Three months after Steve wakes up, the world needs saving again.
Apparently, it's a twice-a-year kind of thing, which Steve wasn't aware of, but he's not exactly going to ask questions when there's a guy with a doomsday device threatening to detonate said doomsday device, unless they- unless they- okay, at this point, Steve is kind of distracted, because everyone else shows up.
'Everyone' being the Avengers, who all look surprised to see each other, before slipping back into superhero mode and kicking the living shit out of 'Doctor Doom,' or whatever the heck he calls himself.
Steve finds himself grinning, despite everything, because god, he didn't realize how much he's missed this- having someone to back him, people to fight around, getting caught and pulled to his feet.
Hell, even Stark's quips make his mouth quirk upwards slightly.
The fight doesn't last long, and it ends with 'Dr. Doom'- and Steve suppresses the sigh at that, because who voluntarily calls themselves 'Doctor Doom,' really- surrendering, which is a welcome surprise.
Clint clicks his bow back into place. “Wow. You really don’t give up, huh?”
Doctor Doom- and come on, Steve is never not going to despair over humanity at that- glowers, and lifts his chin under the mask. “I will be free in a matter of weeks, scum. Mark my words.”
“Whatever, Doomy-woomy.” Clint chucks him under the chin. “We should really start having dinner dates. I’m free next Tuesday, if you want to escape then-”
“Don’t taunt the evil mastermind, Barton,” Coulson’s voice comes from the comm.
“Whatever you say, sir,” Clint says back, and then: “Okay, not that I’m not glad to see you guys again, but what the hell are you doing here? Hey, Tasha.”
“Hey,” Natasha replies. “Fury called me in. He said this was a solo mission, but obviously he might have stretched the truth a bit.”
Tony cocks an eyebrow. “Good ol’ Nicky-poo? Well, I never. How dare you suggest that he would lie to us like that, when we trust him so deeply-”
“Fuck you, Stark,” Fury’s voice comes in over the comm, deadpan as ever.
Tony grins. “Aw, shucks. In a matter of fact, gee willikers and golly gee.”
He sniffs, and flips the faceplate up. “Sorry. Cap seems to be having an effect on me.”
“Nice to see you, too, Stark,” Steve says, and surprise flickers across Tony’s face before the trademark smirk is back, full-blown.
“And I don’t say ‘gee willikers.”
“But you do say ‘golly gee’? Because I was joking, Christ, Cap, we need to get you caught up on this century’s swears. Okay, first, there’s ‘fu-‘”
“-dge,” Steve cuts him off, glaring. “Is this really the time to lecture me on cussing, Stark?”
Tony blows air crassly through his lips. “Weeeeeell, since Fury hasn’t said, ‘I guess you’re wondering why I called you all here today’ yet-”
“Don’t push it,” Fury says. “I wanted to test that you still work well together. Now that I’ve seen you do-”
“You couldn’t have rang us up, asked us nicely, hey, remember those dudes you saved the worlds with a few months back-”
Fury says, “Stark, I will fly this goddamn Helicarrier down and sink my fist into your teeth,” and Tony holds up his hands, sighing melodramatically.
Steve bites the inside of his cheek to stop him from laughing, and why the hell is he enjoying this so much?
He knows the answer, distantly- too many nights walking through Brooklyn, or putting off walking through Brooklyn, or noticing something that was there 70 years ago and having it ache just as much as something that wasn’t there 70 years ago, like a bakery that’s still a bakery, or a bakery that got demolished and turned into a crappy hotel in the 80s.
And it hurts, it does, and he thinks it’s always going to hurt- that full, physical pain in his chest, sinking into his stomach, because he had only closed his eyes for a few seconds and the world has grown around him while he wasn’t looking, into something blinding and flashy and fast that Steve doesn’t even think he wants.
“We’d like you all to become a team again,” Fury says, and his voice crackles from a bad connection. “Full-time. Would you be able to handle that?”
“I think you can find a place, Stark. I’ve seen the blueprints.”
Tony mutters something that Steve doesn’t catch, and Fury says, “And Cap would be the leader, of course.”
Of course. “Thank you, sir.”
“Not doing it for your benefit, Captain. Are you all in on this?”
Clint shrugs. “I got nothing on.”
“I’m in,” Natasha says.
“I would be honoured to continue to fight in such a team,” Thor says, clapping a hand to his chest and making Steve imagine a blonde orangutan. “I accept.”
“Hrrrrrrg,” says Hulk, and Tony hooks a thumb at him. “Bruce says yes. And I graciously, selflessly-”
“We’re in,” Steve interrupts.
Clint rocks back and forth on his heels. “O-kaaaay! Now that that’s all settled, where the hell are the SHIELD agents to pick up our old friend Dr. Doom here?”
Steve manages not to roll his eyes- Doctor goddamn Doom, honestly, he’s never going to get over this- and catches Tony’s gaze as he does, who is smirking almost knowingly.
Steve’s mouth twitches, and he shrugs slightly, just a tiny shift of his shoulders.
“Well, it is a stupid name,” he says quietly.
He thinks he hears Natasha snorting on the other side of him, but when he looks up, her face is impassive.
“They’ll be there in a minute, hold your positions,” Fury says.
“Yesserrie,” Clint salutes sloppily, before looking up at the others. “Sooooo. Have you guys done anything interesting since we saved the world from an alien invasion, almost died a billion times, defeated a demigod, and looked fucking spectacular while doing all of it?”
“I learned how to knit,” Natasha deadpans, sliding her knives back into their holsters, and Tony makes a sound that might be a laugh if he wasn’t trying so hard not to let it turn into one.
