The cab driver was brooding, a usual facade for those who risk their lives all too often for drugs addicts, prostitutes, and everyone in between. Steve wanted to talk, oddly enough. He wanted to confide in a stranger, someone who wouldn't judge him but it seemed stupid. Instead, he peered out the window as he watched the neighborhoods change.
have fun tonight xoxo
The scenery flowed from the quaint little apartments to the suburban luxury homes only middle class citizens could afford. Tony was one of them. The townhouses were all identical, differing in only door ornaments and window shutter colors. The cars all looked the same as well: silver or black, tan or white., Sudan or minivan, those were truly the only choises. Each brick red house was labeled with golden numbers by the mailbox on the porch. Steve felt the excitement and fear brush over him when he found the numbers he was looking for.
"This is it." He stated, pointing at the house as if it could be told apart from the last seventeen they saw in that neighborhood. He paid the fare, waving off before stepping out into the cool night air of spring.
"Here we go." Steve mumbled to himself as he tugged at the bottom of his shirt.
Before he could back out and run for the hills, he was up the porch and at the door, knocking three times.
It took only a second before Tony acknowledged the noise. Steve heard the shuffling, the muffled curses before the door swung open to reveal a wide grin. "You didn't stand me up."
"I still can if you want." Steve joked, pointing behind himself as he spoke.
"You’ll miss out on the once in a blue moon occurrence of me actually cooking another human being dinner." The lack of expression tickled Steve in some way. Tony's sense of humor was dry and sarcastic, something that Steve somehow liked more than he expected to.
"You never cook for your son?" The word still left an odd taste in his mouth.
"Pepper told him too many stories of how bad of a cook I was when we were younger so, no, he refuses to eat whatever I make. It’s for his own good really, I’m terrible.”
"Is it too late to stand you up?” Steve’s eyes were slightly squinting, his lips pulled into a small smile that got wider as the seconds ticked.
Tony snorted. "Trust me, doc, it'll be worth it tonight. And if you get sick or something, you’re a doctor. Let me grab my coat and we'll head out." Before Steve could speak, Tony was back down the hall falling over whatever hid behind the wall.
"I thought we were eating here?" Steve yelled out to him.
Tony was peeking around the corner. "I was thinking it’d be nice for us to go to the store and we pick out something and we come back and cook it together. Plus I get to silently judge you for the things you say you don’t like to eat. Because let’s face it, I can’t cook but I can eat and I eat at some really amazing places that you’ll eventually love."
Steve rubbed his neck with the same grin from before. It was hard just not to smile in Tony’s presence. "Good enough for me.”
Tony reappeared, pulling his leather jacket over his broad shoulders while walking towards the door. "Good because that’s all I had in mind. By the way, this date is happening right now so no take backs."
The walk to the store was filled with small talk: work, school, students, patients, funny story, relationship story then they arrived. They both reached for the door, one insisting for the other to go first until finally steve caved and stepped in first. It felt weak of him but he wanted to be courteous. As much as he suppressed the thoughts of his fantasy from earlier today, he wanted to feel secure and taken care of for once. It wasn't as if Bucky never provided that security but Steve was the one who finished college and jumped into a career. Shortly thereafter he was committed to Bucky and doing what he could after the accident.
Oh. The accident.
Shaking his thoughts away quickly, Steve looked up from the floor. "Hm?"
Tony smirked. "I said what about seafood?"
"Not quite in the mood, no."
Tony runs a finger over the packages of crab meat near the deli. His eyes were dancing over the words. He and Steve were only feet away but with the blonde being so aloof, it felt like miles. "What are you in the mood for?" Tony asked, almost irritated. Steve shrugs sort of. Tony sighed at the gesture and dropped his hands to his sides. "If you want to reschedule maybe then I get it. I don't want to force you into something that you don't want to do but I am very interested in you. I like you, Steve. I want to get to know you but I can't do that when you don't give me a chance. That's all I'm asking for here really. Tonight, give me a fair shot and if not, then we'll let bygones be bygones. Though I'm sure I'll make appearances at the hospital pretty often."
Shoving his fist into his pockets, Steve felt stupid. "I'm sorry. It’s been hard and I," he paused to gather his thoughts, "I like you, too. A lot, really. And I know this is stupid to ask. I know I have no right to ask this, but I just need a little patience? I just need to work myself into this correctly and carefully, so, just work with me??" They were staring one another in the eyes. Steve stepped closer, invading the man’s space in the most intimate way he could. Tony fought a smile. "I promise I won’t let you down." Steve's voice was smoky.
