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                Anthony Edward Stark hadn’t always occupied the impressive figure that peppered newspaper covers every week. He used to be the kid that everyone assured, with a pat on the back, that he would have a big growth spurt one day and be bigger than any of those bullies on the playground. Not that he frequented any playgrounds in his youth anyways. But people felt the need to assure him regardless.

                 He used to be fairly short; and yes, before you ask, it was possible to be shorter than he was in present day. For god’s sake, he was almost six feet tall, you know. It wasn’t his fault that he hung around a bunch of giants.

                But that’s beside the point.

                In any case, he wasn’t a big kid. But he was big enough—and mischievous enough, that certainly hadn’t changed—to reach his dad’s worktable and pick up things he probably shouldn’t have. In one particular case, he’d picked up some sort of battery, though he wasn’t quite old enough to know that. It was rectangular and he could hardly fit his chubby little hands around it, but it was shiny and a wire off the end of it was glowing, the other one trailing off to connect to something else on the table he couldn’t see from his underprivileged vantage point.

                He reached out to touch the glowing wire, and someone caught his hand.

                Tony looked up at the person who stopped him. It was someone he had never seen before, which didn’t make sense considering not a lot of people were allowed to hang around the heir of Stark Industries. What was he doing there?

                “You shouldn’t mess with things like this,” said the man, taking the battery out of Tony’s hands. The young Stark was too shocked to complain, which was saying something, considering his propensity to do just that. “You might get hurt.”

                Tony nodded slowly. He, perhaps, should have been afraid of this stranger, but instead he felt safe. Something about the slight glow of his dirty blonde hair and the warmth of his hands, and the smile he gave as he cautioned Tony about his behavior.

                “How about you go back upstairs and play with your own toys?” said the stranger.

                “Um. Yes, sir,” Tony said. Then, abruptly, the visitor disappeared.

                Tony looked up at the table, feeling like he was missing something. What was he doing down there?

                He looked around. The workspace was empty.

                Well, of course it would be. Who would be there?

                He wandered back upstairs. His own stuff was more interesting than the mess of wires on his dad’s table anyways.

 


 

                His growth spurt did come after all, but there definitely weren’t any bullies around to appreciate it when it happened. Instead, Tony took his newly lanky and equally as awkward figure and hid in his room, scavenging parts from stray electronics and occasionally swiping things from his father’s lab. He was sure Howard knew what was going on; he just didn’t care enough to stop it. Which, somehow, was worse than the alternative.

                Tony didn’t really care about any of that, though. Tony cared about tinkering. It was what he was good at, and electronics didn’t have a voice to patronize him with. “Young master Stark,” whatever. Stark was his dad. He didn’t want anything to do with the name.

                He shoved his protective goggles up his face with the heel of his palm, leaving them crooked in his mess of greasy hair. The nest of wires and transistors and Frankenstein’s-monster-esque masses of salvaged parts stared back at him, quiet on its table.

                “Well,” said Tony, slipping his gloves off, “let’s see what you can do.”

                He flipped a switch, and the device hummed to life—then, something sparked, which definitely wasn’t supposed to happen.

                Tony was pushed to the ground, falling awkwardly on his shoulder.

                Then, something exploded.

                It took him a moment to process this mismatched sequence of events, and he rolled over onto his back, realizing there was someone on top of him.

                “Hey,” he went. “Who are you? And how did you get in here?”

                “Don’t worry about it,” said the person, sitting up and looking him over. Okay, maybe the label of ‘person’ was too hasty. People definitely did not have wings. Or, at least, they didn’t the last time Tony checked. “Are you hurt?”

                “Uh,” went Tony, dumbfounded. “My shoulder…sort of…”

                The guy checked over him, putting a hand on his shoulder, taking care not to jostle him. Tony didn’t really want him to ever take his hands off, but he did, standing up and rustling his…wings…in a manner that was strangely reminiscent of a businessperson adjusting their jacket. Tony’s heart started beating hard against his chest, but he didn't think it was out of fear.

                “I’m going to have to leave you like this,” said the guy. "Sorry."

                “Wait,” went Tony, sitting up, but suddenly, there was no one there to plead to.

                Tony blinked.

                “Crap,” he went, scrambling to his feet, looking around at his work, newly scattered around the floor. When had that happened? It must have exploded, and he blacked out…it can’t have been for too long, though, because—

                “Sir, are you alright?” came a voice, as someone barged into the room. Ah, there they were. Everything was right with the world.

                “Yeah, yeah,” went Tony, rolling his shoulder around in its socket. He’d deal with that later, he didn’t want anyone fussing over him. “It’s fine. I’ll deal with it.”

                “Are you sure, because—“

                “Get out.”

                “Yes, Mr. Stark.”

                Tony huffed, kicking a piece of metal across the room. Stark. Whatever.

 


 

                He ducked under the wheel of one of his father’s cars, which was sitting useless, gathering dust in the garage. His dad wouldn’t let Tony drive this one for some reason, or any of the ones he kept down there—which was stupid, Tony thought. They were cars, you weren’t supposed to lock them away and polish them every day, which he didn’t even do. You were supposed to actually drive them.

                He pulled a panel off and got at the wires, hands a little unsteady. He could hotwire one of these things with his eyes closed and his hands behind his back, though, so his vision being a little fuzzy wasn’t that big a deal.

                Moments later, the engine roared to life, and Tony let out a triumphant laugh, not even caring that he hit his head on the steering wheel as he sat back up. He took one last drink from the nearly empty bottle of wine in the passenger seat before throwing the car into reverse, pulling out, and peeling out of the garage, nearly jamming the transmission as he did so. No big deal.

                Alarms went off in the house while he was still close enough to hear them. Oh, well. He wouldn’t be that close for long.

                He ran a few lights and took stop signs as more of a suggestion than anything, judgment clouded by alcohol and adrenaline. Besides, no one would pull over a Stark, right? There had to be some kind of law against that.

                Lights flashed in his rear-view mirror as sirens wailed to life, a police car turning a corner into his line of vision.

                “Oops,” he went, and then proceeded to step on the gas, veering around a corner and into the darkness of a side street, knocking over a few trash cans on the way. No big deal. He’d be fine. He would definitely be fine.

                He yanked the steering wheel when he realized he was about to drive straight into traffic, but not quite in time to prevent the crash. Something slammed into him, the car did circles, and there was a mess of other motion that ended up with him laying against the passenger door, one of his bones not really in the right place and blood dripping from his forehead. Also, there might have been glass shards stuck in places where glass shards shouldn’t be stuck, which was notably anywhere on the human body.

                The door opened slowly, and someone caught him before he could fall out, placing him on the pavement and looking him over.

                “Heyyy,” Tony said, grinning despite himself. “I know you. I know you, don’t I?” He couldn’t quite place where he’d seen the guy, but his presence seemed familiar somehow. Just seeing him made Tony feel safer.

                “You really shouldn’t,” said his rescuer, placing his hand on Tony’s chest. Something moved back into place, and some of the pain he’d been feeling went away, leaving all the rest of the pain.

                “Nice trick,” he said, “Can you do that with the rest of me?”

                “You can’t come out of a car crash like that unharmed.”

                “Sure I can. I’m Tony Stark.”

                “You almost weren’t—“ he sighed, “—I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s a good thing you were this drunk, or else you probably wouldn’t have survived.”

                “Being drunk is my specialty.”

                His savior frowned, and wiped something off of Tony’s face. Presumably blood, since there seemed to be an awful lot of that.

                “No,” said the guy. “It’s not. You are so much more than this, and I wish…I wish you would take care of yourself well enough to discover just how much more you’re capable of.”

                Tony didn’t know what to say to that, so for once, he stayed silent. Sirens filled the lull in the conversation as ambulances showed up on the scene, and he noticed for the first time that there were police officers standing around, talking inaudibly into their handsets.

                The stranger leaned down and placed a kiss on Tony’s forehead before he disappeared again.

                Tony forgot him, but just for a moment. His pounding heart brought the memory back like a lost train of thought, and he played it over and over again as a team carried him onto a stretcher, murmuring this and that about Howard Stark’s son.

                He didn’t care.

                He was a little bit in love.

 


 

                He’d always hated being Howard Stark’s son.

                He hated it up until the day he wasn’t.

                Somehow Tony had always thought it was going to be some long drawn-out process and everyone would secretly be grateful when it was over, an old wrinkly Howard Stark quietly passing away in a hospital bed surrounded by thousands of dollars of medical technology, finally passing on his company to Tony, who would be well and ready to take it over.

                No one ever thought it would happen like this.

                Or, maybe some people did, but Tony wasn’t one of them.

                He sat in his room, staring at the wall that was swimming in his vision. He didn’t know what time it was, he’d had the windows blacked out for god knows how long, hand wrapped around bottle after bottle. He shouldn’t have been drinking, sure, but it wasn’t like his habits were a secret to anyone in that house. For once, they just left him alone. Either that, or they were too busy keeping the press from sneaking into his room. The remaining Stark being a teenage alcoholic probably wasn’t great press, considering he was going to be the one running the company.

                He slumped over, dropping the nearly empty bottle onto the floor and pressing his hands to his eyes. He couldn’t cry. There weren’t any tears left.

                Well, maybe he would just throw up. That felt like a viable option too.

                He felt someone put a hand on his back, and looked up.

                It was that guy again.

                “It’s you again,” Tony said. He didn’t even recognize his own voice.

                “It is me again,” the person echoed. “I’m…sorry for your loss.”

                “Don’t be,” Tony said, looking around for another bottle. All of the ones around him were empty. “It’s not going to change anything. Who are you, anyways?”

                “I’m your guardian angel.”

                Tony raised an eyebrow at him, and then started laughing. He wasn’t sure why. It just happened.

                “Angel, huh? No shit.”

                He sat up, stood up, and when he wobbled slightly, the angel caught him. Tony was a few inches shorter than the guy. This pissed him off. Granted, he was going to get pissed off at something, so it might as well have been that.

                “You saved me. When I stole the car that one time. Didn’t you?”

                “Yes, I did.”

                “So where the fuck were you,” Tony said, jabbing a finger into the angel’s chest, “During this whole thing, huh? I got the only angel doing double-time? You just get to pick and choose who you save, huh? Where the hell were you!” he yelled, by this point pounding his fist against the angel, voice cracking. He’d started crying again.

                The angel put his arms around Tony, loosely, only pulling him close once Tony grabbed a hold of the angel’s shirt and sobbed into it.

                They stood there for Tony didn’t know how long, his legs starting to shake by the time his breathing came steady.

                “…this is embarrassing,” he mumbled after a while. The angel’s grip loosened, but Tony chose to slide his hands down to his waist rather than stepping away. The angel’s arms stayed on his back.

                “Do you think so?” asked his visitor. Tony looked away, bringing one of his hands up to wipe at his face.

                “Well, yeah. I don’t usually break down crying in the arms of a random stranger, so…”

                “I wouldn’t say I’m a stranger.”

                “I would.”

                Tony stepped away, and the angel let him go. He grabbed a wad of tissues and mopped his face up, feeling it go red as he did so. This was so not the right time for this.

                “So, what’s your name, angel?” he asked, without turning around.

                “Steven.”

                He did turn around at this, giving an incredulous look. It was hard when his eyes were still so puffy.

                “Steven?” he echoed. “That’s the least angelic name I’ve ever heard. Who else is up there? Jerry?”

                “There’s James, and Samuel—“

                “See, those at least sound a little bit more regal,” Tony said, going over to look at his bottles again. Ah, there was one that he hadn’t gotten to yet. He picked it up and opened it. “Well, Stevie,” he said, taking a swig. “I’m obviously not in any immediate danger, so you can just leave me to this, big guy.”

                “You are in danger,” insisted the angel. Tony frowned, holding the bottle at his side. “But my help won’t be any use unless you want it.”

                “Yeah?” went Tony. “In danger of what?”

                Steve gave a pointed look at the bottles on the ground. “Alcohol poisoning,” he clarified. “And…a drug overdose.”

                Tony swallowed thickly. Oh, so that’s how this was going to be. “So, what,” he said. “Just put me to bed and call it a day, then, I’ll be fine.”

                “Or will you just do this again tomorrow?”

                “I might,” Tony admitted, easily. He brought the bottle up to take another drink, but a hand grabbed his wrist. He blinked. He was pretty sure that guy wasn’t so close half a second ago.

                “Tony,” said the angel, face set. “Do you want to die?”

                Tony stared back at him. His eyes were blue. Typical.

                “A little bit, yeah,” he answered.

                Steve sighed. He let go.

                “The company will survive without me,” Tony continued, feeling the need to explain himself. “My dad left behind plenty of plans for whatever, and it’s not like I could run this place worth shit anyways. My cousin could take it over, or…I don’t know, someone with actual business experience. Why should I stick around, huh? What good will I possibly be?”

                “This isn’t about your company, Tony,” Steve said, voice soft. “This is about you. You don’t have to step up to all of this, if you don’t want to. You can run away to a million different places that aren’t your grave. Do you really want to die?”

                Tony stared at him.

                “…yeah,” he answered again. “But…me getting what I want…hasn’t historically resulted in the best things. So maybe we should…”

                He shook his head, pinching the bridge of his nose. He did not want to think about this right now.

