’t think he’s worth the time?” 

“I know he struggles with being human.” Steve said then. “And not human like you are, Nat, or the way Clint is. Tony’s got a compromised heart, scars, has to suit up to fight the battles… have we made him feel like he wasn’t enough so he’s looking for love somewhere else?” 

“I think it just doesn’t occur to Tony that we would love him.” Sam was glad he’d eaten two cinnamon rolls that morning with Tony as he watched the rest of the treats disappear when the super soldiers wandered over and Bruce finally put his tablet down to get some as well. “We all know his previous track record at dating isn’t great and uh-- we haven’t exactly made it easy for him to date since we all moved in. He spent most of his life never measuring up to Howard’s expectations, as the patron for the Avengers he gets the brunt of all our bad press and negative rap, and it took a while for all of us to gel together and he took the brunt of a lot of that too. Maybe-- maybe it just doesn’t occur to Tony that we could love him. That we do love him.” 

“Cos what would a set of super soldiers and two super spies,” Clint pointed at Steve and Bucky, then at himself and Tasha. “The smartest guy in any room,” at Bruce, “the hottest guy in any room,” Thor, “and Chocolate Adonis over there, “ Sam, “ want with a mid forties dude with boat loads of trauma, right? That’s what Tony is thinking?”  

“...that makes me really sad.” Bruce scrubbed at his face wearily. “I understand it on all points, I would feel the exact same way if I was in Tony’s shoes, but it still makes me really sad.” 

“I think we’d all feel the exact same way if we were in Tony’s shoes.” Nat’s full lips twisted in half a smile. “Why on earth would a roomful of people all love any of us? Even Captain America’s got some smudges on that shining golden visage.” 

“Ain’t that the truth?” Steve nodded a few times. “I think Clint’s right. If Tony hasn’t gone running from all our flirting yet, if Sam kissed him and he kissed Sam back, I vote we say to hell with helping Tony with the new guy and we should start just being upfront and real with him. Up the ante. Bruce--” 

“Kissing isn’t my thing.” Bruce interjected before Steve could suggest anything down that avenue. “I love Tony just as much as the rest of you, but kissing and uh-- scenarios with less clothing are not my thing.” 

“I’ve seen the way his eyes light up when you and him spend time in the lab.” Clint patted Bruce on the shoulder. “More than one way to seduce a fella. You seduce him with the sciency shit and kindred spirits stuff and Thor can do what he does best.” 

Thor waggled his eyebrows and grinned, flexing one of those massive arms. 

“Yep.” Clint laughed. “Yep, do exactly that. Tomorrow’s Friday and date night’s Saturday so if we’re gonna do it, you two gotta bring your A-game.” 

“If we do this, we’ll be actively tryna break Tony and his boyfriend up.” Bucky muttered. “You know if it backfires, it’ll break Tony’s heart? He’d probably never trust us again and we’d lose what we already got. You willin’ to take that risk?” 

The group was quiet, sober, then Thor broke the silence with a confident, “My muscles never backfire. Anthony will be ours by the weeks end. Just wait and see.”

“Guess we will.” Sam shot a look at Clint. “Did you call me Chocolate Adonis?” 

“Meh. Steve isn’t the only one who’d lay one on you if he could.” Clint crammed another cinnamon roll into his mouth. “Take it as a compliment.”

********

Chapter Notes: 

 

My favorite thing about baking with my Grandma and my Aunties was always the most frustrating thing-- and that is that old women literally just don’t have recipes. You measure it with your soul. You listen to what your ancestors tell you. It just ‘feels’ right. You’ll know when you know. Like, give me a goddamn recipe PLEASE. 

However, all the best memories came from all those moments too, so I guess I’ll take a recipe with measurements like “a pinch” or a “toss” and just be glad I got to drink wine and laugh with my Aunties while making delicious things.

Also I love the casual way Steve’s like “hell I’d kiss Sam!” and how Thor is so convinced that his muscles will never fail when it comes to seduction. I miss ‘team as family’ fics and would honestly give my left arm (see what I did there?) for Marvel to give us just a five minute movie of Domestic Avengers Shenanigans either in the Tower or in the Compound.  

LINK to my Cinnamon Roll Recipe! It’s way too long to copy paste here, and the Tumblr post has step by step directions! 

Next Up! Bruce and Thor! 

Chapter Text

Tony paused at the kitchen door when he found Bruce in the kitchen instead of Thor, his smile surprised but not in the least bit disappointed. “Bruce! Hey! I thought Thor was cooking with me this morning!” 

“Hey Tony.” Bruce wasn’t given to overt displays of any emotion--beyond Hulking out of course-- but his eyes softened towards adoration when he saw Tony in the apron and the brilliant scientist offered up the closest thing to a grin he ever managed. “I hope you weren’t too set on cooking with Thor first, apparently he needed an Asgardian ingredient for your recipe and blasted off late last night.” 

“An Asgardian ingredient?” Tony muffled a groan. “We’re supposed to be going for me-proof recipes here! Not creating food that I’ll literally never be able to replicate!” 

And then after a moment of quiet grumbling, “Oh and no way, I’m super glad you’re here this morning.” 

“Oh yeah?” Bruce leaned only slightly into the hand at his shoulder as Tony came up to the counter before stepping away to give himself that always preferred bit of space. “Why’s that?” 

“I couldn’t sleep last night because I had at least four cinnamon rolls and good god do they have a bunch of sugar.” Tony eyed the container of oats curiously. “And I got to thinking about that article you read me the other day, the one about Twisting Elusive Quantum Particles With a Quantum Computer?” 

“I thought you were asleep when I read you that article.” Bruce frowned, hesitating. “I uh-- I didn’t realize you stayed awake.” 

“Bruce.” Tony’s nose scrunched and Bruce fought not to smile over it. “I woke up one day like six months ago to hear you reading to me and ever since then I’ve just faked my way through naps. I like listening to you read and it gives my brain a chance to think things through without additional input. It’s great.” 

“You fake naps so I’ll read you science articles?!” 

