“Our anniversary is the eighteenth,” Steve said one night as they lay together beneath the blankets. It was early for sleep, but winter was settling in with a vengeance and Steve had been tense all day, muscles aching in the cold and shoulders hunched against the wind. The first few days of winter always seemed to sneak up on him and Tony had found himself coaxing Steve to bed hours before he'd normally have turned in, just for the way Steve would slowly relax against him, muscles going lax in the warmth they made between them.
And if the cold made Steve more likely to cuddle, made the already tactile soldier even more inclined to curl tight around Tony in his sleep, to tangle their legs together and press his face against Tony's chest, well.
Tony combed his fingers through Steve's hair, cradled Steve's head just over his heart. Steve was tracing his fingers over the scars that criss-crossed Tony's chest, a habit he seemed to have picked up from their first night together. Tony hadn't expected it; most of his lovers had found them unattractive or had been uncomfortable drawing attention to them, as if he might take offense at having his flaws pointed out. But Steve had seen them all before, of course, long before the first kiss or the first night in bed and his attention felt almost... safe. Comforting. For all the drama they'd put each other through over the years, Steve had never thought Tony was weak because of the chestplate or the artificial heart.
“A year, huh?” He dipped his head to press a kiss against Steve's hair. “It feels longer.”
“I'm going to take that as a compliment,” Steve said dryly.
Tony chuckled. “You know it was. We should do something to mark the occasion. Celebrate.”
“I'd like to do something simple,” Steve said. He slid one hand over Tony's stomach. “Private. Just you and me for the day. No work, no super-villains, no distractions.”
“Something intimate,” Tony said. “Yeah. Okay.” He wrapped both arms around Steve's shoulders. “Tell you what. Since I'm not exactly skilled at the whole subtlety thing, why don't you pick the time and place and I'll clear my schedule for as long as you like?”
“You don't want to have a say in the planning?”
“Steve, the last intimate relationship moment I was in charge of planning ended up on Fox News and involved more than a thousand people.” He chuckled. “Rhodey was so pissed.”
“The fireworks were a nice touch, though. Really marked the occasion.”
Tony grinned. “If I set off fireworks for our anniversary, you'd kick my ass.”
“We can have fireworks next year,” Steve said. He rubbed his cheek against Tony's chest, something he always did when he was just about to drift off to sleep. Tony loved it, but mostly he loved that he got to know that.
“You sure you don't want fireworks?” Tony shifted slightly, nudging Steve's groin with his thigh. “Intimate fireworks?”
Steve made an undignified sound against Tony's skin. “You give me fireworks every day,” he said. His voice was drowsy and he sighed, his breath warm over Tony's chest. “Every day,” he said, and then he was asleep.
Tony stared up at the ceiling. Next year, Steve had said, like there wasn't any doubt, like he wasn't just waiting for Tony to mess up, or betray him or just generally prove himself undeserving. He swallowed. And then he reached for his phone, lying just within arm's reach on the bedside table. He programmed in a reminder every day until the eighteenth and then sent Pepper an e-mail to clear his schedule for that entire day.
“Next year,” he said quietly, throat tight and voice thick with civil wars and mind wipes and cataclysms. “Yeah, Steve. I promise. Next year is-” He combed his fingers through Steve's hair. “You give me fireworks too, you know.”
“I got your message.” Pepper didn’t look up from her screen when Tony came in, just held up a piece of paper for him to grab on his way past. “I've already arranged for Jarvis to have your charcoal suit taken to the cleaners. Your schedule’s clear for the eighteenth and the nineteenth, just in case you need time to recover.”
That brought some delicious mental images to mind. Tony savored them briefly. “You’re brilliant, Pep. Be honest, the perfection gets tiring after a while, doesn’t it?”
“It’s exhausting,” Pepper said dryly. “Have you picked out a gift yet?”
“Crap,” Tony said. He paused in the doorway between his office and Pepper’s. “Crap. Crap.”
“Well said,” Pepper said. “It’s eloquence like that that always wins over the press and the shareholders. It’s your anniversary, Tony. Gifts are customary. You have done this before, remember?”
