Chapter 1: Overthinking It
Tony Stark wasn’t a good boyfriend.
That wasn’t news to him, it never had been. But for the second time in his life, Tony had tricked himself into thinking that maybe he could be a good boyfriend, just long enough for the other person to get attached. The first time was with Pepper Potts, and the second time was with Steve Rogers.
With Pepper, things had snowballed pretty quickly. He wasn’t sure if that was because she was quicker on the uptake or just that she, as a normal person, couldn’t deal with dating a superhero. Probably both. But Steve, with his boy scout-persistence and overly optimistic attitude (and being a superhero himself), had not only created a relationship with Tony, but sustained it for five goddamned years.
Tony did the math again in his head. Yes, they had in fact been dating for five years. They’d just celebrated their fifth anniversary at Steve’s insistence. He wasn’t sure how they pegged down an actual anniversary date, because he couldn’t remember when they officially got together. There was a time when they were Captain and Mr. Stark, and there was a time when they were Steve and Tony. He remembered a few firsts, definitely. Their first kiss (in Tony’s workshop), first attempt at sex (also in Tony’s workshop), first successful attempt at sex (in Steve’s bed), but no clear “We’re dating now” point.
Tony sighed and snuggled against Steve’s back. He wanted to ask Steve if he remembered that point, but he’d learned with Pepper to just lay low when he’d forgotten something. Tony shuddered. The strawberry incident was bad enough.
Tony lay awake flipping through memories of their relationship, only because he thought that maybe Steve had finally wised up. The only thing he was sure of was that Steve had been spending less time with him than usual. He was spending more time in his room, and would sometimes go out on his motorcycle and be non-specific about where he went. This made Tony clingier than usual. He knew that if Steve spent less time with him, Steve would realize how much better off he’d be. Even super-soldiers had their limits, right? The thought of no more Steve terrified Tony more than any PTSD ever had.
“Mmmmm,” Steve suddenly moaned and rolled over, looking Tony straight in the eye. Gulp. “Tony, whassamatter?”
“Uh, nothing. Why?”
“Liar,” Steve mumbled and rubbed his right eye. “You keep twitching and making noises. Did you have another nightmare?”
“Well-yeah, I guess I did.” Without another word, Steve wrapped his arms around Tony and brought them closer together, close enough that all Tony could see or feel was Steve.
“Thanks,” Tony said. But what he really wanted to say was “I know you’ve realized that I’m terrible, that you deserve so much better. You deserve someone who’s not a self-medicating baggage-ridden trainwreck. But I love you so much. It’s completely selfish, but I want you to stay;” instead it just came out as more twitching and muttering.
“Shhh, Tony,” Steve whispered and snuggled them even closer. “It’s alright.” Another nightmare, Steve must have thought. An inadequacy complex, Tony knew.
Tony sighed and leaned into the touch. He could worry about being wrong for Steve in the morning.
* * *
Tony didn’t tell Steve how wrong they were together the next morning, but that was just because he wasn’t a morning person. He was going to tell Steve after lunch, but Steve took his motorcycle out in the city again and Tony was left alone in the garage with his thoughts.
Most of those thoughts centred around how he was definitely not lonely without Steve’s company, and that he was certainly not jealous that Steve had found something better to do than hang out with him. Nope, not at all. Why would he be? They weren’t supposed to last, no reason for Tony to get all worked up over something that would make their split easier in the end. That’s what Tony said to himself as he put pressure on his bleeding knuckles. Punching malfunctioning engine parts was just part of his process.
Tony was replacing a fan-belt for the fifth time when Steve rode back in. He was tempted to make a sarcastic remark about the return of Lancelot, but got distracted by the sight of Steve peeling off his helmet and jacket. Damn. Tony didn’t deserve Steve, but he figured he deserved to appreciate the fine hunk of American man that stood before him.
“Hey, greasemonkey,” Steve was across the garage and kissing him in an instant. “What are you working on?”
“Just some fine-tuning,” Tony returned the kiss and hid the scrapes on his fist. “What were you up to?”
“Nothing! Just going around the city, window shopping.”
“Window shopping for what? A little something on the side?” Oops.
Steve straightened up and crossed his arms. “That’s not funny, Tony.”
Tony scrambled for something to make the situation better, he ended up relying on his old standard of making the situation worse. “C’mon Steve, I was kidding. Besides, you can’t deny that it’s suspicious to be sneaking around New York like that.” Oops, redux. Steve was glaring now.
“You know how wrong I think that is, even joking about it. Cheating on you is the exact opposite of what I was doing.” Steve turned on his heel and headed for the door.
Tony grabbed a rag and frantically wiped the motor oil off his hands. “Steve, Steve, I shouldn’t have said that. That was wrong.” He hung his head. “I’m sorry.”
Steve turned and his expression had already softened. “Apology accepted.” He came back and wrapped his arms around Tony’s waist. “You know, if you miss me when I’m gone you can just say so, I won’t laugh.”
“Oh come on,” Tony groaned and buried his face in Steve’s chest. “Does super soldier serum give you telepathy too?” Steve laughed, soft and easy. The two stood there holding each other for a few minutes.
“Hey,” Tony said quietly. “I know I’m probably pushing my luck here, but what are you doing out in the city anyways?”
Steve stiffened again, and Tony panicked. But when he looked up, Steve was blushing, not glaring.
“It’s a surprise,” Steve said softly as Tony kissed his reddened cheeks. “For you, well, for both of us actually.”
“But Steeeeve,” Tony whined and wrapped his limbs around Steve like a koala. “I hate surprises! Why can’t you just tell me now? I promise I’ll be really excited, whatever it is. Please?”
“No, Tony,” Steve rolled his eyes. “You’ll find out soon enough, I promise. Now, do you want to me to stay here and talk to you while you work? I’ll have to grab my sketchbook first.”