                “I’ll think about it in the morning,” he decided. Steve smiled, letting go of him, and Tony looked away. “And just so you know, I’m not doing this because of your stupid pouty angel eyes,” he declared. Moments afterwards, he realized he probably shouldn’t have said that, but there was nothing to do about it now.

                “I’ll be taking that, then,” Steve said, nodding at the bottle. Tony begrudgingly handed it over, only for Steve to hold out his hand again.

                Tony looked at his hand, then back at his face, and huffed.

                He went over to his nightstand and pulled out a bottle of pills, which he handed to the angel as well.

                “Thank you,” Steve said.

                “Yeah, whatever.”

                “I’d like you to drink some water and go to bed now, if you don’t mind.”

                “I’ll think about it,” Tony grumbled.

                “Thank you. And, one more thing.”

                Steve placed a hand on his back, and Tony vomited.

                When he looked up, the angel was gone.

                “…thanks,” Tony said, evidently to himself, spitting on the floor. “Asshole.”

 


 

                Tony thought that, maybe, Steve had always been some sort of strange drunken hallucination. He had been pretty wasted the only times he remembered seeing him, after all—though somehow Tony had the feeling he’d shown up before then. But, he didn’t know why, and he was never one to rely too much on just a feeling.

                And, fine, if he did have a guardian angel, then where the hell had he been? Did guardian angels just leave their guardees to rot away in captivity in a cave in the middle of a desert? Did they let them almost get killed by an ex-business partner gone wild? If they did, then they were evidently pretty shitty guardian angels.

                Tony looked over his arc reactor in the mirror, or, more pressingly, the veins of contamination that were snaking out from it, coming after the rest of his vital organs. “Where are you now, Steve, huh? Enjoying an early retirement?” he said, checking his face. He was getting pale skinned and red-eyed from all this strain on his body. How unappealing.

                He rinsed his face in the sink, and looked back to the mirror.

                There was someone behind him.

                Tony whirled around, trying to land a punch on the guy—and actually managed to, which was his first sign that he wasn’t in any danger. Anyone halfway competent at killing people would have probably broken his wrist already. That is, if that was their goal.

                “…ow,” Tony went, taking his hand off the chest he’d just feebly assaulted.

                “You okay?” asked Steve, his mouth twitching up into a grin for a second before going carefully blank again.

                “That is the stupidest question I’ve ever heard,” Tony deadpanned. That wasn’t entirely true, but he felt the need to hyperbolize. “Do I look okay to you? Huh? Obviously not, or else you wouldn’t be here—and, oh, speaking of not being here, where the hell have you been, big guy? Huh? Maui? You come rescue me when there are perfectly capable paramedics rushing the scene but I get captured and stuck in a cave for approximately ever with a time bomb shoved in my chest and not a peep from you? What about me getting attacked by a giant robot, or…or…god, anything else that’s happened since I was seven-fucking-teen! What is wrong with you!”

                Steve gave him a stupid, pitying smile, and Tony almost wanted to hit him again.

                “Well?” he insisted, shoving the angel’s chest, “Answer me.”

                “You’re fine, aren’t you?” Steve said. When Tony opened his mouth to give an indignant answer, Steve amended his statement. “You’re alive. You took care of yourself, now you’re here. If I had come in to rescue you, you might never have thought up your armor, and may not have been able to take your company back…things turned out for the better.”

              Tony frowned, stepping back from the angel. “What about,” he started, “what about Yinsen? Where was his angel?”

                “He wanted to die.”

                “What about everyone else!”

                “I’m sorry,” Steve said, grabbing Tony’s shoulders. Tony started, heart pounding in his chest. That wasn’t a good feeling.

                After a moment, Steve composed himself, letting go of Tony and taking a deep breath. Well, this was new. Tony would have to keep in mind that angels were capable of losing their temper. Or…whatever had just happened.

                “I’m sorry,” Steve said again, quieter this time. “We don’t get…we don’t get instructions, or orders, or…we don’t really know what’s going to happen past a certain point, we’re just supposed to take care of…of our own. I’m supposed to take care of you, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

                Tony rolled his eyes, and pushed past Steve to get out of the bathroom—choosing to ignore the fact that the angel had willingly let him do that—to go dig through his dresser. He couldn’t just stay in his pajamas all day. Or, he could, actually, he was Tony Stark. But now more than ever it was important to keep up appearances.

                “I’ve heard that excuse more than enough times before,” he said, mostly to himself. Then, “Fine.” He turned around to face the angel, designer shirt clutched in the hand he was using to point accusingly at Steve with. “Whatever. The past is past, I forgive you I guess. What are you going to do about this, now?” He turned his hand to tap at the arc reactor in his chest. “It’d be nice to live past a few more…oh, weeks.”

                Steve stood there, irritatingly continuing to not say anything.

                “Well?” pressed Tony. “Clocks a’ tickin’, buddy.”

                “I didn’t…come here to heal you,” Steve said, finally. Tony frowned.

                “Okay. Why, then?”

                “I came because you asked.”

                “Great, well, now I’m asking you to fix me,” Tony said. He threw his arms out, pointedly. “Don’t be shy.”

                “I’m not going to heal you.”

               Tony frowned. Then he let his arms down, and frowned some more. “Why not?” he asked. “Am I not, I don’t know, do I need to go to confession? If so you’d better heal me before that ‘cause it’s going to take a long time for me to—“

                “No, Tony. I can’t. I’m sorry.”

               Tony stared at him. He opened his mouth once or twice, trying to decide what the right words were in this situation. Eventually he just settled on, “Okay. Why.”

                “You need to work through this yourself.”

                Tony rolled his eyes, and threw the shirt onto his bed in order to properly run his hands down his face, controlling his breathing.

                “I…don’t know…how else to phrase this,” he said, through his fingers, eyes shut. “I am literally dying. There isn’t time to work through this, I need help.”

                “Yes,” said Steve. “But not mine.”

                When Tony opened his eyes to retaliate, the angel was gone.

                He made an effort to control his temper for a grand total of two seconds, before turning around and shoving a lamp off his nightstand. It bounced to the floor, not even having the courtesy to break.

                “Okay,” went Tony, once again. “Fine. That’s fine. See you in Heaven, I guess.”

                He laughed mirthlessly, panic rising to his throat.

                “As if I’d even get there.”

 


 

                Somehow, Steve had been right. Tony was somewhat put off by this, despite the fact that it meant he was still alive. He almost rather would have died out of spite, because, come on, what does some angel know about him, really. Sure, he’d probably been watching Tony since he was…well, born, which would make him the single entity that had actually known him all his life, by this point even having known him longer than his parents, but…

                Well, Tony was a spiteful person sometimes. And a tad bit competitive, and being wrong just didn’t sit well with him.

                But he supposed that he could forgive the guy just this once. He was feeling a bit charitable since his heart was still beating. And, well, if Steve had just swept down and waved his fairy wand at him, the human race would be less one more element, so. Things turned out for the better. He guessed.

                He was still a little bit irritated.

                Tony sat down on the couch in his living room, staring at the blank TV screen in front of him.

                “…so. Steve. You wanna come down and talk this out?” he said to the empty room.

                “Talk what out, exactly?” the empty room said back to him, the couch depressing next to him. Tony looked over, raising an eyebrow. Steve’s perfectly innocent baby blue eyes stared back.

                “…you actually showed up,” remarked Tony.

                “That I did.”

                “I didn’t think you actually would.”

                “You asked, didn’t you?”

                “That I did,” echoed Tony. Steve gave him a little smile that made Tony’s stomach do things he’d rather not admit.

                Tony got up abruptly. “Do you want anything to drink? If you say no I’m going to get you something anyways so you might as well just say yes and save yourself the trouble.”

                Steve cocked an eyebrow at him. “Alright,” he said.

                Tony escaped to the kitchen, and opened his fridge. There was a whole lot of nothing. And nothing meant, of course, water, vegetable juice, et cetera. Nothing.

                He grabbed a few bottles of water and went back to his living room, dropping himself on the couch next to Steve and offering up a bottle of water. The angel took it, but made no move to open it. Tony drank half of his in one breath, stalling the conversation. Did Steve wear the same white t-shirt and slacks all the time? Tony was pretty sure he did. Whatever, he had a feeling angels didn’t really have to worry about laundry. At least he was wearing something.

                “I,” he started again, and paused. Still can’t believe you showed up. “Don’t you have anything better to do? Anyone else to look after? Some…penance to perform?”

                “Nope,” Steve answered, simply. Tony raised an eyebrow at him, so he elaborated. “You’re the only person I look after, and I haven’t done anything sinful, so I don’t need to perform reparation. Even if I did, it could wait. You asked me to be here, so I am.”

                “Oh, yeah? What else would you do if I asked you to?” Tony said, smirking at less than pure thoughts. Steve just shrugged.

                “A lot of things,” he answered. “As long as it didn’t interfere much with anyone else.”

                “I know a few things we could get up to that wouldn’t interfere with anyone but me,” Tony said, before he could stop himself. Steve gave him a completely unreadable look, so Tony wasn’t sure why it made him blurt out, “You know, you’re the reason I’m gay.”

                The angel blinked at him, expression otherwise unchanged.

                “I mean, not gay, exactly, more like bi, or,” Tony amended, “I like women, but…I mean, you’re the reason I’m interested in men too. Probably. Maybe it would have turned out that way anyways but even if I can’t remember it I know you’ve been visiting me since I could walk because that’s about when I started getting into life threatening situations if the stories I’ve been told are anything to go by and you must have planted something in my head because—“ he took a deep breath. Okay, this was all spilling out now, wasn’t it. “Because once my libido paid my gangly adolescent body a visit the next time I laid eyes on a well-toned blonde man I couldn’t get that guy out of my head for a week and it was not a happy experience, except when it was, very briefly, for small periods of time. I realized it after you pulled me out of that car I wrecked. So, listen, if God has anything to say about this you better go up there and tell Him it’s not my fucking fault okay?”

                Steve fixed him with that god damned unreadable expression for another long moment before he, horrifyingly, started laughing. His face just scrunched up into an expression of uncontainable mirth before he started what-Tony-could-only-describe-as giggling and keeled over, hand coming up to stifle himself.

                Tony couldn’t help if he turned a little bit red at this, or maybe a lot red, it wasn’t anyone’s business. After all he was pretty indignant at being laughed at, and a little bit embarrassed, and hey, maybe the angel’s laugh was really cute as well. He turned away and attached his mouth to his water bottle while Steve composed himself.

                “I’m—I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” the angel said, not sounding very apologetic as he was catching his breath from his laughter. “That was just… a little unexpected.”

                “Yeah, yeah,” was all Tony could manage, his pool of snarky remarks having run dry for once. “Sure you are.”

                “And it’s fine, if you were really wondering,” the angel said. Tony looked back at him, frowning in his confusion. “Being romantically interested in men. Or sexually, or what have you. Whatever gender, it’s all…fine.”

                “Oh,” went Tony. Then, “You know, I think there are people that would benefit from that knowledge a lot more than I would.”

                Steve didn’t say anything. He didn’t seem like he was listening at all, actually.

                “You okay big guy?” Tony asked.

                The angel stood up abruptly.

                “I don’t think I was supposed to tell you that, actually,” he said, frowning into empty space. Then he turned back to Tony and gave him a smile that Tony didn’t quite believe. “But we should talk like this more often. I enjoyed it. Thanks for the water.”

                And he left, taking the unopened bottle of water with him.

                Tony didn’t really care about the water, but still. That was a pretty shitty goodbye.

 


 

                Tony screwed his eyes shut. Okay. Danger. Bad guys. Immanent threat. His heart was pounding. “Steve,” he said, loudly and pointedly, though he wasn’t sure it made much of a difference, “I need you.”

                He opened his eyes, and moments later, his guardian angel appeared out of thin air right in front of him.

                Well, that was easy.

                The angel had hardly gotten through, “Are you okay? What’s wrong—“ when Tony had already stepped backwards and shut a door on him. It was at this that Steve looked around, taking note of his surroundings. Notably, a glass cell he was now in, about seven foot by seven foot, outside littered with various instruments of science. He looked a little confused by this, but not the least bit worried.

                “What’s all this?” he asked. “Are you planning on running experiments on me?”

                “Yep,” went Tony, looking to the screen in front of him as he pressed a few buttons to get the first one started. “I’m a man of science, it’s what I do. I mean, who else has an angel just hanging around? Not a lot of people, I’m guessing, or else the whole guardian thing wouldn’t be as much of a secret. Anyways, if you start feeling pain or anything strange at some point you should let me know.”

                “You could have just asked,” Steve said.

                “You might have said no.”

                “I wouldn’t have.”

                “Yeah, but how was I supposed to know that?”

                Steve sighed, evidently giving up on this conversation. He just crossed his arms and looked around his cage. “What are you doing now, then?”

                “X-Rays. It’s kind of weird. Do you have internal organs or bones at all,” Tony asked, staring at the solid black Steve-shaped object on his screen. Suddenly, it wasn’t solid black anymore. “Oh, there they are. How did you do that?”

                “I thought about it.”

                “Yeah, that’s helpful. So you only have internal organs if you’re thinking about it. That makes no sense.”

                “I don’t have to make sense to you, I’m a supernatural being.”

                “I don’t believe in the supernatural,” Tony said, pulling up another set of instructions for his computer to run. “Everything starts to follow rules if you run enough tests on it.”