“Yes, and that ended so well.” Tony leaned against the wall. “Anyway, you always used to buy the gifts back then.”
Pepper arched one meticulous eyebrow.“I can pick something up if you like, but I think Steve knows us both well enough to know the difference.”
“You’re probably right.” He couldn’t think of anything store-bought that would be appropriate for the occasion anyway. “No, I want to get something from me. Something personal. Crap. I’m not good at this.”
“You’re very good at this,” Pepper corrected him. She finally deigned to glance up from her monitor. “You go overboard, is the problem. But the gifts themselves are usually very aptly chosen. Just remember, Steve will be uncomfortable if you buy him anything diamond-studded.”
That earned her a chuckle. “I’ve got a little while to figure it out. He’s not very big on stuff anyway. I could get him tickets to something. Huh.” He chewed on his bottom lip. “Actually. Pep. I need Stan Kasten’s phone number.”
“I can do that. In the meantime, the project leader for the new engine prototype has called for you three times this morning.” Pepper spun her chair until they were facing each other. “Their most recent progress reports are showing a significantly decreased efficiency from what we were originally projecting, and the military buyers are supposed to be getting a demonstration on the twentieth.” She pulled her hair back off her neck and tied it up with a quick twist. “I’m not saying that someone’s panicking, but someone is absolutely panicking.”
“There was nothing wrong with those projections, I went over them myself.” Tony pulled out his phone and pulled up everything on the project. “What is that idiot Dunlop doing to my engine?”
“Danziger,” Pepper said. “You know what HR says about morale when you use the wrong name while calling the employees idiots.”
“People who can’t read blueprints properly don’t deserve morale,” Tony said darkly. “Stan Kasten.”
“I’ll have his private line before lunch.”
He lingered for a moment. “Pepper.”
She peered up at him from beneath her fringe. Her eyes were very green in the office light and Tony couldn't look away.
“I want this to be good,” he said. “Special. Steve deserves something special.”
“So do you,” she said and he didn't deserve either one of them, but damned if he'd give them up. “If I catch you doing something stupid, I'll let you know.”
He grinned at her, relief and love making his chest feel tight. “Thanks.”
“But if you buy him a diamond-studded dildo just because I told you not to, that's on your head.” She gave him a smile that was more smirk than anything else. “Now let me get back to work. Go deal with the idiot.”
It was late when Steve came down the stairs to the lab. Tony tended to lose track of time down there, what with the lack of natural light. The fact that he was usually working on something that would either save his teammates, his company or the world didn't hurt, either. Made it very easy to get sucked into your work as a matter of fact.
But judging by the fact that Jarvis hadn't sent down a tray yet, he'd probably been there less than a day. He checked the time and date on his tablet and yeah. Less than twelve hours. Practically nothing. “Hey, babe.”
Steve gave him the same amused half-smile he always got when Tony called him that – thus why Tony kept calling him that. “Just came to say goodnight. Unless you're close to done?”
“I can be done,” Tony said. “This isn't work related, just something I've been tinkering with.” Steve peered at the schematics over Tony's shoulder and Tony let him. It had been his promise to himself, after the Cataclysm, that he'd be more open with Steve about what he was doing, both on and off the battlefield.
“Artificial intelligence?” Steve asked.
“Yup. I'm teaching a computer to think.”
Tony wobbled a hand back and forth in the air. “Not really? If I get this right, the system will be self-educating but not self-aware. Vision is a sentient being, despite the circuitry.”
“So more like a Doombot?”
Tony smacked his arm. “Someone feels like sleeping on the couch tonight.”
Steve rolled his eyes and wrapped his arms around Tony's waist, holding him loosely. “We both know you'd just end up on the couch with me.”
That was more true than Tony wanted to admit. “Give me a kiss and neither one of us has to find out just how long I'd let you shiver out there without me.”
Steve's laugh was a puff of warm air against Tony's cheek. “So bossy.”
“You knew that going in,” Tony pointed out. He settled his hands at Steve's hips, hooked his thumbs through the belt loops of his jeans. “No fair complaining about it now.”
