Lost and Found
Tony can sense immediately—when Steve shows up at the newly-furnished Avengers tower and wraps his arms around him—that something’s off.
The first thing Tony says is “Hey,” and the second is “I’m sorry,” because the moment the disaster with the Mandarin unraveled Steve had been right there, saying it was okay, that Tony was always Iron Man with a suit or without and it didn’t matter and I’m here, Tony, if you need me.
And now that the situation is reversed, well. Tony’s one loquacious bastard according to most people he knows, but when it comes to Feelings (yes, that’s with a capital ‘f’) he tends to fall short a bit. Now, SHIELD’s in complete disarray and hell if Tony knows what’s going on in Steve’s head after having lost his best friend twice over.
The texts and e-mails he’d received from Steve throughout the last few months had been brief, distant—as they often had to be when one of them was on an away mission.
But here’s the weird thing: Now that he’s right in front of Tony, in the flesh, for real--Steve is fine. Weirdly fine.
“I’m okay,” Steve says, smiling a bit, “Really, Tony. I’m fine. All those texts you sent got me worried for you, actually. So I got here as soon as I could after…” He trails off. “After everything.”
Tony nods once. “Um. Right.” He reaches up to tousle Steve’s always prim-and-proper blonde locks affectionately. “Good.”
Steve nods back. Says, “I missed you,” presses a light kiss to Tony’s temple, shuffles off to take a shower. Tony watches him go, mouth slightly agape with words he can’t really form just at the edge of his lips.
It’s just the two of them at HQ. With SHIELD disassembled for the moment, and dedicated people like Agent Hill scrambling to pick up the pieces, it’s safe to say centralized means of Fighting The Baddie isn’t really a thing at the moment.
Bruce is off finding himself for the sixteenth time, and who knows what Clint’s up to—it probably has something to do with a certain redhead who’s gone under the radar. Thor is being Thor, hopping back and forth between Jane Foster’s kitchen and Asgard City. And Tony, well…
Tony is feeling very much exposed these days. What with no shiny metal suit to flash around.
Pepper says he’s having an identity crisis. Tony chooses to conveniently ignore that hypothesis.
But Steve always manages to find a way to ground him, though. Even when his mind is in the sky where his suits used to take him.
“So,” he says into the nighttime darkness of their room, peering up at the ceiling, hands bracing his head on the pillow, “I’m kind of pissed I didn’t pick up on SHIELD’s breadcrumb trail earlier on.”
“Hmm?” Steve is reading a book, because he always reads before bed. Wuthering Heights. Man, some things never change.
Tony props himself up on an elbow. “I mean, when Fury first called on us, Banner and I made a relatively educated guess that SHIELD was up to some serious shit behind the curtain--”
“Educated guess?” Steve echoes, flipping a page of his book.
“My guesses are always educated, Steve. Keep up.” Tony tries to make a joke, tries to find Steve’s eyes, but evidently, the other is too engrossed in his 19th-century fiction. He sighs theatrically. “Steve. I am attempting to converse with you with my luscious abs exposed as an added bonus. Is this not good enough for you?”
In an abrupt motion, Steve slams his book shut, staring down at the cover with such intensity that Tony half-expects it to catch fire. “I just really don’t want to talk about this right now, okay, Tony?”
“Okay, okay.” Tony sits up fully, lifting his hands in surrender. “Don’t, uh. Don’t get your tighty-whities in a twist, Cap.”
Steve is silent. He leans over and kisses Tony’ s cheek chastely, puts his book on the bedside table, tells JARVIS to turn out the remaining lamp.
And suddenly Tony can no longer see him. He feels himself floating—up, up and away again, unable to be grounded. Steve is right next to him for the first time in months, and he’s the farthest away Tony thinks he’s ever been.
He’s awakened in the middle of the night to Steve trailing hungry, wet kisses down his spine. Steve whispers his name huskily, and before Tony can sit up and question just what the hell Steve’s playing at, he’s being pinned down on his stomach by Steve’s strong hands on either of his wrists.
“Need you.” Steve’s breath brushes against the back of Tony’s neck. “Need you right now.”
He’s flipped onto his back with such force that he almost forgets to breathe, and Steve’s lips collide with his own a second later. Fingers yearning for touch dance along every inch of Tony’s body, freeing Tony’s own hands so they can tangle in Steve’s hair.
Steve grinds into him, finally letting his hands rest on Tony’s hips, digging his thumbs into the hipbones as he bites at Tony’s collarbone. Tony takes in gasps of air as if he’s breathing for the first time, clawing at Steve’s back and fumbling because he doesn’t know what else to do to keep Steve here with him, to keep the overwhelming need from overtaking them both.
The sex is … different.
Steve marks him at every turn, which, hi, totally hot, but there is something animalistic in his behavior that Tony’s never experienced before. There’s a kind of desperation in his touch that is so palpable that Tony can taste it on Steve’s tongue as it laps around his length, can feel it in Steve’s rhythmic thrusts.
