Avengers: In Too Deep
"Tony," Steve began, spotting the man behind the bar counter, "Agent Barton has asked me to tell you to stop 'upgrading' his trick arrows because you keep getting the quiver jammed."
In all honesty, Clint had employed quite a few more colorful words in his description, as well as much more volume. But Steve presumed that the number of creative threats that had followed was implied. Also, he hadn't known what half Barton's words had meant, and wasn't keen on getting a vocabulary lesson from Tony Stark, of all people.
"Robin Hood having some trouble with his Band of Merry Men?" Tony said by means of greeting, not bothering to lift his gaze from the empty shot glass before him, glaring at it as if he could make it explode just by thinking really hard, and as if that blast might just solve all his problems. "I was only doing what I was asked; not my fault he can't keep up."
He'd muttered the last bit to himself, his eyes flickering to the blond man while one hand shifted to grope beneath the bar. Stark flashed Steve a grin as he extracted a decanter of scotch and popped the topper in one deft motion.
Briefly, he considered what odds were in his favor when it came to maybe confiding in Rogers, but that thought was drowned just as quickly as the air in the shot glass by a steady stream of liquor.
"There something else amiss in the unruly Sherwood Forest?" He snickered, setting the crystal back on the bar. "What else's got your spangled spandex in a bunch?"
Steve cast Tony a disparaging glare—the expression nearly perfected with constant need to use it—at his latest inventive moniker.
"Just following orders," the Super Soldier replied perfunctorily, slightly distracted by the New York skyline he still couldn't recognize. "I may outrank Agent Barton, but I never want to find myself on the business end of that bow. I don't imagine you want to be there either, so please stop playing with the others' toys, okay?" After a short moment, in which Tony had thrown back the small glass of gold liquid and already begun pouring himself a second, Steve added quietly, "Nothing else on my end. It's not like we've ever made a point of having casual chats, have we?"
Of course, now that he had said it, his traitorous mind began to buzz with a hundred different things he actually did need to discuss with Tony. He probably owed the man a couple dozen apologies, for starters. Another crucial point was finding out why Tony had pretty much had it out for him since the moment they met in Germany. And then, there was everything else that had happened in the week since then.
Calling their relationship 'strained' was an understatement.
Tony just scoffed at the mention of 'following orders,' tossing back his second shot with a grimace at the taste. He took a moment to search for a larger glass—not unlike the one he'd offered Loki—before choosing to address Steve again.
"Hey, if Clint doesn't like my improvements then he can come whine to me himself," he muttered. "Now, I'm not one for shooting the messenger, but I don't have too many problems with punching one." Tony paused, giving the Super Soldier's bicep a wary glance. "Unless he punches me back."
Stark smirked. Truth be told, he had no idea why Steve was coming to him of all people in search of some late night chat, but he didn't really have it in him to turn the other man away. He wasn't exactly up for attempts at witty banter, but he added in a jest anyway, "What the hell kind of Pilates do you take?"
Ignoring whatever remark Steve may have made, the inventor just kept on grinning and helped himself to another glass. Without missing a beat he continued, "Fancy a drink, Cap'n?"
Steve lifted an eyebrow at the offer, his gaze flickering between Tony's downright unnerving smile and the sizeable glass he'd just procured. Yes, he needed to speak to Tony about a number of things. But he wasn't sure how well that conversation might go if one of the two participants was drunk. And, knowing Tony, he would be before long.
Then again, it was probably the only opportunity he was going to get for a while, considering this was the first time he'd been alone with Stark since they spoke regarding Coulson's death on the Helicarrier a week ago. Between press conferences and briefings and training and cleaning up the city, not to mention the incomprehensible amount of time Tony spent with Pepper these days, there weren't many opportunities for quality time or reconciliation.
"What the hell," Steve mumbled eventually, conceding to Tony's request. Neither of them was particularly antsy, and it wasn't like they could get into much of a brawl here, at any rate—Tony had been mad enough at the Loki-shaped craters in the ground, and Cap wasn't about to put any more dents in the spiffy décor. Mentally remarking that this room was far too grand to be a garage, let alone a sitting room, he strode over to the bar and sat himself down across from Tony. "Who am I to refuse generous hospitality?"
