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we will meet in another life

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There’s only so much Dr. Abraham Erskine can take of Tony Stark, even in the working environment. Especially in the working environment. Working with Stark has been an interesting experience, on good days and bad days, but the good days are less likely to make Abraham tear his hair out at the roots.

Today is definitely a bad day, by all indicators. Abraham hadn’t expected that- it had started off well, with Tony sitting up from his workbench after falling asleep on it for four hours, and proceeding to wobble over to the coffee machine. He and Abraham had started the usual morning routine, jokes and amicable conversation about the prototypes they’re working on.

Then there had been a knock on the door, and Abraham had said something along the lines of, “Ah, sorry, my friend. It slipped my mind- I have found a new candidate for Project Rebirth.”

Tony had snorted. “Anyone’s better than the asshole Colonel Philips is trying to shove on us.” He had paused for a mouthful of coffee, and then waved the cup at the door. “Bring him in.”

Abraham had then been called away, seconds after opening the door and introducing the two men, who shook hands friendly enough.

When he had returned, Steve was gone and Tony had his goggles back on, shoved hard over his eyes, and was mumbling something about his new set of equations. His fingers were white around the soldiering iron.

“How’d it go,” Abraham asked, already knowing the answer by how Tony spat out curse words every few equations.

Tony hadn’t even looked up, and had told Abraham to ‘fuck the fuck off.’ Abraham had raised his eyebrows and settled down at his desk with his notes from yesterday, prepared for a long wait.

“So,” he says, after he’s finally reached his daily quota on Tony Stark’s deranged muttering. “What do you think of him?”

His workmate twitches, and Abraham is fully ready for another dose of ‘fuck the fuck off, Abraham, for the love of god, genius doesn’t happen with this many interruptions,’ but to his surprise, Tony lifts his head.

“We were screaming at each other before you had been gone five minutes.”

This… wasn’t unexpected, since Tony has barely slept this week, and Abraham has been waiting for him to go off. And now that he considers it, the two men do have the kind of personalities that would clash.

“What about?”

Tony throws up his hands. “I don’t- I don’t even know, the guy’s just infuriating. He took something the wrong way, and I might have been a bit snappish-”

“You might’ve,” Abraham nods.

Tony continues, raving like a lunatic, hair everywhere, engine grease even moreso. “I mentioned Carter and he started going off about why women should have rights, and he didn’t even let me get a word in edgewise so I could agree with him, and then one thing led to another. Things were said. Yelled. None of it was my fault, except possibly the part in the middle when I sort of insulted him repeatedly.”

He stops. His eyes have smudges underneath them from lack of sleep. “Infuriating,” he repeats, pointing a finger at Abraham. “And skinny as hell. Bet he couldn’t do a pushup if you paid him. No idea why you picked him, Abraham.”

Abraham breathes out hard through his nose. Everyone he’s ever met has called him a calm man, but months working with Stark would test a saint’s patience. “I picked him, Stark, because he is courageous, and kind, and stubborn, and most importantly, he is truly a good man.” He shrugs, twiddling his pencil between his fingers. “One would think you two would get along quite well, given those characteristics.”

Tony splutters for a few seconds before managing, “I’m stubborn, that is literally one of the four things you just said, what the hell.” He turns back to his project, probably just to give his hands something to do, and grabs a big chunk of metal. Abraham makes a note to suggest gloves to him more often.

“And he’s still infuriating,” Tony says down at the metal.

“Well, there’s another characteristic to match yours, Stark.”

Tony huffs, but doesn’t look up from his work.

 

 

 

Steve comes to apologize two days later.

Tony squints at him for a while before leaning against the doorframe. Through the door, Steve can see a skeleton of metal: there’s a gauntlet, a boot, a torso, all painted in red and gold. Steve wonders what the hell Stark is doing with it.

“What do you want?”

“I wanted to say sorry for the first impression I made,” Steve says, barely managing not to grit his teeth, making sure to look him in the eye. God, this man. He hasn’t met anyone who pushes him like Stark does, with such minimal effort. “I wanted to apologize. Dr Erskine says you’re a brilliant man.”

As do the papers. And the entire female population of Manhattan, excluding Peggy, who just arched a dry eyebrow when Steve brought him up.

“Dr Erskine isn’t wrong.”

This. Man. Jesus Christ.

“Anyway, I’m sorry,” Steve says quickly, and shoves his hand out at him.

Tony stares at it, then at Steve’s face, like someone would stare at a guy you’re sure is trying to nick your wallet. “Okay,” Tony says finally, holding out his hand.