Tony Stark knew he wasn’t a good boyfriend, but he could pretend to be one for Steve, sometimes. “Mmm, no. Let’s go watch a movie, you pick.”
Chapter 2: The Mercy They Don't Find on Earth
Edited brilliantly, inspired, and motivated by: sarimia, A.K.A. Jessie
Tony Stark was a predictable guy. Well, to a few people anyways. Steve Rogers usually knew exactly how Tony was going to react to something. He might not have been able to stop it, but he knew it was going to happen. After five years, if you had asked him, Steve would have probably said he knew Tony like the back of his hand.
So when Steve snuck out on his motorcycle obscenely early one fall morning, he should have known Tony would wake up and follow him.
Tony knew enough to let Steve get a headstart, and to take one of his simpler cars that didn’t have a vanity license plate. He smirked to himself as he followed Steve on the GPS. Not even Captain America was going to pull one over on Tony Stark.
What kind of surprise did he have in store? It would probably be cheesy, old-fashioned, and adorable, just like Steve. And Tony would love it, because it was just like Steve. But he wasn’t the waiting type. He was going to find out, hopefully not get caught, and fake surprise at a later time. Easy enough.
Easy until Steve parked his bike outside the cemetery where Howard and Maria Stark were buried.
Tony parked on the other side of the block, bashed his head against the steering wheel a couple times, and slowly shuffled to the cemetery’s entrance. It didn’t look much different from the day of his parent’s funeral, just older. Like him. Yikes.
Tony walked up to his parents’ graves, careful to avoid the shrivelled leaves on the path. Steve was kneeling in front of the two headstones. Luckily, there was a large obelisk just a few feet away, which Tony had no trouble hiding behind. He didn’t plan to stay long. He just wanted to make sure it wasn’t like when Steve was first unfrozen. When they weren’t together and Steve just sat around mourning the past all the time. Oh God, that had been awful. But if he was going through it again, Tony was going to step up and be supportive. So he stood there, completely still and completely focused on Steve.
Steve drew in a deep breath before speaking. “I don’t know if you can hear me, or if you’re even there. There’s some things I’ve been wanting to tell you.” Tony’s tongue grew heavy and dry in his mouth, he didn’t like the direction this was heading.
“Sorry I didn’t visit you before,” Steve said, clearing his throat. “It was just too much, too real. Losing not only you and Bucky and everyone, but my entire world. It was so hard. I...I thought about joining you sometimes, on the other side.” The hair on the back of Tony’s neck stood up. Oh no, not again. “But not anymore, and if you can see me, I think you know why.”
“I’m sorry you died when Tony was so young, Howard. You’d be so proud of him now. He’s so smart, so capable, so much like you. He’s even a charmer like you are, maybe moreso. I mean, look who he snagged for his better half?” Steve laughed like Howard was laughing along with him, but went quiet suddenly.
“Maybe it’s better that Tony spent his adult life without you. No offense intended, I’ve never heard the full story. It doesn’t sound like you two got along very well, to say the least. I can’t help but feel a little responsible. Maybe if you hadn’t been searching for me all those years you could have been a better father.” It took every fibre of Tony’s being not to run over and tackle Steve. He wanted to shake him and shout; No no no, you’re wrong. You’re so wrong. It had nothing to do with you.
Instead, Tony just ignored the lump in his throat and continued watching Steve. “But that’s all in the past now,” Steve said, straightening up a bit. “I hope you’re happy wherever you are, Howard. If you can see us, I hope you can see how happy we are. Together, especially. Tony was a bit of a project, but I’m always up for a challenge. And he’s worth it, he’s so worth it. But enough sap, I came here to ask you something very important.”
Steve pulled something out of his front pocket and set it on the ground in front of him. He set his shoulders and ducked his head just a little. “I came to ask you for Tony’s hand in marriage.”
Tony couldn’t move, couldn’t hold back the embarrassing tears, could barely breathe. This wasn’t happening, it couldn’t be happening. He’d never expected this, he wasn’t prepared.
“An odd request, I know. You being passed on and all. I’m probably better off asking Pepper. But I’m asking as your best friend. You’ve already given me so much. I never would have been Captain America. I never would have been frozen and lasted long enough to meet all these wonderful people I now call my friends. I wouldn’t have Tony, without you.” Steve actually audibly gulped, and Tony’s knees buckled. He clutched the grave marker for support, trying to stay silent. This was too much for one person to handle.
Steve stayed silent and still for a long time, long and still enough for a slight breeze to play with the part in his hair. He finally inhaled and relaxed his shoulders. “I promise to take good care of him. I’ll never intentionally hurt him. I’ll treat him right. I love him more than I can even say or fully understand.” Steve put the item back in his pocket and stood up. He stretched out his hand and lightly rubbed the smooth marble gravestone. “Thank you, Howard, for everything.”
Steve turned to walk away, and somehow Tony managed to stealthily move around the giant headstone so that he wouldn’t be seen. Tony waited until he heard Steve’s motorcycle faintly in the distance to come undone. He cried harder and longer than he probably ever had, but he kept smiling through his tears and sobs.
Steve didn’t have any reason to return to Howard Stark’s grave soon afterwards. But if he had, he might have found a tiny piece of scrap paper with a note on it, tucked into the dirt in front of the headstones.
The note read; “Dad, Thanks for Steve. - Tony.”
Chapter 3: Into the Woods
Edited brilliantly, inspired, and motivated by: sarimia, A.K.A. Jessie
A month went by after the whole graveside scene, and Tony Stark didn’t get proposed to.
Tony knew it was going to happen. He even knew he wanted to say yes, though he wasn’t sure he’d be able to. He just didn’t know when it was going to happen.
So Tony waited. He made no hints, no suggestions, he just watched. Every time Steve was nearby, he always kept one eye on him. The tension was killing Tony. That must have showed through after the first couple of weeks. A few times, Steve noticed his shoulders tensed up, and insisted he stop working and take a nap.