“Yeah.” Tony answered, nonplussed. “And it’s great. Anyway, I couldn’t sleep last night so I went back to the article you read me and I was thinking, you and I could build one of those and recreate the experiments and I guarantee we’d prove the theories before anyone else could.” 

“Tony--” 

“You deserve a Nobel Peace Prize.” Tony interrupted quickly. “And I would really love to show up to one of those award ceremonies and make a spectacle of myself. Plus it would give me and you an excuse to hide away in the lab for a solid month? Honestly, I’m not seeing a downside to this idea.” 

“Tony.” Bruce held up his hand to stop Tony before he launched into another rapid fire list of reasons why they should absolutely build a quantum processor in the downstairs lab. “I’m not disagreeing with any of those things.” 

“Really?”

“I do deserve a Nobel Peace Prize.” Bruce stated blandly and Tony lit up with agreeable laughter. “And you would absolutely make a spectacle of yourself at the ceremony and I do love the idea of the two of us hiding away for weeks at a time to build a super computer however--” 

“Bruce! No!” Tony groaned out loud. “Not ‘however!’ This is such a great idea!” 

“However.” Bruce repeated louder. “How about we get you through your date on Saturday and then talk about it?” 

Tony grumbled under his breath, and Bruce added almost slyly, “Unless the Saturday date night is canceled…?” 

“No, it’s not canceled.” Tony huffed and puffed and aggressively retied his apron, frustrated at having his super computer plans foiled for the time being. “Fine. What are we making this morning.” 

“Granola.” 

Granola?!” Tony threw his hands up as if he’d been personally victimized by the choice of recipe. “Bruce! I wanted to build super villain status machines and you want to make granola?!” 

“Even super villains get the munchies, Tony.” Bruce wore a very plain, very serviceable apron and he smoothed it down at his waist patiently. “Do you want to learn or not?” 

“I want to learn because I want to spend time with you.” Tony poked his finger into the pile of oats. “But let’s be real here, nobody’s gotten laid cos they made a mean bowl of granola.” 

“You’ve obviously never spent time hiking through New England during the seventies.” Bruce disagreed mildly and Tony gasped faux shocked, “Dr. Banner! Were you and your granola quite the sexy duo during that particularly morally ambiguous decade?” 

“I was beating the hippies off with my walking stick.” Bruce loved the way Tony shrieked with laughter whenever he was surprised, and this time was no exception. Tony’s nose crinkled, his eyes disappeared in a wreath of laugh lines and he always clutched at the nearest surface as if he’d collapse without support and even though Bruce honestly didn’t have much interest in kissing…

…well he could certainly understand why Tony was just so damn kissable during moments like this one. 

“Alright bring it in and focus now, come on.” Bruce grinned and reeled Tony in by way of apron strings. “You ready to make some granola with me?” 

“Brucie-bear if it was anyone else dropping a line like that, I’d swear that was an innuendo.” Tony situated himself close but not oppressively too close to Bruce, both respecting and entirely comfortable with the boundaries Bruce had previously established. “Let’s have the recipe but also? You should definitely tell me at some point why you started making granola.” 

“Three and a half cups of oats.” Bruce pointed to the already pre-portioned bowl. “And in this other mixing bowl we’ve got egg whites, brown sugar, honey, and oil.” 

“Oats, egg whites, brown sugar, honey…” Tony repeated the list as he scanned down the recipe card Bruce had written for him. “Oil. Any specific oil? Vegetable oil? Pure Olive Oil?” 

“Vegetable or Canola is fine. Safflower, Grapeseed, Peanut.” Bruce handed Tony a spoon. “Whichever you’ve got on hand. Barring any sort of oil, I’ve used cannabutter with a little experimenting as far as the amounts and that worked out pretty well too.” 

“Canna--” Tony’s eyes slowly widened as those particular words sank in. “Bruce, are you making pot granola? Pot-nola? THC snackies? Exactly how fun was that hike through New England in the eighties?” 

“Extremely fun.” Bruce chuckled quietly when Tony’s eyes bugged out even further. “Oh calm down, Tony. I’ve dabbled with this stuff since highschool. How do you think I stay so steady all the time?” 

“I thought you were angry all the time!” 

“Well I am when I’m out of Cannabutter!” 

“Bruce!” Tony shrieked with laughter all over again and Bruce finally laughed for real with him. “Oh my god!” 

“Calm down, Tony!” 

The granola recipe was relatively simple-- minimal ingredients and minimal work, a single mixing bowl, a single baking pan and no more than an hour from start to bake to cooled and finished. The easy recipe left plenty of time for Tony to grill Bruce about the newly discovered habit, plenty of time for Bruce to ask questions about the proposed quantum processor and to bring up additional articles on his tablet that they could read together. 

Advanced theoretical physics and granola recipes made for convoluted conversations but Bruce and Tony switched between the topics with ease, with all the smoothness and certainty of old friends and kindred spirits. Both men had an IQ that topped the charts and both had a penchant for bullshit and teasing that presented loud with Tony and quite a bit drier but equally as scathing in Bruce, so the sound of laughter and good natured arguing ran through the kitchen the entire time. 

“We’d have to put a huge cooling system in the lab to handle the super computer.” Bruce said thoughtfully, “Grab the cashews and pecans, Tony. Granola is already calorie rich and high in protein, but the nuts will add more.” 

“Also craisins and chocolate chips?” Tony asked hopefully. “And I have the blue prints for a cooling system already, the arc reactor back at the old Stark Industries building required a hell of a set up, all we’ll have to do is replicate it. Maybe dig down into the subfloor to make room but we can handle it.” 

“No on the chocolate but yes on the craisins.” Bruce dumped the cooled granola clusters into a bowl and set to work breaking up the large pieces and crumbling them between his fingers. “I toasted some coconut earlier and we can add that too. I wasn’t sure how you felt about coconut.” 

“I drink it over fruity drinks while lounging beneath palm trees on exotic islands, but I’ve never considered it for granola before.” Tony emptied the bag of craisins into the bowl. “Also, I’ve never considered granola before now, so there’s that. How loud do you think Pepper will scream when she gets the bill for all the supplies we’ll need for the computer?” 