They shake, and Tony says, “Yeah, and me too, sorry, that is,” in a garbled rush before slamming the door in Steve’s face.

Steve gives in and grits his teeth. There. That’s down, now all he has to do is not strangle Stark when he sees him again.

 

 

 

They don’t talk much, a few stilted conversations and some awful small talk where everyone around them gives each other pointed looks that Steve can’t decipher.

They play a game of chess, once, about a week before Steve is set to go under Project Rebirth, but they hardly speak during it.

Tony wins, but only just, and they both seem surprised. After this, Tony stands, and says the only thing he’s said since Steve sat down: “Good strategic skills. You might be useful after all.”

 

 

 

Project Rebirth- hurts, more than anything. It’s painful, and Steve can’t focus on anything but how it feels like his body is burning up, like his bones are on fire, scorching his skin.

He’s vaguely aware of yelling something, and the feeling continues, and he’s clenching his teeth hard enough he thinks he hears a crack, but then the pain from the tooth is gone and so is everything else, and he sags against the pod.

The door slides open, and he staggers, and almost immediately there’s Dr Erskine holding him up on one side, and Tony Stark on the other.

“I think it worked,” he hears Dr Erskine say.

Steve is panting, sweat is running everywhere, and when he glances down at Stark, he’s staring at the body in front of him. Admiring his successful project, Steve assumes.

“Uh-huh,” Tony says, sounding very far away, and helps Steve to stand up on his own, his hands lingering on Steve’s ribcage, which are now adorned with ab muscles that are more defined than Steve has ever seen on a man.

Then Peggy’s marching up, and her hand flickers out and then back to her side.

How do you feel?

Taller.

You look taller, Peggy tells him, with a strained smile, and then everything blurs sideways. An explosion, and a gunshot, and Steve watches in horror as Dr Erskine hits the floor.

“Stark’s knocked out,” he hears someone yell, and then something about an ambulance, but Steve is only half paying attention, instead starting to run towards the direction he saw the man with the gun heading.

 

 

 

Later, Steve drops by Stark’s workshop.

Through the door, he can see, again, the metal skeleton, more filled out now. He wonders what it is- according to the papers, Stark stopped making weapons ever since he got back from his capture, but Steve can’t think of what else it might be other than one heck of a bodysuit.

He thinks something is off, but doesn’t realize what it is until he realizes he’s not even eye-to-eye with Stark, he’s taller than him now. It’s strange, looking down at him.

“I’m sorry about Dr Erskine- Abraham,” Steve says, and Stark snorts, waving a hand. The action seems too loose, and Steve thinks he smells liquor on Tony’s breath.

“Yeah, back at you. He really was fond of you. Even without the whole guinea pig thing.”

“…guinea pig thing?”

“You know, like, you were his guinea pig.” Stark waves a hand again. “Science experiment.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“Aren’t I yours, too?”

“A little bit mine. Mostly his. How’s that going, by the way?”

“Good,” Steve says, adjusting his crossed arms out of habit. It’s a new sensation, his limbs being too big for him. He supposes this is how puberty felt for boys who weren’t him. “Yeah, it’s- good.”

“Good. I’m glad.” Tony smiles, and yeah, Steve is pretty sure he’s drunk right now. It’s midday, but Steve guesses he can be excused, since his buddy died and all. “He’d be glad it’s you Project Rebirth worked on.”

Steve’s throat constricts. “Peggy- Agent Carter said the same thing.”

“Mm. She would. She liked him, too, but I s’pose she’d have to. She’s a woman in the army, he was a Jewish German scientist in America. Got the cards stacked against them. I think they bonded over having massive balls of steel.”

Steve snorts despite himself. “That sounds like them.”

Tony nods. “Hey, you want a drink?”

It’s midday, Steve opens his mouth to say. Instead, he says, “Can’t get drunk. New metabolism, remember?”

“Oh.” Tony frowns. “Right. I know that.” He leans on the doorframe, putting all his weight on it. “I heard you were going with those show guys.”

“Sure am. Something about war bonds.”

“Sounds terrible. God-awful.”

“I’m hoping it’ll be okay.” Steve shrugs. “Anything to help, I guess.”

Tony’s eyes are on him in a weirdly piercing way that Steve has only seen previously directed at a particularly stubborn bit of equipment. “No offence, Steve, but I designed, like, half of that new body you got there. You sure you want to use it to prance around on a stage?”

“I’ll be boosting the country’s morale.”

“Good luck with that,” Tony says, still with that look. “Well, good luck, Captain America.”

