“Oh, please, Cap. Your virtue’s safe with me.”
Tony was buck-ass nude, standing under the spray of one of the showers in SHIELD’s Avengers-designated washrooms. And Steve was straining to reach a towel while still in his own shower stall. It was a miserable sight.
Steve frowned. “I just didn’t want to—”
“Afraid I’ll peek?” Tony interrupted. “I can’t believe a guy who was sharing a barrack with twenty other dudes is afraid of maybe-possibly flashing someone in the showers.” He snorted, tilting his head back to wash soapsuds out of his hair. “You can hyperextend all you want, but if you want that towel, you’re gonna have to step out and get it.”
He heard Steve huff and then shut the shower off; the man then proceeded to step out of his stall and—well. Tony had his bad reputation to maintain, so he whistled, low and appreciative. “What’s it take to maintain an ass like that?” he asked. “Or is the serum doing all the work for you?” Yeah, he was being a jackass, but it wasn’t like that wasn’t par for the course. It would be strange if he didn’t say anything.
Honest to god, he expected Steve to blush, to stammer and quickly wrap that towel around himself. To hide his virginal self from lecherous eyes—all that good stuff.
But, instead, Steve straightened and turned around—all the way around—looking thoroughly unimpressed and—Tony couldn’t help it: his gaze dipped low, briefly, before flicking back up to meet Steve’s eyes. He wasn’t crazy enough to intentionally miss an opportunity to get an eyeful of Captain America cock.
And then his breath caught, and his face froze in an expression that was probably half incredulousness, half shock, because Steve’s eyes lazily flicked down to Tony’s crotch. And despite his propensity towards shamelessness, Tony felt an inexplicable desire to turn around and cover himself, especially when Steve raised an eyebrow and looked… totally unmoved.
The gall of that man. Tony’s dick was quality.
“I guess that’s one thing that doesn’t run in the family,” Steve said, tutting. He then grabbed the towel, securely fastened it around his hips and... left. Just like that.
Tony stared after him, mouth hanging open unattractively.
Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
“What did you mean it doesn’t run in the family? What doesn’t run in the family? Whose family?” It was several hours later and Steve had finally deigned to make an appearance in the tower.
“Awfully dense for a genius,” Steve said distractedly as he rummaged through the fridge. “Oh, hell. This yogurt’s expired. Who keeps buying yogurt and then not eating it?”
“Were you trying to imply what I think you were trying to imply?” Tony asked.
Steve peeled off the seal from a yogurt cup. He sniffed at it disdainfully before shoving it in Tony’s face. “Does this smell too far gone to you?”
Tony batted the cup away. “How many relatives of mine did you even know? You’re saying you saw my dad naked?” That wasn’t one of the stories Howard had told.
Steve made a noncommittal humming noise. He’d put the cup down and was now scribbling something on a post-it pad. He stuck it onto the fridge: Eat your yogurt!! >:(
“It was maybe an inch bigger,” Steve said, grabbing a banana from the fruit bowl and peeling it. He then turned to face Tony, eyes brimming with faux-sympathy. “Don’t worry about it. It’s how you use it that counts.”
Tony stared up at Steve, at his ridiculously innocent expression, and realized that the paragon of virtue and decency was making fun of his dick. And not only that—he was implying shit Tony didn’t even want to think about. Apparently, if you antagonize the guy enough, he’ll unleash his inner asshole—and, yeah, Tony might be developing a grudging sort of admiration for him because of it.
He opened his mouth to reply but snapped it shut. He tried again, but still couldn’t think of a suitable response. The thing was, he wasn’t sure if Steve was joking. But it seemed most likely that he was: he had a hard time believing this man could see anyone naked and then mentally compare penis sizes. That was—that was fucked up, and entirely improper. Not a very Captain America thing to do.
Eventually, he was able to mumble a, “Fuck you, Rogers,” at Steve’s retreating back.
Steve didn’t even pause in his ascent up the stairs. He laughed. “Well, yeah,” he called. “That’s what he did.”
Tony narrowed his eyes and stood there, unmoving, for a full five minutes.
