You’re not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you.
Steve’s words echo around the inside of his head, because in the end, Tony had been that guy, flying a nuke through a hole in space, with no hope of survival. Steve knows exactly what kind of character that takes, because he’s done the same thing, and he feels the dull burn of shame that he’d misjudged Tony that badly.
Tony—who he’d thought was all flash and no substance, who was nothing like his father, who always had a ready quip and seemed to take nothing seriously.
The truth is, Tony reminds him just a little of Bucky, with his good looks and charm, and he probably surpasses Howard Stark in sheer genius. And Tony also reminds Steve of everything he isn’t, or hadn’t been—handsome, rich, smooth, with the whole world at his feet.
It had been easier to believe that Tony was nothing without his suit, and instead he’d lain down on that wire.
So, it’s up to Steve to apologize, because a good leader knows his men, and what they’re capable of, and how far to push them. And Steve wants to make things right between them, to thank Tony for being that guy.
Steve hates eating crow, but he’s big enough to admit when he’s wrong.
Stark Tower is still in the reconstruction phase, filled with workmen and the smell of drywall plaster. There’s a pretty girl sitting behind the reception desk in the lobby, and she smiles brightly as Steve approaches. “Captain Rogers! You can go right on up.”
Steve is a little surprised by how easy that is, but he nods and smiles pleasantly, taking the elevator up to Tony’s private floor after the computer recognizes his voiceprint.
That still makes Steve uncomfortable—the technology, what they can do now, what people have at their fingertips. He’s getting used to it, though, just like he’s getting used to the fact that everybody he knew is dead.
Tony’s place is even more high-tech, and when he steps out into Tony’s living quarters, Steve sees Tony and Bruce studying a holographic model of—something. Their shoulders are touching, as though they have no regard for personal space, and as he watches, Tony touches Bruce’s forearm and moves something on the hologram.
Bruce nods and bumps Tony’s shoulder with his own.
Steve is forcibly reminded of his relationship with Bucky, how close they’d been. He envies that intimacy, as it’s something he hasn’t found here yet.
He clears his throat, and they both turn. “Hey, look who’s here,” Tony says jovially. “You got a new enemy for us to face?”
“No,” Steve replies. “Actually, I wanted to talk to you.”
He knows he probably should say this in front of Bruce, since he’d taken Tony down a peg in front of everybody, but he can’t. He needs for this to be private.
Maybe especially because Bruce has been so polite and even-tempered—unless he’s the Hulk, and that’s another matter—another person—entirely.
“I have a thing in the lab,” Bruce says. He touches Tony’s arm. “Call me if you need me.”
Bruce nods at Steve as he leaves, and Steve shifts awkwardly.
“What did you want to talk about?” Tony asks briskly. “I’m a busy man.”
Steve squares his shoulders. “I wanted to say I was sorry.”
Tony raises his eyebrows. “For what? Being a giant Boy Scout?”
Steve frowns. “I wasn’t a Boy Scout.”
Tony shakes his head. “Now, that surprises me.”
“It’s about what I said on the Helicarrier, about sacrificing yourself.”
Tony shakes his head. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Don’t call me that,” Tony snaps. “It’s like you’re talking to my father.”
Steve nods. “Tony, then. I came to apologize.”
Tony waves a hand and turns back to his model. “Apology accepted, we’re good, thanks for coming by, etcetera.”
“I misjudged you, and I’m sorry.”
Tony looks at him. “You think I did that for you? Or that I care what anybody thinks about me?”
“You saved the world,” Steve protests.
“I saved it for Pepper,” Tony insists. “And Bruce, and a few others.”
Steve is frustrated now; he’d expected his apology to go a little more smoothly. “I don’t see why you have to be so difficult.”
“That’s kind of what I do,” Tony shoots back. “Ask anybody.”
Steve glares at him. “I don’t need confirmation.”
At that, Tony offers a quick, sincere grin. “Then we’re on the same page. Look, seriously, forget about it. It’s no big deal. You want something to drink?”
He knows better than to push Tony any further. “You got a Coke?”
“I’ll grab one,” Tony says. “Make yourself at home.”
He ducks out and Steve shoves his hands in his pockets, wandering around the room, which has clearly undergone major repairs. The smell of fresh paint lingers, and there’s still a Loki-sized dent in the floor, but the glass has been replaced and the walls are whole.
Steve hears footsteps behind him, and he half-turns to see Bruce drift in with a bottle of Coke in hand. “Tony got called away,” he explains, holding it out to Steve. “He said he’d be done in fifteen minutes if you want to wait.”
“Does he want me to wait?” Steve asks wryly.
Bruce smiles, drinking from a bottle of water. “He won’t mind, as long as you don’t try to apologize again.”
“I thought apologizing was a good thing,” Steve mutters.
Bruce shakes his head. “Steve, Tony might do heroic things, but doesn’t think of himself as a hero.”
“That’s the whole point,” Bruce continues, ignoring his protest. “As far as Tony’s concerned, he’s just a guy with a terrible privilege. He’s not going to claim to be more than that. He never has.”
Steve frowns. “He sacrificed himself.”
“Yeah, and he’d do it again.” Bruce shrugs. “But what his motivations are, what you call him, what you think about him—none of that matters.”
“So, I shouldn’t apologize.”
Bruce grins. “Well, he certainly isn’t going to, and I remember he had a few choice words for you.”
“I misjudged you, too,” Steve admits.
Bruce raises his eyebrows. “You gonna try calling me a hero?”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Steve replies and takes a long drink of Coke, finishing it off. “I think I keep seeing his father, you know? I see a lot of people I know are gone.”
Bruce offers a sympathetic grimace. “I think that’s pretty normal. You get to know more people, that will change.”
They share a moment of companionable silence, before Tony walks in, asking, “Are you still here?”
“I can leave,” Steve offers.
Tony waves the offer off. “You want to stay for dinner? I think we’re having pizza.”
Bruce raises his eyebrows. “I thought I was cooking.”
“Were you?” Tony asks. “Pepper wanted to be here when you cooked.”
“Pepper will be here,” Bruce says. “Remember?”
“That’s not tomorrow?” Tony asks. “Jarvis, wasn’t that tomorrow?”
“Dr. Banner is correct,” the disembodied voice reports. “Miss Potts will arrive in approximately three hours.”
Steve feels as though he’s intruding. “Maybe I should go.”
“You should stay,” Bruce insists. “You can help me chop vegetables for the curry. Tony isn’t allowed in the kitchen anymore.”
“There was one fire!” Tony protests “Just one!”
“Same rule still applies,” Bruce says evenly.
Tony sighs theatrically. “Fine. Steve, you’d probably better stay. I hope you can handle a knife.”
“Yeah, I think I can do that much,” Steve agrees, and takes a seat at the bar. “If you don’t mind the company.”
“Stay,” Bruce insists quietly.
“Yeah, stay,” Tony says. “The curry is worth the effort.”
“No effort for you,” Bruce points out.
Tony smirks. “I might help if you hadn’t banned me from the kitchen for one measly fire.”
“I think that might have been Pepper,” Bruce says mildly.
Steve relaxes, listening to their banter, so similar to what the guys in his unit had shared, and feels just a little bit more at home.