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His Blue Heaven

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The wind was blowing in the heart of New York, the large metal constructions that bridged almost every building to each other in the region making loud, ominous sounds. Of course, they were meant to last for well over a decade; when Stark Industries took charge of almost every business around the Apple, conquering America and the international market, everyone thought that they were going to be saved from the incoming recession. And yet, Howard Stark, didn’t manage to save some of the most beloved neighbourhoods that were struck down after the second world war. Abandoned buildings, houses, restaurants, small businesses were left to guard the historic neighbourhood of Brooklyn.

When Howard passed away, it was up to his only heir, Anthony Stark to take over, to carry on his father’s work and give the world something else, something that his father couldn’t promise at the time. At first, it was easy for Tony. With his well beyond average intelligence and creativity, his visions of the future started to take shape; everything that seemed to belong in science fiction was being built right in front of everyone’s eyes, and Tony soon rose up as the most promising man for at least a couple of decades. He managed to save what his father strived to save, but still, not everything could be saved, which was a blow to such a perfectionist like Tony Stark.

The constant reminder of his own and his father’s failure to save the whole of their home lead Tony to search for more ways to develop all kinds of new technology and find new means of energy that they could use efficiently, before the current sources ran out. Nuclear energy and  hydropower were what he focused on, and small expeditions were carried out by men of his company, trying to use the best of their resources and give the people what they were after. Much to his subordinates’ annoyance, Tony often wanted to be involved in everything, including putting on a less fancier parka and walk through the snow far outside New York, his comfort zone, looking over the operations. What he didn’t know, was that, not too far away into the future, those trips of his own would lead him to something much greater.

 

***

 

“And I’m telling you Stane, I have no intention of- wait, what time is it there? Isn’t it like 2am? Go back to bed”, Tony sighed into his phone’s screen, the man on the other end shaking his head disapprovingly.

“And you need to understand that what we could find in the South could be more beneficial for all of us, your old man would agree-”

“I’m not him, sadly. You’ll have to deal with me and what I’m saying is that I ain’t moving from here until I make sure that all the resources have been accounted for. We can’t afford losing the slightest of them now, do we?”, Tony replied as he stepped into a tent, that looked nothing like a tent after all. It was huge, full of wires and computer screens, satellite disks just sitting outside; it was his temporary home, and he did his best to have his signature mark over everything, including the bed that was nothing like the rest of the bunk beds in all other tents. Everything screamed Tony Stark, the etiquettes on the clothes, the computer screens, the faint smell of good brandy in the air.

“Now if you excuse me, I have the next search party to prepare in about..”, he said, looking at his silver watch on his wrist. “5 hours. I’d rather shut my eyes for an hour or two before that”, he announced, shutting off the communication and taking off his large, dark blue parka that covered most of his face, especially when the goggles and hoodie were on. The only visible part of himself was his trademark beard that he carefully trimmed even in this cold weather.

In a way, he knew that Stane was right; they had to move on, but he needed go further, to try and make use of every available source while the government kept chipping in and helping them out. His company started to face problems that were beyond his capabilities, so a breakthrough discovery would surely place them on the top of the market, far ahead Hammer Industries or even Baintronics. The man sighed and poured some liquor into one of his fancy drinking glasses, shaking it, lost in his thoughts. The liquid felt so warm down his neck, which was exactly what he needed before yet another mission in the icy cold weather. He didn’t have to actively participate, but it was fascinating to see with his own eyes what the rest of the crew would normally inform to him later. It always paid off, and he wouldn’t regret taking that decision to leave the pure luxury of his penthouse back in New York for this tent, which was still superior to the rest, if he was being honest.

 

***

 

Tony woke up from his unexpected nap an hour and a half later, hearing the footsteps and rushing outside his tent. It was time, he thought to himself as he dressed up in his warm clothes again, covering his hands with heavy gloves, his neck and mouth covered up as well; it was never wise to put fashion over a snow storm, he learnt that the hard way after a team member almost lost a couple of his fingers due to a nasty frostbite. The advanced technology of that era could easily give him prosthetic fingers, but Tony would rather have his normal ones when he would point at the screen during meetings or when he would accompany a lady at a gala event. People did point out that it was well strange that Tony didn’t seem to actively miss those days and luxury, but in all honesty, he didn’t mind. It was a nice break from everything, if he had to put it that way.

“What’s the situation?”, he asked as he stepped outside, rubbing his hands together.

“Chill out, boss, no need for military talk if you don’t even know what you’re talking about”, a voice was heard behind him.

Tony turned around right away and laughed, offering his hand to the tall, dark skinned man.

“Rhodey! Long time no see!”, he exclaimed, making a silent ‘oof’ sound when the man pulled him close for a hug.

“Not my fault that I was dispatched now, is it? I’ve told Pepper to keep it a secret that I was coming here”, he chuckled as he pulled away. “But look at you, looking as good as ever! Cold doesn’t seem to affect you”

“So Pepper was into this as well? I’m having a talk with the two of you once we’re back..”, Tony replied as he inspected the other man, making sure that he was all right. “So what, are you coming with us now? Because we’re actually ready to head up to the North any moment now”

“What do you think that I came here to do?”, Rhodey said as he fixed the large bag on his shoulders. “And besides, someone needs to keep you out of trouble, make sure that you don’t end up under the ice, the usual”, he continued.

“Very funny, I can take care of myself”, the billionaire said, but smirked once he turned his head around, getting in the snow vehicle that stopped in front of them. “Come on, hop in”, he promted the other man, as the large amount of trucks and helicopters followed them, heading far away from the camp.

The journey was long, and the snow storm didn’t make it easier either; the wind was blowing into their faces and they had to stop more than once to repair some of the vehicles.

“That’s what global warming does to you, huh?”, Tony huffed once they stepped inside again, only to be interrupted moments later.

“Why did we stop?”, he asked the driver, who simply pointed in the distance, where the helicopter above them turned its lights to.

There was a large iceberg in their way, but what made it more interesting, were the spare parts of machinery that were scattered around it. That caught Tony’s attention; anything that had to do with pieces of machinery was his expertise. He jumped off the vehicle despite the rest of his crew's protests, marching carefully towards the first pieces, kneeling down on the ice and trying to take it out.

“Come on..”, he said between gritted teeth, managing to pull out a pointy, silver part. Upon further inspection, it wasn’t hard to figure out what it really was. He would spent hours reading about the Second World War, the weapons that were used, the tanks, planes.. that’s how he was introduced to the family business in first place. “This is a WW2 era German airplane..”, he muttered, mostly to himself, walking carefully around the iceberg, realising in horror that the rest of the plane, at least the cockpit, was stuck inside it.

“Hey boss! Tony! Be careful there!”, Rhodey called as he approached with some of the other men.

“Bring the digging equipment with you, Rhodey! There’s something we need to see..”, Tony shouted back, squinting his eyes behind the large goggles to inspect the iceberg, getting closer to what it seemed to be the cockpit anyway.

And then, there it was, that silver glimpse that almost caused Tony’s heart to stop. The shiny object was visible through the thick ice, and after spending almost his entire childhood worshipping the world’s first and last superhero, Tony knew exactly what was. Without any single doubt, what was hidden under the ice was his hero’s, Captain America, trusty shield, the weapon he used to take out their enemies and helped win the war. Sure, he knew that there was a museum dedicated to him with a collection of the Captain’s shields and costumes, but this..this was genuine. He read about his self sacrifice, how they were all saved because of him, how he died diving that plane into the ocean, but there it was, his original shield and the plane he.. Tony’s face went white; what if the Captain was actually there as well? He must have been dead, it had been years since the war had ended, but they never mentioned finding a body, did they? The thought made him stick his hands on the cold ice, desperately looking for any signs of a body, anything that would prove that the Captain was indeed there in some way.

When the rest of the crew came running, he got one of the thermal detectors, throwing it away after a couple of scans. What was he even doing? Of course the hero’s temperature wouldn’t have been preserved after so many years dead in the ice. Focus, Tony, he said after a deep breath, carrying on inspecting the ice with his own eyes, the men already starting to dig up the shield. There was something really exciting about seeing his hero in person. Well, he had no idea what his condition would be, but based on simple scientific assumptions, his body would have been probably preserved. That’s not creepy at all, he thought, Seeing your hero right there, dead and looking,well..alive. It would be like seeing a wax figure, only that this was the real deal. No, he wasn’t making this sound any better, wax figures were creepy too anyway.

“Mr. Stark, we got it out!”, someone yelled, holding up the shield in their hands.

Tony rushed closeby, and he could have sworn that his hands were actually shaking when he picked up the shiny shield, all wet now, examining it carefully, admiring the material that was used for its creation.

“Vibranium..not much of it left in the world now..At least not in our possession, Wakanda’s pulling a hard trade for it, and who can blame them? Everyone’s doing their best to survive..”, he muttered, mostly to cover up his nervousness. “This, gentlemen, is without a doubt, Captain America’s shield”, he announced, but it seemed that nobody else really shared his excitement.

“Oh come on! You can’t just roll your eyes when I’m telling you that the man who punched Hitler in the face fell here! His last stand, right here!”, he said, pointing at the iceberg. “And I’m going to find him”, he added, convinced that the hero wielding that shield must have been around.

Jumping down into the snow yet again, Tony made his way towards the cockpit that he was previously inspecting. With the tools that he grabbed from the other men, he started to clear the ice and gain more visibility on what was inside. The more he drilled and watched the melt ice falling on the snow and on his boots, the clearer the sight was getting.

“You must be kidding me..”, he muttered as the cockpit was clear enough, wiping it with his elbow and taking a couple of steps back at the sight.

He was there, Captain America was actually there, right in front of him. His uniform and hood were mostly torn up, but the star on his chest belonged without a doubt to him. His hood wasn’t removed, but part of his hair was visible, along side his right cheek. It was him, in all his glory. Tony just stared in awe, his gloved hand reaching and touching the thin ice that was separating them. How was it even possible? If he didn’t know any better, he could have sworn that the Captain was indeed just sleeping, just resting his eyes after sacrificing his everything to save their world.

“My God..this can’t be...”, a voice was heard behind him.

The rest of the crew had moved closer to him, some of them taking off their goggles to make sure that their eyes weren’t playing tricks to them.

“Ladies and gentlemen... This is indeed, Captain America”, Tony announced once he found his ability to speak again, his voice almost shaking. “No! Don’t touch the ice, we’ll transfer him as he is! We don’t know what seventy years in there could have done to him, or what will happen if he unfreezes right here”, he yelled as soon as the crew members started to approach, holding up their equipment.

 

***

 

After what it seemed endless hours of agony, Tony having to make sure that ice was untouched and that nobody did anything to get in the way of the Captain’s transfer to the main scientific headquarters of the camp, he was finally gazing upon the Sentinel of Liberty himself, lost amongst the different kinds of equipment, men with masks running around, making calculations, adjusting the temperature of the room as the ice was starting to melt around the frozen soldier.

“If you were alive, what stories would you tell?”, Tony asked the body, arms crossed as he leaned a bit closer, the man’s eyelashes resting peacefully.

“Mr. Stark!”, one of the scientists, a short, ginger man yelled from behind the screens. “You have to see this!”

Tony rushed to the direction of the voice, reaching the scientist who adjusted the glasses on his face and pointed at the screen, at what it seemed like-

“A heartbeat”, he exclaimed, blinking a couple of times. “That’s not possible, it’s been over seventy years, how could he even be alive?”, Tony said, his mind trying to desperately find a logical explanation.

The super soldier serum, that was it. It had to be it. The government experiments that his father also overlooked during the war, the promise of a new breed of super soldiers that would have won the war... What did he read about it... It was flawed in some ways, too many side effects... Could it also favour cryogenesis? Was it possible that the Captain’s fall into the icy cold ocean combined with the serum that was running in his veins could have kept him alive? Too many questions needed answering, and right now, their priority was to see if the soldier was indeed meant to be saved.

“Initiate electro shock to look for a pulse”, he ordered, keeping his eyes both on the screens and the man lying on the metal bed”

“Sir! We’re getting a reaction!”, the man closer to the body shouted.

Tony could see it himself, a faint sign that the Captain was indeed alive, somehow.

“Don’t overdo it! Give him another one to stabilise the pulse”, he commanded once he saw the soldier’s body tensing, the heart rates starting to rise up; there was no doubt about it, he managed to survive and maybe, they could even wake him up. “Step away now!”, he called, moving closer and being careful not to slip in the melt water surrounding the metal bed.

“Sir, he probably won’t-”

“Yes, I know, we’ll just have to wait”, Tony interrupted the scientist. “Adjust the room temperature to the normal levels”, he advised as some men from the medical team approached to connect the soldier with wires, just in case he needed the extra push to keep him alive.

Nothing seemed to have changed, the body still looked cold and it was still pale, and the man’s eyes didn’t even open, not once.

“Huh..”, Tony muttered as he pulled close a chair, sitting and waiting. The possibilities that came to the surface the more he thought that the Captain was alive were killing him. He could learn so much, find out more about history by a man who lived it, actually converse with a living legend, his own hero. It was too overwhelming, and he found himself hitting his hands on his knees in anticipation. There were no promises, but everyone was doing their best to revive the fallen hero, to bring him back to life, but even if that was achievable, there was no doubt that things needed to be taken care of, such as the shock that would probably overtake the soldier when he would wake up. Tony protested when tranquilizer guns were brought in the picture, but he knew that he had to comply; maybe the Captain could be dangerous, not because he wanted to, once he opened his eyes and saw where he was.

This man worked with his father back in the day, in fact, most of the things Tony himself knew about the Captain, besides facts stated in his old film reels and comics, were drunken statements of his father. To hear everything that happened back in the day from the hero himself however, was a different case. Those thoughts really kept him going, but eventually, he lowered his head, the tiredness of the day getting to him.

 

***

 

“Sir! Sir!”, a voice was heard close to him, and Tony opened his eyes wide, rubbing them and looking around.

“Sir, the Captain’s vital signs have been off the charts for the last couple of minutes!”

“What?!”, Tony said, standing up and leaning over the sleeping soldier, who didn’t seem as peaceful as he did before.

He could see it now, that faint movement, his little finger twitching; he was coming back to his senses, after what it seemed like a century. Technically, a century did pass, and it was then that Tony realised how shocked the soldier would probably be.

“Guns down!”, he ordered a group of men ready to interfere. “Don’t scare him away!”

When he looked down, he spotted them, those bright, piercing eyes, looking up to him. He froze in place, staring back down, too intimidated to even swallow down.

“Captain..? Can you hear me?”, Tony asked him, keeping his voice loud enough but not menacing, sounding calm and making sure that the crew members weren’t doing anything to get Steve’s attention.

“This is Tony Stark, everyone here comes in-”

He was stopped by a red gloved hand against his neck; the soldier looked way scarier and more intimidating now, just like the war movies made him out to be, as he pulled Tony closer and inspected the crew men, their faces hidden behind the masks and headgear.

“Where am I?”, he asked in a scruffy voice, which was normal considering that the man didn’t speak a word for so many years.