Tony huffed before grabbing for the man’s hand. "I just really want you to pick out something to eat because I'm starving." They both laughed, eyes tracing the curves and arches of their lips. This was the moment, the first kiss that every budding couple dreamed of. Their lips curving from wide smiles to smug grins that came closer with each heavy breath until -
Tony pulled back, spinning around to see a familiar face. "Banner!” He exclaimed. “How's it been?"
"Great, great." The dark haired man responded. “How about you?”
Steve put his hands back into his pockets as he watched the two friends catch up. It was hard keep up with their conversation. Banner was talking about coming back to work at the college and then something about physics and mechanical engineering. Steve tried not to listen to hard, only catching on to bits about Peter and science and more science on top of science.
"Bruce Banner, this is Steve Rogers. He's a doctor at Saint Carter's. I remember you had your daughter there."
"I did, nice place. Betty wasn't so nice to the nurses but they were sweet to her. Are you a surgeon?"
"I'm a third year resident with my heart set on cardiology, sir."
Bruce smiled, a slow laugh dripping from his lips as he gave Tony a weary look. "Sir? I look that old?”
Tony joined him in a laugh. "Steve was exiting the birth canal when we were settling into our dorms."
"I'm sorry, respect was a big thing in our house." Steve respectively clarified.
"No, no, it's okay. At least you have manners. Tony never dated many with those."
Tony’s face was rather smug. "Banner is jealous because I married Pepper instead of him. He confessed his love for me on many occasions during science experiments but I told him, ‘Look, you’re coming on too strong with the science and walking around in your underwear sometimes and we can do this but some butt stuff will happen.’ Never brought it up again."
Bruce had a sarcastic smirk on his face, nodding repeatedly as Steve laughed at their friendly antics. "Don’t believe a word he says.”
Tony rubbed Bruce's shoulder. "Banner’s here is in denial.”
Steve smiled awkwardly, still feeling like the third wheel to two best friends. “How did you two meet?”
Bruce laughed as he spoke. "We were roommates in college. I was the best man at his wedding, too, since I was his only friend. From what he says, I was the first person that he came out to, which sort of made me an important person.Then he …” He trailed off for only an instant to give Tony a quick glance. Tony shook his head slightly as Steve tried not to notice, “went through some things and next thing I know he’s marrying this beautiful French girl who makes the best pies, just don't tell Betty I said that. Anyway, I had no idea what to think about it but I really didn't have much room to talk after a while. A month after I met my now wife, Betty, I knocked her up so ... what’re you gonna do about it, right?”
Steve gave a small grin, the Bruce and Tony were fleeting stiff glances at one another before Bruce cleared his throat. "I need to get home and finish unpacking, though. Betty’ll rip my head off if I don’t hurry up and bring her some carrots. I’ll be seeing you around, Tony. It was nice meeting you, Steve." Bruce waved as he walked off.
Tony waved, Steve doing the same before they turned towards one another.
"Baked Ziti sound good?" Tony asked. Steve nodded as Tony led the way.
The kitchen hummed with the noise of pots and pans, boiling water, bubbling sauce, and low laughter. There was wine and beer, sharing silly glances as one perched lips to a glass while the other stirred the softening pasta. Tony couldn't resist staring at the tall blonde. It was odd, really, a man so tall and beautiful with brains and a heart. It was understandable to think that underneath was a psycho or a stalker, someone mentally deranged or perhaps abused and yet, so far, he wasn't. They'd talked about their thoughts on important matters, seeing how opinions would clash but the two agreed on matters, sharing similar opinions and feeling a bit frustrated about the same subjects and yet no quarrel.
Steve peeked over his shoulder a time or two at a staring Tony. "What?" He questioned with a smile.
"What did that man do to you?" Tony questioned with his head tilted.
Steve didn't want to answer; he didn't even know if he was ready to open up about it but he felt like it was only right to lay it all out and let the cards fall as they may.
Steve talked slowly, collecting every small detail of the story in his head as he prepared himself to share it. "We were best friends since high school, just best friends at the time. Blah blah blah, we dated other people, we talked about how it felt and, well, we at one point or another, we talked about how we felt about each other. College was over and the real world started settling in. I started my internship and he signed up to join the Army. Four years wasted on adegree he never got achance to use. He went to boot camp, graduated, came home, and was told that he was going to be deployed for two years less than a month later. While he was over there he ... lost his arm." Steve stepped away from the stove to face Tony.
