Tony’s eyes darted around the lab once more before he dived at the leather sofa and proceeded to roughly remove the seat cushions, throwing them haphazardly over his shoulder. They landed on the flooring with a muted thud. His curse echoed, resounded around the high walls, when he was unable to find what he was looking for.
He still didn’t understand how he could have possibly lost it. He’d only taken it off for a second – he’d been modifying an engine for his 1967 Mustang Stallion, and he was afraid it would fall into the machine and he’d be unable to retrieve it. Now, that worry just seemed silly.
The panic built up inside of him. He had to find it. He just had to. Tony had worn that ring every day for the last five years, and never once had he even thought about removing it from its home on his ring finger.
“And now you know why,” he mumbled angrily to himself.
He couldn’t imagine what would happen when Steve found out – God; he could just imagine the disappointed look on his face when he returned home to find his wedding ring missing. Tony knew how important that round piece of gold was to him, knew how much it meant to Steve that Tony was taken care of it, and he’d lost it! He could remember when he first saw it, clear as if it was happening right in front of him – how could he forget? That day had probably been the most amazing, surprising, emotional, happiest day of his life.
The metal caught the over head light, making it shine, as if winking up at him. It was laying, non-assuming, on the marble of the kitchen counter, meaning to bring him nothing but meaning, yet Tony stared at it as if it was about to suddenly grow teeth and attack his neck. He glanced upwards, catching Steve’s nervous gaze. He watched as a strong hand reached up to ruffle the fine blond hair that grew on the back of his neck, and his lips moved in an awkward ramble.
“It was my father’s,” he started, “It was his, um, wedding ring – he’d saved up for weeks to make sure the rings were perfect for him and my mother. He wanted to get them engraved, at least that’s what my mother told me, but he died before he had the chance…” he paused, as if expecting a response and when he received none, he continued on hurriedly, “…It’s all I have of him really, I’m kind of happy that S.H.I.E.L.D kept a hold of it, after all these years. When Coulson handed it to me, it was like coming home, you know…b-but you’re my home, Tony. I know that now. I’m not…really happy until I’m with you, and well, I know it’s a big step and you have every right to say no, but it would really mean a lot to me if you would accept this a-as…as my…”
“As your…husband?” Tony squeaked out the end of the sentence.
Steve’s smile faltered at the sides slightly, “Y-yes, as my husband. I would like you to be my husband.”
Tony’s tongue felt heavy in his mouth, stopping any kind of reply that would have otherwise escaped his mouth. The words seemed to ring in his ears, and yet he still couldn’t believe them. It just seemed completely unreal, like dreams he had as a child, when he desperately hoped for someone to want to spend time with him, especially when his father always seemed to be ‘too busy’ to see him. His mind ran through the equations, trying to find some line of logic in the request, but it only seemed to come out blank.
“You, Steve Rogers, Captain America, the biggest national hero since, well, you, wants to…marry me, Tony Stark, Iron Man, the most infamous billionaire since the dawn of time according to People magazine…” he spoke slowly, as if looking for the catch.
Steve clutched his hands in front of his lap. “Yes Tony, I want to marry you. That is, if you want me.”
“That’s not the problem. It’s obvious why I would want you – who wouldn’t?” Tony blurted, “But why would you want me as your life partner, to spend the rest of your life with?”
“If you don’t want to get married, just say so. It was a stupid question anyway, I should of…” the blond shook his head, the end of the sentence trailing off into a sigh, and he reached out to reclaim the small ring.
But Tony got there first.
The band was cradled in the palm of his hand, seeming dwarfed in contrast, and he could hardly believe that it was begin enough to fit on anyone’s finger. He glanced upwards, through strands of hair that had flopped forward over his eyes, and saw Steve staring at him intensely, as if waiting to see what Tony would do next.
The man took in a shaky breath. “…Are you sure?” he questioned softly.
Steve nodded sharply. “Never more sure of anything in my life,” he replied honestly.
“I guess that settles it then,” Tony sighed slightly, slipping the ring on his finger. He admired it for a moment, his heart pounding in his chest, and the knowledge that it felt so natural, so right, seemed to only increase the thudding.
He watched as the larger, paler hair slide over his own, fingers brushing the cold band, and allowed himself to be tugged into a hard embrace. He shivered when Steve pressed his face against his neck, planting kisses to the skin he could reach, and he held on tighter when he felt the hot air brush the shell of his ear as Steve whispered, “thank you, thank you” as if it were a promise that he just couldn’t break.