Then Tony thought it was finally going to happen. No, he knew it. They had a few days where the world didn’t need to be saved and Stark Industries didn’t demand Tony’s constant and full attention. They spent those days cuddling, talking, and they even went on a proper date for the first time in forever. Steve seemed relaxed and open, all Tony had to do was sit back and enjoy the show.
The proposal probably would have happened had they not been caught up battling Doombots the very next day. It still might have happened, had Tony not thrown himself into a near-death situation again to stop the Doombots from taking out Staten Island. It seemed risky, but he knew what he had to do to get out in time and he did. Damage minimized, enemy obliterated, team and civilians safe and sound. Tony called it a win.
Steve, however, didn’t. He was absolutely furious that Tony had gone off on his own without even trying to consult the team first, and stayed angry long enough that he actually slept on the couch that night. Tony spent that night awake and hitting himself upside the head at frequent intervals. Smooth, Stark. Very smooth.
Steve came back to bed the next night. But for the next few days he still waited for an apology that wasn’t coming. Tony knew there wasn’t any way out of this situation that didn’t involve putting his foot in his mouth. So, like the fool that he was, he hid himself in his workshop hoping to wait out the fury of Captain America.
So less than a week later, when Steve invited him on a little “day trip,” Tony outwardly agreed and inwardly cringed. Every other time Steve invited him on a “day trip,” it meant he was luring Tony with food so they could have a long, long talk about their relationship. Tony hated these. Even after five years of Steve improving his emotional capabilities, he still sucked at this whole “talking about your feelings” part. It was painful, it was awkward, and it made him feel all vulnerable and shit. But if he wanted Steve to stick around, he was going to have to suck it up.
The day didn’t start off well. Steve insisted they go on his motorcycle. Tony loved that Steve loved his bike, but Tony did not love the bike itself. First of all, he preferred cars for non-suit transportation, because if something goes wrong, you’re likely to survive mostly intact. With motorcycles, one little nudge from a sedan and your face was painted all over the highway. Second of all, he didn’t really like the implications of riding in the “bitch seat” (though Steve never called it that and was appalled to find out that other people called it that).
But Steve was genuinely smiling for the first time in a while, so Tony reminded himself that he loved this man, and got on. He had to remind himself a few more times after they’d driven an hour down the Interstate with no breaks.
So there they stood, in Bear Mountain State Park with picnic basket and blanket in hand. Tony shivered, it was November and the park was near closing. He would normally poke fun at Steve’s kitschiness and bad timing, but the serious glint in Steve’s eyes silenced him. As they walked through the park, Steve didn’t notice any of the scenery or plants or squirrels he normally got all giddy over. The taller man eventually picked an exceptionally out of the way spot to set down and have lunch.
They sat for quite a while, eating their homemade (well, Steve-made) food. Tony kept trying to make conversation, but Steve seemed distracted. Tony suddenly realized where he’d seen that look before. It was the same look Steve got in his eyes before a difficult press conference or a debriefing. He was rehearsing what he wanted to say in his head, and usually it wasn’t positive news. Tony stuffed half a peanut butter sandwich in his mouth so he wouldn’t have to talk for a bit.
Steve was still rehearsing by the time they finished eating. Tony was standing up and brushing crumbs off his pants when he felt Steve’s hand on his shoulder. “Oh god, here it comes,” Tony thought.
“Tony,” Steve said slowly. “You can be really stupid sometimes, idiotic even.” The words stung, but Tony managed to turn to face him, though he couldn’t look Steve in the eye.
“You’re reckless,” Steve continued. “You risk your life when you don’t have to. You don’t take care of yourself unless someone’s there to tell you to do so. You run away from your own emotions like you’re allergic to them. You’re a mess, and it’s a good thing you have people watching out for you. You wouldn’t get on without us.”
Tony went to say something, anything, an apology even. Steve cupped his cheek and kissed him, gently but persistently, for what felt like minutes. Steve finally pulled away, smiling and taking his hand.
“And I wouldn’t change a single thing about you, even if I could. I love every part of you, all the time. Even when I’m angry. I can’t say we’ll be together forever, because I don’t know if either of us will survive tomorrow. But if we do-” Steve paused and got down on one knee, Tony’s hand still in his.
Tony was suddenly gripped by vertigo. The world was spinning and upside down, but Steve’s strong hand held him fast. Things like this didn’t happen to him, he wasn’t that lucky. Or was he?
Steve reached into his front pocket and retrieved a tiny box. He opened it to reveal a silver ring with three diamonds set in it. “Tony Stark, will you marry me?”
Tony tried to speak but all that came out was a croak. Then the tears came and he covered his face with his free hand. Steve let out a laugh thick with emotion. Reading Tony’s mind yet again, he started slipping the ring onto his finger.
“Wait, Steve, no-” Tony found his voice again. Steve’s expression suddenly darkened and he stood straight up to look Tony in the eye.
“Tony,” Steve said, using his I-am-Captain-America voice. “I am so sick and tired of you talking about how you’re not good enough for me. How I could do so much better. How someone else could make me happier. No offense, but I think I know myself a little better than you do.If you really care about my happiness, you’ll let me decide who I want to be with. You make me happy. I don’t want anyone else. I say you are good enough for me, and that’s that.”
Steve took a deep breath. “Now, with that in mind, could you please answer the question honestly?”
“Oh Steve,” Tony gasped. “I’ll- yes, yes, I’ll marry you, of course, oh my god, yes!” Stray tears slid down Steve’s cheeks as he wrapped Tony in a tight embrace, pressing kisses to his neck. “But I was trying to say ‘No, Steve, that’s the wrong hand.’”
Steve froze, and pulled back to see the ring resting on Tony’s right hand. He was so dumbfounded he actually let out a tiny “Oh, fuck.” Tony found this so hilarious he could barely stay still long enough for Steve to correct his mistake.