And if the fact that Tony being drunk would probably eliminate any heavy atmosphere . . . well.
"Good man," the host replied a bit too jovially, managing to produce a similar glass that he slammed on the counter, nearly making it shatter. "Even after all the crap we've had to deal with I'm actually surprised you, of all people, agreed to one, being all . . . you. Hell, I was just kidding."
He wasn't just kidding. Stark had read up on as much of Steve Rogers' a.k.a. Captain America's a.k.a. Dad's big hero's dossier (the homework Pepper still had to reimburse him for) to know that Rogers couldn't exactly get drunk, but what the hell. It was just a theory.
And theories were meant to be tested.
Tony supplied his guest with a more than generous helping of alcohol, some little devious twinkle in his eye as he slid it across the counter. Pepper would probably be none too thrilled with the amount of scotch he planned to consume, but he knew she had too many other things on her mind to truly consider those repercussions.
He just raised his glass in toast. "Cheers."
Steve smirked at Tony's blatant overdose of alcohol into the glass—Tony Stark and subtlety weren't the best of friends—but picked it up and clinked it once with his. "Cheers." He raised it to his lips and took a hearty sip before placing it back on the counter with a lot more gentleness than Tony had exercised a moment ago.
The problem with Steve Rogers was not only that he couldn't talk to women, but that he just wasn't grand at talking to anyone. He was not a naturally charismatic person. Sure, being Captain America had forced him to acquire some better speaking techniques, but for his first few months as "The Star-Spangled Man with a Plan," all of his words had been scripted. For the most part, he simply let other people do the talking for him, lest he say something incredibly stupid. Which was, more often than not, the case.
So, instead of gracefully launching into a serious conversation, his brain decided to just have him remark on Tony's cheap jibe. "Well, I may not be able to get drunk, but I'm not that much of a Bluenose, Mr. Stark. It's you we should be worrying about."
"Why Steve, I . . ." Tony pressed a hand to his chest, muting the glow of the arc reactor and blinking repeatedly as if fending off the tears he refused to shed. "I . . . I don't know what to say! I'm touched! Honored, even! You, worried about me? What have I done to deserve this?"
Steve smiled faintly at the sarcastic melodramatic reaction, thinking that if this was sober Tony, God knows where they would be in an hour or so. And, since Tony clearly wasn't going to be any help in getting the ball rolling, Steve figured it was up to him to dive straight in. Sooner rather than later.
On the other hand, having any sort of sincere discussion with Stark was like walking on egg shells. Actually, it was more like line dancing on them. In the 250-pound Iron Man suit.
Therefore, he took a long sip of his drink to buy himself time to order his thoughts before carefully replying, "It was a tough call you had to make, back there." He coughed uncomfortably. "Just making sure you're holding out after your near-death experience."
Tony regarded Steve carefully for a moment, the corner his mouth twitching as he detected something akin to concern in the other man's tone. He wasn't overly fond of concern, so he merely shrugged.
"It was either nuke Manhattan or cart it off to some other dimension. I don't see what's so tough about it." He snickered briefly. "I always liked intergalactic space travel."
There was a brief flicker of realization in Steve's mind, something that nearly made him drop his glass—he and Tony were a lot more similar than he'd thought. Sure, Tony Stark was an egotistical, eccentric, self-centered playboy most of the time. Those qualities, added to Steve's irrational spite stemmed from his disappointment that Tony was not Howard, had resulted in immediate hostility towards him. But here they were, after both having fought life and limb for the prosperity of the world they defended, both having thoughtlessly sacrificed themselves for others without the expectation of coming back alive. And maybe, Steve thought, Tony Stark really was worthy of his Hero title. More than most.
"I . . . probably owe you an apology or two, Tony," he admitted aloud, eyes on his glass but tone as straightforward as always. "I misjudged you."
Tony tried not to look too shocked, having half a mind to spit Damn right you do, but his heart wasn't in it. He'd been looking for and maybe downright craving an apology from Captain America from the get-go, but he hadn't imagined it like this, both bent over glasses of liquor and skirting around the bigger picture.