“Wow, who kicked your puppy,” Clint said, striding in.
“Stop buying fucking yogurt if you’re just gonna let it go to waste,” Tony snapped.
When Clint looked at him bug-eyed, he took a deep breath.
He needed a drink.
After Tony got half a bottle of whiskey, two-thirds of a croissant and a whole thing of nachos into his stomach, he made his way over to one of the sublevel storage rooms. He stood in the elevator with his chin raised and his hands clasped demurely behind himself, putting on a calm air of indifference because he was pretty sure acting apathetic would trick his brain into thinking he was actually apathetic.
Captain America was a dick. Who would’ve thought? All Tony needed to do was confirm that Steve was playing some sort of unsubtle mind game with him, and hadn’t actually done anything illicit with… well, with Howard.
Fucked up, he thought. It was very, very fucked up, especially when he thought about how Howard would rave about Steve, how he would drink himself silly over memories of Steve; he had a whole collection of memorabilia about Steve, and he’d spent half his damn life in the Arctic looking for Steve. In retrospect, yeah: very fucked up. Fucked up to the nth power. If there was even the smallest modicum of truth to Steve’s stupid comments, then Howard’s annual trip up north probably wasn’t so he could retrieve and bury a national relic, but instead because he Steve was the Other Woman, and Howard wanted him back, and that was… not okay.
The elevator doors slid apart soundlessly and JARVIS turned on the lights for him. Right, so: he needed to find Howard’s junk and reexamine it with fresh eyes. He needed to dig out his war journals and old photographs. He could ignore all the Cap merchandise, since it would only tell him what he already knew: Howard was one obsessive son-of-a-bitch.
“Okay, so. JARVIS, jog my memory: where did I put Howard’s stuff from the war?”
“Storage units 2B to 6E, sir. Letters and notes in subunit 2Ba, weapons schematics in 2Bb, telegrams in 2Bc, radio transmission records in 2Bd—”
“Alright, got it, I’ll figure it out.”
He opened the unit with the pictures, first; he’d seen them all before, but now he needed to look more carefully, deeper, catch any hidden depths he’d missed.
The first picture, grainy and sepia-toned, had Howard grinning next to Steve, standing in front of a group. On the back, scribbled in nearly faded pen, it said: Me and the H.C. + Peggy, June 1943.
The next picture had Howard talking to some shmuck in a lab coat; another had Howard and Erskine; and another was of just Steve, before Project Rebirth, looking determined and small and breakable. The photo was worn and the edges were frayed. That was probably a clue.
There were more pictures of him and Steve, but none of them had them looking into each other’s eyes soulfully, no longing gazes or lingering touches. He’d already read Howard’s journals before, and none of them had any mention of any illegal, passion-fuelled nights with the one and only Steven Grant Rogers. You’d think that was something someone like Howard would want to keep well documented, despite the oppressive era he was from.
He sat back on his haunches and sighed. He wasn’t sure what he was suspecting, but a complete lack of evidence about his dad being involved in old-timey sexual misconduct was definitely a good thing, so…
“There you are,” Steve said and Tony nearly jumped out of his skin. “Sorry, I had to ask JARVIS where you were since you weren’t answering your texts.”
Tony pinched the corners of his eyes and rubbed. “Oh, hey, it’s Freezer Burn, the very last person I wanted to see.”
He looked up to see that Steve’s eyes had narrowed, but he was still making his way over to him and he was still smiling charmingly. “Bruce and I made carrot cake. We were wondering if you wanted any.”
“Carrot cake,” he repeated dumbly. “No. No, I don’t want your damn carrot cake.” What the fuck.
“Oh, jeez, is that me?” Steve said suddenly, pointing at one of the pictures that were littering the ground. It was the worn down photo, the one featuring Steve at his scrawny worst.
“Sure is,” he said, waving a hand over the photo. “You looked like hell.”
There was a long pause, then, and Tony felt like too much of a wimp to glance at Steve’s face. “Well,” Steve said eventually, dragging the word out. “Not everyone thought so.” He lowered himself to his knees, so that he was on the floor next to Tony, and picked up one of the pictures of Howard, the one where he was laughing with a group of equally rich-looking old fogeys. “Howard said I looked cute, even, back then.”
