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I Dream of Steve

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When Tony opened his eyes he noticed two things. It was extremely bright in his room and he was uncomfortably warm. He licked his lips and frowned at how dry his mouth was so he shut his eyes and groaned hoarsely.

 

“J.A.R.V.I.S., lights down.”

 

The AI did not respond to him and nothing changed. He frowned, mostly in pain because he had an excruciating headache, but at the same time he picked up on the fact that he wasn’t in his room. Or any room for that matter. He blindly reached out to see what he was laying on and felt sand. So it had been one of those nights then.

 

As slowly as he could he pushed himself into a sitting position, pulling his legs up just enough to allow him to bury his head between his knees and allowing his eyes to gradually adjust to the brightness. When he was finally able to clear his vision he looked up, squinting heavily, taking in his surroundings. He only hoped that what he was looking at was a beach and not a mirage of one. If he was hallucinating it was one hell of a hallucination. The slight breeze he was finally feeling from the sea, the sounds of birds, the sight of pieces of a plane that crashed into the water. Yep. This had to be real. He was definitely having memories of something going wrong during his flight and realizing they were quickly going down. He frowned as he realized what that meant, but he was mostly curious about how he ended up on this island and what the fate of the rest the crew had been. When he had his bearings a little better, he stood with the intention of walking towards the beach to get a closer look at anything possibly salvageable, maybe a radio and some food.

 

Somewhat unsteady, he reached the shoreline and found quite a bit of debris that had washed up, but nothing that he seemed to actually need. That stripper pole? Well, he might be able to find some use for it. He located a few items he could use as tools and a few unopened bags of peanuts. Extraordinary.

 

Displeased with his findings though, he spent the next two hours searching for any other items that might have washed up on shore. There was no sign of a phone. Or a radio. Or a flare gun. He assumed those were elsewhere in the ocean, swept away by undercurrents, meaning that he wasn’t going to be sending any sort of electronic message to help him get off this island. With the sigh of a man who was utterly defeated, exhausted, hungry and potentially hungover, he just allowed himself to fall onto the sand, sitting up with his shoulders slumped forward.

 

If he ever made it out of here, he was going to give Obie pure hell for making him go on this business trip. Until then…

 

“Marooned on an island like a fucking pirate. There better be rum around here.”

 

Not that anyone was around to hear him. He knew he had to figure out something soon because he knew he definitely wouldn’t escape before darkness took over, and he didn’t like the idea of being on some strange island in the dark with no electricity or running water or heat or...anything to do at all. This was a nightmare befitting someone like Tony Stark. Fucking great.

 

*****

 

There was no rum.

 

Of course there wasn’t.

 

Tony searched the entire island. He found palm fronds. He found a hammock. He found coconuts. He found...nothing useful.

 

“Great. I’m stranded on Gilligan’s Island,” he muttered under his breath. “At least there’s a hammock.”

 

*****

 

Waking up under the sun on a deserted island was actually not any fun at all. Granted, this was the second time he had now done that and this was the second time in a row he hated it. At least his head didn’t hurt as much this time. Small miracles.

 

He struggled to sit up in the hammock when his hand slipped through one of the holes and then a foot got caught as well, which caused him to fall rather spectacularly from the cursed thing. He was going to make a different bed this time.

 

Now that his head was much clearer, though, he was able to notice things that he had missed the day before. He wouldn’t be able to make enough of a shelter but it’d be something. As long as he didn’t end up going all Castaway and naming an inanimate object to be his best friend then he’d be good. He was Tony Stark after all. He’d find a way to get off the island. He wasn’t a genius for nothing.

 

It happened about an hour later when he was grabbing more palm fronds. He had an armful and was walking toward the beach again when something caught his foot. This resulted in him falling face first into the sand after dropping his collection of leaves and branches. He sighed impatiently.

 

“Ow.”

 

He pushed himself up and brushed the sand and dirt from his face and the front of his suit while he was turning around to kick at the offending...thing that had tripped him. He wasn’t expecting to find a bottle on the ground.

 

“Is that rum? Please say it’s rum.”

 

With lightning quick reflexes only reserved for those who believe they’ve located their own personal holy grail, Tony picked it up and looked closely. After a moment he shook it and discovered there was no liquid. Just a rock or something. Figures.

 

And he was about to discard it, but there was something on it. Something that caught his attention. A symbol or writing. Well it was shiny and he liked shiny things. So he rubbed it with the sleeve of his jacket.

 

What occurred next was...not normal by any means. The bottle vibrated before a blue smoke began to billow out, followed by a man. A man who was man sized. Tony jumped back almost a foot and gaped. This man was just sitting in midair, his arms crossed and a smile on his face.

 

He started with the bottom and worked his way up. Blue pointy shoes. Blue genie pants. Blue genie bra. Blue genie vest. Blue genie hat with a blue veil thing on it.

 

His eyes travelled back down just a little. He tilted his head. Those abs. Were amazing.

 

“Uh, hi?” Smooth, Tony.

 

“Hello, master!” the genie boomed with a smile.

 

Tony took a step closer. And then another. He stopped when he was close enough to get a good look at the man who was still floating in midair. If he had inhaled some sort of hallucinatory drug this was the best hallucination he’s ever had. His mind usually didn’t come up with hot, scantily clad male genies.

 

“So you’re a genie?”

 

The genie nodded once. “And I’m here to do whatever you wish.”

 

Tony’s eyebrows shot up at that and a few unsavory yet incredibly sexy thoughts drifted through his mind.

 

“Except that,” the genie said in response to what he figured was the look on Tony’s face.

 

“Well damn. Are you really a genie?”

 

“I thought we covered this part already.”

 

“All right, sassy genie. Don’t get your genie thong in a bunch.”

 

The genie gave Tony a rather unimpressed look.

 

Tony was still pretty sure he was hallucinating anyway. He reached forward because he was going to tap the man’s shoulder to make sure he was corporeal, but he was drawn in by the allure of man boobs and he gave one a slight squeeze.

 

Yep. Definitely there.

 

He looked up to meet the genie’s gaze to discover he was blushing and Tony smirked. That was apparently the wrong thing to do because his face shifted from embarrassed to angry and he slapped Tony across the face as hard as he could.

 

“Ow.” He hoped this wasn’t becoming his word of the day. He shot his own glare at the genie. “Right. I’m hallucinating a bit too hard it seems.”

 

With that he turned, tossing the bottle over his shoulder as he did and walked away. Normally he’d probably be turned on by something like that but he was in his own version of hell at the moment.

 

“Wait!”

 

Tony stopped, rubbing at the side of his face.

 

“Come back.”

 

“Go away, hallucigenie. I have work to do.”

 

The genie heaved an annoyed sigh and suddenly appeared in front of Tony again. “I shouldn’t have hit you.”

 

“You’re a rude genie.”

 

“Do you just go around groping everyone you meet?”

 

Tony straightened his posture a bit and looked the genie right in the eyes. Even his eyes were blue. Blond hair, blue eyes. Figures.

 

“No. It’s not everyday my life is turned into a Nick at Nite marathon.”

 

“I don’t know what that means.”

 

Tony grinned. “My life just went all ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ on me.”

 

The genie’s face was blank. He shrugged. “If you say so.”

 

“So do you have a name or are all genies just referred to as Genie?”

 

“Steve.” He made sure to stay in front of Tony as the man continued to walk.

 

Tony laughed quietly and pressed his lips together, smiling. “Steve the genie?”

 

Steve nodded. “Don’t laugh. Steve is a respectable name.”

 

Tony lifted his hands to show surrender. “Of course it is. Most genies either go by Genie or have some ridiculously exotic name.”

 

Steve the genie shrugged. “I don’t know any other genies.”

 

“Then how do you know you’re a genie?” Tony challenged.

 

Steve rolled his eyes. “I just do. Do you always talk this much?”