“Captain, you’re miles away from New York, we’re a bit further up South from where your plane was crushed. I need to explain a couple of things to-”

Tony was interrupted again, this time being thrown on the ground, as the man pulled the wires away from his chest, grabbing a satellite dish that there for repairment and running towards the exit as the men ran after him.

“Don’t hurt him! He’s not in the state of mind to- I said, don’t hurt him!”, Tony yelled as he stood up, rubbing his neck and following them outside.

He was however surprised to see that the man wasn’t kneeling on the snow because the darts hit him; he was in shock, and it was actually painful to see. With careful steps, Tony walked past the soldiers and knelt down with him.

“We’re not your enemies, we’re here on behalf of the American government. We need to fill you in about what happened, Captain, if you would like to come with me in-”

“Where am I?”, the blonde asked again as he raised his eyes to meet up Tony’s. “Don’t sugar coat it and explain the details, what is going on here? Why am I not dead?”, he said in a growl.

“Like I said, you’re not experiencing any out of body experience or anything like that. I don’t know what you think it’s going on now, but you need to be seated inside about it. I know the serum prevents-”

“How do you know about that?”, the blonde snarled, his eyes narrowed. Little that he known, it was a secret government experiment, the public didn’t know about the details, let alone the super soldier serum. But this fella did mentioned that they came with the government, didn’t he? The real question was, could he be trusted? Probably not, there were guns aiming at him right now.

“I’m Tony Stark”, Tony repeated. “Howard Stark’s son”, he added, trying to hide the resentfulness in his voice, for now. “My father was present during the experiment, my company and I, including government facilities know about the procedure and the serum, we’ve studied it”

“Why should I trust you? How am I supposed to know that you’re who you claim to be? You could be HYDRA agents in disguise, who knows?”, the Captain asked as he strained his back.

“You can’t trust me. Not right now. So if you come with me back inside, I’ll let you know everything that you want to know. Every answer will be yours, no takeback on that”, Tony explained, offering his hand to the soldier.

The blonde eyed him from head to toe, probably thinking of the possible escape routes and how to bring down the possible threat that was unraveled. However, this Stark guy was right, he couldn’t trust him but he didn’t have any other choice. Walking around in those clothes, in the middle of a snow storm with no proper idea of where he was or what even was the situation would have been a foolish move. Asserting his choices, he let out a heavy huff and got Tony’s hand, standing up and fixing his half torn suit, with as much dignity as he could.

They walked inside the same large tent where the Captain was being kept, the rest of the crew members opening a path, their taser guns still aimed at the man, who didn’t try to hide his annoyance

Tony gave them another sharp look, but they insisted on keeping him safe, which did make sense when he considered that the soldier grabbed him and threw him on the ground just moments earlier.

“They won’t shoot at you, if that’s what you’re wary of”, he pointed out, taking another look at the blonde who walked next to him, his jaw clenched.

“They wouldn’t”, the Captain replied, so confident about his reply.

Tony wanted to say that he wasn’t so sure about that, but he remained silent, gesturing at a different area than the one the Captain was kept on, a nice desk and cosy chairs for him to sit on. However, the soldier seemed firm, crossing his arms and looking at Tony who was already sitting, expecting a full explanation.

“Like I said; I’m Tony Stark, perhaps the surname rings a bell? Howard Stark? Manhattan Project? Worked closely with the government back in your Cap days”

He nodded to show that he acknowledged what Tony said, gesturing for him to continue. He wanted details, explanations, not to be patronised like that.

“The last report we ever got of you being alive, was back in the 40’s, you dived into the ocean, didn’t you? The date today is...”, he stopped, not sure how the man would react to the news. “..the 15 of January..2013..”, he said, swallowing down.

The blonde didn’t seem to particularly react, maybe he was in shock and still processing the details, but he just stared at the billionaire.

“Captain? Are you following?”

“Of course I am”, he replied quickly. “So you’re saying that the serum kept me alive for what..70 years? I was aware of certain side effects, we all were, but I didn’t expect something like that to be plausible”

“Believe me,nobody did until we found you inside that cockpit, frozen. Well, I did, I spotted the shield first and.. it was without a doubt..well, you, Captain America”, Tony pointed out. “And just like I mentioned..we’re miles away from New York, but we’ll depart immediately, take you back and..”, he stopped.  

And what, Tony? , he asked himself, not sure if he could even answer that. He just told his teenage hero that he wasn’t dead, that he woke up 70 years into the future and that he could take him back to New York.. Then what was in for the Captain? How could he deal with all the changes around him, and without a doubt, the mental consequences of those events?

The natural thing to do was to offer his help to him, he could only imagine how lost he felt at that moment, but somewhat acting friendly seemed both unprofessional and a bit intimidating, seeing that Steve’s behaviour so far didn’t make him exactly approachable. But the way he stood near the desk, jaw clenched and his fingers formed in a fist, made Tony feel compassion. He knew how it felt to be lost, but it sure wasn’t comparable of what the soldier was feeling at that moment.

“And I can assign you a place to live, get adjusted, catch up with everything..”

“I have a home”, the blonde said as he straightened his back. “Back in Brooklyn, it was a small apartment but I left it untouched before the war, it must be around..?”

Tony’s chest felt heavy to be the one to deliver the news to him, but he knew that he had to be used to this, especially if he was going to act as his guide to this new age. A reminder, he had to actually make that suggestion, the other man would probably want to spend as much time as he could alone, or at least that seemed like the logical thing to do. Tony knew that he did that when his parents passed away, not because he was mourning, but because it felt like the weight of the world was on his shoulders, and it really was. Trying to rebuild the company from where his father had left it, to give the people more hope was a hard task and- no, that was it.

He found out how exactly he could give hope to everyone, by presenting them the one and only hero that their world ever known, their own Captain America. Of course, his well being came first, and it would take a while to get him back on track, but the public’s opinion when they would see the legend walking amongst them, waving the star spangled banner, the shiny shield in hand, would surely lift everyone’s spirits.

“Uh..Captain..Nobody leaves in Brooklyn anymore”, Tony said slowly. “The government has gone bankrupt a while back, and even though we’re doing way better now.. the pollution level in those areas are still high, so they avoided to rebuild and fix everything there.. Your house is still there, I’m sure, but I don’t know if you can actually go there anymore.. I doubt it..”

The blonde shook his head. “What happened really, in 70 years? You can’t just tell me that everything changed and expect me to accept it, I’m sure you understand-”

“I’ll show you then. Take it as me being a personal guide, I’ll fill you in and show you more practically what changed. And help you adjust to this new life”, Tony rushed to reply, voicing his desire to actually help.

The soldier looked at him, not saying anything at all yet. He eyed Tony, and that really made him nervous, not knowing what was really in his head. However, he had to take chances, he didn’t have many choices and one was being offered to him at that moment. Maybe the man before him had good intentions, but he couldn’t know that, and even though he would hate to admit it.. he had no idea what to do now. Trying to take in all that information and seem calm and recollected while doing so was hard, he needed time alone to think about everything, and that too meant somewhere to live.

“So, what you’re saying is..?”

“For now, I’ll get you a change of clothes and you can get on the helicopter with me, we’re flying back to New York later. You know, you’re Captain America, you automatically gain privileges, a celebrity status if I can say.. You’ll have a new apartment in no time, until it’s fixed you can stay in my Tower. The StarkTower, that is, I moved there as well a couple of months ago, I needed to be closer to the base of the operations”, the brunette replied.

“I’d rather not have everyone addressing me as Captain America, Stark. And also, I don’t want to see my face on tomorrow’s papers or anything like that. In fact, I want this to be kept a secret, don’t make a scene , don’t tell the word about me, are we clear?”, he decided, offering his own hand to Tony this time around.

Tony blinked, this was contradicting everything that he had planned in his head about Captain America’s return. Interviews, signings, photo sessions, inspiring talks..  those would have to wait.. until he found a way to convince him that having him as a hero back was all they could now, besides keep researching to save their home.

“But you do realise that your return could mean so much more to the public. To see their hero rising up again, giving those talks of yours that got everyone pumped would be for the best, trust me. They need a hero right now, and your timing is absolutely perfect, in fact, it wouldn’t be any better, we-”

“Their hero is not back”, the man interrupted him. “I’m Steve Rogers, not Captain America”, he added, taking off his torn cowl and taking the change of clothes that was found on one of the chairs. “70 years have passed, I doubt anyone remembers or needs a hero now, and even if they do, they can get a modern, brand new model”

“That’s not what people want, though. Yeah, you might consider yourself a bit outdated, but that’s exactly what it’s needed right now. A blast from the past, back when things were different, well Brooklyn was still standing, for example”

Steve looked at him with a look that said that this wasn’t up for discussion, taking off the top of his uniform and replacing it with a dark grey shirt, his dog tags hitting against each other and making a light jingling noise.

“Cap, I won’t give up until I make you see exactly why I’m right and you’re-”

“What did I say? What’s my name?”, Steve said as he stepped behind a divider, getting rid of the soggy tights and putting on some cotton boxers and dark trousers that were passed to him, walking in Tony’s view again, kneeling down and starting to tie the rough boots that came with the rest of the outfit.

“It’s strange you calling you..um..Steve, you’re the Captain..but if that’s what you prefer now”, Tony said after getting another sharp look from Steve, huffing in content when Tony finally accepted to drop his alias.

“You said that you’re leaving for New York?”, Steve asked as he picked up the torn uniform and kept it close to him.

“Don’t you want to rest for a bit? We can depart whenever you think it works for you”

“I’ve been resting for what..70 years? Don’t you think that it’s enough? Something tells me I need to find a way to keep myself busy at night for at least a while..”

“Don’t worry, that won’t be a problem. They’re many means for you to entertain yourself back in my Tower, there’s a gym, lounge.. well, you’ll find something to keep yourself busy”, Tony rushed to reply, standing up and wearing his huge parka again, wrapping himself up and offering Steve one. “You’ll need to, trust me, it’s freezing out there, in case you didn’t notice already”, he said as he noticed Steve’s hesitation.

Steve took the coat and looked at it for a moment, before placing it over his shoulders and covering his mouth with the scarf that Tony also handed him.

“Boss, why is everyone buzzing about Captain America?”, Rhodey’s voice was heard as he stepped in the tent, eyeing Steve right away, staring at the star uniform that the blonde rushed to hide from view.

“Rhodey”, Tony said, stepping in front of him and Steve. “This is..Steve Rogers, codename, Captain America.. but we’re trying to keep it low, his request was to-”

“So it’s true? You’re Cap?”, Rhodey interrupted Tony.

“I would prefer not to be referred as such from now on..Colonel”, Steve cut him, taking a look at Rhodey’s jacket, clearly able to tell his rank.

Rhodey looked at them both, almost like he was trying to get more of an explanation, but he got none, other than a look from Tony that said that he would explain things to him once they were alone.

“Very well.. I just came in to say that the first bunch if helicopters are leaving soon, the rest will stay behind to pack away, so if you could come out soon enough, that would be great”, he said as he left the tent, pulling his hood up again.

“That’s Colonel James Rhodes, but we all call him Rhodey. By all, I mean I do. He’s a friend, we go a while back, ever since college”, Tony explained as he noticed how Steve’s eyes seemed to be fixed on the tent’s entrance. “He’s a good friend, he won’t let anyone know, if that’s what you’re worrying about.. as for the rest of the crew.. well, I’ll have to come up with something more than rely on their code of honour to keep quiet about the discovery. Ideally, I would have found you all by myself, but this didn’t happen so..”, he trailed off. “Come on, we’ll get the first chopper back, what do you say?”

The Captain nodded quite vaguely, pulling up the zipper of the coat completely and waiting for Tony to lead the way. He still felt lost, and the fact that he had no idea what to do made him really passive, almost like he was not caring about anything, which was probably the case by now.

They walked outside, into the cold snow again, the landing pad at the left of the giant tent filled with helicopters, waiting for them and the rest of the crew, that seemed to be running around frantically, unpacking everything and bringing down the tents.

“So, how long have you been out here for?”, Steve asked, having to shout to be heard through the storm and the loud noises of both the helicopters and the people trying to get everything in order.

“What? Here?”, Tony yelled in return as they followed the signs and waited near the first chopper in line. “For about..two, three weeks, I think? I’ll be honest, I’ve lost the count of days, it doesn’t help that you can barely see the sun out here”, he replied, jumping into the chopper once it was ready, making enough space for Steve to sit down next to him.

“And what exactly have you been doing out here?”, Steve asked him, aiming to gather as much information as he could before they flew back to his home, or at least, what part of it survived after all those years. He was prepared for the incoming changes, or hoped that he was. He didn’t have enough time to gawk over all the new technology and items that were in front of him, he couldn’t afford time to lose, he needed to get back on track.

Tony was looking outside the window, making sure that they took off just fine when he turned his full attention to Steve once again. “I hate to admit that, but.. we’re destroying this planet, Steve. Constant wars, developed technology that the nature doesn’t take well.. We had to find new means of energy, new ways to keep this planet going without further destroying it.. so this is why we’re exploring areas that we never did before.. I wouldn’t want to call it a wild goose chase, but it’s been hard so far.. we’re hopefully going to bump into something other than a frozen WW2 hero”, he said with a smile that disappeared from his face as soon as he spotted Steve giving him a disapproving look. “No more Cap references, got it”, he muttered.

“So you’re saying that in 70 years you made Earth unlivable?”

“I wouldn’t put it like that.. we’re not in a phase where people walk around with oxygen support and huge anti-pollutant suits like astronauts do.. but that’s exactly what we’re trying to prevent here”

Steve didn’t reply to that, instead he looked outside the helicopter and kept his eyes fixed on the icy land beneath them. He closed his eyes, to indicate that he wasn’t really in the mood to talk anymore, even though when he opened his right eye to take a peek, he could see that Tony was relaxing and just enjoying the trip.

The bearded man was holding a glass in one hand, and by the smell of it, it must have been some good bourbon, and on the other hand he was holding firmly a small square device. He had to squint and take a better look at it, all by making sure that Tiny wasn’t aware of him staring. The little device seems to project numbers and images to Tony, and even though it was hard for him to tell what it was showing exactly, the other man seemed genuinely concerned about what he was viewing. He couldn’t help but question everything, but he knew he had to wait; the shock after seeing his city for so long would have been bigger than finding out about a strange little device that could project all kinds of things.

 

***

 

It was impossible to fall asleep. He just couldn’t do it, after not spending nearly seven decades trapped in ice. If anyone was going to ask, he would surely reply that sleeping for so long must have been enough. He didn’t think of the consequences of waking up, surely his insomnia that he suffered from during the war would have gotten worse now. He predicted many sleepless nights in his future and that made him sigh.

His thoughts were interrupted by Tony’s voice, who seemed to be eager to point outside the window at something. Steve slowly turned his eyes on the glass window, his expression changing into a confused one. This couldn’t be his home..it looked nothing like it, from the sky high skyscrapers to the fuming factories that seemed to tower the streets.

“Is this..New York..?”, he asked Tony, unable to take his eyes away from the sight.

