I don't care if Monday's blue
As far as Tony was concerned, the best thing about living in the Avengers Tower, besides the constant surveillance footage which he totally didn't peek at unless JARVIS told him some particularly juicy bit of gossip, was having complete control over what was on lockdown at any given moment. Such as, for instance, this entire floor.
No elevator would be stopping on Floor 63 today. The stairwell doors were locked. The workshop doors were locked. JARVIS was under strict orders to turn away any and all questions regarding his current a) whereabouts, 2) sobriety, and d) emotional and/or physical state.
In other words, it was Monday.
Generally speaking, being able to dictate his own schedule – notwithstanding random acts of supervillainy that required his presence – meant that Tony was immune to the whole "Monday sucks" thing. But sometimes, sometimes you just needed to wallow. Particularly after a long weekend spent designing a new sensor array for the suit – only to have it fail spectacularly on its very first practice flight.
Tony was not used to failure.
"Sir, Captain Rogers is now calling for the sixth time." JARVIS sounded nearly as moody as Tony felt. Or maybe that was just his imagination.
Tony sighed. Most days he found it endearing that JARVIS still referred to Steve in such a formal manner, despite the fact that he and Steve had been together for nearly a year now. Today it was just one more irksome thing to add to the list.
"Should I respond for you?" JARVIS asked.
"No," Tony said. "Let him keep calling." Then on second thought he added, "But let me know if he makes it to an even dozen tries." He told himself that he wasn't really being a dick; it was pure scientific curiosity that made him wonder how far Steve would go.
This time JARVIS sounded very alert, and even before he said another word, Tony knew what was coming. He supposed he had been waiting for this call all day, part of him knowing that it was inevitable, although he had kept hoping against hope that it wouldn't come.
"Agent Holt of SHIELD is on the line. He is calling—"
"To say Bernhard died," Tony said dully.
"Yes," JARVIS said. "I am sorry, sir."
"Yeah," Tony said. "Just… take the message, okay? I don't want to talk to him."
"Already done, sir," said JARVIS.
Tony blew out his breath and stared moodily at the armor lying in front of him, waiting for him to fix it. That was not going to happen today, he already knew that much.
Three weeks ago the Avengers had taken on some whackjob calling himself Graviton, who had the truly scary ability to affect gravity around him. Even Thor had not been immune to this guy's power. In the end the Avengers had prevailed, but only by combining all their efforts and trashing a good portion of the city in the process.
A lot of innocent people had been hurt and even killed that afternoon. Usually Tony did his best not to dwell on this fact. In his line of work it was unfortunately unavoidable, and brooding about it was a surefire way to end up drunk and depressed. But on occasion there was the case he simply could not ignore.
Like the ninety-two year old man who had been in Manhattan that day, taking his first vacation in seventy years. It had made the news at the time, and in spite of himself, Tony had taken an interest in the man's fate. He had even gone to visit him in the hospital, something he had never done before. That had made the news, too, reporters camped out on the front steps of the hospital in the hope of getting a comment from the high and mighty Tony Stark. He had walked away with nothing to say to them, though. And his visit, which he had made out of the purest motivations, had turned out to be a waste of time because Stephen Bernhard had been in a coma ever since half a storefront had collapsed on him.
And now the man was dead. Could it have been avoided? Maybe. Iron Man had been all over the place that day, and the recording from the suit showed clearly that it was his repulsor blast that had brought down the storefront, collateral damage he had deemed worth it in order to pin Graviton down. If he had waited just a couple more seconds, poor ninety-two year old Stephen Bernhard might have had time to get to safety.
Tony shut his eyes. He didn't often torture himself this way, but when he did, he went all out. "JARVIS, make the usual arrangements, would you?"
"I have already attempted to do so," JARVIS replied. "However, Mr. Bernhard did not have any family. There is no one to leave a trust fund for, and no family to contact."
It just got better and better, Tony thought dourly.
"And sir? Captain Rogers is calling again."
That made lucky number seven, and on impulse, Tony decided to answer it this time.
"Tony! Where are you?"
He looked around. "Probably right where you think I am."
Steve didn't say anything for a moment. In that silence, Tony could imagine him standing near one of the many windows in the Tower, gazing out onto the city without really seeing it. He was one of those people who held a phone with his forefinger held out straight and his head cocked slightly to the side. His hair would be perfectly combed and his shirt would be neatly tucked in. Even in Tony's imagination, he was so beautiful and so perfect, and Tony loved him more than he had ever thought it was possible to love someone.
