June 13th 2012:
The city of New York is quiet, quiet and listening to every media station available. Taxi drivers wait in their cars, playing with the radio while sports bars and clubs change the channel to the national and local news. In the Avengers Tower the main T.V. is turned on and everyone, minus two members, is sitting and watching as J. Jonah Jameson reports overseas.
“As we see here Captain America has drawn closer and closer into liberating Uganda from the infamous Joseph Kony and his army. For years families waited in fear, parents slaughter and children kidnapped. But since his contributions more and more villages have become safer and families can sleep at night, knowing that this tyrant will not be interloping in their homes.”
Widow mutes the T.V. as Spider Man spins down from his corner of the room. “It’s so weird seeing him NOT insulting super heroes.”
“Maybe it’s because Cap is not fighting some villain in a bright costume, he’s battling terrorism abroad.” Clint replies as he places his feet on the coffee table and rests against the couch. “So I’m wondering, why didn’t we go abroad to do this?”
The screen is still muted but video montages of Captain America is seen carrying wood to rebuild houses, fighting off the army, and nursing young children and their parents. The camera turns to a Ugandan who says (with subtitles) ‘Captain America is our hero! I thank God for bringing him here!’
“It was a personal thing Cap wanted to do, the Avengers have no association with this.” Bruce explains. “I mean, it’s only recently the American government allowed troops to Africa, but to SHIELD that is not its priority.”
“Besides, the day Steve left Dr. Doom launched an attack on Reed’s laboratory; we had to help him there first.” Widow adds kicking Clint’s feet from the table. Clint sticks his tongue at her and snatches the remote to change the channel, but she grabs it back to put sound on the T.V. again.
Thor watches with curiosity as their beloved hero smiles to the camera with another victory in a small village. Behind him Loki rolls his eyes and left to the kitchen to make himself a snack, finding it more occupying than watching Mr. Star Spangle Banner save a bunch of children. Logan joins the God of Mischief finding himself also bored seeing that the same news has been playing for the past month or so. “Where is the Iron Man?” Thor asks.
“In his lab as usual.” Bruce replies.
“He’s been there since Cap left.” Peter says. “Should one of us go and get him?”
Natasha shakes her head. “It’s best to leave him alone.”
Peter jumps down to stand next to Thor. On the screen a village from the south celebrates Captain America’s heroic deeds by painting a mural of the man on one of their brick buildings. The scene changes to a speech Captain gave the first day he arrived at Uganda, a sound bite basically saying “I will stay until Kony is brought down, and all of Africa will fear him no more!”
From the kitchen Loki and Logan can hear Cap’s voice echoing through with the surround sound. Logan grunts as he removes the leftover meat from the microwave. “I am still unfamiliar with your, earthly ways, but is it not important to also take care of the home front?” Loki asks.
“It should be.” The former X-man says as he stabs the brisket with a fork.
Loki gives a disgusting look at the food on his plate. “I hope you do know I’m not referring to the city.”
Wolverine tears the meat with his bare teeth “Yeah, I do.”
Just like New York the workshop stays as quiet, no ACDC playing through the speakers, no welding or fires or DUM-E extinguishing an invisible fire. The suit stays disassembled with the tools scattered around the metal table. Most of the shop is dark, except for the corner where a small couch is placed, and light is illuminating from the T.V. and Tony’s chest. He lies on the couch with a pillow under his head, an oil stained blanket and wearing Steve’s white tee-shirt, which is slightly big on Tony.
Unlike the rest of New York the T.V. is playing a different video of the blonde hero. He’s not fighting an army, he’s not helping villagers, and he’s not Captain America. On screen is Steve Rogers in a dark blue tuxedo with cake frosting on his face. The camera is a little shaky but it turns to Tony who is holding the cake and laughing, trying to put more on Steve’s nose. He too is wearing a matching tuxedo. Laughing with him Steve pulls Tony closer and plants a rough kiss on the shorter man’s lips. When they release each other they laugh again and Tony licks the frosting from Steve’s cheek. The camera man zooms on their hands revealing two matching gold rings.
Tony looks into the camera and flashes his ring, and then Steve’s. “See that girls? He’s mine now!” Steve shakes his head and picks up Tony bridal style to kiss him once again. In the background the Avenger’s threw flower petals and rice as Thor roars a mighty congratulation to the newlywed couple. The two smile at the camera once more and then it ends with the date July 4th 2010.
