Steve finds the Iron Man plushie on a table in the middle of the city, sitting between a stack of sunglasses and DVD cases. He chuckles when he picks it up, noting the uneven stitches and the red places that ought to be gold. It looks a little like a high school home economics project made by an apathetic student, but it’s still undeniably Iron Man and Steve is tickled. He gives the woman behind the table the ten dollars she asks for and she puts the plushie in a plastic bag with yellow smiley faces on the side.
When Steve gets home, he finds Tony tinkering with one of his cars in his workshop as he yells along the blasting music.
“Turn that down, Jarvis, please,” Steve yells, wincing.
“Right away,” Jarvis replies cut the volume down to a decent human level. Tony looks up from his engine, affronted.
“I was listening to that,” he says.
“Look what I found.” Steve shucks the plastic bag from the toy and tosses it to him. “The resemblance is uncanny.”
Tony catches the plushie with one greasy hand and grins. “You know, that’s an arena I haven’t explored yet. We could make a mint marketing ourselves. Action figures, tee shirts, lunch boxes.” He wiggles the toy. “Stuffed animals. Stuffed super heroes? Whatever.”
Steve laughs. “Would you wear a tee shirt with my face on it?”
“Without a doubt.” Tony stands, and sets the toy on top of his car. It tips drunkenly to the side, but managed just barely to stay upright. “Are you gonna replace me with that toy? Should I be feeling threatened.”
“Probably,” Steve says, but then Tony kisses him and the rest of his reply is swallowed down.
In the morning, Steve wakes up to an empty bed and note on Tony’s pillow. To LA for the shareholder meeting. Don’t do anything heroic while I’m gone. TS. Steve crumples the note into a ball and tosses it across the room vaguely in the direction of the wastebasket. He’d forgotten, totally and completely forgotten, that there was one responsibility to Stark Industries Tony couldn’t pass off on Pepper and it was the damned shareholder meeting.
Steve petulantly considers spending the rest of the day in bed. It’s ridiculous, how Tony’s absence makes the whole house ring hollow and too big. And it isn’t as though Steve doesn’t have friends he could call on; Thor and Clint, at least, would gladly spend an afternoon distracting him. Still, they aren’t who he wants and Steve glares at the ceiling for a good five minutes before shoving the blankets back and hauling himself up.
He goes through his usual routine; shower, breakfast, work out and shower again, though he acutely misses Tony’s sliding in with him and kissing at his soapy shoulders, murmuring inanities about saving water by sharing. Steve has never been precisely comfortable in Tony’s mansion. It’s too big and too thoughtlessly ostentatious to feel like Steve’s home without Tony’s presence there to mitigate the obvious expense of it all. Steve grew up in tiny apartments and army barracks. He got lost in Tony’s house the first night be spent there.
Steve rattles in the many rooms as the morning wears into afternoon.
He starts a movie and stops fifteen minutes in. He starts a book and closes it after twenty pages. He starts a sketch and gives up in disgust after a handful of messy lines.
And then he ends up standing at the top of the stairs that lead down into Tony’s work shop, fingers light on the handle. He feels a little bit like a kid contemplating sticking his hand in the cookie jar, though it isn’t as though Tony has ever put restrictions on Steve’s movement in the house. It’s simply that the work shop is so utterly and thoroughly Tony’s space.
Steve shuffles down the steps a touch furtively and presses his hand to palm scanner. It flashes with bright green light, then a smooth electronic voice announces, “Rogers, Steven,” and displays his old army picture on the small screen. The door unlocks with a soft click and Steve eases through it, conscious of how loud his footsteps are on the concrete floor.
The lights buzz to life overhead and cast a bright, bleached glare on the tables and machinery. There are half a dozen projects in progress scattered here and there. Some are only just begun and are more piles of paper that physical objects, others are clearly close to completion with the outer shells being applied and color schemes considered. Steve trails his fingers along the cold edges of the tables and gravitates toward the car Tony was working on the day before.
The plushie is still sitting on the roof.
A startled chuckle falls from Steve’s mouth and he picks the toy up, brushing his fingers against the warped, uneven bit of blue plastic sewed haphazardly to the center of it’s chest. It’s not warm, like the arc reactor, and it doesn’t glow. “You look like him after he lost a fight,” Steve says.
The toy, as expected, doesn’t say anything. Steve feels mildly foolishly, but he takes the plushie back upstairs with him anyway. Better that than nothing and when he’s not being watched, he’s not proud.
The rest of the day slips by at a little faster clip. He manages five minutes on the phone with Tony, who sounds bored, harassed, irritated, bored, annoyed, and bored, and swears that he’s going to the dissolve the fucking company as soon as he gets home. And then form a new company that’s exactly the same, but without fucking shareholders. Steve makes sympathetic noises as he makes dinner with the phone tucked between ear and shoulder.
“Miss me?” Tony asks at the end.
Steve glances at the toy he casually set on the counter. “Not a bit.”
“Liar,” Tony says affectionately. “I’ve gotta go. Don’t burn the house down.”
Steve wears an old shirt of Tony’s to bed and doesn’t even fool himself when he tosses the Iron Man toy in the muss of unmade sheets before he goes to brush and floss. It’s a little frightening, what Tony does to him. But it is what it is, Steve supposes, as he gargles and spits down the porcelain sink. He runs his hand through his hair and looks at his familiar reflection. And there are worse weaknesses to have.
Yawning, he climbs into bed and turns off the light. In the dark, he gropes over the blankets until he fingers catch on the lumpy, overstuffed arm of the Iron Man toy and he hugs it to his chest, and falls asleep faster than he expected.