Now, it is true that benevolent gods watch over us all; some are as kind as they are powerful, who do naught but take pleasure in making joyous the hearts of man. Then there are other gods, gods who wield their immeasurable powers simply for their own amusement, and the trouble is that when one throws their wish out into the heavens, one can never be sure whose mitt it’s gonna end up in.
Steve Rogers was not an unhappy man. In a world where so many had so little he felt that he had no right to complain. He had a roof over his head and food in his belly. He had a sense of satisfaction from having done what he felt was his duty and birthright by following in his grandfather’s footsteps and serving his country.
Steve’s grandmother had raised him, and she raised him well on stories of his grandfather who fought and died bravely for the things that everyone should have. So when Steve was eighteen he enlisted because he couldn’t think of a more noble thing to do with his life.
Training hardened his body, put an amount of muscle on his frame that he never imagined possible in a youth spent mostly with his nose in books, only reading about glorious heroes. A gawky kid turned into a man who looked like a solider, like a hero from a story.
But war was not glorious. And no words put to paper could ever describe the terrible things that he saw. Still, every day he continued, running on the memories of the stories, like fumes in a gas tank, believing with heart and soul that he was doing good.
Steve’s grandmother died while he was overseas, and when he got home the world felt all the more empty for it. It was a bright sunny day when they buried her. The birds carried on singing without a care for any one's sorrow. People said kind things, laid their flowers and left. In an hour it was only Steve and the birdsong.
Steve Roger’s was not an unhappy man, but he was a lonely one.
But the thing about life is that it keeps going with absolutely no regard to whether you are sad or lonely or tired or happy as an old cat napping in the sun.
So Steve lived.
He did all the things that living seems to entail; he got a place to live and a job in art supply store and he took up old hobbies of reading and drawing and tried with all of his considerable will to act as though everything was just as it was before.
When that didn’t work he got a cat.
To be fair, the cat got him, as cat’s are often wont to do. The little bastard of a creature had stalked around the apartments terrorizing bird and man alike with impunity. Steve didn’t actually mind, he never really liked birds. Then one night, there was a horrible noise in the garden and Steve had opened the door to see what the unearthly screeching was about when a little black blur streaked in past him ran around his small apartment in mad frantic circles until finally curling up in the middle of Steve’s bed and falling asleep.
So Steve had a cat and that was okay, at least it gave him someone to talk to.
“I could go to art school.” Steve mused at the cat, who, after a period of denial of ownership, he had named Tony.
Tony yawned and flopped over to face the wall.
“I could,” Steve argued, “I’m not bad and if I went I could get better. It would beat working in a store.”
Tony twitched his tail a few times.
“You got a better idea?” At that Tony stood and padded across the bed spread to sit himself on Steve’s sketch book
“Yeah, right. I’ll just stay home all day and pet you, that what you want?”
“Yeah fine, just for a little.” Steve scratched the cat lightly behind the ears, it hadn’t taken Tony very long to train him.
This is the part of the story where those Gods, kindly or otherwise, come into play--but first it should be stated, just for the record, that Tony was, up until this point, a completely ordinary sort of cat. That is to say, he was as all cats, very strange. He enjoyed riding in Steve's car but was terrified of the sound it made as it started. He loathed being wet but would always try to bat at the water that fell as Steve showered in the morning. He would sleep for hours on end as though he was dead but then take to zooming around the house chasing nothing with extreme prejudice. He was every inch a cat, nothing more and nothing less.
Until Steve came home from a long exhausting day, sitting heavy on the sofa and Tony dutifully padded up to rub his legs with his face and then jump up into Steve's lap so that he could unburden himself to his warm little friend.
"Well I'm officially a laughingstock."
Tony purred, not unsympathetically.
"Apparently telling the most beautiful girl you work with that your not really looking to date makes you about as gay as a Broadway show about...I don’t know, glitter?"
Tony gave a fussy mewl but it might just have been a direction to pet a little softer on his right side as his last less than graceful trip down from the bookshelf left him a bit sore.
"Yeah well, you're no wordsmith either, Fuzzy. I don't know what's wrong with me. Sharon is great but I can't be with anyone. I'm, I'm boring. I'm not cool or flashy, I make lousy jokes, know too much about old history books and guns and not enough about movies or celebrities. She would be ready to leave before the appetizers were done and then things would just be strange between us."
Tony head butted Steve's chin and amped up the purr by a few decibels.
“Yeah, well at least you like me. The thing is, I don't even care what they say about me. I don't know that I wouldn’t date a guy, but it would have to be the right guy just like it would have to be the right girl. Someone who's, I don't know. A friend. A real one not just a work friend or someone I knew in school but someone who likes me, all of me, even the weird or boring stuff.
Tony nuzzled Steve's hand and Steve sighed. "I'm just afraid the only person who is ever gonna do that is you, little guy."
Somewhere in the heavens a special combination of words was waited for. Two words that had the power to start everything in motion.
'I wish," the universe held its breath, "I wish that I had a guy just like you, Tony. You know, just without the kibble breath."
And then there was work to be done.
Steve had his Tuesday shift canceled, which was going to look bad on his paycheck, but he was looking forward to a lay-in.
At about 6:45 just as the sun started to really make some progress on the sky, Steve was stirred awake by a hand gently batting at his face.
“Hey, hey you. Wake up.”
Steve jumped fully out of his bed, flinging the covers over whoever had evaded his home.
“Don’t move you son of a bitch, I’m calling the cops!” Steve shouted in his most commanding voice (which was genuinely something rather terrifying and would have put the fear of god into any sane person) as he looked around trying to find his phone.
“What?” the man in Steve’s bed flailed comically under the sheets trying to extract himself. “Wait, Steve, where did you go, I’m lost, God I’m lost you have to help me, I’m--” he finally managed to struggle out of the sheets and blinked big blue eyes across at where Steve stood at the door. “Oh there you are. I’m okay now. Why are you yelling?”
“Who are you? What are you doing in my bedroom?” Steve looked the man over; he had messy black hair sticking out at all angles, a sort of roguishly handsome face with a full mouth fixed in puzzled pout and framed in a trim black goatee. From the neck down he was all compact lean muscle, which Steve could clearly see because-- “And why the hell are you naked?”
“I’m always naked!” the man snapped back, finally becoming annoyed at the shouting. “It’s not my fault you’re too big and stupid to remember who I am.”
“I don’t know you. I’ve never met you before.” Steve was easing up marginally. There was still a lot of adrenaline running through him keeping him at the ready, but the man on the bed was too relaxed, too open. He wasn’t a threat, Steve could tell on instinct. But that still didn’t explain what he was doing here.
“But you’re my-- you feed me, and you pet me. You’re my person. Come on Steve don’t be dumb. Please.” The strange man was starting to look scared at the lack of recognition, genuinely hurt that Steve didn’t know him.
Then something crossed Steve’s mind. The sort of random firing of synapses that makes you think to look for your keys in the freezer, or makes you wonder if people on the bus can hear what you are thinking.
“Tony? Is that--” the man grinned and Steve heard his head thunk back against the door, only vaguely aware that he was slowly sliding down to the floor.
Tony padded over and curled up in Steve's lap, which would have been the most normal thing in the world if it wasn’t for the fact that Steve’s cat was now a full grown man. At a loss, Steve just patted him on the head as Tony nuzzled against his stomach and then looked up.
“Steve, Steve, hey. When you are done on the floor you should make food.”
“Yeah, I think I’m gonna need a minute here buddy.”
Tony made a sad but understanding noise and settled against Steve’s thigh.