                He scrutinized his screen for a second, trying to make sense of the data it had come up with. “Hey, could you—“ he started, but when he looked back up, Steve was gone.

                Tony stared at the empty space. That didn’t make any sense, how could he—

                “What’re you running now?” came a voice from right next to his ear. Tony gave an undignified yelp and spun around, coming face-to-slightly-below-face with his angel, who was looking much too pleased with himself.

                “Okay, first of all, I have a heart condition,” Tony said, matter-of-factually, “So if you could stop with the whole popping up behind me crap, that would be great.” Not that being surprised really affected his heart at all, but hey, he hadn’t told a lie. “Second, what are you doing out of your cell. You’ve completely defeated the entire purpose of me building this for you. Come on. How did you even get out of there?”

                Steve shrugged unhelpfully, and pushed on Tony’s shoulder to face him back towards his screens. Tony disgruntledly let him, and then was decidedly gruntled when Steve pressed up against his back to point at a few numbers on one of said screens. “What’s that mean?” he asked.

                Tony stared at the screen for a moment, trying to think of an answer. It probably wouldn’t have been that difficult to think of at all, if his mind wasn’t occupied with wondering about Steve’s internal organs since, yes, it seemed very much like he had a heart, he could feel it beating against his back.

                He stood up a little bit straighter in order to make contact with as much of Steve’s surface area and his as he could, while also being subtle about it. He didn’t know how well he did with subtlety, but Steve sure was warm.

                “It means, uh…you don’t exist,” Tony finally answered. “But these other numbers here mean that you do, so I’m only half crazy, I guess.”

                “Huh,” went Steve, sounding baffled but genuinely interested, as should someone in the presence of Tony Stark. Tony was pleased by this, but only for a moment, since in the next Steve straightened out again, depriving Tony of his body heat. “What else were you going to do to me?”

                Oh, the things he wished he could.

                “Why don’t you get back in that cell I set up and you can find out?”

                Steve obeyed, appearing in the cell moments later, looking eager to continue. Tony was somehow chagrined by this, though he didn’t care to figure out why, just telling his computers to run a few more things and store the data somewhere he could go over it later. From what he’d seen so far, it wasn’t going to be anything that made sense at precursory glance, he’d have to spend a long night in looking over it all to figure it out.

                And he would figure it out.

                Just not today.

                After he ran a few more things, he invited Steve out of his cage and ran a few more hands-on tests, like checking out his healing ability and things like that. After all, he can’t have just gone running into all of those life-threatening situations without some guarantee of safety, right? Tony poked him with a few different pointy things, and in the event that something did manage to pierce the skin (granted, Tony wasn’t trying very hard) the wound stitched itself up less than a minute afterwards.

                “That’s handy,” commented Tony, and Steve had, by that point, apparently learned that there wasn’t much use in responding to the mindless musings of the scientist. Tony didn’t usually hear him, and when he did, he only gave some monosyllabic sound in response. “How’re you holding up there, Steve?”

                “I’m fine.”

                “Good.”

                See? Monosyllabic. Well, it wasn’t his fault, he just got a little caught up in his experiments. After a few he forgot to treat Steve like a human being and started dragging him around the room to run a few instruments past him, but Steve didn’t complain, which was a first for Tony in this kind of situation. Speaking of firsts,

                “So, do you angels have to take some kind of vow of celibacy or something?” Tony asked. Steve turned to him, at the moment seated on a table as Tony poked and prodded at him with various instruments.

                “No,” he answered.

                “So, what, it’s just implied?”

                “We don’t have to be celibate.”

                Tony’s hands stilled at that.

                “…hm,” he went. “That’s…”

                He shook his head, and tried to focus back on what he was doing, which proved a little difficult.

                “You know what,” Tony said, clasping his hands together. “I think I’m done for today. This is enough data to keep me busy for, I don’t know, a few hours or so, so…you can. I don’t know, get back to whatever angels do in their free time, okay? Alright.”

                Tony made a few gestures at the screens following him around, banishing the data to a server somewhere to be later perused at his leisure. “See you the next time I try and get myself killed.”

                And with that, he left, leaving the angel high and dry himself for once.

                He escaped back upstairs to his bedroom, then his bathroom, giving himself a scolding face in the mirror since no one else was around to give it to him, apparently. Where was Pepper when you needed her? He would have to call her and—oh, wait. He’d told everyone to take the day off so no one would barge into him poking things into his angel buddy. He was pretty surprised Pepper hadn’t shown up anyways, but…well, whatever.

                He splashed water on his face, mentally telling himself to calm down about all of this. He was a grown adult, not a horny teenager, he was going to keep it in his pants, he wasn’t about to get excited over…over an angel, of all things. That was so many layers of not okay. That was a level that Tony Stark just did not get dragged down to.

                Not that anyone would ever know if he did. Except for JARVIS, who didn’t count, despite his annoying tendency to leak embarrassing information to certain people who spent too much time around his mansion. Notably Pepper. It was always Pepper. Well, she knew worse things about him. And no one else would know.

                Except for Steve, who for all he knew, kept him under constant surveillance.

                That probably shouldn’t have turned him on as much as it did.

                Well, you know what, at this point he was going to hell anyways, and it wasn’t like this would be the first time he got it off thinking about the guy.

                His hand went down his pants, completely of its own accord.

                He had absolutely no part in it.

 


 

                The next time he saw his dear Steve was through eyes that were once again blurry and unfocused, and there was a bottle in his hand half full of something that made his throat burn. Or maybe the correct phrasing would be half empty. He wasn’t feeling too charitable.

                “Hey there big guy,” he greeted, tilting the bottle in his hand towards his visitor, standing at the edge of his bed and giving him a very convincing disappointed mother look. “What? I have too much again? Or are you just here to tell me how sad it is that I’m drinking alone in my bedroom? ‘Cause that would be really rude, considering you probably know pretty well that I don’t actually have any friends that aren’t on my payroll, and…you know.” Tony waved the bottle around vaguely, before bringing it to his mouth, having to make a small adjustment before he actually managed to drink out of it. “Go on, give me your speech.”

                Steve sighed, and held a hand out, looking expectant. Tony stared at him for a moment, sharp wit somewhat dulled at the moment, before realizing what Steve wanted from him. And then he took another few moments actually convincing himself to do it, but his bottle eventually ended up in Steve’s hand, who transferred it to the nightstand, somewhat out of Tony’s reach.

                “Do you remember the night your dad died?” Steve asked, which really wasn’t what Tony needed to be hearing at the moment.

                “Nope,” he answered, “Not a thing. And even if I did, that’s really not what I want on my mind right now.”

                The angel sat down next to him, sighing, and Tony managed to lift himself off the pillow throne he’d constructed for himself. He knew a lecture face when he saw one, and the sooner he suffered through this, the sooner he’d get his bottle back. Hopefully.

                “You drank so much you would have died if I hadn’t shown up, or at least ended up in the hospital. But you said you wanted my help, so I helped you. But this…”

                Steve sighed, hunched over, and Tony couldn’t believe how much that irritated him. This was hard for him, was it?

                “Do you still want my help?” Steve asked, and had the most pitiful kicked puppy look and Tony just really wanted to punch him.

                “No,” Tony said, decidedly, crossing his arms and wishing he was in something a little bit more intimidating than his pajamas. “No, I don’t want your help. You know when I wanted your help? I wanted your help when I was stuck in a cave and when…and when I was dying because of the shit this thing was putting out,” he said, jabbing a finger into the glass of his arc reactor, “and I don’t know, the other billion times I’ve been attacked by something, but no, no, you just show up when I’ve had a little too much to drink. Thanks. That’s…that’s great. Really. I appreciate it.”

                He probably hated that kicked puppy look so much because he knew there was nothing he could do about it. He was a disappointment, for all he’d accomplished, he still somehow didn’t have his life on track. But, you know what, fuck that. In his eyes, running a billion dollar company that had semi-recently stopped killing people for its profit earned him the right to drink as much as he damn well pleased.

                “I want to help you, Tony,” Steve said. “What do you need me to do?”

                “I need my goddamned bottle back.”

                Steve’s expression hardened a bit. Yeah, that’s right, buddy. Sympathy wasn’t going to get you anywhere.

                “Anything but that,” he said.

                “Anything?” echoed Tony, raising an eyebrow at him. “ ‘Anything’ is a pretty big pool.”

                “Anything,” Steve said, determined. Well, he asked for it, then.

                Tony scooted over closer to the angel, and grabbed his face, practically falling on him in his quest to smash their mouths together, but he got there, dragging his lips along Steve’s, finding them rather more welcoming to his advances than he would have guessed. Very welcoming, in fact—Tony expected to get a fist to the gut but the hand that Steve laid on him wrapped around his back instead, supporting him so that the angel could—oh, okay—return his kiss, leaning him backwards, and…

               Tony put his hands on the angel’s shoulders, pushing him back slightly, because he needed a minute to process this. And, okay, Steve was smirking at him, that just wasn’t fair. “Anything, huh,” Tony felt he need to repeat, voice sounding a little strangled. “Boy, you weren’t kidding. You do this often?”

                “Only for you.”

                Tony managed to catch himself before a slew of religion-based profanities spilled out of his mouth at the thought of some sort of angelic call boy situation, and for some reason, “You know, I’ve thought about you when I masturbate since I was, oh, fifteen,” came out instead. He would have loved to have blamed the alcohol, but let’s face it, he had said worse things sober.

                “I know,” said Steve.

                “Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” Tony breathed, letting his head fall back to stare at the ceiling. He didn’t quite catch Steve’s expression at that, but his little huff of breath hold a bit of the story. “I am too old for this.”

                “I am much older than you are.”

                Tony lifted his head up, raising an eyebrow in question. “Yeah? By how much?”

                Steve looked away in thought, and Tony realized that he really would rather have that question stay unanswered.

                “You know what, don’t answer that. There are better things you could be doing with your mouth.”

                “Like?” Steve prompted, eyebrows up like he knew what Tony wanted from him, he just wanted to hear the guy ask for it. Well, he wasn’t going to get that satisfaction.

               Tony put a hand behind his neck and pulled him back into a kiss, which Steve continued to be perfectly receptive to, much to Tony’s delight. Moments later, Tony was on his back, just the right amount of angel pressed up against his chest, and those big pouty lips of his wet against Tony’s own. The light-headed gleefulness Tony was feeling definitely wasn’t just because of the alcohol at this point.

                His hands wandered down—maybe not wandered, they knew exactly where they were going—to Steve’s pants, undoing them with practiced precision despite his inebriated state. Then, much to Tony’s disappointment, the angel’s hand slipped out from around his waist to catch his wrist instead.

                Tony paused, trying to read the situation. Steve didn’t look mad. That was a start.

                “You have a very limited definition of ‘anything,’ “ Tony remarked, nevertheless removing his hands from that general area, sticking them behind his head, instead. Tony Stark didn’t really like the idea of “no,” but he knew when to respect it.

                “Ah,” went Steve, sitting up and refastening his pants, “Sorry.”

                “No, no, it’s fine,” went Tony, staring pointedly up at the ceiling, not really wanting to take in Steve’s kiss-swollen lips and disheveled hair. “You’re just crushing all my childhood—well, teenage dreams. To tiny pieces. You know, it’s fine.”

                Okay, maybe he wasn’t always the best about being told no.

                “You should try again when you’re sober,” was Steve’s answer to that.

                Tony sat up abruptly, and then immediately regretted it, squeezing his eyes shut while his head righted itself.

                “Uh,” went Tony, “Is that—is that a…are you serious?”

                He opened his eyes to see Steve standing over him, grinning.

                “I’m very serious.”

                “That doesn’t look like a serious face.”

                “Well, I guess you’ll just have to find out once you’re sober.”

                Steve tossed the bottle back at him, and Tony barely caught it.

                “Go to bed, Tony,” he said.

                “I’m already in bed,” Tony felt the need to point out.

                Steve gave him a very convincing you-know-what-I-mean parent look which, wow, weird, not an association Tony wanted to make about a guy he’d have a hard-on for if his body was cooperating.

                And that was apparently enough, because moments after that, Steve went back to wherever he went on angel off time. Heaven, Tony supposed.

                Well, at least he hadn’t taken his booze this time.

                He brought the bottle up and took a swig out of it. And then let out a pitiful whine.

                Water.

                Son of a bitch.

 


 

                 Something very loud and bright hit the side of Tony’s armor, and sent him flying into a building, and then through it, the armor eventually managing to catch itself and set Tony down lightly on a rooftop as he got his bearings. Okay, no more messing with that thing head-on.

                He launched himself off the roof, heading back into the fray, his HUD picking important objects out of the wreckage he and his buddies had kicked up trying to save everyone. One of those shiny things that had hit him was headed for Barton, so he fired a repulsor ray at it. It worked, sort of—it deflected into the side of a building, blowing a few windows out, but better that than Hawkeye. They’d evacuated that building, right?

                An alert popped up in the side of his vision, letting him know there was another one heading straight towards him, it was practically on him, but if he just—

                He barely managed an evasive thought before something else entirely crashed into him, dragging him out of the way of the projectile and depositing him on a nearby roof.

                Tony whirled around to see, unsurprisingly, a very familiar face, folding his wings up and looking worried.

                “Are you okay?” Steve asked, stepping towards him.