“I plan to be on the other side of the country before she gets the bill, so I dunno.” Bruce cracked a smile. “It’ll be every bit as expensive as your suits. More so. Ten times more so. Get those bags over there? They’re the perfect size to portion the granola out. This mix is super sweet with the honey and coconut and dried fruit, and smaller portions help avoid any weird sugar rushes.” 

“Probably true, if I didn’t have most of the basics already established in my lab.” Tony shrugged it off. “Can’t build arc reactors and nanotech without very expensive gear so we’ll be fine. You eat granola because Hulking out takes so much energy from you right? Probably nauseous after changing, definitely need to eat but don’t want to eat and granola is high in fat, calories and carbs and can at least give you the energy to function a little until you have a chance to rest?” 

“Exactly that.” Bruce got one of the handy cookie scoops Bucky and Steve had made sure to purchase for the Tower and began to fill the bags, handing them off to Tony to twist tie shut. “I pretty much always have some on me too if you ever get hungry. I’d be glad to share with you, Tony.” 

“It’s more fun to steal snacks from everybody.” Tony smiled to himself as he secured another bag. “Though the offer to share is both duly noted and appreciated, and it would also be appreciated if you made your snacks easier to steal than Tasha. You know I found her Girl Scout Cookies in those tiny cupboards above the stove?” 

“How did you ever reach the tiny cupboards above the stove?” Bruce wanted to know, and Tony clarified, “Oh, Thor lifted me.” 

“Of course he did.” Bruce shook his head in amusement. “I will make my snacks easier to steal than that, but you could just show up and ask for some and I’d give you whatever you want, Tony.” 

“Whatever I…” Tony stopped, fingers pausing on the bag as he thought about just how many times this week he’d been told something similar by the various members of the team and then inevitably, his thoughts turned towards Sam and that wholly unexpected kiss

“Um.” he cleared his throat once, twice. “Bruce? Can I ask you something?” 

“Yes, you have to use egg whites for the recipe, if you use whole eggs you’ll get oaty scrambled eggs.” Bruce answered without looking up. “And yes, I think we should take a trip to CERN and take a peek at the Large Hadron Collider and then ask about their own quantum processors. I’ve always wanted to go and shockingly enough, they’re touchy about the Hulk showing up to inspect their multi billion dollar set up. I doubt they’d say no if Tony Stark asked about it though so--” 

“No, that’s not it.” Tony denied. “I mean, good about the egg whites cos I absolutely would have tried whole eggs at some point and damn, if you want a field trip to Geneva so we can geek out together over the tech, I can make that happen tomorrow. But that’s--that’s not what I wanted to ask you.” 

“Alright then.” Bruce made a generally vague motion for Tony to continue, and after another moment of hesitation Tony asked quietly, “Would uh--would you ever kiss me?” 

“...why do you ask?” 

“The team gossips like old women, Bruce.” Tony pointed out. “I know you know why I’m asking that.” 

“Right.” Bruce popped the last handful of loose granola into his mouth and chewed slowly, thinking through his answer. “Well… well kissing isn’t really my area but if it was? Yes. Yes I’d kiss you.” 

“Really.” 

“Absolutely.” Bruce watched Tony carefully. “You look surprised by that. Conflicted, maybe. Is it because it’s me talking about kissing you?” 

“Brucie, if I thought you leaned even slightly my way, I would have tried to get in your pants the first night you moved in.” Tony laughed in a quiet, self conscious sort of way that had Bruce narrowing his eyes and watching him closer. “It’s not about you. Not-- not in that way I mean.” 

“What’s going on, Tony?” Bruce’s eyes flicked to where Tony’s phone sat dark, turned off, to avoid any phone calls or texts. “You okay?” 

“Gee Bruce I--” Tony rubbed at his chin, his stomach a riot of the same butterflies that been haunting him all week, ever since everyone had agreed to help him cook and ever since he’d spent every day being called beautiful and promised anything he wanted. “I don’t really know.” 

********

“Anthony!” 

Thor returned to the Tower with a flash of the BiFrost and an echoing quake, strode through the common area in all his godly glory, cape flowing behind him, hair still wafting in the shuddering air, Mjolnir held in one hand and three golden peaches cradled carefully in his other palm. 

“Anthony, my love! Come! It is our time to cook together!” 

“Thor?” Tony emptied what was left of a bag of granola into his mouth, eyebrows raised. “What’s up, big guy? I thought you were in Asgard. Usually when you head off into the stars you’re gone for days but you’re back in--” he checked his watch. “Twelve hours?” 

“Of course I returned.” Thor gentled his tone as soon as he saw Tony, lowering his voice from the overwhelming boom to something closer to a rumble. “I would not miss our culinary appointment.” 

“Culinary appointment.” Tony blushed beneath the open affection in Thor’s lightning struck eyes. “Cooking could have waited, you didn’t have to rush for me.” 

“Certainly I did.” Mjolnir was deposited on a nearby table and when Thor bent to pull Tony into a gentle but consuming hug, his cape swirled round them entirely, blocking their embrace from the nosy eyes of Clint and Bucky who were sat playing Battleship at the table. “You are worth rushing for, Anthony.” 

“Wow.” Being flustered around Thor was nothing new, the guy was an actual god with actual magic, but after the week Tony had had and with Thor suddenly holding him in a moment of privacy, staring down at him from his over tall height and very blatantly looking Tony over-- well, Tony was very flustered all the sudden and he pushed at Thor’s chest weakly, trying for a laugh that didn’t sound like a breathless giggle. “Thor, tone it down a notch. I know you don’t carry a hammer cos you’re subtle but sheesh! Easy on the charm!” 

“Apologies.” Thor winked, about as unapologetic as he could be in the moment. “Shall we cook? I went to Asgard for peaches from the Queen Mother Frigga’s own orchard.” 

“Okay and in theory I love that?” Tony looked down at their hands in confusion when Thor twined their fingers together and dragged him towards the kitchen. “But um--how am I supposed to replicate the recipe if it involves Asgardian peaches? How will I get those when I need them?” 