 

Tony crossed his arms over his chest. “Maybe. I’m a busy man full of ideas and a company to run...everyone probably thinks I’m dead actually.” He scowled.

 

“Why?”

 

“Well my plane,” he pointed towards the ocean where only a few bits of debris were currently floating, “crashed. At least I think it did. I haven’t seen any indication that anyone else was on it with me, but I distinctly remember being on an airplane on my way home from a business trip and that there were other people there.”

 

Steve looked toward the water. Tony saw something flicker across his face but he couldn’t put a name to it.

 

“You look like someone kicked your puppy. What’s wrong?”

 

Steve’s eyes were back on Tony. He smiled. “Nothing at all, master.”

 

“Don’t call me that,” Tony said with slight distaste. It felt wrong.

 

“That’s what you are to me.”

 

“Call me Tony at least.”

 

“Master Tony.”

 

Tony rolled his eyes. “No no no. Just Tony. Get rid of the master part. Don’t need it.”

 

“You’re strange.”

 

“Says the genie named Steve,” the genius shot back. He ran a hand through his mess of a hair and then felt his goatee, frowning when he realized it needed a trim. “Although you’re not the first person to call me strange. Does my goatee look messy to you?”

 

“Uh...no?”

 

“You’re lying to me.” He exhaled. “I wish I was home in front of my mirror,” he muttered. “I’m…”

 

He had to stop and blink. And then blink again. He stared at his reflection in the mirror before slowly turning his head to look at Steve. “Did you do this?”

 

“You made a wish. I granted it. I thought you knew how this worked.”

 

“We’re going to have a conversation about your sass later, Steve the genie. Right now I’m taking a shower and processing the shock of this.” He pushed past Steve and made a beeline for the shower before he halted and then turned around again. He looked Steve right in the eye and pointed. “No peeking.”

 

Steve blushed. “I think you’re safe, Tony.”

 

“Welcome home, sir. It is good to see you back safely.”

 

Steve jumped, looking all around him in confusion. “What the hell is that?”

 

“I am J.A.R.V.I.S. Master Stark’s artificial intelligence and guardian of his residence.”

 

“Uh…”

 

Tony was laughing loudly. “As you heard, that’s J.A.R.V.I.S. J.A.R.V.I.S., this is Steve the genie. If you need anything, Steve, just ask him and he’ll help you. Let me tell you about the adventure I just had, J.”

 

Steve found his footing and floated back down to the ground. “I don’t remember signing up for this,” he muttered when Tony was in the shower.

 

“It takes some getting used to,” the disembodied voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. responded, sounding slightly amused when the genie jumped once more. “Now if you don’t mind, I’ll be running some personal scans of my own to make sure you’re no threat. In the meantime, there is food in the kitchen, a television in almost every room, or you might choose to appreciate the view of the skyline from Master Stark’s penthouse living room.”

 

“Ah. Thanks?” He had no idea what was happening, but he’d like to prove he wasn’t a threat to Tony. “Where is the living room?”

 

He followed the directions given to him by the AI and stared out the windows in wonder.

 

***

 

When Tony was finished with his much needed shower and beard trimming, he put on a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt before making his way out of his bedroom. Reaching the common area, he found Steve staring silently out the windows, hands pressed against the glass like a child who was seeing such a view for the first time. It stood to reason that this probably was his first time seeing something like this. After a moment he cleared his throat and the genie turned around. If he was startled at all he didn’t show it. Tony noted the same look on Steve’s face that he’d briefly witnessed on the island and wondered what was going through the blond’s head.

 

“I’ve got some business to take care of. Is there anything you need, Steve the genie?” The irony of that question didn’t go over Tony’s head.

 

Steve stared at him with wide unblinking eyes. “Where are we?”

 

“My home? Stark Tower.”

 

Steve shook his head and pointed toward the window. “There. What’s that?”

 

Tony looked out the window and then back at Steve. “New York City?”

 

The genie looked thoughtful for a moment. “I know this place,” he spoke almost quietly.

 

“Well yeah. It’s one of the most famous cities in the world. Everyone knows it.”

 

That pulled Steve out of his quiet contemplation long enough for him to look at the genius and roll his eyes. “I mean I feel like I know it personally.”

 

“Right. Maybe it’s a previous genie encounter?”

 

“You’re the first person who’s ever released me from the lamp,” Steve replied.

 

“Oh.” His eyes widened. “Oh. How long have you been in that bottle?”

 

Steve just shrugged. “Decades? Centuries? I don’t know.”

 

Tony considered this for a moment, a frown creasing his brow. “Come up to the workshop with me. I have a few calls to make, people to bring to tears, the usual. Make yourself comfortable there. You can meet the bots,” he added with an excited grin.

 

“The...what?”

 

Tony was already making his way toward the elevator and the genie followed.

 

“J.A.R.V.I.S., take us up.”

 

The elevator began to rise and Steve looked up in wonder again. “Aren’t they supposed to play music?”

 

“What?”

 

“Nothing.”

 

“Sir, you have 200 new voicemails and 700 emails as well as text messages. Would you like to sort through them now?”

 

Tony sighed as he walked into his shop. “Delete all. Dial Pepper.”

 

If Steve had been in shock before by what he’d seen, it had been nothing compared to what he was witnessing now. He let out a gasp and turned, only to come face to face with an arm and a claw. He turned around again and there was another right behind him. He inched backward a little and bumped into Tony. “What…?

 

Tony sighed. “DUM-E. U. Stop it now. You’re being rude.”

 

Both bots lowered their claws and made a sad, pathetic sound. Steve just blinked for a moment and then slowly approached them.

 

“Are they sad?”

 

The genius snorted. “Sad excuses for helper bots.”

 

That made the two robots emit another sound of sadness.

 

“Don’t be rude, Tony. They seem nice. Where did you get them?”

 

“I made them.”

 

Steve laughed softly. “Wow. It seems you have no use for a genie.”

 

Tony grinned. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. I wish I had a sandwich.”

 

A sandwich appeared in front of him but Steve was not amused. “Seriously?”

 

Tony gave him an innocent look. “What? I guess that leaves me with one wish yeah?”

 

“You get as many as--”

 

Steve was cut off by a frantic voice. “Tony? Tony, are you there?”

 

“Pepper! Boy am I glad to see your lovely face!”

 

The face of the woman on the screen went from worried to annoyed. “Tony, we thought you were dead! What is going on? How did you get home? They couldn’t find your body, Tony! Now you’re home and acting like nothing happened and I’ve been worried sick about you! Who is that?”

 

“Okay, Pepper. Pepper. Take a deep breath. There are several things we need to discuss and I need you here.” He jerked his thumb in Steve’s direction. “This is Steve.”

 

“I have about 1,000 things I need you to do!”

 

“Is that any way to welcome home your boss, Pepper?”

 

The redhead rolled her eyes but gave him a soft smile. “I’m glad you’re home and okay. Where were you though?” She looked over at Steve again. “Vegas?”

 

“Ah. No. A deserted island actually but that’s something I’ll tell you when you get here. Steve isn’t...well he’s...ah, special. Don’t mention to anyone else that you’ve heard from me. I probably should have dropped by and visited you instead of calling like this.”

 

"Well too late now. I'll be over soon." And with that she ended the call.

 

Steve was giving Tony a perplexed look. "What's Vegas?"

 

"Don't worry that adorable head over it right now. Do you eat?"

 

"Uh..."

 

As it turned out, genies can eat a lot. Steve might have been enjoying the sweet and sour chicken a little too much but the genius thought it was funny. And maybe a little cute. Not that he was going to say that. Besides, Pepper couldn't keep her eyes off him either which was making their conversation more difficult to have.

 

"Tony, where did you pick him up?"

 

"Deserted island," he replied in the middle of chewing on his food.