                “Uh, yes, pretty okay, thanks,” Tony answered, pointedly stepping away. “And I would have been okay if you didn’t come swooping in to save me, actually. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m pretty well protected.” He knocked pointedly at his chest plate, which let out a solid clank. “Thought you were all about butting out when I can handle things myself.”

                 Steve took another step towards him, this one more aggressive than the last, and prodded at said chest plate with a finger. Tony was actually pushed back a fraction by this, which meant this guy was a little bit stronger than he’d anticipated. He’d make a note to not piss him off, but that seemed to be a little bit futile at this point.

                “I saved your life,” Steve insisted, a little unnecessarily. “You could at least be grateful, for once.”

                “Oh, yeah, I’m very grateful that you just interrupted my entire thing and left my teammates in trouble, or do they have hyperactive guardian angels too, because I’ve definitely never seen any of them.”

                Tony threw his arms out, expecting another witty barb from the resident angel, but it never came. Steve’s jaw set, his fists clenched at his sides and, god, his wings bristling, which probably would have been adorable in any other situation.

                “Oh,” went Tony, eyebrows raising before he remembered there was kind of a metal face plate blocking any of his expressions. He waved an arm at him instead. “You weren’t supposed to do this, were you? You probably shouldn’t have been visiting me this often at all, considering I actually remember you, unlike most other people. Been breaking a few rules up there, big guy? Playing favorites?”

                Steve opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted when something in their periphery exploded.

                Tony threw up his arms to protect himself from a bit of debris, looking over at Steve but—of course, he was fine.

                “You know what, we should probably talk about this later,” Tony said. “Don’t angel me when I’m in the suit, it’s embarrassing.”

                He flew away before Steve could give him an answer, because really, they didn’t have time for this. He had a city to save.

 


 

                Tony Stark was a lot of things. You know, genius, billionaire, etc. etc., that whole spiel. Tony Stark was also a man of habit, and one of his more unfortunate habits was keeping a bottle close at hand, as anyone in his close employment had the misfortune to figure out. But, you know, it was fine. He could keep it reasonably under control, barring any emotional instability on his part.

                And Tony Stark was a very emotionally stable man. Certainly not known for any sort of outbursts, or fits, or anything like that.

                He threw a bottle at his lab wall, one of his pitiful helper robots sparking a bit as moisture hit where it shouldn’t. Whatever. It’d be okay.

                When Tony turned around to get something else to suck down, he was met with a faceful of angel.

                “Oh, come on,” Tony complained, unsuccessfully trying to sidestep Steve. “I’ve had two glasses…three, max. What’re you here for. I am fine.”

                “Are you?” Steve challenged. Tony raised his eyebrows at him, not dignifying that with an answer, and shoved past him.

                Steve caught his arm, and Tony let out an annoyed huff, inclining his head towards the angel. “Yeah, I am,” he clarified. “I can hold my liquor slightly better than a two year old, thanks. You can leave me to my drinking.”

                “This isn’t about your drinking, Tony. You’re upset.”

                Tony rolled his eyes, and yanked his arm away, fully aware Steve could keep a hold of him if he really wanted to. Luckily, that didn’t seem to be the case. “If this is about my emotional state of mind, you’re gonna be here a long time, buddy.”

                “I have time.”

                “But do you have the patience?” Tony countered, going over to look through the minifridge he kept in his lab. Somehow it only had sports drinks in it. Fine, whatever. He grabbed two, tossing one over to the angel, who had no choice but to catch it. His binging would have to wait.

                “I’d like to think I do,” was Steve’s answer.

                “A lot of people would like to think that. Do you have any idea how many shrinks would kill to have Stark money lining their pockets? Basically all of them. But…”

                He shook his head, hoisting himself up on a desk to sit among a few discarded projects. How apt. “The last time I had someone poking around in my head was decades ago, and I plan to keep it that way. It was not a happy experience for anyone.”

                Steve walked over, placing the drink Tony had thrown at him down on the desk.

                “What happened, Tony?” he asked, voice low, like Tony was an easily startled animal. Tony brought his foot up and planted a heel in the angel’s stomach. Steve was relatively unaffected.

                “Don’t use that tone of voice with me,” Tony said.

               Steve looked confused for a moment, but just repeated, “What happened,” in a much more demanding tone. Well, fine.

                “Pepper left. Well, not left, she’s still around, but…we were…together, and she broke it off. Probably smart of her, actually, I was probably more a health risk for her than anything else, so I’m not really mad, I’m just…well, I am mad, but not at her. More just at the situation in general. So I’m taking it out on everything down here, since none of it can feel pain. Okay? I’ve got it under control.”

                Steve frowned. Oh, there was that pity again. Tony dug his heel in a bit more, trying to discourage, but Steve just grabbed his ankle and pulled his leg down like he wasn’t a grown man. A grown superhero, at that.

                “I’m sorry,” said Steve.

                “Yeah, me too. But there’s nothing either of us can do. I don’t even want her back. She was better off as my personal assistant. Which, she isn’t now anyways, but…I’m pretty sure being CEO of my company is a lot less stressful than dating me, so it’s good she’s not doing both.”

                “Are you sure?” asked Steve, and Tony really wanted to kick him again.

                “Uh, yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m okay with her not continuing to constantly put her life on the line just by being around me.”

                “No, are you sure there’s nothing I can do to help?”

                “Yeah,” Tony repeated, “Pretty damn sure, big guy.” Unless you want to run to the liquor cabinet for me.

                So, a moment later, Steve was gone.

                Tony stared into the empty space in front of him.

                Somehow he felt even worse than before.

                Well, that’s what he did, didn’t he? He just drove away everyone important to him, and didn’t do anything about it until it was too late. Or they were dead. Which, yeah, kind of counted as way too late.

                He jumped up from his desk and pulled up a few screens around him, intent on burying himself in his work if he couldn’t drown himself in alcohol without his feathered friend showing up. Some of his files were piling up, anyways. He should probably go through those eventually, right?

                He opened a folder with a gesture, flipping through the different files in there. Mostly unread memos he didn’t really care about, and a few—

                Oh.

                There was one from Pepper, from…months ago.

                Tony selected it, and the file opened in front of him.

                Don’t forget about dinner tonight.

                He guessed it was a little bit too late to apologize for that one.

                A tear ran down his cheek, and he blinked. Okay, not his idea, but even as he reached up to wipe it away his eyes clouded with more until he couldn’t see the screens or even control his breathing really and shit, shit, how was it even possible to be this much of a fuck up?

                He waved a hand vaguely, trying to banish the screens away, but didn’t bother checking in lieu of sitting down in the middle of the floor and sobbing into his hands, like he was twelve years old again.

                Hell, who was he kidding, he’d ended up like this more times than he could count.

                He dragged his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them, sitting there for a moment before looking up and around his lab.

                Empty.

                Well, not empty, but he was the only thing in there that was breathing. He sighed, and set his forehead on his knees.

                “Wait,” he said into the empty room. “Steve, I…come back. Please. Just for…just for a little bit.”

                There was a rustle of fabric next to him, and then a hand on his back. Tony inclined his head slightly to see the angel smiling at him softly. Well, at least someone would still come when he called for them.

                “…how come you didn’t know about Pepper?” Tony asked, mostly to the inside of his elbow. Steve gave him a questioning look. “I mean, I kind of got the feeling you kept a constant watch over me, so…”

                “Not quite,” said Steve. “It’s really only when you’re in danger. Or…when you’re thinking about me.”

                “Oh,” went Tony. He laughed, despite himself. “Uh, whoops.”

                “Mhm,” went Steve, noncommittally. Tony got up, and went over to a counter to grab a wad of paper towels and mop his face up, tossing them in a bin afterwards. He probably looked pathetic.

                When he turned back around, Steve was standing a ways away, watching him with arms crossed. His wings were also out, which struck Tony as funny somehow, like a cat who’s forgotten to put their tongue back in their mouth.

                “Those’re…pretty impressive,” Tony commented, walking back over to him. Steve blinked, like he didn’t understand what he meant at first, but then his wings twitched, and he spread them out slightly, looking over one of his shoulders.

                “I guess you would think that,” he said, grinning. Tony may have taken offense to that comment, but he was too distracted by that fact the wings were taking up way more space than they should be, compared to what they looked like before.

                Tony stared at them.

                “You should,” Tony started, making a vague motion with his hands, pulling them together in front of him, “Pull your wings back again.”

                Steve did so, and yeah, that definitely didn’t follow any sort of laws of physics. They didn’t just fold in on themselves, they seemed to shrink. At his back the arch of his wings only extended a few inches over his head and the longest feathers brushed the ground, but when he extended them…

                “How far out can those things go?” Tony asked. He spread his arms out a bit without realizing, and then dropped them to his sides. A visual demonstration probably wasn’t necessary on his part.

                “Well,” Steve went, checking the lab on either side of him, “I’m not sure if there’s room…”

                Tony’s eyebrows went up. Oh, he had to see this. “Well, go as far as you can.”

                “Are you sure?”

                “I am so sure.”

                Steve gave him a little crooked smile which, wow, cute—Tony almost forgot he was upset for a moment.

                “Alright,” said Steve, sounding hesitant, but stretching his wings out anyways, slowly. And, yeah, it was hard to explain but they were definitely growing in a way that they shouldn’t be, like…

                Tony walked over to him, and looked at his wings. They looked like normal bird wings—some type of bird, he didn’t know, he wasn’t really an avian expert—except gigantic. Each one was probably twice the size of Steve at that point, and they weren’t even extended all the way. Steve had left them half folded, feathers brushing the floor and nudging a few things off a nearby table. They probably weren’t important.

                Tony reached out and put his hand on one of his wings, stroking the white feathers. They twitched slightly, Steve letting out a stifled noise. Tony looked at him, to find him grinning.

                “Sorry,” Steve said, “I guess I’m a little ticklish.”

                “Oh, yeah?” Tony went, returning the grin before dragging his hand down the expanse of the wing again, pulling laughter out of Steve as his wings jerked outwards, knocking a few more things onto the floor. Probably still nothing important.

                “God,” went Tony. “You should stay.”

                Steve’s grin dropped slightly, settling into a subtle smile instead. “What?” he asked.

                “You should…stay,” Tony repeated, moving his hand from the wing to Steve’s shoulder. “For a while. Instead of leaving. Uh…”

                Steve’s wings disappeared with a rustle, and he tilted his head, frowning in question.

                “It’s just. Pepper is going to be around, but not like she used to, she’s just going to go back to being distant professional Pepper, probably even more so and I…you’re just the only one that’s really…been around since I was, I just…just for a few days?”

                Tony was gripping Steve’s sleeve. He didn’t know when he’d started doing that, but he really didn’t want to let go.

                Steve brought a hand up and wiped something—a tear, great—off of Tony’s face, and Tony swatted him away.

                “Don’t,” he said, but there wasn’t much vitriol to it. “Will you?”

                Steve sighed, and Tony gripped his sleeve tighter, jaw set.

                “I really shouldn’t,” Steve said, quiet.

                “But,” Tony started, not sure what he was supposed to say. “I…I won’t even drink while you’re here.”

                Steve raised an eyebrow at that, and Tony felt his face go red. “I promise,” he insisted. And then, when Steve still wouldn’t answer, “You don’t believe me, do you?”

                “No,” answered the angel.

                Tony’s hand dropped from his sleeve.

                “Well,” he said, voice measured, “I appreciate the honesty.”

                Steve sighed, and placed a hand on Tony’s arm, worrying at his bottom lip. Tony didn’t even make a clever comment about it.

                “You should…get to bed,” Steve said, eventually.

                “Bed? Really? It’s not even…what time is it, JARVIS?”

                “11:49, sir,” came the disembodied voice.

                “See, it’s not even late. No one goes to bed at 12. Besides, I’m not even that drunk yet.”

                “Which is why you should sleep now,” Steve said, not so subtly nudging him towards the stairs.

                “Alright, alright, fine, stop mothering me,” Tony said, stepping away from him. “Let me pick up a few things around here first, I can’t just leave my precious work on the floor after your feathers assaulted it.”

                Steve rolled his eyes, but nevertheless stood by and watched as Tony went over to the table and picked up a few things that had been dropped on the floor, brushing them off and fussing over them. Okay, maybe some of these things were important. He was working on a new shoulder joint for his suit, and the prototype had a lot of little moving parts.

                He popped a plate off of it and examined the insides, pushing at latches and brushing a bit of dust off. He reached for a screwdriver, but Steve cleared his throat pointedly.

                “Coming, honey,” Tony crooned, placing the mechanism back down. He’d have to make a note to check that out later. “Hey, Dummy,” he said, turning to address his robot, “Sweep up that glass for me. Nothing fancy, I just don’t want to step on any of it if I come down here barefoot later. Good boy.”

                With that, he turned on a heel back to Steve and walked over, presenting his wrists to him. “Arrest me, officer,” he said, smirking. Steve just put an arm around his shoulders and guided him upstairs. And, as much as Tony disliked getting ordered around, maybe being fussed over wasn’t so bad after all.

                Steve led him to his bedroom, right up to his bed, actually, before stepping back and giving him an expectant look.

                “…what, you’re not even going to let me change into my pajamas in peace?” Tony said. Steve just raised an eyebrow at him and, yeah, it wasn’t like Tony had many secrets from the guy anyways.

                Besides, he hadn’t even changed out of what he was wearing the last time he slept.