Oh, fuck that. “No he didn’t,” Tony said, voice sharp.
“You remind me of him,” Steve said, ignoring him, trailing his fingers over the old photo, over Howard’s smiling face. “I guess you think that’s weird. But you do.”
Tony snorted: this old spiel. “Well, yeah. I get that a lot. But if that’s all you wanted to tell me, then I guess—”
“And it’s so weird that you’re his son,” Steve continued, ignoring him again. “I never thought he’d have a kid, none of us did. He was always moving—just like you—impatient to get on with the next big thing.” His voice was wavering, and he almost sounded… tender. Far off and dreamy, suddenly seventy years in the past. “Never thought he’d settle down.”
Tony wondered, half-hysterically, if they were having A Moment.
“To think he became a dad—your dad. A daddy.” He looked up sharply and saw that Steve’s smile had twisted a little bit, pulled up at one corner, like a smirk, except no, Captain America did not smirk. His eyes had a horrible gleam to them when he opened his mouth to say: “You know, it’s funny. I called him daddy once, too.”
Tony, wide-eyed, calculated how long it would take to get to the elevators if he booked it right now, full speed.
He then turned to Steve, who was still smiling down at that stupid fucking photo. “Oh, right,” he said, voice coming out a little shrill. “Don’t fuck with me, Rogers—you expect me to believe you got down and kinky with my dad, during the war, when in actuality, the far more likely scenario is that you,” he poked Steve’s chest with an accusing finger, “are a virgin.”
Steve’s smile actually grew at that. “That’s what he said. Wanna know what he said after?”
“No! No, I really, really don’t want to know about the sick things you’ll make up just to try and get a rise out of me—”
“He realized how wrong he was and said that I was as pure as the freshly driven slush, muddy and dirty and sloppy wet.” He paused, gazing off into the distance before looking back at Tony. “Remember, these were his words, not mine.”
Tony could easily invent medically induced brain bleaches. He had the technology and he had his genius. Research would start immediately.
“You fucked my dad,” he said. He’d meant for it to come out as a question.
Steve actually looked affronted at that. “What? No! Tony, how could you think—just. No. Definitely not.” The relief Tony felt was palpable; so it was all a big misunderstanding, or Steve just fucking with him (probably the latter—how weird was that?), and now that Steve had tired of his little game, everything could go back to how it was supposed to be, with Tony being the one being a dick and Steve being the one getting riled up. “We didn’t fuck,” Steve said, and oh—that horrible, teasing glint was back in his eyes—“we made love.”
Tony’s brain stuttered to a grinding halt. He could cry, really, he could.
When his mind finally came back online, he stared up at Steve with an expression that was something along the lines of awe. “You,” he said, tone reverent, “are an asshole.”
Steve’s smile didn’t even falter. “That’s not very nice,” he said, standing. “Now get moving before the carrot cake gets too cold.”
He started walking towards the elevators, and, numbly, Tony followed.
Unfortunately, the carrot cake was delicious; Tony assumed that was mostly due to Bruce’s influence and not Steve’s culinary skill. He’d taken the entire thing up to his penthouse to eat while his sat on his couch glaring at the wall; he was a mature, responsible adult man of forty-something, and this was his fucking tower, meaning everything in it was also his, and that included Steve’s stupid cake. It included any other baked goods anyone happened to make.
His phone buzzed.
Captain Dick: That cake was for the whole team.
He angrily stuffed another slice into his mouth and snatched the phone.
You: Fuck the team. You’re all fired, it’s only me now.
Captain Dick: :(
Captain Dick: You’re mad.
Captain Dick: How can I make it up to you? ;)
He stared at his phone for a moment, and chose not to reply.