“Well,” Steve said slowly. “I suppose I did have some inkling of that.”
Tony snorted and leaned back, mostly just for the way Steve's arms tightened to keep him close. “An inkling.”
“Maybe a notion.”
“It's a good thing no one's life is depending on your deductive capabilities, soldier.” Tony grinned when Steve made a face at him. “Let me put this away and we can head up.”
Steve released him and resting his hip against the edge of a drafting table. “So I went ahead and made our reservations for the eighteenth. If you're still sure you don't want any input?”
“No pottery. And no Build-A-Bear.” Tony pursed his lips as he gave his workbench the once-over. “No political debates. We don't have a good track record with those.”
“Maybe it's a good thing that I made the plans alone,” Steve said, voice like sandpaper. “Please tell me you never took someone to a political debate for your anniversary.”
“No?” Tony thought back. “I took Rumiko to a women's rights fundraiser on our anniversary once, but that was just a coincidence. Anyway, afterward we did the horse-drawn carriage and diamonds thing.” The pang in his chest was expected; memories of Rumiko always cut close, even now. “But, whatever you planned is fine with me. I want to do something you're going to enjoy.”
Steve was watching him with a steady gaze, the corners of his mouth tugged up in a sympathetic smile. “Our reservation is for seven-thirty. Does that give you enough time?”
“Pepper cleared my whole day,” Tony assured him. He slammed a drawer shut with his hip. “I'm all yours.”
“That's true,” Steve said. “But it has nothing to do with your schedule.” He tangled his fingers with Tony's and tugged.
Tony went willingly.
The Tower was quiet and the movie long since over. The other Avengers had slowly wandered off, to bed or whatever entertainment they could dig up at this hour. Steve was mostly asleep, his body heavy and warm against Tony's back, going slack as he drifted off. His breath was warm and deep against the top of Tony's head and one arm was wrapped loosely around Tony's waist. It was too warm beneath the fleece blanket Steve had dragged over them hours ago, but Tony wasn't willing to move and risk disturbing Steve.
Instead he curled his fingers over Steve's where they rested on his stomach and let his eyes drift shut. They had nowhere to be in the morning, no reason to do anything but lie there and enjoy the way Steve's heartbeat felt between his shoulders. An entire day to themselves.
His eyes flew open and only Steve's arm around him kept Tony from jumping up off the couch. Tomorrow was the eighteenth. Tomorrow was their anniversary and he hadn't – he hadn't done anything yet, he hadn't-
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Steve had made the plans. Pepper had cleared his schedule. He'd tracked Stan Kasten down almost a week earlier. There was nothing for him to do beside show up and he was pretty sure he could manage that much. In fact, he was positive he could. He just wanted this to go well. He wanted this to be good and not only for Steve.
He hadn't had an anniversary in – not in years, not since Rumiko had died. There had been Maya, but that hadn't lasted long enough to celebrate. And then afterwards – first the war, then Osbourne and the invasion, then Asgard. There'd been his ill-advised night with Maria Hill and the probably even more ill-advised thing with Pepper. Christ, it had been a miserable couple of years. And then the Cataclysm and -
It was easy, by now, to pull his thoughts away from that. No matter how well it had ultimately gone for him those first dark days when he had thought Steve's trust lost forever, when he'd been prepared to give up everything worth having as penance were still hard to look back at.
Steve sighed and his arm tightened around Tony's waist. Lips pressed against the top of his head. “What are you getting worked up over?”
“It's almost midnight,” Tony said. He licked his lips and stroked his fingers over the back of Steve's hand. “You realize in less than thirty minutes, it'll be our anniversary?”
“The fact had occurred to me,” Steve said.
“I'm just saying,” Tony said. “Last chance to get out before you have to buy me something.”
Steve chuckled. “Don't be ridiculous,” he said, nuzzling at the skin behind Tony's ear. “After all the trouble it took to get you?”
The third time his phone rang, Tony spit out a curse and bolted upright in bed. He paused on his knees and glared blearily at the bedside table where his phone was lit up like Christmas while blaring How Sweet to be an Idiot at next to top volume.