But though he might love Steve with all his heart, Tony still didn't want to talk to him. He was too depressed.
Right now he just wanted to be alone.
"What's wrong?" Steve asked.
"Nothing's wrong," he said right away, and was pleased at how normal his voice sounded. "I'm working. Stop bothering me."
There was the slightest pause before Steve said, "Is that why you finally answered your phone? To tell me to stop bothering you?"
"Got it in one," Tony said – but he winced a little as he said it.
This time the silence dragged out a little bit longer. He knew perfectly well that Steve didn't believe him. But he also knew that Steve wouldn't push him and insist that he tell him what was wrong.
"Okay," Steve finally said. "Just let me know when you're ready to take a break."
"Sure," Tony said, although he had no intentions whatsoever of going anywhere today. He had work to do.
And guilt to wallow in.
As they got ready for bed that night, Steve came up behind him and wrapped both arms around him. "Want to talk about it?"
Instinctively rebelling against the comforting embrace that he absolutely did not deserve, Tony froze up at first. After that initial reaction, though, he forced himself to relax, and even smile a little. "Hey."
"You okay?" Steve asked.
He looked at Steve through the mirror, gazing at their combined reflection. He saw himself, the ugly scars on his chest, the dark shadows beneath his eyes. He saw Steve's broad shoulders and concerned blue eyes. He saw a kind, compassionate man who would listen to his story about the man who had died and sympathize with him – but who would never really understand how it made him feel.
"I'm fine," he said. He smiled again with his usual Tony Stark charm. "Nothing to talk about."
The sensor array on the suit still wasn't fixed, but for the time being Tony had no choice but to set it aside. He had other things planned for today.
He had wanted to schedule the GQ photoshoot first, because those things always took time and left him feeling irritable, but even Pepper couldn't work miracles. So first on his agenda was a meeting with some bigshot at Disney.
He was actually kind of looking forward to that portion of the day. Not too many people in this world got to say that a major multimedia corporation wanted to turn their likeness into a children's cartoon. Of course, it wasn't just Iron Man they wanted. This was going to be a cartoon about all of the Avengers. Which was pretty damn cool, as far as Tony was concerned.
Just last week someone from Disney had sent over a sneak peek at some of the designs for the characters. For the most part, Tony approved. Naturally he had a few suggestions of his own, particularly regarding the armor and his own face, but they were minor cosmetic changes that he was sure a small army of animators could achieve without too much difficulty.
"You need anything, boss?" Happy's voice came to him over the speaker in the back of the limo.
Tony made a face. "Yeah, some repulsor lifts for this limo."
It was raining out, and the morning rush hour traffic seemed even more horrible than usual. Probably that was because he was actually sitting in it for once instead of flying above it, but still. The limo hadn't moved at all in fifteen minutes. This was getting ridiculous.
Pepper had reminded him that he didn't need to go this meeting, that technically speaking he shouldn't even be going at all. This was the job of a PR rep or an agent. He had simply replied that yes he knew, and yes he was still going.
The Avengers didn't have an agent yet, was the thing. Although they soon would. Because the way Tony saw it, a cartoon today would lead to a live-action movie next month. And when that happened, he would have a lot more than just a few suggestions for the producers. All the Avengers would. He already had JARVIS putting out some discreet feelers for an agent worthy enough to represent the Earth's Mightiest Heroes, but for now, meetings with entertainment moguls fell squarely into Tony's area of expertise.
Assuming, of course, that the traffic ever cleared up enough to let him get to his meeting.
His phone chimed with an alert, and Tony looked away from the clogged streets to see that Steve had sent him a text. Want to do lunch?
Immediately his spirits brightened. Hell yes. Where?
A quick back-and-forth conversation, and they had a lunch date. It would have to be a quick one, or he would be late for the photoshoot, but Tony didn't particularly care. Let the good people of GQ wait on him. After all, it wasn't like they could do anything until he got there, anyway.
And at least now he had something to look forward to.
But he didn't get to have lunch with Steve that day. His meeting ran long, and they missed their date by a good hour and then some. By then Happy was all but begging him to just get in the car please sir, so he could make it to the photoshoot.
With reluctance, Tony agreed. There was always tomorrow, after all.
See you when I get home?
Steve's answering text took several minutes to arrive. Sorry, it's my weekly debrief with SHIELD. Nothing serious, just a routine check-in.