 

Pepper wrinkled her nose at Tony's current lack of manners while Steve continued to cheerfully enjoy the lo mein noodles from the last carton he grabbed.

 

“None of this is making sense to me.”

 

“Plane crashed. Woke up on Gilligan’s Island, sadly without Ginger. I was defeated by a hammock and tripped over Steve the next day.” Tony made it sound so simple.

 

Pepper just stared at him and waited for almost ten seconds before sighing. “You...tripped over him?”

 

“Well yeah. I mean not him exactly. I tripped over his bottle and he ended up being inside of it.”

 

The redhead had to free both her hands to massage her temples. “Tony, I don’t have the patience to deal with another drug incident. What did you take this time?” she asked with the wariness of someone who has dealt with moments like these more than she cared to.

 

“I asked myself the same thing but I didn’t, Pepper!” He looked over at the genie who was now scowling as he was still trying to get the hang of chopsticks and grinned. Steve’s tongue was poked out and he had a look of pure determination on his face but when he caught Tony watching him he stopped and smiled back. Tony shot him a wink and the blond blushed.

 

“Is he on drugs then?”

 

Tony shook his head. “Okay this is going to sound a little crazy, but stay with me here. Steve is a genie.”

 

Pepper quickly stood and put her hands on her hips. “Tony Stark, you assured me that you weren’t on drugs!”

 

“I just told you that it was going to sound crazy.” He snapped his fingers in Steve’s direction and Steve’s head popped up, one noodle dangling from his lips. When he noticed he was being stared at he sucked the noodle in and Tony’s eyes went comically wide.

 

“Steve, tell her you’re a genie.”

 

“Is she going to grope me like you did?”

 

“Tony!” Pepper looked horrified but the look just as quickly slipped from her face. “I can’t even pretend to be shocked by this.”

 

“Just make a wish, Pepper! I’ll prove it to you.”

 

“Uh…” Steve tried to interrupt but was cut off by the bickering duo.

 

“I’m not going to make a wish, Tony! What kind of game are you playing?”

 

“Why don’t you ever listen to me?”

 

“Do you realize how ridiculous you sound right now?”

 

“I always sound ridiculous, Pepper!”

 

“And now you’re telling me that I need to make a wish and that’s going to prove it!”

 

“...YES!”

 

Pepper fixed Tony with a look that promised pain if he was messing around with her. “Fine.” She turned her attention to Steve. “I wish Tony would stop talking so much.”

 

“Hey! Rude! That’s the worst wish ever. You should have wished for your own department store of overpriced shoes with heels that are…”

 

“Nothing happened, Tony. I can tell because you’re still talking.”

 

Tony pointed at Steve. “Way to make me look like a liar.”

 

Steve rolled his eyes. “Tony, I tried to tell-...”

 

“Whatever. I wish I had a drink right now,” the genius grumbled.

 

Pepper squealed and covered her mouth when one popped into existence next to Tony’s arm.

 

Tony picked it up and took a sniff. “Steve, what the hell?” He sniffed again. “This is...this is my favorite.” He sipped at it to make sure his nose wasn’t playing tricks on him. “That’s fucking delicious. But still, what the hell?”

 

“Maybe if you shut your trap for five seconds you’d have heard me say that I can only grant wishes to my master. You’re my master.”

 

“Oh my god! You’re a genie!”

 

“Thanks for finally tuning in, Ms. Potts,” Tony retorted. “Can we move on now?”

 

Pepper just nodded as she stared at Steve, taking her seat again. “That really helps the outfit make so much more sense. Tony!” She lightly backhanded his arm. “I thought you picked up a hooker or something!”

 

“One time. Just one time and suddenly that’s your default assumption afterwards. What hooker even wears clothes like that?”

 

“I’m sitting right here,” Steve reminded them.

 

Pepper at least had the decency to look apologetic. Tony just winked at him again.

 

“And here’s where things start to get a little tricky, Pepper.”

 

The redhead was now tuning in, now that Tony’s voice had taken on a different level of seriousness.

 

“Someone at Stark Industries is selling my weapons to terrorist organizations. I saw enough while I was in Afghanistan, but I wasn’t able to do anything about it at that moment. Before the plane left I did some investigating slash hacking and…” he frowned. “My weapons have been killing more innocent people than anything. They’re using them against villages where these people have no choice but to give in or die. They’re being forced to leave their homes on foot. Leave everything behind. These terrorists...they’re tearing families apart. They’re killing the ones that dare to rebel. They have executed entire families just to get any sort of information they want. They’re using Stark weapons. They’re using my weapons to scare these villagers into cooperation.” His voice becomes quieter. “You know what these weapons are capable of.”

 

Pepper didn’t say anything. She nodded her head.

 

“Anyway, I told Obie what I’d found. I told him we needed to have a conversation about this and I told him that I’m shutting down the weapon’s division the moment I return. Weapons were dad’s thing. I thought I was protecting people but there’s so much blood on my hands. I can’t stand behind and watch this happen and pretend like none of this is my fault.”

 

“Do you really think shutting it down is going to make things better though?”

 

Tony sighed. “I don’t know. When I was in college, I wanted to create robots. I wanted to advance the technology of our time by leaps and bounds. I wanted to make dad proud but I didn’t want to become him.”

 

“Tony…”

 

“I’ve been doing more research into arc reactor technology. Do you know what a power source like that is capable of doing? Well aside from being extremely destructive in the wrong hands? It can be used as a clean energy source. It can be used for so much and it doesn’t have to be weapons.”

 

“You do realize that by shutting down that department you’d be putting a lot of people out of jobs. People who work hard and have dedicated years of their time to the company.”

 

“I’d make sure they had the security they need and offer them a different place in the company. Or help them find work somewhere else. I don’t know. I wouldn’t leave them stranded like that.”

 

“You’re going to paint a target on your back, you know.”

 

Pepper and Tony turned their attention to Steve. They’d forgotten he was there and hearing everything they were saying.

 

“I’ve had one my whole life. One of the perks of being a Stark.”

 

Another look flickered across Steve’s face. “I know that name. Stark. It struck me the first time you said it. I don’t know why I know it though.”

 

Tony laughed quietly. “Maybe we’ve made a name for ourselves in the genie world too.”

 

“Maybe,” Steve answered with the sound of doubt lacing that word.

 

He stared at Steve for a moment longer before looking at Pepper once more. “I think Obie is involved. I obviously don’t have the proof and I hate that I’m having to think this way, but I think he’s involved. For all I know he was involved in the plane crash too. It’s just a little too convenient that my plane went down after I told Obie my intentions for the company. I have to lay low for awhile. I’m sure I won’t be able to go unnoticed for too long, but I need your help. I need you to find anything you can. Anything at all, Pepper. Look through company spendings, emails, anything you can get your hands on. I hate putting this on you, but you’re one of the few people I think I can fully trust.”

 

A moment of silence on Pepper’s part as she ran all of this through her head. “Okay,” she started slowly. “I’ll see what I can find. Don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone.”

 

“You’re taking all the stupid with you,” Steve said softly, his attention no longer on Pepper or Tony.

 

“That was rude.”

 

Steve wasn’t listening though. His eyes were unfocused and he looked like he was in a completely different place.

 

Tony looked at Pepper and gave an apologetic shrug.

 

Steve blinked and then suddenly he was with them again. “Sorry. Did you say something?”

 

“Nothing important,” Pepper answered. “I’ll keep you posted on things. Unfortunately you’ll have to come out of hiding soon because the lawyers have already started hounding the board. Give me two days to see what I can find. You’ll need to pull a Lazarus after that though.”

 

“Right. I can do that. You know me. I’ve always enjoyed being the focus of attention.”

 

She laughed and shook her head, giving him a hug. “I’m glad you’re alive and well. Take care of yourself. Wait.” She addressed Steve. “Make sure he takes care of himself. He’s shit at it.”