Tony shook himself out of his reverence. No, concentrate! He scolded himself, turning back to survey the room. His feet tapped hurriedly on the floor and he ran nervous hands through his hair. He forced his mind to think back to where he last saw the ring, where he could have possibly left it, and became even more frustrated as he came back blank. Once again, he cursed loudly.
“JARVIS, are you sure you haven’t seen my wedding ring?” he asked his AI for the hundredth time.
“I’m sure, Master Stark. I have no knowledge of where your ring could be,” the polite, English voice responded instantly.
“Yeah, I still don’t understand that. You can tell when Peter’s sick before even he does, but you can’t tell me the last time you saw a ring,” the man’s eyes narrowed.
“I am sorry, sir. You, of course, were the one to design my programs,” JARVIS answered, sounding anything but apologetic.
“Remind me to reprogram you if Steve doesn’t make me his punching bag before hand,” he mumbled the request, half-joking and half-serious. He sighed loudly, his shoulders lumping and he continued dejectedly. “What am I going to do?”
“About what, Daddy?”
Tony whirled around at the little voice and couldn’t help smiling through his distress at his four year old son. The toddler was wearing his Captain America pyjamas that Uncle Phil had given him, his feet bare, and he was clutching the arm of his favourite toy – a bear called Mouse, for some odd reason. He’d been home with the flu recently, and it showed on his face with his red nose and flushed cheeks, and his mass of brown hair was even more of a mess than usual. Tony stepped forward to sweep the small boy into the air, holding him high against his chest, and despite his condition, Peter grinned widely.
“What are you going to do, Daddy?” he questioned, tilting his head slightly.
Tony sighed, shoulders slumping. “I don’t know, son,” he said slowly, “Papa gave Daddy this ring, okay, and it means a lot to him – to both of us actually – and now I can’t find that ring. I’m just…worried about what Papa will say when he gets back. He might be angry.”
“Papa won’t get angry because you lost something,” Peter responded automatically, the serious expression on his face suggesting that he knew that from experience, “He’d get mad if you lie though. Papa said you have to always tell the truth.”
Tony’s lips twitched into a smile. “And your Papa’s right, as always. And you know that Papa and I will always be there for you, regardless of how bad the truth is, right?”
“Like if I break the coffee machine?” he questioned curiously, eyes wide with childlike innocence.
“Yes, like if you break the coffee machine,” Tony agreed, not really ready to have that particular conversation with his four year old. He had years before he had to worry about that – at least, he hoped he did.
“I promise Daddy,” Peter agreed, holding up two fingers, like he had seen his Daddy do so many times.
“Good boy,” Tony whispered, pressing a kiss to his forehead. He pulled back frowning, “You’re still hot. Go back to bed, and I’ll bring you up some medicine in a minute, okay? I just want…one last check…”
Peter nodded obediently. “Yes Daddy.”
“Peter? Is that you? Did Daddy let you use the phone?”
“No, I asked JARVIS to call you for me because Daddy’s upset.”
“Why would Daddy be upset?”
“He thinks you’re going to be mad at him because he can’t find the ring. He was really upset and I wanted to tell him, but I kept it a secret, like you said.”
“Good boy Peter.”
“Will you be home soon?”
“Yes, I think another 30 minutes and then I’ll be back at home. Do you think you can keep Daddy busy until then? We don’t want him getting upset again, right?”
“Daddy can read to me!”
“Good idea, kiddo. And remember, don’t tell Daddy.”
“Don’t tell Daddy.”
“Love you Peter.”
“I love you too Papa.”
Tony carefully and quietly closed the bedroom door behind him, leaving it open ajar, and sighed heavily. He loved his son, he really did, and he would do anything for him – but there was really only so many times he could read ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’ or ‘Winnie the Witch’ before he was fully prepared to suit up and blast a hole through the pages (and he was sure he would of, if Peter didn’t love the stories so damn much). It had taken what seemed like forever for the boy’s eyelids to finally droop and for his breathing to even out.
But now he was asleep, and that left Tony to worry about what he was going to tell Steve. He’d lost the ring – that was a simple fact. He’d practically ripped his lab apart trying to find the gold band, and turned up with nothing. Not even JARVIS had the ability to tell him where it could have possibly gone, although he did still find that suspicious. He supposed he go for another look, rummage through the mess he had created by pulling papers and cushions from all corners of the room, but when JARVIS voice broke through the silence of the hallway to announce that “Master Rogers is home”, he knew he had run out of time. So instead, he sighed in resignation and slowly plodded his way towards the front of the house.