The basest part of him wanted Steve to apologize for stealing his father, but that would be veering too far into territories he wasn't sure he wanted to go exploring just yet.
Instead he forced a smirk and fingered the decanter, immensely grateful that Steve's gaze was elsewhere.
"Aw, you're just saying that."
"I'm not," he insisted, unsure of where to go from there. Here he was, thoughts all jumbled, and he wasn't even the one affected by alcohol. "I am sorry. For . . . well, lots of things," Steve finished lamely, scrubbing a hand over his face and still looking at anything but the pair of eyes in front of him.
Tony didn't do well with apologies, giving or receiving. At least, not ones this sincere. (He was still getting apologies from Pepper about not answering her phone, and speaking of which, where was she . . . ?)
But apparently Steve wasn't doing so hot either, and him being an ass wasn't going to get them anywhere. It almost pained him to see the man he'd once heralded as his hero so obviously distraught.
"Capsi—," Stark cut himself off and frowned, reaching forward and planting his hand with a firm grip on Steve's arm. "Captain . . . Steve. Steve, look at me."
The hand on his arm made Steve start momentarily, but what shocked him more was the notion of who the hand belonged to, and the earnest tone in the voice. He looked up involuntarily (always following orders), not certain whether to look confused or angry or embarrassed or guilty or some combination thereof under Tony's scrutiny. Regardless of all the new technologies and ideals and lifestyles, people were still decidedly the hardest thing to figure out in this new century. Scratch that—in any century.
"I don't know what you want me to say, Mr. Stark," Steve confessed, letting it all out in one breath. "But I'm sorry, if it's anything to you. I . . . don't like bullies, or any folks who high-hat and patronize the little people. You were easy to think of as one of them, but I was probably the one in the wrong. I'm sorry for misjudging you, because you do deserve to be on this team. There aren't many out there that would have the gut to follow through with what you did. Not just the end, but all of it. You really deserve your title, Mr. Stark, and I shouldn't have doubted you."
With that, Steve sucked in a breath and waited for Tony to move. Reply or walk away or laugh, though preferably not the latter. His cheeks were red it enough as it was. He really did not like talking to people.
Tony just stared, his Adam's apple bobbing viciously as everything sunk in and the words kept rattling around inside of his head in an obnoxious, jeering drone. If Steve wasn't being serious . . .
Anthony Edward Stark did not get choked up on emotion, nor was he ever at a loss for words.
Until now, at least.
He shifted his gaze away from the uneasy man before scooping his glass and promptly moving away from the counter. The decanter was eyed briefly before he grabbed it as well, making a beeline for the broken window leading to a curved balcony and cool night air.
"Come with me."
Steve, clueless as to when exactly Tony had decided to be the mature one in this situation, simply stood up, albeit a bit warily. Though he'd been frightened that Tony was about to walk out of the room a moment ago, Steve could not suppress a small laugh when Stark grabbed the bottle of scotch on his way to the balcony. He would take any excuse for a bit of levity at this point. Determined as ever, the Super Soldier scooped up his own glass and followed Tony outside, skirting the pieces of broken glass on the way and mentally reminding himself not to look down.
Honestly, buildings were not meant to be this high. Ever.
Standing a few feet from the edge, Steve gulped down the rest of his drink before mustering the courage to break the silence. "Something you needed to show me outside, Mr. Stark? Or," he added as a pathetic attempt at instilling some humor back into the scene, "Do you just prefer the view from up here? Because you are alone in that, just so you know."
Tony barked a laugh that hurt his throat. "Not a fan of heights, Cap?" He pivoted slightly, extending an arm in order to refill his guest's glass, practically dumping the amber liquid into it. "Funny; helps me think."
Steve laughed nervously. "It's not the heights that bother me, Mr. Stark. Just the free-falling from them part."
Settling the decanter on the ground by his feet, Tony shifted just enough to lean forward and fold his arms across the railing. He chanced a glance downward, eyes following a taxicab until it disappeared around a corner.
He paused. Took a drink. Waited. Mentally warred with himself.
"I'm not so good with . . ." Tony waved his glass idly, feeling eyes on him. "Ah . . . yeah."
