Despite everything else, he was in high spirits as they made their return journey. Pepper caught up on some emails on the plane, and Steve finally managed to get a few hours of sleep after days without, so, by the time they stepped into the elevator at Stark tower, they were both happy.
“Thank you for today, Pepper,” he told her sincerely. “I know this isn't your job anymore, and that you're busy with other things, so I just want to say that I appreciate all your help.”
“You're welcome,” she replied, smiling. “Honestly, it's nice to work with someone who actually listens to what you tell them the first time, and takes your advice on board.”
“Yeah,” Steve sighed, mood dipping a little as he thought about Tony again. “He can be a bit of a handful.”
Seeming to sense the change in atmosphere, Pepper placed a perfectly manicured hand on his shoulder and rubbed it reassuringly. “He'll come around,” she promised. “I don't know what's gotten into him, but trust me; all is not lost.”
Steve still wasn't sure whether he believed her, but, if anyone was to know, it would be Pepper. She had been the one who actually dated Tony, after all. Now he was thinking about it, were his feelings for Tony really appropriate conversation to be having with the genius' ex-girlfriend? She didn't seem too upset about it, but there was really no way of telling. For all he knew, he could be offending her.
“I, uh -” Before he could apologise, the elevator came to a stop at the communal floor. “Oh, I... I guess this is my stop. Thank you, again, for today.”
“Don't mention it,” she replied, giving him one last pat on the shoulder as he stepped out. “If you ever need anything else, Steve, don't hesitate to ask, okay? About anything.”
“Will do,” he nodded, waving as the doors closed again and Pepper descended to the atrium.
When she was safely out of sight, he took a deep breath and let it out as a sigh while he checked his watch. It was almost seven o'clock – later than he had expected to be back – which meant, if Sam had stuck to Peter's schedule, the little boy should have been bathed and put into his pyjamas by now, ready for his bedtime story and milk.
Heading into the living room, he was confused to find Sam on the couch, Peter-less, and with the TV on.
“Uh, hey,” he greeted, peering over the back of the couch. Sam waved jovially at him. “Where's Peter? He didn't go to bed already, right? I wanted to say goodnight.”
“Oh, no, he's around,” Sam shrugged, and quickly sat up at Steve's panicked expression. “He's not by himself, Steve, Jesus. Give me a little more credit. No, he wanted to go play with Stark, and they've been thick as thieves ever since.”
“He's with Tony -?”
“Hey, Chicken Little, look what we did!” came Tony's voice from behind them, and Steve turned immediately.
Stood in the doorway, both grinning from ear to ear, were Tony and Peter, hand in hand. Peter's hair was still damp, so he'd obviously had his bath, but, instead of being put into his pyjamas, Tony had dressed him in a tiny three piece suit, instead. A three piece suit that matched the one the genius was wearing exactly. Hell, Tony had even managed to find a pair of tiny sunglasses so that Peter matched him in that respect, too.
“Call me Chicken Little one more time, Stark, I dare you,” Sam growled, even as Peter spotted that Steve was back.
“Papa!” he squealed, letting go of Tony's hand to go toddling over, arms already outstretched for a hug.
“Hey, baby!” he crowed, laughing as the little boy basically jumped into his arms. He scooped him up and held him over his head for a moment, then brought him back down for a kiss. “I missed you. Did you have fun while I was gone?”
“Uh-huh,” Peter nodded, settling on Steve's hip with his arms around his neck. “We pwayed dwess up 'n now we match.”
“You sure do,” he agreed, glancing down at the little suit. “You're a handsome boy, that's for sure.”
Peter giggled shyly, then planted his face against Steve's neck. Glancing over him, he caught Tony's eye and watched as the genius glanced away, rubbing a hand over the back of his neck almost nervously.
“Sorry,” the brunet mumbled. “It was my idea, and now he's riled up before bed, and I -”
“It's okay, Tony,” he cut him off, smiling cautiously. “He just needs his milk and a bedtime story, right, buddy?”