“You will tell me when you need peaches and I will simply retrieve them for you.” Thor’s massive shoulders rolled in a shrug, as if a trip through the cosmos for fruit wasn’t any particular inconvenience. “Or better yet, I’ll take you with me to Asgard and you shall pick the peaches yourself.” 

“You would take me to Asgard?” Tony’s fingers faltered tying the bow on his apron. “Seriously?” 

“At any moment you wish.” Thor set the golden peaches down on the counter and rummaged for the additional ingredients. “Tomorrow night, if you’d like.” 

“Tomorrow is Saturday.” Tony picked up one of the peaches, his skin tingling against the brush of magic on the ripe fruit. “I uh-- I have a date Saturday night, remember?” 

“I am well aware.” Thor did another one of those hugely nonchalant shrugs. “But plans change at a moments notice, do they not?” 

“I…” Tony’s heart flip flopped all over the place. “I guess so?” 

“You do not want to go to Asgard?” Thor offered and Tony countered with a tired smile, “Thor to be real honest, I have no idea what I want anymore. Maybe let’s just cook and I’ll figure it out by the time the breads ready?” 

“As you wish.” 

The peach coffee cake was harder than most of the recipes Tony had tried this week, though certainly simpler than Sam’s bossy cinnamon rolls. The peaches needed to be blanched and then peeled before they could be diced and Thor waved off Tony’s concerns about whatever the hell blanching was to tell him, “Tis simply dunking the peaches into boiled water, then into ice for the skin to come apart. We will do that first, and collect the other ingredients while waiting.” 

Softened butter, sugar and eggs, all the best spices-- cinnamon, nutmeg, a pinch of cloves-- and Tony measured exact amounts into tiny bowls scattered around the counter while Thor hovered close by and murmured instructions into his ear. The physical proximity had Tony’s hands shaking and his breath catching and when Thor wound a thick arm around his waist and covered Tony’s fingers with his own to guide a measurement of flour, Tony really thought his knees would give out. 

“Th-Thor?” he gulped. “Feel like there’s no reason for you to be quite so close to me right now.” 

“You seemed unsteady, my love.” Thor’s lips touched Tony’s ear when he spoke. “I was only making sure you didn’t spill.” 

“Did-- did you just call me my love?” Tony squeaked and Thor’s quiet laugh brushed at his skin like a caress, “I do not carry a hammer because I am subtle, Anthony.” 

“Christ.” Tony gave up on the ingredients and turned instead to face Thor, staring up and up at the demigod. “What are you doing? What are you doing right now?” 

“What was the last time you were kissed, beauty?” Thor cupped Tony’s chin gently. “When was the last time you were held and cherished?” 

“You-- You--You--” the fact that all the attention had effectively eliminated Tony’s ability to put a rational sentence together was both frustrating and exhilarating all at the same time. “You know damn well the last time I was kissed.” 

“Aye.” Thor didn’t bother trying to hide it. “With our Samuel. But when was the last time you were properly kissed?”

“Sam’s kiss was a proper kiss.” Tony countered before he could help himself, then grimaced and backtracked, “But that’s--that’s neither here nor there. What are you doing flirting with me so hard right now? Why are you--” 

He gestured to the non existent space between them. “Why are you doing this? I have a date tomorrow night.” 

“Yes, a date.” Thor nodded slowly. “So you want me to cease, then.” 

Silence in the kitchen, one minute and two, and then Tony, “...no.” and Thor only smiled and turned Tony gently back round to the counter. 

“Butter and sugar into your mixer there.” he directed softly, and the huge blond’s smile grew wider when Tony moved visibly weak kneed towards the mixer. “Then eggs--” two eggs cracked in his palm and plopped into the mixer. “--milk. Vanilla.” 

“Um-- peaches are uh-- they bruise easily.” Tony cleared and cleared and cleared his throat. “That’s the saying, right? Someone bruises like a peach? So we can’t just throw them in the mixer?” 

“That is correct.” Thor pulled a wide wooden spoon from the drawer and took over mixing, folding the peaches carefully into the wet ingredients so they wouldn’t bruise and fall apart. “Tell me Anthony. You are very nervous about tomorrow night. Why would you be nervous about staying an overnight with a partner?” 

“This is our um-- our first time.” Tony set the bowl of sifted dry ingredients next to Thor, eyes on the batter so he wouldn’t see the pity or surprise on Thor’s handsome face. “Our first time doing all that sort of thing. Staying the night, less clothing, morning after. We haven’t done that yet. We’ve barely even kissed more than a handful of times so we definitely haven’t done that yet. Tomorrow is supposed to be our first time.” 

“At all.” Thor didn’t sound faux surprised like the team sometimes did when they’d already super spy gossiped the new information away and were only pretending, he didn’t even sound mildly surprised by the news. Thor sounded full on shocked by the revelation, utterly flabbergasted to the point of stopping the process all together so he could stare down at Tony. “You have yet to be intimate with your partner?” 

“Yes. And before you get weird about it.” Embarrassment bloomed dark red at the back of Tony’s neck and rushed up his face. “Before you get weird about it, you should know that it’s me that kept saying no. He uh-- He probably would have been good to go at the end of the first night but I-- I said no. Decided to wait. It’s not that he doesn’t want me, it’s just um--” 

“Anthony, I never would assume someone would not want you.” Thor shook his head and stepped back so Tony could take over the mixing, adding the dry ingredients a portion at a time until the batter thickened. “Of course your partner desires you, that was never a question.” 

“..oh.” Tony’s free hand went to the scars at his chest. “I didn’t expect you to say that.” 

“You are flawless.” Thor said it as casually as if he were talking about the weather, a statement of fact instead of words Tony had never heard before in his life. “I am simply surprised that you would stay so long with a person you do not desire. Three months it’s been now, yes?” 

“Y-Yes.” Tony answered slowly. “And it’s not that I don’t uh desire him, it’s just that--” 

He stopped again when Thor pulled out a bread pan to pour the mix into, and Thor prompted, “It’s just what, Anthony?” 