Steve groaned and dragged the comforter up over his head.
A glance at the clock revealed it to be just after eight, which meant it was exactly early enough for him to kill a minion. Or two.
He scrambled to the side of the bed and grabbed his phone. “I swear to god,” he said, “if the world is not in imminent peril I will have you fired and then shot. Go.”
There was a moment of empty silence from the other end of the phone. “I- um, sir? Mr. Stark?”
Tony bit back a groan and pinched the bridge of his nose. “The pink slips are being drawn up as I speak,” he said darkly. “What is it, Donnelly?”
“It- it's Danziger, sir. From the engineering department? I'm the project leader on the X-9 engine project?”
“I know who you are.” Tony slumped back against the pillows. “What I want to know is why you're calling me before nine in the morning on my anniversary. If any man is entitled to a lie-in it is a man celebrating his anniversary.”
“I'm very sorry to disturb you, Mr. Stark. We're having a bit of a problem here-”
“I could be having lazy morning sex,” Tony said. “Do you understand? Have you seen my boyfriend?”
Steve lifted the comforter and gave him an exasperated glare.
“It's the engine, Mr. Stark. Something's gone wrong, our calculations were off, or -”
“Do more calculations,” Tony said. “Fix it.”
“We've tried.” Danziger sounded nearly frantic. “Sir, something is massively off and the demonstration for the prospective buyers is in two days.”
“I'm pretty sure this is what you get paid for,” Tony said.
“Sir.” Danziger was starting to sound frantic and Tony had to resist the urge to bang his head against the wall as he swung his feet to the floor.
“I'll be in the workshop in twenty minutes. Forward me everything, including video footage of whatever is allegedly going wrong. I want you and your entire team on video conference when I get down there and if anyone thinks they're going home before this is fixed then it's your job to disillusion them of that ridiculous notion.” He jabbed the end button while Danziger was still sputtering, then hit speed dial. “Pepper, since when do the minions have my phone number?”
“Since I am not an engineer,” Pepper said promptly. “I'm about to walk into a meeting, Tony. Do you need me?”
“Take a note,” Tony said. “From now on I will issue all blueprints and diagrams in crayon so that the elementary school dropouts we've staffed our company with will be able to understand them better.”
“I am not actually your secretary,” Pepper said. “And now I have to go. Be nice to the minions. Say hello to Steve for me.”
He tossed the phone to the bed. “Pepper says hi.”
Steve grunted something unintelligible and curled up under the blankets. Tony stood beside the bed for a moment, looking down at him and contemplating the consequences for the company if he just told the world and all its responsibilities to fuck off and crawled back under there to keep Steve company.
“I'll be in the workshop,” he said finally, regretfully. He flipped the edge of the comforter back just enough that he could see Steve's head. “I'm going to see how badly Dumbass has fucked this up.” He dropped a kiss against Steve's temple. “I love you.”
Steve slid a hand out of the blankets and caught Tony by the wrist. “I love you too,” he said, voice still rough with sleep, eyes mostly closed. He pressed a kiss against Tony's fingers. “Don't work too hard.”
“Keep the bed warm for me,” Tony said. “I'll be back as soon as I unfuck whatever they've done to my engine.”
“Don't be too hard on the minions,” Steve said. “And hurry back.”
The minions had fucked up everything.
By the time Tony was finished verbally castigating – and damned near castrating – the entire project team, and then walking them through the rebuild step-by-god-these-people-are-overpaid-step, he was tired, irritable and starving.
He disconnected the video conference while Danziger was halfway through another string of half-grateful, half-terrified apologies and threw himself down on the couch with a bottle of water and a power bar. He wanted a cheeseburger. Or a steak. Steak sounded divine, maybe Steve would be up for a steak.
He swallowed the power bar in about three bites and called Pepper up on the video conference.
The screen came up blank and Pepper's voice came through the speakers with a distinct aura of annoyed resignation. Tony considered it his own personal tone. “Explain to me how you always manage to call just as I'm getting out of the shower.”