She looks at him with raised eyebrows. “I also learned a few dozen ways to kill someone with a knitting needle.”
“I spent much time with the fair Jane,” Thor says, and when he smiles, it’s nothing like the broad grin that Steve is used to: it’s soft, almost shy. “It greatly humbles me to be in her presence. I would not exchange it for the world.”
“Good for you, big guy,” Bruce says from behind him, holding up his pants with both hands. “I mean, now that you’re the, uh. Big guy.”
Tony flicks his hand at him, half-waving. “Hey, Bruce. I might have possibly signed you up to the Avengers.”
“So I heard,” Bruce says, practically drowning in his fistfuls of pants, which seem to have stretched enormously while Hulk-ing. “Good to see everyone again.”
“Likewise,” Natasha says, her lips curving upwards. “So, Stark. Where is it you’re going to be keeping us?”
Tony brings a metal hand around to scratch at his head. “I might have a place picked out.”
Steve, unsurprisingly, doesn’t have much to pack to bring to the tower.
Avengers Tower, apparently, which Tony had neglected to mention.
He only has to pack one suitcase- his clothes, which barely fill the bottom of the suitcase; along with his toiletries, and his shield.
“You know,” Tony says, when he looks up from his phone and sees the single suitcase that Steve’s carrying out to the car, “I could take you on a shopping spree. That is pitiful. You have, what, two shirts? One for winter and one for summer?”
Steve lets Happy take his suitcase from him and pop open the boot. “Three, actually.”
Tony opens his mouth, before catching sight of what’s probably a too-loose smile on Steve’s face.
He finds himself remembering talking to Tony on the Helicarrier, after Coulson had been declared ‘dead’- Fury hadn’t said sorry afterwards, but Coulson had almost tripped over his IV apologizing- and how Tony’s voice had curled into itself, how his entire frame had shifted into something defensive and broken, almost, when he had said, I’m not a soldier.
Then the careful re-adjustment, the drop of his eyes, the lowering of his voice, trying to keep everything under control: I’m not marching to Fury’s fife.
Me neither, and Steve remembers the words had tasted waxy under his tongue, bright and bold and rolling away before he can stop them.
Tony closes his mouth again, and then: “We’re bantering?”
“Yes, Tony, we’re bantering." Steve bites down on a smile, and nods to Happy, who is closing the boot. “Thanks, Mr. Hogan.”
Happy- true to his name- grins. “No problem, sir. And call me ‘Happy.’”
Steve nods again, and Happy might bounce a little as he walks to the other side of the car to the driver’s seat.
Tony clicks his tongue, pushing himself off of the bumper. “Okey-dokey, artichoke-y! Let’s go harass some paparazzi.”
“No,” Steve says, reaching for the door handle, and from inside the car, he can hear Bruce’s muffled, “Just get in the car, Tony.”
Tony pouts. “You never let me have any fun,” he says, and slides into the car next to Steve. “Drive, Happy.”
“Oooh, waitwaitwait,” Tony says suddenly, and Happy glances at him in the rear-view mirror.
“Detour,” Tony says. “5th Avenue. We need to get Steve some actual clothes. Maybe another shirt, if I’m feeling generous, so he can have one for each season.”
“Steve,” Tony says, turning to him. “Come on. Shirts. Pants. Shoes. Underwear. Even superheroes need clothing. We can get you something star-spangled!”
“No,” Steve says flatly, and gets the feeling that he’s going to have to say that too much in the near future, because Tony’s going to say things like this a lot.
It sounds more appealing than it should be.
“It’s easier if you just give in,” Bruce says. “If he buys you something with rhinestones on it, just ignore him.”
“Pleeeeease,” Tony begs. “Come ooooooon. Billionaire taking you on a shopping spree. People would literally kill for this.”
Steve holds his gaze for a few seconds, and tries not to let his mouth tick upwards when Tony pushes his bottom lip out.
There’s something beating around in his throat, and he doesn’t realize what it is until he runs through what Tony had said-
Steve. He had called him Steve, twice, and he hasn’t done that before.
Don’t get him wrong, he’s used to everyone calling him ‘Cap,’ but it only hit him when a new SHIELD recruit had paused while talking to him, and asked him what his actual name was.
Sometimes- most of the time- he thinks that Captain America doesn't leave any room for Steve Rogers.
“Fine,” he says finally, his voice more steady than he thinks it should be.
Tony’s grin is like the tide coming in, and Steve doesn’t want to put a name to the swell that swims through his gut when Tony’s eyes crinkle.
He recognizes it, though, and it makes him remember another set of brown eyes.
He’s good at this- adjusting, he means. Adapting. Taking what he gets, and rolling with it, and being attracted to men- being allowed to be attracted to men, and Howard’s son, no less- is just another one of the things he has to get used to, along with 3D movies and bikinis.
Tony is talking again, and Steve’s not sure what about, because he’s still grinning, and his eyes have this light behind them.
Steve loses himself in it for seconds at a time before grabbing hold of something- the car going over a pothole, the sun hitting the window.
Tony talks, and Steve breathes in hard through his nose.
“I’m awesome, everyone bow down and worship me.”
Steve looks up, but Natasha continues to flip through her magazine.
Tony is standing with his arms held out like a superstar, both hands curled in peace signs, and a pair of pants draped over his shoulder.
Steve leans back in his chair. “Yeah? Why’s that?”
“I,” Tony declares, with hands still aloft, “have successfully managed to make Bruce pants that won’t get ripped to hell when he Hulks out.”
“Oh, thank god,” Bruce shouts from the other room, and then he’s half-running into the lounge with his glasses askew across his nose.