 

“Yes, ma’am,” Steve said earnestly, flashing a smile that was just as earnest as his words.

 

***

 

The next day and several hours after Tony’s quest to completely remake the Stark Industries name for the better, Steve disappeared with a silent pop. The genius quickly turned around from his work and blinked. “What the hell was that?”

 

“It would appear that Steve the Genie has temporarily relocated himself to the common area. He is currently standing in front of the window again.”

 

Tony’s brow furrowed. “Is it just me or is there something off about him? I mean I obviously don’t know him very well at all, but he’s struggling with something.”

 

The AI was silent for a moment. “I am currently running his face through the entire Internet database. It would seem a match has popped up in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s records.”

 

“What?”

 

“I am still working on decrypting their coding to get into their private files. I will alert you the moment I know something.”

 

“Thanks.” Tony gave one last look at his holo screen, at every weapon blueprint, everything he’d spent years creating, being deleted from existence. While he wanted nothing to do with weapons anymore, it was still disheartening to see hours of hard work falling down the drain. Hours of work he was having J.A.R.V.I.S. delete from every computer and every file located within Stark Industries computers. The part he was currently struggling with the most was knowing that he had to somehow get out there and destroy the weapons with his name, the ones that were passed on illegally and being used against their intended purpose.

 

He’d truly believed he’d been doing the world a favor by protecting the good guys from the bad guys. He sighed and massaged his temples. He knew none of this was making sense to Pepper. His sudden change of heart. She trusted him enough to support him though and that made all the difference in the world.

 

He knew that if his father were still alive that he’d be just as appalled by what was happening. He had no doubts about that. His father might have been cold and distant and obsessed with his work, but he wasn’t malicious and he wasn’t a murderer. A part of him had to trust that his father might have made the same move had he been put in this position. A part of him was hoping that he’d be making his father proud of him in some way.

 

He needed to put Afghanistan out of his mind for now. He wasn’t ready to share that full story yet. What he’d told Pepper was vague and didn’t cover even a portion of the things he’d witnessed first hand. He hadn’t been gone very long. It was only a two week business trip, but it had taken an unexpected turn and it felt like a lifetime ago.

 

He had a genie to distract him in the meantime. A genie who seemed just as troubled as him, but Tony couldn’t begin to fathom what might be happening in Steve’s head.

 

“J, you got this? I’m going to check on the Dreamy Genie.”

 

“I have indeed ‘got this’, as you have so eloquently worded it,” the AI responded with a hint of sarcasm.

 

“Yeah yeah,” he muttered as he stepped onto the elevator. “Take me to my genie.”

 

“As you wish, sir.”

 

When Tony found Steve, the genie was in the same position he’d been in the first time he was looking out the windows.

 

“Steve?”

 

Steve turned around. “Do you need something, Tony?”

 

Tony stopped walking and gave Steve a guarded look. “No.”

 

The genie looked down at the ground. “I don’t belong here.”

 

“Why do you say that?”

 

Steve sighed and began staring out the window again. “Everything seems right but wrong. The same but different. Familiar but unfamiliar. I feel like I’m missing something.”

 

“That makes you sound like an old man,” Tony joked.

 

“I am an old man. I know I was stuck in that bottle for years. I don’t know how long, but past the point of what is considered normal for human life, I think.”

 

Tony shrugged. “Well how would you feel about taking a walk outside? Maybe to clear your head?”

 

“Were you not told to lay low for a few days?”

 

“Nothing a hoodie, a baseball cap and a pair of tinted sunglasses can’t fix.”

 

Steve gave him a blank look. “Yeah because you’re obviously not trying to hide anything by taking that route with it.”

 

“Look here, Sassmaster Genie.” He pointed at Steve. “While you have a very good point, I am going to risk it.”

 

Steve just rolled his eyes. “Of course you are. I suppose this is what Pepper was talking about.”

 

“Don’t you start, buddy, or I’ll put you right back in the bottle.”

 

Tony realized he’d put his foot in his mouth when Steve flinched. “Joking. It was a joke. You know what a joke is. I hope you know what a joke is. Considering you’ve got the whole smart ass angle going for you, I can only assume you know very well what a joke is. So are you ready to go or are we going to keep standing here?”

 

“I thought you were going to put on your brilliant disguise.”

 

The genius shot Steve a glare. “I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere.”

 

Steve shrugged and rolled his eyes once more while he waited. Fifteen minutes later though, Tony returned, and he looked ridiculous. He struck a pose and pivoted around on a foot. “How do I look?”

 

“Ridiculous,” the genie responded dryly.

 

“Look who’s talking.”

 

Steve looked down at himself.

 

“Just let me find you something else to wear befor--” Tony sighed. “You have got to stop doing that.”

 

Steve smirked but at least he was wearing something different. “Faster than you.”

 

“You’re dressed like a grandpa, Steve the Genie. You know that right?”

 

Tony was making his way toward the elevator once more and Steve followed.

 

“I happen to like these clothes.”

 

He had gone from genie clothing to a blue and white plaid shirt and a pair of chinos that no one his age in this world even wore anymore.

 

“You are officially an old man.”

 

“I still look younger than you though,” Steve said quietly.

 

“Hey! I heard that!” was the last thing Tony said before the elevator doors shut and took them down to ground level.

 

They didn’t talk much on the way to Central Park, mostly because Steve was so fascinated with everything going on around him that he didn’t pay much attention to Tony. Tony just used that time to fire a few texts to Pepper to update her on a few things and she yelled at him for texting because it wasn’t like it was hard to track him down through that means of communication. So Tony was in a bit of a sour mood by the time they showed up.

 

Until Steve’s face lit up even more.

 

The first thing Steve noticed was the duck pond. He practically floated to the bridge that overlooked it and stared down.

 

Tony would have to be an idiot not to find that a little adorable. Or a lot of adorable. And the smile Steve gave him had him smiling back like a huge idiot.

 

“So this is a good place to start I suppose.”

 

“Tony, this is...swell!”

 

“My thoughts exactly, grandpa.”

 

Steve elbowed Tony in the ribs and the genius had to pretend that didn’t hurt at all.

 

“Lead the way, Steve. This is your outing.”

 

The blond tilted his head but smiled. “Okay.

 

In hindsight, Tony probably should have worded that a bit differently. Steve was excited to learn there was a zoo so he dragged Tony through all of it, and he was almost certain that Steve had been communicating with half the animals there. Was that a genie thing?

 

Next came a playground. A playground of all things. He made Tony sit on the swings with him. The swings! Tony had never been particularly good at swinging and it didn’t take him long to start feeling nauseas. Watching the genie act like a big kid was somewhat endearing to him even if he had no intentions of admitting that.

 

Tony tried so very hard to draw the line when Steve found the carousel but Steve had grabbed his hand and practically lifted him onto a horse. Tony held on to the pole and only hoped not one person recognized him while he rode the creepiest looking horse on the ride. Tony ended up not hating that nearly as much as he thought he would but he wouldn’t admit that either.

 

He ended up purchasing hot dogs from a vendor for himself and Steve and they went to a spot not so far from the pond, taking a seat in the grass. Tony almost collapsed on the ground he was so tired but Steve didn’t even seem winded. What an asshole.

 

“So I would ask if you’re enjoying yourself, but I think your face is expressive enough to give me my answer.”

 

Steve bit into his hot dog and nodded. He didn’t speak until he swallowed because he apparently had manners or something. “This is the most fun I’ve had in...a long time. There isn’t much to do inside a bottle, you know.”

 

“What did you do? I know what I’d spend half my time doing and it’s not something I can say in the company of others.”

 

Steve threw a napkin at Tony and laughed. “I drew a lot. Paced. Invented my own worlds.”

 

“Sounds intense.”

 

Steve rolled his eyes and poked Tony with his elbow again, this time much lighter than the previous tap. Maybe he had recognized his own strength.