Again, Steve snorts. It’s softer this time, though. “I hope that doesn’t stick.”

“If wishes were horses,” Tony says, too articulate for his level of drunk, “We’d all be eating steak.”

 

 

 

When Tony tells Steve he might drop by during one of his tours, Steve doesn’t take him seriously. After all, the man has a very demanding job, and there’s a war going on.

But as Steve is unlacing his boots after the 252nd show, a figure appears in the door of his dressing room.

At first he assumes its Jack, the guy who plays Hitler on stage, who is actually a pretty swell guy. But then he looks up, and Tony Stark is standing in his doorway, leaning on his damn doorframe like he does with every single doorframe Steve has seen him stand in.

“Uh,” Tony says. “Hi.”

“Hi,” Steve says, and so begins one of the weirdest friendships Steve has ever had, not that he’s had an abundance of them.

At first, Steve loses himself in complaining about how he’s had to run his lines so many times on stage and off stage that he now hears the ‘Captain America’ song in his sleep, and has woken up singing it more times than he cares to count. Tony listens, propping his chin on his fist, making the occasional comment until Steve stops talking and realizes it’s been over an hour since he started.

“Sorry,” he starts, but Tony waves him away.

“It’s fine.”

“I’m sure you have a lot to do,” Steve says.

“Always,” Tony agrees. “But apparently I have to stop sometime, otherwise I go loopy. A loopy Tony doesn’t make good stuff. So, here I am.”

“Here you are,” Steve says.

There’s a silence.

“Hey, you want to play chess again?”

Steve wins this time, and Tony challenges him to a rematch, lamenting over how he was the all-time winner at his university and how Steve was obviously cheating. Over the course of the week, Tony is ahead, 20 wins to Steve’s 18.

Nowadays, they talk during the matches, and Steve has found that he actually enjoys Tony’s company when he’s not being an entitled brat. When he tells Tony this, Tony just laughs and says, “Back at you,” and then, “HAH, checkmate.”

Tony is still in the lead after that, 21 to 18.

 

 

“How many cups have you had?”

“Two.”

“Tony.”

“Three?”

“Tony.”

“Four. Ish. That’s all, I swear.”

“Oh, that’s all. Only four cups of coffee, hand to God.”

“Hey, that’s not much compared to what I used to drink every morning!”

“You should drink less of it. It mucks with your system.”

“If by ‘mucks with it’ you mean ‘makes me able to function properly as a human being,’ then yes.”

“Give me the cup, Tony.”

“No.”

“Ton-”

“No, nope, no way, Cap, just-”

“Tony, be an adult about this- for god sakes, you’re acting like a-”

“I’ll be a child if I want t-”

“…”

“…”

“…Huh.”

“…Okay, it seems that since the serum, you are indeed taller than me and you can, in fact, hold my coffee mug over my head. Like an ass. Which you are. Stop LAUGHING.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, oh my god, it’s just- you’re so short now.”

“I’m not short! You’re, you’re freakishly tall, with your tree trunk arms and your- stupid- long- legs- DAMNIT, STEVEN, GIVE ME BACK MY FUCKING COFFEE.”

“Jump for it, short stack.”

“I hate you.”

“Nearly got it that time, only a bit further!”

“I loathe every inch of your stupid tall body.”

“Oooh, so close! Put your back into it, Stark, that was pathetic.”

“You’re a horrible human being.”

 

 

 

In the middle of a truly incredible scientific discovery, Peggy Carter bursts into Tony’s workshop without knocking and Tony yelps.

“What the hell, woman-”

“Steve wants your help flying a plane behind enemy lines to get his friend back from where he’s been captured.”

Tony blinks. “That… is unbelievably stupid and reckless. Isn’t he supposed to be the perfect soldier?”

“He has the body of a perfect soldier,” Peggy corrects him. “He has the mind of a stubborn idiot who does what he thinks is right, which, in this case, is saving his boyhood friend.”

“Barnes,” Tony nods, remembering a conversation during a particularly intense game of chess. When Peggy raises her eyebrow at him, Tony backpedals. “Ah, he mentioned it.”

“Mm-hm,” Peggy says. “Will you help us or not?”

“Us?”

“Yes. I’m coming.”

“Of course you are,” Tony mutters. “Okay, fine. I’m in. But he’s using a Stark communicator, not one of those pieces of crap you guys insist on using.”

“Fine by me,” Peggy says, and marches out, Tony trailing behind her.

When he gets outside, Steve is standing there with an expression that Tony’s never seen before, but fits Steve perfectly.