“It’s just never felt right.” Tony hadn’t ever said those words out loud to anyone, not even himself, and they hung in the air damning once they were uttered. “Three months and it hasn’t felt right yet. It’s taking me a really long time to trust him, to feel comfortable with him…” 

Tony laughed, but it wasn’t a nice sound. “I felt more comfortable the first night you all moved in then I have ever felt with him. And he’s fine! There’s nothing wrong with him, it’s not that he’s not safe or kind or funny or smart, it’s me. I just-- it just doesn’t--” 

Frustrated, the words spilling out self conscious and self loathing as a week of affection and care finally tore the bandaid off of everything Tony had been avoiding thinking about. “I wanted to make it work, alright? I’m tired of being lonely and I wanted to make it work so I gave it time and now it’s been three months and now our first time in bed has become this huge thing that I can’t seem to prepare myself for and I’ve been trying to force myself to be emotionally available and now--now physically available because hey maybe it’s just this mental block that I’ve created myself and just need to get over and it’s--it’s--” 

Tony threw his hands up. “Why am I telling you this? Why am I ruining our peach bread and cooking by showing you my crazy. This is nuts. I need to just stop. I need to just stop, this is crazy.” 

“Anthony.” Thor asked softly, clasped one of Tony’s hands between both his palms and held Tony still. “Anthony, intimacy shouldn’t require force. Not mental or emotional or otherwise. You should not have to force yourself to be with this person in any aspect, but especially not by sharing your body before you are ready.” 

“Okay but here’s the thing.” Tony stared at where his hand disappeared between Thor’s fingers. “Here’s the thing. People are not lining up to date me. Relationships do not work out for me. Finding a partner that isn’t in it for the money, for the fame or for the paparazzi is not easy for me. So when I found him and we hit it off, I wanted to keep going. Wanted to try. When nothing happened easy, I thought I should just wait and work on it but now it’s date night tomorrow and I am nowhere more comfortable about it than I was last week.” 

“Regardless, Anthony--” 

“Here’s the thing.” Tony repeated, and this time it was sad, miserable, everything he’d hinted at with everyone else spilling out truthful with Thor, “I’ve realized when it comes to love, I just have to take what I can get and if that means a relationship where I have to really work to be comfortable and lower my standards for what I think is easy then-- then I guess that’s just what I’ll do.”

“This is why you were so upset when you told us about the cooking date.” Thor said after a heavy, quiet moment. “Why you were nervous. Not because you cannot cook but because you are unsure about moving forward.” 

“Well I absolutely can’t cook.” Tony deflected. “But yes. Also the--the other thing. I made this big deal about needing to cook so I can get laid because it has been a long time for that but the truth of the matter is--” 

The image of Natasha laughing with him, of Steve and Bucky flirting, of Clint on the counter teasing and gossiping, of Sam kissing him and Bruce promising Tony anything flitted through his mind, and Tony’s brow wrinkled in a sudden, unexpected thought. 

“The truth of the matter is, I’ve felt more accepted and seen and-- and cherished and beautiful in the last few days than I have in the last three months and maybe in the last thirty years.” he said slowly. “Being with my boyfriend can be exhausting but being with you and everyone else, being here at home with everyone has been so easy and so fun and I’ve been so happy that I don’t even want to leave anymore. I don’t want to go on the date cos I’d much rather be here with people who--people who--” 

He looked wide eyed up at Thor, who was only smiling knowing down at him. “Oh holy shit. Thor--?” 

“This bread will need almost an hour to cook.” Thor traced his thumb over Tony’s bottom lip. “And we need to make a glaze still. Come and help me, my love.” 

“Okay.” Tony nodded, then nodded again breathless. “...okay.”

********

Chapter Notes: 

I adore Bruce and Tony together. I don’t write very much ScienceHusbands but I should because they are top tier. Tony faking naps so Bruce will read science articles to him? ADORABLE!

Thor being as unsubtle as possible? We love to see it. And I love Tony sort of talking himself into a revelation? Starts out trying to skirt the subject and then full on admits it all and then basically steps right into the italicized oh moment and Thor (and everyone else!) will be waiting there to hold him! 

*******

Granola

Preheat Oven to 325 F

2 Egg Whites 

1/2 Cup Packed Brown Sugar

1/4 Cup Honey

1/4 Cup Oil (vegetable, canola, or the like)

1 Tbs Vanilla or Almond Extract 

3 1/2  Cups Old-fashioned Rolled Oats

Whisk wet ingredients together, then pour oats into bowl and combine until well mixed. 

Spread granola on Parchment paper covered pan and bake for 20 minutes, rotating pan at 10 minute mark. 

Allow to cool, then mix in desired additions-- craisins, nuts, etc 

Enjoy!

Peach Coffee Cake

1/3 Cup Softened Butter

2 Cups ripe, diced peaches (approximately 3-4 peaches)

1/2 Sugar, plus extra for topping

2 Eggs

1 tsp Vanilla or Almond Extract

1/3 Cup Milk

1 1/2 Cup Flour

1/2 tsp Baking Powder

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1 Tbsp Cinnamon

1 Tsbp Nutmeg 

1/4 tsp Salt

Directions: 

Preheat Oven 350 F

In Mixer, Cream Butter and Sugar 

Add Eggs, Milk, and Vanilla (or Almond) Extract

With Wooden Spoon, Gently Fold in Peaches

With Wooden Spoon, Slowly Add Dry Ingredients

Fill 9x5 Bread Pan

Sprinkle Additional Sugar on Top Before Baking 

Bake 50-60 minutes

Glaze

Whisk 1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar with Milk as Needed to Thin to Glaze Consistency. 

Pour Over Slightly Warm Bread and Allow to Cool 

Chapter Text

“I think this mixer is getting used more this week than it’s been in the three years we’ve lived here.” Pepper swiped a page on her tablet and scanned through a list of necessary requisitions for one of their Pacific Northwest facilities. “Have you finally figured out which speed is the right speed so you don’t fling flour all over yourself, the counter, the ceiling, the air vents, into the cupboards and also somehow into the fridge?” 