 

Tony began eating his hot dog and rested comfortably next to Steve. They were both sitting in silence for a long while before Tony spoke up again.

 

“Is there anything else you’d like to do?”

 

“The sun will be setting soon.”

Tony sat back up and bumped his shoulder against Steve’s. “We can stick around until it goes down. Then we can head back to the tower. I’ll order pizza. We can watch a movie. Or we can play video games.”

 

“I’m supposed to grant wishes for you and you’re letting me make all the choices.”

 

“I’m a billionaire. Making wishes is almost selfish at this point.”

 

“That almost renders me obsolete then, huh?”

 

Tony snorted. “Yeah. I guess. Because having you around just so I can have someone to hang out with is a real hardship for me.”

 

“It’s...nice. I haven’t had anyone to interact with in so long. Or maybe ever. It’s confusing.”

 

“Believe it or not, I’m not good at making first impressions.”

 

Steve eyed Tony and grinned just a little. “You don’t say.”

 

“No comments from the magical peanut gallery,” Tony grumbled.

 

The genie flashed Tony with a brilliant smile then and reached out to grope Tony’s chest. “Now we’re even.”

 

Tony will forever be adamant about the fact that he did not squeal when Steve groped him. “That was rude but also kind of hot.”

 

Steve gave him a smirk and blushed at the same time.

 

“Wipe that smirk off your face, Steve the Genie, or you’re going to miss the sunset.”

 

Steve winked at Tony and turned his head to watch the sky.

 

Tony had known Steve for not even two days and he could tell he was in trouble already.

 

That night Tony introduced Steve to popcorn, coke and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. They were seated on the couch together but had managed to start off on opposite sides. Every time Tony had to explain a pop culture reference to Steve he ended up scooting closer to the genie.

 

“Thanks for uh...today. I don’t think this is typical for most genies.”

 

“You said you don’t know any other genies.”

 

“I don’t. I just get the impression that most people enjoy the whole master aspect. I could be wrong but having absolute power over someone must be appealing to certain types.”

 

“Not my thing.” He looked up at Steve and shrugged. “I don’t even like the idea of dom/sub in the bedroom.”

 

Steve spit out the coke he was drinking. “Wh-what?” He was now doing the blushing thing. “I don’t...what?”

 

Tony chuckled. “So I guess you understood that reference.”

 

“Yes. I do,” Steve replied with slight exasperation.

 

“Interesting. I mean how you know some things but not others. Sometimes it’s like you’re seeing the world for the first time and other times you’re almost jaded.”

 

“Some things come to me. Like I’ve known them all along. Maybe like I had a life outside of being a genie but I can’t remember.”

 

Tony frowned at that. “Maybe.” He looked at the television. “I’m going to take a shower. Pepper will be so proud. Two showers two days in a row. You really are a good influence on me,” he said with a wink. “I’ll be back soon. Don’t fall asleep or leave...unless you’re tired.”

 

Steve shrugged and put a handful of popcorn into his mouth.

 

Tony jogged to the bathroom, determined to get in and out in a hurry. He hated to think Steve might up and disappear on him even though Steve was bound to him because of that whole master clause. He asked JARVIS to set the shower temperature for him while he removed his clothing.

 

“Sir, I have located information on Steve that I believe you might be interested in.”

 

That gave the genius pause and he cleared his throat. “Okay. Shoot.”

 

“It appears that there is an element of memory loss occurring as a result of magic.”

 

“Magic. That sounds shady. Do they have any information about the kind of magic?”

 

“They believe it is pertaining to the Tesseract used by Johann Schmidt during World War II. It is unclear how much he was able to manipulate the use of the cube before it burned him alive, but Steve was fighting against him and disappeared shortly after. You might know of him at Steve Rogers, Captain America and the Star Spangled Man.”

 

“Didn’t my father mention that name? Like all the time?”

 

“I cannot say that I would know for certain, sir, but according to these files it appears that he would have been working closely for your father during this time. Your father was involved in a project known as Project: Rebirth, and Steve was their test subject. There are pictures if you are interested for the sake of comparison.”

 

“Yeah,” Tony answered weakly.

 

The first image he was presented with was Steve wearing a World War II uniform, posing with Howard. Tony swallowed and flicked his wrist to move on to the next. This one depicted Steve in a spangly looking outfit. A very nice, rather form fitting outfit, adorned with a giant star and a shield on his arm. The image after was one of Steve and he assumed it was pre-serum. He was much skinnier, looked sick and according to the file, suffered from various ailments and was rejected by the army on four different occasions. Picture after picture and file after file. He read the entire story of one Steven Grant Rogers who had disappeared in 1945, the same guy who was sitting on his couch and watching movies with him.

 

“Does it...do they know how this happened? Why do the files exist?”

 

“The only information they have is that he went missing and no one knows much afterwards. Those on the inside believe his plane went down and others have tried to locate him, but nothing proved fruitful. He was declared dead and his body was never recovered.”

 

“Oh.” He sighed. “That’s unfortunate.”

 

“It rather is. Do you wish to tell him?”

 

“Yeah. Yeah, I’ll,” he scratched his head. “I’ll need to figure out how to.”

 

Knowing what he knew now, Tony almost dreading leaving the shower and he couldn’t pinpoint why. It wasn’t as if he couldn’t tell Steve was already having random memories of times he couldn’t give a particular date to. It explained why things looked so familiar yet different. The selfish part of Tony had already started growing clingy, and Tony knew he was clingy because Rhodey never let him forget he was clingy, that part of him wasn’t sure if he’d lose a friend he was just now gaining once he found out the truth.

 

After much consideration and a little selfish moping, he finally stepped out of the shower and put on some fresh pajamas. When he found Steve, he was busy drawing. Where Steve had found a sketch pad and a pencil Tony wasn’t sure, but Steve probably popped it into existence. That seemed to be his thing.

 

“Hey. Steve?”

 

Steve looked up from his drawing for a moment to give Tony a smile. Tony smiled in return and perched himself on the back of the couch, leaning over to see what Steve was drawing. “Wow, that’s really good.”

 

Steve just huffed and laughed a little, his cheeks turning red. “It’s nothing. I haven’t drawn in awhile, s’all. I don’t even know how I know how to honestly.”

 

Because you went to art school was Tony’s first thought. “Some of us are just born with innate abilities to be really awesome.”

 

“Are you referring to yourself there?”

 

“Yes. Of course I am.” He ruffled Steve’s hair. “Did the movie get boring?”

 

“Nah. I just thought I’d wait for you before starting another.”

 

Tony placed a hand on the center of his chest. “Aww, honey, how sweet of you.”

 

“Well it’s not like there was anyone else to explain every single reference in the movie to me, and you do have the innate ability to talk my ear off.”

 

Tony pouted a little. “When you put it that way…”

 

“I didn’t say I minded. I had years of no one to talk to me.”

 

“Yeah...Steve, I found out th--”

 

“Sir, Ms. Potts is on the line. She says it’s urgent.”

 

“Put her through, J.” He swung his legs over the back of the couch and landed on a cushion next to Steve.

 

“Tony. There’s a lot of information here. I’m not sure how bad things are, but Obie is involved in something big.”

 

“How big?”

 

“There is a terrorist organization known as the Ten Rings. They’ve been receiving a lot of your weapons. It took a lot of digging, but I found hard copies, encrypted messages, drives that don’t have any connection with Stark Industries at all. You were scheduled for a demonstration next month in Afghanistan. You were going to show them the Jericho.”

 

“Yeah. I hope you cancelled that.”

 

“Obie is paying them to kill you.”

 

“What?” Tony felt a little dizzy after that. “Why?”

 

“It doesn’t say. Not in so many words. It doesn’t name you specifically, but there is no one else it could be. The message states that you are to be taken captive after a distraction with your own weapons and they plan to kill you. Obie wants to make an example of you.”