He grabs the pants that Tony holds out, and shoves his face into them.
“In the past two years, I’ve developed a new appreciation for pants,” he says, his voice muffled in the fabric.
Tony claps him on the back. “We’re all ecstatic to not have to see your giant green jiblets on every mission, buddy.”
“Hallelujah,” Clint says, and Steve looks up.
Clint waves lazily at him from the rafters, and Steve only hesitates for a moment before waving back, albeit slowly.
“Uh,” Steve says. “Is-?”
“You’ll get used to it,” Natasha says, never looking up from her magazine. “It’s a thing. Like Tony’s endearing habit of not sleeping until he is literally dragging himself everywhere.”
Tony waves her off. “Lies and slander.”
“Truth,” Bruce says.
“Falsities,” Tony shoots back. “I am shocked and appalled by those accusations, and will take your shiny new pants away if you continue.”
From the doorway, Coulson stares at them all and looks like he’s internally forcing himself not to slam his head against the wall.
“Avengers,” he nods, with an air of I don’t get paid enough for this shit. “Just checking up on you.”
Tony flashes his teeth at him. “Aw, how sweet! Ickle Coulson-”
“And now that I checked on you,” Coulson talks over him, “I’m going to go back to SHIELD and catching up on the paperwork from all the property damage that you guys caused yesterday.”
He turns, and Clint drops down, ducking into a ninja roll, before lunging and grabbing the remote from Steve’s knee. “Wait!”
Coulson turns enough to give him a dry glare.
Clint waves the remote, and starts flipping down through the channels. “Forgive me if I’m wrong, sir, but isn’t this the time of day for-”
He stops clicking the remote, and the TV screen switches to a close-up of three crying kids and a woman wearing a tight dress-suit and glasses that she doesn’t need.
“-Supernanny?” Clint finishes expectantly.
Coulson looks at him. Clint looks back.
The staring contest lasts for about eight seconds, before Coulson shifts his jaw from side to side and turns on his heel again, walking out. “I’m taping it at home.”
“You’ll give in eventually,” Clint calls after him.
Nine days since moving into Avengers Tower, there hasn’t been any need to suit up.
It’s actually quite nice- Steve gets a lot of reading done. He ploughs through The Book Thief in four hours, sitting on the roof and going down for a cucumber sandwich once or twice.
It’s a good book. A great one, even, and Steve hasn’t read anything like it before. They certainly didn’t publish books like these in the forties.
Heck, Steve’s pretty sure people didn’t write books like these in the forties- books which first sentences were, here’s a small fact: you are going to die.
It sticks with him when he’s showering the next day, when he’s slicing a tomato for breakfast, when he’s looking out over the same city that he looked out over when he was a kid and not seeing any resemblance between the two.
And not just because it was narrated by Death like he was corporal, like he was human- human, with a sympathetic ear, with arms and colours and too many years under his belt.
Not just because it was set where he left from- Nazis marching, parents dead and dying, wordshakers and skinny Jews and ‘safe’ blonde hair and blue eyes that Steve coincidentally has.
It’s ironic- Hitler would have loved him, Steve’s sure, if he had just seen a picture and nothing else.
He reads the book, and re-reads it the next day, and thinks back to grey uniforms and teachers who called him by his last name and didn’t let him sit out for gym class.
For some reason, he misses his old church- the stained glass windows that caught the flow of the light and flooded it onto the carpet until Steve thought he’d drown in it.
The night he re-reads it, Tony corners him and says, too fast: “Because apparently you’re a regular bookworm now, Cap,” and pushes a different book into his hands.
“’The Diary of Anne Frank,’” Steve reads aloud. “What’s this about?”
Tony shrugs uncomfortably, rocking back and forth. “It’s, uh. I don’t know why I. Uh. You can choose not to read it if you want, it’s just-”
“Elaborate,” Steve says.
Tony squirms. “It’s a diary. Like, an actual diary that they found. From the second world war. Some chick hiding under a staircase or something, I don’t know the details. She’s sort of a legend nowadays, I guess.”
Steve blinks at it. “Oh. Okay. Thanks, Tony.”
“No problem,” Tony says, looking like he’s prepared to fling himself out of the nearest window.
Steve tucks the book under his arm, making a mental note for tomorrow. “And thanks for the other book, I really enjoyed it.”
“Hmm? Oh, that. I never got a chance to read it.”
“You should. It’s great.”
“I’ll see if I can clear my schedule. I’m a busy man.”
“I’m aware,” Steve says, and Tony’s laugh is too relieved.
Twenty-two days, and Steve is more relaxed than he’s been in a while.
The others, however, don’t seem to share his enthusiasm.
Clint groans loudly as he flops down onto the couch. “I’m boooooored. There’s nothing to dooooo. I haven’t blown anything up in a three weeeeeks.”
“Small pleasures,” Natasha says, slinging her feet up onto the coffee table.
“I agree with the Hawk,” Thor says, standing. “We should all-”
Tony nudges him out of the way and toes his shoes off as he slides next to Natasha. “Sit down, shut up, and don’t blow any of my shit up?”
“That’s boooooring,” Clint drawls, spinning his bow around on his wrist in a way that Steve is sure isn’t good for it.
Bruce glances at him over his coffee cup. “I think it’s nice to not have to wake up naked in rubble every couple of days.”
“Pshhhh.” Clint dangles his hand around on his wrist at him. “That’s loser talk. I love waking up naked in rubble. Lets me know that it’s going to be an interesting day. Hey, what the hell were you and Stark getting up to before we came along, anyway?”
Bruce sips at his coffee before placing it down onto a coaster with a drawing of an arc reactor carved into it. “Watch the Olympics, mostly.”