“Home sweet home, right?”, Tony replied, but the tone of irony in his voice was strong. “You ain’t seen nothing yet.. this is why we’re trying to save this world, Steve. Before it’s too late, as you can see from up here”

The Captain finally managed to look away, shutting his eyes painfully. He expected things to be bad, but this.. this wasn’t the place he loved and wanted to protect once, this was a living hell. And on top of that, according to Tony, he haven’t seen the worst. He dreaded going back to Brooklyn, even though the other man warned him not to. However, that was where he belonged, if he was going to start a new life in this century, he had to view every other part of his past first, mourn and then eventually let go. He tried not to think of that, that he couldn’t go back to what he lived before, but dismissed the thoughts when he noticed that Tony was staring.

“I know it must be shocking for you-”

“I’m fine”, Steve said as he took a deep breath. “So, where are you living?”

Tony smiled and pointed outside again. “Do you see this huge tower?”

“The one with the unnecessary huge bill board? I can see it all right”

The bearded man shook his finger at him. “This is StarkTower. One of the first, and the most reliable one too. Runs on absolutely 100% clean energy, this was a small project of mine.. One of my goals is for every household to run on clean, renewable energy, just like this Tower.. until the end of this year. Starting from New York, of course, them move along. Oh, the Tower.. Countless floors, hundreds of rooms and facilities.. should be good for you to settle down in there, catch up.. all that”

“And what about Brooklyn? I said I have an apartment there..my belongings..?”

Tony rubbed the back of his head and avoided to look straight at him. “I can’t say for sure what happened to your little apartment, pal. Or the state you would find it in to. But I’ll find a way to get you there if that’s what you really want”

Steve nodded to him to show that he was thankful, but the words weren’t reassuring in the slightest, if one thing, they made him feel even worse. He kept quiet until the helicopter was clear for landing on the pad on the top of the tall tower, Tony sighing in relief once he stepped outside.

The first thing that Steve noticed was the strange smell and the way the air actually felt heavier to breathe in this environment. He pulled his coat further up to cover his nose as he reluctantly followed Tony, who seemed to relaxed and comfortable, clearly in his environment again.

“I’ll give you a guided tour and show you to your room, don’t worry. But you’re free to explore the tour on your own, just try to stay away from the labs.. otherwise, just help yourself”, Tony said as he walked ahead, turning around to make sure that Steve was following him.

The Captain didn’t really seem into it, and Tony wasn’t judging him either; it was hard to put himself into his shoes, but he was sure that he would react differently. On the other hand, he didn’t know the circumstances in which Steve found himself before he was waken up. Or rather, he did; the man sacrificed himself to save everyone, and now he woke up, well alive, decades afterwards to find the world he once thought he saved in that state. On second thought, if he thought about it more, he would be as devastated as Steve was, if his technology made this world worse instead of improve it, just like he expected.

They walked inside the glass elevator that was on top of the rooftop, Tony casually leaning against the handles and watching the city before them. Once he would just admire the view, but now, with the decaying buildings and the heavy smoke, it was rather painful to watch. It seemed that Steve thought the same, because he avoided looking, focusing instead on the light panel with all the number of the floors.

“It wasn’t always like that, you know”, Tony said to break the silence.

“Trust me”, Steve huffed. “I know.”

He really did, from back in the day when he was a child, when he would rarely have some time to relax, when he was walking back home with bloody, dirty knees, clinging on the paper bag in his arms, the medicine he managed to get for his mother in it. Walking up the road and staring back at the sunset was one of the few memories he still held dear to him. It was even the same during his Cap days, when exhausted he would look back at the people he would save, the terror himself and his commandos would prevent, smiling to himself and finally feeling that he was actually doing something good. But now? Seeing the sky of the city he truly loved like that, and to know that if he headed down to his old neighbourhood the sight would be nothing but devastating? No, he wasn’t even sure if he could take that sight, but he had to brace himself and do it.

The silence fell again as the elevator stopped, making a small ringing sound, both of the stepping outside. Steve didn’t blink but he was impressed by the warm interior. He should have seen it coming, if the other man was anything like his father, always about style and wanting to show off. Which he did so far, the fancy tent of his back in the snow, with large chairs and desks, even the clothes with his name embroidered on it should have prepared him for this sight.

The walls seemed that they were shining, covered in large screens, a surely expensive rug on the centre of the room, the large, comfy, futurist chairs surrounding and the small table in the middle.

“Welcome to Stark Industries”, Tony announced. “This is the reception..more like a waiting room”, he explained. “The door over there? That’s my private office”, he added, but Steve seemed more concerned by the paintings on the wall, tilting his head, trying to make any sense of the weird shapes. “That’s modern art.. Pepper picked it, I don’t know what is supposed to be..”

“...Pepper?”, Steve asked as he turned back to him. Tony was dumping many things on him at once, and this name sure didn’t ring any bells.

“That would be me”, a female voice was heard as the elevator closed, a tall, elegant red haired woman walked in, her heels echoing in the large room. “Pepper Potts, Mr. Stark’s personal assistant. You must be..”, she said, looking at Tony while her hand was extended to Steve. “Mr. Rogers..?”

“That’s right”, the blonde replied, relieved that he didn’t have to shrug and shove away the possible comments about his Captain America status again.

“Mr. Stark informed me that you’ll be staying here..?”

“It’s a temporary solution”, Steve rushed to reply before Tony could even open his mouth. “Until I come up with something better”

“Better? You think that you’ll find something better than the top facilities of Stark Industries?”, Tony snorted, a hint of insult in his voice, doing his best to avoid Pepper’s sharp look.

“No offence, Stark, but I’d rather stand on my own two feet and live somewhere that I will feel more comfortable. Preferably, alone”, Steve replied.

Tony shook his shoulders. “Whatever suits you”, he said as he turned to Pepper again. “Did you come all the way down here just to greet me? I’m flattered”

“No, actually I came in to greet our guest”, she said with a calm smile. “And to remind you of certain meetings that you need to attend before the end of the week. Also, I’ll need your signature and to approve some of the recent transactions overseas”

“She always does that, jumping straight into the point, no emotional welcome back words or even a hug”, Tony shook his head at Steve, who seemed to be trying to figure out what exactly the relationship between Pepper and Tony was. They were bantering and their talk wasn’t too formal, and the way Pepper treated him clearly indicated that they were close friends even.

“I’ll take care of those tomorrow morning, let me shut an eye tonight, okay? It’s hard to sleep around snow, you know, especially when you’re woken up every ten minutes or so”, Tony replied to her, the red head nodding to him before giving Steve another curious look, heading to the elevator and shutting the doors behind her.

“So you and her..?”, Steve asked, pointing at Tony and then at the closed doors. “I’m sure she’ll warm up to you”

“What, me and Pepper?”, Tony blinked. “No, no, she’s engaged, actually. Her and Happy seem to be doing great, I’m really glad they’ve got each other”, he smiled. “Oh yes, Happy Hogan is actually my um.. chauffeur and part time bodyguard. He’s a close friend, he’s the guy who told me how to throw some good punches, helped with self defence and all, former boxer”

“Why do you need a bodyguard?”, Steve asked him.

“You know..directing such a huge company can be dangerous..”, Tony shrugged, and Steve noticed that the man held on his chest protectively for a split second, like he was hiding something from him. “Either way, I’ll show you around now”, he said quickly, getting back inside the glass elevator and waiting for the other man to follow him.

The sight was still overwhelming for Steve, and he doubted that he could get used to seeing his city like that. He was expected to adjust, and he knew that he was going to do that eventually, but for now he was mostly silent, still trying to realise what was going on, what this new life would mean to him. Part of him just wanted to believe that all this was a bad nightmare, that he was never awaken from his frozen slumber, that all this was just his mind playing tricks to him, but the sights and Tony talking to him about this new future was like a slap from reality across his face.

“And here we are”, Tony said, interrupting his darkest thoughts. “Those are the living quarters, is where I spent most of the time when I’m not busy running around the company. I’ll modify the security system so it recognises you as well.. since this floor is more..private to me”

“You trust a complete stranger to sleep on the same floor as you do? And you’re willingly giving him access to so many things?”, Steve asked.

“I trust you that you won’t try and murder me in my sleep and run off with my savings, if that’s what you’re implying”, Tony shrugged. “Besides, we could use some trust around here, especially you. You need someone you can trust in this world, right? And I’ll gladly be that person”

“Those are some pretty old fashioned values from someone of the future like you”, Steve pointed out, even though he started to observe the environment around him, the lit up hall with many doors leading to rooms he didn’t even know what they were.

“Some values are worth keeping around”, the billionaire replied with a huff. “Now..this way”, he said, walking ahead and stopping by a door near the end of the corridor. The big room was decorated in a style that Steve honestly didn’t expect from the other man. He didn’t find it impossible for Tony to have arranged for the room to be changed in that way while they were flying back to make the adjustment easier for Steve.

The walls were painted in a beige colour, the wooden furniture blending just in, especially the large, king sized bed with red duvets. The new means of technology that were prominent in the rest of the building were present in the bedroom, like a big TV screen on the wall and a monitor on the mahogany desk.

“You can use this bedroom.. the bathroom is just in the end of the corridor, the last door on your right”, Tony said as he rubbed the back of his head. “This right here..”, he said, pointing at the wall device next to the door, “Is the intercom. You just need to dial 1 and you’ll get a hold of me if you need anything”, he added. “Is there anything else..? I can leave you to rest for now”

“No, no, that’s great, thank you, Stark”, Steve shook his head. “Oh um.. a change of clothes, towels..?”, he asked

“I’ll bring you some later, if you want, I’m sure I can get something that’s more of your style”, Tony confirmed as he hesitantly opened the door. Steve looked so lost, even though he did his best to try and hide it, and now that they were completely alone, Tony wanted to talk to him, comfort him, offer him any possible help. He knew very well how it felt to want and preserve your pride, and something told him that Steve was doing the same right now, and wanted to be left alone.

The soldier nodded as he turned his back and walked close to the glass window, not really looking outside, but wanting to make Tony believe that he was indeed somewhat busy.

Taking one last good look at his tensed back, Tony headed outside the room and walked back to his own bedroom, taking his tie off and sitting on the large bed. Steve Rogers, Captain America, his childhood hero was on the same floor, in his building, alive and seeking his help. Maybe the last part wasn’t true, maybe Tony was offering his help too willingly, as he couldn’t stand seeing him like that. In a way, he felt responsible, he was the one who found him in the ice, and had to guide him around, make him feel comfortable and make sure that the man wouldn’t act on impulse and do anything that would put him in grave danger. However, his plan to reveal the presence of the Captain to the world, lift everyone’s spirits, especially when they seem to need a hero more than anything; Tony sure knew that he did. There were things he never really told to anyone, about his childhood, the few memories that he held dear from it, or the ones that haunted him to that day. Steve of course didn’t know, but Captain America meant so much to Tony, he was the one who Tony counted on when the loud voice of his father would echo the hall coming towards his room, little Tony holding the super soldier’s action figure tightly in his hands. His little toy shield was one of his favorite toys amongst his knights, and with Jarvis’ help, he would turn himself into a knight, holding the star shield proudly on his hand as he was defeating his foes. Those were the memories he chose to treasure, and Steve was in a way, part of them. He couldn’t thank him for that, not so soon when the man had to go through a lot more in his head.

 

***

 

At the end of the other room, Steve was still facing the window, his forehead pressed against the cold glass to cool himself down.

So this was the new century.. The future he fought for seemed so disappointing to look at, and if he were to take Tony’s words at heart.. he knew he would end up being more hurt. He didn’t even have time to think about his past yet, what happened to his friends, his allies, even his beloved. The thought that they might have been out there, alive, but changed, even not remembering him really made his chest ache. He didn’t want to be left out.. to be a man out of time, because that was exactly how he was feeling at that moment; broken, lost, alone. Sure, Tony offered his help, but he wasn’t Bucky, he wasn’t any of the Howling Commandos and most of all, he wasn’t Peggy. He didn’t know if he would dare ask for Tony’s help to find out what happened to all of them, if he even wanted to know.. but he knew he had to do it, he had to know if he could move on or not.

Looking at the technological equipment in the room, Steve decided to find more about it later, but for now, maybe getting under the hot water could help him relax a tiny bit, just escape his thoughts and keep himself warm. Tony didn’t pass by to give him clothes or a towel, but exploring the floor could be a good idea, since he hated to stay somewhere he wasn’t familiar with.

Opening the door and careful not to be relatively noisy, he walked down the corridor. “Last door on my right..”, he muttered as he stood opposite the door Tony directed him to, opening it and greeted by hot steam against his face, forcing him to close his eyes.

“Steve..? What are you doing here?”, the millionaire’s surprised voice was heard, causing Steve to open his eyes and look away quickly as the other man was holding a towel around his waist, his chest still exposed, the steam still clearing up.

“I came to check out the shower, you told me to..”, he said, stuttering for the first time in that century. He was used to see people changing in front of him because of his army days, but Tony wasn’t a fellow soldier and this was his own bathroom, he was technically the intruder.

“I’m done, don’t worry”, Tony chuckled, seeming way more comfortable than Steve did, even though when he spotted the soldier turning again, his eyes focusing on the device on his chest, which he quickly tried to cover up.

“What is-”, Steve started to ask, interrupted as Tony stormed out the bathroom, with no intention of replying.

“They’re clean towels on the closet, you’ll find clothes there too”, he called as he rushed down the hallway.

Steve just stared at him leaving, confused by the sight. The circle device which looked planted on Tony’s chest seemed so out of this Earth, like a part of a machine that didn’t belong on the human body. The blue light it was emitting was also alarming and it sure cause Steve to just stand on spot, wondering what was even that and why Tony possessed it. His earlier words about him needing a bodyguard made him think that Tony was indeed valuable, in a way other than being the CEO of his company; maybe he was unique in the kind of way Steve was; one of a kind. He didn’t doubt that, a man with light coming out of his chest seemed out of place even in this strange future he found himself in. Confronting him about it wasn’t a solution, the genius ran out and clearly didn’t want to explain anything to him.

Sighing and trying to push that out of the way, he opened the closet that Tony talked about, taking a clean towel and a pair of trousers who seemed that would fit him, getting rid of the clothes that the other man handed to him what it seemed ages ago in that tent, getting inside the shower. He looked at the shower head and then down to the buttons with the indication for the hot and cold water, pressing the button with the red circle on it and jumping away when boiling water sprayed him, making sure to let his body adjust to the temperature before moving under the steaming water. It felt so refreshing and he let out a soft huff of relief straight away, shutting his eyes and just letting the warmth take over him. Back in the day, he couldn’t really afford having a hot, steamy shower like that, not in the battlefield or when he was even back to his small Brooklyn apartment, so this felt so endearing, and for a moment there, he forgot where he was or what was even happening.