“The shower?” Tony blinked around him for a moment, then checked the time on his watch. “Shit. It's almost ten at night. Sorry, Pep.”
“Tell me I've got an engine to show to the military in two days and all is forgiven.”
“It's done. We need to fire Donnovan, though.”
“Danziger. And he's very smart, Tony.”
“He's a terrible project leader,” he said flatly. “He should have asked for help long before this point.”
“We can make sure he's not a project leader again, but there's no reason to fire him. He's done some good work. Not everyone's cut out to be a boss, that's all.” There was a sound that he imagined was her drying her hair with a towel. “I am sorry this had to happen today, though. If I'd thought he could handle it without you I never would have told him to interrupt your anniversary.”
Tony stilled, the bottle of water halfway to his lips. “Oh shit,” he breathed. “Oh god. Pep. Steve's going to be so mad.”
He wouldn't though. He'd be disappointed, maybe. It would be worse if he wasn't disappointed, if he'd assumed Tony would screw it up from day one. If Tony was lucky, Steve would be disappointed and this would go down on the list of things Tony has managed to screw up over the years. One little disappointment in a long, long list.
“Don't be ridiculous,” Pepper said. “Steve's a practical guy. I mean, did he seem upset when you called and canceled?”
He stared at the blank screen.
The image flared to life, Pepper wrapped in a thick green robe, her hair hanging in loose, wet strands around her face. “Tony,” she said. “Tony, please tell me you called Steve and told him you couldn't make dinner.”
He shook his head and swallowed everything that tried to crawl up his throat. Excuses, explanations. His heart.
Pepper winced. “All right. Well. Steve's still a practical guy. He knows how important the company is. Even if he's mad, he'll understand.”
Tony couldn't imagine how that conversation would go. Oh, hey Steve, sorry about dinner, but something came up that was more important than keeping my promise to you? That was probably not the way a strong relationship was built.
“Breathe,” Pepper said firmly. “Take a deep breath. Go upstairs. Apologize for not calling and then explain what happened. Steve loves you. He will understand.”
“Right,” Tony said. He dragged in a deep breath, mostly to make Pepper happy. “Right. Okay. I can do this.”
“Do not buy him anything,” Pepper said. She shook a hairbrush at him. “Resist the urge. Understood?”
“Yes, ma'am.” He managed a smile that felt slightly sickly and didn't look much better if the way Pepper crinkled her nose at him was any indication. But she signed off and left him sitting there with his head in his hands while he took a dozen or so deep breaths and tried to remind himself that Steve loved him and had forgiven him so much worse than this.
Then he called Rhodey.
“I screwed up,” Tony said as soon as the other end picked up.
“I'm sorry,” Rhodey growled into the phone, his voice thick and rough with sleep. “You must have the wrong number because I can't think of anyone I know who would start a conversation that way.”
“Today was our anniversary,” Tony said.
“Man, do NOT tell me any more,” Rhodey said. “You know I’ve got to draw a line somewhere, Tone, and Captain America’s kinky bedroom habits is where that line lives.”
“It’s all right, man, I don’t think I’ve ever really spelled it out for you before.”
“Our anniversary, Rhodey.” Tony leaned forward and scrubbed his hands over his face. “I forgot about our anniversary. How do I make that up to Steve?”
“You know, Steve’s a big boy. If it was important to him he would have said something.”
“He did. He made plans, he reminded me.” Tony grimaced. “At least twice.”
“Something came up at work and – I lost track of time.”
“He didn’t try to call you?”
“I-“ Tony patted at his pockets. “I have no idea where my phone is. I was conferencing with the idiots in the lab and-“ he ran a hand through his hair and then clenched his fist in the roots. “I have to fix this. I can’t mess this up, Rhodey, I can’t-“
“Hey, hey.” Rhodey sounded wide awake now. “Listen to me. You are getting way too worked up. Your work is important. Steve’s going to understand. You just need to explain this to him, apologize for not being there tonight, and work it out from there. This is not the end of the world.”
“I can’t go up there and just-“ He tugged on his hair. “Rhodey, I can’t screw this up. It’s Steve and I’m always screwing things up with Steve and I can’t. I don’t want to lose him.”