                Tony huffed and flopped down on the bed, planting his face into one of his pillows.

                “There,” he said into it. Then he inclined his head to see Steve still standing there, arms crossed. “You know,” said Tony, rolling onto his side, “you put me to bed so often, you might as well join me.”

                “Maybe some other time.”

                “Is that a promise?”

                “Not at all.”

                Tony sighed, and rolled onto his back. He used to fall asleep on his stomach, but that was somewhat difficult when you had a tube of metal in your chest.

                “I’m not even that tired. It’s going to take me ages to fall asleep. You might as well—“

                Steve stepped over and placed a hand on his forehead, effectively interrupting him. And then Tony felt very tired. Not like anesthesia tired, just sleepy, like he could stay up for a little longer but wanted nothing more than to curl up under a thick blanket and fall asleep.

                “Better?” Steve asked, brushing a strand of hair away from Tony’s face. Tony huffed, and fought back a yawn.

                “That is completely unfair,” he mumbled. “Just lay down with me next time, I bet it’d work just as well as your…angel…mumbo-jumbo.”

                He waved a hand vaguely, then rolled over and went to sleep.

 


 

                 He woke up at eight the next morning.

                Eight o’ clock in the morning, that was ridiculous. What kind of billionaire woke up that early.

                Probably a lot, actually, but Tony Stark was not one of them.

                But, he’d already tried and failed to go back to sleep, so he figured he might as well start his day. Maybe this was the beginning of a brand new lifestyle for him!

                Yeah, right.

                He swung his legs over the side of the bed and stretched, his back popping in a way that was halfway between satisfying and worrying, but he figured he’d be okay. He got up and took a quick shower, having JARVIS update him on relevant news and his schedule for the day as he did so. He wasn’t meeting anyone too important, so he skipped his razor, stepping back into his bedroom to dig out and pull on a pair of sweatpants and the first t-shirt he grabbed out of his dresser. He didn’t have to be anywhere for a few hours, since he was very careful about scheduling things around his sleep cycle, which was apparently all fucked to hell at the current moment.

                Eight o’ clock. A travesty.

                It was then that he smelled something that had a scent suspiciously similar to bacon.

                “…JARVIS,” he said, to his room.

                “Yes, sir?”

                “Who is in my house.”

                JARVIS didn’t answer for a moment, which was worrying in itself.

                “JARVIS,” Tony repeated.

                “I’m sorry, sir, I don’t seem to have any information on him.” Tony’s heart skipped a beat. What? “It seems to be the man you call ‘Steve.’ “

                Oh.

                “Christ, JARVIS,” Tony said, heading to his kitchen, “Just tell me that next time. And give him whatever security access Pepper has.”

                “Ms. Potts has full access to the system, sir.”

                “Right, do that,” Tony said, right as he stepped into the kitchen. And, sure enough, there was Steve, poking at a pan of sizzling bacon with a spatula. Whatever Tony had done to deserve this, he needed to keep it up.

                “Good morning,” Steve said, when Tony walked in to get a bottle of water from his fridge.

                “Yes, I think it is,” Tony agreed. “What’ve you got there?”

                “Oh, uh,” went Steve, looking back at the pan. “It was in your fridge.”

                “Weird, there’s not usually food in there.”

                “Are you hungry?”

                “Famished.”

                Steve smiled at him and, wow, he could stand to see that a few more times.

                Seconds later, Pepper appeared.

                She stepped into the room, and took it all in with a glance, eyebrow almost imperceptibly cocked at Steve before turning to Tony, expression back to a professional smile.

                Tony felt like the gears in his brain had jammed. No, not this. After any other relationship in his life he would have been glad for his ex to find him lounging in his kitchen with a hottie the day after it ended, but not this time. He didn’t want this.

                “Uh,” he went, but Pepper beat him to the punch.

                “You’re awake,” she said, carefully ignoring the third presence in the room. “That’s unusual. I was planning to drop these off outside of your bedroom door, but I guess I can leave them with you.”

                She held out a folder to him, and Tony was forced to take it. He didn’t know how she did it.

                “Please shave before your 3:00 tomorrow.”

                “I’ll think about it.”

                “Mhm. So, who’s this?”

                Tony glanced over at Steve, who was politely attempting to ignore their conversation, though he looked over at Pepper’s comment.

                “This is my…Steve. This is Steve,” Tony answered, feeling a little trapped in a corner. This may have been partially due to the fact that Pepper had him backed into the corner between his counter and refrigerator, but that couldn’t have been on purpose. Right? “It’s complicated,” he amended.

                “Steve. Hm,” went Pepper, her expression telling nothing. She just turned to the angel and held out her hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Steve.”

                Steve took her hand and shook it, returning her polite smile. Tony felt dizzy. This was too weird.

                “Well, congratulations on getting ‘complicated’ to make you breakfast,” Pepper said, stepping out of the room. Then, to Steve, “Good luck. He’s a handful.”

                “Thank you, ma’am,” Steve answered, and then the sound of Pepper’s high heels clacked towards the elevator.

                Tony leaned against the fridge.

                “You okay?” Steve asked him, transferring the pan of bacon onto a plate.

                “…JARVIS,” Tony said, in lieu of answering, “Find someone who will deliver me eggs.”

                “Yes, sir,” JARVIS answered. And then, a moment later, “They should be here in less than 10 minutes.”

                “Thank you,” Tony said, hoisting himself up to sit on the counter. “You know, this is probably the first time anyone has actually made breakfast in this kitchen.” Not really that impressive, considering he’d only just built the tower, but whatever.

                “I can’t say I’m surprised.”

                Tony shrugged, and stole a piece of bacon off of the plate. It was a little too hot to eat, but he had already committed to this decision. He would power through.

                “I thought you said you didn’t believe me,” Tony said, waving half of the slice of bacon at the angel, who gave him a questioning look. “Last night. You said you didn’t believe me, so why are you here?”

                Steve didn’t answer for a moment, poking at a new piece of bacon sizzling in the pan.

                “I figure you deserve a chance to prove me wrong,” was his answer.

                Tony stared at him for a moment. Then he got another piece of bacon, and started picking the fat off.

                “…thanks,” he said, eventually.

                “Of course,” Steve replied.

                “For the food.”

                The angel let out an amused breath, and shook his head.

                “Of course,” he said, in an entirely different tone.

                Tony just grinned.

 


 

                He had asked for a few days. But, by the time a week rolled around, Steve was still there, and didn’t seem to be itching to leave. If anything, Tony was itching for him to leave, because while he was planning on keeping true to his no-drinking promise, but that vow became a lot different if you stretched “a few days” into…well, however long Steve was planning on sticking around for. The angel didn’t seem to have really made himself at home anywhere, but then again, he didn’t seem to need to sleep, so maybe he’d settled just as much as he needed to.

                Tony decided not to bring it up. He kind of liked the arrangement they had. He liked having someone other than JARVIS around the house to hang out with, and, though the concept was a bizarre, alien one to him, he liked that it wasn’t someone he was sleeping with.

                Not that he wouldn’t have minded sleeping with Steve.

                Not that he didn’t actually think about it a lot, now that the guy was hanging around but, you know, that came with a level of emotional commitment that Tony was glad to be rid of for the time being. It could wait.

                And, though breakfast was a one-time thing, his kitchen seemed to become mysteriously stocked with food during Steve’s stay there. Doubly mysterious considering the fact that Tony never saw Steve go out to shop. Or eat, for that matter.

                Some of his choices weren’t exactly traditional, either.

                “I’m pretty sure this is yogurt for children,” Tony mused, leaning against the open refrigerator door and surveying his choices. Well, it was the substance that required the least preparation, so whatever. He took a bottle of it out anyways.

                Steve watched him from his place at the table, looking up from his ritualistic scouring of the Internet with the aid of one of Tony’s many Internet devices. It looked like one of his tablets that Steve had at the time, which, hey, that was for work. But whatever, it wasn’t like anyone was about to be checking his search history. Thank god.

                “How can you tell?” Steve asked. Tony blinked, previous line of thought already long gone. “That it’s for children,” the angel explained.

                “Uh,” went Tony, checking the bottle. “Sugar content, mostly. And anthropomorphized animal mascots.”

                “What does that have to do with children?”

                Tony shrugged, taking a drink of the stuff. Blech, he was right about the sugar content. “Nothing, necessarily,” he answered, “But I guess marketers think that kids dig anthropomorphized animal mascots.”

                Actually, it was probably the sugar they dug. They just figured out at some point that that was what was in the boxes with the animals on them.

                The power went out.

                Tony blinked.

                “JARVIS?” he asked into the darkness. No answer. Okay, great. Actually, the opposite of great. He looked around, and saw Steve. Which was odd, actually, considering how far away they were from any windows and the fact that Tony couldn’t see his own hands in front of his face.

                Steve was glowing slightly.

                “Oh, my god,” Tony said, laughing despite himself. “That is adorable.”

                Steve’s expression went from startled to confused and, well, very quickly back to startled again when something nearby made a sound like a wall getting punched in.

                “Where’s your suit?” Steve asked, suddenly next to Tony.

                “Uh.”

                It was in his lab, of course, where he kept all his suits except maybe a few emergency ones scattered here and there, but all of them would be locked behind and approximate shitload of security measures that JARVIS was in charge of and if there wasn’t any power—which, notably, there wasn’t, and how the hell had someone managed to get to his backup backup backup supply anyways—then getting to any of the suits was pretty hopeless, and that was if they managed to get to the lab in time.

                By the time that train of thought reached its conclusion, it became obvious that they were not going to make it in time. Something very large and lumbering was headed towards them, footsteps slow and heavy. It was probably damaging the flooring in there, which Tony wasn’t really happy about, but he supposed there were more important things to worry about. The thing—lowercase T—stepped into the kitchen, and turned a light on Tony, effectively blinding him. Still, from the sounds, it seemed like someone had sent a giant robot after him.

                “A robot after the robot guy, have some imagination, will you,” he deadpanned, as Steve appeared between him and the adversary, pushing him back. Or, Tony was pretty sure that human-shaped shadow was Steve, he couldn’t really see anything on account of the light being shone on him.

                The robot stretched whatever hand-like apparatus it had over to them and grabbed Steve, flinging him onto a nearby wall. Tony staggered backwards, and threw his arms up over his face—Steve had hit the ground pretty hard, and there wasn’t any more sound coming from over there. He was probably out like a light then, which meant Tony didn’t stand much of a chance without an armored exterior.

                The intruder reached out to grab Tony, but he managed to duck down under its arm and run past it, heading towards his lab by memory and trying not to run into anything in the dark—like the chair that his foot caught on, sending him face-first into the floor. He scrambled back to his feet, but it was too late.  Something clamped around his waist and hauled him off the ground, and then that light was in his eyes again. He put a hand up to shade his face, and the machine started walking. Walking right through everything in its path, actually. Tony wasn’t so sure what was making those splintering noises, but he was pretty sure it was at least three pieces of furniture.

                The next splintering noise was another wall, which the robot had just stuck its spare arm through.

                “Really?” went Tony, “I thought you already went through this. You couldn’t just go out the way you, augh--!”

                Tony’s stomach was suddenly in his throat as the thing just stepped out of the building from where they were, by the way, at least 20 stories up, jesus christ, but they only managed to make it a few dozen feet towards the ground when the machine’s rockets or whatever kicked in, and they started falling the other direction, towards the great big blue sky, or, more accurately, the roof. The robot—and yeah, that’s definitely what it was, there was no way anyone was going to be in something as oddly shaped as that—landed on the top of the tower, and dropped Tony on the roof. Huh. He forgot he’d left that beach chair there.

                “Ow,” went Tony, rolling onto his back. His ribs were sore from being in that thing’s claw, but he didn’t think any of them were broken. He sat up, and looked his kidnapper up and down. It had proportions halfway between a human and a gorilla, slightly more favorable to the gorilla side, and about three times the girth. It didn’t seem to be about to make any sudden moves, so Tony sat up, and then stood up slowly, his hands out in front of him in what would be a non-threatening gesture on anyone who wasn’t Iron Man. Hopefully his intentions would come across.

                “Tony Stark,” came a voice from a speaker inside of the machine.

                “Present.”

                “I’ve sent this machine to kill you.”

                “Yeah, I kind of gathered that.”

                The speaker was silent for a moment.

                “Aren’t you frightened?” the voice asked.

                “Oh, my knees are shaking.” They weren’t. “What do you want from me, huh? If you wanted me dead you could have probably done it about fifty different ways already, yet here I am. I’m guessing it’s not money, since you probably spent at least a few million putting this ugly thing together, you could have at least given it a paint job or something, really, it’s hideous. So, what? I’m curious.”

                One of its arms came up and slammed into Tony before he could dodge it this time, and he went skidding across the roof, limbs flailing for some sort of traction, and he caught himself inches before it would have been too late. His heart was beating about a billion times per second as he scrambled away from the edge, jumping up onto his feet again once he was sure he was relatively safe.

                “I want to see Stark Industries fail,” the robot answered him. “And what would your company be without you?”

                “Still a twenty billion dollar corporation probab—woah, there,” Tony went, having to duck down to avoid another metal arm to the gut, “Okay, okay,” he conceded, hands up again as he slowly rose onto his feet. “I’m sure we can work something out, really. What about, um…”

                Something moved on the other side of the roof, behind the robot, and Tony’s eyes flickered over momentarily. The hatch on the roof was opening, and someone stuck their head out.