As if the height wasn't distressing enough, Tony's utter lack of words completely threw Steve off—not literally, mind, because getting thrown off a building this tall sans chute was not on Steve's itinerary. Tony without witty remarks was practically unheard of. It was like a canary in the coal mine: when the noise stopped, something was amiss in the air. Steve himself had no idea how to move forward at this point, just continued looking at the back of Tony's head as if a script would magically appear in front of his eyes. Then again, when all else failed, being honest had usually worked for him.
"Yeah," Steve echoed, absent-mindedly walking up to the railing and settling himself against it a few feet from Tony. "I know what you mean. Join the club, in fact."
"We should get T-shirts," Tony muttered, running the hand that wasn't holding his Scotch over the railing with a scowl. He let that settle for a motion, making sure to keep his eyes from Steve as he tried to just think.
Steve let another mouthful of liquor burn its way down his throat before returning his attention to Stark Junior. "Look, I'm not asking for forgiveness, Tony. I'm just letting you know. Trying to bury the hatchet and all that jazz."
Tony pressed the cool glass to his temple. "All right, here's the deal. I don't . . . I don't want your pity, or your forgiveness, or your sympathy or whatever you want to call it. I just . . ."
The New York City skyline was quite a sight.
Tony clenched his jaw and just hoped he could get his apology across without actually having to say it.
Steve was observant enough to note that this conversation was causing as much strife in Tony as it was in him, and he decided that he was just going to let the whole thing slide. This was way more progress than he'd hoped to make in such a short time, anyway, and Steve was wise enough to not press his luck. Knowing the right words would probably go a long way here, Steve took a moment to collect his thoughts again and formulate a sound reply.
Until something in his brain fixated on what exactly Tony had said, and his mouth was suddenly two steps ahead of his mind.
"What do you mean 'my forgiveness'?" Steve exclaimed, whirling on Tony as his brow furrowed in genuine confusion. "Wasn't I the one apologizing a minute ago?"
Tony audibly cursed himself under his breath (using a not-very-nice four letter word that made Steve blush), having initially hoped that Steve wouldn't pick up on his little slip in word choice. Clearly, that had been wishful thinking on his part.
"Look, I'm . . . I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry I'm an ass and said whatever I said and I'm sorry I'm not my father." Yet another slip of the tongue. He was on a roll tonight. "That's just . . . who I am."
Stark emptied the remainder of his glass, risking a glance at the man staring at him before turning to face him. "What do you want me to say, Boy Scout?"
"I don't know," Steve answered, shaking his head as if it might dislodge some fresh ideas regarding what to say here. "Nothing, really."
He was going over Tony's words in his head, trying to figure out if he'd intentionally brought up Howard, or if that had simply come pouring out in the middle of everything. Admittedly, Steve had blamed Tony for not being his father, at least during their first couple of encounters. But surely Tony had realized that they were long past that, hadn't he? By all means, Howard and his son were very similar at first glance—identical, even—but Steve was quickly coming to realize that in reality, there were few ways to relate the two of them. It would probably be a while before he stopped seeing a flicker of his old friend every time he looked at Tony, but he could move pass that.
Steve looked away briefly as he mimicked Tony, downing half his drink, before he turned back. "I don't blame you for the first two, since you probably can't help yourself," Steve promised, letting a hopeful grin tug at his lips. "But . . . I know you're not Howard, Tony. And you don't need to apologize for that."
"Jesus, the last person I want to be is him. Of all people." Tony chuckled, but it was almost angrier than it was amused as he then mumbled something along the lines of whatever to himself. "Maybe I shouldn't apologize for that."
Then he saw that little smile on Steve's face. Maybe it was just the alcohol, but now he was feeling a bit spiteful. And a little foggy. And like he really needed to be honest.
"But you know what? It's okay. Because you're kind of an ass too."
Choosing to take that as a joke instead of the genuine insult Tony had probably intended it to be, Steve let out a laugh. "Yeah, I guess I deserve that. Sorry," he said one last time, before finishing his glass. "But I was just apologizing, in case you missed that."
Tony tried to subtly nudge the decanter in Steve's direction without knocking it off of the edge. He grimaced.