“You need to breathe, Tone.”
“I am breathing.” His chest felt tight, but he was breathing. “I used to be good at this.”
“You were never good at this,” Rhodey said. “You just used to date people who were equally bad. Your real problem is that Steve can’t be bribed with diamonds.”
“That is definitely a problem.” Tony felt the corner of his mouth curl up in a rueful grin, almost against his best intentions. “I could buy him a car. Or a new motorcycle, his is an antique after all.”
“I don’t think Steve wants a motorcycle.”
“Or a jet. A new costume. I have an island somewhere I’m not using.”
“Start with an apology,” Rhodey suggested. “And I’m not trying to tell you your business, but I bet I’d get a lot more use out of a private island than Captain America. Just sayin.”
Tony rubbed his hand over his hair. “Asshole. And I am too good at this. Or I can be, anyway.”
“That's the spirit. Go fix this. And for the love of god, Tone, do not call and tell me how it went.”
Their room was dark when Tony made his way upstairs.
He slipped inside as quietly as he could and closed the door behind him. It was almost eleven and not unreasonably early for Steve to have gone to bed, but Tony couldn't shake the feeling that this was some kind of message.
He undressed in the dark and padded barefoot toward the bathroom, closing the door behind him before he flipped on the lights. He splashed his face with water and scrubbed the grease off his hands, carefully avoiding his own reflection in the bathroom mirror.
The thought crossed his mind that he could just go back to the workshop and find a project to occupy his mind and his hands, something to keep his thoughts away from the inevitable conversation they'd be having once Steve woke. But it was their anniversary and they'd already spent enough of it apart. And Tony never wanted Steve to sleep alone, not when Tony could sleep beside him.
He dried his hands and got the lights.
Steve was lying on his back, one hand flat on his stomach, the other thrown out across Tony's half of the bed like Steve had been reaching for him in his sleep. It was sentimental, but the thought made Tony's stomach unsteady.
Steve's hand was warm when Tony slid his palm over Steve's and tangled their fingers together. He eased onto the edge of the bed and under the covers, making an effort not to disturb his lover. “Sorry I'm late,” he said, whisper-soft, as he brought their joined hands to his mouth to press a kiss against Steve's knuckles. “I'd have much rather been with you.”
Steve stretched and yawned, teeth white in the darkness of the room, and Tony froze in place while his lover blinked up at him. “Tony?”
“Hey.” He flashed Steve a smile that the other man probably couldn't clearly make out in the dark. “Didn't mean to wake you.” He wasn't terribly surprised that the words came out with a sort of studied casualness that he excelled at. He also wasn't surprised at the way Steve's eyes narrowed as he caught the tone.
“I'm glad you did,” Steve said. “I had thought about waiting up for you, but I didn't know how long you'd be, so...” He flexed his hand in Tony's grip and Tony let go. The hand hung there for a moment, as if Steve wasn't entirely sure what to do with it now that Tony wasn't holding onto him.
“Sorry about that,” Tony said, and this time the words came out sincere. “I know I owe you big time. I can't apologize enough-”
Steve dropped his hand to rest on Tony's knee. “Tony.”
“I just – I really did want today to be something special, you know? And I dropped the ball, big time.”
Steve nodded slowly. “Tony. What part of today are you apologizing for?”
Tony held himself still. “Is this a trick question?”
“No. Tony.” Steve huffed a tired breath. “I'm not trying to trick you, for god's sake.” He sat up and crossed his legs, the sheet falling across his lap. “Look, I'm not mad at you.”
It absolutely was not Tony's fault that his eyebrows tried to crawl over the back of his head. It was only to be expected when faced with such a bald-faced lie.
“Stop making that face,” Steve said, his brow creased with irritation. “I'm not happy, obviously.”
That stung more than it should have, especially since it wasn't anything Tony didn't already know. He supposed he should be inured to Steve's disappointment at this point but somehow it always seemed to sting just as badly. And this was different, this wasn't Avengers business or the life and death machinations of a futurist at work. “I seem to be constantly letting you down.”