 

Tony swallowed and stared down at the floor. “I was wanting to be wrong. Just this once. And it turns out it’s worse than I realized. Maybe I deserved this, you know. I got lazy, I wasn’t paying enough attention.”

 

“Stop it, Tony.”

 

The genius wasn’t listening though. His head was down and his arms were wrapped around it.

 

“He almost backed out of that deal when he ordered your plane to be taken down, but it seems that plan is still in motion.”

 

“Which means he knows I’m still alive,” Tony finished.

 

Pepper didn’t say anything.

 

“So what do we need to do?”

 

Tony looked up sharply. Steve had asked that question.

 

“Keep him safe.”

 

“I’m right here. I don’t need protection.”

 

“The information I’ve found suggests otherwise. And if he knows you’re not dead then he’ll probably be paying you a visit soon. I can’t even get to him to stall him. His secretary is handling everything outside of the current business he is conducting and…”

 

“Don’t worry about it, Pep. We’ll think of something. Just…” he let out a large breath. “Thanks. I’ll...think of something.”

 

“Tony, now would be a good time to make a wish, don’t you think?”

 

He looked at Steve and shook his head. “No. That’s...I can’t. That isn’t me handling problems I got myself into.”

 

“Your life is in danger!”

 

That caused Tony to stand up quickly and glare down at Steve. “My life is always in danger!”

He stomped away from the couch. “I’ll be in my workshop, trying to figure out how to fight my own battles.”

 

He heard Pepper apologizing to Steve as he hit the elevator. This wasn’t how the rest of tonight was supposed to go. He was going to tell Steve and watch movies and spend a couple of more days living in denial. He wasn’t even angry at Steve or Pepper. He was angry because it was Obie. It was the man who had taken care of him after Howard had died. He’d been Tony’s mentor and father figure and taught Tony the ropes at Stark Industries. He was angry because his weapons were the crux of the entire problem and because he was too stupid to know what was going on before it got this far. He was supposed to be a genius. He should have noticed. He should have known.

 

He had his music blaring. He had a prototype he was working on pulled up. A body armor designed for flight capabilities, one that would allow him to walk into a war zone without being harmed, one with weapons that he could use to destroy what was left of weapons. He felt like he owed it to the citizens of Gulmira to make things right for them. He owed a lot of people so many apologies and the implications of how bad things were had hit him square in the head.

 

When Steve popped up at his side he jumped and dropped the soldering iron in his hand, burning it in the process. He cursed angrily and glared at Steve.

 

“What do you want? Can you just knock or something?”

 

A smile quirked Steve’s lips. “You weren’t letting me into the workshop through the door so I used magic.”

 

“Well that’s like an invasion of my privacy or something,” he retorted weakly.

 

“Are you okay?”

 

Tony wanted to yell at him, to tell him he was fine but that he wasn’t okay at the same time. That his world was collapsing and he felt like it was his fault. He wanted to tell him he was scared and he had no idea what he was going to do.

 

“No, I’m not,” he responded with a whisper.

 

Steve took Tony’s hand and looked down at the burn. “I’m not trying to make you feel like you can’t take care of yourself, but you’re my friend. We’re friends right? And you are in danger. And I’m a genie and I can grant wishes and you haven’t really used me at all and so all I can do is watch helplessly because that’s about all I can do right now.”

 

He pulled his hand away. “There’s ice in the fridge.” He pointed to the small one he kept in here when he didn’t have time to go elsewhere. Steve nodded and grabbed some ice and a towel to hold over Tony’s hand. “I guess we’re friends. And if we are then I’m not going to use you. You’re a person, not a weapon or a toy or a slave.”

 

Steve smiled softly as he held Tony’s injured hand in his, careful while he placed the ice pack on it. “Then I want to help you.”

 

Tony sighed and looked down. “I don’t deserve your help. This is all on me. Not you.”

 

He put a finger under the genius’ chin and lifted his face. “This isn’t as much your fault as you like to think. It’s Obie’s. He’s the one trying to have you killed. You have done nothing to deserve that. Even I know that and I’m just a genie.”

 

“Just a genie. Yeah right. I don’t think genies are supposed to be as sassy as you are, but I kind of like it. It suits who I am and you’ve made things interesting.”

 

Steve’s face was suddenly much closer than it had been just a moment ago. When did that happen? Surely this wasn’t some part of his fantasy mind going wild. It had to be though because the only logical thing to happen next in this position would be a kiss.

 

Which is exactly what happened because Tony was apparently having one of those days. It wasn’t a heated kiss. It wasn’t hard. It wasn’t desperate. If was soft and almost chaste, but it lingered and Tony wanted to make it into something so much more.

 

He stopped though and lightly pushed at Steve’s shoulder. “Sorry. I can’t…”

 

Steve frowned and stepped back. “No. My fault. I just felt…”

 

“I mean it’s not that I don’t want to, but…”

 

“I guess I got caught up...wait so you do want to?”

 

Tony rolled his eyes and nodded. “Then why?”

 

“I have to tell you something. It’s important.”

 

The genie cocked his head to the side and watched Tony’s face closely. “What is it?”

 

“I know who you really are, Steve Rogers.”

 

***

 

Tony had told Steve everything he’d learned. He’d watched Steve’s face shift from horrified to sad to confused and all other emotions in between. And after all of that Steve still didn’t know. He couldn’t remember. He’d allowed Steve the privacy of going to another part of the building to read the files they had, to see the pictures. Hopefully it’d help him understand why he was at odds with things he knew and didn’t know. He’d been gone for a couple of hours at this point.

 

A hand landed on his shoulder and he jumped, spinning around quickly.

 

“I told you to warn me, St…”

 

Nope. Tony tried to maintain a neutral expression.

 

“Obie. Why didn’t you tell me you were coming? I could have ordered a pizza.”

 

“No need. You didn’t tell me you were alive. I’ve been worried sick about you and I had to find out from Pepper that you were still with us.”

 

Tony felt his face drain at that. He gave him a smile though. “Well you know me. If I’m coming back from the grave I want to make an entrance.”

 

“Tony Tony Tony,” Obie started, throwing an arm around the brunet’s shoulder and pulling him to the couch. “You should have called anyway.”

 

“I’ll make sure you’re the first one to find out next time I almost die.”

 

Obie smiled and huffed a laugh. “Sure you will. You know, I don’t think Pepper appreciated the fact that I had her phone tapped whenever your number was dialed, but I don’t appreciate people sneaking around my personal business.”

 

Tony let out a breath. At least he wasn’t having to pretend anymore. “Well you were trying to have me killed. I think that’s my business. Wouldn’t you agree?”

 

“Why would I tell you? That’d just ruin the surprise.”

 

“J.A.R.V.I.S., dial the police. Right now.”

 

Obie smirked when the AI didn’t reply. “Come on now, Tony. Do you really think I’d come into your own home to threaten you if I didn’t have your AI knocked out of the equation for awhile? It’s interesting to see how much I was able to lock down without getting authorization from your computer. The elevator, the alarm system, any and all electronic devices with the ability to relay any outbound signals.”

 

Tony looked over to note that DUM-E and U were chirping curiously but not moving. Damn.

 

“I can’t say I’m familiar with the other voice you and Pepper were conversing with, but it’s safe to say if he’s in the building he isn’t going anywhere for awhile.”

 

Tony had to hold in the laugh that was threatening to come out. He nodded and gave Obie a look of defeat. He didn’t know about Steve. He didn’t know that Steve was a genie. “It looks like you got me good this time, Stane.”

 

The older man’s face shifted into a scowl and he stood, grabbing Tony by the throat as he slammed him into the wall. “You were always too arrogant for your own good, boy.”

