Forgive Us Our Trespasses
'Cause you're the last of a dying breed
Write our names in the wet concrete
I wonder if your therapist knows everything about me
I'm here in search of your glory
There's been a million before me
That ultra-kind of love
You never walk away from
“The Last of the Real Ones” – Fall Out Boy
The words were softly spoken, tentative and friendly, though it was the speaker that had Tony immediately freezing as he faced the holo-table featuring his newest project: the speaker shouldn’t have been down here, if only for the fact that access to the engineer’s workshop had been denied to all of the pardoned Avengers—and the fact that FRIDAY hadn’t made a sound meant that this visit had been pre-planned and his baby girl had somehow been disabled.
The inventor slowly straightened, shoulders going back and chin lifting to meet Steve Rogers’ gaze head-on as the dark-eyed man turned to face his one-time friend completely: there was a neutrality to Tony’s expression, a blankness within the older man’s gaze—one that immediately set Steve on edge, if only because Tony was never neutral. The genius always had an expression, a comment for everything under the sun. Steve shifted on his feet, weight redistributing even as he tried to offer the shorter man his best open, friendly smile.
“I know that the visit is unexpected, but you never stick around after briefings any more, and I think that it’s time that we talked—“
The blue-eyed man trailed off, uncertain as Tony lifted a hand, interrupting the hopeful stream of words that he didn’t want to hear in the first place. “Did you cause irreparable damage to FRIDAY to get down here?” the engineer asked and—there, right then, there was a spark of something that flared within the brunette’s gaze, bright and passionate and Steve could remember Tony looking at him and the rest of the team exactly like that. And it ached, knowing just how long it had been since the inventor had looked at any of them in a similar enough way.
“No,” Steve admitted, voice muted. “Nat temporarily suspended her access to the Compound’s systems. She should be fine with a reboot.”
Tony’s gaze hardened, dark brown eyes going flinty with collared fury. “I sincerely hope so, Rogers.”
And--there, it was that thing that made Steve so angry, had pushed him into putting his plan into motion. That look in Tony’s eyes, the carefully worded threat, the way that Tony didn’t call any of his old teammates by their first names, not like how it used to be. The distance between the inventor and the pardoned Avengers was stretching wider and wider, deepening into a gulf that Steven was floundering at trying to cross, and the soldier missed Tony. Missed the older man at movie nights, missed the easy rhythm that they adopted between the both of them on and off the field—missed Tony’s godawful music, his sarcasm, the brilliant insight he so often contributed to the Avengers’ plans.
Steve missed Tony.
And Tony had never called, not once, not even when Steve had taken to always carrying the outdated phone in a front pocket—just… hoping. Waiting. Clinging to some sort of semblance that things would get better and all of them—his team—could move past this. But Tony never called.
“We need to talk, Tony. It’s been long enough and you can’t keep ignoring us,” Steve eventually answered, finding the words as he gestured towards the other, palms up and showing that he was here to parlay, to bargain, to find the forgiveness that they both needed to offer the other.
The words, however, just caused the engineer to tilt his head to the side, neutral expression shifting to something… curious, academically so. Tony crossed his arms around his ribs, leaning a hip against the edge of his worktable, and Steve very carefully kept his eyes from flickering down to glance at the arc reactor that once more adorned the billionaire’s chest.
It had appeared for the first time several weeks after Siberia.
(Steve didn’t want to think about the why.)
“Who is this need to talk necessary for, Rogers?” Tony asked, too-observant eyes focused and sharp upon Steve’s face, watching every micro expression as it flickered over the blond’s face. “Me? You? The others? Because I’m happy with the current status quo, and I have no issue with it never changing.”
Regret and happiness—frustration—spasmed across Steve’s face at the other man’s words, and Tony’s mouth flattened into a straight, unimpressed line. “Things can’t function like that,” the soldier eventually managed to answer with, tone beseeching and eyes wide as Steve tried catching Tony’s gaze again. “We have to eventually forgive each other—move past the mistakes and the hurts we’ve caused each other, Tony. We need to learn how to be a team again.”
The dark-eyed man’s mouth tightened further, and Tony dropped his gaze down and away from Steve’s to stare intently down at the concrete floor of the workshop: weighing how to respond, obviously considering words to choose from—and hope rose a little bit higher in Steve’s chest the longer that the inventor mulled over his internal thoughts.
Eventually, however, Tony once again looked upwards and shrugged a shoulder. “The team functions fine on the field, Rogers, but if camaraderie is one of your concerns, I can easily transfer to either Stephen or Carol’s teams. I’m not going to touch on the comment about moving past mistakes and the hurts we’ve dealt each other. It’s a pointless, stupid battle, and it’s not worth rehashing everything in a pointless waste of breath. But forgiving each other? That--that I’ll happily talk about with you.”
Steve could see the trainwreck coming, plowing straight ahead, and the hope that he had for any sort of reconciliation abruptly dipped even as the soldier attempted to derail the other man, wanting Tony to stop talking before words could be spoken aloud that could never again be taken back.
“I don’t forgive you.”