"You know what? Forget I said anything." Stark reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose, preferring to not breach the subject of what had been said on the Helicarrier. That could be discussed later—besides; it was obvious Steve was uncomfortable enough as it was. There was no use in making him feel even worse. "How'd you put it—'burying the hatchet and all that jazz'? Yeah? Let's get a tombstone for it. Fury can give the eulogy."
"Sounds swell," Steve chuckled. "I'm sure Fury would appreciate being a part of our agreement to stop pushing each other off the edge—figuratively, I mean," Steve hastily corrected with a quick glance downward. Mentally, he sighed with relief that Tony had picked up on his awkwardness and chosen to steer them in a different direction. Yes, Howard Stark was a subject that was going to hang over their heads for a long time, and they would have to buckle down and talk about the whole story eventually. But just covering the basics would do for tonight.
"Pfft." Tony shook his head, absently shooting a look at his empty glass. "Yeah, just as soon as he's done giving us the only evil eye he has. Ol' Patchy probably wouldn't—" He cut off as one of Steve's words finally sunk in. "Swell? What? Really?"
Stark chuckled in a manner that was borderline obnoxious, waving his arms in a sweeping gesture as he turned to face Captain America. It took a second for him to realize that both of his hands were empty.
He glanced over the railing, leaning over in time to watch his glass plummet the however-many stories it was to the ground before peeking at Steve from the corner of his eye.
"I won't tell if you won't."
Steve, unlike Tony, didn't let his eyes follow the glass's downward plummet, but let them roll at Stark's clumsiness instead. He tried and failed not to laugh at the expression on Tony's face.
"Your secret's safe with me," Steve promised with a deep laugh, glad for some humor after the Howard-talk. He imagined that a glass wasn't oddest thing to ever have fallen from Stark Tower—the folks below were probably used to it. "How's the 'getting Cap drunk' plan working out for you? You're the one who's gonna get cut off, just so you know."
Tony outright scoffed at the remark, exaggerating the hurt look in response. "Hey, my house, my rules. You don't like it, you file a complaint with our complaint department. There's a pad of sticky notes and a trash can right inside. Have a ball."
All the same he smirked, relieved to have some of the tension leaving both his body the air between them. Without missing a beat he pivoted in his heel, making a beeline for the bar.
His step wavered for a moment, causing him to almost trip over himself as he called over his shoulder, "I'm getting another glass. Make no sudden movements."
"No promises. I do have razor-sharp reflexes, after all," Steve called after Tony, who was currently stumbling very maladroitly over the broken glass and other debris strewn on the floor. The air was getting decidedly cooler out here, and the wind was picking up. Whilst his body was built to withstand more than this, cold still brought on fresh, painful reminders of his time as a Capsicle, as Tony had so caringly dubbed him. With one last glance at the dazzling lights out in the dark, Steve strode in after him, now with a quasi-legitimate excuse for moving away from the edge of the building under his belt.
He settled himself in the same chair as before, unconsciously moving slowly so as to not startle Tony. "By how well you're holding out, I'll venture you don't do this very often," Steve tried.
Cursing to himself as Steve followed him inside he ducked down behind the bar and began rifling through the contents below it. His brow puckered as he grabbed the first bottle he found, studying the label before shrugging at it.
Tony hadn't realized that Steve had sat down, and as a result hadn't expected to see him there when he rose.
"Don't do what? Drink myself stupid? Because according to Pepper I've mastered the art of—God damn it!"
In retrospect, Tony was sure the scene would have been highly amusing to some outside party, but at the moment he was honestly too scared out of his mind to even consider laughing. And so he was on his ass with his nostrils flared, trying to tell himself to calm down. "What the hell—don't do that!"
Steve sat there, too shocked to react for a second, before he leaned forward and poked his head over the edge of the bar.
"What do you mean?" he asked incredulously. "Don't move? Breathe?" His automatic reaction was to burst out in laughter at the sight of Tony Stark having a slight panic attack on the floor, but self-preservation instincts kicked in at the same time, resulting in slight cluelessness at what to do. He knew that Tony might not get revenge in this state, but that he was fully capable of doing so tomorrow morning. Or afternoon, more realistically.