They must have had their “I’m actually getting married” realization at the same time, because they grabbed each other as their knees buckled and ended up on the grass. After a few aborted attempts to right themselves, the two just gave up and rolled around laughing.
“So,” Tony held his left hand an inch away from Steve’s face, grinning widely. “Is this what you were ‘window-shopping’ for all those times?”
Steve blushed. “I wanted to pick out the perfect one. Do you like it?”
“Love it,” Tony said, adjusting the ring. “Three diamonds. Past present, future, right?” Steve blushed a deeper red, and Tony just had to kiss him for that.
“I wanted,” Steve said softly, stammering the words. “I wanted you to know that no matter what happens tomorrow or the next day, nothing can change the fact that we were together and happy like this.”
“Oh god, Steve,” Tony croaked and the tears were back again. He buried his face in Steve’s shoulder for long, silent minutes and tried not to sob like a fool. “You’re just too much sometimes. Speaking of excess, you smell excessively nice right now. So, if we don’t get on your bike right now, we’re going to have awesome fiancé sex in the woods. With bugs and sharp things. Wouldn’t end well.”
“Now, we can’t have that,” Steve laughed, got up, and grabbed the basket. “If I agree to stop at that motel a few minutes from here, can you restrain yourself until we get there?”
Tony smiled and grabbed Steve’s free hand. “For you, anything.”
Chapter 4: Take Me or Leave Me
Edited brilliantly, inspired, and motivated by: sarimia, A.K.A. Jessie
“But Tony, it’s our day! You should be a part of it!”
“I will!” Tony said around the tablet pen in his mouth. “I’ll be there, I’ll marry you, I’ll have a great time. I’d say that counts as being a part of it.”
Steve sighed and walked around the holograms to try and get in Tony’s line of vision. “I don’t get it. You make blueprints in your sleep, why do you want to skip out on planning your own wedding?”
“Remember our first anniversary dinner?”
“Well...yes,” Steve admitted before shaking the memory out of his head. “Your sudden opting out is just...shaking my confidence a bit. I feel like, like I want this more than you do.”
Tony snapped his head up from the schematics he’d been leaning over. He saw Steve’s sad eyes and couldn’t help but smile gently. “Oh Steve, c’mere.” Steve obeyed and Tony wrapped both arms around his waist.
“I’m opting out because I want this just as much as you do,” Tony said, tilting his head back to meet Steve’s eyes. “You deserve a great day, and I’m refusing to let my own blind stupidity and egotism ruin this for you. I know whatever you’ll come up with, I’ll love. If it’s from you, I can’t be disappointed.”
Steve blushed and tried to hide it by kissing Tony’s forehead. “I do have a few requests though.”
Steve froze, but tried to do the good-partner thing and pretend he wasn’t deeply concerned. Tony smirked, their relationship had been one continuous series of noodle incidents.
“First, I’m picking my own outfit and you’re not seeing it till the ceremony. Apologies in advance if it doesn’t match.” Steve breathed a noisy sigh of relief. “Second, I’m picking my own groomsmen-or groomswomen, groomspeople? Wedding party, there we go. Third, I’m paying for all of it and I’m making the rings myself.”
Steve balked. “But Tony-”
“Hush, hush,” Tony pressed a finger to Steve’s lips. “You are not spending a single dime of your backpay on this. I can certainly afford it. You bought the engagement ring, after all.” Tony reached into his tank top and brought out the ring, where it hung on a chain around his neck.
“I’m also volunteering Pepper as your co-wedding planner,” Tony laughed as Steve playfully batted the ring out of his hand. “She’ll take care of everything you can’t. And she’s good at keeping things under wraps.” Steve and Tony had realized the day of the engagement they had to keep the wedding a secret until after the fact. Letting it slip would be like painting targets on their backs for all the people (and gods, and-you get the picture) who wanted them out of commission.
“Alright,” Steve said at last. He kissed Tony and turned to go, but stopped. “As long as you’re sure?”
“Positive,” Tony said, swatting Steve’s backside. “Have fun, Mr. Stark-Rogers.”
* * *
Needless to say, the wedding got put off, and put off, and put off again. Battles, missions, and everything else completely took over the winter and early spring. A few marriage licenses had been quietly acquired, only to be tossed when they expired. Through it all, Steve kept planning and Tony kept his promises. It worked out especially well for Tony; he got to work on a project mostly undisturbed, and had an excuse to avoid a situation that gave him complex emotions.
Not that Tony didn’t enjoy some of those complex emotions, certainly not. When they were alone, Tony was perfectly content to babble for hours about his love for and happiness with Steve. Even if it didn’t all make sense and he sounded like an idiot. But just watching Steve do anything related to the impending nuptials brought back his crippling self-doubt. Not to mention the feelings of Too Big, Too Much, and How Can This Possibly Be Happening.
Their lives eventually calmed down a bit and it looked like the wedding was finally going to happen. One quiet night, Tony dragged himself out of the workshop to see if there was better coffee in the kitchen. He didn’t get a chance to look, because the kitchen was filled with the entire main Avengers team, minus Thor and Coulson, and plus Pepper. They were cooking, all of them, at the same time.
“Hi Tony!” Steve chirped while putting something in the oven. “Glad to see you’ve decided to join the living.”
“I wasn’t, that’s not- Um, how many people does it take to make dinner?”
“Dinner was three hours ago,” Pepper said, still sounding authoritative despite being elbow-deep in pasta. “We’re making food for the reception.”
“Rece-? Oh!” Tony glanced at the daily recipes calendar Clint had insisted on putting on the fridge. It was May 30th, the wedding was less than 48 hours away.
Clint looked up from something that smelled good, but required half the counterspace. “You didn’t forget, did you?” The smirk on his face was slap-worthy.
“No, I just lose my sense of time a bit when I’m working hard.”
Clint snorted something that sounded like “Senile.”