They steal a plane with relative ease, since all Tony has to do is walk in and flash a smile and spin a yarn around wanting to take his own plane back home, yes Carter and Rogers are tagging along, no Rogers doesn’t have a performance in 20 minutes, what are you talking about.

Tony gets behind the wheel and is nearly off the ground when Colonel Philips comes running up to them.

“Shit,” Tony says, and he can’t hear the guy yelling, but he’s pretty sure it’s obscenities. They pull off the ground, and fly a good few hours until they’re circling over enemy territory.

And it’s fine, and Peggy yells something over the noise and Steve yells something back and grins and then pushes out, and Peggy calls over her shoulder when the parachute unfurls.

Then: “Oh, bloody hell.”

Tony’s head jerks over his shoulder. “What, what?”

Peggy shoves Tony’s handmade, beautifully crafted communicator under his nose. The communicator which isn’t in Steve’s pocket.

“Fucking fuck fuck,” Tony says eloquently. He stares, grabs it, and looks up at Peggy, in the throes of making a decision which he can’t decide is terrible or magnificent. “Peggy. I’m going to turn the plane to autopilot, okay?”

“Autowhat,” Peggy says, her face set in angry, worried lines. “Stark, what are you-”

“Idiot can’t even remember the communicator,” Tony says, and pushes a series of buttons that- yes, thank god- work, and the autopilot flicks on. He turns to Peggy again, getting out of his seat and making his way to the parachutes.

Peggy makes a noise, grabbing ahold of the wheel, but Tony says, “No, it’s fine, it’ll drive itself back to where it landed. Hopefully. It’s a prototype, it was only supposed to be for emergencies, I’m surprised it even worked.”

“The plane will drive itself back,” Peggy repeats, incredulous, watching as Tony shucks on a parachute, securing it to his body. “Stark, what the hell?”

“I’m giving Steve his goddamn communicator,” Tony tells her, shoving said communicator into a side pocket and then buttoning it shut. He nods at the wheel. “Honestly, Carter, you can let go, it’s fine.”

Peggy side-eyes him something fierce, but slowly lets go. They both tense, but nothing happens except smooth flying, and Tony mentally congratulates himself on being a second-to-none genius.

He finishes securing the parachute, and makes his way to the open door. “Safe flying,” he says to Peggy.

“You’re insane,” she tells him, but there’s a hint of a smile there. “Get him back safe, will you?”

Tony gives her a salute, and it’s sloppy, because he’s no solider. Peggy returns it with ten times more precision, and Tony holds his breath, adjusts his goggles, and jumps.

 

 

 

Steve’s face when he sees Tony is something Tony will be laughing at years from now.

“What the hell,” Steve hisses, quiet, because even though they just knocked out the guards there might still be some left around.

“You left this,” Tony hisses back, and goes into his pocket for the communicator. He holds it up, and Steve’s face turns from angry to guilty.

“Oh.”

“Yeah, oh,” Tony whispers, and there’s a lull in the conversation as they have to pause to knock out several more guards.

When Tony is finished wrestling his gun out of some guy’s hand and then hitting him in the back of the head with it, Steve is looking at him, impressed. “Since when do you know how to fight?”

“There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me,” Tony tells him. “Now come on, let’s go get your boy back.”

They get Barnes back. They get Barnes, and then get everyone else back, too, and Tony’s beloved communicator gets smashed somewhere along the way, which makes Tony giggle like a loony at the stupidity of it, he jumped out of a plane to give it to Steve and the thing is obliterated.

Which leaves them with a long walk back, with a couple hundred tired, wounded soldiers who refuse to admit that their ankle is broken or that actually, yes, that arm does have gangrene.

But they make it anyway, with minimal casualties, and they walk in the front: Steve and Bucky and Tony, side by side, walking straight into the middle of the camp.

“You’re late,” Peggy tells Steve, her face expressionless in the way that means she’s trying desperately not to smile.

Steve holds up the busted communicator. “Couldn’t call my ride.”

“He forgot it like the big lug he is,” Bucky supplies from his left. “Then Stark broke it.”

“I didn’t break it, Barnes, a Nazi broke it. I nearly fixed it!”

“With a twig and some marsh leaves? Sure, Stark.”

“Hey, don’t-”

“That’s what it’s been like,” Steve tells Peggy. “All the way back. Way too many miles of them bickering.”

At the same time, Bucky and Tony say, “We’re not bickering,” and then stop to glare at each other.

 

 

 

When Tony opens the door of his workshop a week later, Steve walks right in.