“Can... can Tony do duh miwky story?” Peter asked, fiddling with Steve's loosened tie. “Pwees, Papa?”
Steve glanced over at Tony, not really sure what to say. “I'm not sure Tony wants to -”
“I can – I can do it, if he wants me to,” the genius cut him off softly. “If you don't mind, of course -”
“Of course I don't mind – why would I -”
“I mean, he's your kid; you set the rules -”
“- mind? You know I don't mind you bonding with him -”
“- and I don't want to -”
“You're both idiots,” Sam told them seriously, effectively cutting them both off. “Somebody make the kid's bottle, or I will, got it? Jeez.”
Without another word, Steve handed Peter over to Tony and followed them into the kitchen.
“Still deserve better,” Sam muttered as he passed, but he decided not to comment on it.
He sat at the kitchen table as the genius placed Peter opposite him, and they both watched as – quite effortlessly, now he knew what he was doing – Tony went about making Peter's milk.
“So, what else did you do while I was away?” Steve asked the little boy, leaning across the table to take the sunglasses off his face. “Did you have a good time while I was doing the interview?”
“That's where you were?” Tony blurted, then ducked his head and turned back to warm up the milk once he'd realised what he'd done. “Um... sorry.”
Steve hated this. He hated that a single moment had ruined what they had had between them. He would take just being Tony's friend again over this forced awkwardness any day.
“Yeah, um, Pepper got me an interview on the Ellen show,” he replied, playing with Peter's glasses. “We decided it was best to come clean about Peter before the Paparazzi got there first.”
“Yeah, she mentioned something about taking you out, but I didn't realise that was the reason. I don't know how I feel about you being in cahoots with Pepper,” the genius replied, a little of his bravado returning, thank God. “It makes sense, though. Hopefully it'll keep them off your back while the restraining order kicks in, and then things will be easier for everyone.”
“That's the hope,” Steve agreed, not wanting to upset their new-found equilibrium. “She's a wonder.”
“Right?” Tony nodded, handing Peter his sippy cup of milk before sitting down. “I don't know what I'd do without her. She deserves all the good things in the world.”
“Why wuz y'doin' uh int'view?” Peter mumbled around the mouth of his sippy cup as he gulped his milk down.
“I was telling everyone how much I love you,” Steve replied, smiling.
Peter just nodded, yawning as he put his empty cup on the table so he could rub his eyes. “'kay.”
Tony chuckled at the boy's obvious indifference to Steve's declaration of love. So long as Peter understood that Steve did love him, however, he didn't mind how the boy reacted. Besides, he knew full well that the little boy loved him back.
“I think it's story time, don't you?” Steve said, and Peter nodded. “Come on, then, buddy.”
Peter lifted his arms for Tony to pick him up, and the genius didn't even hesitate. Compared with the man he had been when Steve had first brought the little boy home, he was a completely different person. Sure, he still had his moments, but he had taken to Peter better than Steve could have even hoped for. Despite their still rocky friendship – and the fact that he was supposed to be getting over him – Steve couldn't help the swell of love that filled up his chest.
They quickly made their way to Steve's floor, and he led the way into Peter's bedroom.
“All right, buddy,” he started as Tony put him on the ground. “Why don't I help you with your jammies while Tony picks a story? Does that sound good?”
“Uh-huh,” Peter nodded, even though Tony looked a little like the pressure of the responsibility might kill him.
Steve quickly got to work on getting the little boy out of his suit – folding each piece meticulously, because it could be worn again before washing – and then into a set of colourful robot pyjamas. By the time he was done, Peter was swaying a little on the spot and rubbing his eyes repeatedly, so he scooped him up and carried him to bed himself.
“There you go, baby,” he murmured, tucking the little boy in, and then stepped back for Tony to take his turn.
“I picked Where The Wild Things Are,” Tony told him, perching on the edge of the bed. “Is that okay? We can pick a different one if you -”
“Y'hafta be under duh covers f'story time,” Peter told him instead, lifting up the covers for the genius to clamber in. After a moment's hesitation, he did just that.