After a good twenty minutes, he pressed on the button again, stepping outside, dripping wet and wrapping the towel around him, inspecting himself at the mirror once he cleared it from the steam. He realised that he haven’t seen his reflection ever since he woke up, and the fact that he looked untouched by the passing of time made him feel on the stomach. What if his old friends were still alive, looking so old in their beds and he showed up, his strong posture just looking like it came out of those Captain America tapes? That would distance him from them even more, he thought to himself as he rubbed his chin, looking for any facial hair that needed trimming, but finding nothing. Pushing back his blonde mane, he turned away from the reflection on the mirror, putting on the clean change of clothes and heading back to the bedroom he was staying in, not bumping into Tony this time around.

His eyes fell on the monitor on the desk with the keyboard sitting by it. Staring at it, he took a deep breath and sat down on the chair, looking at the black screen.

Come on, Rogers, this can’t be that complicated. You defused bombs, for Christ’s sake.

He couldn’t, however, find a button to press, anything that would activate the machine in front of him, but when he waved at the screen, it lit up, making him blink in surprise. The background was of deep blue colour, but when he tried to press the keys, a loud beep was heard and a window came up on the screen, asking him for a password.

“Password..”, he muttered, looking around for any clues as to what this could be, but came up with nothing. He didn’t know Tony, so he knew nothing about him and what his password could be. The only thing he did know was his father, since the two of them shared a connection due to Howard Stark’s relation to the project that birthed Steve. Still, it wasn’t enough, he needed more info on the man if he was to use his technology to try and find out more about this century. Yes, he was offered help, but he would rather not share some things with a complete stranger.

Moving on the large bed, he tried to think of a solution, before getting on his feet again and exiting the room, making sure that he was even quieter this time around. He passed by what it seemed Tony’s bedroom and stared at a door close to it, standing in front of it and trying to decide if walking inside was a good idea. As soon as he placed his hand on the handle, he felt something that made him pull away, almost like he was being bit by static.

“Recognised, Rogers, Steven”, the message read on the side screen, the door opening with a soft noise. Tony must have altered his security systems, just like he said, and in under different circumstances, Steve would be curious to find out more about this new technology and how it worked, but now his priorities were laying elsewhere.

The room was dark, Steve couldn’t exactly tell what it was, but when he made a couple of cautious steps, a single light went on, his eyes widening at the sight in front of him.

In the centre of the room, a mannequin with his first outfit he wore as Captain America was standing, next to his first shield, battered up but still in a relatively good state. Even though he spoke so harshly to Tony when he made reference to his Captain status, he couldn’t help but walk closer, admiring his old uniform. He could see everything, threads that were sticking out, some of the marks bullets and blood left on it, the stench of war still present, at least to the person who wore that uniform for years. His hands reached for the shield, caressing it and feeling just like the first time he picked it up; it felt like it belonged to him from day one, that he was a natural with it, as he proved later on.

A proud smile appeared on his face as he trailed the star on its centre, turning around quickly when more lights went on, revealing more of that strange room to Steve. There were banners, posters, even comic books and figures, anything that a ten year old kid during Cap’s glory days would dream of. At first, he didn’t question why Tony had all those things in that room, he just walked around, taking in everything. Yes, he believed that for now, he couldn’t wear that uniform and grab that shield again, and this collection only proved his point. Looking at his reflection earlier, the dark circles forming around his once bright azure eyes, he could tell that he was nothing like the sentinel of liberty who saluted by the star spangled banner or punched Hitler right across the face. If the world was going to have such high expectations from him, he couldn’t disappoint them showing up like a mediocre Captain America wannabe; they wanted the real deal, and Steve right now was nothing but a shell of the former Captain. The thought devastated him; once being the hero everyone was inspired from was all he had, a poor art student’s dream, and right now, he didn’t know where to stand, and if he could even stand on his own two feet without a little push from people who he didn’t know if they were even alive anymore.

His eyes fell on a Captain America toy figure which looked worn out, the star on his costumed doll self fainting away. He figured out that this was indeed a personal collection, and wondered how much Tony probably had to pay to afford all those things; Steve knew that they were the real deal, but he also knew that more shields existed, for an instance, and that the billionaire probably offered a lot to have his own little corner in this room dedicated to America’s hero. Inspecting the figure, he lifted the delicate shield that it had on its back, seeing something written there. Squinting, he tried to read up on the rather messy, childish handwriting, and for a reason he couldn’t explain, it did made him smile.

“Belongs to: Anthony Edward Stark”, he read out loud and shook his head, placing the toy back on its shield, picking up one of the comics. Mint condition, he couldn’t even comprehend how much those would cost now. His chest felt heavy as he read more about the adventures of Captain America and Bucky, his trusty sidekick, remembering how the teenager would protest whenever he would see how the tapes portrayed him.

He couldn’t afford thinking so fondly of his past, not when he had no idea what happened to any of those friends and allied, but yet he found himself lured into that room, full of memories that made him smile and just wish he could go back where he truly belonged.

Taking a deep breath, he tried to leave everything just like he found them, heading outside and quickly into his bedroom, dropping on the bed and muttering something, his brain still trying to process everything, but seemed impossible, especially after his emotional visit to that mysterious tribute room dedicated entirely to him.

 

***

 

Tony wasn’t sleeping, he couldn’t shut an eye after realising what the implications of having Steve there would be. For years now, Rhodey, and later Pepper joined in as well, would tease and question his love for Captain America. They would comment on it in amusement, call him a typical fan boy, but to Tony, it was way more than that. What he thought to be a kid obsession turned out to be something he would carry for a lifetime, and that room where he kept all the Captain America merchandise, and the memorabilia he acquired later, was kept a secret. Captain America marked him and helped him during his early years, and even as an adult, he would seek refugee to his stories and great achievements, get inspired by him.

Finding him alive in the ice was something he could never imagine of happening, but there he was, in flesh and bone, talking to him, walking in him when he was just coming out of a shower, his chest exposed. Tony wasn’t exactly the type of guy that would open up to people, but his secretive tendencies became even worse after he returned from Vietnam. Even his friends couldn’t take more words out of him, and the one man who knew exactly what happened died before they could both get released. Turned out he needed a bodyguard in first place, before he was kidnapped and forced to make weapons for the sole purpose of pure destruction, something that their world couldn’t afford anymore. It had barely been a year, but Tony would still clutch on his chest and stay awake at night, thinking of the sharp pain he felt when the explosion hit him miles away, waking up to find that metallic creation built on his chest and being told that the only way to survive was to keep it on for the rest of his life.

He had to literally run on batteries until help have arrived, and after consulting the greatest doctors, he concluded that this was his greatest scar yet; to have a broken heart and for people to be able to see that. Of course, he wanted to keep quiet about it, and he didn’t allow for the press to know, keeping this between his more trusted friends, but something sure made him shrug thinking that his childhood hero saw that huge scar. He saw it as his weakness, and the last thing he needed was for someone like Steve to consider him a weakling, a soldier that couldn’t march in battle when he was needed to. It was strange, Tony was the one having the expectations, and yet he was worrying about not meeting Steve’s when he would require his assistance one day.

The device he developed in order to survive, the arc reactor, clean energy he was so famous of was embroidered into him, but the world wasn’t meant to know, not like that. They needed a strong figure to help them rebuild their world and put their trust in him, and someone like Steve, who Tony looked up to, fitted those criteria. Yet, the soldier didn’t have a clear fault like that on him, even though his attitude sure told him that the Captain had demons of his own to face. The least Tony could do was appear strong and make sure that his help was offered when asked, and not to cause Steve to seek out someone else who was more capable of giving him the help he needed to get back on his feet. It might have even been considered selfish, but Tony wanted to be the one to bring Steve to his century, to earn that pat on the head and the Captain’s approval he was so eagerly looking for.

Shutting his eyes, he leaned back on the comfortable pillows, who felt like bricks to him at that moment. What if bringing Steve back to life was a bad call in first place? What if he would cause him more emotional trauma and scar him even more by bringing him into a world when he wasn’t any more appreciated and the old fashioned values he probably treasured meant nothing to the people? He had to eventually show Steve around, but he was dreading for his reaction, especially after he saw the way he was looking at the buildings, the city, everything. The next day would probably be eventful and overwhelming for Steve, and the least he could hope was that the man got to rest.

 

***

 

When Tony walked in the living room he had on that floor the next day, his hair carefully styled and looking serious in his clean suit, he didn’t expect Steve to be there, holding a mug between his palms and sitting on the large couch. His own hair was parted, but still not in the exact neat style it was on his Cap posters back in the day. He looked strange in a pair of jeans and a dark blue shirt, mainly because Tony expected him to look more..old fashioned.

“Good morning”, he said as he sat down next to him. “I see you helped yourself with the coffee”, he pointed out.

“Morning”, Steve replied as he took a long sip. “I figured it out, don’t worry, nothing’s broken. And before you say anything, yes, I can read the instructions and follow them. Oh, and this coffee tastes great, thank you”

Tony couldn’t help but be surprised, but he smiled right away. Yes, he expected Steve to be ignorant when it came to the technology of those days, but he didn’t forget who he was, surely operating a coffee machine wasn’t rocket science.

“Had a good sleep?”, he asked him.

Steve shifted a bit in his seat. “I think it’s going to be a while until I’ll be able to get some proper sleep, if I’m being honest here”

Tony nodded; of course, being unconscious for so many decades would have its toll on Steve, and since he suffered from a selective case of insomnia, he could somewhat relate.

“If it’s okay with you, I would like to visit a couple of places today”, Steve said calmly, eyes fixed on the black screen in front of him.

“If you’re going to talk about Brooklyn, I suggest that we leave it to a later date, Steve..”, Tony started, interrupted by Steve.

“No, I would like to find out about the whereabouts of some people and then visit them. I’m sure you can locate them with your tech, I tried to access it last night but they asked for a password”

Tony rubbed the back of his head; Steve seemed to be way smarter and capable of what he gave him credit to be, and he scolded himself for that. After all, he was the Captain America, his skills would surely amaze him now that he was able to witness them in person.

“Sure thing, I can help you figure out some things, if you want? Then you can use everything on your own”, he suggested, and the other man nodded in relief. “What is that you’re looking for?”

“Some..names, mainly”, Steve said, not sure if he was able to talk about that, but at that very moment, the only person he spent enough time with to build some level of ‘trust’ was oddly this man sitting opposite him. “Friends.. I want to see if any of them are..alive”, he said, straightening his back.

There was a certain, subtle tone of sadness in his voice, and it made Tony’s chest feel heavy, feeling sorry for him. He was thinking too much of his own well being and how the Captain’s presence would affect him, that he kept forgetting that the one with the most issues was in fact, Steve. Seventy years passed from the moment that Steve was lost in the sea, and Tony didn’t want to bring his hopes down, telling him that most likely those friends wouldn’t be alive. He nodded though, offering his help was the least he could do.

“Sure, whenever you’re ready.. I have access.. or should I say.. I can hack certain databases and we can find all the people you’re looking for”, he said.

The blonde shook his head finished his drink. “Shall we?”

Tony pulled the table closer to them, and Steve noticed that it had a built in keyboard on it that he didn’t spot before. With a couple of swift hand movements, Tony made a blue window to appear on the air in front of them, typing quickly his password which Steve didn’t catch, distracted by the technology.

Good morning, Sir, how can I be of service?”, the British, elegant voice asked him, and Steve turned around to see if anyone walked into the room.

“Steve, this is Jarvis. Jarvis, this is-”

Captain Steven Grant Rogers, it’s a pleasure to meet you”, the voice replied.

“Uh..thanks?”, Steve replied, looking slightly confused. “What..?”

“Jarvis is an AI I developed, he runs the building's security, especially this floor’s. Artificial Intelligence loyal to me alone”, Tony explained. “Trustworthy and intelligent, even though sometimes he can be a pain in the ass with his jokes and commentary. Makes me wonder why I built him like that”

“I believe that you wanted to talk to someone with the same train of thought as you, Sir, not to mention someone who could out snark you”

“This is impressive”, Steve said, able to tell that this was indeed revolutionary technology. “So you just talk to it..Ask it different things?”

“You could do that”, Tony nodded. “Jarvis, Rogers here wants to ask you a couple of things, be nice”

Steve turned to Tony and then to the screen. It felt strange to talk to thin air and hearing someone reply back to him, he didn’t even know where to look at, so he decided to face the screen where the Stark Industries logo was spinning around.

“Uh.. Can you find the whereabouts of some people? I don’t know if they changed names or where they are..”

“My database and extensive, Captain, I’ll let you know of the results seconds after you ask the question”

Steve’s chest felt heavy as he mentally went through different names, not knowing where to start from. The part of him that hoped that all of this was just a nightmare was urging him to ask about Bucky, but the memory of the teen holding on the plane and Steve falling down, watching it explode on the sky was far too painful for him to relive.  Now that he was thinking about it, he didn’t know if he actually wanted to know about the whereabouts or what happened to his friends. Bracing himself, he decided to only ask one question, for now.

“Her name is.. Margaret Carter.. usually goes as Peggy..”, he asked the voice.

There was a moment of silence as a couple of names flashed on the screen, a map finally appearing with a pin stating the location.

“Captain, I’m afraid that I’ve located Mrs Carter, her location is 2040 Wellwood Avenue-”

“That’s the Long IslandNationalCemetery”, Steve finished off, a heavy sigh coming out of his mouth as he sat back on the couch. “A graveyard..”

“I’m sorry about that..”, Tony said slowly, facing Steve who seemed reluctant of wanting to talk. “If you need to talk, I’m here to-”

“I want to go there”, Steve said with a calm voice. “How do I get there from here?”

Tony didn’t expect that kind of reaction, but he rubbed the back of his head, Jarvis already projecting the nearest route to the cemetery from the Tower. “Are you sure about that..?”

Steve’s look seemed confident and strong, but Tony was able to see past that, having experience that before. He knew very well how it felt to mask your pain and appear strong in front of others, and the least he could do now was to stick by Steve’s request. “All right, I’ll get Happy to drive us there”, he nodded as he stood up and typed on a device he took out of his pocket, gesturing for Steve to follow him.

Steve stood up, his posture straight as he followed the man into the elevator yet again. He didn’t know how to feel; part of him expected that outcome and he was wondering what would be worse, to see his lover’s grave or to see her aged in front of him, thinking of all the time he wasted and not having been by her side. His fists were clenched up and he stayed silent, following Tony out of the glass elevator and out of the building. The breeze didn’t help at all to cool him down, and he didn’t snap out of his thoughts until Tony spoke.

“This is Happy Hogan. Happy, this is Steve Rogers”, he said, the man taking off his hat and offering his strong hand for Steve to shake.

“Pleasure”, Steve simply said as he firmly shook his hands and stepped inside the car, not really having the time to admire the interior and the fine leather sits they were sitting on. Tony’s voice was heard in a distance as he was left alone with his thoughts yet again, the car starting to drive through the loud city. He didn’t pay much attention, but the sights made him even sicker in the stomach; everything looked strange and different, it was nothing like the city he once lived in and knew exactly how to navigate. It felt like this was a strange new place he didn’t belong in, and every time they passed a shop, a new house, the large screens advertising all kind of things reassured him that this was true.

“Steve..?”, Tony’s voice interrupted him yet again. “We’re here..”, he said as he pointed at the large, black gates just outside the car.