Tony was about to retaliate, but Natasha of all people stepped in. “Did you finish the rings yet?”
“Nearly,” Tony rubbed his forehead quickly. “I would have had them done weeks ago if those SHIELD scientists didn’t keep sending me on wild goose chases. A few more touch-ups and they’ll be good to go.” He glanced around at his friends, all working hard on something for him and Steve. “They can wait a few hours if you guys, uh, need any help. You really should have called a caterer.”
“We’re fine,” Steve walked over and stretched an arm around Tony’s shoulders. “This way if anything happens, the food will be in the deep freezer and we can just try again the next day.”
Tony unconsciously leaned into Steve’s arm. “I’m glad I let you talk me into making that thing. Alright, I have a job to finish. See you guys later, and thanks.”
Tony gave Steve a quick hug and retreated into the hallway. He didn’t leave quite fast enough to miss hearing Bruce sigh and wonder aloud if Tony would even remember to pick up his suit on the day of the ceremony. He was reasonably sure that Steve and Pepper were giving Bruce separate Be Nice glares, but his shoulders sank anyways.
* * *
And suddenly, it was June 1st.
Suddenly to Tony, anyways. It was 11:35 am, and he was wearing a groove into the floor of his bachelor pad at Stark Tower. In less than two hours, he was supposed to be getting married at Avengers Mansion and holy shit, he was not ready for this.
Tony had done all the things he was supposed to. The rings were ready, he had picked up and put on his white tuxedo, and even tried eating something so he wouldn’t faint like an idiot at the altar (tried being the operative word, he ended up puking and nibbling on soda crackers instead). Pepper or Rhodey would be there very shortly to whisk him off. The minutes were ticking by too fast and they were going to see him like this, oh god.
Out of pure habit, Tony had walked over to the liquor cabinet (which was there for guests and special occasions only), picked up a bottle of scotch, and opened it, only to close it and replace it about forty-seven times. Emotional wreck or not, he was not risking greeting his husband-to-be even slightly buzzed. Steve was way more important than that.
Tony’s feet began to hurt and he gave up on pacing. He sat down on the edge of his bed, put his head in his hands, and tried to breathe normally. Calm down, Tony. You want this, you want this more than anything in the world. Don’t chicken out now. Now is not the time for traditional Stark emotional cowardice. You have to buck up for Steve. Steve...
Tony choked a little thinking about Steve and everything hit him at once, like an explosion in his brain. Why had he let himself develop feelings for Steve? Why had he acted on those feelings? Why did he say yes? This wasn’t going to last. He was going to hurt Steve one way or another, and they’d never be the same. Then it would be just like his parents; two people existing in each other’s presence out of some abstract feeling of obligation. Splitting from Pepper wouldn’t compare, that had been kind of mutual and they’d worked it out. Leaving Steve- if that was even physically possible- would be acknowledging that this was all so selfish, that-
“Tony?” Tony jerked his head up and got a faceful of red hair. Pepper had the worst timing. “Tony, are you alright? Did you eat? We have to go now.”
“Pepper,” Tony said in a controlled voice. He looked her in the eyes, and couldn’t lie. “I can’t go through with this. This isn’t cold feet, I mean it. I. Cannot. Do. This. I’m sorry, I just can’t.” He dropped his head again.
“I expected as much.” Before Tony could question or reproach or even look up, he was tackled and pinned to the ground.
“What the-,” Tony managed to wrench his head around to see Natasha holding down his limbs.
“I’ll take the top, you take the bottom,” Natasha ordered. Her feet were replaced with large hands, and Tony was flipped back over and carried off like a luau pig. He was finally able to see the mystery person, and it was Rhodey, of all people.
“Rhodey?” Tony yelped and struggled helplessly. “Pepper, what the hell? Seriously. I’m not playing. Tell me what kind of trick you’re pulling here!” Pepper ignored Tony until they got in the elevator and she pressed the ground floor button.
“I expected this,” Pepper said calmly. “So this is my little insurance package to make sure all goes well.” Pepper was actually smirking, Tony had never felt more indignant.
“Natasha, there’s no point in me trying to get revenge on you,” Tony tilted his head back to look at the woman holding his wrists so tightly. “But Rhodey, I swear to God, you are a walking dead man. I cannot believe you’re a part of this, this...groom-napping. Yes, that’s what this is. How are you my best friend, again?”
Rhodey was smirking too, the jerk. “Love you too, buddy.”
Once they reached the ground floor, they briskly escorted a frustrated Tony out the back door and into a black car. Natasha held him still while Rhodey buckled him in. Happy twisted around in the driver’s seat, waiting for the go-ahead.
“Now, if you’re all done committing felonies,” Tony crossed his arms pointedly. “I would like to point out that I’m an adult and you can’t make me get married if I don’t want to. I’m sorry to have troubled everyone, but I have my reasons. I can’t go through with this. End of story.”
“Tony,” Pepper said kindly, placing her hand on his shoulder. “I really care about you, and I wouldn’t force you into anything you didn’t want. So if you really don’t want this, that’s fine.”
“Okay-,” Tony began, but Pepper fiercely tightened her grip.
“But because I really care about you, I know you’re just pulling your I-don’t-deserve-happiness bullshit and thinking you can get away with it. So if you want to walk away from the best thing that’s ever happened to you, and crush a certain tall blonde man, go right ahead. But if you choose to do so, keep in mind that I will personally castrate you. Understand?”
Tony held Pepper’s eyes for a moment before turning to face Happy. “Avengers Mansion, as soon as possible. Thanks.”
“Good choice,” Pepper was smiling again. Happy sped off, and Rhodey fearfully climbed into the front passenger seat. “We didn’t wrinkle you too badly, come here.” Pepper pinned a garish red chrysanthemum to Tony’s lapel. The flower was so ugly that it was strangely endearing. Of course Steve would pick something like that.