Steve pulled away with a muttered curse and a sharp jerk and in the second it took for him to reach the beside lamp and switch it on, Tony was frozen in place.
The light was unexpected and Tony blinked against it, looking up at Steve who was standing beside the bed, naked as the day he was born, hands planted firmly on his hips. “Steve?”
“I swear to god, I do not understand where your head goes sometimes,” Steve said flatly. “This isn't the Civil War, Tony.”
There was no safe answer to that. Tony bit back the instinctive response that came to his tongue and made himself relax.
Steve watched him in silence for a long second. “Look. You should have called me when it got late. At some point you had to know you weren't going to make our reservations and that's when you should have pocked up a phone, or sent me an email or anything except what you actually did, which was to just not show up. I don't like being stood up, Tony, especially not when you knew it was important to me.” He exhaled heavily and his eyes softened. “But whatever you're doing to yourself over there, whatever disappointment or failure you think you've caused, I'm telling you it's not as bad as you think it is. Shit happens, Tony. You have a job and responsibilities and sometimes that's going to clash with our personal lives.”
Tony shook his head in one short, sharp denial. “It shouldn't-”
“In a perfect world we'd never have to get out of bed except to play basketball and eat pancakes.”
That startled a laugh out of him. “Was that a hint?”
“Yes,” Steve said. He raised one eyebrow. “I know Pepper cleared your schedule for tomorrow. I take it the crisis has been resolved?”
“Yeah. Genius has been performed, minions have been berated, profits have been saved.” Tony worried at the corner of the sheet. “I am sorry. I tried to get this right, I promise.”
“Yeah, well.” Steve grinned. “In all honesty, I might have been angrier if you hadn't left your phone with me this morning.” He grabbed Tony's phone off the bedside table and held it up. “I liked the little messages you programmed to yourself.”
Steve chuckled. “Let's see. Starting around noon there was If Frodo can get the ring to Mordor, you can be on time for your date. I liked that one. Especially the implication that being on time is comparable to braving the fires of Mount Doom. Either that, or you're making an unflattering comparison between me and Sauron.”
Tony sputtered. “That's – that wasn't-”
“And then around two o'clock there was this one: If you're early maybe Steve will agree to have sex in the men's room before dinner. Love your optimism, but that's not happening. I've never understood why anyone would want to have sex in a public restroom. Now the coat check closet,” he added. “I could be convinced of that.”
“No fair teasing,” Tony protested.
Steve shrugged. “See what you miss out on when you stand a man up?”
Tony took a deep breath. “I can't promise my work is never going to get in the way of something we wanted to do together. Thousands of people depend on me for their paychecks, I have obligations to share holders and clients. Hell, I've finally gotten Stark Resilient back into the Fortune 50 again, which means that the American economy kind of depends on me, too. I take that responsibility seriously. This company means a lot to me.” He rubbed his palms against the sheets. “But you're right. There was a middle ground between neglecting the company and neglecting you and I missed it. So I can promise you that I'm going to do better.”
“Thank you,” Steve said quietly. “Now promise to be easier on yourself, and I think we're in pretty good shape.”
A rueful smile was the only answer Tony could scrape up to that, but Steve seemed willing to take it.
“It's still technically our anniversary,” Steve said. “I think this calls for presents.”
“Oh crap,” Tony said, snapping his fingers. “I knew I forgot something.”
Steve made an incredibly unflattering snorting sound. “Tony, you once bought me a ten-thousand dollar painting because I looked at it for slightly longer than all the other paintings. If you expect me to believe you didn't get me something when there's an actual gift-giving occasion at hand, then you have a lot of work to do.”
“Spoilsport,” Tony said. “Fine. I may have gotten you something.”
“But not a diamond-studded dildo.” Steve gave him a pout. “Pepper texted around four to remind you to bring my gift to dinner. She left a rather long list of Do Nots.”
“I am so getting you diamond-encrusted sex toys now. It sounds terribly uncomfortable and you'll have no one but yourself to blame.”