He finds himself very pathetic watching their wedding video but he couldn’t help it anymore. For the past four months his husband of almost two years has been in all over Uganda liberating the people from Joseph Kony’s rule. Along with the hundred troops that Congress sent out Steve volunteers to join the cause is still there. Even now Tony supports Steve’s decision with helping the cause and sends donations every week to Steve’s company to use on the people. But there is still that part of Tony, the loneliness and selfishness that begs for Steve to return home, home to America, New York… to Tony.
And it’s because of his selfishness that he hasn’t said anything to Steve about coming home. Whenever Steve has the chance he calls Tony, talking about his day and vice versa. Never once did Tony ask for him to return because the blonde hero just sounds so damn proud of what he is doing. He is Captain America, America is a beacon of light and hope, and will do anything to help other nations, no matter the sacrifice, even if it means sacrificing the ones at home.
“How do you do it?” Tony asks Clint. It has been another week (specifically the 20th), Steve is not returning home, nor has he made any phone calls.
“Do what?” The archer asks as he shoots an arrow to the target, hitting it perfectly in the center. The two are alone in the training room, Clint doing the workout while Tony watches.
He shoots another arrow, splitting his original one right down the center. “Watch Natasha leave for long periods of time, unsure if she’s ever going to return?”
Clint shoots again, this time slightly missing due to the question. He raises an eyebrow at Tony and lowers his bow. Coincidentally Natasha is not in the city, or the country, and hasn’t been for three days. SHIELD assigned her on a solo operation back in Siberia and neither SHIELD nor the Avengers have heard from her since. He sighs and runs a hand through his short hair. “Is it about Steve?” Tony nods. “It’s not easy, I can tell you that.”
The archer places his bow in the casing while he walks to the target and removes the good arrows. “But it’s her job you know? She signed up for it so it’s a sacrifice.”
“But it’s not Steve’s job to just leave and save the world.”
“No, but he did make a commitment to help and I don’t think he’ll be backing down anytime soon. The job is almost done.”
“I know it’s just that…” Tony swallows. “I haven’t seen him in so long.”
“Being deployed is difficult, knowing that the one you love is out there and not here is even harder.”
“So how do you deal with it? How do you know Natasha will be coming back, alive and okay?”
Clint shrugs. “I don’t. Every night she’s not with me I worry like hell, wondering if she’s kicking ass or being tortured. But she does return, every time, and then I laugh at myself for worrying so much. She can take care of herself and so can Steve.” Tony breathes slowly and looks away from his teammate. “He’s never been gone this long, has he?”
“He hasn’t called this week.”
“Give him some time; he’s most likely very busy.” Tony knows that Clint is right, saving the world can occupy one’s time. Yet Steve is not on a super-secret mission in the ice lands of Siberia, he’s in a public area where, even away from the city, Steve can make some form of communication with Tony. Tony tells himself he just wants to hear that Steve is safe, but he just wants to hear Steve say the words “I’m coming home.”
Five days later and there is still no call from Steve. The only way Tony knows that his husband is alive is the media, which had another ‘Captain America in Uganda’ segment on the evening news. Captain America is indeed alive and serving the people a hot meal. That’s enough for Tony to confirm that he is not dead, yet not enough to satisfy his need for his husband.
It’s past eight and Tony is alone in his room reading some of Steve’s classical novels such as the Great Gatsby and Sherlock Holmes when someone knocks on his door. He allows them to enter, somewhat surprise to find its Loki. The former villain smiled and shut the door behind him, striding inside and sitting on the bed, closer than Tony would like. “What are you reading there?”
Tony held up the red bind book with the gold letters spelling out ‘Sherlock Holmes’. “Detective novel, I like the movies but the book is good too.”
“Yes, my brother and I watched that the other night. Detective Holmes looks somewhat like you.”
The billionaire laughs. “I get that a lot.” He returns to the book but frowns when it is taken from his hand and placed at the edge of the bed. He feels Loki push him down gently and the God of Mischief is suddenly on top of him smirking.
“Now, why read when you can have some fun?” He purrs. Before Tony can protest Loki’s cold lips are already on his, pushing Tony deeper into the pillow. Tony barely struggles allowing the silver tongue of Loki’s to play with him. It’s been a while, a long- long time since he’s had any physical contact. And for a short moment he allows Loki to play with him, until he feels Loki’s fingers slide on Tony’s left hand and tug on his ring. Suddenly Tony pulls away and pushes Loki off him as he removes himself from the bed. Loki raises an eyebrow, looking more bored than offended.