Yeah, it was routine. So routine, in fact, that he had forgotten Steve always went in on Tuesday evenings for a debrief. Tony glared out at the traffic and felt the last of his good mood evaporate. But he didn't want Steve to think anything was amiss, especially after yesterday's display of brooding, so he kept his reply light-hearted.
Tell all the happy little agents that I said hi.
I will. Don't wait up, came Steve's response.
"I won't," Tony sighed.
and Wednesday too
"Are you kidding me with this?" Tony groaned. It looked like every single car in Manhattan was on the road this morning. And every single one of them was at a standstill, brake lights flashing in the gray downpour.
"That's it. I'm calling the suit."
"Sir." Happy spoke from the front seat, sounding more gloomy than usual. "I really wouldn't, if I were you."
"If you were me," Tony began, and then made himself shut up. Insulting his driver wasn't a very good idea even on a good day. But today, when the skies were dumping rain over the city and he still had over thirty blocks to go to reach his destination, today it would be an even worse idea than usual.
"I know a shortcut," Happy said. "If we can just make it to…"
Tony tuned him out. Whatever. He pulled out his phone. What time does your thing at Thing's end?
It took Steve a couple minutes to respond; no doubt he was still at the Tower, getting ready for his promised appearance at Ben Grimm's community center.
I don't think there is an end time. I guess just whenever people start to leave.
Which meant Steve could theoretically be there all day, talking to the kids who clamored for his attention, giving them all pep talks and encouragement, lending a shoulder and a hand. All those things Steve loved to do. This was the good side of being Captain America, the things Steve did to remind himself why he wore the costume and wielded the shield.
But it all had to end sooner or later. If nothing else, Grimm would want to get back to the Baxter Building, and Steve would have to leave. Gathering his hope, Tony wrote, Let's try this again. Lunch?
This time the answer was quicker. Yes, definitely. I'll text you when I'm leaving.
Okay, Tony replied. He had interviews and meetings of his own to attend today, but he could finagle his schedule if need be. He was Tony Stark, damnit. No one's plans were more important than his own.
"Remind me not to make any plans," Tony said. He wasn't talking to anyone in particular. Why should he? No one was listening. "Ever again."
This morning he had thought he was doing so well. But that was before the guys from Forbes Magazine were late to the interview, thanks to traffic, causing everything to run over. Before the video conference with the nice people from Apple who suddenly weren't so nice when they no longer wanted to do business with him. Before Steve texted to say that there were more kids at the community center than they had anticipated, and he would be there later then he had thought.
Tony sighed as he put his phone away. It was almost four o'clock by now. Another day down the drain, another missed date with Steve. And the thing was, he was so tired he could barely muster the energy to be mad about it. The best he could manage was a mild sting of disappointment.
"Where to now, sir?" Happy asked as he got in the limo.
"I don't care," Tony sighed. Then, as the nonplussed look on Happy's face reminded him that this was hardly a viable answer, he said, "Just home. Although if you want to stop along the way for cheeseburgers, don't let me stop you." All the running around had left him feeling not that hungry, but he felt bad at preventing Happy from having any kind of lunch today.
Happy's expression brightened. "I know just the place," he said. He looked out at the never-ending sea of traffic along New York's streets. "Well," he said glumly, "assuming we can get there."
Tony just got in the car and closed his eyes against an impending headache.
Hopefully he would get to see Steve tonight.
Thursday I don't care about you
The rain ended overnight, but Thursday dawned dull and gray. When the alarm went off, Tony cracked open one eye, only to discover with a groan that he had the same headache he had gone to bed with. He crawled out of bed, took one look at the dreary skies, and felt his already-dark mood plummet still further.
Behind him, Steve moved around their bedroom, getting dressed for a visit to – well, Tony wasn't really sure where he was going. After a while all those charity things started to blur together. All he knew was that Steve was in the full dress uniform that harkened back to World War II, which meant today's event probably involved veterans.
"Have you seen the box with my medals?" Steve asked. He opened one dresser drawer after another, tossing underwear and handkerchiefs and socks aside as he searched.
"Did you try looking in the last place you had it?" Tony offered, helpful as always.
Steve glared at him. "Haha, now would you just help me look?" For once he wasn't being meticulous and neat; he hadn't yet put back the items he had shoved aside in his search. The sight of the mess, which normally wouldn't have bothered Tony one bit, now got his hackles up.