“The start of the Olympics,” Tony corrects him. “I watched for the 40-foot Voldemort and the Queen skydiving. After that, it was just guys in speedos and sweaty teenagers trying to vault over a horse. Natasha would blow them all out of the water. Literally, if Clint came along.”
“You’re hilarious, Stark,” Clint says, shoving his arm over his eyes and dangling a leg off of the couch.
“Agreed,” Bruce says, stretching. “I’m turning in. Night, all.”
Clint bolts up. “You said we were going to play Majhong-”
“You said you’d leave my shampoo alone,” Bruce says. “I mean, really? Do you know what would happen if I Hulked out in the shower?”
“You wouldn’t have to buy new clothes.”
Bruce hesitates that that. “Yeah, well-”
He sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Right. Okay, I’ll give you that. Night.”
“Night.” Tony raises the arm that isn’t curled protectively around his tablet.
The others say it, all in different states of undressed- Natasha’s hair is pulled up in an untidy bun, tendrils of it falling over her face, and she’s wearing sweatpants and an old tank top. Thor isn’t wearing a top at all, and his jeans come to hang over his hips. Clint is in sweatpants that look suspiciously like Natasha’s, and a t-shirt that’s too loose around the neckline.
It’s Tony that gets him: in the soft light of the lounge, everything seems to be smearing around the edges, and Tony is no exception.
A wife-beater that should have been thrown out years ago, and dress pants that probably cost more than Steve had earned in an entire year back in the 40s. Both have grease stains on them, fingerprints or otherwise.
He’s barefoot- his ankles are almost graceful, and that alone throws Steve off, because ankles aren’t supposed to be graceful. And yet, there’s the scrape of his heel, the line of his calf, the downcast of his eyes in contrast to the dim light of the tablet-
Steve suddenly wants charcoal again, and a sketchpad, to catch the loose-tight of Tony’s sprawl, the pink of his mouth, the pools of his eyes, the smudge where his jaw ends.
And men aren’t supposed to look like this- they aren’t supposed to provoke words that aren’t synonyms of strong or manly, even nowadays, Steve knows- morons and prejudiced people would sneer at him like they always used to, but Steve looks at Tony, with his parted lips and long lashes and thick stubble that would rough up a razor, and the first word that comes to mind is ‘beautiful.’
He doesn’t know how long he stares- it’s probably only a few minutes, but it feels like longer- and after a while, the shadows start to stretch along the floors. They climb the walls, the curtains, until they fall across Steve’s chair and blot out most of his view.
He leans into the cushions, listens to the New York of the 21st century outside the windows, and it’s just- it’s good. It’s nice.
It’s warm, and he still wants to catch the jut of Tony’s jaw in this light, how his knee pushes into the couch when he balances his tablet on it.
At some point, his eyes slip shut, and tonight, he doesn’t dream of sinking.
“In Steve’s defence,” Clint says, “The interviewer chick was a bitch.”
Fury, unlike Coulson, doesn’t close his eyes momentarily for patience. He just glares and says, “It currently has three million hits on Youtube, and it’s only been up for an hour.”
Tony shrugs. “It has to do better to catch up with my sex tape of ’06, then.”
Steve is stuck between pleading with both of them to shut up, and apologizing to Fury.
Wisely, he decides on the latter. “Sorry, sir. I was out of line. It won’t happen again.”
Good. Now shut-
“Although I stand by what I said.”
Steve internally hits himself somewhere around the head.
He imagines Bucky leaning against him, his elbow poking into his ribs: all this time and you still don’t know how to shut up. Jeez, Rogers.
Fury continues to glare, which he manages incredibly effectively despite only having one eye to do it with. “You better. We’re not in this for politics, Captain, but I’m pretty sure you just pulled a solid for the sane part of this country.”
“Amen,” Bruce says.
To the left of them, Thor looks confused. “I still do not understand why Migardians regard this as so huge a problem. My people have only ever had minimal disagreements with it, at best, and that is only the intolerant or the ignorant.”
Steve says, “Yeah, well-” and is interrupted by a TV beside them, switching to the goddamn interview that they had just gotten released from a few hours ago.
The interviewer- Shirley Clarke, or Shiley Kate, or something stupid that would more suit a brand of waffles than a person- says, “But surely you can’t-”
“I was raised to a certain set of beliefs,” the onscreen Steve says. “And I believe that no-one should be discriminated, or treated differently in any way, because of who they love, or what colour their skin is, or whatever the heck people hate each other for nowadays.”
The interviewer- Shelly? Something with a ‘Sh’ at the beginning- looks like she’s sucking on a lemon. “The general belief of your decade believed that African-Americans were dirty, that the pigments of their skin were unh-”
“The general belief of my decade,” onscreen Steve grates, “also believed that women were less than men. That they were inferior, and that they should stay at home, and raise a family, because they couldn’t do anything else. Do you agree with that? Do you think women are inferior just because they’re women?”
“No, of course n-”
“Do you believe that people of a different race are inferior to you?”
“Well, no, bu-”
“Or people of a different religion?”
“Then why on earth would you discriminate someone for what gender they’re attracted to?”
On the screen, Shirley- he’s pretty sure that’s her name- pushes her hair into place. “That’s different.”
“How is it different?”
“Captain, are you a God-fearing man?”
“I believe in God, yes.”
“Then how could you possibly-”
“I believe in a God,” on-screen Steve says, never dropping her gaze, “that makes people gay, and doesn’t have a problem with it.”
Shirley’s mouth hangs open for a second, her lipstick smearing a bit under her lower lip, but she catches herself quickly.