“S-sorry… it’s just that…” he plays with the ring, twisting it around. Loki just shrugs.
“Yes, I didn’t expect it to go further than that. Oh well at least I tried.” He gets up and heads for the door. “But Mr. Rogers is a fortunate man, having a committed husband. He doesn’t know what he is missing.” Loki winks at him and leaves Tony alone again.
When the door shuts close tears fall out of Tony’s eyes and he falls to the ground while holding his left hand to his chest. He kissed another man, a man that was not his husband and he did it because of loneliness, out of selfishness.
He didn’t deserve Steve’s love.
That night Tony finds his self loathing pathetic and weak like he already is. Many wives of the military watch as their husbands leave for war and not return for many months. They know the sacrifice yet they commit themselves to it because they love their spouses, love them enough to wait until their return.
Tony just has to learn to do the same.
A day passes again and Tony is no where found in the mansion. No one exactly panics, seeing that the man sometimes disappears from time to time, but during breakfast Natasha, yes Natasha (who returned last night), spits out her cereal and turns up the television. On the news is not only Captain America but Iron Man joining the cause to help the people in Uganda. All eyes widen in disbelief that Mr. Genius playboy philanthropist just leaves the mansion to help save the people. Sure, he is a philanthropist but at least tell your team that you’re leaving!
They watch silently as Iron Man unmasks himself and the media is immediately in his personal bubble. But Tony just smiles and walks over to Captain America to help carry sacks of rice over his shoulder. Cap smiles widely, kisses his cheek, and the two leave to feed the children.
Iron Man stays for a week, finally finishing reconstructing three small villages, when he has to return for a business conference and then some meeting with SHIELD. Steve is, of course, disappointed that his husband has to go but accepts and gives him a final kiss for a goodbye.
Tony still wishes that Captain America would stop working and go back to being Steve Rogers, but it doesn’t happen. He is still hopeful, however, because a special day is approaching.
July 4th, 2012:
Tony is usually not a morning person; he’d rather stay in bed until noon and drag his feet to make coffee, not exactly ‘awake’ until past three. But as the sun rays beams through his room Tony slowly awakes with a smile on his lips. JARVIS kindly closes the blinds so that it is not too bright and Tony strides his way to the bathroom to take a morning shower. When he finishes the man wraps a towel around his waist and grooms his beard humming Steve’s favorite song. Putting the blade down he stares at the gold ring and his smile grows again. It has been exactly two years since they two were married. Well, not precisely two years. They were wedded around noon and Tony can tell you the exact time, date, location, longitude and latitude of their wedding because Steve is just that special. And sure, many people think ‘Of course he remembers, it’s on America’s independence day and Steve’s birthday’ but Tony can pin point every single fucking detail of their special day to prove ‘I remember because I love him.’
He remembers the night he left Uganda, he and Steve were turning in for the night as the guards watched over the village. Tony lies under Steve’s protective arm with the blonde playing with his hair. They whisper to each other and give light butterfly kisses. “A special day is coming.” Steve says to him.
“I know.” Tony smiles and kisses him again. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” Those were the last words to each other and the next morning Tony leaves for his business meeting.
But now Tony is still rejoicing. Steve remembers (of course he would, he’s Captain America) and he’s returning for their anniversary and his own birthday!
After he changed Tony slides down the staircase and begins to make phone calls for their afternoon plans. First an early dinner at Steve’s favorite restaurant (the one he went to before the war), a private sail around the harbor and finally romantic sightseeing at the Empire State Building. It will be romantic as hell.
The other Avengers are pleased to see Tony prancing around and smiling. Many of them congratulate him for his anniversary and help prepare for Steve’s return. They know that the two would enjoy some alone time and leave Tony to take care of the rest. When checking the schedule they conclude that Steve’s flight should be arriving at 3 in the afternoon, giving him two hours to prepare for dinner.
Clint insists that he will be the one to pick up Steve at the airport while Tony waits at the restaurant, and although he protests at first, Tony agrees just so it will be more of a surprise. So by five he’s at the family owned restaurant with a bouquet of roses in his hand. The owner of the restaurant knows the couple (they catered the wedding) and greets Tony with a private table in the back with candles ready. Tony orders two wines and sits and waits.
Tony is also no bent up on time (since he’s always late for his meetings) but at ten minutes he starts to look out the window for Clint’s car. He assumes heavy traffic because of the holiday weekend. Twenty minutes have gone by and the ones entering through the doors are more customers. He tells himself that the airports are very busy with delays and such, so just be patient.