Tony opens his mouth, and closes it along with the door. “No, go ahead, make yourself comfy.”

“Don’t mind if I do,” Steve says, stupidly chipper since Bucky’s been back, and also slipping back into his Brooklyn accent once too often, and settles down on the couch that Tony’s slept on too many times to be comfortable.

Tony frowns at him. He’s even got his feet propped up on Tony’s stool. The bastard.

“Nice,” Steve remarks, nodding over at the armour. “Whatcha using it for?”

“At the moment,” Tony says, slinging a sheet over it, “It’s a gorgeous lounge ornament. I have to calibrate the sensors before it’s good to run.”

“How long’s that gonna take?”

“A few more days.”

“What will you do with it then?”

Tony folds his arms. “Why do you want to know, Rogers?”

Steve leans back further into the couch. Slots his hands behind his head. Says, “You should become a Howling Commando.”

He’s seen the files. Several soldiers that they broke out want to be in this, this team thing that Steve is going to lead. Barnes is in it, of course. Apparently he’s a recommended sniper.

“I’m flattered,” Tony says. “Really.”

“Oh, come on.” Steve sits up, his hands falling into his lap. “We fought great together! Even with all your protests, you work well in a team.”

“Yeahhhhh, no thanks,” Tony says, easing out the words. “I’m not a team guy, Rogers, and I’m sure as hell not a soldier.”

“But you fight.”

“That’s not the same thing,” Tony tries. “I’m not-”

“Just think about it,” Steve says. Tony starts to say something, but is cut off when Steve says, “Please?”

When he gets right down to it, Tony thinks, Steve is still the same skinny guy who refuses to stand down. Still the same stubborn kid from Brooklyn that Tony wants achingly, desperately to know everything about, wants to learn every inch of him, especially the bits Tony didn’t engineer, like his stupid determination and his love for sketching.

Finally, Tony sighs. “I’ll think about it.”

Steve’s smile makes his chest throb in a way that has nothing to do with his heart condition.

 

 

 

Because Steve is apparently Tony’s Achilles heel, he finishes the suit in record time and invites Steve to go flying the same night.

“So I thought about it,” Tony starts, his voice tinny and weird through the metal, and Steve hesitates from where he had been hefting his shield to hit Tony in the face.

The arm holding the shield stills completely. “Tony?”

“Uh, yeah. Who else would be wearing this?”

“I didn’t see you properly,” Steve says. “And it’s dark, I’m really sorry-”

“I’d be more worried if you didn’t try and attack me,” Tony says.

Steve leans his shield against the wall, coming to stand in front of Tony. He looks up and down the suit. “Gosh.”

“I know. I’m amazing.”

Steve is prodding, holding up his arms and looking at the plating, his fingers skating over Tony’s shoulders, his ribs, his face, before realizing that there’s a person in there and flushing. He steps back. “Sorry.”

“I’m amazing,” Tony repeats. “The suit is, if possible, even more amazing. Touch all you want.”

“This is- incredible,” Steve says, his hands tracing the plating, manoeuvring Tony’s right arm so he sees the gears work. “Wow. Wow.” He looks up at Tony’s faceplate. “Could I draw it sometime?”

“Don’t see why not.”

“Wow,” Steve says again, breathing it out. He laughs. “Holy crap. How much did it cost to get the materials?”

Tony thinks Steve doesn’t really want to know, so he doesn’t tell him. Instead, he asks, “You want to try it for a spin?”

“What? I don’t think it would fit me, Tony.”

“Gee, thanks. I meant do you want to hang on while I fly this thing.”

“Really?”

Tony shrugs. It’s hard. The metal isn’t made for shrugging. “Yep. Hop on.”

“Great! Uh,” Steve says, his hands moving at his sides. “How?”

“Like this,” Tony says, and slips his arms around his waist, pulling him close. Steve comes willingly, and for a second, Tony curses the layer of metal between the two of them. “Ready?”

“Ready,” Steve says, a light flush creeping its way up his neck, from the excitement or the proximity Tony doesn’t know.

Tony turns back to the balcony, and starts the repulsors.

 

 

Their first mission goes spectacularly. Day saved, bomb deactivated, drinks all around, and Steve kisses Tony after pulling him into an alleyway, away from the others.

They manage a ten-minute fumble before they’re found, clothing rumpled, mouths red, hair atrociously messy.

“Found ‘em,” Dum-Dum calls, leering as the rest of the Commandos come jogging up.

Bucky’s the first one who chuckles. “Nice hickey, Rogers.”