“Aaaaand that’s enough for today,” Tony says, bouncing forwards and flicking it off before Shirley can stammer whatever weak reply she had said.
He leans back into place, and tilts his head at Steve. “You know, I’m actually kind of proud. Your first tabloid frenzy.” He sighs; brings one hand up to pat Steve’s shoulder. “They grow up so fast.”
Steve fights a smile. “Do you think it’ll make the headlines?”
“Fuck, if we’re lucky. Captain America supports gay pride! It’ll be on the news for days, I swear to God. They’ll dig up all the dirt they have on you. Or make some up. Do you actually have any dirt to dig up?”
Steve says, “Once, I-”
“I can already tell this is going to make me despair for all that is Steve Rogers.”
Steve raises an eyebrow. “It could’ve been something shocking.”
“Shocking? You? Mr. Red, White and Blue, pride of the nation-”
“I didn’t pay a parking ticket.”
Tony’s hand smacks into his own chest. “Mercy! The unfairness of the universe! Steve Rogers, corrupted, I never thought I’d see the day-”
“Oh, my god,” Natasha says. “Can we leave? I don’t think I can take you two flirting for much longer.”
Tony looks at her over his sunglasses and grins, large and toothy. “You love it.”
It’s in the headlines for two days, which Steve thinks is okay, considering.
A few of them read, CAPTAIN AMERICA: ONE OF THE GANG? Or, his personal favourite: CLOSET-CASE CAP, which Clint tries to hang on the wall until Natasha threatens him with a ping-pong bat.
He goes around all day, muttering, “Closet-case Cap,” though, which gets less funny every time Steve hears it.
He Googles things like gay rights and homophobia, and wonders less distantly than he should about what would happen if Captain America came out as bisexual.
Lots of people would classify him as ‘confused,’ he’s guessing- not that he isn’t confused, just that he knows himself well enough by now to know that he’s attracted to both genders.
He leans back, wondering what would happen if Steve Rogers came out as bisexual.
The Avengers would support him, he knows- hell, most of them are bisexual, except for Bruce, and possibly Tony- so it wouldn’t be a big deal.
And he’s been living here for almost three months, now, and it’s been six months since he’s been out of the ice- long enough to be used to things, but not long enough to stop grasping for things that aren’t there anymore, like when he sees a woman with bouncy brown hair and a heart-shaped mouth and his heart thuds high up in his throat.
Peggy’s been dead for almost a decade now, but it hasn’t even been a year for Steve.
When he finally clears his thoughts enough to get up and go to the kitchen for a drink, Bruce and Tony are scribbling something on the same piece of paper.
Steve nods at them as he passes. “Hey.”
“Hi,” Bruce says absently, and Tony just grunts as his pencil comes around in a long, swooping arc.
Steve pours himself a glass of water, and then walks back over and leans over to see the paper- it’s a sketch of some kind of machine, and Bruce is scrawling some sort of equation down the side.
Steve cocks his head, trying to see how the cogs piece together, and coming up with nothing.
“An engineer, you are not, Cap,” Tony says through the pencil between his teeth.
“Duly noted,” Steve says, still tilting his head. “What’re you two making?”
Tony bites down slightly. “Something brilliant. Not 100% sure what it is at the moment, but it’ll be awesome, trust me.”
“I’m not sure what I’m doing, either,” Bruce remarks. “Which is probably a bad sign. Something to do with hydraulics, I think. I need to check my notes.”
He pushes himself out of the chair, and starts towards his room, limping slightly, because of the sudden pins and needles that come from accidentally sitting at the kitchen table for hours on end.
Steve folds his arms over his chest, still trying to see how the hell the thing is going to be pieced together. “Well, good luck with that.”
“Mphh,” Tony says. “Don’t need it. Genius, remember?”
“It might have slipped my mind when you tried to convince Fury to let you have a jetpack,” Steve says, and Tony’s mouth curls upwards in a way that makes Steve’s breath jolt.
“You wound me,” Tony says, one side of his hair matted from where he’s been lying it flat on the table.
He stretches, his arms coming out and almost hitting Steve in the chin. “Cool guy, Bruce.”
“Bruce? Yeah, he’s- he’s pretty swell,” Steve says, surprised at the sudden change of subject. “Honestly, I didn’t expect you guys to get along so well, at the start.”
Tony laughs, low in his throat. “What? Oh, yeah. Neither. But he turned out to not be a dick, and everyone was sort of sidestepping him, so I just thought- y’know, when was the last time someone treated him as Bruce and not as some guy who can destroy Harlem if you accidentally spill coffee on his crotch?”
He yawns, curling outwards, cat-like. “So I saw all the SHIELD agents nervously pussy-footing around the guy, and I thought, hey, fuck that.”
Steve laughs, remembering. “Yeah, you zapped him that that stick.”
“I’m deeply honoured you remember,” Tony says, his smile going slack.
There’s a comfortable silence, and Steve can feel something ticking away in his chest. “Thank you, by the way. For being the first one of us to figure that out.”
Tony frowns, his eyes going half-lidded as he slumps down onto the table. “Mm? Figuring what out?”
Steve can’t articulate it for a second, but he tries, anyway: “The- treating him like Bruce thing. Instead of the Hulk. Like, treating Natasha like Natasha instead of the Black Widow. Treating us all like people instead of our suits. It’s- I really appreciate that. It makes everything more- bearable.”
Tony’s eyes have widened while Steve was talking, and his mouth looks dishevelled. “Uh,” he says. “Wow, you read too much into that. Okay. You’re welcome?”