The twenty minutes turns to an hour, and then two hours, three hours it’s eight. It’ still okay, fireworks can be seen from the harbor.
But now it’s nine and the first set is already firing. The customers watch in awe at the lights in the sky, yet Tony still stares down at his ring.
The manager walks up to Tony with sorrow in his eyes. Tony blinks for a moment when the man shows him news coverage on his iPad. Its live footage from Steve’s company in Uganda, he’s on a podium making a speech. “On this day, every single village has been saved but the hunt for Kony still remains. I promise that I will not leave until that man is found!” The people in the crowd cheer and the manager turns the video off. “I’m so sorry Mr. Stark.”
Tony is still staring at the blank screen, and when it’s taken away he’s looking at his ring. The manager wants to say more but the door chime jingles and Clint is running inside. He stops to see Tony looking down and the manager allows Clint to take over. “Tony, I- the flight was delayed and then Tasha told me…” Tony just shakes his head and pulls out his wallet to leave a generous amount of money on the table. He stands up and walks past Clint. The archer follows and leads Tony to his car when Tony suddenly throws the bouquet of flowers in the trashcan. “Tony?”
The suited man’s shoulders are shaking; he’s hunched over but is not saying a word. Clint steps in front of him and sees that Tony is crying. “Oh god, Tony I’m sorry.” He embraces the broken man and Tony buries his face in Clint’s chest while Clint strokes the back of his head.
At ten at night Natasha is walking down the hallway of the bedrooms where she spots Clint sitting in front of Tony and Steve’s room. She goes and sits next to him and he puts his head on her shoulder. “How is he?” she asks.
“Hurt, angry, betrayed.”
“I would never expect Steve to forget something so special.”
Clint scoffs. “Steve never forgets, but Steve isn’t here. Captain America has taken over.”
“You can’t blame a man who’s trying to help those in need.”
“Yeah? Then who do we blame?!” Clint yells standing up. “Tony for wanting his husband to come home? This Kony guy for destroying an entire country?” Gently, Natasha takes his hand to sit him back down. “Tony is hurting so much and we can’t do a damn thing about it.”For once the spy could not reply back, very unsure what to say without turning the situation from bad to worse. Although she and Clint have been together for a while she is not the best at relationships (several ex’s can tell you that) nor is she sentimental to drama. “A few weeks ago he asked me how I feel about you going out on solo operations.”
He laces his fingers with Natasha’s but turns his gaze away. “What did you say?”
“I told him I hated it, I can’t sleep at night knowing that you’re out alone with no one to back you up. But you always return and then I laugh, wondering why do I worry so much? You’re Black Widow; you can defeat an entire army if you wanted to.”
“Then why worry?”
“Because I love you, and I can’t help but worry about the ones I love.” She turns his head so that they’re facing each other and she places her red lips on his.
“I can’t believe Cap actually did that!” Peter says throwing his hands in the air. “What in inconsiderate… argh I can’t even say it!”
“Douche? Dick? Jack-ass? There’s a wide range of words for him.” Logan replies.
Peter rolls his eyes at Logan’s language but continues to rant anyway. “It’s the Fourth of July, his birthday and their anniversary! It’s not that hard to forget!”
Thor rubs his temple. “Why doesn’t Tony tell Steve that he wants his return?”
“Because Tony is not trying to be selfish.” The Avengers turn their heads to the main threshold of the living room to find Pepper standing with a jacket over her shoulders. “I’m assuming everyone heard the news?” Everyone nods.
“I do not believe it is selfish to ask one’s loved one to return home, even if it is just for a night.” Thor says.
Pepper sighs and sits on the couch. “Many have come to a conclusion that Tony is a self-absorbed business man, but he is just the opposite. Inside that playboy smile is a man trying to please everyone even if it means the sacrifice of his own happiness. When we dated he basically gave me everything I wanted.” She laughs. “He could have given me an island or a small country and all he asked in return was that I would wake up with him every morning and go to bed with him at night.”
Bruce crosses his arms and Logan snorts. “Sounds clingy and romantic.”
The red head assistant laughs. “If you get past the ‘playboy’ part of him he really is romantic… but I believe that he is desperate to not be a disappointment. His mother never looked at him, his father never said he loved him, he wanted to keep every ounce of love possible.”
“If you don’t mind answering, why did you two break up?” Peter asks.