Steve immediately slaps a hand over his neck before realizing that there is, in fact, nothing to hide, and glaring at Bucky, who is now bent over in a fit of laughter.

Tucking his shirt back into his pants, Tony sniffs. “Okay. Can we go back to base now so I can actually give him that hickey?”

“Just shout it, why don’t ya,” Bucky says, slinging an arm over Steve’s shoulder and patting him there. “Seriously, though. You guys better keep it hush-hush.”

“Noooo, really,” Steve drawls, face still beetroot. “I thought we’d go up to Philips and announce our engagement.”

“Let’s not talk rings yet, dear,” Tony says, and stops the group to straighten Steve’s tie properly, who lifts his head obediently.

When they start to walk again, everyone’s trading looks.

“Shut it,” Steve says, and, checking for anyone else on the street and finding it empty apart from their group, he takes Tony’s hand, squeezes, and drops it.

 

 

 

Their second mission goes awfully.

First, they get stranded, which means another long walk back to civilization, and second, Tony collapses in the middle of a fight.

Steve picks him up while simultaneously roundhouse kicking a Nazi in the face, which is one of the best things Tony’s ever seen.

Ten minutes later, when the Commandos have found cover in a barn, Tony gasps out the shortened version of how he got his heart condition, and also the reactor.

As soon as he’s finished, Gabriel Jones pads in, gun at his side. “Hey,” he pants. “Coast’s clear. The house is abandoned. What’s with Stark?”

“He forgot to mention his heart needed recharging on occasion,” Steve snarls, eyes stuck on Tony, who is getting paler by the minute.

Tony mumbles, “Oops,” slurring it worryingly.

Thanks to a car battery ‘borrowed’ from the house owner’s car, they manage to give Tony enough of a boost to walk back to base, where he promptly collapses again and has to get Steve to run down to his workshop and get his proper charger. The charger. For his heart.

The fight that ensues is by far their first, and by no means their last. Their whisper-yells degenerate into full-fledged yelling until the nurse kicks Steve out of the infirmary. Tony leaves less than an hour later to follow him into his room, at which point the nurse was just relieved to get some peace and quiet.

 

 

 

Three months later, Steve and Tony wake up at the same time to a knock at the door.

Steve’s the first to pry his eyes open. “Mph?”

“Mmmphh,” Tony replies, muffled, into his pillow. Then: “FUCK OFF.”

“It’s Colonel Philips,” comes the voice from the other side of the door.

Both Steve and Tony bolt up to a sitting position, meaning to duck somewhere or reach for clothes, but the door is opening before they can do anything but sit up.

Colonel Philips looks in before swaying back. He raises a hand to his forehead, rubbing. “Christ. Okay.”

“Sir,” Steve nods, flushing hot red, dragging the sheet up to his stomach.

“Please tell me,” Colonel Philips says, “That one of you had a horrible nightmare and needed some platonic form of cuddling to make sure you didn’t accidentally get up and stab someone in your sleep.”

“Sir,” Steve says, “I can safely say that’s exactly what happened.”

“Good. You know how close soldiers can get, after all they’ve been through.” Colonel Philips looks desperately uncomfortable, averting his eyes from anywhere but their faces, even with the sheet pulled up. “Nothing wrong with comforting a fellow soldier.”

“You’re absolutely right, Sir.”

Colonel Philips eyes them warily. He sighs. “There’s a reporter outside the house. Barnes is letting him in now. Thought I’d warn you two, in case of, uh, bad dreams.”

“Thank you, Sir. We’ll be outside right away.”

“Good. By the way, Rogers, I found your trousers on the stairs. Thought you might need ‘em,” Colonel Philips says dryly, tossing Steve the pants he had been wearing last night before Tony and he had gotten a little too enthusiastic.

Steve croaks, “Thank you, Sir,” and tries to ignore how Tony is stifling laughter.

 

 

 

A month after that, Iron Man flies into base jerkily, one of his repulsors close to dead, scraped up and dented. Tony might be breathing wrong. He hasn’t stopped to check.

Peggy is already running at him before he lands. “Where’s Steve,” Tony gasps, flipping his faceplate up.

Peggy’s face contorts for a second, and Tony has a second to think oh god no please before she says, “Barnes is dead. After you went MIA, they were going to do the Zola mission without you, and they- they did, but Barnes didn’t make it. Steve is going after the Red Skull right now, he just left.”

“Co-ordinates,” Tony says.

“Stark-”

“Co-ordinates,” Tony repeats, his tone hard, breathing over what might be a bad lung. It doesn’t feel good, at least.