Steve took a deep breath and stepped outside the car, looking at the gates and then at a flower vendor by them, walking up to him. “Can I have a bouquet of lilies, please?”, he asked him as the man picked out the flowers, and the blonde put his hand in his pocket to take out the money, finding nothing in them. Of course, how could he even possess any bucks anyway? Those weren’t his clothes, he didn’t have a wallet, he had nothing. He opened his mouth to explain himself, but a hand extended from behind him and paid, the vendor offering him the bouquet. Steve turned around and Steve held out the flowers to him.

“Don’t thank me”, Tony said before Steve could even open his mouth. “Just take them”

Steve looked at him and then at the flowers, nodding thankfully and stepped inside the cemetery, walking along the graves with heavy heart. He recognised some of the names he passed by; men that fought by his side, kids who brought in smoked and magazines, and he couldn’t help but feel guilty; what if he was the reason why they were buried right here, six feet under? What if,because of him, he deprived some wife’s husband, or a child’s father? With heavy heart, he reached a corner of the graveyard and stood in front of the marbled tombstone. Peggy’s name was written on it, along with the date of her death, which upon further inspection, it was quite recent as well.

“Peggy..”, he whispered, trying to keep his voice from breaking, placing the bouquet of flowers down and standing there, hands in his pocket all clenched up, facing the ground. “I’m.. I’m so sorry, Peggy..”, he repeated over and over again.

Tony was standing nearby, not wanting to intrude into Steve’s privacy; he needed his time to mourn above all, and he could understand how he felt. He might have said that he didn’t shed a tear during his father’s funeral, but losing his mother was more of a hit to him, alongside Jarvis, his trusted butler and guardian. The AI was a mere tribute to the man who raised him and made him a better man that his father aimed him to be. Seeing Steve devastated like that was heartbreaking, his hero was proving himself to be human, with weaknesses just like him, and Tony only wanted to offer him some sort of comfort, not sure if he even allowed to do that.

The blonde was taking deep breaths, trying to calm himself, but it wasn’t until he saw the grave of someone from his past in this new age that it made him realise what was happening. It felt so surreal; there he was, looking like the man from the 40’s, in a new century standing by the grave of someone who held dear in his heart. There was no way of him going back to that era, of undoing what had been done, and that killed him.

“I’m sorry for not being there, Peggy.. I’m sorry..”. His eyes felt heavy, but he didn’t allow himself to cry, not when he was supposed to be strong and move on. He was allowed to mourn, but he couldn’t afford mourning the past and not moving on ahead. The real question was, if he wanted to do that, if he wanted to live in a new world where nothing was the same; he lacked something to live for, and that sure was a self destructing thought.

He took his hand out of his pocket to pinch the bridge of his nose to stop any tears from running down, letting it rest at his sides, eyes widening when he felt a warm hand against his own, fingers holding tightly on him. He didn’t turn to face him at first, part of him so desperately seeking the comfort he needed, but when he did, Tony was standing beside him, looking at the tombstone with a strong look on his face. His bright blue eyes seemed to be focused, and their glimpse was almost magnetising.

Tony turned around to face him, not saying a word, just holding his hand as long as Steve wanted him to do it. He wasn’t the best when it came to comforting people, but that need to take care of Steve was so strong and he needed to console him, make him feel a bit better.

The Captain slowly pulled his hand away after a couple of moments, saluting at the grave and turning towards the exit. “Stark..? Tony? Thank you”, he said, not facing the other man. He was thanking him for everything, for the flowers, for bringing him here, for holding his hand, but he couldn’t bring himself to name the reasons why he was so thankful. Maybe he needed that human contact, to be reassured that he could carry on, for someone to push him, and so far, Tony was the one to offer all of those to him.

“No need to thank me, it’s the least I can do”, Tony said as he followed him outside. The way he felt when he touched Steve’s cold hand was so strange; their hands connected at once and they fitted perfectly in each other’s, almost like they were meant to do that. No, he had to shove those thoughts away and focus on helping Steve above all.

Happy was waiting by the car, relieved when Tony and Steve came back.

“Tony! Pepper is looking for you everywhere, she said Stane is pissed for you not greeting him yesterday.. something about a discovery..?”, he said as he rushed in the car. The way he spoke indicated that Stane was indeed angry and that Pepper needed him back in the Tower as soon as possible. The last thing he needed was to deal with Stane when Steve seemed to be his number one priority. The comment about a discovery made him narrow his eyes; if Stane found out about Steve, things wouldn’t end up well for either of them.

“I’m sorry I’m dragging you to business, Steve”, he said as they got inside the car. This wasn’t the way he wanted that emotional moment to end, and it sure wasn’t ideal for Steve either.

The Captain shook his head. “It’s absolutely fine, I understand you’re busy with this..Stane fella?”, he asked, somewhat glad that he could think of something else for now.

“Obadiah Stane”, Tony said with a sigh. “He’s been around the company for years now, he was there when my father was still alive and thinks that I owe him great time for that”

“Sounds to me like he’s got his eyes on your company, you better be careful”

“Oh, I know he does”, Tony nodded. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to get rid of me to take over the company, hence the need for a bodyguard”

“Do you mean he tried to hurt you before? And you still keep him around?”, Steve blinked, wondering if the machine on Tony’s chest was the result of a personal attack on him from his rivals. “Because that doesn’t sound like a smart move to me, no offence.. you should do something about that”

“He doesn’t have the guts to hurt me”, Tony shrugged. “At least not directly. He’s like a snake, sly and slithering around trying to have his way, but I’ve made it my goal to stop him at all costs. In fact, it’s actually fun to piss him off, you know”

“Hm..”, Steve said, unable to take something that serious so lightly like Tony did. He wanted to hope that the billionaire was indeed careful and not as carefree as he claimed to be, especially when he knew that people wouldn’t hesitate to plot against him.

“Is that you worrying about me?”, Tony joked, trying to lighten up the mood, but so far his attempts to do that proved to be fruitless.

“Well, if he’s out to get you, you should be worried too”, Steve simply said. “So, what does he want from you now?”

“I’m not sure.. we’ll have to wait and see”, Tony said, even though he didn’t dare to mention that Steve was going to be the centre of the conversation, most likely.

The rest of the car ride was silent, and Steve tried his hardest to keep his mind away from the sight of that tombstone. He had his moment, he mourned, and there was no reason to keep reminding himself about it. He wouldn’t forget, he would never, ever do that, but he had to accept it and try to move on, while treasuring his past.

The car stopped by the massive building, and they both stepped outside while Happy was rushing to meet Pepper waiting for them in the lobby.

“Where have you been? It doesn’t matter now, I had to keep Stane busy because he’s fuming up there”, Pepper replied, holding documents close to his chest. “Tony, be careful in there, will you?”, she said before Tony rushed into the elevator, Steve following him without really thinking.

“You’re coming with me?”, Tony asked, blinking. “I think you should stay down with Pepper until I’ve taken care of that guy..”

“No”, Steve shook his head. “You said he won’t stop at hurting you and you need a bodyguard, I don’t see anyone else able to protect you right now. Now, let’s go see what he wants”, he said firmly.

Tony didn’t exactly protest; Steve supporting him and looking menacing when facing someone as shady as Stane was a plus, not to mention that it made him feel good that the soldier felt protective over him, even in the slightest. He nodded as they waited patiently until the elevator doors opened, getting inside the same room that they were the day before, the door leading to Tony’s private office opening, a man stepping out with his arms crossed, not looking pleased at all.

“Tony, Tony, Tony.. You arrived last night and didn’t even bring me a souvenir or made a call? That’s now how you were raised now, were you?”, the old man said with such a fake smile that made Steve instantly clench his fists in defence. His beard wasn’t as carefully trimmed as Tony’s, and his suit didn’t seem to fit him as well as Tony’s; in over all he seemed really pretentious and he didn’t like it, the patronising sound in his voice confirming that.

“Oh come on, Obi, I know that you were probably snoring the night away by the time I got back in New York”, Tony said, and Steve was surprised to see that he was using the same tone to face Stane off. Maybe he knew exactly what he was doing and Steve wasn’t giving him enough credit of knowing how to take care of himself.

Stane chuckled and eyed Steve. “Aren’t you going to introduce us, Tony?”

“Steve Rogers”, Steve said before Tony could reply and nodded to him, not wanting to shake the other man’s hand.

“The Captain..”, Obadiah said with a huff. “I’ve done my reading boy, you seem to forget that your father and I worked very closely”, he added when Tony seemed both surprised and annoyed. “So, do you have it inside you now, Captain? Is the serum still working?”

“And why exactly are you asking that, Stane?”, Tony asked him defensively. “That shouldn’t concern you, Steve is here as a guest, not any lab rat or whatever you might be planning”

“Tony.. don’t make me look like the bad guy in front of someone that famous”, Stane said, shaking his finger in front of Tony’s nose.

Steve wanted to interfere and say that in fact, he did look like the bad guy, but stayed quiet.

“So, Captain Rogers.. are you still the super soldier Howard helped you to be?”

“Mr. Stane, I’m sorry to disappoint but Dr. Erskine was the founder of the serum, Mr. Stark merely helped with the equipment, not with the formula itself. And yes, the serum is still in fact working”, Steve replied calmly.

“That is great news, then!”, Stane said, coming closer and patting Steve on the back, to which the blonde noticed that Tony responded with a twitch of his eyebrow. “So, when are the tests going to take place?”, he asked, rubbing his hands together.

“Tests? What are you talking about here?”, Tony asked in return, giving the older man a serious, questioning look.

“To replicate the serum,of course. We have our super soldier right here, we can start right away. Imagine a new breed of super soldiers, all thanks to you two! Tony, this is your greatest discovery, this will go down in history because you made it possible”, he said, lifting his hands up in the air in excitement. “Think of it, all the other countries buying the serum to build up super soldiers.. from us. Talk about a comeback at the weapon market!”

“I don’t know why you’re even thinking that this will actually happen, Obi”, Tony said quite confidently. “Steve isn’t up for any experimenting, and the serum isn’t going to be replicated, not now or ever”

“You can’t possibly mean that, come on, Tony”, Stane said, giving him a nudge on the shoulder. “Think of all the profit, come on! How do you think that your father would feel if you let a chance to expand the company like that was missed?”

“I don’t know and I don’t care”, Tony gritted his teeth. “We’re not using the serum for this company’s profit. Haven’t you heard what happened to the last scientist that tried to replicate the formula? Trust me, you don’t want to know”

“We have the real deal right in front us, Tony, if there’s anyway to make that serum and inject it into-”

“The Doc is dead and the formula died with him, that’s what I believe”, Steve interrupted their argument. “The serum worked on me, just me and that was it. It’s way too dangerous to assume that the same results would have any effect on a different person”

“I don’t think any of you understand what this means for the company, for the world”, Stane said, his patronising tone dropping now, trying to be more menacing, but it was clear that Steve would take none of that.

“It means that I won’t be responsible for the potential death of a human being because someone decided to use my blood as a basis for the super soldier formula. I’m not signing up to be subject of experiments again”

Steve’s voice was loud and clear, he could tell that Tony needed the backup and he was offering it; he stood by what Tony believed anyway, he wouldn’t let someone who clearly had no good intentions to use something as dangerous as the formula that gave him his advanced skills and powers, it wasn’t something people could just play with. It was a potential weapon, and that’s how he was used back in the day in first place.

“You heard the Captain, Stane. You’re not using him and you better get those money making schemes out of your head. We’re not breeding super soldiers, not now, not ever”, Tony concluded, properly facing Stane and standing side by side with Steve.

Stane looked at them both, shaking his head. “You’re missing out.. so much, both of you. You don’t see it now, do you? Super soldier suppliers, kings of the market! But no, your morality gets in the way. Tell me, Tony, since when have you been like that? Last time I checked you weren’t afraid to get your hands dirty and build missiles in order. In bulk. But now? Why this?”

Steve turned to Tony, wanting to hear his answer. It was a common fact that Howard Stark was supplying the army with weapons and tech against the Germans, but according to what he gathered so far, Tony was focusing on renewable energy now, something completely different and not violent in the slightest.

“I’ve changed. Maybe I want to be remembered for something good for once, not for being responsible for killings across the globe. And no matter if that formula is successful or not, people will die and get hurt, because I would allow it. This is not happening now, so you better accept it, pal”, Tony said, eyes fixed on the older man to show that he meant every single world and that he wasn’t scared of his empty threats.

“I don’t believe you, Tony”, Obadiah shook his head as he pushed his way through the two men, only to be grabbed by Steve. “What the hell?!”

“I suggest that you listen to your boss, Mr. Stane. He can easily fire you, I’m sure, so if I were you.. I would respect his wishes and follow his orders”, Steve said, letting go of the man’s arm, eyes narrowed, not liking how either of them were pushed aside by the older man.

Stane looked at them, and it was clear that he was holding back insults to spit out to them, especially at Steve. It was so clear that he hated the man’s guts, and hated Tony for allowing that kind of behaviour. Without a word, he straightened his suit and headed towards the elevator. Just when it seemed that he was going to leave without a come back, he turned at them smirking as the doors closed.

“If I were you, Captain, I would keep my eyes on Stark”

The way the man spoke send a shiver down Steve’s back; it felt like he was back during the war and hearing the Red Skull, Zola or Baron Zemo, any of the villains he had to fight, yelling petty words and promises of revenge to him and Bucky. That was surely not a good sign, and he turned to Tony who seemed pretty unphased by the whole argument.

“Is this what you put up with?”, Steve asked him, pointing at the elevator. “That sort of guys work for you?And you let them act like that?”

“You’ll have a couple of words with me about discipline now?”, Tony chuckled, mainly to hide the fact that Stane’s words did sound ominous to him.

“Tony, if that’s how most of your people are, I’m not surprised why you need a bodyguard”, Steve huffed. “That man seemed deranged”

“He won’t harm me, he’s all words, that’s what he does when he doesn’t have his way. He goes all Bond villain on you-oh that’s a reference you’ll probably won’t get for now. My main point is, he won’t do anything, he just likes threatening people. Either way, he’s not having any of your samples and he’s not approving any super soldier experiments, not while I’m in control”, Tony said confidently.

Steve turned at the elevator again and shook his head, still not sure what to believe. “I’ll have your word on that”, he simply said as he walked across the room. “Do you mind if I go back to my room..?”

“No, not at all, help yourself out”, Tony gestured, watching the soldier disappear behind the glass doors and sighing to himself. It was true, Stane was becoming more of a threat now, and he wanted to keep quiet about Steve being who he was, following his request. Stane somehow found out, and could potentially use it to his advantage in the slyest way that Tony couldn’t see from a mile apart, unlike his encounters with Justin Hammer. And then there was Steve, who strangely enough chose to defend him way more than he thought he would. Maybe in a way he thought that he was paying Tony back for what he did for him so far, and it did make sense to Tony, after all, Steve was a man with certain moral values, out of this age. And yes, part of Tony thought that Steve wouldn’t survive in this world, later having to curse at himself for forgetting who he was really dealing with, a man who fought a war and grew up when this country was at its worst. He wasn’t an innocent young man, he was a trained soldier capable of doing great things, of maybe killing even, he was able to survive and defend himself.