Placing his hip against the counter, he continued to talk. "There was therapy after therapy then home therapy, the prosthetic arm fitting, the hospital bills, the VA being everything but helpful." He paused for a second to breathe. A hard breathe as he bit back his residual anger. "I helped him through the episodes, the screaming, the crying, the phantom limb, and after a while I was tired. I was picking up shifts, coming home to be called selfish, working in the clinic for extra cash, and I was constantly trying to show him, to tell him how much I loved him and how I didn't care that he was down an arm but it didn't matter. You learn that with PTSD, no matter what someone says, it doesn't matter. He proposed after graduation. Then, about a year ago, he found someone else. From what I learned, thanks to Facebook, is he’s missing a leg and he does volunteer work at the VA. So, he left me for his counselor or whatever he is." Steve didn't know where the beer bottle came from but he guzzled down the drink faster than he could wash away the memories. It felt like there was more to say, more to justify but he felt a faint smile kiss his lips before he fished for another beer. "Then, when I came home from work,” He started while lowly laughing at the story, “there’s dirty dishes, as always, and we have this white board in the kitchen right next to the fridge where we used to write messages and notes and our grocery list. Well, I’m bringing bags in and I place them all down to erase the list to see on the board that he couldn’t wait until I got home because he never knew when that would be. And that he needed time to reconsider our engagement. That he needed space to figure his life out and something else about how he needed more help than I could give him." There was the silence again. The quiet that wasn't so quiet and much needed at a time like this. Steve remembered the speech word for word. He remembered how the letters were sloppily written, how the h’s looked like n’s and how no matter how hard he wanted to erase it, he kept it up there. Steve wanted to admit that the message was still staining the board to this very day but instead he readjusted his hips on the counter, as so did Tony.
Instead of talking more, and dishing out more memories, Steve asked in a tone above a whisper, "Did you like being married?" Tony's eyebrows shot up. Steve clarified, "I mean, you said you loved her and that she accepted who you were .... are, I mean, and what you did but being married, being able to have that someone to come home to after a rough day, being able to talk to that person without being the enemy, or just knowing that no matter what this person was there for you... how was it? Did you like it?"
Tony smirked, a snort leaving his parted lips as he looked up at Steve's sincere oceanic eyes. "I loved it. When I was younger, I knew I'd never get married. I was the gay who perpetuated the stereotype. Bruce hated it, always nagging to me about how I should keep it in my pants and try to find someone who fits into my future. Then Pepper came and she needed help, as so did I, and we got hitched. I loved her as a person, then a friend, then just altogether. She was there for me; she cleaned me up and helped me out, patched my wounds and still hasn't left my side. So yeah, being married was the best thing that ever happened to me."
"What kind of help?"
Tony was still smiling. "Pepper needed a quick way to become an American. She's from France, we met when she came here to study abroad for a year and while she was here, her parents died in a car wreck. That was all the family she had left. So, she wanted to stay, I was on drugs and drinking all the time, in and out of rehab for about two years straight so we made a deal. She helped me get clean so my family could find a reason to like me again and I help her become a citizen.” Tony pressed his thumb against the side of his lip, looking from under his brows as he spoke. “Sorry it's not as dramatic as your story. Hard to follow that up, really."
Steve laughed softly. Shifting his weight from one hip to another again, he looked up from under his brow and asked, "Isn't that illegal?"
"Yeah if you go around telling police officers and homeland security, but you're a trustworthy guy."
They were both smiling, Steve more than Tony but it was okay. As Steve opened his mouth to ask another question, Tony’s phone rang.
“Hello?” He answered in a rush. Holding up a finger, he paced the floor a bit. “Ye- yeah, no problem. Yeah he's here.” His voice trailed before he spoke again. “No, I only have spare inhalers and epi-pens, tell him not to forget to bring his medicines.” Steve felt uncomfortable. Turning back to check the pasta, Tony finished up his conversation. “See you in a few.”
Tony huffed stiffly. “Speaking of the devil. That was Pepper. She was called to the office, Phil is on a business trip and Peter has to come and stay with me for a while." Steve felt his eyes go wide as he processed thought. "Look, I know it's soon and an inconvenience but-"
"Tony, no, no it's fine. I just never meet someone's son unless the parent is a patient of mines. It's weird to be in that scenario outside of work is all." Steve felt his cheeks quiver as he smiled.
"So." Tony croaked as he bit into his meal. Peter was unusually quiet. It was awkward for the trio, Steve slowly shoveling the food into his mouth. "What did your mom have to go in for?"
"New evidence." Peter mumbled out. Tony sighed as he poked the pasta.
"What grade are you in, Peter?" Steve questioned.
Peter huffed, shaking his head as he faked a smile to answer the stranger. "I'm a freshmen."
"The good days." Steve stated.
"You mean two years ago?" Peter mumbled as he rolled his eyes back down to his chilly meal.
"Peter-" Tony said through gritted teeth.
