“You're back,” Steve says, and his smile takes Tony's breath away.
“I'm back,” he repeats lamely, and feels himself smiling right back.
Space is everything Tony had thought it would be and more.
He should have done it sooner. He should have taken a break and gone see the stars, and he can't quite imagine going back to Earth, but he can't quite imagine staying, either. It's simultaneously too much and not enough; each new planet is something else, and he feels like the Doctor's companions, faced with cultures so different and so amazing.
The tech is brilliant, too, with even children's toys light years ahead of what Tony's capable of doing on Earth. It's infuriating and humbling, and he should hate it, but he loves it all.
“You look shell-shocked,” Peter says when their ship is circling twin suns.
Tony shakes his head. “Amazed,” he corrects.
Peter smiles. “I'm glad.”
“It's all . . .” Tony hesitates. “I think I needed it. It's almost too much, but . . .” He shakes his head, grins a bit easier. “I have a good guide.”
“Yeah?” Peter laughs, siding up with him. “How good?”
“I don't know, Quill, how about you show me,” Tony says, looking up at him through his eyelashes.
Peter kisses him.
(Tony doesn't think of how exactly his type Peter is: blond hair and blue eyes and a warm smile. It doesn't matter, he tells himself, the blond is a different shade, and there's darkness in the blue, secrets full of blood hidden behind the smile.)
Tony missed Earth. It's only hitting him full force now, when he drinks good coffee, with Carol grinning at him over her own mug, New York bathed in morning sunlight behind the windows.
Space was great, awesome, amazing, but this here, this is his home.
Steve walks in, towel thrown over his shoulders, his hair still wet from his shower, and Tony almost chokes, and corrects himself. This is home.
“Up so early,” he says to Tony.
“And here I thought you missed me,” Tony pouts.
There's something soft on Steve's face. “I did.”
Carol snorts. “He was sulking, Tony. Sulking. Next time you go off anywhere for six months, you take him with you for the good of us all.”
Six months, Tony thinks. Six months he's been away. It might be the longest he's spent away from Steve in years.
Space was fantastic, but Tony's not going back any time soon.
“I'm going back,” Tony says one night.
Peter looks at him carefully and then nods. “Okay.”
Tony kisses him lightly. “Good bye sex?”
“Well,” Peter says, “if you let us drop you off on Earth instead of going on your own, Mister I-Can-Do-It-On-My-Own-Oh-Fuck-Rocket-I-Need-Emergency-Power –”
“That was one time.” Tony smacks him in the arm gently.
Peter seems amused. “But it happened. So, that's a week's worth of good bye sex.”
“Deal,” Tony says.
Peter kisses him then, and Tony loves space, loves how easy it is, and loves how for once nothing is complicated.
They stand in the Avengers control room, Steve updating Tony on all the changes – not that much, and Tony did receive updates, but Tony prefers to have all the data – when Steve stops talking and looks at him, smiling.
“You look rested,” Steve says, and it's so sudden Tony doesn't know what to do. He feels rested, ready to throw himself back to work, ten years younger. He knows it won't last, but he's enjoying it while he can. Steve mentioning it, though, is different.
“Thanks?” Tony says finally.
“You know almost everything now,” Steve waves his hand in the direction of the screens. “Tell me something about your trip.”
Tony leans back in his chair, thinks. “It was . . . Overwhelming. It's – we've all been in space, right, it's not some new land, but actually staying there, not to fight, just to . . . watch . . . Yeah, overwhelming,” he says. “And tech, Steve, what they can do with antimatter devices is amazing. My armour seemed old.”
“Your armour is great,” Steve says immediately. “That is –”
“I know it is,” Tony tells him. “I'm glad you agree. I loved it there.”
“Will you go back?” Steve asks, and Tony thinks he seems worried for some reason.
“No,” he says. “Well, maybe in the future. Not any time soon. It was fun, the Guardians were great, Peter was great, it was good to be away from all the baggage here – but I'm an Earthman in the end,” he jokes.
“Peter,” Steve says, slowly. He doesn't add anything else.
“Yeah?” Tony prompts when the silence gets awkward. There's something off about Steve. He's unsure, not meeting Tony's eyes, his hands closed around his mug tight enough Tony's afraid it'll crack.
“You and him . . .” Steve trails off, shakes his head suddenly. “No. I'm sorry. It's none of my business, forget I asked, I'll, ah, Carol will catch up with you on it all . . .” He gets up and starts walking away, and Tony's suddenly very sure he can't let him do that. He's pretty sure he's dreaming, as well, but he's never been one to give up on his dreams.
He gets up, goes after Steve and catches him by his wrist. He never could stop him armourless if Steve didn't let him, but Steve doesn't shake his hand off. He doesn't turn to look at him, either.
“To answer your question,” Tony says, “it was a fun summer hook up.”
Steve goes red. “I said it wasn't my business,” he says.
“No, it's not,” Tony agrees. “But what if I want it to be?”
Steve turns to him. “What are you saying?” he asks.
“That's really what I should be asking,” Tony notes. “You're – why did you ask?”
Steve avoids his eyes. “It's not important,” he murmurs.
Tony wants to shake him. “Tell me,” he orders. “Or is Captain America afraid?”
Taunts rarely work on Steve, but there must be something in Tony's voice that makes him start talking anyway. “You looked so happy,” Steve says. “I haven't seen you like this for a long time. You left for six months, and you obviously loved it there, it must be your world, Tony, the future, and I'm so glad for it, but –” He exhales. “I – I wanted to know,” he admitted,“because if you're happy with him, that's great, you deserve it, I want you to be happy, I –”
Tony listens, and he can't breathe, because Steve's not making any sense, Steve can't be saying what Tony thinks he is saying.
“I want you to be happy, Tony,” Steve repeats. “I missed you so much when you were there, you can't imagine, and I want you happy, I do, just, I hoped . . .” His voice grew quieter. “With me.”
Tony is dreaming, he decides suddenly, and he's going to make the most of this dream.
“With you,” he repeats, stupidly.
“I'm sorry,” Steve says, shakes Tony's hand off.
“Steve!” Tony calls, feeling as if he's far away. Steve, miraculously, stops. “Steve. Didn't you hear anything I said?”
Steve is awfully quiet and still. Tony walks to him, stands behind him, puts his hands on Steve's shoulders. “It was fun. Fun and casual, and it's over, okay.” He steels himself. “It's over, and. I. I want it to be your business, if you want. You make me happy. I missed Earth, I missed New York, Pepper, Rhodey, I missed the team, but most of all I missed you.”
And suddenly he realises what he's doing, what's really happening here, and he takes a step back, one, two –
He can't take the third, because Steve's arms are around him, and Steve is kissing him, and well, Tony can't really complain.