Once Tony had appeared to have caught his breath and had stopped muttering expletives at him, Steve walked behind the bar and helped the self-proclaimed genius to his feet. He led him in the direction of the stools, figuring they would both be better off if Tony didn't have to stand and was refused direct access to the giggle water. A memory of going through the same motions with Bucky (seventy years ago, his mind supplied unhelpfully) flashed past his eyes. Steve reflected that it was a lot easier to do this time around, actually possessing some sort of muscle mass.
"Tony," he instructed, trying to ignore how ridiculous the predicament was, "We both know you'll find a way to make this my fault tomorrow. Don't lie. And since I don't want Ms. Potts to get angry with me any more than you do, please take it easy, all right? Your girlfriend is a wonderful dame—woman, sorry—and I don't want to get on her bad side. You hear me?"
"Yeah, well," Stark half-muttered, half-slurred, snickering idly to himself at the sheer stupidity of the situation. "Just . . . no. Sit down. Where I can see you. 'N don' make Pepper mad."
Steve visibly winced, sensing a change in the air again, some of the humor receding. His mind wandered back to the beginning of the evening, and he wondered at what point he'd deluded himself into thinking that chatting with an inebriated Tony Stark would be a grand idea. But again, he figured it was too late to do anything about it now. It wasn't like he was just going to leave Tony alone and disoriented in the middle of their heart-to-heart. Captain America was not that kind of person. If he wasn't the one that the Avengers could talk to, he wanted to at least be the one they could lean on.
"Believe me, that is not my intention," Steve insisted. He glanced around momentarily. "Hang on," he muttered, briefly laying a hand on Tony's shoulder to remind him he was there, before effortlessly lifting up one of the bar stools and carrying it around to the other side of the counter, settling himself opposite Tony and pushing all remaining glasses and decanters out of reach.
Tony merely watched in muted shock as the Captain situated himself, having initially expected him to simply up and leave after that little episode. However, he did find that he was almost grateful for his presence.
At least, until Steve pushed away the liquor, that was.
"Hey." He frowned. "You can't do that. That's not—no. What." Mentally shaking himself to rid his mind of all thoughts pertaining to that one little hiccup in his life, he instead put forth a great deal of effort into focusing on Steve. And his duplicate. "Stop moving."
"I'm not!" Steve protested, holding himself as still as a statue so as to make it easier for Tony to get a grip. His girlfriend probably wouldn't appreciate dealing with a Tony that had been left alone in the dark later. He hadn't been lying when he'd said he wanted to remain in Pepper's good graces, as she was one of the only ones who would honestly answer his questions about the 21st Century. (Tony and Clint had just made a game of seeing who could confuse Cap the most.) No, Steve didn't really have the authority to stop him, as Tony had pointed out, but he owed it to both him and Ms. Potts to keep him . . . well, conscious.
He grabbed Tony's wrist in one hand to prevent it from wandering towards the glasses, tucking the decanter under the counter with the other.
"That's it, Tony," he ordered, feeling like he was reprimanding a rebellious adolescent. "No more. You're already drunk enough; we don't need you collapsing again." Something Clint had mumbled earlier struck him, and he found himself saying under his breath, "And you wonder why we can't have nice things . . ."
"I am nice things," he muttered, jerking against the grip on his wrist. "Er, have. Have had. Have owned. Not all of them are broken. Just some of them."
He blinked a few times as Steve wavered again. The man was definitely moving—why was he lying about it?
"And hold still. I only need one Boy Scout, not the whole damn troop."
"For God's sake . . ." Steve mumbled. He sighed and let his head drop slightly, trying not to let Tony's behavior get on his nerves. He finally understood why people called it 'stark raving mad.' But though Tony was irritating in this state—though not much more so than usual—a small part of Steve wondered if he shouldn't have the man lie down or something before he upchucked and diminished the floor's state even further. On the other hand, Tony was having enough trouble just sitting still. So he figured he would leave him there.
"Look, Tony, I'm not moving. Being in the military ensures that you can stay perfectly still for long periods of time, so I'm not the one with the problem."