But for now, he wanted to give Steve some space, he dragged him into this crazy Stane business when they had just left the cemetery. Tony didn’t know who Peggy was, but asking Jarvis made him well aware. He knew how it felt losing a lover, someone who he could possible consider a life partner. Rumiko Fujkawa was for Tony exactly that, but she was taken away from him in the worst possible way. Herself being the heir of one of the biggest Japanese companies in the market and Tony Stark’s girlfriend sure made her a target for the Yakuza, and while Tony was taken away, tortured in Vietnam, she was assassinated on her way to America, to learn more about her boyfriend’s abduction. After Tony was released, there was one person he wanted to see, and that was Rumiko, and to be told that she was buried away in Japan was the most devastating thing he heard in his entire life. Months of alcohol dependence came by until he was able to stand on his own feet again and move the expeditions outside New York for the search of new energy resources. Yes, he experience the heartache that Steve did before, and he knew how it felt, he was able to feel and understand what was going through his mind when he stood by Peggy’s tombstone and holding his hand was an act of impulse, something that he would like to have happened when he was standing in front of Rumiko’s own shrine and mourning her passing.

It felt strange to think that Steve and him shared a deeper understanding of each other, that some of their most painful experiences, that they weren’t aware of just yet, were connected. They could help each other, he was sure that he could, but until Steve asked him to take him to Brooklyn, just like he first requested, he was going to be silent about his new adjustment to that world.

 

***

 

And indeed, he kept his promise, interacting with Steve every now and then, but letting him keep his privacy, even though he could have sworn that sometimes the soldier seemed to want his company more than anything. Tony was willingly offering it to him, it was the least he could, and the two of them started to talk way more.

That one night, Tony knocked on Steve’s room, having one question in mind to pop at him. Steve answered the door, his smile more natural now than it was the first days they talked to each other.

“Tony! Is something wrong?”, he asked, internally thankful for Tony coming to talk to him, glad to be out of the room. The adjustment was slow but gradual, he was starting to feel better once Tony showed him how to work the tv and how to watch different movies and shows. At first, Steve seemed to be sad that ‘they couldn’t go to the pictures anymore’, but he was soon hooked on pretty much everything Tony showed him.

“No, I just thought we could grab some dinner together”, Tony said with a shake of his head. “We could go out or just eat here, if you want to..? Watch something on TV..”

“I’m fine with staying here”, Steve said as he closed the bedroom door behind him. “You don’t normally eat with me though..?”

“I thought I should fix that”, Tony chuckled, walking into the living room and settling down on the large sofa. “Have you ever tried japanese food, Steve?”, he asked him, bringing up a restaurant’s menu up on the holo screen.

“Japanese food? No.. can’t say I have..”, he blinked, narrowing his eyes at the images. “That doesn’t look very tasty..”

“Sushi? Oh, you’re going to love it, everyone does”, Tony said with a light gesture, even though that was an understatement. “It’s going to be here in an hour or so.. the food I mean. Then you’ll have a perfect verdict”, he said as he turned on the TV and changed channels quickly when he saw that “Back to the Future” was playing. Steve didn’t need any time travel related movies at that point.

Steve tilted his head at the screen when a spaceship came on the screen. “Can you leave that on?”

“Star Trek, huh? You’re learning”, Tony chuckled. “I grew up watching that series.. I wouldn’t mind going up in space and meeting up with a couple of aliens, to be honest”

“I can imagine you doing that, it sounds like you”, Steve said as he turned his attention to the screen.

Their casual, friendly conversation carried on until a woman walked in with a bag in her hand, and Tony looked excited to bring it over to the small table, kneeling in front of it and taking out the packages. It was such a nice distraction for Steve, spending time with Tony and learning about all kinds of new things proved to be quite therapeutic.

“All right.. we have.. salmon, tuna, prawn.. ah, this one is actually an omelette”, Tony said as Steve joined him and stared at the yellow piece. He picked up his pair of chopsticks and offer one to Steve as well, swiftly taking a salmon piece and eating with a content smile.

Steve looked at the sticks and tried to hold them on the same way Tony did. “How..?”

“Let me show you”, Tony said as he moved closer and helped Steve position his fingers correctly. “You keep that side stable.. there you go.. and you use the other one to do the grabbing. Here, try that piece”, he said, pointing at the piece next to the salmon that Tony just ate it.

The blonde tried to hold his hand steady, tongue coming out as he focused, getting the piece between the two ends, letting out a content huff, only to lose his focus and drop it down to the floor, rushing to clean everything up.

Tony did the same, and it was then when their hands brushed against each other, both of them pulling away quickly. It couldn’t be, was Steve actually.. blushing?, Tony thought as he smiled apologetically, cleaning the rice pieces up.

“I’m sorry”, Steve apologised.

“Don’t worry, it happens a lot with the new guys.. you did well for your first try, you picked it up”, Tony reassured him, rubbing his hand where Steve accidentally touched him. He felt it again, that strange feeling when he first held Steve’s hand, and a part of him wanted to do it again, but there was no way of doing it if he wanted to stay subtle.

Steve could feel his cheeks somewhat warmer and he couldn’t really explain why, taking a gulp of water from the bottle nearby, trying a sushi piece with a fork this time around, grimacing a bit. “The Japanese don’t cook their fish?!”, he asked Tony with a hint of surprise.

“It’s not completely raw, don’t worry about it”, Tony laughed. “Do you like it?”, he said, taking another piece for himself with ease.

“It’s..strange..”, Steve concluded, pulling the bowl of bean sprouts closer to him instead.

“That comes from the man who ate SPAM straight from the can once”, Tony pointed out.

“Don’t knock it til you try it”, the soldier said, waving his stick at Tony.

“Sure, sure, Steve”, Tony laughed as he let his back rest against the couch, eating and just enjoying himself with Steve.

It felt nice to have casual conversations like that and for both of them to let go of their constant worries, relaxing for what it seemed ages. In fact, meeting each other seemed to be the highlight of their days lately.

“Tony”, Steve said after the credits of yet another episode started to roll. “Can I ask you for a favour?”, he asked. Being in the Tower was nice, the facilities were indeed amazing and Tony was making sure that he wasn’t deprived of anything. And yet, he couldn’t live like that, he couldn’t just sit back and enjoy a comfortable life that someone else was offering him.

“Anything, what is it?”, Tony asked, turning his head at side to face him.

“Can we get to Brooklyn tomorrow? I want to visit my..apartment” , he said calmly. He postponed that for days now, and he didn’t even know why. Still, he wanted to go, he never changed his mind, and now that him and Tony seemed to be in better terms, maybe it was better, and more comfortable for Steve to make that visit. It had only been a couple of days, but Tony became someone who he could consider a friend, especially since he didn’t have anyone else in that century. Tony as well seemed to be happy of them bonding; he would show up and talk, spend more time together and actually help him figure out anything that Steve needed to be answered.

“Do you feel ready..?”, Tony said after a small pause, seeing that Steve nodded steadily to him. “Then I’ll take you there”, he confirmed. He could only imagine how Steve would feel, overwhelmed, disappointed even, but he would do his best to be there for him and offer him his support in any way he could. “You may want to rest tonight then.. at least try to”, he pointed out, knowing for well that Steve still had great difficulty sleeping. He could still hear him sometimes, pacing down the hall, watching TV to pass time, listening to music that Tony suggested to him..even dressing up and heading to the lower floor to use the gym equipment. Tony saw him punching those bags before, admired his strength and got intimidated at the same time. To him, it felt somewhat strange at first, getting to know someone he only knew as a costumed hero, his hero. He thought he would never have the chance to talk and meet him, but right now, he wasn’t talking to Captain America, no, he was talking to the man behind the mask, Steve Rogers, and the truth was, he actually really liked the guy. At first, he feared that he would be disappointed, that the man wouldn’t meet his expectations, but it turned out that he enjoyed his company and the time they spent together more than anything he could ever imagine.

“I’ll try to.. It’s going to be..a long day”, Steve agreed, rubbing the back of his head. “Thank you for this, Tony.. I mean, for all of this, not just the lunch and the company”. Words were never his forte, actions did it for him; he could talk and give inspiring words to his platoon, but when it came to talking about some kind of feelings, he would just lose it. But then again, that was strange, there were no feelings included in this, it was just him trying to thank Tony for what he had done so far for him, nothing else, or so he thought.

Tony smiled to him in return. “No need to thank me, I said it again.. I want to help you in every way I can, and the fact alone that you acknowledge it is good enough for me”

“You’re a good man, Tony. You say that people get the wrong impression but.. if they bothered to actually get to know you, they would understand”, Steve said confidently, reaching out and giving Tony’s shoulder a light squeeze.

Tony could have sworn that his heart started to beat faster when he felt Steve’s strong grip on him, having to hold himself back from exasperating when he pulled away. “This means a lot to me Steve.. so thank you..”, he said with a half smile. It really did, Steve, well, Captain America, was someone he always looked up to, and to hear him right now telling him that he was a good man, when the world tried to tell him otherwise was a big deal to him. That was it, this was the reassurance and recognition that he was looking for, and Steve of all people was the one to give it to him. “I’ll stop now before we get all mushy and all”, he laughed nervously and Steve joined him, standing up.

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning?”, he asked the billionaire who stretched his arms.

“Sure thing”, Tony nodded as he put all the empty packages at side and watched the Captain giving him a small wave, heading back to his room. The next would have been eventful for the both of them, he was sure about it.

 

***

 

When Tony’s alarm clock went on, the man jumped out of bed right away, starting to dress up. He wasn’t sleeping, he just waited impatiently for it to start ringing so he could be ready in a reasonable hour, not to mention avoid looking so impatient in Steve’s eyes. However, when he stepped inside the living room, he spotted Steve already sitting there, his hands on his knees. He gave Tony a small smile and stood up, a blazer worn over his black turtleneck.

“Ready to go?”, he asked, and his voice sounded to calm.

Tony nodded to him and lead the way down to the lobby, Happy having been informed and ready to drive them into Brooklyn. At first, he was surprised by the request; nobody drove there anymore, except for beggars and teenagers trying to act tough and explore the abandoned buildings, hoping to come up with a supernatural story to tell the rest of the kids in the block.

The car ride was relatively quiet, and the closer they seemed to be to Brooklyn, the more tensed Steve was getting.

“Hey”, Tony said, and Steve turned to him, his palms on his legs. “It will be all right, trust me.. and if not, I’m here to help”, he said with that reassuring smile on his face. He wanted to do more, maybe hold his hand, but that was enough for now.

“Thank you, Tony..”, Steve nodded as he turned his eyes away, outside the window again, watching.

The buildings started to look more familiar, but everything looked so eerie; he couldn’t see any newspaper boys or balls on the street of kids playing, no busy shops or anyone walking at all across the streets; it was just like Tony described Brooklyn to be: abandoned and unaffected by the passing of time. No, it wasn’t a beautiful sight, but then again, seeing his neighbourhood for one more time made him feel strange.

“Stop the car right there, please”, he said once he spotted the old building he used to live in, getting outside the car before Tony could do the same.

The building stood tall, if people were walking around, he would be convinced that some residents were in fact, still inside. It looked dirty, and the old newspapers thrown around still had quite recent dates written on them.

“Are you ready..?”, Tony’s voice was heard next to him, to which Steve replied with a simple nod and took the keys Tony handed him.

“Where..?”, he asked, looking at the keys in his palm.

“It’s easy to make copies in our day, you know.. and I located your apartment before we planned to come here, got someone to make those keys, I doubted that you had a pair on your own or that you would want to kick your door down..”, Tony replied.

Steve nodded to him and walked forward, opening the main door of the building, walking up the stairs. “The last step is a bit creaky.. the landlord would always tell us to skip it at night to avoid causing more noise..”, he told Tony as they stopped in front of a door. The building looked so dusty, and Tony tried to ignore the mould creeping in the corner, staying close to Steve when he stared at the wooden door with the number 8 on it.

“I’m here no matter what, got it?” he told Steve again, wanting to make sure that he was serious about that.

Steve took a couple of deep breaths and placed the key in the hole, before turning it around and opening the door slightly, before pushing it completely open.

What he saw left him speechless. It was a complete blast from the past; the apartment seemed untouched to strangers like Tony, but Steve knew that someone else has been inside throughout the years. Maybe not to actually live here, but surely to steal things. Upon further inspection, he noticed that one of the drawers in his small living room was broken, where he kept his savings. Not that he cared at that moment; money was the least of his worries for once.

An overwhelming feeling took over him, and he was sure that Tony was talking in the background, probably asking if he was all right, but all he could hear was a very distant voice. He walked further inside, his hands trailing the dusty coffee table and the couch, staring at the shut door of where his bedroom used to be. Taking a deep breath, he pushed the door open, making the same creaking sound it used to do back in the day, remembering how he kept forgetting to ask the landlord if he was able to fix it.

And there it was, his room, seeming untouched by the passing of time; it seemed that whoever broke into his apartment before didn’t bother looking there, which was a huge relief for Steve. In this very room, in the closet, he kept his most prized belongings, things that he loved, that he would miss more than a few bucks if they were to be stolen.

Tony was behind him, being unusually silent, but even him knew all about the sanctity of silence in moments like those. He watched the Captain walking slowly towards the large closet, holding the handles for a moment before opening it. He couldn’t see properly what was inside, but he didn’t want to intrude and disrupt Steve when he was clearly having a strong emotional moment. However, he was there for him, Steve knew that.

The blonde moved something from the back of the closet, taking a dark green uniform outside and placing it carefully on the bed, dusting the pins on the shoulders and chest carefully. Tony recognised it from the various photos he had seen of Steve in old newspapers, even though they were extremely rare; it was easier to find photos and articles of him in his Cap attire instead.

“I’m glad this one is here..”, Steve muttered, kneeling down and pulling a wooden box out of the bottom of the closet, blowing to get rid of the dust and sitting on the floor, holding it close to him.

“And what about that..?”,Tony asked as he cautiously sat down opposite to Steve, giving him some space.

“This.. this is a memory box”, Steve simply said with a huff. “I keep, well, used to keep, things in here that meant a lot to me.. they still do”, he said as opened it and swallowed down, taking out some old sepia photos. He couldn’t help but smile nostalgically as he went through them all; him and Bucky smiling, the Commandos behind them, him and Cynthia laying on the grass, a picture of Peggy later on, looking so focused as she was reading a letter, her dark lipstick defined even in the old photograph.

“I’m sure she was as beautiful as the photo makes her”, Tony said softly, in a way making sure that Steve was staying with him in reality, not to be lost in his memories again. Sure, he understood how overwhelming it felt, but he needed to a grip, just in case. It almost shocked him that the soldier didn’t break down, not even when they stood in front of Peggy’s grave, so he was being careful.

“You have no idea”, Steve smiled at the photograph. “A fiery dame, she was.. One of a kind..”

“And I’m sure that she would be proud of you..”, Tony added, not sure why he even said that.