"Sorry," he said, completely unapologetic. "No time. I've got places to be too, you know." Not that he was looking forward to it. The flight to California would be the easiest part of this day. Once he got there, he had a thousand and one things to do at Stark Industries, most of which he probably wouldn't even pretend to accomplish. Thank God for Pepper; she would meet him at the airport and they could go over most of those things he intended to ditch altogether.
"Fine," Steve sighed. "I'll just keep looking for it myself."
"That's the spirit," Tony said.
Steve muttered something distinctly obscene beneath his breath, dug into another dresser drawer, and finally pulled out the box he was looking for.
"See?" Tony said. He walked toward the bathroom.
"Oh," Steve said, his voice studiously casual, "when you're done, can you please pick up your wet towels?"
"Maybe," Tony said. He wasn't in the mood to compromise today.
"Seriously?" Steve snapped. "How hard is it, Tony?"
"I don't know, Steve," Tony snapped right back. He knew he was being an asshole, but he didn't care. He was in a bad mood, he had a headache, and he was just spoiling for a fight. "While we're on the subject of picking up after ourselves, how hard is it to remember to put your sweaty, smelly costume in the wash after we duke it out with the latest baddy of the week?"
Steve shoved the drawer closed so hard the entire dresser rocked back and thunked into the wall. "I never get the chance! You always do it."
"Yeah," Tony said, "because you never do!"
"I don't do it because you always do!" Steve yelled.
"Forget it," Tony said acidly. "We're done here." He slammed the bathroom door shut.
He hoped Steve was gone by the time he got done with his shower. He hoped Steve had himself a brilliant and wonderful day, just full of petty little interruptions and annoyances – just the way Tony anticipated his day would be like.
Some days he wished he and Steve had never fallen in love, never discovered that together they created this amazing thing between them. All in all, it was far easier and simpler to be single.
Certainly it was less annoying.
That evening, as he stood in the bedroom of his Malibu house, his phone chimed. He was preparing for his dinner with representatives from Fujikawa Industries, and not looking forward to it. Holding his cufflinks in one hand, he leaned over to see the message.
Sorry about this morning. I was in a bad mood. Hope your day is going well.
It was a perfectly good olive branch, and Tony knew he should take it, and better yet, extend one of his own. But he was still in a bad mood and not ready yet to make things up with Steve. Besides, it just didn't seem worth the effort. Not when he was stuck out here for another few hours – and there was still the plane ride back to New York to get through.
He didn't reply.
It's Friday I'm in love
Friday morning Tony woke up to blue skies and the relief of knowing that he only had one more meeting to attend before his time became his own again.
He had gotten in so late last night that it had technically been Friday morning already. It felt like he hadn't gotten any sleep at all, and he yawned and rubbed at his eyes, trying to physically push back the exhaustion that wanted to drag him down. Just one more meeting, he told himself. He could do this.
Yawning again, he rolled onto his back and looked over at Steve. Still soundly asleep, Steve lay on his side, his hair sticking up and his lips parted. Steve had no meetings today, no charity events to play Captain America for, no reason to be up early and be anywhere. And with a sudden rush of protective emotion, Tony decided that he wasn't going to wake him up. Let Steve sleep. This way at least one of them could get some rest today.
Because the thing was, he really did love Steve. With all his heart. Sometimes real life got in the way, like it had this week with its interminable obstacles and petty arguments, but in the end what mattered was that he loved Steve and Steve loved him. They maybe didn't always get to show it, but that didn't change the fact that it was still there.
Quietly, mindful of Steve still sleeping, Tony crept around the bedroom, gathering up clean clothes to wear. He slipped into the bathroom and started the shower, finally able to relax and make some noise.
Twenty minutes later his hair was damp but combed, and he was already dressed and nearly ready to go. He glanced at his watch and scowled; he was already running late. Nothing new about that, but today of all days he wanted things to be on time. He wanted to get back to the Tower sooner rather than later, and spend the rest of the day with Steve.
He stepped quietly back into the bedroom, figuring he would head down to the kitchen and grab a cup of coffee, maybe scrounge up something quick to eat, and then leave.
Instead, he nearly ran into Steve.
"Hey," Steve said. He had pulled on a T-shirt and his jeans from yesterday. He looked disgustingly awake, while Tony was still struggling to focus his eyes even after a nice long hot shower. "I was going to make some breakfast before you left."