Tony tilted his head back so Pepper could fix his tie, and took the opportunity to glance at Natasha. “I don’t recall adding you to my wedding party.”
Natasha was adjusting her shoes and ignoring Tony’s attempt at eye contact. “I’m Pepper’s plus-one.”
“Oh, okay,” Tony said as the Avengers Mansion came into view. “Wait, what?”
Chapter 5: Yes, There's Actually a Wedding in This One, I Mean It
Edited brilliantly, inspired, and motivated by: sarimia, A.K.A. Jessie
“Are you absolutely sure he’s okay?”
“Steve, he’s fine,” Clint said, placing his hands firmly on Steve’s shoulders. “He’s been fine the past five times you sent me to check on him. You need to chill out.”
“But Tony can be hard to read sometimes,” Steve twisted out of Clint’s grasp. “What was he doing? Did he seem nervous?”
“He was arguing with Phil about his credentials as a wedding official. Then Phil started to go on about when he lived in New York way back in the day, and started reading Section 11-Jesus, you’ll have to wake Tony up to marry him. Relax.”
Steve sighed and sat down on the edge of the bed. Clint, Bruce, Thor, and himself were all getting ready in Bruce’s room. Steve had told them it would be more fun and easier that way, but really he was just too nervous to be alone at that moment. Planning the wedding mostly by himself had given him something to do over the past several months, he had only just started to worry. Being a national icon? Easy. Fighting all manner of evildoers? No problem. Committing to the man he loved more than anyone? Somehow that seemed impossible.
As Bruce took a lint brush to Steve’s dress uniform, Steve took the opportunity to let a few What-Ifs seep in. What if this isn’t a good idea? What if he’s only doing this because it’s what I want? What if I can’t love him the way he needs and deserves to be loved? Steve sighed again, louder this time.
Bruce took notice and stopped delinting. “Steve, come on, you two are made for each other. There’s nothing to worry about.”
Clint nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah, you’ve been together since forever. Even now you look at each other and it’s all fireworks and little birds and shit. So just stop-”
“Guys,” Steve snapped without meaning to. “It’s a little hard to be calm when you’re trying to wrap your head around the fact that you’re marrying the son of your best friend from over seventy years ago.”
Clint looked immediately contrite, and Bruce stood up and pretended to be involved with fixing his tie. Steve felt terrible, he opened his mouth to apologize. Thor had noticed the scene and strode away from the bathroom mirror to clap a hand to Steve’s shoulder.
“I think our dear friend is getting a case of, how does the Midgardian phrase go?” Thor boomed with an all-knowing smile. “‘Butterflies in the stomach?’ Perhaps he should get some fresh air before the ceremony begins.”
“Yes,” Steve said quickly. “Thank you, I’ll just-” He stood up quickly and actually stumbled, a rare occurrence since the serum.
Bruce took one look at him and shook his head. “You haven’t eaten all day.”
“Come on big guy,” Clint put a friendly hand to his back and led him towards the door. “Take five. We’ll come get you when we have to go.” Steve nodded a thank you. He went down the hall, around the corner, and leaned against a tinted window.
Taking a few deep, cleansing breaths, Steve reminded himself that he was ready for this. He was an adult and a soldier, not a kid anymore. Even though he still felt like, blushed, and was dorky like a kid sometimes. His thoughts shifted to Bucky, as they still occasionally did, and he felt a twinge of sadness. Though he couldn’t help but laugh when he thought what Bucky would be like if he were here. All those dames I introduced you to, and you run off with Stark Junior. Real nice, Rogers. Could have told me so I could have kept those girls for myself. Help a guy out, won’t ya?
But Bucky wasn’t here, and he wasn’t going to be here. Steve had accepted that a long time ago. Bucky wasn’t going to pat him on the back, or talk to him, or pull some elaborate prank to make him laugh. Steve looked out over New York City, so changed from the one he’d known. It was the most important day of his life, and it would just be nice to have one of the first most important people in his life there to see it. That was all.
“Steve?” Clint popped his head around the corner, breaking Steve’s internal monologue. “It’s time.”
Steve looked at Clint and smiled. Bucky might not be there, neither was Howard or Peggy. But all these other people were here, just for him and Tony. He could live with that. “Okay, let’s go.”
* * *
The wedding march began to play and Thor led Steve down the aisle. Steve had to wrangle him with his free arm a little, because Thor took “marching” too seriously and the ground was shaking. Once that was settled, Steve looked over the rows of folding chairs containing their friends and all his worries flew away.
Tony was standing at the altar stock-still and slightly agape. He was looking at Steve like his face held all the secrets of the universe and more than that, there was a honest love in his eyes that Tony usually never showed in front of other people. Steve couldn’t stop smiling. It was an exact caricature of Tony; decked out in a perfectly tailored white suit, and his face a perfect mess of emotions and thoughts about to bubble over.
“You look fantastic,” Tony whispered when Steve reached the altar and was released by Thor.
“So do you,” Steve whispered back. He reached out and clasped Tony’s hands in his. Steve was so overcome by the feeling that he was going to cry or laugh or throw up from the swell of emotions he was having, he couldn’t have told you what Coulson said at the beginning of the ceremony for the life of him.
Steve was jerked out of their lovey-dovey fairyland soon enough. “Do you,” Coulson began deliberately. “Steve Rogers, take Anthony Stark in the presence of these witnesses, to be your lawfully wedded husband?”
“I do.” Coulson asked the same of Tony. Tony’s hands gripped Steve’s tightly, and Steve nearly had a heart attack. There was no way Tony would really go through with this-
“I do.” Tony smiled up at Steve, all tension leaving his face and the familiar quirk returning. Steve fought the urge to kiss him right then and there. It was all so perfect and wonderful.
“Now, could we have the rings please?” Coulson asked. This question inspired in Tony actions which would be later described crudely by Clint as “flipping his shit.” Tony spasmed and frantically searched through every pocket and crevice of his tux, until Pepper managed to grab his arm and shove the ring box in his face.