After, Steve is splayed across Tony, all sweat and muscle and hazy whispers of, “Stay,” and Tony does not wake up early the next day to head down to the lab, partially because he doesn’t want to leave warmth of Steve, but also because he’s afraid of what might happen if he did.
Capital-f Feelings are easier through text when Tony’s at executive board meetings or Steve’s heading out to meet Sam Wilson for recon.
So you’re okay?
Yes, Tony. You can stop asking. P.S.—what’s the big deal about The Wrath of Khan and why does Clint say it’s the best science fiction movie ever?
Despite the glaring fact that no one uses ‘P.S.’ in a text, don’t change the subject.
Says the King of Changing the Subject. I’m fine. OK?
Routine. Tony’s never been a fan of routine, but he finds he’s immersed in one now.
Mission. Sex. Sleep. Work. Sex. Sleep. Repeat.
Steve is with him through all of it, but somewhere else where, for all the Stark Industries tracking technology in the world, Tony couldn’t possibly follow.
But glass eventually cracks, knots eventually unravel.
Tony Stark is in his lab, tweaking with a new alloy he and Bruce had been working on to add to the resilience of Cap’s shield. At the same time, displayed on one of Tony’s many holoscreens in the lab is JARVIS keeping up with the locations of Hawkeye, Thor, the Hulk and Cap as they attempt to apprehend New York’s latest baddie—some creepy guy from an alternate realm donning a cape out of the Wal Mart Halloween department threatening to blow stuff up, the usual.
Except today it’s most decidedly not—a truth which presents itself in the form of Clint shouting through the comm system, “Shit! What the hell is wrong with Cap?!”
Tony is in the midst of writing up an equation for an adjustment to vibranium when Hawkeye’s voice rings through his earpiece like an alarm. He immediately whips around in his chair to the tracking screen behind him. “JARVIS,” he commands, “Unmute my comm channel.”
“Yes, sir,” is the ever-obedient AI’s reply, and with a tiny blip noise Tony is able to speak to the other four.
“What do you mean, ‘What’s wrong with Cap?’” Tony realizes then how panicked he sounds, and finishes with: “He having a hernia or something? Old people get those.”
“Friend Stark,” greets Thor, “Are you joining our valiant battle for justice? I should tell you that it has come to a close. Though Captain Rogers does not seem to believe--”
He’s interrupted by another shout of an expletive on Clint’s part. “Bruce is trying to calm him down, I can’t--”
“Wh--Bruce?” Tony stammers, “Our resident Big Green Ball of Anger is trying to calm Steve down?! Why?”
“I don’t know—We got Instigatus pinned down and Hill helped us dismantle the bomb, but then Cap just started beating on him over and over and--”
Tony finds himself moving in a daze as he turns off the earpiece, and stands up so sharply out of his seat that his chair is sent flying across the room. He’d cut off Clint but he hadn’t needed to hear anything else.
He glances at the glass pod in the far corner of the room. The object within it glistens. He touches his chest lightly, feels for something that’s no longer there, that he doesn’t need.
For the first time in nearly a year, Tony puts on his suit.
When he gets to Steve, he freezes.
The strong and brave Captain America is knelt on the sidewalk, red-gloved hands dripping in darker red blood. Instigatus lies in a heap beside him. Inside the helmet, JARVIS picks up his life signs, barely there.
Bruce, in disheveled clothing torn here and there, shuffles over to stand beside Tony. The others stand a little ways back. Maria Hill crosses her arms, bites her lip, and Clint stares down at his shoes. Steve is hunched in a way that looks as though he’s folded over himself, shivering as if cold as ice, his mask cast off in a heap next to him.
“Dunno what happened,” Bruce mutters, “Steve caught the S.O.B. before he could do any more damage to the block, and then just…went crazy. And that’s coming from me.”
Tony removes his helmet. Takes methodic, slow steps toward Steve, kneels down gingerly before him. “Steve?” The name is a question.
Steve looks up, and his eyes are large blue pools, deep, vast. “I . . . I didn’t mean to. It just . . . it happened. I was . . . I was making sure he wasn’t . . . wasn’t going to hurt anyone and . . .” He trails off, staring at the pool of blood surrounding Instigatus. “I couldn’t stop.”
“Hey.” Tony cocks his head a little, tries to meet Steve’s eyes again. “He’s the Bad Guy, remember? We’re supposed to beat ‘em down.”
Steve shakes his head slowly. “Not like this. This--” He gestures to the red around him. “This wasn’t the mission.”
Tony exchanges a significant look with Hill, because he’s pretty sure the last thing Steve needs is everyone gawking at him right now. Hill nods, says, “Thor, Dr. Banner, help me drag this bastard back to HQ and we’ll debrief. Let’s go.”
“As you wish, Lady Hill,” Thor says, and Hill opens her mouth to correct him in half-jest like she always does, to say, It’s ‘Agent Hill’ to you, but she doesn’t. Can’t. Not much for an agent of SHIELD to do these days with…no SHIELD.