                Pepper. Shit. Luckily, she disappeared moments later, pulling the hatch down with her.

                “I could offer you a high-level position, or…partial ownership, even, we don’t have to take such drastic measures right off the bat,” Tony attempted to bargain. There was no way he would ever do anything like that, of course, but he figured he should probably stall for a bit. He hoped whatever camera there was on the bot wasn’t that great, because he couldn’t help glancing over to the hatch again as it opened. This time, Steve’s face appeared. Slightly more preferable, strength-wise, though the ease at which he’d been knocked out before didn’t exactly inspire confidence.

                The angel pulled himself out of the hatch and set himself on the roof almost silently as Tony continued babbling, trying to keep his adversary’s attention.

                “Stock options, a corner office, the whole shebang, I could, eurgh—“ His brain seized up for a moment as the robot advanced on him, forcing him to take a step backwards towards the edge of the roof, which he wasn’t entirely sure was that far away. And if that wasn’t enough, Pepper had appeared on the roof again; apparently intent on doing something, though Tony wasn’t sure what. “I’ll, step, down?” he forced out, laughing nervously.

                The robot stopped, so Tony stopped, sparing a quick glance behind him—oh, that wasn’t comforting—and Steve froze in his advance on the robot’s back. Pepper continued to worriedly glance between the three participants.

                Then, the machine whirled around, spinning on its waist and looking between Steve and Pepper.

                “No,” said the speaker, “You won’t step down, Stark. You will fall.”

                And with that witty one-liner, the machine grabbed Tony again and threw him off the roof. He heard two synchronized “Tony!”s, and then it was all air, rushing past his ears as he plummeted to the ground, watching his rooftop disappear into the sky.

                “JARVIS!” he yelled, to no avail. Shit. What was he supposed to do about this?

                He threw his arms and legs out, slowing his decent as much as possible, and…well, as much as he didn’t like the word, he supposed calling for help from an angel counted as praying, didn’t it?

                Something wrapped around his midsection, and he opened his eyes. When had he closed them, anyways?

                Steve was there. Thank god. Literally, he guessed.

                Tony clung to Steve for dear life, wrapping his legs around his waist and arms tight enough around his neck he’d be scared he was choking anyone else.

                Then, the wings came out, unfolding from nonexistence, and Tony was pretty sure his life played in slow motion for a full three seconds.

                Yeah, those things were definitely bigger when they were out like that.

                Steve circled around the tower and flew back up to—and past—the roof, flying up and out of the robot’s sight, hopefully. Tony spared a look down, and saw Pepper pummeling the thing with the beach chair as it slowly advanced on her.

                “Uh,” went Tony, “Most of the vital stuff is probably in its chest area but that’s the most armored as well, so you should probably drop me in a window and get Pepper and then—“

                “Hold on,” Steve interrupted him with, so Tony did, gripping even tighter, if that was possible. The angel put an arm around Tony’s back and the other under his legs—hello—shifting him a bit higher, and then sent his wings to wherever angel wings go when they’re not in use.

                They started falling. Tony hid his face in Steve’s shoulder and decided to trust him.

                Seconds later, they landed on the roof.

                Right through the robot.

                Tony stayed right where he was for a moment or two after they’d landed, before lifting his head up and surveying the scene.

                Steve was thigh-deep in robot debris, and Tony was clinging to him like a frightened toddler. He kind of felt like a frightened toddler, actually.

                “Okay, okay, put me down,” Tony said, and Steve stepped out of the mess and let Tony down, only for his legs to give out. He fell onto his ass, and sat there for a moment. This was fine. He wasn’t falling anymore and no one was dying. This was definitely fine.

                “God, Tony, are you okay?” Pepper asked, and Tony looked up at her. She was still holding the chair.

                “Yeah, Pepper, honey…please put down the folding chair.”

                She stared at him for a moment, uncomprehending, before realization lit her face and she let go of the chair, sending it clattering to the roof.

                “There you go. Now, could someone…” he held his hands up in front of him, and Pepper and Steve both took a hand to help him up. He brushed himself off, and adjusted his clothes.

                “Who sent this?” Steve asked. Tony shrugged, and stepped over to the wreckage, looking over the materials that were still recognizable. He bent over and tried to move the misshapen chest plate to no avail, so he had Steve do it, and continued looking through the parts.

                “Here we go,” Tony said, pulling out a piece of circuitry with a logo on it. If it didn’t give him his guy, it’d at least be a good start. Not many places made parts suitable for putting in giant armored attack robots. “Hmm. C-O-R-D. Does that stand for something? It rings a bell…”

                “Oh, my god. Tony,” went Pepper, huffing. Tony stood up and turned to her, eyebrows raised nonthreateningly. “Drexel. It was Drexel Cord.”

                Tony blinked. “Um,” he went, shrugging slightly. “Okay?”

                “You met him at a conference last year. You shook his hand!”

                “I shake a lot of people’s hands.”

                Pepper smacked the top of Tony’s head, and he winced.

                “This is why people feel like they have to build giant attack robots to get to you! Ugh. I’m taking a vacation.”

                “That sounds like a good idea, actually—“

                “No. No, Tony, you have too much to do. And you need to actually get it done for once. And…” She looked over at Steve, and sighed, expression halfway between exasperated and relieved. “Thank you, Steve. Really. I have no idea who you are but I’m glad someone’s here to take care of him.”

                “I do my best.”

                She turned back to Tony, and her expression turned decidedly colder. “You need to clean yourself up before tonight,” she said. “And, Tony.”

                “Yeah?”

                “Don’t call me honey.”

 


 

                 Tony ran the material through his hand, watching the light glint off it. Fire resistant, wind resistant, stab resistant…basically anything-resistant, while remaining lightweight and flexible. Perfect. It still looked a little drab in its original gray, but he would give it some color later one he perfected the more practical features.

                “Hey, Steve, get down here, I have something for you,” he said to the empty lab, laying the article of clothing out on the table and smoothing out a wrinkle. When he looked back up, Steve was standing there, looking over the outfit he had laid out.

                “…what’s this?” he asked, running his fingers over one of the sleeves.

                “It’s an outfit. You know, like, a suit. For…superheroing.”

                Steve raised an eyebrow at him. “Superheroing?” he repeated. “You want me to be a superhero?”

                “Well, you kind of already are. You have all these cool powers and stuff and you hang out with a superhero, me, so it’s kind of a moral obligation, don’t you think? Besides, I could use a sidekick.”

                Steve laughed, and picked up the top half of the outfit, looking it over. “I’m not going to be your sidekick,” he said.

                Tony frowned.

                “But maybe being your partner wouldn’t be so bad.”

                “Oh,” went Tony. “Yeah, that’s what I meant. You have cooler powers than I do anyways. I mean, arguably, I don’t even have any…”

                Steve put an arm around his shoulders, and pulled him close. “Thank you,” he said. Then, “What else are you going to make me?”

                “Is that all you think I’m good for?” Tony said, mock-offended.

                “It’s definitely what you’re best at.”

               Tony shrugged, and stepped away from the angel, ducking out from under his arm. “Can’t argue with that,” he said. “How about you try this on first, though, and we’ll go from there.”

                “I suppose I can wait,” Steve said, and tugged his shirt over his head.

                Tony glanced away, then back to the table and then back at Steve again because, no, he was definitely not embarrassed by this, despite what his steadily reddening face might suggest. The angel donned the outfit—and, oh, angels did wear underwear, Tony had been wondering about that—and looked himself over, shifting under the fabric.

                He looked damn gorgeous, if Tony did say so himself.

                “Oh, yeah,” went Tony, “you’re definitely wearing that everywhere.”

                “Is this how it’s supposed to fit?” Steve asked. “It’s a little tight.”

                Tony stepped over and tugged at it in a few places, checking it over.

                “Well, yes,” he said, “have you seen any superheroes lately? They don’t really leave anything to the imagination. But…I suppose I could adjust this in a few places, the fit could be better. What color do you want it, by the way?”

                Steve looked down at the suit again. “Is it not okay like this?”

                “I guess it is, but it’s kind of bleary. And, you know, there are certain benefits to being easily recognizable from a distance.”

                “If you say so…just color it however you want, then.”

                He started undressing to get back into the clothes he wore everywhere else, and Tony didn’t bother pretending not to stare this time.

                “I’m going to make it pink and purple and put flowers all over it,” he said, grinning.

                Steve gave him a confused look. “Is that supposed to be a bad thing?”

                “Well,” Tony started. “It’s sort of…” Hm. He had a sudden image of Natasha sticking a knife into the side of his neck. “No, I guess not. Never mind.”

                He’d use different colors.

 


 

                He considered making Steve’s suit match his own, but the red and yellow somehow seemed a little too flashy for the angel. So he substituted in blue for the yellow and decided to throw a little white in there to go with the guy’s wings, and all of the sudden he was looking at superhero gear fit for a true American patriot. Or a Dutch one. The colors weren’t exactly exclusive, so he just put the design into his machines and had them go at it.

                Turned out the guy looked pretty good in the ol’ red white and blue.

                The first mission Steve—unofficially—participated in involved a pack of some things that looked like they belonged on one of those worlds Thor was always going on about. Tony showed up on the scene at the rendezvous point on top of a building, cutting his jets to land behind Clint and Natasha, who were checking over their various weapons and surveying the scene below. The creatures were rhino-sized except furry and kind of blue and they were making a mess of the buildings on the street below without much rhyme or reason, with the aid of vicious sets of teeth and claws. They didn’t look like they had any ears or eyes, but Tony wasn’t exactly an expert on…these. Things.

                A few seconds after his landing, Steve showed up behind him, placing a hand on his shoulder to let him know he was there. Clint jumped at this, but Natasha kept her cool. There probably wasn’t anything on Earth that could actually surprise her at that point.

                “Who’s this?” she asked, sticking a knife back in her belt.

                “This is Steve,” said the speaker on the Iron Man suit. “And I had to kick and scream to get him to actually show up so you guys had better appreciate him.”

                Steve gave them all a bashful smile, looking between Clint and Natasha.

                “What can he do?” asked Clint.

                “Fly, teleport, punch things, you name it,” Tony answered.

                “Can he take care of those things?” he continued, gesturing vaguely at the street area with his bow.

                Tony turned towards Steve. “Can you?” he asked. “Take care of those things.”

                Steve stared at him for a second, hesitant. Tony supposed it was pretty difficult to determine someone’s intentions when their face was hidden behind a metal plate.

                “Is this a test?” asked Steve.

                “Yep,” went Tony. “Don’t worry, I can jump in if you get into any trouble.” He pat Steve’s back, somehow possessing the self-control to not let his hand go down any further. “Go get ‘em, tiger.”

                Steve sighed, and walked off the edge of the building in a very disinterested manner. The three left on the roof all leaned over to watch him drop to the ground, pull out his wings halfway down, and glide over to one of the monsters, alighting lightly on its back. He had about half a second before it noticed he was there and started bucking, trying to shake him off, but Steve crouched down and grabbed a hold of its fur, wings spread wide for balance. After a moment it paused to roar, apparently frustrated, at which time Steve pulled himself up and wrapped his legs around what Tony would call the monster’s neck if it seemed to have one at all.

                The angel balled his hands into fists, lifted them up over his head, and then brought them down on the monster’s skull.

                They both went still for a moment. Then the monster leaned forward like an uprooted tree and fell onto its face, slumping slightly to the side.

                Steve jumped off of it, and watched it for a moment, before turning to where the other three were on the roof and spreading his arms wide, grinning. Well, that was cute.

                “Yeah,” went Natasha, “We’re keeping him.”

 


 

                Tony sat back on his pillows, flipping through news articles on his tablet. There was a whole section for superheroes on most news sites now, and it usually produced some pretty interesting results. He snickered at an article debunking “rumors of Iron Man’s deviant sexuality.” Apparently there were a few sites that just couldn’t handle the thought of their precious businessman superhero being gay which, well, lucky for them he wasn’t, was he? He glanced over at Steve, sitting on the bed next to him, attention trained on the television across the room.

                Not gay, no, but definitely not straight enough for whoever wrote this article.

                He scrolled past the rest of the article and left an anonymous comment, “You do realize Tony Stark lives with another man, right?” before moving on. There were surprisingly few articles about him, which was a little bit upsetting. Wasn’t he interesting enough for the press anymore?

                He stopped flicking through pages when a picture caught his eye. It was Steve, crouching on a pile of debris, hair sticking up in every which direction and his face dirty from whatever they had been beating up that day. Tony was more focused on the whole hot mess aesthetic he had going on, but the article seemed to be more concerned with the flag draped over one of his shoulders, sporting the stars and stripes. He looked pretty noble in the capture, though Tony was pretty sure he had brushed the flag off onto the ground a moment later. He would have to give Steve a talk about flag etiquette sometime, or else they mind end up with a PR disaster on their hands.

                “Who is ‘Captain America?’ “ the headline read. Tony raised his eyebrows at it, and opened the article, skimming through it. Well, no one was angry, at least. It was just people speculating about who exactly the hero was, and everyone being especially confused that no one could ID a guy who was running around without a mask.

                Tony would have to get him a government ID at some point. SHIELD could probably do something about that if Tony asked nice enough.

                He glanced over at Steve, who was still entranced by the movie. Tony just bookmarked the article, putting his tablet away. He’d show him later.