Peggy reels off a series of numbers and Tony takes them in, knowing he’ll remember, and flips the faceplate down. “Always a pleasure, Agent Carter.”

“And you, Stark,” Peggy replies, taking pride in how her voice doesn’t wobble.

Tony hears a voice yell his name, looks back to see Colonel Philips running at him yet again. He takes off, increasing his speed as he flies, speeding towards Steve in a molten streak.

On the ground, Colonel Philips reaches the spot Tony was standing thirty seconds ago, chest heaving. He turns to Peggy, who is watching the ascent.

“What the heck were you thinking?”

“I-”

“The capacitator’s trailing smoke,” Colonel Philips yells. “If he makes it to Steve, he’s not going to have enough power to get him down!”

“With several degrees from Harvard, I’m sure Mr. Stark is fully aware of that fact.”

“But he’s only flying there to fly the hell back without-”

“I doubt Mr. Stark is going to let Steve die alone, Sir,” Peggy cuts him off, her voice clipped but fraying around the edges.

Colonel Philips starts to say something else, but locks his jaw. He looks up, but all that’s left of Tony is a streak of smoke in the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

Steve… wakes up.

He blinks for a second, confused, fumbling through the fog of his mind and arriving at Tony. Tony, who clambered into the ship at the last second, who was about to fly them off when he realized aloud that the suit is out of power and couldn’t fly either of them. Tony, who kissed him and said something into his mouth, but the ship hit the water before Steve could figure out what it was.

He jolts up, gasping, “Tony,” only for a familiar hand on his shoulder to steady him. Steve turns, and there’s Tony.

“Tony,” Steve repeats, quieter this time, raising his own hand to cover the one that Tony has on his shoulder. “Tony, what the hell-”

“Long story.”

Steve pauses. “Are we dead?”

Tony’s laugh has a worrying note of hysteria in it. “Hilariously, no, we aren’t. Now come on, there’s a lot to tell you. Put these on.”

He shoves a pair of glasses and a suit at him, and Steve takes them, confused. He realizes that Tony’s wearing the same thing, and carrying an armful of files.

“Uh,” Steve says.

“Yeah,” Tony nods. “So, I woke up six months before you.”

“Six months- how long has it been?”

Tony only hesitates for a moment. “Almost seventy years, Steve.”

Steve waits for the punchline. When it doesn’t come, he laughs. Then swallows. Then laughs again. “What?”

“Yeah,” Tony says again. “Sorry? And can I just say it was even shittier for me, because they kept saying stuff about you like ‘we aren’t sure of his condition’ and ‘if we wake up we’ll get a better look at things.’ It sucked.”

“Sucked,” Steve repeats slowly.

“Slang,” Tony says. “People say ‘sucked’ nowadays when they mean ‘it was bad.’”

“Nowadays,” Steve repeats. He does the math in his head, which takes an embarrassingly long time, but he blames shock. “Oh, god, are we in the next century?”

“13 years into the twenty-first,” Tony says. “Put the suit on, I’ll explain while you’re doing it.”

Steve rubs the suit in between his fingers. He looks at the door. “What if-”

“I hacked into the cameras and the machines monitoring you, everything says you’re still asleep. Put on the suit.”

Steve peels off his shirt, doing his best just to focus on the action of changing clothes and nothing else, nope, no sir. Fuck, everyone he knows is probably dead. Fucking fuck shit. God.

“Don’t do that,” Tony says, and takes over, buttoning Steve’s shirt faster than Steve could ever manage right now. “That face, I know that face, it’s the same face I made for two days straight, just breathe, okay?”

“Breathe,” Steve trills. He sucks in a breath. Blows it out slowly. Lets Tony loop the tie around his neck and do it up. “I can put the pants on,” he says, when Tony’s hands start on his belt buckle. “You said you’d explain?”

“Right,” Tony says. “Right. I did. Yeah. Explaining. So, technology is enough to make you piss yourself, and there’s a black president, and there are statues of us erected everywhere, and being a homosexual is legal now-”

Pants half-on, Steve says, “Really?”

Tony says, “Yeah,” and Steve says, “Fucking finally,” and drags Tony forward for a kiss. It’s uncomfortable, due to Tony’s glasses, but Tony all but clings to him, arms going around Steve’s back and pressing hard.

“Pants,” Tony gasps when they separate. Steve says, “What, yeah,” and picks up his pants where they puddled near his ankles when he had dropped them around his knees to grab Tony’s face. He slides his belt through the slats, and is just finished when Tony adds, “And Bucky isn’t dead?”