Steve’s smile is a bit tight, and he starts to walk away before Tony’s hand is on his elbow and he’s saying, “Hey, while you’re here-”
Steve turns back around, and Tony looks like he’s regretting it before he leans sideways and starts sifting through his bag.
Steve waits a few seconds before Tony emerges, a notebook in hand, and Steve stares at it.
He opens his mouth to say ‘thanks’, but it lodges in his throat as he looks closer.
His breath feels thick in his windpipe. “Is that-”
“My dad found it,” Tony blurts. “He said it was yours? And I found it a few weeks ago while I was looking through the attic, and I’ve been trying to find a good time to give it to you, and-”
“Thank you,” Steve says, and it sounds inadequate, somehow.
Because Tony’s just given him his old notebook, the one he used to doodle in when Bucky was out getting milk, or when Peggy was an ocean away, or when he had too many thoughts and needed some quiet time.
Steve touches it, and it feels different- more worn, cracked around the cover- but it’s still his notebook, still the same binding and half-finished drawings and a feather pressed between the pages for a bookmark.
“Thank you,” Steve says again, and it lands somewhere between them, too close. “This- I love it. I- thank you. Thank you.”
It’s stupid, he knows. It’s stupid, but he feels like he’s just gotten a piece of himself given back to him.
He looks up, eyes too bright, and Tony is looking at him almost reverently.
“You’re welcome,” Tony croaks. “Again. Well, I’ll just- go. Have fun with your notebook.”
Steve opens his mouth, and then Bruce is in the doorway, holding a handful of paper and saying, “Am I interrupting something?”
Tony says something incoherent, but Steve says, “No, I was just going to sit here and draw for a while. Is that okay?”
Bruce looks between him and Tony, eyebrows raised, and starts cautiously towards the chair. “Yeah, that’s fine.”
Steve nods, relieved and sore and suddenly tired, and pulls up a chair to lean against the wall.
He thinks Tony’s staring at him, but when he looks up, Tony has his chin propped up on his hand, drawing the skeleton of the machine.
Steve’s throat clicks, and he opens the page to the drawing he left off at.
“Dance with me.”
Steve manages not to crick his neck while whipping his head to face Tony, but it’s a close call. “What?”
Tony isn’t looking at him- he’s grinning that practiced grin that he does sometimes at galas, and he’s looking over the crowd. “If we both just stand here and stare at everyone until we find the Marcelo guy, we’ll look a weeny bit suspicious, don’t you think? Hence, dancing. With me.”
He holds out his arm, and Steve blinks at it for a few seconds before snapping into ‘Captain America’ and remembering, Mission. Right.
One of Tony’s hands comes to rest at his waist, and the other at the small of his back- Steve mimics him, and considers trying to hold his breath for the rest of the night, because they’re about a millimetre apart, glancing over each other’s shoulders.
Steve starts to lead before realizing that he can’t lead to save his life, and steps on Tony’s foot twice before Tony kicks him in the shin and takes over.
“Ow,” Steve says, letting himself be swayed to the left.
“Say that to my toes,” Tony shoots back quietly. “If I have to get them amputated because of your elephant feet, I’ll sue.”
“I don’t have elephant feet.”
“Sure you do. But you know what they say about guys with big feet.”
He does, but he says, “Nope,” just to see Tony falter in the next dance step.
“Uh,” Tony says, and- is that a blush creeping up the neck of his shirt?
He coughs, and wow, he’s really floundering. “Big socks.”
“Uh-huh,” Steve says, and tries to beat down his smile, because this is a mission, goddamnit, and they have to find some guy called Marcelo, whoever the heck he is.
They’re in- well, Steve’s not exactly sure at this point. Hawaii?
Somewhere with a lot of sun and a lot of sand, but most of the people speak English, except for a few with thick accents that Steve can’t identify.
“Guys,” Clint says over the comm. “Three o’clock. See that guy with a cigar and a haircut tragically akin to a mullet but somehow a fuckload classier?”
Steve lets Tony turn him so he can see the man over his shoulder, and tries not to get distracted at how he can feel Tony’s tie press into his chest. “Marcelo?”
“Bingo,” Clint says. “And holy crap, seriously, how is he pulling off the mullet-”
“Is that what we’re bringing him in for?” Tony’s voice is dangerously close to his ear. “A fashion crime that he incidentally pulls off?”
“No, but seriously,” Clint says. “How the hell- no-one pulls of a mullet. I couldn’t pull off a mullet.”
“I’d love to see you try,” Tony says, stepping in closer to Steve as he twists them.
“Focus,” Coulson’s voice buzzes slightly in his ear, louder than Clint’s. “Someone dip someone.”
Steve trips a bit, and then rights himself before nearly making Tony stumble. “What?”
Coulson’s exasperated sigh has gotten increasingly familiar in the last year. “Someone. Dip. Someone. You two look as stiff as boards, no-one’s going to believe you if you don’t loosen up.”
“You just want to see us dip each other,” Tony accuses, dragging Steve forward to avoid another couple.
They both hear Clint mutter something, and then there’s a sound like Coulson just smacked someone. “Just do it.”
Steve glances up at the ceiling, which looks like a sky of tiny, pinprick stars due to the hanging lights. “Tony, if I try, I’ll stumble and break something. Probably your collarbone.”
“If I try,” Tony says, “I’ll slip and die because you’re about a kajillion times bigger than me. Shut up, Barton.”
Steve stares at Marcelo to avoid looking at Tony, trying not to let his face heat, because Tony’s sure to feel it due to how close together they are. “Kajillion isn’t a word.”
“It totally is.”
“Who’s the genius here?”