 

Tony was grasping at the hand holding him, his feet kicking out trying to connect with a shin or something. Obadiah just laughed at Tony’s futile attempts. He let go of Tony and laughed more when he fell to the floor, holding onto his neck as he tried to breathe. That was going to hurt for a few days.

 

“What can I say?” he rasped out. “I take after my father.”

 

“And look where that landed your father.”

 

The genius looked up quickly. He hadn’t expected…

 

“It was you, wasn’t it? The accident on the bridge, it wasn’t an accident.”

 

Obie rolled his eyes. “It wasn’t me. Not exactly. I just knew the right people to pay off to make it look like a terrible accident.”

 

Tony needed to file that away for later. It wasn’t a good time to let his emotions get the better of him. “Is that what you’re going to do to me too?”

 

“That’d be spoiling the surprise. Do you listen to anyone that isn’t you?”

 

“Not really. No,” he answered, still coughing. “I really wish Steve was here right now.”

 

Obadiah began laughing again until a figure popped in next to him. Obie was quick though and pulled out a gun, pointing it at Steve’s head.

 

“Stop! No! Don’t! Obie, don’t…”

 

“So this is what it looks like to see the great Tony Stark care about someone other than himself. What would it look like to see Tony Stark lose someone he cares about then?”

 

“Steve, move!”

 

Steve took that as his cue to dodge out of the way, firing a magical bolt (Tony had no other word for it) from his hand that knocked Obie back, clear across and to the other side of the workshop.

 

“This is Obie?”

 

Tony nodded.

 

“What the hell was that?” Obie grunted. “It’s not like you to have someone else do your work for you.”

 

“It’s not like you to not double check and make sure the place is empty before you start something like this.”

 

“I was in a hurry.”

 

“Now would be a really good time for Steve Rogers to come out and play, Steve.”

 

Steve shook his head. He didn’t know. He couldn’t remember at all.

 

“I wish you could remember, Steve,” he muttered as he grabbed the prototype he’d been working on quickly and put it over his hand, his palm facing the larger man. When Obie laughed again, Tony fired. He hadn’t even tested the repulsors on the suit he was putting together, so he wasn’t prepared for how hard he was going to be thrown back or the sudden paralysis he was feeling.

 

Shit. He thought they had stopped producing those.

 

Steve must have been down too because there was no movement. There was just Obadiah standing up with a shit eating grin on his face.

 

“Well this has been a rather anti-climactic night, don’t you think, boy?”

 

And then there was a gun in Obie’s hand. Tony could do nothing and he wanted to scream. This isn’t how he was supposed to die. Obadiah wasn’t supposed to get the better of him. He heard the gunfire and waited to feel any sort of impact, but when the grunt came from further away he felt himself suffocating. He wasn’t sure how much damage Obie could do to Steve, but Steve wasn’t in a better state than Tony at the moment it seemed.

 

“What do you think? How many bullets do you think your magical friend could take? Hmm?”

 

Tony’s eyes were wide, frantic yet unmoving. This was his fault. He never should have wished for Steve to be there. He’d been stupid. Steve hadn’t been himself since he’d heard the news from Tony and he hadn’t been the same when he came back into the workshop. Now he was going to get Steve wounded, maybe even killed, and it would be on his shoulders.

 

Another bullet. Another grunt. Tony tried to breathe. And then Obie was looming over Tony, crouching down next to him and sliding the barrel of the gun over Tony’s face. “You should work on breathing, Tony. This is going to get you killed before I get a chance to do it myself.”

 

He hauled Tony over to the couch in his workshop and propped him up, turning his head so the genius could see Steve on the floor, struggling and bleeding, trying to move. This had turned into a nightmare. Obadiah smirked at his handiwork on Steve before turning his attention back to Tony. “What a sight. It’s tearing you up isn’t it? You can’t do anything other than watch this.”

 

Tony’s eyes were trained on Steve. He was trying to tune Obie out because he wanted all of his attention on the blond. One of Steve’s fingers twitched, and then another, but he still wasn’t able to make a move.

 

Obadiah grabbed Tony’s chin and jerked so Tony’s eyes would be on him this time. “It’s time to focus on this, Tony.” He held the barrel of the gun, resting it right under Tony’s chin. “Just know that when I do this, it’s not personal, it’s just business.”

 

He wished he could close his eyes at this moment. He wished he could be looking at Steve even. He didn’t want the last thing he saw before he died to be Obadiah’s smug, cruel smile. He didn’t want Obadiah to have the last word. He struggled with everything he had to move. To close his eyes. To even talk. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to happen for Tony.

 

And in that moment Obadiah was no longer on him. He was tossed onto the work table, messing up all of Tony’s current progress. On the plus side, he did seem to be in pain. And he could see Steve. He could see him pulling the gun from his hand. He could see Steve throwing Obadiah to the ground. He could see Steve pointing the gun at the man, but he didn’t shoot. He wasn’t going to shoot him. He could see the desire there, but he couldn’t. Captain America wasn’t that kind of guy. It didn’t stop him from pistol whipping the older man into unconsciousness though. He grabbed some coiled wire and threw the man onto his stomach before quickly and tightly tying his hands together. And when all was finished he was rushing over to Tony, holding onto his side where he’d been shot. Steve was there and he was kneeling in front of Tony, checking to see if his heart was still beating, brushing his hair from his face.

 

“Tony! Steve! Are you down here?”

 

Tony wanted to breathe a sigh of relief. Pepper was okay. She was alive.

 

Steve smiled at Tony and rested his head on the back of the couch next to the genius. “Not so bad for an old guy huh?” he said between panted breaths.

 

If Tony could have smiled he would have.

 

***

 

Tony was out of his hospital bed before they could put him in it. His paralysis was gone and the only reason he’d stayed as long as he had was because Pepper had pinned him with a glare that dared him to challenge her on this. As it was, he cared more about Steve than himself. The doctors didn’t have time to tell him he was perfectly fine before he was making his way to where Steve was.

 

Steve had been in surgery for awhile. The super soldier serum he’d been infused with was working as fast as it should have been but it was healing the wounds over the bullets that the doctors were trying to remove quickly. He hadn’t been allowed to go into the room with Steve for a long time so he paced. Pepper reminded him that he probably should have stayed in his own hospital room a little while longer all things considered.

 

Tony tuned that out.

 

And then Steve had finally woken up and Tony wasted no time reaching him. He stopped long enough to see the IV and the bandages on Steve, but he was still Steve and he was fine. He hoped.

 

“You look better than I do and you were shot.”

 

At least Steve still appreciated Tony’s bizarre sense of humor.

 

“They want to run tests for a few days.” His voice sounded rough. “Apparently it’s unusual to find a super soldier turned genie turned back into a super soldier.”

 

“Pfft. Amateurs,” Tony replied, smiling. “How much do you remember?”

 

“About my life before the genie bottle? Everything.”

 

The brunet nodded. “That’s good. Right?”

 

Steve sighed. “The moment the memories came back is the moment I turned human. Again. I don’t understand it. Everything came back at once though and I didn’t realize I had been shot right away.”

 

Tony winced. “I’m really sorry about that. I didn’t think…”

 

“Don’t. Please don’t apologize. You’re the one who figured it out. I was wearing a...terribly ridiculous outfit and trying to grant wishes. Seventy years cooped up in a bottle with no memory of how I got there was enough time for me.”

 

They sat in silence for a moment.

 

“So you wore spandex.”

 

Steve sighed. “Yeah. Shut up.”

 

“It’s got nothing on the genie get-up.”

 

“The moment I get out of this bed, I’m going to hurt you.”

 

Tony batted his eyelashes at the soldier.

 

“What? Not me!”

 

“Well I’m glad to see you’re in a good mood at least.”

 

Tony shrugged, grinning. “Well you didn’t die so that was a definite plus.” He reached for Steve’s hand.

 

“Yeah. It’s just that everyone else I knew from before did.”

 

“I know,” Tony murmured. “And I’m sorry.”