“That was one time.” Tony had a light dusting of flour in his hair, up his arms and all over his ruffled apron but it was far less than the amount of flour he’d left all over the place with his baking escapades earlier in the week. “One time, like three years ago we had a flour related incident and I was so traumatized, I put the mixer away and never tried again. One time.” 

You were traumatized?” Pepper arched a perfectly tweezed brow. “Tony, I was in a meeting when you let out that blood curdling scream and JARVIS’s emergency alarms went off. I thought you’d died in here! I had to tell Rhodey and a General that something terrible had happened and cut the call short only to race in here and find you covered in flour cursing at the mixer.” 

“Yes well.” Tony dumped a cup of sugar in the mixer and huffed loud at her. “I haven’t done it since and you still managed to secure that deal with the Air Force so I don’t see why you’re complaining. Let it go woman, carrying grudges leads to frown lines and no one wants that.” 

“You are personally and entirely responsible for every frown line and gray hair on my head.” Pepper warned him, and Tony retorted, “You have skin like a goddess and hair like a mermaid. Give me a break.” 

“Yes well.” Pepper mocked, patting her always perfectly in place hair. “That’s because every year you buy me a very expensive skin care set for my birthday along with a year’s worth of appointments to my favorite salon and spa.” 

“Do I?” Tony pressed at the butter experimentally to make sure it was softened enough, then unwrapped the stick and plopped it into the bowl atop the sugar. “Well well well, aren’t I generous?” 

“Aren’t you though?” she winked at him. “Oh and while we’re on the topic of being pretty, I got a text from Nat earlier this week profusely thanking me for lending you that apron. Apparently she wholly approves of you in ruffles and thinks we should alter your wardrobe to include at least three different items in that softer pink color and suggested I clear out some of your days because you need more cooking lessons and she would be happy to give them to you.” 

“You don’t say.” Tony set the mixer at a safe low speed and went to peel a handful of overripe bananas, trying and failing to appear nonchalant. “Was uh-- was Tasha the only one who texted you that?” 

“Texted me what?” 

“Things about--” Tony cleared his throat, hoping the heat in his cheeks was just from the preheated oven and not from a blush. “Things about me being pretty. About liking the ruffles. And wanting to spend more time with me.” 

Pepper switched the screen over to her messages, skimmed through the list-- Steve and Bucky, Sam, Clint, Thor, Bruce-- and smiled knowingly. “I had a few. Anyone in particular you were hoping to hear from?” 

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Damn it, Tony was definitely blushing and he hurried to disguise it by quickly dumping the bananas and eggs into the bowl. “I was just curious.” 

“Sure you were.” Pepper finally pushed her tablet away and propped her chin up on her hands, watching Tony scurry back and forth across the kitchen gathering supplies for the banana bread recipe. “Tony… how was this week? Did everything go okay?” 

“Everything went fine.” Tony added the flour to the sifter and gave it a few cranks. “It was just a lot, was all.” 

“In what way?” Pepper already knew in what way the week had been a lot, but she waited for Tony to tell her anyway, knowing she’d figure out how he felt about it all just from how much or how little he was willing to talk about. “It seems like you got some decent recipes. I already scanned the cards and uploaded them so you can read them on your tablet any time you need.” 

“Thanks.” Tony watched the mixer turn for a few minutes, then gathered his courage and admitted, “Nat’s blueberry french toast was really good but I spent half the cooking lesson staring at her mouth and the other half wondering if I was going to vomit up butterflies cos my stomach was a mess.” 

“Oh Tony.” 

“Steve calls me sweetheart.” Tony said next. “Bucky? Bucky calls me sweet thing and I didn’t know I was into old men calling me pet names, but here I am anyway. They argued about which one would impress me better with their muscles. Steve talked about being able to bench press a helicopter, for Christ’s sake. I haven’t been flirted with so much since college.” 

“Mmm.” Pepper made a quietly encouraging noise this time. 

“Clint straight up called me out about my terrible coping tendencies, showed me how to make cake that was bad mental health day easy, at one point I licked cake batter off his finger and then he suggested I look in the Tower for someone to love me.” Tony scraped down the sides of the mixing bowl and added the rest of the flour in. “Then I blew off texts and calls from my boyfriend to watch a movie with everyone.” 

“Oooookay? But how do you--” 

“Sam kissed me.” A bread pan thumped down on the counter loudly, and Pepper jumped. “He taught me how to make cinnamon rolls the same way his Granny did, loudly suggested I have submissive tendencies considering how much I like to be bossed around--” 

Pepper snorted through a highly unattractive laugh because good god did Tony like to be bossed around and how the man had made it to his mid forties without figuring out he was submissive was beyond her. 

“--thanks for that.” Tony narrowed his eyes at her. “Anyway. Sam tagged me as submissive and then when I fussed at him? He kissed me!” 

“Did you kiss him back?” 

“Of course I kissed him back!” the filled pan slammed into the oven. “It’s Sam! Of course I kissed him back!” 

“Alright alright.” Pepper held up a hand to stop Tony before he went off again. “Was the kiss bad?” 

“It was great.” All the dishes went into the sink and Tony set to work scrubbing at them vigorously. “It was a great kiss, okay? Probably the best one I’ve had in months and isn’t that just the saddest thing you’ve ever heard?” 

“I wouldn’t call it...sad.” Pepper hedged. “So it was a great kiss and you’re upset because you feel guilty for kissing Sam while in a relationship?” 

“It actually makes me upset because I don’t feel guilty.” There was the truth of it, whispered soft enough to almost be inaudible beneath the sound of the dishwater. “Because nothing about the last three months has felt like I’m in a relationship. We haven’t talked about moving forward, about being exclusive, about seeing each other more than once every couple weeks. Pep, we haven’t even slept together yet and I’m not saying that sex is what makes a relationship but sheesh, right?” 

“You’re saying that someone like you who loves and enjoys and craves physical affection is struggling with not wanting the physical affection from the person supposed to be your boyfriend.” Pepper finished without hesitation. “Then you get it from Sam and from everyone else, and it’s amazing so you’re understandably conflicted.”