“Obviously not you, because you just used the word ‘kajillion,’ which isn’t a word. Or a number.”
“It’s both, and fuck you very much.”
Steve says, “Oh, for Christ sakes,” and slides his arm down and around Tony’s waist, grabs his hand, possibly prays a bit, and dips him.
And if there’s one thing that Steve loves about Tony Stark, it’s that he rolls with the punches. Or in this case, being dipped by a guy who has never danced with anyone in his life, let alone dip someone.
Steve counts to three in his head, blushing just about everywhere, before gracelessly hauling Tony up.
Tony, damn him, manages to make it look good: the sweep of his feet is fluid and practiced and damn him, damn him, because Steve is pretty sure he looks like a dehydrated platypus right now.
Tony’s smile is tight, but he pats Steve discreetly on the shoulder after the few people that had glanced at them look away. “There we go, and neither of us got mercilessly crushed into the dancefloor. Nice job.”
“Sorry,” Steve says, wishing for a sudden alien invasion. “I don’t have any experience with this.”
“You don’t say,” Tony shrills, and Steve deflates slightly.
Tony notices, of course he does, and starts frantically: “I mean, you didn’t drop me, so kudos for that, uh-”
“I regret everything I’ve ever said,” Coulson says. “Jesus Christ. I take it all back, be as shifty as you like, just- just- tackle Marcelo to the ground if you have to, to hell with blending in, you two are the worst damn- Jesus Christ.”
Steve nods jerkily. “Marcelo. Right. Let’s-”
“Thanks for not dropping me,” Tony blurts as he lets him go, nodding fervently. “It was- good. Yep. Not being dropped is good. Great, even! So, you did that. And it was. Great. Nice.”
Steve blinks. “I- thank you? You’re, uh. You’re a good-”
Over his comm, Natasha hisses, “Rogers, if you tell him he’s a ‘good friend,’ I swear to God I will climb down from the ceiling and kick your ass.”
Tony has always hated statistics, and not just because of the stock market.
There are no absolutes in statistics. Everything is probably and possibly and most likely, and nothing is solid.
He likes cold, hard maths, the undeniables- the ones where there are dozens of different ways to get an answer, but it’s always the same answer, no matter how you swing it.
All roads lead to the same destination, equations mounting on equations, all peaking to the same solution, parallel lines will never meet, and there are an infinite number of numbers between 0 and 1- 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, and so on.
Wires get crossed in the right places, get connected to the right switch, and the bomb detonates and scatters shrapnel.
There are exceptions, of course- there always are, everything has them, and Tony’s never been one to obey the rules, anyway.
But in his maths, he likes the concrete equations, the ones where he can say ‘if I do this then this will happen to create this,’ etc- locks can be picked if you put pressure in the right places, things click into place which spin the cogs, which powers the machine, which creates light or explosions or whatever the hell you want to make.
Steve Rogers is by no definition, an absolute.
He’s the ground shifting under his feet, number failing him and fucking up and twisting into something unrecognizable.
Because ‘childhood hero’ dissolves to ‘grudge’, which turns into something between ‘asshole’ and ‘hero,’ then into ‘Cap’, and finally into ‘Steve,’ when Tony’s forty-one and in over his head ten times over.
And Tony’s good at this, he’s always been good at this, ever since he was two years old and fiddled with his dad’s gun, dismantling it and piecing it back together all by himself, chubby hands be damned.
He’s good at finding people’s weak spots, their pressure points, what to bend and what to snap and when to smile, when to laugh, when to lick their mouth open and suggest another drink.
He’s good at this, at finding how to push people- push them into bed, push them until they’re yelling at him in the middle of a meeting, pushing and pulling and yanking, because Tony’s no better than the rest of him, no matter how much he tries to be.
He doesn’t know how to work this, though; whatever the hell he’s feeling.
So he keeps talking and makes Steve laugh, makes everyone laugh and swipe at him and change the channel on the TV, and it’s good, it is, and he’s happy, but he can’t shake the urge to lean over and cover Steve’s hand with his.
Steve says, “Tony,” and Tony doesn’t answer.
Steve puts the plate of toast down on the workshop bench and starts over to him, before Dummy whirs and starts wheeling towards him.
Dummy nudges at his hip, starts trying to push Steve to the door- Steve is at least eight times stronger than him, but he’s careful not to damage the circuits as he peels Dummy’s claw out of his shirt.
“It’s okay, I’m trying to help him,” Steve tries, but Dummy’s clicking gets more high-pitched.
“Captain,” JARVIS says, and Steve has only just gotten used to the clipped, disembodied voice coming from every ceiling in the house- “Perhaps you should just leave. Sir prefers it if he’s left alone to his nightmares.”
“Yeah?” Steve continues to hold Dummy at bay. “Does he have them a lot?”
JARVIS doesn’t respond until a few seconds later. “Occasionally.”
“You know, for an AI-” Steve pries the last of Dummy’s ‘fingers’ from his shirt- “-you’re a crappy liar.”
There’s no answer to that, and Steve thinks it’s just as well.
“Dummy- Dummy, come on, it’s Steve, you know me, I’m just trying to help- look, I’m trying to help Tony, okay? I’m not going to hurt him.”
Dummy stills for a second. He latches his claw into Steve’s shirt again, but he doesn’t shove.
Steve pauses for a second, before taking a cautious step towards Tony.
Dummy wheels slowly after him, his shirt bunched in his claw.
Steve almost smiles, and Dummy whir-clicks rapidly, his camera jerking towards Tony.
Tony is curled into himself- his eyes are shifting under his eyelids, his arms are bending into his chest, and every few seconds, his whole body shudders, trying to get away.
