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i went to love and back

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Rhodey and Pepper were mother hens. Nagging mother hens. Tony was convinced that those were their true forms. They had been worried about him because he had been “spending too much time in the workshop” and he hadn’t been “sleeping or eating or going out enough.” Which that last part, incidentally, was sounding like the opposite of what they’ve been telling him for past twenty or so years. 

After the mess with the Mandarin, Pepper and Tony had decided to part ways, romantically. They worked better as friends anyway. They spent a few weeks apart, Tony and Rhodey standing by each other’s side as they went to various press conferences about the events regarding the Mandarin and the President’s kidnapping. Tony continuously deferred to Rhodey when the press asked about Iron Man’s heroic rescue of the Commander-in-Chief. “It was all War Machine -- oops, did I just say that? I mean Iron Patriot,” he said with a snort. “Colonel Rhodes here did it in a green Polo and a .45.”

When the press asked about Iron Man’s takedown of the Mandarin, Tony shrugged. “I’d like to take the credit for that. Really. I did most of the heavy lifting. Literally. But the point is that the brilliant Ms. Pepper Potts finished him off. I will kindly direct your questions to her. You know, if she were here. But you know her, always keeping busy with running Stark Industries, number one in clean energy and modern technology.”

So, yeah, despite their breakup, Tony still loved her dearly. Just not in the romantic, butterflies in the stomach way. That was why he was having lunch with his two nagging mother hens in the Avengers Tower after having showered and rested. Pepper was dressed in business casual clothes and Rhodey was dressed in his Air Force blues with his jacket draped neatly over the back of the couch. Tony was wearing an old AC/DC shirt with holes and jeans with oil stains. Honestly, they were lucky he decided to wear clothes in their presence. 

“When’s the last time you went out and saw sunlight, man?” Rhodey asked, struggling with his chopsticks. Pepper used her own to steal a cucumber off Rhodey’s plate, innocently smiling at his glare.

“Use a fork, Rhodey! That’s why they give it to us dumb Americans,” he said, brandishing his own fork around in the air and effectively ignoring the question. The last time he’d been out in public was when a sludge monster came out of the Hudson River. It took five armor washes and two ruined loofahs to get it off of the suit and himself after that disaster. It was worth it though to watch Clint try to collect his arrows only to fall flat on his ass when the arrows didn’t pull out.

“When’s the last time you went out on a date?” Pepper asked. Tony spluttered at that.

“Yeah! That’s a good --”

“No, that is a terrible question and one that I don’t need to --”

“Well, by not answering my question, you’re answer --”

“That doesn’t mean I’m answering it. I clearly said I’m not answering it and --”

“Sorry, Tones, she’s right. You should have just answered straight --”

“If I don’t want to answer, I’m not going to. Why would I answer it straight out? Why admit to --”

“Because then we could totally set you up! Crazy, I know --”

“Yeah, it is crazy because I don’t need to --”

“Be set up? It’s all good, man. Pepper has good taste.” Rhodey said, clapping a hand on Tony’s back before picking up a fork and continuing to eat his dinner. Tony slumped back into the couch. 

It had been a while since he saw anyone besides Pepper. It wasn’t like he couldn’t charm the pants off anyone if he wanted to. It was just that after Pepper, he was sort of looking for a more...committed relationship. That kind of thing was just hard when he was Tony Stark, Genius Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist. He knew plenty of people willing to date him for his money, fame, and/or inventions.

Another factor for his reluctance for dating other people was that he already had his eye on a Dorito-shaped Capsicle. Since the Battle of New York and since Tony had reached out to him to live in the Tower, they had reconciled and actually became rather good friends. He wasn’t sure how it happened. One second, he was shuffling into the common kitchen at 2 in the morning and running into Cap. The next second, he was playing Mario Kart with the man to shake off the post-nightmare nerves. And that started becoming a common occurrence, the two of them running into each other of the Tower and just hanging out. Tony started learning that Steve was more than just a star-spangled flag running around beating up HYDRA agents. He was more than just Captain America, living legend. He was Steve Rogers, the guy who liked Internet memes, Rick Rolling other Avengers, had a dry, sarcastic sense of humor, who blushed at some innuendos and made some of his own. Tony didn’t know how he got such a huge crush on Steve, but the man was so out of his league that he didn’t stand a chance.