“Understandably conflicted, is that what we’re calling it?” Tony shut the water off and dried his hands, looking exhausted. “Uh Bruce-- Bruce taught me to make granola and we talked about building a quantum processor--” 

“Tony! That would cost hundreds of millions of dollars!” 

“--and running away together on a field trip to CERN so we wouldn’t be around when you got the bill.” Tony smiled a little. “And the idea of spending all that time with Bruce made me happier than any other date has made me in months.” 

“And Thor?” 

“Thor didn’t even try to be subtle.” Tony could still feel the heat of the demigod pressed along his back and feel the rumble of Thor’s voice low in his core. “Called me my love, wrapped his arms around me and pretended he was helping me measure flour. Asked me when was the last time I’d been properly kissed and cherished… it was a lot. Everything about this week was a lot. Part of me thinks this is maybe just how the team is with everyone and I’ve just never seen it. Part of me thinks they might actually like me but then that real paranoid part of me thinks that this is all just some joke and they’re taking bets on who fools me the best? I don’t know.” 

He fell silent and Pepper watched him for a moment, sadness creasing the corner of her eyes. “Tony. Hasn’t everyone on the team asked you out on a date at one point or another?” 

“Yeah.” Tony nodded a few times. “Yeah they have but-- but you know. You know?” 

“I know what, darling?” 

“It’s uh--” Tony huffed out a quick break. “Proximity? I pay for everything for them so maybe they think they owe me? They can’t date each other and I’m technically a civilian? There’s only one girl on the team and I’m the next shortest with the next best butt? Steve and Bucky got tired of only each other after a hundred years to they want to spice it up?”

“Tony, you can’t honestly think that.” she protested. “You can’t honestly think that the team is taking bets and playing a prank on you or is just bored! They spent all week cooking with you! Teasing and flirting and laughing with you! Sam kissed you!” 

“Not to be ‘that guy’ about it,” Tony grimaced. “But I watched Sam kiss a frog one time cos Bucky dared him to. I’ve seen Natasha collect her winnings on bets on everything from what shade of khaki Steve would wear to how many times Thor mentions his hammer in a conversation and to this day, I’m not sure if they meant Mjolnir or his dick.” 

“Oh my god.” 

“Right.” he nodded again. “Exactly. So you can see why I’m a little bit leery to take all this at face value?” 

“It makes me very sad that you don’t see your worth.” Pepper said softly. “You’re Tony Stark, billionaire playboy philanthropist genius, one of the nicest people I know, one of the prettiest people I know and Tony? You’ve saved the world not once or twice but several times now, from threats most people never even knew existed. You’ve given spies and soldiers and demi gods and the Hulk a safe place to live. You wake up in the morning thinking about how to change the world for the better. You spend all day working on other peoples gear and projects to make their lives easier. You’ve rebuilt Bucky’s arm three different times. You and Bruce regularly create tech that is borderline magic. Tens of millions of dollars go out the door to various charities whether in check form or physical equipment for hospitals and clinics. You’ve created scholarships and sent entire graduating classes to college for free--” 

“Pep.” Tony tried to shake his head. “Pep just wait--” 

“--and the fact that you discount all of that and still find it absolutely ludicrous, literally beyond belief that the group of people that live and work with you every day and get to see all of that amazingness up close not only like you but could honestly full on love you?” she groaned at him. “Tony! It makes me so sad and at the same time, I actually want to shake you until you figure it out!” 

“Okay well please don’t shake me, that seems rude.” 

“I know dating has been hard.” she clicked her tongue sympathetically. “I know before Iron Man everyone was a gold digger and now after Iron Man it’s hard to find anyone who can get through a sentence without asking about the Avengers or wanting to meet one of the team. I know all that, but this is different.” 

“Pep, no one has ever looked at me, at Tony, and thought I was enough.” Another truth, bit out between clenched teeth, Tony’s arms folded tight at his chest and shoulders hunched. “I was Howard’s kid that never really lived up to the standard, I was Obadiah’s ward that would never be ready to take over the company, I was Iron Man who wasn’t really a role model because of all the shit I pulled in my younger years and now I’m just the scarred up mid forties guy who buys the Avengers gear. I have never been just Tony and been enough. I tried to just be just Tony for my partner and all it’s led to is three months of feeling like I can’t breathe or relax or enjoy a kiss.” 

“Tony.” 

“And then this week.” Tony ran a hand through his hair. “This week, I’ve just been Tony and I’ve been flirted with and teased and told I was beautiful and that I could have anything I wanted and I’ve been kissed and halfway to seduced and understood when it comes to my depression and it’s the first time in my life that I ever felt like me was enough. Like just being Tony was enough and not just enough but-- but maybe more than enough! I’ve never experienced that in my life, and then I had this epiphany yesterday with Thor about how I don’t even want to go on the date anymore…” 

Pepper stayed quiet and Tony ended on a whisper, “And I am terrified to look too close at it because what if I’m wrong like I’ve been wrong every other time. Then I won’t just lose a potential relationship, I’ll lose my friends. Can I risk that? Should I risk that?” 

“...I think you know the answer to that already, Tony.” 

“Yeah.” he swallowed. “Yeah, I do.” 

“So?” Pepper reached across the counter and clasped at his hand. “So what are you waiting for then?” 

“Just for the banana bread to be done.” Tony glanced at the timer that was slowly counting down from forty five minutes. “Just for the banana bread to be done.” 

*******

Pepper’s banana bread recipe was tried and true, foolproof and low maintenance and effortlessly delicious. It sliced up easy and gorgeous on a pretty platter and was perfect as a late afternoon snack. Saturdays were easy days around the Tower-- barring some city-state-country-world ending disaster, of course-- and the entire team was sprawled in various seats across the common area sipping their drinks and reading or talking quietly when Tony came from the kitchen with his offering and set it carefully down on the table. 

“Heya sweet thing.” Bucky shoved Steve over on the couch and patted the seat between them. “You wanna come sit with us?” 

“Is that banana bread?” Clint’s nose led him right to the food and he loudly inhaled the sweet bread smell. “Did you make banana bread?!” 