                He made a mental note to find out where the nickname “Captain America” came from, and turned his attention to the television. Steve had been slowly working his way through every angel-related movie he could pull up on all on Tony’s streaming apps, which was kind of a lot. He’d watched at least fifteen by that point, and Tony still couldn’t tell whether Steve was genuinely enjoying them or just thought they were funny. He was leaning towards genuine enjoyment, though. He didn’t think the angel was quite capable of liking things ironically yet.

                This one seemed to be winding down. Oops, had he been skimming news articles for two hours already?

                One of the characters had died apparently, but their family seemed to be at peace with that. Alright, whatever. After a few minutes of dramatic music, the scene faded out and the credits began to roll.

                Steve moved for what Tony was pretty sure was the first time since the movie started, sitting back onto the headboard and then stretching, reaching towards the ceiling and letting out a satisfied groan when his back popped.

                “Mhmn,” went the angel, dropping his arms back to his sides, “Now I know why cats do that all the time.”

                Tony nodded, slowly. The sheer human-ness of the motion gave him a warm fuzzy feeling in his chest, but the inch of abdomen he had caught sight of when Steve’s shirt rode up gave him a warm feeling a little bit lower. He was so glad he convinced the angel to wear more comfortable clothes around the house.

                He realized he was staring at Steve, and Steve was staring back at him.

                “…are you okay, Tony?” he asked. Tony blinked a few times, coming back to reality.

                “Uh, yeah. Yeah. Did you like the movie?”

                “It was alright.”

                “Oh,” said Tony, quick-witted as always. His mind was a little tied up at the time.

                Steve leaned back onto the headboard, and raised an eyebrow at him, a smirk playing at the side of his mouth. Christ, did this guy know what he was doing right now?

                “So, I am completely sober right now,” Tony said. Right, that wasn’t weird at all.

                “I know,” said Steve. Tony grinned slightly. Telling someone you were sober and having them actually believe you was a pretty good feeling. Who knew.

                “You…well, last time, er, a while ago you said that…you basically said I shouldn’t come on to you until I was sober, and I’m sober now, so I’m going to seduce you now.”

                “Oh,” went Steve. “Well, alright, then.”

                Tony blinked.

                “Alright?” he echoed. “Really?”

                The angel had never actually reacted negatively to his advances, so he didn’t know why he was so surprised all the time, but. Well, somehow he hadn’t expected an angel to be so supportive of him getting in his pants.

                They’d see, he supposed.

                Steve held out an arm for him as an answer, and Tony went over to him, getting up on his knees and putting a hand on Steve’s jaw. It was a little prickly, which struck Tony as odd. Did angels grow stubble? Well, whatever. Tony liked his men a little prickly, and Steve was smiling up at him and wrapping an arm around his waist and pulling him closer, so Tony did what was really the only option and kissed him, running a thumb along the angel’s cheekbone.

                Steve pulled him into his lap and Tony went willingly, straddling him and nipping at his lower lip, heart jumping at every little noise Steve made out of surprise or pleasure. Really, Tony was way too old and, well, experienced, for kissing to be this titillating but something that had been knocking around in his brain since he was a teenager was jumping for joy at all this. Congratulations, he told the ghost of his fifteen-year-old self, it took you a few decades, but you got here, buddy.

                Tony set his forehead against Steve’s and grinned, shoulders shaking in silent laughter.

                “Hm?” went Steve, hands shifting on his hips. “What?”

                “Ah, nothing,” assured Tony, planting a quick peck on the side of his mouth. “I’ve been wanting to do this since I was a teenager, you know.”

                “Yeah,” said Steve. “I know.”

                Right. Of course he did.

                Tony kissed him one more time, exploring Steve’s mouth and running a hand through his hair, before pulling away and looking him over.

                “We need to get you undressed,” he said. As good as Steve looked in an old t-shirt and sweats, he probably looked even better without them. Tony slid his fingers under the hem of Steve’s shirt, dragging his thumbs over his hips, dipping a fraction under his waistband. He heard a sharp intake of breath as Steve’s stomach twitched, and he grinned.

                Tony pushed the shirt up, and Steve obligingly lifted his arms, letting Tony pull it over his head and toss it away.

                Tony’s eyes dragged upwards from Steve’s stomach to his chest back up to his face, all crooked smile and slight flush. “God, you are gorgeous,” he said, “Do you even have to work out or does this all just come naturally?”

                “Nope,” went Steve, “I think I’m stuck this way.”

                “Well, that is just a tragedy.”

                Steve hummed in agreement or passive appeasement or whatever, and pushed the back of Tony’s shirt up, trailing his fingers along his spine.

                “Ah, right,” said Tony, and tugged his shirt over his head, dropping it onto the floor. “Better?”

                “Um-hm.”

                “Good. Could you lay down for me?”

                “You’ll have to get off first.”

                So Tony did, sitting on the bed for a moment while Steve shifted down and laid his head on a pillow. Tony crawled over to him and resumed straddling his lap, sitting back on his thighs. And, oh, Tony definitely wasn’t the only one interested in the proceedings.

                “I have a special request,” Tony said, brushing his fingers against the angel’s abdomen and watching the muscles there twitch.

                “You’re so demanding,” Steve sighed, in more of a pleased tone than anything else. Tony supposed he shouldn’t be so surprised he was learning to joke around like this, considering who he hung out with all day.

                “I know, it’s a problem,” said Tony, hands stilling. Steve’s hands came up to cover his, thumbs brushing against the insides of his wrists. Hm, that was nice. “Can I see your wings?”

                Steve glanced to the side for a moment, and then his wings appeared, curled around the two of them. A feather brushed against Tony’s back, and goosebumps crawled down his arms. Ooh, that was even nicer.

                The angel removed his hands, putting them up behind his neck and grinning. Tony stared at him.

                “You’re a pest,” said Tony, as Steve’s wings fell to his sides. He knocked something off one of his bedside tables, but it was small and probably unimportant. “But you’re a gorgeous one.”

                “Yeah? Tell me more.”

                Tony huffed, and leaned over him to kiss him, sliding over his lips before kissing down his jaw to his neck and shoulders—if he left a bruise, would it stay? Hm.

                He propped himself up on his elbows, which were planted firmly in a bed of feathers.

                “Having fun?” he asked.

                “Can’t you tell?”

                “Well, yes, but it’s nice to get confirmation.”

                Steve ran a hand through his hair, and planted a kiss on him, before his mouth stretched into a grin.

                “You should teach me everything you know, so I can do it to you,” he whispered. Something in Tony’s stomach did a little flip.

                “That—that’s going to take more than one night.”

                “Good.”

                Tony leaned forward and kissed him, fingers digging into the feathers below them. Not too hard, though. He didn’t want to pull anything out.

                Steve wrapped his arms around Tony’s waist and pulled him close, slotting them together clumsily and when Tony’s thigh brushed up against Steve’s half-hard dick through his sweatpants the angel let out a low groan that had Tony’s animal brain revving to take over. But another part of his brain had a different idea, and apparently wasn’t shutting up about it.

                “Uh,” went Tony, scrambling to place his thoughts together, “Have you done this before?”

                “Hm?” went Steve. “Had sex? No.”

                Tony blinked. What the hell did that mean?

                “Aren’t you way old?”

                Steve laughed, dragging his hands down Tony’s back and toying with his waistband. No, god dammit, they were going to finish this conversation.

                “I guess you could say that,” said the angel. “Does it matter?”

                “Not really, I guess, but how did it take you so long?”

                “I’m just not that interested in it.”

                Tony raised an eyebrow, and shifted his leg up again. Steve gasped, and then let out a breathy laugh.

                “Seem pretty interested to me,” Tony said.

                “Ah,” went Steve. “Well…I’m more interested in you than in sex, but I will happily—“ he kissed Tony, “—and with pleasure—“ another kiss, “—do anything you ask of me.”

                “Anything,” repeated Tony, his mind already absent from his conversation. The fingers sliding around to the front of his waistband weren’t helping much.

                “Mm-hm,” Steve agreed.

                “I…don’t really understand you at all but I think we can save this conversation for another time.”

                “I think you’re right.”

                “I’m always right,” Tony said, lifting himself off Steve and sitting up to get at the guy’s pants, pulling them off when Steve lifted his hips to help and, oh, okay, angels didn’t always wear underwear.

                He barely got a good look at the angel sprawled out under him when Steve’s hands were at his waistband again, tugging gently but waiting for Tony’s “oh, if you must,” before stripping him and letting Tony wiggle and kick his pants over the edge of the bed. Steve sat up again, putting a hand on Tony’s hip and pulling him closer.

                Tony obliged him, meeting his kiss and draping his arms around Steve’s shoulders. His wings twitched upwards, nudging Tony’s forearms, and, holy shit, Tony was about to fuck an angel. His heart pounded in his chest, and he couldn’t tell whether it was more arousal or a sense of panic.

                “God, Christ, uh,” he really needed to invest in finding some expletives that weren’t religion-based, “Is this really okay? I mean, you’re not going to get smited for this are you?”

                Steve sighed—oops—and leaned back to look Tony in the eye.

                “Do you want to have sex with me?” he asked.

                “Yes,” answered Tony, immediately. And, for good measure, “Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Definitely.”

                “And I, you. So there’s no problem.”

                “Are you sure…?”

                Steve put a hand around Tony’s dick, and leaned forward to whisper in his ear.

                “I promise,” he said, and, holy shit, who could argue with that?

                “Alright,” Tony said, weakly. Steve took his hand away, trailing a finger over the tip as he did so.

                “Lay down,” he said, and Tony did, flopping over onto his back. He didn’t remember being this compliant in bed, but hey, hand on the joystick, you get control. “What do you want me to do?” Steve asked.

                “Nightstand, top drawer,” Tony answered, putting a hand up to point vaguely in that direction, “we need preparations.”

                Steve crawled over him and reached an arm out to dig around in the drawer, offering Tony a good view of, well, mostly everything, as he dug around.

                “Do we need this?” he asked, holding a bottle of lube up.

                “Yep,” went Tony. Steve tossed it onto the bed, and Tony picked it up, putting some into his hand.

                “These?” Steve asked again, still digging through the drawer. Condoms. Hmm.

                “No, don’t think so.”

                The angel put them back, and pulled something else out of the drawer. Handcuffs. Oh, dear, how long had those been in there?

                Steve raised an eyebrow at him.

                “Special occasions,” Tony answered. The angel dropped them back into the drawer, shut it, and then let out a strangled “Gyah!” his wings tensing, when Tony put his lubed-up hand on Steve’s dick, sliding it up the length.

                “Oh, I’m sorry, did I startle you?” Tony said, in a decidedly unapologetic tone.

                “It’s cold,” Steve breathed, relaxing somewhat.

                “It’ll warm up.”

                The angel leaned down, hiding his face in Tony’s shoulder and making small noises as Tony dragged his hand up and down his length, too slow and loose to be offering much relief.

                “You’re going to pay for that,” Steve breathed into his ear.

                “I look forward to it.”

                The angel grinned against his neck, and then took Tony’s earlobe in his teeth, dragging it out a bit.

                “Mmn,” went Tony, tilting his head. “You can do better than that.”

                Steve huffed. “What should I do, then?”

                Tony put his free hand on Steve’s hip and pulled him down, the angel following his instruction willingly, lowering himself down until Tony could lift his hips up and rut against him like some common animal, which Tony was totally okay with.

                “Oh,” went Steve, mouth parted slightly, and then wider when Tony wrapped his hand around both of them and tugged. Steve obligingly rocked against him, and leaned down to kiss him again, and it wasn’t the most graceful thing in the world but Tony could totally dig it, leaning up into the kiss and nipping and licking until Steve’s lips were red and full and his own couldn’t have looked much different, and moving his hand between them until they couldn’t do much more but rock against each other and pant into the other’s mouth.

                Tony, impatient as always, tended to put himself first more often than not, and he came first in this situation as well.

                Steve propped himself up somewhat when Tony threw his head back, groaning and squeezing his eyes shut as pleasure shot up his spine. Steve placed a few kisses on his neck and shoulder as he came down from the high, arms falling to his sides.

                After a moment, the angel nosed at his jaw, making a noise that Tony could only describe as a whine. Tony’s interest couldn’t help but pique at that, but Steve’s interest was a little more than piqued, still poking at Tony’s hip.

                “Alright, I got you,” Tony said, “Roll over for me.”

                Steve did as he asked, and Tony had to sit up to avoid getting a face full of wing. God, he was way too well spent for just one round.

                He rolled over, and shifted downwards, before taking Steve into his mouth, much to the angel’s audible surprise. But, hey, this was the most energy-effective way to get things done, as far as he was concerned. He must have been a little out of practice because he could only take Steve in so far, but a little help from his hand got the job done well enough, because it must have been less than a minute before Steve’s hips jerked forward and he gasped, spilling into Tony’s mouth.

                He swallowed, because he was nice like that, before coming off of Steve, dragging his tongue along the way to flick at his head.

                Then he flopped over to Steve’s side, nose pressed against his hip and face full of feathers, listening to Steve’s breathing slowly settle.

                “Wow,” went the angel.

                “Yep,” agreed Tony.

                He sighed, shifting a bit to get comfortable. He could go to sleep right there. In fact, he really wanted to, but.