Steve says, “WHAT,” and Tony says, “He’s, he’s sort of- the Russians picked him up after he fell, a lot of stuff happened, you can see him as soon as we get out of here, okay, and you have no idea how much hacking I had to do to get access to that information and get him out, oh my god. Also, Avengers.”

“Great,” Steve says. “What or who are they?”

“I’ll explain when we get out,” Tony says. “They’re waiting in the car. Or, most of them. Nat- Widow’s going to escort us to the car.”

“Okay,” Steve says, and takes the files when Tony offers them. “Act natural?”

“Act natural,” Tony nods. “Steve?”

“Yeah?”

“Did I mention how glad I am that you woke up?”

Steve leans in again, and this time the kiss is slow, soft, revelling in it. “I got the gist.”

“Good,” Tony says, and kisses him again, a quick peck on the cheek and then the lips, before standing back and straightening his glasses, holding a pair out for Steve.

Steve slides them on, and Tony opens the door for him.

Outside, there’s a redhead in five-inch heels and a ridiculously short shirt that ends at her knees, giving Tony a look that said she was wholly unimpressed. “Fury is going to be pissed.”

“Fury can go stick a thumb up his ass,” Tony replies curtly, stepping out into the hallway with Steve in tow. “Steve, Agent Romanoff. Agent Romanoff, Steve.”

“Charmed,” Romanoff says, and starts walking, so Tony and Steve follow suit.

 “Where are we?”

“SHIELD,” Romanoff says, not looking at him. “There’s a longer name, but something tells me if you get too much information today you’re going to pass out. Take this.”

Steve takes the slim object she’s holding out, examining it as inconspicuously as he can. “What is it?”

“A phone,” Romanoff answers.

Steve eyebrows raise. The thing is mostly screen. “You must be having the time of your life,” he says out of the corner of his mouth.

“Better now that you’re awake,” Tony replies, equally quiet. “You took your time, Rogers.”

“Sorry.”

“Better be,” Tony says, and they turn a corner that shows a large glass door with a road outside. “Whole new world, Steve. You gonna be okay?”

“In the immediate future? No.”

“Good answer. Me neither.”

About three meters away from the exit, there’s a voice behind them, loud and insistent, and when Steve turns, there are about a dozen men and women charging at them with guns, along with everyone in the room who sees who they’re running at.

“Damn,” Tony says, at the same time Romanoff puts a hand to her ear and says, “Coulson, we have agents on us, get the car right up to the curb.”

Steve watches as a car screeches instantly to the curb outside, and Tony tugs Steve’s shoulder and says, “Run.”

Steve runs right out into New York, which is seventy years older than he remembers, with Tony holding his hand and a dozen men chasing him and some bland guy in a suit opening the doors for them and saying it’s an honour to meet Captain America, right before headbutting a guy in the gut.

“Nice to meet you, too,” Steve yells out the window, and Tony is yelling, “Drive, drive, DRIVE,” and then, “WHY IS THOR IN THE DRIVING SEAT,” and then the car lurches forwards, stops, and then lurches.

“WORST GETAWAY EVER,” Tony continues to yell, elbowing Romanoff, who is leaning out the window and shooting. “WHO THE FUCK LET THE DEMIGOD DRIVE THE VAN?”

Demigod, Steve absorbs in what could probably be considered a calm way. Okay.

The car continues to lurch. Gunshots continue to ring out. Tony continues to yell.

“Apologies,” a massive voice from the blonde in the driver’s seat says. “Bruce is passed out from his previous Hulking, and Clint went into the Star of Bucks.”

Tony’s yelling increases, this time with added swearing.

“What’s a Star of Bucks,” Steve yells over the noise, and Tony looks at him for a second, jerking with the motion of the car, and yells, “NEVERMIND.”

“Okay,” Steve yells. Then: “This getaway is pretty bad. And I don’t understand half of what anyone is saying.”

“You’ll get used to it,” Romanoff says from the right. “Coulson and Clint will meet us later. Thor, I’m going to lean over your shoulder and drive, push the pedals I say when I say.”

“Oh, god,” Tony says. His head thumps against the seat again as the car lurches.

“This sucks,” Steve tells him, half-giddy with the insanity of the whole situation. Tony’s mouth lifts.

“You’re getting the hang of it,” he tells him, and Steve kisses him again, in the middle of what is now a car chase, with a man passed out in the passenger’s seat, an agent leaning over the front seat, and a demigod yelling in frustration at the traffic lights.

Steve thinks he really could get the hang of this.