Steve rolled his eyes as he walked away from the bed. Tony let his eyes linger on the long lean lines of Steve's back, the muscles of his thighs and calves – the ridiculous perfection of his ass. For god's sake, something like that could only have come from a super-soldier serum. “I could just use them on you,” Steve said and, yeah. Tony would actually be fine with that. Steve took something off his desk, a thin, flat parcel wrapped in shiny silvery gift wrap, and turned to walk back towards the bed.
The view was even better coming.
Steve slid onto the bed, one leg curled beneath him, and dropped the gift onto the sheets between them. “Happy anniversary, Tony.”
Tony picked it up, ran his fingers over the smooth paper. “I left your present down in the lab. It's, ah, kind of a trip.”
“Sort of?” Tony ducked his head a little, then looked up at Steve through his lashes. “I got you season tickets to the LA Dodgers. I called in a favor and got us a private box and everything. I know we won't make all of them, but I figure we'll make at least a few.”
Steve grinned. “You just like watching me boo them, don't you?”
“Who knew you were such a vicious little fan?” Tony said. “It's kind of hot watching you get all indignant over something that literally no one else alive cares about anymore.”
“You did say a private box, right?”
Tony nodded. He licked his lips and grinned when Steve's eyes darkened. “Very private. I made sure.”
Steve caught Tony's chin in his fingers and tipped his head back to give him better access to Tony's mouth. “Thank you, Tony,” he said when he finally pulled back. “We should go to a game soon. Just the two of us.”
“If it's even half as much fun as watching you insult the Cardinals, I think I'll come out ahead.”
Steve grinned. “Open your present.”
There was a little card taped to the top of the package. Tony plucked it off first and opened it. It had been blank at one point, but Steve had drawn a homemade coupon complete with a little barcode in the bottom corner and an expiration date at the top. “One sexual fantasy of my choice,” he read. “Including location, costuming, roleplay and toys. Oh my.”
Steve laughed. “I figure you'll come up with something we haven't tried yet.”
“I've always wondered how you'd look in gladiator gear,” Tony said. “I'll need a whip.”
“I know you already have one of those,” Steve said. “Go ahead. Open the rest.”
Tony slid a finger under the edge of the paper and popped the tape loose, sliding it off the gift without tearing it – something he knew secretly drove Steve nuts. The depression-era survivor in him admired the fact that Tony could, theoretically, reuse the paper. The 21st century man knew damned well they didn't need to save it. He dropped the paper over the side of the bed and turned his attention to the picture frame he now held revealed in his hands. It was sleek black metal, something that would fit in perfectly in his office or his workshop, but the sketch held within it...
“This is-” It was the two of them, sitting together on the couch, Tony resting his head against Steve's shoulder, their hands clasped together on Steve's thigh. But the men in Steve's sketch were older; they were men at the end of their lives, with peace in their eyes as they looked at each other.
“Us,” Steve said simply. “This is what I see when I look at you.”
Tony's hands were shaking so he set the frame down on the bed. “An old man?” he joked, but it fell flat and his voice shook nearly as badly as his hands..
“My future, you jackass.” Steve scooted across the bed and nudged Tony's shoulder with his own. “Our future. A long life together. A happy one.”
Tony pressed a fist against his mouth. “This is really what you want?”
“Well as long as you don't keep standing me up all the time.”
“I love you,” Tony said. He wrapped his hand around the back of Steve's neck and pulled him in for a kiss. “I love you, Steve, I-” The words got lost between them as Steve's mouth closed over his.
The room was dark again, silent save for the slowing pants of Tony's breath and the slightly wet sound of the kisses Steve was pressing against his throat.
“I wasn't kidding about tomorrow,” Steve said. “I hope you didn't plan on getting out of bed at any point.”
Tony ran his fingers through Steve's hair. “I thought you wanted pancakes?”
“Breakfast in bed.”
“I thought you wanted to play basketball?”
“Am I going to have to tie you down?”
“Probably,” Tony said. “Or you could just kiss me again and see if I'm any more agreeable after that.”
“That's a trick,” Steve said. “You're never agreeable.”
Steve kissed him anyway.