It wasn’t as if the multiverse theory was unsound, he mused, wiping crumbs off the faux-leather cushions (Pepper wouldn’t let him get real leather). And if he were to step away from the idea of a finite set of universes and entertain the notion of an infinite set, then he could reasonably conclude there must be an infinite set of Steve Rogers, meaning there must also be an infinite set of Steve Rogers who were assholes hiding under a front of guileless innocence. (He’d ignore the fact that this also meant there must be an infinite set of Steve Rogers who actually did sleep with his dad. And an infinite set of Steve Rogers who were women. Hm. He’d save that one to dwell on later).
Okay, but the thing—the thing was—did Tony end up in one of these parallel universes or was Steve the one who showed up? The Man Out of Space and Time? Travelling across universes required inter-dimensional wormholes, and yeah, Tony’s been through a wormhole before, so he gets that they can indeed be large and stable enough to allow entry, but hopping around interpenetrating dimensions was surely a whole ‘nother ball game when compared to taking shortcuts around the same universe, a la the Bifrost or Loki’s hole-in-the-sky.
What he needed was to figure out a way to send this Steve back and retrieve the brooding, doesn’t-get-that-reference Steve of this universe, because that winky face Steve sent was now seared into his retinas for all eternity. He didn’t need this.
He sighed. He’d eaten way too much cake.
He decided not to work for the rest of the day, and instead watched five straight hours of Netflix while live-texting everything to Rhodey. Rhodey only replied once (“Stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop please stop”), but that was okay.
The next day, he was feeling chipper, especially when he got some coffee into him; he was ready for a busy day of doing whatever it was that needed doing. His mood only improved when he saw Bruce and Thor (and Steve, whatever) making pancakes.
“Next batch is mine,” Natasha told him, not looking up from whatever she was reading on her phone.
“Yeah, sure,” Tony said, nudging Steve on his way over to the coffee machine for his second cup of the day (that was the thing about this tower, there was always a coffee machine within a twenty foot radius on all of the main levels. Less fights when everyone was all properly caffeinated).
“Watch it,” Steve grumbled. “You’ll mess up my pancakes.”
“They’re already messed up,” Tony said, not even glancing over, just watching his mug fill up. Two creams, two sugars. Maybe some brown sugar, too. Was that pushing it? It seemed that since he was still drinking all of DUM-E’s disgusting health smoothies, he was entitled to the occasional sugar high. But…
Fuck it, he thought, grabbing the creamer. What Pepper didn’t know couldn’t hurt her. He poured some cream in and looked over at Steve’s skillet. “That’s the flattest fucking pancake I’ve ever seen. And it’s all crispy at the edges. And smells like burnt butter.”
“That’s how Natasha likes them,” Steve said with a shrug, moving his spatula to flip the monstrosity over. He glanced to Tony’s mug, the creamer and the sugar cubes in Tony’s hand, poised at the ready. “You’re gonna get fat.”
“I’m sexy as fuck,” Tony retorted.
“I said you’re gonna get fat, not ugly. No one’s denying your attractiveness.” He smiled blithely and nudged Tony with his hip.
Tony narrowed his eyes. He vaguely remembered something about inter-dimensional wormholes and an infinite number of Steves. “Are you coming on to me?”
Steve glanced over to the others, wide-eyed, before turning back to Tony. He actually looked rather hurt by the notion and, if the barely-noticeable wrinkling of his nose was any indication, he was also a bit put-off. Rude. “Tony,” he said, leaning in and lowering his voice so as not to be overheard, “I was just joshing you. There’s… I can’t ever think of you like that. You’re like a son to me.”
“Shut your whore mouth, Steve,” Tony said, scowling into his coffee. Not this shit again—and it had started out as such a promising day, too. With pancakes. Steve’s weird, burnt-at-the-edges pancakes.
Steve leaned back again, and his expression went from concerned to giddy in the space of 0.2 seconds. “Funny story involving my mouth: this one time, Ho—”
“I can’t believe you’re still not done. Are you enjoying yourself?”
“That’s what Howard said.”
“I don’t—it’s like I feel the need to ask for context even as every fibre of my being screams no.”