"Excuse me for a second, I need to use the restroom." Steve slid from under the table to disappear into the hallway.
The house was taller than it was wider. The stairway seemed to be handcrafted for a slender man and his petite brigade of women. The bedrooms were spacious, each room decorated with two windows pointing out onto the street. The bathroom was compact as well, a walk in shower with a curtain to make the space seem even smaller. Steve felt like the bull in the china shop with his excessive muscles taking up space.
Before he could close the door, he hurried to call Nat.
"How's it going?" She answered in a rush.
"His son is here." Steve whispered as he took a seat on the shut toilet lid.
"Oh, what's he like?" Natasha also whispered.
"He fucking hates me." Steve answered flatly, and lowly.
"Stop, no, he doesn't even know you. Wait, why is he there?"
"His mom had to work, whatever, he hates me. He called me a baby."
Natasha snickered. "Well, with that cute little baby face of yours. I'd think you were a high school senior if I didn't know you."
"I'm going home."
"You are not. Stay there and just get to know him. You were 15 a few years ago, you know what it's like to that age."
"Yeah but my dad never brought home his boyfriends."
"Oooh, are you his boyfriend now?"
Steve was quiet for a second, undecided on which route to direct the answer. "Not if his son hates me."
The two were quiet for a second.
"Are you having fun? Other than his son hating you?"
Rolling his eyes around his head, Steve replied, "Shockingly, yes. I told him everything and he told me … everything, I suppose. He’s cocky but it’s a part of his dry sense of humor and I sort of like that about him.”
"Good. Well, bye. Go finish enjoying it."
The call disconnected. It was new to be in this situation but he had to see the night through. He needed answers to his questions even if it weren't going to happen right away. Tony was a good man and Peter was just a teenager. Steve knew how idiotic it was to be intimidated by a teenage boy but he was Tony's son, his impression meant a lot to his father. Taking a deep breath, Steve looked himself over before pulling the door open.
Peter stood in the shadow of the hall. Steve jumped back as the skinny teenager frightened him for merely a second.
"I don't hate you." Peter said in a dull tone. Steve stood still,, his eyes fixed on the boy as he waited for something else to be said. "It's not even you, man. I mean, I just sort of wanted to come over and eat take out and play some games but now I have to sit and talk with you and I'm just really not in the mood, ya’know? It’s not you, it’s just I have some things going on with my girlfriend Gwen and my mom and step dad, and meeting my dad’s boyfriend was the last thing I wanted to do tonight, ya’know?” Peter sighed as he looked around. “I think you’re a cool guy. I don’t know you but you like my dad, he’s crazy as shit and if you like him, that’s alright by me. I just really need to play some video games to not think about my girlfriend blowing some other dude at a party I couldn’t make it to, alright?”
Steve held back a smile. Holding out his hand to signify his truce, Peter grabbed it and they shook in agreement. "Strong grip." Steve stated.
"Not really, you're hurting me, dude." Peter winced as he grabbed for his aching limb. "Lay off the steroids, shit." He laughed out as he walked into the dark opening of his bedroom. Steve finally smiled. Slipping down the stairs and back into the dining room, Steve discovered a relaxing Tony with his refilled glass of wine.
"I don't know what's gotten into that kid lately." Tony said with a grumpy tone.
Steve slid into the seat beside him. "He's a teenager. I was one of those just some time ago. It's rough stuff. Hormones, school work, nagging parents." Dragging the last of his words, and his eyes, over to the upset parent, Tony caught hold of his insinuation.
"I don't nag, trust me, this is not nagging. Pepper, Pepper nags. I simply tell him how he needs to get his act together if he ever wants to make it anywhere in the world. Every time I turn around that kid has got an attitude. He'd flip a lid over the direction that the wind blew or something. I don’t know what he’s so angry about. He's full of himself, is what it is."
"Sounds familiar." Steve joked under his breath.
Tony cracked a reluctant smile. "Keep talking there, sunshine. I'll send you up to upstairs, too."
And again, Steve laughed. It was hard to accept him feeling good once again, a nostalgic feeling he wasn't too sure he was going to get back. To not be wrapped up in his own pity and loathing was a relief in itself and to be with someone like Tony, well, that was a blessing all on it's own.
Tony sat his glass down on the table. "This isn't what I'd planned at all."
"Nothing goes as planned, I've learned." Steve's voice was low and smoky, his eyes trailing around the room as he wondered where the rest of the night would take the two. "What's next? Ya’know, since you begged me to stay for this spectacular date."
Tony chuckled lowly as he slowly stood to his feet. "I was thinking a movie. Your choice." Tony reached for his hand. Steve felt the warmth arising in his cheeks as he followed behind the other man.