 

Steve just squeezed his hand.

 

A few days later they were able to go back to the tower. Tony was busy trying to get J.A.R.V.I.S. up and running again and trying to dodge calls from S.H.I.E.L.D. They only had a thousand questions about Steve and then just as many about Stark Industries and the current project he was working on. How did they even find out about that?!

 

“Tony.”

 

Tony smiled without looking up. “Hey there, Cap. How are you feeling?”

 

Steve gave up on telling Tony to stop calling him that. Tony told him it was just his own way of showing affection. “Better.”

 

“Good.” He stopped what he was doing to give Steve his attention. “Is something else bothering you?”

 

“I just wanted to thank you again. For everything.”

 

“No problem?” He was questioning that. “I’m not going to like what’s following this am I?”

 

“I like you, Tony. I like you a lot.”

 

Tony interjected. “Good. Great. That’s wonderful. I like you too. We should go on a date.”

 

“That’s the thing. I just...I like you and I want to but I’m not--I’m not ready for that yet.”

 

There it was. Tony deflated.

 

“I’m still trying to process everything. I’m on information overload right now. It’s a lot to take in.”

 

“So what do you need? I’ll do anything you ask.”

 

Steve sighed and shook his head. “I don’t know. I need to leave though. For awhile.”

 

“Oh. Yeah no, that’s, it’s understandable. You’ve got another life after all. I’m not going to tell you that you have to stick around.”

 

“Tony…”

 

“I’ve got money, a phone, a bike...or a car. I think you had a pretty kick ass motorcycle so I have one you can have.”

 

“Thanks, but…”

 

Tony took a breath. “I can get you clothes. Or you can do that. I’m sure you can do that. Or Pepper can help. She’s good with clothes.”

 

“Tony, stop. Will you stop?”

 

Tony shut his mouth and looked at Steve.

 

“I’m coming back. Okay? It’s not a forever deal. With me leaving I mean. You have things you’re trying to sort out too. What happened the other day wasn’t good for either of us. I think we both have a lot of head clearing to do.”

 

“You just can’t do it here.”

 

Steve shook his head. “It has nothing to do with me not wanting to be around you though.”

 

“It’s because I’m irresistable right?”

 

The blond rolled his eyes and laughed. “Sure.”

 

Tony wanted to reach out and take Steve’s hand, but he didn’t know if he should.

 

Steve solved the problem for them and took Tony’s hand. “I’ll be back, Tony. I promise. I need to see the country though. Need to learn how to, I guess live again? When I close my eyes all I see are the people I failed. I left Peggy. I couldn’t save Bucky. I almost couldn’t save you, Tony.”

 

“But you did. That’s what you have to focus on. I get it though. You have to remember the past and all that. Just don’t let yourself get stuck there, Steve. Okay?”

 

“Yeah. I hear you there, Tony. Loud and clear. Just give me some time. I’ll be back and then we can talk more about...us. Yeah?”

 

The genius smiled. “Okay.”

 

“I’ll keep in touch.”

 

Tony blew out a breath. “Great. I was going to consider sending out a search party if I went without hearing from you for a month.”

 

“I kind of figured.” He stood up. “And I’ll take the bike.”

 

Tony stood up too. “Okay. I can handle letting you borrow it. I mean if you’re coming back eventually I can part with it for a little while.”

 

“In the meantime work on that armor. I think you’ve got a good idea going there. I might need a sidekick when I’m ready to get back into the game.”

 

“Wh--how did you know I...what the hell. And what do you mean sidekick? I am not a sidekick! I am a frontrunner. I am...why are you laughing?”

 

Steve shook with silent laughter, shaking his head. “Take care, Tony. I’ll think of you.” And with that he leaned forward and pressed a chaste kiss on Tony’s lips. Tony wanted to deepen the kiss so much, but he refrained because Steve had said he wasn’t ready. He watched Steve leave and found himself wishing the soldier would be back soon.

 

***

 

Six months later…

 

Despite Tony’s greatest fears, Steve actually did return close to three months later. He had been tired and a little weary, but Tony had shown him the suite he’d designed for Steve and introduced him to his state-of-the-art 21st century bed. He even pretended he wasn’t insulted when Steve complained that it felt like a marshmallow.

 

He didn’t fill Tony in a whole lot on what he’d done and Tony had been fine with that. He knew Steve needed his privacy and Tony spent a lot of time trying to make sure he didn’t hound Steve for a date. If he wasn’t ready he wasn’t ready. And if he changed his mind, Tony didn’t really want to think of that possibility either.

 

It wasn’t until Steve cornered him in the lab one day to ask him if he was still even interested in him anymore. He’d looked so uncertain and insecure and Tony didn’t know what to do with that. He hadn’t seen that look on Steve’s face before and he didn’t want to see it again. So he answered by throwing himself against Steve and kissing him as if his life depended on it.

 

“So that’s a yes? I can’t tell.”

 

“So that sass is a Steve thing and not a genie thing.”

 

Steve laughed and kissed Tony again. He told Tony he was ready to take him out on a date. He was ready to try moving on. He’d visited Peggy on his trip. It hurt to reach that point and it stung to see that she got to live her life, but he was more overjoyed than anything because she was happy. That was all that really mattered to him.

 

So he was back and he wanted to date Tony, but he wanted to move slow. He was still old-fashioned that way and Tony was oddly all right with it. So he’d have to wait awhile for the sex to happen. Big deal.

 

Two months later Tony was trying very hard to make sure he wasn’t pressuring Steve into anything. Steve had started removing Tony’s shirt before the genius could register what was happening. He was being manhandled and he had to stop Steve. He actually stopped Steve while Steve was peeling his clothes off of him, just to make sure Steve was ready for this.

 

Steve growled and cupped Tony’s groin, giving it a squeeze. Well that answered that question.

 

Tony acted first, shoving Steve down onto the bed before climbing over him. Steve pulled Tony down into the filthiest kiss he’d ever gotten from the soldier and moaned before helping Steve out of all of his clothes as well.

 

Steve naked was probably the most beautiful thing Tony had ever seen in his life. Steve was the most beautiful thing Tony had ever seen, but Steve’s cock was at full attention and the genius was not allowing a moment like this to go to waste. He kissed Steve and wrapped a hand around the soldier’s penis, giving it a slow, lazy stroke. For a moment he thought that action alone had made the soldier come, but false alarm. He stroked again and Steve’s hips bucked upward.

 

Steve whispered curses against Tony’s lips before throwing his head back. Tony smiled and lined his own cock up with Steve’s, a sensation that had the both of them shuddering. Tony grabbed one of Steve’s hands and had the soldier wrap it around both of their cocks, helping him by starting with small strokes. Steve finally got the rhythm and Tony pulled his hand away, moving his hips slowly while Steve jerked the both of them off, loving the way the blond moaned when their dicks slid back and forth against each other.

 

“Tony, oh god, I…” Steve was struggling to speak, moans breaking up his words. Tony could tell he was close and he kissed Steve gently, nibbling on his bottom lip while he continued moving his hips, increasing the friction until Steve reached climax, movements becoming jerky as he splashed against both of them. The look on Steve’s face, as he was coming undone, was one that Tony committed to memory. Seeing Steve topple over the edge so beautifully finally pulled Tony over and he came with a shout against Steve’s lips.

 

For awhile all that existed between them was heavy breathing, both unable to move. Finally Tony managed to roll off because he didn’t think either of them would enjoy being stuck to each other. Once he felt like he wouldn’t collapse upon moving, he walked into the bathroom, returning moments later with a wash cloth, wiping them both clean.

 

“I wasn’t lying when I said I was ready, Tony.”

 

Tony smiled, leaning up to kiss Steve. “Oh, baby, I’m just getting started. Did I not mention we’d be testing your refractory period all night?”

 

Steve did not object at all.