Steve settled into the rocking chair at the other side of the room, watching Tony carefully as he snuggled in beside Peter and started their story. It was obvious that he didn't have much experience reading to children – even before Peter, Steve had read to some kids down at the hospital, so he knew how to do all the voices – but, God bless him, he tried. Peter was being rapidly soothed to sleep by the sound of his voice, anyway (and Steve was, a little, too), so that was all that really mattered.
“The end,” the genius came to a close after around fifteen minutes, and Steve managed to drag his eyes away from the man's long, dark eyelashes long enough to notice that Peter was sound asleep, resting on Tony's shoulder.
Silently, Steve got to his feet and padded across the room. As Tony slid out of the bed, he righted Peter's position and tucked him in more snugly – little Iron Man toy tucked in beside him, though he carried it around with him less and less these days – and then leaned in for a final, goodnight kiss. When he was finished, he straightened up again and smiled at Tony, relieved when the man, in turn, smiled back.
They snook out of the room together, and let a shared sigh of relief leave their lips as they collapsed onto the couch in the living room.
“He's a great kid,” Tony said out of nowhere after a few moments of content silence.
“Yeah, he is,” Steve agreed.
“He told me he likes Iron Man better than Captain America today, though,” the genius continued, grinning as he turned to Steve. “Sorry not sorry, Stevie.”
Steve groaned exaggeratedly, grinning. “Jesus, Tony, what have you done to my son -”
And then he stopped, realising that he had just referred to Peter, out loud, as his son for the very first time. Peter was his son. When he looked up, he found Tony smiling softly at him.
“Finally hit you, huh, Papa?” he asked, and, against his will, Steve found himself shivering a little at Tony addressing him like that.
“I, uh...” He cleared his throat, trying to change the subject. “I'm sorry about the other day. I -”
“What?” Tony frowned. “Why're you apologising? Steve, you did nothing wrong! I was the one who threw myself at you, and I can't even begin to tell you how -”
Steve was very, very confused. Why was Tony blaming himself for something that Steve had done? Was... was that why he had run off? Did he think it was his fault that Steve had tried to kiss him? Had Tony been blaming himself for Steve's mistakes this whole time?
“Tony, listen, I don't blame you for this, okay? I was the one who tried to kiss you -”
“No... you weren't?” Tony replied, sounding mightily confused. “You... you wanted to kiss me?”
“Yes,” Steve sighed, feeling the back of his neck heat at having to admit it again. “And I'm sorry that I made you feel like it was your fault -”
“I was trying to kiss you.”
“Yes, I'm sorry that I made you feel that way -”
“No, Steve, listen to my actual words,” Tony stopped him, and Steve finally turned to properly look at him. “I wanted to kiss you.”
Suddenly, the world seemed to shift a little underneath him, and he had to take a deep, deliberate breath to stop himself from keeling over. “You... you wanted to -?”
“And you were trying to kiss me?” Tony asked, beginning to sound equally as breathless, Steve was pleased to note. “You want to kiss me?”
“You're amazing, Tony,” he replied honestly. “The way you are with Peter; how you work so hard for everyone around you... Kissing you is all I've been able to think about for weeks.”
“Weeks,” Tony whispered, sounding a little awestruck. “So why didn't you?”
“I didn't think you felt the same way,” Steve shrugged, glancing down at his hands on his lap.
“Steve, I've been in love with you since -”
Suddenly, Tony came skidding to a stop, eyes wide in horror. A moment of silence fell between them, and then the genius jerked upwards, obviously trying to bolt, but Steve was too quick.
“Don't,” he whispered, grabbing the man's hand. Slowly, Tony turned back to him. “Please, please don't shut me out again.”
Warily, Tony let himself be drawn forwards to straddle Steve's lap. Barely willing to believe this was actually happening, Steve ran his hands up the brunet's arms soothingly, not stopping as he stroked the man's neck, then up to cup his face.