“Oh, right,” Tony muttered to himself. The guests did not contain their snickers very well. Tony turned a bit red, and glared at his shoes. Steve just shook his head and retrieved a card from his pocket. Tony looked up again when Steve grasped his left hand.
“I take you to be my husband. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, forsaking all others, as long as we both shall live.” Steve took the smaller ring from the box in Pepper’s outstretched hand, and placed it on Tony’s finger. “With this ring, I thee wed.”
“Your turn,” Coulson said expectantly. Tony cleared his throat loudly and took the card from Steve. He babbled and stammered his way through the vows, at one point saying “others all forsaking.” Steve laughed, but felt a certain amount of pride. Tony doing the Feelings thing was usually hard enough, the fact he was doing it in front of a roomful of people meant a lot.
Tony slipped the shining silver ring onto Steve’s finger, babbling some more, and Steve felt the strength of the metal. He smiled, knowing Tony had designed them specially so they wouldn’t be damaged in battle. It was a nice little surprise, but Steve had a little surprise for Tony as well.
Coulson smiled a rare, brief smile. “With the power invested in me by the State of New York, I pronounce you husband and husband. You may now kiss your new husband.”
Tony leaned forward and tilted his head a little, clearly expecting one of those chaste kisses that Steve usually gave him in public. Instead, Steve wrapped one hand across Tony’s lower back, the other behind his neck, dipped him backwards and kissed him fiercely.
As everyone clapped for the happy couple, Steve pulled back and smirked down at Tony. Tony, though dazed and giddy, looked like he was about to say something before Thor scooped them up onto his shoulders.
“A blessing on your most happy union, my dear friends and comrades!” Thor declared deafeningly as he charged down the aisle, followed by a few Asgardian friends he’d invited to the wedding.
* * *
After only a few items of furniture were damaged, Steve and Tony managed to convince Thor to please put them down, so they could go sign their marriage license. It wasn’t until they’d retreated to their bedroom to freshen up that Tony actually looked at the papers.
“Steve,” Tony called to their adjacent bathroom. “Why are there name-change papers here?”
“Oh!” Steve leaned into their bedroom and coloured a little. “Those are just for me. Since, ah, changing your name would mean rebranding all of your company, your tech, the list goes on.”
Tony knit his brows together. “But, why would you change your name? Did Clint tell you something untrue about the future again?”
“No!” Steve frowned and stepped closer to Tony. “Before I started planning the wedding you called me ‘Mr. Stark-Rogers,’ and it sounded like a good idea to me. I wanted to share that part of you.”
“Oh Steve, you didn’t have to - This wasn’t - Your name - “ Tony stopped stammering when he saw Steve’s face. He looked like a kid who couldn’t figure out what he’d done wrong. “But hey, I mean, if you want, that’s cool. I wasn’t really planning on passing on the Stark name, but it’s okay. Yeah, ‘Steve Stark-Rogers’ has a pretty nice ring to it. It’s totally fine.”
Steve’s smile returned a bit. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to spring this on you. I thought-”
“Nevermind, it’s not important. As long as you like it.” Tony leaned in to cover the awkward moment with a kiss. He ran his hands down Steve’s arms, pausing at the wrists. “Hey wait, these are Rhodey’s cufflinks. I specially made them as a graduation gift. Don’t you have the ones I gave you?”
“Yeah, but I needed these for my something-borrowed.” Tony quickly scanned Steve and noticed old army medals, new shoes, and a blue tie. He fell against Steve’s chest laughing.
“Oh god, Steve. You’re perfect, just perfect. You really are.” Tony stretched up for another kiss. He meant it too, Steve was a billion times better than all his childhood daydreams of Captain America. “I love you so much.”
Steve smiled against Tony’s lips. “I love you too. But we shouldn’t keep our guests waiting.”
“Hmm? Oh, yeah. Let’s go.” Tony took Steve’s hand and they headed out- “Thor, were you standing there this whole time?”
* * *
Tony actually had a great time at the reception.
Tony wasn’t faking it. He wasn’t putting on a brave face for Steve. He wasn’t yawning and watching the clock. He was enjoying himself, which is something he didn’t normally do at the dozens of parties and events Pepper forced him to go to.
And it didn’t even make sense. The reception was just in the living room, tables scattered against the walls with folding chairs shoved up against them. Homemade food on mismatched plates. The middle of the room left open for dancing. A small but fancy white cake with two candy grooms sat in the kitchen (Clint’s excuse for not buying them a gift, but it was delicious so Tony couldn’t complain). The music was generic and far removed from either Steve’s or Tony’s tastes. Yet Tony felt happier than perhaps he ever had.
Tony rested his head on Steve’s shoulder as they leaned against the wall, taking a break from dancing to people-watch. Jan and Hank, as well as Jessica Drew and Carol Danvers were all laughing at the Fantastic Four’s retelling of how Susan and Reed’s weddings went, and how happy Johnny was to not have to ruin another suit. Rhodey was telling Kate, Billy, and Teddy embarrassing stories of Tony’s university days, and Namor was listening in (Tony fought his exasperation, Steve had the worst taste in friends, but if it made him happy). Dr. Strange and Xavier were mingling in a corner of the room. Clint was forcing Coulson into a slow dance, Coulson was pretending he didn’t want to. Bruce and Natasha seemed to be holding a very involving conversation with T’Challa. Jane and Darcy were trying to teach Thor and Happy some dance steps before the next fast number, and bless them for trying. Tony wasn’t sure why Thor’s Asgardian friends were being so quiet in the kitchen, but he wasn’t going to go and find out.
“Where did all these people come from?” Tony couldn’t help but silently wonder at the spectacle before him. It had been nearly seven years since he had been just Tony Stark and not also Iron Man. He was alone in his workshop, alone with his money, alone with dozens of women. Well, alone except for Pepper. Pepper who was standing beside Natasha and trying to keep up with whatever war stories they were exchanging. He had been a good partner today, at some point he had to make room to be a good best friend too.