“Mmmm, Tony!” Natasha unfolded herself from Thor’s lap and kissed him on the cheek before peering down at the dish in delight. “Did Pepper help you with this?” 

“I baked it all on my own.” Tony wrung his hands nervously as Sam and Thor crowded in close to see the bread too. “I mean, it was her recipe but I did it by myself.” 

“It looks great, Tony.” Bruce had a brief hand at Tony’s shoulder as he passed. “I’m going to get some tea, do you want some?” 

“I’d love some tea.” Tony sent him quick, grateful smile. “Thank you.” 

“What time is your date tonight, Tony?” Steve snagged a piece of the still warm bread. “You mentioned you bought some land upstate and we were thinking we could take the jet up there, spend the afternoon walking the grounds and you could tell us what you wanted to do with it.” 

“The mortals can take the jet.” Thor winked at Tony. “I could fly us there with Mjolnir if you wish.” 

“What time’s your date though?” Sam echoed Steve’s question. “We’ll make sure you get back in time to get ready.” 

“Actually.” Tony took in a deep breath, then another. “Actually I thought I’d maybe just stay in with all of you tonight if-- if that’s alright?” 

“Huh.” Clint chewed slowly, eyes darting around to the rest of the team. “What about your date though?” 

“I found a recipe for homemade pizza dough.” Tony pulled out a recipe card and held it up nervously. “I thought we could make pizza together and watch a movie and call that a date?” 

“...you want to go on a date with us?” 

“I think after this week maybe you all want to go on a date with me?” Tony’s voice squeaked uncertainly. “And I realized I am absolutely into that idea so if you are all into that idea--” 

“We already had a movie picked out.” Natasha pressed herself to Tony’s side and laughed softly when he immediately blushed bright red. “And I’m not saying we were going to kidnap your boyfriend and hold him hostage--” 

“-- but Widow already had a plan that involved ropes and jumper cables.” Clint plonked a kiss on Tony’s cheek. “I call dibs on your booty next to mine. Go snag the big recliner. Steve? Movie?” 

“On it.” Tony had long since digitized every movie he owned so Steve picked up the remote and searched through the JARVIS powered catalog until he found the right one. “And Clint, you can’t call dibs on Tony’s booty.” 

“The hell I can’t, you’re just mad you didn’t think of it--” 

Tony’s phone rang just then and everyone froze when he pulled it from his pocket. 

“Oh.” he grimaced. “I canceled the date earlier this morning and he’s not taking it very well. Keeps telling me I need to just get over my hang ups and try to--ACK!” 

Tony shrieked when the phone incinerated in his hand, a well placed lightning bolt from Thor frying the device beyond recognition instantly. 

“There we go.” Bucky picked up the charred piece and tossed it towards the trash. “Any fella’s gonna tell ya to ‘get over your hang ups’ and date him is an asshole.” 

“Nobody’s got time for that.” Sam agreed. “Good looking out Thor.” 

Thor just grunted and there was a hilarious moment when Tony’s eyebrows shot skyward as he realized just what had happened to several of his previous phones. “Thor! Have you been frying my phones?!” 

“Only when you look sad about who’s calling.” Bruce was back with Tony’s favorite tea, expertly prepared and the perfect temperature. “Movie ready?” 

“I’ve got it.” Steve settled back onto the couch next to Bucky while Sam snagged Tasha around the waist and bundled her into the cozier sofa. Bruce took up his customary chair and Thor wedged his huge shoulders in the space next to the oversized recliner so he could be close enough to share Tony’s tea. Clint wrapped an arm around Tony and cuddled him close while the lights went down and the beginning credits started to roll and when Tony realized-- 

“We’re watching Die Hard? That’s my favorite movie!” 

“We know, Tony.” Tasha winked and blew him a kiss. “We know.” 

“Of course you guys do.” Tony relaxed further into Clint’s side, butterflies in his stomach and a wholly content smile on his face. “Of course you do.” 

******

“Sam.” Several hours later, they were nearly to the credits on Die Hard 2 when Natasha elbowed Sam and held out her hand. “Pay up.” 

“The hell I will.” Sam kept his voice quiet, eyes darting to where Tony had moved to snuggle between Steve and Bucky. “The bet was if Tony fell in love with one of us through cooking. He fell in love with all of us. Null and void, babe. Null and void.” 

“You are not going to get out of a hundred dollar bet on a technicality.” 

“Oh ho I think I will.” He argued back. “You said ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, I bet you a hundred bucks Tony will fall in love with one of us before his date on Saturday’ and I said ‘I’ll take that bet’. Tony wanted a date with all of us, not just one of us, ere-go, you lose the bet.” 

“Ere-go I will stab you if you don’t--” 

“What are you guys talking about?” Tony rotated out of Steve and Bucky’s arms to come for cuddles for the third movie, his cheeks flushed with happiness and eyes sparkling soft after so much affection for the past several hours. “Anything important?” 

“Nothing important.” Sam made room on his lap for Tony and Natasha pressed close immediately after, laughing in delight when Tony turned willingly into a quick kiss. “Just glad you’re here, Tony.” 

“Me too.” Tony held onto Tasha’s fingers tight and hugged Sam with his other arm. “...me too.” 

*********

Fic Notes: 

Cheers to wrapping up five years of writing the same way I started five years of writing: With Tony realizing he is one hundred worthy of absolute buckets full of love, and getting all the cuddles and appreciation and adoration he deserves. 

Thanks for Reading Along! 

***********

Banana Bread: 

Ingredients

1 Stick Butter, softened

1 Cup Sugar

2 Eggs

3-4 (depending on size!) Ripened Bananas 

½ tsp Salt

1 tsp Baking Soda

1 ⅓ Cup Flour 

Directions

Preheat Oven to 350 F

In Mixer, Cream Butter and Sugar

Add Eggs

Add Bananas

Mix Dry Ingredients and Add Slowly to Batter

*Optional: Nuts or Chocolate Chips at this Point

Pour into greased 9x5 Pan and Bake 40-50 minutes