The blond reared back, stung by how bluntly Tony spoke. “Tony, please, I said that I was sorry--“
“No,” the brunette interrupted, gaze once more flat and almost alien in how the inventor watched Steve, never shifting closer, posture always closed-off and bordering on defensive. “I don’t forgive you. I don’t think that I ever will. There are a lot of reasons why—I could list them out until I’m blue in the face—but the main reason is this: I finally started seeing a therapist after Siberia. I finally started dealing with my own mental health issues, and one of the things we ended up discussing was all of—this. The toxicity of the team, the tendency to play the scapegoat for the others, the fact that—even after New York—I was never instated as a full member of the Avengers and yet you all were more than happy to take my time, my lodgings, my money, and my tech, your blatant hypocrisy coated over by a bullshit excuse. And when I first called you out on it in that bunker? You tried to offer an excuse. I called you out again, and you knew you couldn’t hide the truth anymore—and you finally told me the truth.”
Tony pushed away from the worktable at that, and Steve found that he couldn’t look away from the other’s eyes: still flat, nearly alien, uncompromising and terrifying in their blankness when Steve could remember how they had pooled with choked-back tears, wide with betrayal and hurt and fury and grief. This… This was a Tony that apparently felt nothing.
“Your apology was full of more excuses, more justifications, more hypocrisy, and perhaps the one thing that I took to heart from the sessions was that I don’t have to forgive you. Me forgiving you is not dependent on proceeding with my healing. I can burn this bridge, set it ablaze and turn my back on the fire; I don’t have to feel obligation towards you or the others beyond the professional. You have no standing to place any on me—not anymore, and I’m not willing to allow them. Any of them. I don’t have to forgive you, Rogers, and you know what? Realizing that was pretty much the most goddamn freeing thing I’ve felt in years.”
Frantic now that he was starting to realize that one of the foundations that he had come to rely upon in this new century was slamming its door in his face--knowing, from the tone of Tony’s voice alone, that if Steve didn’t manage to salvage the conversation, try to push towards forgiveness and eventual friendship again… there was no going back. There was a finality to the other man’s stance, his words, his tone: it was this or nothing at all between them, and Steve… Tony was his friend, he still had the phone, had meant every word penned in the letter he had sent—and this was something that was unacceptable to lose.
“Please, Tony. Please You know that Bucky was brainwashed—he wasn’t in control of himself, he didn’t know what he was doing, it was HYDRA--and I truly am so sorry--“
A muscled shoulder shrugged again. “I know that it wasn’t Barnes’ fault. See, the funny thing is…? When I actually had time to process things, that fact was stupidly obvious. But after having to deal with the memory at the presentation at MIT, being faced with my mom’s killer, realizing that this particular blame that I felt for dear old dad for decades…? It was a bit like being slapped in the face—it was triggering and all I could think of at that time was He killed my mom. But now? It’s… better.”
It was then, with the stilted, last comment that Steve realized that the new arm that Bucky had been sporting over the past several weeks hadn’t been one last gift from T’Challa. Bucky and Tony must have somehow come across each other when the blue-eyed man hadn’t been around--something must have happened for Tony to extend the sort of truce-leaning gesture that that arm had become.
There was frustration, then, at the fact that Tony was willing to move forward with Bucky, and yet was cutting Steve out completely, slamming doors shut, bolting the locks to the point that nothing he could do would grant him entry to the vulnerable parts of the inventor that Tony had once shared so joyously.
It was a loss and, desperate, Steve tried again.
“Please, Tony. I’m so incredibly sorry—you’ll never realize just how sorry I am for everything that happened; just tell me what you need me to do so that I can make this better again. I can’t lose you, not after I’ve lost so many others after going into the ice.”
A corner of the brunette’s mouth quirked upwards, smile ironic. “You still have your old team, Rogers.”
But you’re no longer on it, the soldier’s mind whispered from a dark, aching place in his mind.
“Tony,” Steve whispered, beseeching the older man yet again, voice cracking as he spoke. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m done and not willing to pick up the pieces; I’m not willing to fix them or to put the parts back together. Let it go,” the engineer stated simply in turn and that…? That sent Steve reeling. Tony was an engineer, a mechanic: he fixed things, always put them back together again, better than new—and the dark-eyed man was willingly stepping over the jagged edges of their friendship this time around.
Numb with shock—with loss and the grief that his attempts at reconciliation had been firmly rebuffed (perhaps another try would work…? Tony would eventually have to give in… wouldn’t he?)—Steve turned to leave the workshop, though he paused when his attention caught on what had once been a spotlighted display in the corner of the workshop.
The area was dusty, surprisingly neglected in the typically pristine lab, and the soldier could see pegs where… arm straps?... must have rested; the space was just barely wide enough for “…my shield?” the blond murmured to himself, brows furrowing n concern at the fact that the shield wasn’t there.
Though Steve had been speaking to himself with the comment, not intending for Tony to overhear his still-fogged confusion, the inventor still answered him as if it had been a legitimate question—though it took a too-long moment for the soldier to actually understand the meaning behind the quip.
“Currently giving Barnes a hand.”