Steve probably agreed since he remained silent. He didn’t do anything to be proud of, not really, ever since he woke up. He was working on adjusting to this new century and life, but that was about it. It wasn’t even his mourning stage, at least that’s what he thought, but sitting down holding on all those memories sounded like that period of his life. He nodded and picked up one of the comics, flicking through it, and then he noticed a box in the back of the closet, a larger one that the one he was holding on to.

Tilting his head, he pulled it out, wiping the dust from the top of it and taking out a large film reel. “Oh.. I forgot they gave me those.. the pictures..”, he recalled.

“Are those.. the films they’ve made out of you? Of Cap, I mean..”, Tony said with genuine interest; after all, he had been Cap’s fan for a very long time, as long as he could remember, actually. “I’ve seen some of them.. the ones I could actually find..”

“That’s.. one of the oldest ones, I think, when they first started making them.. I remember Bucky’s reaction when we watched it together”, Steve said with a small laugh. “I gotta say, they were pretty inaccurate, but he took it more personally than I did”

“Do you want to watch it?”, Tony suggested. “I mean, watching a Cap film with THE Captain America sitting next to me doing the commentary is an experience I want to live”, he said, not even trying to hide his excitement at that point.

“If you can play it back at the Tower, sure..”, Steve blinked.

“Why wait? I’ve seen a projector in the living room, I can set it up for us..”, Tony said as he got the film reel in his hands and stormed out, pulling the dusty furniture at side, the old projector in the corner of the room on full display now.

Steve merely followed the older man; he learnt by now that he was way too passionate about certain things, and after his little adventure, discovering the room dedicated to his alter ego, he was convinced that Tony was truly fascinated by him. It felt nice, knowing that after all those years someone really believed in him and what he was standing for was an honour. “What are you..? I thought nothing worked in here..”, he asked in confusion, observing Tony pulling the machine apart and frowning.

“This is old.. really old, but I know how it works. In theory.. but it’s not hard at all, I’m a tech genius, after all”, he said confidently. It was true, he never saw a projector like that functioning before, they were all locked up in museums or gathered by collectors of antiques. He didn’t seem to get it to work though, despite trying out all its basic functions. “Gimme a minute or two..”

“No worries”, Steve said as he sat down on the couch, curious to see what Tony was planning. “We can just take it- What are you doing, Tony?”, he asked again, blinking as Tony started to unbutton his shirt, eyes fixed straight away on the piece of machinery on the centre of his chest, lighting up the dark, gloomy room.

“This isn’t just for the show, you know”, Tony replied as he pointed at his reactor. “It’s filled with energy, which is exactly what we need right now”. He took one of the wires and fidgeted with his back turned against Steve for a moment, the projected starting to produce a noise. “Aha! I knew it would work!”, he exclaimed, taking the film reel and carefully putting it inside the machine, the cloth opposite them starting to show blurry images in black and white. “Come on..”, he muttered as he adjusted himself, finally able to see what was on the cloth; Captain America standing on top of the barracks, giving an inspiration speech to his troops.

Steve looked at the images and stood up, walking next to the engineer and smiled. “Just for the record, I didn’t say that. It’s way too cheesy..”

“Oh? And what did you say?”

“Uh.. it’s not exactly nice”, the Captain laughed as he saw the shield hitting a good number of enemies, falling back.

“Kind of hard to believe”, Tony raised an eybrow.

“Well, you better believe it, Stark”, Steve said with a chuckle. “Those pictures sure sugar coated a good number of things.. but that’s what people wanted to see, right? So they gave it to them”, he added as he saw his shield being thrown at some HYDRA soldiers behind a shut door.

They watched the rest of the film while Steve was doing his commentary, Tony asking him all kinds of questions. He seemed reserved at first, but the more Tony asked him, the more answers he was getting out of him. It was just like he expected, Steve was telling him the real deal, not what the pictures showed, how serious he had to be, but also what the films didn’t show, how close he was with the Commandos, Bucky, the rest of his friends, the ladies he developed feelings for even. Tony was listening to him very carefully, staying quiet and just letting the man take everything out of his chest, appreciating more than anything the fact that he was talking to him at that very moment. Before they could even realise, the film was over, but Tony didn’t really move away, besides disconnecting his reactor from the projecting device.

Steve’s eyes focused on the arc reactor yet again, biting on the inside of his lip before daring to ask to the question.

“Tony.. what exactly happened? Why do you have this..?”

Tony looked at his chest and then at Steve. He felt far more comfortable around him by now, and in all honesty, he didn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t know about his past, after all, the two of them had bonded after spending what it seemed ages together.

“I was.. kidnapped before”, he started saying. “A couple of years back”

“The scar still looks quite.. fresh”, Steve pointed out.

Tony shrugged. “Well, it’s been two or three years now. One of the downsides of being the heir to one of the most successful companies for years now, huh? You always have people going after your head. Can’t trust anybody, really, I should have known better”

Tony spoke with such bitterness, and Steve could understand why; the device on his chest did seem painful to keep there. “Does it hurt..?”

“Nah..not really..”, he shook his head. “Not now, at least. Had it tougher when I first had to come up with a replacement for it.. the prototype didn’t really do the job, I had to use my own tech and make this piece of beauty. If this can keep me alive, I’m sure that I can power up entire cities using the same schematics and with much more energy”

“So.. what does it do exactly? I mean, to you..?”

“It’s actually keeping me alive”, Tony replied, giving Steve a couple of seconds to register that. “A shrapnel is located way too close to my heart. This device is using electromagnetic power to keep it away from my heart, so you know, I won’t die. And before you ask, no, I can’t get it removed by surgery, at least not now. Maybe one day, but for now, this is what I live with”

Steve looked at him carefully and then focused on the circle of light; in a strange way, the light felt inviting, comforting even. “It has the power to give you alive..”, he said as he scooted a bit closer to examine it. “I think that it’s beautiful, makes you one of a kind..”, he blurted out.

Tony blinked at what he thought that was a compliment. It sure felt like it, and for a reason he couldn’t explain, he held on to it a lot more than he thought he would.

“Is Captain America calling me beautiful, now?”, he asked with a smile, just to hide his blush.

“Uh...”, Steve said, rubbing the back of his head. “I just..”

“I’m just teasing you, Cap, relax”, Tony cut him before placing a hand on top of Steve’s, feeling how warm it felt against his own palm, trying to pass it off as a casual touch, but the way that Steve looked at him didn’t make him believe that anything going on at that moment was anywhere near innocent and friendly.

“How did you end up living here?”, Tony asked him, breaking the silence between them, but still keeping his hand over Steve’s.

“I uh.. after my mother passed away I had to look for someone else to live.. managed to get this place.. not that I could spend a lot of time here anyway, being Cap meant that I was just spending much time in the battlefield”, he explained. “I did come back before that one mission where I..”, he trailed off.

“You know, I’m glad that we found your apartment in his condition.. you may not able to live here but.. you could at least visit once more”, Tony said to comfort him, to which Steve nodded.

“And you? Where did you grow up..? When we met you said that Howard was-“

“Let’s not focus on me, shall we?”, Tony said, but the look on Steve’s face of pure interest did make him sigh. “I know that you knew my father, but the man you met and I’ve lived with was different. I know that maybe I can’t convince you otherwise, but there’s no point of bringing him up if you’re going to deflect what I might say”

“I wouldn’t.. after all, he was just a friend, you had something more..”

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all to hear that you know more about him than I ever did, Steve. We didn’t exactly get along.. I guess I tried to..”

Steve looked at the man’s hand and held it instead. The moment he did, he same spark he felt when Tony first held his hand in front of Peggy’s grave returned, but he didn’t jolt back, instead he rubbed the back of the man’s hand, urging him to talk if he needed to.

“I guess I just wanted his approval.. you know? Sometimes it’s good to know that I’m doing something useful, that I’m not just a burden to him, to my mother.. I always wanted to impress him, one way or another, and no matter how messed up his ideas of how I should be were, I followed them, just to please him. Even when I drank the entire glass he handed to me, it still wasn’t enough.. That’s where you came in”, he said, looking at Steve, relieved to see that he was still listening to his every word. “I know it was Cap, but.. when I would go to my room and read your comics, I felt that someone was actually thinking that I was doing something useful for once. Every time that Cap would raise his thumb and I would read ‘Good job, Soldier!’, I couldn’t help but think that it was directed to me.. and that made me feel special.. I now know that every kid that read the comics thought the same thing but.. it was comforting to me”, he admitted.

Steve kept his eyes on him the entire time, leaning closer to take a better look at those clever, blue eyes, illuminated by the reactor’s light coming out from Tony’s open shirt. After spending so much time with Tony, this was the most emotional talk that he had with him, and the fact that he considered him some sort of a guardian only made his heart fill with newfound joy. He needed that, he needed to know that someone really needed him there, especially when he thought that he couldn’t offer anything to this newfound world, not at this state.

“Tony, Captain America might not be here now but.. I hope that Steve Rogers is good enough for you..”, he said softly.

“Steve Rogers would be more than just good enough.. maybe even better than Cap”, Tony replied with a faint smile.

He felt it coming, him and Steve were leaning closer to each other, his heart was pounding, and he could tell that Steve has the same thing in mind.

“I could help you.. be the Captain again.. be the hero you really are..”, he whispered.

Upon hearing those words, Steve snapped out of the mesmerising stare he was giving Tony, pulling back and shaking his head.

“Tony.. you know that I can’t do it.. there’s no point, the world obviously doesn’t need me, I don’t think that I can offer anything wearing the star spangled outfit anymore.. I’m just Steve.. just him, nothing else”, he said sternly.

Tony internally cursed his big mouth; he should have spoken after all this, not during the progression of what it seemed to be such an intimate moment for them.

“You’re wrong, Steve.. there’s so much to offer to everyone, just like you inspired me, you can inspire thousands of people! Not just lost kids, every single person in this country. They need something to believe in, to reassure them that their future is going somewhere, that we’re not destroying this planet aimlessly. You’re an icon, a leading future, if they saw you rising from the ashes, standing tall in the same costume you once wore, do you know what it would mean to them? If the future is scaring them, maybe showing them someone old fashioned will reassure them more than anything”, Tony replied to him, hoping that Steve would be persuaded.

“No, Tony.. I can’t do it, not now”, Steve said firmly, sticking to his ideas. “Just.. give me some time to think, all right? I’ll stay here for the time being, I’ll contact you when I’ll make my decision..”, he said as he stood up.

Tony looked at him and just nodded, buttoning up his own shirt and getting hid blazer. “I understand that you need some extra time but.. you can’t just stay here. There’s nothing for you here, or even around you. Nobody lives here anymore, Steve, I told you that everyone moved into the main part of the city, and with good reason..”, he explained.

“Tony”, Steve said before Tony could say anything else. “I think that fighting a war and staying frozen for a good number of decades prepare me to leave in the cruel wasteland in Brooklyn”

“Was that supposed to be a joke? It feels weird coming from you..”, Tony muttered. “Very well, but don’t hesitate to reach for me, got it? My door is always open, even if you don’t.. want to take the offer”, he said, not really willing to go away, especially when he spent so much time being inseparable with Steve. He walked close to the door, opening it hesitatingly. “Be careful.. okay?”

“You too, Tony”, Steve said. He didn’t want him to leave, Tony had been there ever since he woke up, but the moment that the billionaire closed the door behind him, he was alone again.

All alone left with his memores. All alone in an empty room with nobody else to be there for him. Alone.

 

***

 

Living on his own again hurt a lot. He didn’t trust himself alone with his thoughts, but he needed time to think about his position in the new future he found himself trapped in. That was his first mistake, he had to stop thinking that he was trapped, but try and adjust. Tony was making that process easier for him, and part of him was calling himself a true idiot for declining his offer to stay at the Tower while he made up his mind. The man seemed to have true and humble intentions, he wanted him to be there with him, but Steve turned him down, not wanting to be just another burden. Of course, if he dared to tell Tony that, he would get reassurance and tell him how wrong he was.

Maybe being Captain America again wouldn’t be so bad after all, but would it give Steve another purpose to live and fight when everything seemed lost? Was he going to just fight an aimless battle to offer nothing to the world? That was his fear, of being rejected and forgotten, but Tony made it clear that even if that was the case, one soul would believe in him, and that was the engineer himself.

Over the course of the next couple of days, he managed to get some electricity running in his apartment, using wires and every thing else he could salvage from the empty flats, feeling bad doing so. He couldn’t help but apologise to the non existing residents as he powered up his TV and radio, even though they weren’t very helpful and trusty. The radio however seemed easier to catch on the frequencies of the city, and that was exactly how he heard the news.

He was laying on the sofa, squeezing a small ball and staring at the ceiling, trying to think if he would go back to Tony in the Tower, maybe have some more time to think about his decision, when the song was interrupted, the radio host sounding distressed as she started talking.

“Breaking news! Well known industrialist billionaire Tony Stark has been missing from his privates quarters in New York earlier this morning. Personal assistant Pepper Potts says that signs of struggle were observed in the scene, and police forces are doing their hardest to invest a case of kidnapping, similar to the events of two years ago”, she said.

Steve jumped straight up, turning up the volume, his heart racing at the possibility of Tony being captured and tortured again. He only heard what happened to him a couple of days ago, and he couldn’t help but take responsibility, clearly if he stayed in the tower, he could have stopped this.

“…We have received more information from Stark’s close friend Colonel James Rhodes, claiming that Obadiah Stane, partner and investor of Stark Industries is involved to the incident, but he’s not yet located to make any comments”

That was good enough for Steve; he didn’t like Stane, the way he talked to Tony, even the way he looked at him raised his alarms, and now he was proven right. He knew what he needed to do; he was going to save Tony. Even if the world didn’t need Captain America, it was obvious that Tony needed him now more than anything else. His eyes fell on a small bag in the corner of the room that he didn’t notice before, peeking from behind the curtains. That didn’t belong to him, he was sure, Tony must have left it there when they first entered the apartment. With initial hesitation, he unzipped the bag, letting out a huff when he took out the contents of it.

There it was, his Captain America uniform, all patched up, like he had never been in the ice in first place. The star in the centre, the scales on the arms and shoulders, everything seemed untouched. His cowl was resting there on top of everything, the wings on the side standing up prideful. This was it, he was going to save Tony, he was going to wear the uniform and there was no turning back, not now, not ever.

Taking a deep breath, he started changing into the star spangled outfit, putting on the bright red gloves and boots, looking at his reflection on the dusty mirror before pulling up his cowl, covering part of his face.

“I’m coming, Tony”, he said as he realised that his shield was nowhere to be found; most likely back to his quarter in the Tower, where he had left him before he set foot in Brooklyn. That was his plan, head back to the main part of the city, retrieve his shield and look for Tony. Giving the apartment one last look, he ran down the stairs and into the empty streets.

 

***

 

Tony could feel the cold breeze against his face, opening his eyes slightly to look at his surroundings. “What…where..”, he muttered. The last thing he remembered was a hard knock on the head while he was getting ready for one of his board member meetings and a distant laugh. Right away, the only thing that came to his mind, was yet another kidnapping case, which didn’t help him calm down at all.