"Yeah, you . . ." Tony scowled, ducking his chin into his chest as he stared at Steve. He fidgeted in his seat all the while, unable to find a comfortable position. Stark's eyelids twitched as they narrowed. "You . . . what? I don't want to be in the military."
Steve blinked, looking up. "And you're not going to be if I have anything to say about it," he replied, momentarily entertaining the mental image of Tony getting chewed out by Col. Phillips. He chuckled to himself.
Dry humor wasn't usually his style, but Tony's act was quickly tiring him out. "Tony, trust me when I tell you that a lot of people will benefit from you never enlisting. Just keep flying around and shooting stuff and bringing down buildings and . . . doing whatever else it is you do to protect humanity. It's seemed to work so far."
The only words that registered for Tony were 'flying around and shooting stuff.' He grinned, and his fingers instinctively twitched for the glass Steve was keeping from him.
"Hah." He slouched a bit against the bar. "That's fun 'n all, but Pep doesn't seem to like it too much." Tony hummed thoughtfully to himself, managing to make it sound more like a grunt. "Maybe I should build her a suit too. Then she could fly. She'd like that."
Steve shook his head in disparagement at Tony's train of thought, but smiled nonetheless. "Doesn't it take years to build those things?" Steve asked. Then, he remembered how often and effortlessly Tony was able to exchange a demolished suit for an upgrade, and remembered that technology had taken enormous leaps and bounds since his time. Despite being constantly bombarded by flashy screens and blinking lights that hurt his over-sensitive eyes, it was still difficult to wrap his head around. He quickly withdrew the question, doing the same with the glasses Tony kept eyeing. "Never mind."
He scrubbed a hand over his mouth absently. "Besides," Steve added, "I think Ms. Potts worries enough about you in that suit. There's no need to give her reason to constantly fear for her own life as well."
Tony frowned and made a pitiful noise in the back of his throat as Steve took the glass away. He only wanted one. Where was the harm in that?
He sniffed. "But it'd keep her safe when I can't." The man swayed a bit on his stool at the thoughts whirling through his mind. It probably wouldn't take too long to construct the suit—take the Mark VI maybe, make a few adjustments to it, make sure it did what it was supposed to . . . Hell, the hardest part would be teaching her how to operate it, and even Rhodey had managed to pick that up fairly quickly. (Hey, maybe he could make Steve one too!) "I could . . . It could protect her."
"Yeah," Steve murmured eventually, his eyebrows furrowed in sympathy for Tony. The Super Soldier was again surprised by his temporary ability to express profound emotion. Steve felt his cheeks flush slightly at Tony's words, feeling like he'd just heard something meant for the inventor alone. He could frown upon Tony and his eccentric inconsistency all he liked, but Steve had discovered from the get-go that one thing consistent and genuine about Tony were his feelings towards Pepper Potts.
Unsuspectingly, Steve's head suddenly flooded with thoughts of Peggy. He found he had to shut his eyes as memories of her flashed before them. Peggy had never needed protecting—hell, for the longest time she'd been the one saving his skin; but once he'd grown taller, she had suddenly seemed so small. Steve still poignantly remembered his unease of seeing her on the front lines—granted, she was rarely on the battlefield, always in demand at camp. Agent Carter could more than hold her own, but especially once Bucky had gone, Steve had constantly worried about what he would do if anything were to happen to her. He could relate to Tony's devotion to keeping Pepper safe.
He didn't know where all these emotions were stemming from, but if he had to rationalize it, he suspected it had to do with seeing Tony and Pepper together all the time. Two people that had obviously come a long way, but now seemed so . . . happy around each other that it was hard to ignore. Steve felt his heart pound sharply against his ribcage at the notion that he would probably never have anything like that. Especially not with Peggy.
Tony idly scratched at the stubble prickling along his jaw as he waited for Steve to say something else. As inebriated as he was, he was also able to pick up on the sudden shift in mood, watching as the man closed his eyes and appeared to struggle with some internal demons.
Stark took the opportunity to lean down the bar and snatch a glass, sliding it across the surface from one hand to the other, foot thumping against the stool's leg to break the silence.
"What's her name?"