“I love you, too,” he whispered, and grinned at the look of shocked awe on Tony's face.
The rest of the genius' sentence was lost in Steve's mouth as, finally – finally – he drew their faces together in a kiss. It was chaste, at first, and a little one sided as Tony got his bearings, but, once he did, it was possibly the greatest kiss of Steve's life. He was left instantly breathless as he felt the genius' tongue running lightly over his bottom lip, and his mouth opened in a gasp to let him in.
“Can't believe,” Tony mumbled into his mouth as Steve listed sideways to end up with the genius hovering between his legs, “that this is happening.”
Steve hummed in agreement, hugging Tony closer to him as the man leaned down to begin sucking kisses onto his neck. Before he could stop himself, he was moaning softly in pleasure, body arching against Tony's as the brunet continued to attack his neck with gusto.
“Tony,” he gasped, raking a hand through the man's hair while the other buried itself under his shirt, desperate to touch actual skin. “I need -”
Quite suddenly, everything skidded to a complete stop.
“Oh, you've got to be kidding,” Tony laughed, short of breath, as he slumped forwards.
Swallowing his disappointment, Steve took a deep breath and sat up, taking Tony with him. He allowed himself one more kiss, slow and sweet, before he pulled away completely.
“Stay?” he asked, running his hands absent-mindedly under the back of Tony's shirt. “I'll only be a few minutes. Just... stay, please?”
Tony nodded, smiling gently as he leaned down for another kiss. “Okay.”
Heart fluttering madly in his chest, Steve waited for Tony to slide off his lap and onto the couch before he got to his feet. Unable to stop the grin that was threatening to split his face, he clambered up and quickly made his way across the room.
“What's wrong, baby?” he asked as he walked into Peter's room. The little boy was sat up in bed, hugging his Iron Man toy to his chest as he sucked his thumb. “Did you have a bad dream?”
Peter shook his head and pulled his thumb away long enough to say, “I... duh potty.”
“You need the potty?” Steve asked, walking over to scoop him up. “Good job for telling me, buddy!”
“No, I wen' potty.”
“Ah,” he nodded, shifting his grip a little. “Well, that's what Pull Ups are for, huh? I'm still proud of you for telling me, baby.”
“'kay,” Peter nodded, rubbing his eyes.
“Let's get you cleaned up and back into bed, huh?” he smiled, kissing the side of the little boy's head as he put him down on the ground next to the dresser.
Quickly helping Peter out of his bottoms and disposing of the soiled pair of Pull Ups, he pulled out a packet of wipes and a new set of underwear and went to work on cleaning Peter up. In his half asleep state, the little boy let himself be moved and jostled into the positions that Steve wanted him to be in, until, a few minutes later, he was pulling his pyjama pants back up and dusting him off.
“All done,” he smiled, stroking the little boy's rosy cheek. “Feel better?”
Peter just nodded, eyes half lidded as he swayed on the spot.
“Come on, then. Bed time, sweetie,” he told him, scooping him back up to carry over to bed. Thankfully, the Pulls Ups had done their job, so the little boy's clothes and covers were still dry.
He deposited Peter back into bed and tucked him in. He was so tired that Steve didn't even have to sing him a song to get him to sleep; all he had to do was pet his hair a few times and his eyes fluttered closed again.
“Night night, baby boy,” he whispered, leaning in to kiss the top of his head before getting to his feet.
When he had double checked to make sure Peter really was asleep, he all but sprinted back into the living room. His pants grew a little tighter just in the knowledge that Tony was there, and he was Steve's for the taking. God, Tony was in love with him! How had he not realised? He had been too caught up in his own feelings to notice, he supposed. It didn't matter now, though, because they were both on the same page, and Peter was asleep, and -
Tony was asleep.
As he rounded the couch, it became apparent that the genius had fallen asleep waiting for him, slumped on the couch with a gorgeous, peaceful expression on his face. Steve couldn't even bring himself to be disappointed at the sight. There would be time for kissing – and more, hopefully – some other time. Right now, Steve was content in the fact that he could finally call Tony his.