“I can give you all the context you need. We weren’t shy about it. Once, with the USO girls, we even decided to put on a—”
Tony raised a hand in front of him. “Stop.” He took a gulp of near-scalding coffee and turned to Natasha. If there was one thing he knew for certain about Steve, it was the man was easily embarrassed and that he was indeed shy, despite having told Tony otherwise. A little retaliation was in order, surely. “Hey, you know pretty much everything about any of us, right? Even the stuff SHIELD doesn’t keep on file?”
“Tony, hush,” Steve said. His voice was steady, but Tony saw the beginnings of a blush forming at his neck.
“Do you know if Steve fucked my dad?” Tony asked, keeping his tone casual.
Everyone stilled; the stovetop fan was the only sound in the kitchen. It was to be expected; Tony did and said weird shit all the time, but this was about Steve. Natasha looked to Steve—who was stoic and unreadable—and then turned back to Tony. “Well,” she said slowly, “one of Howard’s lost journals had described Steve as being ‘pure as the freshly driven slush’. I’m not sure if you’d count that as evidence of an affair.”
“Tony’s father?” Thor asked as he thumped Clint on the back for choking on nothing.
Tony glared at his mug as Steve proceeded to hand Natasha her plate of steaming, custom-made, weird-as-fuck-looking pancakes. They exchanged smiles. Tony cursed their existences.
Bruce patted him on the arm.
And after breakfast, he had to corner Steve and say: “An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.”
“What?” Steve asked, eyes still fixed on a sketchbook. A paper sketchbook, not a tablet. An anachronistic waste of resources.
“It’s obvious you probably think my teasing goes a little far sometimes. I get it, you’re sensitive. But maybe you should stop besmirching a dead man’s already pretty tarnished memory? It just doesn’t seem like a very Captain America thing to do.”
Steve frowned, finally looking up at him. “You think saying he had homosexual inclinations is dirtying his memory? I thought I was supposed to be the old-fashioned one. Did you not read the pamphlets SHIELD gave us?”
“They only gave you those pamphlets. But—that’s not what I meant. I mean, you shouldn’t joke about that kind of thing.”
“Why do you assume I’m joking?”
“Because—you—he bought posters of you for me to hang in my room!”
“Don’t you think that’s a little fucked up?”
“Why would it be, ah, ‘fucked up’?” His brows furrowed and he was suddenly looking very ill at ease, shifting in his seat. “Did… you didn’t do things with those posters, did you?”
“What? No—I—well, it was…” He stopped. Counted backwards from ten. “Look. I began questioning reality because of you—nearly had an existential crisis. I researched inter-dimensional wormholes in the multiverse.”
“So,” he said, spreading his hands out in front of him. “Yes or no, did you sleep with my dad?”
“Does it matter?” Steve said with a half-smile.
“Tony, look, I was just having fun with you, I’d didn’t mean to… stress you out so much. I’ll stop, really.”
“But: did you sleep with Howard?”
“My SHIELD psychiatrists say it’s best not to dwell on the past. I should probably stop, you’re right.”
“But did you—”
“It’s in the past.”
“Sorry I made you almost have an existential crisis.”
Tony sighed, realizing he wasn’t going to get anywhere. Meaning he’d settle on the most likely possibility, that being: Steve was a filthy liar. Just. Filthy. But if he’d decided he was going to stop with the creepy talk about Howard, then Tony was going to take what he could get. He let his shoulders slump, let his whole body relax into the couch cushions. He should probably try and seal the deal on their tentative truce with some friendly conversation. “What’re you drawing?”
“Howard and I in the throes of passion,” Steve said without missing a beat. He looked up sheepishly. “Sorry. Last one, I promise.”
Tony nodded, moving to lie facedown in the cushions.
“You’re a good guy, Tony,” he said. “They did a good job with you. Or you did a good job despite them, I don’t know. Maybe the latter—neither seemed the parental type.”
Tony lifted his head, realized he was eye level with Steve’s ass and lowered it again. “You knew my mom?”
“Oh, yeah,” Steve said, sounding cheery. “She kind of groped me once. Peggy shot at me for it, like it’s my fault I’m irresistible.”
Tony closed his eyes. He brought this on himself, really.