Tony wants to say that he admires Maria and the fact that she’s sort of stepped up to take charge of this strange band of misfits. True, she had brought them together with Fury and SHIELD, but in the end of things, she seemed to be the only one who stuck around.
He doesn’t say any of those things, but he thinks them as Hill walks away with heavy, sagging shoulders as she so often does these days, other Avengers in tow.
It’s just the two of them now. Silence besides the occasional New York breeze fills the air, and Tony waits. Waits for some sign from the universe to tells him what he needs to do, because this is not his department—equations and alloys and moseying his way around responsibility is 100% his department, and—
And then Steve whispers, “Bucky…” and then, “Tony?”
It’s not exactly a lightning-bolt sent via the Powers that Be, but it’s enough for Tony Stark, who immediately wraps his metal-clad arms around Steve as the latter all but falls into him, taking ragged, choked breaths. “I couldn’t stop,” he says again, “I just wanted to save him. I wanted to save Bucky and I couldn’t . . . I couldn’t stop because if I did, they all . . . there were millions, Tony, millions of people who are going to make a difference in this world, do such great things, and I couldn’t . . .
“Hey, shhh…I know. I know.” Never has Tony felt more constricted by his armor than right now, when he wants more than ever to run his fingers through Steve’s hair, to lean over and kiss the top of his head, the salty wet on his face.
But Steve doesn’t seem to mind. He rests his forehead against the cool of Tony’ chestplate and doesn’t move. Just breathes. People walk by in clusters, pointing, and one kid takes a photo. But Tony barely notices, because all he can think about is trying to match Steve’s breathing with his own, trying to tell Steve without words that he doesn’t have to justify himself—least of all to Tony.
“I thought . . .” Steve murmurs between shaky exhales, “I thought when I got back from D.C. that you’d—you’d want nothing to do with me. I want nothing to do with me, Tony, and the more I search for Bucky, the more I try to find him and make it right, the more I hate what I’m turning into.” He looks up again, gaze quaking. “I’m just—I’m so . . . I’m--” He clenches his jaw, pulls away slightly, stares down at his hands again.
I’m losing him, Tony thinks, and a wave of sheer panic like he’s never known courses through him. Tony Stark has lost a lot in his life. He won’t lose this—won’t lose Steve, the one person who’d managed to find him before Tony could even begin to know how to find himself. He takes a deep breath.
“Angry,” he finishes, desperately trying to find Steve’s eyes again, find him again, “You’re angry at what those sons of bitches at HYDRA did to Bucky.”
Steve nods meekly.
And then Tony sits back, too, throws up his arms. “Well fuck it,” he all but shouts, “So am I. Doesn’t mean you have to stop looking. Just means you have to use that anger as a motivator. The world is fucked up, Steve, and unjust, and insane, and the only thing you can do is hold your ground. You wanna know who taught that to me and the rest of the strange collection of mutants that frolic in and out of my tower?” Steve finally looks up again, just in time for Tony to finish: “You.”
Steve laughs a little, bitterly. Shrugs. “I don’t know if I can do this.”
Tony reaches for his helmet, takes it under his arm. Stands, and extends his free hand down to Steve. “Maybe you’re not sure if you can,” he says, “But I’m pretty positive we can. And I’m right about everything, aren’t I?—Don’t answer that question. It’s rhetorical.”
An almost incredulous look is his reply, as Steve rubs his eyes with his right hand a little, squeezing them shut for a moment. Tony thinks he might have made a mistake, that he should have kept his goddamn mouth shut like his dad used to always say.
Until Steve takes his hand. Lets Tony pull him up. He says, quietly, “You put on the suit.”
“Oh…um.” Tony looks down at his feet awkwardly. “Yeah. I thought…you might have been in trouble, and, y’know, I worked on this model for, like, a year for it to just be sitting there so I thought maybe--”
Steve—no, Cap, in his bright American blue mask again looking more determined and confident than ever, cuts him off with a small peck to his lips. “Let’s go home,” he says.
Tony’s never been a fan of obeying orders, but about this one he can’t complain.
They lie twisted in each other’s limbs, and for the first time in months, Steve talks. He talks about Natasha and Fury, about the battle between him and Bucky, how they grew up together and fought together and how Bucky represented everything good there was in the world to Steve.
“I know he’s in there somewhere, Tony,” he says, “I’ll find him. We’ll find him.” He sounds more resolute than Tony’s ever heard him, and it sends a warm feeling bubbling under his skin, the kind that makes an involuntary smile tease his features.
He traces absent shapes on Steve’s chest. Says, despite himself: “I missed you.” I found you.
Steve kisses the top of Tony’s head. “I missed you, too.” You found me.
The unspoken words are heard all the same. And Tony senses—as Steve presses his nose into Tony’s hair, quotes Yeats to him in a whisper because he’s corny like that—that maybe he can get used to all these capital –‘f’ Feelings as long as Steve Rogers
(here, safe, found)
is the one to ignite them.