Normally Tony wasn't a breakfast kind of guy – a donut or bagel on the run was fine with him – but the idea appealed to him for reasons he couldn't even explain. Maybe it was the bright sunshine after days of dull clouds and rain. Maybe it was just Steve himself, beautiful even first thing in the morning.
"Okay, I'm in," Tony said. He walked over and gave Steve a kiss; he had already brushed his teeth, but Steve, that lucky bastard, never had morning breath.
"Yeah?" Steve smiled at him, surprised but pleased.
"I'm going to need nourishment to sustain me for this meeting," Tony said. "So yeah, let's do it."
They headed down to the kitchen, which was currently empty but showed signs of recent use. A couple plates were stacked in the sink, and toast crumbs littered the counter. Steve looked around and said, "I was thinking French toast?"
"You read my mind," Tony murmured. He made a beeline straight for the coffee pot.
Tony wasn't exactly a wizard in the kitchen; his talents lay elsewhere, and everyone knew it. But he was perfectly willing and able to give an assist when needed, and he did so now, gathering what they needed and then hovering at Steve's elbow, trying not to get in the way.
"Smells good," he offered, because it did.
Steve smiled at him and leaned over for a quick kiss. "Thanks."
They ate at the table that was large enough for all the Avengers – including the Hulk – to sit at together. Tony drowned his French toast in syrup and worked on his third cup of coffee, and thought to himself that today was already better than the rest of this week combined.
When they were done eating, Steve gathered up their plates and took them over to the sink. And Tony, who couldn't remember the last time he had done anything as domestic as wash dishes, carried over their coffee cups and joined Steve at the sink.
Steve gave him a faintly puzzled look. "Not that I mind the help," he said, "but since when do you do dishes?"
"Since twenty-two seconds ago," said Tony. "Now hand me that dish towel."
They hadn't made much of a mess, but of course Steve insisted on washing up the dishes that had been left in the sink from the previous tenant, so it took longer than Tony expected to get everything cleaned up. So he wasn't surprised when Steve turned to him and said, "Don't you have a meeting today? You'll be late."
He shrugged. He had texted Happy fifteen minutes ago and said not to expect him for another half hour at least. Having done his duty in that regard, he felt no remorse about saying, "Yeah, but I'd rather be home with you." It was a simple truth, but he was glad he said it, seeing how Steve's whole face lit up upon hearing it. "I'll just take the suit," he continued. "It makes for a more impressive entrance, anyway. Remind people who they're dealing with."
"Oh?" Steve said. He draped the wet dishtowel over the hook it was meant to hang on. "And who's that?"
Tony grinned. "The guy who swept Captain America off his feet."
Steve smiled back. "You mean like this?" Without any kind of warning, he leaned in and scooped Tony up into his arms in a bridal carry.
On any other day Tony would have protested loudly over being carried like that, like he was some kind of damsel in distress or something. Today though, with sunny skies around him and Steve's blue eyes in front of him, he was perfectly content to hang out here. "Exactly like that." He reached up so he could kiss Steve.
"I'll have to remember that," Steve said with a huff of amused laughter.
"You better," Tony said. He couldn't believe how light-hearted he felt, how ridiculously, stupidly happy and in love. And when Steve started to set him down, before he even knew what he was going to do, he had locked his arms about Steve's neck. "Whoa whoa whoa. What do you think you're doing?"
Steve looked a bit baffled, but he continued to hold Tony in his arms, clearly having gotten the hint. "Um..."
"You were going somewhere with this," Tony prompted him. "Don't stop now."
Still rather bewildered, Steve said, "I was?" He thought about it for a moment, then he suddenly smiled. "Oh," he said. "You're right. I was going somewhere. Back upstairs."
Tony grinned up at him. "Look at that. It's like we're so in sync you know exactly what I'm thinking."
Steve pretended to be thoughtful, gazing out into space like he was trying to remember something. "What was it you said? Oh yeah."
He kissed Tony. "Exactly like that."
You can never get enough of this stuff
Later, as they snuggled together in bed, Steve asked, "What do you want to do this weekend?"
Tony had been halfway toward falling asleep, but the question roused him. He lay there, Steve's head on his chest, his arm draped across Steve's shoulders, and he thought about it.
He thought about the meeting he would definitely not be making today. He thought about the sensor array that he still hadn't fixed. He thought about all the missed connections with Steve this week, and the stupid arguments they had had. He thought about all the things he still needed to get done on the suit and for Stark Industries and for the Avengers.
"Nothing," he said. "I don't care. Just as long as I get to be with you."