Pepper shrugs. “The feelings were mutual. I was too busy running a company, he was being Iron Man. The feeling slipped, but we both still care for each other deeply. I do not like to see him hurt like this.”
Thor walks closer to her. “Then how can we help?”
She stares up at the demi-god with an intense look. “Bring Steve home.”
Its noon, or past two… whatever the time is the sun is up but the blinds are close and Tony wants no disturbances from anyone, not even JARVIS. For the past three days he’s been lying in bed, hasn’t eaten, barely slept, only to get up to use the bathroom. He holds Steve’s pillow to his chest and stays on Steve’s side of the bed. He is still wearing the suit, which is now wrinkled, and he continues to stare at his ring.
Did it mean anything to Steve? Because it sure meant a hell lot to Tony.
Because how could his husband just forget everything that they committed to? How does Steve forget his own country’s Independence Day, his birthday, his anniversary?
On the desk is a picture of the two on their honeymoon in Disney Land. It has been Steve’s wish to visit the theme park but they never had the chance, so to make his dreams come true they went there as civilians. No fighting, no paparazzi, just the two of them together. Tony and Steve wore the Mickey Mouse hats and held cotton candy and lollipops. Steve is smiling like a child and Tony holds him possessively.
Sitting up, Tony takes the picture and grips it tightly. He can feel the hot tears streaming down his face and with a cry he throws the picture against the wall, shattering the glass. He breathes heavily and digs his nails into the sheets, hoping to rip it apart in anger.
Tony stops breathing for a second as he turns to the door to find his beloved Steve Stark-Rogers standing at the doorway with a duffle bag over his shoulders. “S-Steve?” He turns to the broken picture and his body trembles. “S-Steve I-I didn’t… I-”
The taller man drops his bags and runs to Tony, embracing him a tight hug. Tony grips Steve by the back of his shirt and pulls him to the bed as Steve kisses his tear stained cheeks. “I’m so sorry Tony, please forgive me. I was so caught up in the cause that I-”
Tony cuts him off with a bruising kiss on the lips. Steve moans and props himself on the bed and on top of Tony to deepen the kiss. “Please don’t leave me again.” The smaller man whispers.
Steve kisses him three times, on the forehead, the nose and his lips again. “I won’t, I won’t.”
Suddenly Tony feels guilty for his selfish thoughts as he replays his conversation with Clint. Why should he worry? No matter how long Steve left he came back, back to Tony’s arms. He’s keeping Steve for himself when the world needs Captain America.
Such a selfish act.
Logan huffs as he reads the morning paper. Loki raises an eyebrow as the hairy man reads the paragraph. “An informant in contact with Libya 360° has confirmed that the Lord’s Resistance Army leader, Joseph Kony, died two years ago. He was captured during an operation sponsored and aided by US Special Forces. He was executed along with hundreds of fighters and children who had been recruited into the LRA. Hey, can’t you or Thor tell if someone is dead or not?”
Loki takes his spoon and swirls it in his coffee. “I can, but it does not matter.”
“Of course it matters; Captain America has been fighting a lost cause for no reason. Shouldn’t we tell him or Stark?”
The trickster shakes his head and joins him at the table. “I say it does not matter because even if one threat falls, another will rise. Every powerful dictator has died at one point, yet another one takes his place to bring destruction. It will only be a matter of time before another man rises to destroy you mortal lives, and Captain America will be there to stop it.”
Logan returns to his paper, but he is not reading. “And he’ll leave Stark again.”
“Most likely. The poor mortal is stuck in the fantasy that he can save the entire world. It is impossible.”
“At least he retains hope.”
Loki snorts. “Hope is an illusion. No matter how much he’ll try, evil will triumph.”
“Are you still a villain?” Logan asks raising his eyebrow.
“No, I’m just stating the facts.”
“Still doesn’t explain why Stark allows his man to leave him even when it depresses the hell out of him.”
Loki continues to stir his drink, never once drinking it. “As Ms. Potts said before, Tony is trying not to be selfish. But I do believe that it is okay to be selfish once in a while.”
Logan places the paper down and taps his fingers on the table. “Stark isn’t selfish, Rogers is by choosing the ‘good of the world’ over the man he committed himself too.”
“Selfishness is seen in different points of view. The mortals see Captain America’s deed as selflessness instead, including Tony.”
“That ‘genius’ is only hurting himself more.”
Loki only sighs. “But there is no way of stopping it. Steve will leave again when the new threat arises, and poor Tony will wait and watch.”