                “We should take a shower,” he mumbled, “it’s going to be gross in the morning if we don’t.”

                “That’s probably a good idea,” said Steve.

                They both laid there for a while longer, neither of them particularly inclined to move, until Tony finally huffed and hauled himself off of the bed.

                “Put those things away,” he said, waving a hand vaguely at Steve’s wings. “You’re coming with me.”

                “Yes, sir,” said Steve, getting up off the bed.

                Hm.

                Tony could definitely get used to hearing that from someone other than his computer.

 


 

                 In case you were wondering, they did have sex again. A lot of sex. Sex everywhere, actually, in a lot of different ways, some involving some very creative uses of angel wings, a few of which Tony deeply regretted afterwards but, you know, that’s life. And he would be quick to tell anyone that asked that the sex was the best part of the relationship—in case you hadn’t caught on yet, the sex was wild—but if he were to be honest with himself (not likely), the moment he’d always replay in his head when he was having an off day was the first time he woke up and Steve was laying there next to him, wing draped over him like a blanket, smiling drowsily as Tony woke up.

                Luckily, Tony didn’t have to worry too much about forgetting that feeling, because Steve started staying in bed with him a lot more after that. He even started sleeping, which struck Tony as odd, but not particularly alarming.

                One morning, Tony woke up to find feathers everywhere.

                Not especially notable at first considering Steve’s propensity to stretch his wings out while he was sleeping, but slightly more lucid examination of the mess revealed to Tony’s groggy brain that not all of these feathers were attached to a wing.

                He sat up, pushing Steve’s wing off his chest and looking around. It looked like a flock of doves had gotten loose in there.

                Really big doves.

                Tony looked over to see Steve still sleeping, and as much as he didn’t want to interrupt that adorableness, he wanted an explanation for the mess. And, well, he did have his natural inclination as an asshole to consider.

                He picked up one of the stray feathers and brushed it against Steve’s face. The angel only twitched slightly.

                Tony stuck the feather in his ear.

                Steve jerked awake, a result of this being his wings twitching and sending another wave of feathers drifting to the bedspread.

                Tony waited for him to fully join the land of the cognizant before waving a feather in front of his face.

                “What is this?” he asked, eyebrows raised. “There are feathers where no feathers should ever be, honey.”

                Steve propped himself up on his elbows and looked around the bed, taking in the scene. His wings blinked out of existence, but they left a few more feathers behind when they left.

                “Oops,” went Steve. “Um…sorry? I guess I’m molting.”

                “You guess,” repeated Tony. Then he shook his head, waving a hand in front of his face in dismissal. “You know what, I don’t care, just help me clean this up. We can stuff a pillow or something.”

                Steve seemed decidedly unamused by his joke, but Tony chose to ignore it. He was used to his sense of humor going unappreciated.

 


 

                When he looked back at it, Tony realized something was wrong at probably the worst possible time.

                He had dragged Steve out to help the superfriends, despite the angel’s protests that were steadily growing more insistent. But, of course, Tony had just insisted back that they needed him, really, he was such a boon to the team, and he’d ended up on the field again.

                Tony left him alone, confident on his ability to handle himself in the field, especially against the grunts they were up against at the time which seemed to be, no joke, little green men. SHIELD wouldn’t tell them where they’d come from, so Tony was firing off X-Files jokes long after they stopped being funny, helping the rest of the team corral up the creatures and get them off the streets.

                They had only been there a few minutes when Tony rounded a building to find Steve struggling to get two of the things off of him. Tony watched for a moment, perplexed. The creatures were pretty strong, sure, but Tony had seen Steve pummel things four times his size without breaking a sweat before, so why should he be having trouble now?

                Then Steve let out a cry of pain when one of his arms gave out, so Tony rushed in to save him, firing off a few carefully aimed repulsor beams before landing next to the angel, lifting his face plate.

                “Are you okay?” he asked, “What happened?”

                “Nothing,” Steve said, not particularly convincing considering he was gritting his teeth and cradling his arm to his chest. Tony raised an eyebrow, and held a hand out, looking at Steve pointedly. The angel frowned at him, meeting his gaze and letting his arms fall to his side. “I’m fine,” he insisted. Now, Tony might have almost fallen for that if it weren’t for the wince when Steve dropped his arm and how he couldn’t seem to relax it.

                “Yeah, okay, you’re fine,” went Tony, “Let me see your arm.”

                Steve huffed, but held his arm out anyways. Tony removed the glove and poked around, gently enough that it really shouldn’t have hurt, but Steve was wincing and jerking back anyways.

                “Completely fine, sure. I think your arm is broken. Hold on.”

                Tony switched on his mic. “Hey, guys, looks like our captain here is injured. How many more of those things are left? Can you get by without us?”

                A moment later, Natasha’s voice came through. “I think we can wrap it up on our own. Take care of him.”

                “Yes, ma’am,” Tony said, and shut his mic back off. Then he had Jarvis detach one of the arms of his suit, which he made Steve put on his injured arm. The angel seemed a little wary of the armor, but was reasonably compliant.

                “Alright, come on,” Tony said, beckoning the angel closer before lifting him up into his arms. Steve didn’t bother protesting, just wrapping his good arm around Tony’s neck and letting him take off. “Let’s get you to a doctor.”

 


 

                The doctor had put Steve in a cast. A cast, which was just weird. Tony had half expected Steve to be healed up by the time they got to the hospital, but no, he had to be put in a cast. Tony diligently kept track of his recovery process, and it legitimately took four weeks to heal, like a common human being.

                Then, a month later, he caught a cold.

                He didn’t tell Tony anything because apparently he was about as stubborn as, well, Tony himself, but it was hard to ignore the slowly growing pile of tissues in the trash can and Steve’s sluggishness around the tower, no matter how much the angel tried to pretend he was fine.

                “What’s up with you?” Tony asked him over his cup of morning coffee. Well, 1:30pm, morning, you know. Also, Steve was drinking coffee now, which was weird.

                “Nothing, nothing,” the angel said, back to Tony as he fussed with various coffee additives at the counter.

                “Yeah, there’s been an awful lot of ‘nothing’ wrong with you lately.”

                Steve shrugged, and Tony noticed his fussing with the coffee stuff wasn’t actually producing any results. He just didn’t want to look over, did he.

                Tony got up and walked over to him.

                “Look at me,” he said.

                “There’s nothing wrong,” Steve repeated.

                “Okay, but look at me.”

                The angel attempted a surreptitious sniffle before turning around and smiling at Tony, though it looked suspiciously like his press smile, so that didn’t help at all.

                “You’re full of shit,” Tony said, and stepped up to him, placing a hand on his forehead. Yep, he was burning up. “What’s wrong with you?”

                Steve removed his hand, still smiling. “Nothing,” he said, again, and wow, did he really think Tony was that easy to fool, or did he just think saying it over and over again would make it true?

                “Nothing my ass. Listen, if I’m going to be putting my mouth on you I want to know I’m not going to catch anything, okay? Now tell me what’s wrong before I take you to a doctor’s office and make you sit in a waiting room with a bunch of other sick people. Trust me, it sucks.”

                “I’m not—“ Steve started again, but then huffed (and sniffled), evidently realizing that line of insistence wasn’t doing much good. “It’s just a cold. I’ll get over it.”

                “Oh, do angels get colds now?” Tony asked, eyebrows raised. Steve gave a noncommittal shrug, and attempted to turn back to his coffee. Tony’s heart beat a little harder against his chest. Something was definitely wrong. “You know,” Tony said, not backing down, “I haven’t seen your wings recently. Is there a reason for that? In particular?”

                Steve stilled. Well, Tony had hit some kind of nerve.

                “No,” said Steve, eyes still trained on the counter. “I just…well, no one else around here has wings, so it just feels a little strange. That’s all.”

                “You didn’t seem to care about that before.”

                Steve shrugged, again.

                “Can I see them?” Tony asked.

                Steve turned to look at him. “Why?” he asked.

                “Because I like them. They’re pretty.”

                The angel stood there, frowning slightly.

                Tony raised his eyebrows.

                “…no,” Steve said.

                “Well, okay,” relented Tony, taking a drink of his coffee, pretending not to care anymore. Pretending that he wasn’t feeling a steadily rising sense of, perhaps irrational, panic.

                Steve turned away, sighed, and then turned back to him, leaning on the counter and running a hand through his hair. Tony watched all of this carefully, waiting, but Steve apparently wasn’t going to offer up an explanation that easily.

                “You know,” started Tony, carefully, “I care about you. And if anything were wrong, I would want to do anything I could to help you. Because, well, that’s what you do when you’re in a relationship. And trust me, I’ve tried the whole stoic not-telling-anyone-about-my-problems thing, and a lot of other very shitty methods of not communicating, and none of them turned out very well for me, so. I know I can’t make you tell me anything, but I would very much appreciate it if you would volunteer this information freely.”

                Steve frowned, worrying at the inside of his mouth. And sniffling.

                “If anything were wrong,” Tony added, before taking another drink.

                The angel—finally—sighed, rubbed the back of his neck, and spoke.

                “I don’t have them anymore,” he said.

                Tony blinked. Then he put his coffee down.

                “You don’t have…your wings?” he clarified. This wasn’t really helping the whole irrational panic thing.

                “Yeah,” said Steve.

                “Why not?”

                “Because, I…”

               Tony swallowed, thickly, using all his power of will to not demand an explanation then and there. He would get to it.

                “When you asked me to stay,” Steve said, lifting himself off the counter, “I wasn’t supposed to. I wasn’t really allowed to, you’re not even supposed to remember that I exist. But…I wanted to. I wanted to be here for you, so I stayed, but…”

                Steve sighed, and Tony felt a lump growing in his throat.

                “That meant I had to stop being an angel,” Steve stated. “And I couldn’t go back. Until I die.”

                “You should’ve,” Tony started, and then shut his eyes, working to keep his voice steady. “You should have told me. I wouldn’t have asked you to do that.”

                “I know,” said Steve, and god, Tony just wanted to punch something but there was no way he was going to hit Steve now that he could actually hurt him but just the thought of being able to do that—

                “Why?” Tony asked, voice shaking, because it was the only thing he could think, “Why would you do that? You of all people, I…my entire life has been nothing but a series of fuck ups and you…what’s going to happen when I mess up, huh? When you stop wanting to be around and have to go out in the world and…you…”

                He shook his head, it was all he could do, and ran a hand over his face. He didn’t know what to think, or feel, he just…

                He needed some space.

                Tony left.

 


 

                 Three hours later, red-eyed and exhausted, Tony was back at the tower, bottle of vodka in hand. JARVIS greeted him warily—since when did JARVIS know the tone for ‘warily’?—and Steve showed up minutes later, after Tony had firmly planted himself on the couch.

                Tony turned to look at him, noting Steve’s worried expression. Then he spotted the bottle on the table, and his expression turned a measure darker.

                “Tony—“

                “No, shh,” went Tony. “Let me explain, then you can decide whether to be mad at me. Come here.” He beckoned him over, and Steve came, sitting down next to him, not near close enough, but Tony would take it.

                “Here,” he said, picking up the bottle and handing it to Steve. “I bought that thinking it’d make me feel better—and let me tell you, it’s going to be a PR disaster when people realize that was Tony Stark walking into a liquor store to get a bottle of cheap vodka in the middle of the afternoon—but right before opening it I kind of realized that I just…wanted…” no, he couldn’t choke up now, it was embarrassing enough to say if it seemed like he wasn’t embarrassed about it, “I just wanted to come back to you,” he said, hurriedly. “So…”

                He looked back at Steve, whose expression had gone back to mild concern once he confirmed that the bottle was, in fact, unopened. He set it back on the coffee table.

                “Are you alright?” he asked. Tony gave a noncommittal “mmn,” and then reached down in front of the couch, picking up a plastic bag and shoving it into Steve’s arms.

                “Got those for you,” he said. “You’re hopeless without me, so.”

                Steve looked into the bag, sighing but nevertheless smiling at the contents. Tylenol and tissues, the last time Tony had checked.

                “Thank you,” said Steve, setting the bag on the table next to the vodka. Then, again, “Are you alright?”

                Tony thought about it for a moment.

                Then he scooted over, leaning on Steve, smiling when Steve responded with an arm around his shoulders.

                “I still don’t really understand,” Tony said, “Why you…you know. But. It’s your own stupid decision, I guess, so…whatever.”

                Steve leaned his head on Tony’s, hand absently rubbing at his shoulder.

                “I stayed because I love you,” he said. “Even when you put yourself in danger and say things you shouldn’t. Even when you’re struggling to do what’s right, because you do struggle, instead of giving up and doing what’s easy. I know you do, even if no one else can see it. Even if it’s hard for you to see, at times. Because I watched you grow up and wanted so much to be there to comfort you, and now I can. I love watching you succeed and I don’t like watching you fail but I want to be here for you when you do. And I know you mess up sometimes, but…well, forgive me for not thinking your life is as much of a ‘fuck-up’ as you seem to think it is.”

                Tony’s heart was doing a funny jumping thing in his chest.

                “Wow,” he said, because he wasn’t sure what else to, “Just marry me already.”

                Steve turned his head to smile into Tony’s hair.

                “I do,” he whispered.

                There was that funny jumping feeling again.

                “Uh,” went Tony, “Really?”

                “Really,” said the angel.

                Or, well.

                You know what I mean.