Tony watched silently from the doorway to the living room, as Steve rested a collection of bags on the end of one of the sofas before he turned around. The blond’s smile was wide, welcoming and pleased to see him, and it was a struggle for Tony to return the greeting. He allowed Steve to lean down and press a kiss to his lip, barely returning it.
“Hey,” he croaked out, “How was your day on the town?”
“Good, I only got recognised by a few kids this time,” Steve responded. He eyed his partner curiously, “Is everything alright?”
“No, I mean, well, yeah, but no, I don’t…” Tony sighed heavily, “Look Steve, I’m so sorry, but I lost your father’s ring. I took it off for just a moment I swear, because I was working on that engine and I didn’t want it to come loose and fall into one of the gears or something – but I never should have taken it off. I have no idea where I could have put it or where it could have gotten to – I practically destroyed my lab trying to find it, but I can’t, and I’m sorry. I know how much it meant to you and it meant – it means a lot to me that you trust me with it, and I destroyed that completely and I would understand completely if you’re angry or hate me or something similar to those emotions because of it...but would you please say something?”
Steve stared at him for a moment, as if he couldn’t quite decide what emotion he should allow to completely consume him. He didn’t say anything as he turned around and retraced his steps to the bags. Tony watched desperately, feeling a little confused and worried, as the blond searched through the plastic and paper carriers. Finally, he pulled a small, purple velvet covered box and clasped it in his hand. He stared down at it for a moment before he returned to Tony’s side, and held his hand open so the box fell into Tony’s out stretched palm.
Steve inclined his head. “Open it,” he ordered softly.
Tony hesitated, examining the other man closely, before he allowed himself to open the box in his hand.
And there it was.
Nestled between some foam arches, his missing ring was resting snugly. It seemed cleaner than he remembered it to be, and he couldn’t stop the breath of relief, his heart stuttering slightly, that it was there and not lost. His eyebrows furrowed in confusion – why did Steve have his ring? He inclined his head upward questioningly.
A small smile played on his lips. “It was supposed to be a surprise, for our anniversary. To be honest, I didn’t think you’d notice – you usually don’t with this sort of thing, but I guess that just means how much our relationship means to you,” he seemed especially pleased with this information, “There was a jewellers in town that does engravings – go on, take a look.” He encouraged.
Tony carefully removed the gold band from the container, rising it up slightly so the overhead lights could reflect onto the inside. The cursive writing caught the light.
“I swap my heart for yours,” he read quietly.
“Surprise,” Steve responded, rising his hands half-heartedly.
“Steve, I…” he trailed off, not entirely sure what to say.
“I…it was the right thing to do…right? I mean, you do like it?” the blond clasped his hands together nervously. He had been struggling to find something that Tony would appreciate for their anniversary, and he knew it would be difficult to beat last year – he was sure that nothing would beat the day that Peter became officially a part of their dysfunctional family. Steve had remembered what his mother had said, about the engraving and how much she wished there was something more for her to hang onto. A message inside the ring just seemed…right, he guessed. He’d even had his done was as well. I’ll surrender up my heart, he remembered as he rubbed his fingers across the cool surface of the metal. He wasn’t sure what kind of reaction he had hoped for, but he was sure it would be more than just silence, and what seemed to make it worse is that he couldn’t for the life of him, read the expression on Tony’s face.
“N-no, Steve, this is…” he trailed off again. He read the inscription one more time before he let it slide back onto his finger. “I just…thank you…” he breathed out, closing the distance between them and pressing a firm kiss to his lips.
Steve’s arms slide around Tony’s waist, and a pleased noise rumbled at the back of his throat. The cold press of the ring chilled the skin on Steve’s jaw seemed so much more prominent, so much more obvious, than he remembered it to be. It was surprisingly overwhelming for such a small piece of jewellery. Wanting Tony to feel the same, large hands slide under his black vest top and pushed firmly against the small of his back, drawing them closer and allowing him to feel the shudder that broke across the older man’s body at the sudden heat change.
They pulled apart slowly, sharing small, chaste, open mouth kisses that faded into just closeness. Tony panted heavily, and nuzzled his face into the crook of Steve’s neck. Head resting in place, he raised his hand up to eye level so he could admire it. Although it looked the same as ever, he seemed so much different now. Like it was something new. Like it was really his ring, rather than something he had inherited.
“Thank you Steve, I’m sorry I ruined your surprise,” he mumbled his reply, “Although, just for future reference, just so I don’t wreck half the house, you should probably let me know before you take my ring again.”
Steve laughed, his chest vibrating. “I don’t plan to ever take that ring off your ring again.”
Tony pressed a kiss to the first piece of skin he could reach. “Good…” he muttered.