So yeah, Tony ended up going on a blind date set up by Rhodey and Pepper (mostly Pepper). He was right on time and got seated at the reserved table. He waited ten minutes before texting Pepper and telling her that this was a terrible idea. He waited another ten minutes before he started loosening up his tie and started shredding at the paper napkin that the silverware had been wrapped on. (And what kind of restaurant provided both a cloth and paper napkin? This was ridiculous.) Tony sighed and picked up his menu when it became apparent that his so-called date would be a no-show. Might as well eat. 

As he started looking through the long list of appetizers, someone came up to the table, clearing their throat. “If this is your idea of fashionably late...” Tony said, his words trailing off as his eyes met pretty blue ones. 

“Funny. That’s what I was thinking about the date that Natasha set me up on,” Steve said, taking the seat across from him. He took in his appearance -- a button-down that barely fit him, nick grey slacks, styled hair. Huh. So he was looking like he was supposed to be on a date. If his chest felt a little tight, then he blamed it on the arc reactor and not on the fact that Steve was seeing people. (Of course, who was he to talk? He was supposed to be having dinner with some person that Pepper had set him up him.)

“I think they committed a national crime. Who ditches the Captain of America on a date?” Tony teased. 

“Who ditches a Shellhead on a date?” Steve replied, stealing Tony’s menu and looking through it himself. Tony scoffed at the quick response before realizing that Steve had just settled in at the other side of the table. 

This felt...normal. Natural, really. 

The dinner was sort of a mess, though. The waiter brought champagne when he asked for sparkling cider (quitting drinking was a bitch), the bacon wrapped sausages weren’t cooked fully, and Steve’s glass of water spilled down his lap. However, he remembered laughing. A lot. Throughout the disaster of a meal, Tony just found it hard to be a Negative Nelson when Steve was still cracking jokes and making it all lighthearted. He often found it hard to not be happy around Steve honestly.

When the check came, they argued for a good seven and a half minutes over who would pay for it.  

”It was my idea to get the mozzarella --”

“Yeah, well, I still ate them, Cap, so --”

“--sticks. I don’t know if you noticed, but I ate them too. I was the one who --”

“--I should pay the bill. And I ordered the drinks. I don’t know if you know this but champagne is quite pricey. That’s on --”

“--Ordered them. Tony, honestly, I was the one who sat down --”

“--me. I’ll pay, you get the next one.”

“--and...really?”

“Sure. We’ll get dessert after this. Gelato. There’s a nice mom-and-pop shop a couple blocks over,” Tony said, sticking a credit card into the envelope and passing it off to their waiter before Steve could take it back.

After paying for dinner, they walked out of the restaurant and toward the gelato shop. Steve looked pleased by all of the various flavors that they had. Tony knew that he was the kind of guy that tried the flavors that not many ventured to taste. Once they got their cups and Tony reluctantly let Steve pay, they grabbed a table in the back. 

“I’m pretty glad that my date didn’t show,” Steve said, his eyes bright and smile soft. Tony smiled back and nodded in agreement before the impact of the words really sunk in. They both got stood up on dates but then they had dinner together instead...

“Wait, are we on a date?” Tony blurted out. Steve’s expression changed so quick, it was almost comical. The look on his face went from content to embarrassed and more of a ‘kicked puppy’ expression, and wow, that was a look that he didn’t want see on his face ever again. “No, no! That’s good! I mean, I’m glad. That we’re on a date. If that’s what this is.”

Steve’s blush didn’t fade. He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “I’d like that. Shit, I probably shouldn’t have assumed. I’m sorry, Tony.” 

“No, nope. Nuh-uh. You’re not taking the blame for this. Totally my fault. Didn’t read the signs. They were pretty clear. Eh, you know, hindsight’s 20/20,” he waved it off before reaching over and putting his hand over Steve’s (very large, warm) hand. “The point is, I’d like to go out on more dates with you.”

Steve’s smile slowly returned. 

“I’d like that too.” 


 

A couple of weeks later, Rhodey went down to the workshop. He couldn’t believe that he had to drag Tony out of there once more. He really thought that the man was getting back in the dating scene. After keying in his code and walking into the workshop, he paused, took in the scene in front of him, and did an about-face, walking back out. He did not need to see Captain America fucking his best friend, who was bent over on his workshop table. No sir, that was not something he ever needed in his life.

(He was happy for the two. He made a mental note to give Steve a damn good shovel talk after this.)