“No, no.. not again..”, he said as he squirmed, noticing that he was hand cuffed on a pillar on top of the- how the heck was he even on top of his own Tower?!

“Wakey wakey, Tony”, a familiar voice was heard from the opposite direction, and Obadiah Stane appeared in the picture, a wide grin spread on his face. “How do you like the view? Pretty splendid, don’t you think?”, he asked as he turned to look at the city below them.

“How typical of you to turn into an A class standard villain”, Tony commented, trying to get his hands free, but the handcuffs were indeed restricting.

“A villain? I think that you misunderstood me here.. I’m simply doing business.. I asked you to pass the Captain to undergo some little experiments.. but you kept him away for yourself like the spoilt brat you are. So I figured out how to get him back! Dogs are loyal to their owners, right? He’ll come running to you any moment now”, Stane laughed as he approached Tony.

“What do you need him for anyway? Feel free to ramble away about how much you want this unlimited power, rule the world, get rich, whatever you have in mind”, Tony said as he kept his eyes fixed on him.

“Clever boy”, the older man said as he gave Tony’s cheek a pat. “I need the secret to the super soldier serum, simple as that. If the Captain is willing to cooperate, we’ll take his samples and let you both go. If he refuses.. maybe I need to be more persuasive.. how do you think that he would react if he saw his precious Tony being tortured right before his eyes? So helpless..”

“And you think that you and whatever men you have creeping around can stop Captain America? Really, Obi? I feel sorry for you”, Tony laughed, receiving a menacing smile from Stane.

“We’ll see about that..”, he replied, his communicator beeping and walking away from Tony to answer. “What do you mean he’s here?? I’ve told you to you guard all the exits and the entrance! I don’t care, just stop him!”

Tony smiled widely; Steve came here, he came all the way back to save him, just like he would expect from a super hero like himself. The panic and annoyance in Stane’s voice and expression really satisfied Tony; the star spangled man seemed to have came with a plan indeed, and judging by the way the older man was shouting orders, it wouldn’t take long for his hero to appear right before them.

 

***

 

Steve managed to sneak in the Tower and he silently took out a good number of guards, retrieving his shield from the room he had been using, but just like he expected, more guards were there to greet him as soon as he got into the main hall to step into the elevator.

“Going somewhere, flag man?”, one of them taunted, circling Steve with the rest of his goons following.

“That’s not even one of my code names, get it right!”, Steve said as he held his trusty shield close to his chest, calculating each and every move. As soon as they started to close in, he threw his shield, and before they could even realise what happened, the vibranium disk made a complete turn, knocking most of them out almost instantly, before returning into Steve’s hand.

“What the..”, one of them said with widened eyes, pointing with his gun at Steve, but the weapon was knocked out, only to receive himself a hard punch on the jaw.

“Where is Tony?!”, Steve asked the last man standing, grabbing his collar and holding him against the wall. “I don’t have time for games”, he made sure to add as he pressured the guard.

“O-on top of the Tower! Last floor, just outside..!”, the man stuttered, falling on the ground and crawling towards the exit as Steve let him fall, adjusting his shield and running towards the staircase.

 

***

 

“Don’t let him come upstairs! Why am I even paying you, you bastards??”, Stane shouted through the intercom, clearly annoyed and frustrated by now, which only made Tony smile wider in anticipation. “What are you laughing at, you little prick? Think that your precious Captain will fix everything up? Save the day and all that superhero crap you keep on believing? Hate to break it to you, kid, that won’t happen”, he said as he pulled out a syringe from his pocket, walking towards the restrained man. “I wonder what will happen if I inject you with this.. will it kill you? Maybe we should test that, if I don’t get my lab rat later, I might as well get a replacement now”

“Don’t you even think about touching him!”, a stern voice was heard behind them, and before blinking an eye, the syringe was knocked off Stane’s hand, leaving the older man rub his fingers in pain, knocked down by Steve with a swift movement.

“Cap!”, Tony shouted, almost by reflex. In his surprise, Steve didn’t correct him, instead he ran towards him and broke the handcuffs using his shield, hugging the man close to his chest.

“Are you hurt? Did he do anything to you?”, he asked with visible concern, sighing in relief when Tony shook his head.

“He wanted you, not me. But you came here, all the way from Brooklyn to save me..? How even did you-“, Tony was interrupted by the sound of someone coughing, and when both him and Steve turned around, he watched in horror as Stane was pressing the syringe in his arm, the liquid quickly disappearing into his body.

“Tony.. what is.. that?”, Steve asked carefully, letting go of the engineer and standing in front of him, shielding him from the potential threat.

“I don’t know for sure but.. it seemed like some kind of serum.. he’s not using the incomplete one, is he? He’s missing a good number of compounds, he needs your blood to define which ones are-“

“Tony”, Steve cut him again. “Tony, get inside!”

Tony’s eyes widened as the man before them started shaking violently, his skin started to turn grey, his whole body growing, but the muscles weren’t popping out consistently, it seemed that Stane’s body was trying to accommodate the serum and failing.

“Do you think that you’ve won, Tony? That is all over?”, the mutated man spoke in a strong, strangely horrific voice as he hit his giant arms on the ground.

“Tony! Stop staring and go inside!”, Steve shouted as Tony froze in place, just looking at his once business partner being turned into a monster right before his own eyes.

“I’m not leaving you with him!”, he shouted in return.

“Just go! I’ll take care of this!”, Steve insisted as he dodged an attack from Stane who was laughing maniacally.

Tony nodded and ran inside, watching the fight through the glass door, trying to think of a way to help Steve. He was right there, fighting for him, to save him and for the first time in his life, he was seeing Captain America, the true Captain America in action. It was thrilling and exciting, but at the same time he was worrying himself to death, worried about Steve’s safety.

“Don’t force me to hurt you, Stane!”, Steve yelled at the large monstrous man as he rolled at side and threw his shield on his back, hearing the man growling in pain.

“That’s funny! I’m bigger and stronger than you, Captain! You’re just a relic, you should make way for the new soldiers that this world needs! Go back into the pit where you belong!”, he growled in the same voice that made Tony shiver.

“Sometimes you just have to grab the bull by the horns”, Steve replied as he ran behind him, jumping on the man’s back, trying to hold on him as he shook himself to throw the soldier off.

“Insolent pest!”, Stane shouted as he managed to grab Steve’s leg and before the blonde could react, he grabbed him and held him tightly, squeezing his chest. The shield fell from his hands, landing on the ground with a loud thump, Steve having to fight for air as he felt his ribs cracking.

Tony’s fists clenched, Steve had to fight back, he knew he would, he was the Captain after all, there was nothing he couldn’t do, but then it came to him. All those years looking up to the Captain he was just preparing himself for that moment, where he would save his hero, help him defeat the big guy, just like in the comics he read so many times before. Without any hesitation, he ran outside, and before Stane realised, Tony picked up the shield, which was way lighter then he thought it would be, hitting the man as hard as he could on his foot.

Stane groaned in agony as he let Steve fall down, knocking Tony away with his strong arm, sending him flying towards the glass door, shattering it to pieces.

“Tony!”, Steve shouted again, getting his shield and managing a good number of hard hits on Stane, who made a couple of steps back towards the edge of the rooftop. The soldier ran towards Tony who seemed to be unconscious, shaking him while holding him protectively in his hands. “Tony! Listen to me!”, he shouted, fearing for the worst.

Tony’s eyes fluttered, opening his right eye to look at Steve. “Steve..? Are you..?”, he muttered.

“I’m fine, are you hurt??”

“I’m good just.. my back hurts a bit..”, he coughed.

“Are you two lovebirds done?”, Stane’s voice was heard, the ground trembling when he walked towards them, hitting one of the pillars, doing the same to the one next to it.

Tony reached for his shield and held it over their heads straight away, to protect them from the falling stones. “Stop, you’re going to crush the roof down!”

Stane laughed as he made his way towards them, ignoring the loud noise and creaking from the ground as he slid his heavy feet across it.

“Steve..”, Tony groaned as he looked at the man approaching.

“Don’t worry, Tony..”, the soldier reassured him, waiting for the perfect chance.

“That’s right, you can’t do anything! I should have killed you a long time ago, Tony, you and your dog are going down for good!”, Stane laughed, standing before them, his hand up in the air, ready to strike them down.

“Steve..”, Tony repeated again, shutting his eyes, the echo of Stane’s laugh ringing in his ears.

“No, you’re the one going down, Stane!”, Steve shouted as he hit the ground with his shield, the trembling becoming louder as the floor started to collapse beneath Stane, and before he knew it, he was trying to grab on to anything to keep himself up, his large fingers slipping, his fall following with a loud cry.

Tony was speechless as he held on to Steve, still in shock. “What just happened..?”, he said after a while, sitting up properly, but still not letting go of the Captain.

“I.. I saved you”, Steve said as he got up, holding Tony, both of them battered up but close to each other. “I’m pretty sure you’re safe now..”

“You’re.. you’re Captain America”, Tony replied, looking at him from head to toe, from the star in the middle of his uniform to the shiny shield.

“I.. I guess I am..”, Steve whispered, hearing some noise coming from under the Tower. “What is happening..?”

Both of them carefully walked inside, to the other side of the room and opened the window to see a large crowd under the Tower, all of them cheering and throwing their fists in the air.

“It’s Captain America!”

“Captain, wave at us!”

“It’s really him!”

It was Steve’s turn to be speechless, and when he turned at Tony, he found him smiling widely at him.

“Go ahead, give them a wave”, he said softly.

Steve looked down again, saluting at the crowd, receiving yet another loud cheer. He sighed in relief as he stepped back inside, rubbing the back of his head.

“Do you really think that there’s a place for me in this world, Tony?”, he asked the older man who sat by his side.

“Look out there, Steve.. I really think that those people need you. They need to believe in someone, and you seem to be that person. No pressure or anything, I’m saying that from personal experience”, Tony replied to him, giving him yet another confident smile.

“You.. Do you mean that you believe in me?”

“More than anyone else. You mean a lot more to me than you’ll ever understand, Steve..”, the billionaire replied as he rubbed the man’s back softly.

“I guess that Captain America is back then.. Thank you, Tony..”, Steve said with a faint smile.

“No, Steve. Thank you”

 

***

 

Steve had little recollection of the past couple of weeks; he remembered doing press interviews, photo shoots, meeting with veterans, kids, anyone willing to learn more about Captain America and listen to his inspirational speeches. Tony has been his side throughout everything, and even when Steve was able to move in his own place, Tony insisted that he stayed in the Tower with him. For a strange reason, Steve didn’t reject his offer, and before he knew it, things started to get better.

Tony’s research gave more results, and his team of scientists and engineers were able to harness the energy coming from his bigger in scale arc reactors. Steve listened to him with a bright smile as he rambled, saying how their city would have more trustworthy and clean energy than it ever did before. Criminals were brought in justice by Steve every day, and Steve was enjoying what he did once again; using his abilities to ensure that his beloved country was safe once more. Everything seemed to have been fixed, all but one thing that needed to be taken care of.

It was late in the afternoon, and Steve was sitting on the rooftop of the Tower, that became one of his favourite spots to relax and think.

“Cap, think fast!”, a voice was heard from behind him, and Steve’s widened as he caught the bag in his hand, taking out a large donut.

“Impressive as always”, Tony said as he sat down next to him, biting on his own, jam filled pastry.

“Now you’re just making me blush, Tony”, he teased him in return, looking at the rose coloured sky. The sunset was beautiful from up there, that was for sure, and he smiled widely when Tony sat back and stared at the sun.

After watching him for so long and being by his side, not to mention the little moments the two of them shared, he couldn’t help but think that he was falling for the man. The way the sunlight painted his dark hair was such a beautiful sight. And then he did it, he turned around and faced the Captain; his eyes were shining, their bright blue colour that he adored.

“What is it, Cap?”, Tony asked him with a head tilt.

“I uh.. I wanted to tell you something, Tony..”

“Go ahead, Steve, I’m all ears”, Tony prompted him, letting his pastry at side and licking his lips.

“You know, I can’t thank you enough for all this.. for helping me so much, you literally gave me a purpose in this new world, Tony.. not to mention a home, I couldn’t ask for anything else.. you’ve been here for me more than anyone else did, no matter what... never left my side and I.. I really appreciate that..”, he started, seeing that Tony’s expression softened.

“You don’t need to thank me about anything, Steve, I really mean this.. I’m the one who should thank you, you saved my life, everything seems to be going great ever since I found you.. you’re almost like my lucky charm”, the man smiled. “No, more than just that..”

“I thought that I’ve lost everyone, I truly did.. but it seems that I’ve found someone here that changed this.. that came to mean so much to me.. that’s you”, Steve said softly.

Tony could feel his heart racing; it couldn’t be true, right? His feelings for Steve were taking over him, and to hear that the other man felt the same way made him panic, all in a good way. Nothing before seemed to be going well for Tony Stark, but that man showed up to change everything.

“..Really? I didn’t realise that the feeling was mutual..”, he whispered.

It was Steve’s turn to blush faintly, rubbing the back of his head. He didn’t expect to get a confirmation straight away, but the fact that Tony seemed to be feeling the same way was simply astonishing. “I.. uh.. I really..”, he stuttered as he leaned closer to the older man, keeping his eyes fixed on him.

The beautiful Captain was coming closer, his bright azure eyes that defined his handsome face focused on him, and before he knew it, he was moving in as well. “You.. what..?”, he said in a low voice, their lips only inches away from each other.

Steve swallowed down; there was no point struggling with words any longer, and leaning closer one last time, his lips met Tony’s.

It felt that time stopped, the only thing that mattered was the emotions and feeling he was pouring into that soft, gentle kiss. He could still taste the raspberry jam from the donut, but besides that, Tony tasted so refreshing, his rosy lips not parting away with his own until moments later. Tony was looking at him, eyelashes battering and cheeks slightly redder, and my God, was he just stunning. There was only one word to describe how he was feeling at that very moment, but he wasn’t sure if he dared to say it loud, until Tony did.

“I love you, Steve”, the older man whispered, speaking with so much conviction. “I’m in love with you”

Steve pulled him into his arms before Tony could even finish speaking, holding him so tightly, desperate to feel his warm body against his own. “I love you too..”

“Feels good to finally say it.. huh?”, Tony said as he wrapped his arms around the soldier; this was better than he ever dreamt of, and he did dream about it too much.

“Mhm.. I should have done so sooner.. if I knew that you would react like that..”, Steve said softly, looking up after a while and caressing the man’s soft cheeks.

“Everything happened in its own pace, Steve.. I loved that.. and whatever brought us two together..”, Tony said as he let out a soft huff to the feeling of the man’s hands.

“So.. this happened, huh? The two of us.. together.. it’s all real..”, Steve said, just to receive the confirmation he needed.

“Looks like it to me.. I don’t believe in Heaven, but.. this, right here and now with you? This is Heaven”, Tony said, and Steve didn’t hesitate to reply to that with another gentle kiss.

 

The future changed for the better, that was for sure.