A camera flashed above their heads. “Get off the ceiling, Peter.”
“I’ve been up here this whole time!” Peter whined as swung closer to Tony and Steve’s eyeline. “You wanted a good photographer, you got a good photographer.”
“We appreciate that, Peter,” Steve cut in. “But you ought to get down and enjoy the party at some point. Not yet, though. Tony and I have one last little surprise.”
That’s how Tony and Steve ended up throwing their gaudy boutonnières to the crowd. Steve threw his to the men, and Thor caught it simply because no one wanted to get in a demigod’s way. Tony threw his to the ladies, and Pepper caught it because a genius can certainly aim behind his back. Tony smiled at his success and asked Pepper to dance. Unfortunately, Thor took this as meaning he had to dance with Steve, but Tony had business to attend to, so his new husband was on his own for that.
After niceties, and some profuse thank-you’s from Tony, a strangely comfortable silence descended on Pepper and himself. However, Tony was a professional mood-spoiler, and he decided then was as good a time as any.
“Are you happy?” Tony blurted out, causing Pepper to stumble a bit.
“Why are you asking me that right now?” Pepper arched an eyebrow. “Actually, why are you asking me at all?”
“You know why I’m asking,” Tony tilted his head in Natasha’s direction. “Did I, by any chance, cause that?”
“No, no, that didn’t come out right. It’s just you had that string of dead-end boyfriends after we broke up. I was off gallivanting with Steve-”
“Tony, you of all people-”
“And it’s just weird, okay? Not just because of our ‘unique situation,’ it would be weird for anybody. I mean, the thing with us, and then a few years later I ask you to be my best man-person and help plan my wedding to Captain America, of all people. This whole thing probably added a huge amount to the all the millions of things you have to do. And I’ve been inattentive and a bad friend, and it’s just all so weird-”
“Tony!” Pepper said firmly, cutting Tony off at last. “It’s okay. I guess it is weird, but I’m okay with weird. Honest. I’d tell you if I wasn’t.”
“Really? You’re really okay with weird?”
Pepper nodded. “And you haven’t been neglectful, Tony. We’re just both very busy for very different reasons. If you really weren’t a good friend, you wouldn’t stop to ask questions like that.”
“It’s just,” Tony unintentionally tightened his hand on Pepper’s waist. “You’re kind of really important to me, and I want you to be happy like I am. It’d be nice if I could just build something and make it happen for sure.”
“I can take care of myself. Don’t worry so much, it’s your wedding day. I am happy. Trust me, I am. ”
“Okay, I trust you.” The last few notes of the song faded out and Tony briefly kissed Pepper’s cheek. “I have to go rescue my husband from Thor’s clutches now, bye Pep.”
* * *
“I confess to being a bit baffled by this particular tradition,” Thor said, after being convinced to put Steve down yet again. “What is the significance of catching this flower that was once pinned to your jacket?”
“First of all, it’s a boutonnière,” Tony said, slightly out of breath. “Second, it’s just a superstition thing. Whoever catches it is supposed to get married next.”
Thor, in a rare silent moment, looked confused, then thoughtful, then delighted. He bounded off in Jane’s direction.
“No, dammit! Thor, get back here! My reception is not your engagement party!”
“Let him go,” Steve wrapped an arm around Tony’s waist to hold him back. “It’s about time for them too.”
* * *
The evening went on. Steve danced with Jane to celebrate her “This is just a dry run, I’ll teach him how to do it properly and we’ll try again” engagement. More socializing was had. Darcy taught the Asgardians what a conga line was, which strangely kept them entertained long enough to not cause any more destruction. More well-wishing was done. Eventually, the last of the guests trickled out the door. The Avengers and their plus-ones happily shuffled off to bed after being told clean-up could wait till tomorrow. Steve and Tony were at last left alone, snuggling and lazily perusing their unopened gifts.
“Uh, Tony,” Steve suddenly paused and stiffened. “Did Coulson bring an extra gift when he came?”
“No, he didn’t bring any-Oh!” Tony stopped nuzzling Steve’s neck and read the tag. “Oh for Christ’s sakes, is there any property I have that Fury won’t break into? I am not signing that thank-you note.”
“Come on Tony, don’t get all wound up before we go to bed.” Laughing, Steve gathered Tony up and carried him away. After a few squawks of protest, Tony settled into Steve’s arms. Bridal style, he got it, very cute. Just as long as no one saw them.
“I wanted to ask you,” Steve got out between brief kisses. “You kept asking me why I wanted to marry you, so now it’s my turn: Why did you want to marry me?”
Tony blinked. “Are we really doing this now?”
Steve gave a slight smile as they started up the stairs. “Yes, we are.”
Tony sighed melodramatically and tried to say something coherent. “I wanted to marry you because you’re...you.” He silently hoped that that one word could somehow encompass all that Steve Rogers was, is, and could be, without forcing him to actually try and summarize that.
“Very good,” Steve stopped in front of their bedroom door, and paused so he could open it without dropping Tony. “That’s why you love me, but that’s not necessarily why you married me.”
“Steve, come on-”
“Listen,” Steve closed the door with his foot, and set Tony on his feet, but kept his hands firmly on Tony’s back. “You know we didn’t have to get married. You could have said no, explained why, and we’d have continued as we were.” Tony swallowed, he didn’t miss the implications of what Steve was saying.
“You’re not a man who takes promises, serious promises lightly. A promise is why you’re Iron Man, why you changed everything in your life, why you’ve nearly died so many times. So tell me, Tony.” Steve’s voice took on a soft, desperate quality. “What is it that makes me deserve this commitment from you?”
Tony cupped a gentle hand against Steve’s face. “You never try to change me, you just make me want to be a better man.”