“Come on,” he murmured, pulling the half asleep genius to his feet.
“S'appnin?” he mumbled, swaying, not unlike Peter had just been doing, into Steve's side as he steered him towards his room. Maybe he was being a little presumptuous, but Tony didn't seem to mind.
“Bed time,” he whispered into Tony's hair, and the man made a half-interested noise, but his eyes were still closed as Steve steered him over to his bed. “To sleep.”
“Aw, no fun,” Tony grumbled, even as he toppled onto Steve's bed and laid completely still as he started to take his shoes off.
“We've both had a long day,” Steve replied, pulling the man's socks off, and, after a moment of contemplation, went for his belt, too. “Plus, Peter's having a fussy night. If he's been up once, he'll damn sure be up again.”
“F'you want me t'sleep, y'gotta stop grabbin' m'junk, then,” the genius sighed, but lifted his hips helpfully when Steve tugged his pants down, leaving him in a pair of deliciously tight black boxer-briefs.
“You're exhausted,” Steve told him firmly, a little thrill shooting up his spine as he leaned up and pressed a soft kiss to the genius' lips. “Just let me take care of you?”
“Such a mother hen,” Tony huffed against his lips, but his eyes fluttered shut again as Steve kissed his cheek, then made his way down to his neck to nuzzle softly while he began unbuttoning first the man's waistcoat, then his shirt, to take off together.
“You always looked good in a suit,” he mumbled against the genius' beard, pressing a chaste kiss to the tip of his chin and revelling in the feel of the hair under his lips. He was, honestly, a little surprised by how calm and content he felt about everything.
“Says the man sporting the Armani,” Tony replied, reaching up to gently tug Steve's tie out of his waistcoat. “Was the blue trimming Pepper's idea?”
“The whole suit was,” he replied, sitting back and letting Tony follow him so he could take the man's shirt off.
“It's arc reactor blue,” Tony sighed, sliding it over Steve's head. “I'm going to kill her.”
“Funny,” Steve replied, getting to work on getting his own shirt and waistcoat off. “That's exactly what she said about you, too.”
“We're too similar, her and I,” Tony told him, reaching out to tentatively unbuckle Steve's belt. “That's why it didn't work, in the end. We were together on everything but what mattered the most, and neither of us could get the other to come around. Plus, y'know, I had a massive boner for Captain America.”
Steve chuckled, kicking his pants off and leaving them both in just their underwear. Slowly, he reached out and traced the scar where the arc reactor used to sit. “Just Captain America?”
“Not anymore,” Tony whispered, and then they were kissing again.
It was amazing, really, how easy it was to kiss Tony. Every other kiss that Steve had participated in had felt, at least on some level, a little awkward. Not this time, though. Sure, their first one had been a little out of the blue, but it had only taken a few seconds for them both to get into it, and it just felt right. Steve didn't think he'd ever felt this way about anyone before, not even Peggy. It was a feeling that he cherished as he gently pushed Tony back onto the pillows and reluctantly pulled away to get them both under the covers.
“Y'know what? I'm awake now. This can definitely happen; this is happening right – oh,” Tony sighed, going boneless against Steve's chest as he was tugged towards him and the covers thrown over the top of them. “This is good, too, I guess.”
Steve smiled into the genius' hair, tugging him closer still to rest against his side. “I'm glad.”
“Night,” Tony yawned, pressing a kiss to Steve's pectoral and leaving the skin tingling.
“Good night, Tony,” he replied, kissing his cheek. “I love you.”
Tony's breath seemed to hitch a little, and then he relaxed again. “Love you, too. Man, that's weird to say out loud.”
“Good, though, I hope?” Steve asked, reaching up to start stroking a hand through Tony's hair.
The genius just hummed in agreement, and, in the next second, he was asleep. Noting, briefly, that running his hand through the man's hair had that affect, Steve closed his eyes and followed him into unconsciousness.