Steve can’t make out what he’s saying- there are a few that are obvious, like ‘no’ and ‘please,’ but it’s all coming out slurred and he isn’t sure he even wants to know the rest of what Tony’s saying.
He says, a bit louder: “Tony.”
Tony jerks sideways, pressing his back against the wall, and chokes, “Don’t-”
“Tony, wake up.” Steve leans over him, not daring to shake him. “It’s a dream, you’re in your workshop, you’re fine-”
Tony all but whimpers, his breath coming in scared gasps, still not waking up- and fuck, he’s going to kill Steve when he finds out he’s seen him like this.
Dummy clicks again, blurring into a whine, and Steve swallows.
“Tony, it’s okay, you’re-”
He doesn’t know what to say, he doesn’t even know what to tell himself when he wakes up from something like this.
He finds himself remembering being eight and in the hospital again, how he would get night terrors and bolt up in his bed, screaming the whole floor down.
He remembers his mother- blonde, blue-eyed, like him, with a gentle smile and long, hard fingers- she would sit with him, slipping her hand into his, and hum a song that she had made up, or maybe her mother made it up and sung it to her as a child, Steve never asked:
Honey, don’t you lie there weepin’
There’s a bright-eyed tiger a-sleepin’
And he’ll hang the moon for you
He’ll leave the stars on in the blue
To keep you safe in the light
He’ll shine for you in the night
He’ll roar the darkness away
So you can smile, and laugh, and play-
There’s a chair to the left of him, warped along the back, probably from a failed experiment. Steve pulls it towards him and sits down, feeling like an idiot and not caring.
He gives Dummy a look as he reaches for Tony’s hand. “I’m not going to hurt him.”
Dummy just clicks, and his claw tightens.
Tony flinches away when Steve takes his hand, but he doesn’t wake up, so Steve tries something that his mother used to do for him: he starts to rub slow, tiny circles into his palm, and Dummy clicks curiously.
Steve eyes him warily, but Dummy continues to cling to his shirt. “I’m just going to sit here, okay, Dummy? I’m going to make sure he’s okay.”
Dummy clicks again, and nudges him with his camera.
Steve looks back at Tony, and he’s- he’s getting quieter. He’s almost still, now.
Steve licks his lips nervously, and starts, completely tone-deaf: “Honey, don’t you lie there weepin’, there’s a bright-eyed tiger a-sleepin’-”
He sings quietly, but it’s loud and naked in the otherwise silent workshop.
He sings until Tony’s breathing evens, until he’s not moving except for quiet sighs every now and then, and even afterwards, he sits there, rubbing circles into Tony’s palm.
Howard only told him once, but it’s never left him: caring is weakness.
Caring is vulnerability, caring makes you a liability and isn’t worth the shit you’ll get dragged through for it. Caring makes you manipulatable, and it’s been proved over and over, with the sharp flick of a paparazzi’s grin and Obie’s hand heavy on his shoulder.
Caring gives people leverage, gives them a reason and a motive and it always, always ends with the door slamming and Tony will let them down, let everyone down, time and time again.
Tony will lay down his life, he’ll donate money and save lives until he’s stumbling, walking into walls- but he doesn’t care, of course he doesn’t.
He doesn’t care when he tells Steve that Coulson’s dating a cellist- and then adds, I think, catching himself just in time, just in case Steve thought he gave a shit about Coulson enough to find out.
He doesn’t care all through his and Pepper’s relationship, all through missed phone calls and mumbled apologies into each other’s shirts, through walking out and being walked out on, through maybe we should just be friends.
He doesn’t care about the look Rhodey gives him before flying off with his suit, he doesn’t care when Rhodey tries to say sorry afterwards, he doesn’t care that they don’t hang out as much anymore.
He doesn’t care about the Avengers, or how Natasha’s slipped up and called him Tony a few times, how everyone’s been saying home.
He doesn’t care about the looks that he thinks Steve keeps giving him, the rough clench of his soft hands pulling him out of a collapsed building, the lilt of his laugh, the coffee he keeps handing him when he gets up in the morning.
So he shuts down, he pushes them away, makes everyone believe he’s an asshole until he starts to believe it himself.
He remembers someone saying to him, once: If you keep up a front for too long, after a while you start believing your own bullshit.
So he doesn’t care, he doesn’t care that he’s lying to everyone and himself and the fucking science of it, how his heartbeat kicks up when Steve looks at him.
How Steve smiles and Tony finds himself smiling back, without even thinking.
And he’s known Steve for almost a year now, knows him well enough to tell when he’s pissed off and how to calm him down and what to get him for lunch, and he pretends that Happy got it for him whenever he hands Steve a sandwich after a workout.
He doesn’t care and he forces it down, he drinks and he tries not to and it builds until it breaks: it rushes down on top of him, pinning him to the cold workshop floor, rolling over him in waves.
So when Tony wakes up, he takes the appropriate approach and freaks the fuck out.
Internally, of course. He’s done this long enough to have enough sense not to do something like punch Steve in the face.
He lies there and doesn’t move his hand- his hand which Steve is holding, what the fuck- and lets his brain go into overdrive.
Light/heat ratio how long have I been asleep why the hell is Steve down here who the fuck let him in what the hell is going on why is he-
Steve is asleep, that much is clear. He’s leaning on Dummy’s arm, his cheek pressing into one of the screws, and come on, that can’t be comfortable.
Dummy starts to click when he notices that Tony’s awake, and Tony starts gesturing wildly- “Shut up, shut up, you fucking moron, holy crap, be quiet-”
Tony freezes, all too aware how his hand is still in Steve’s.
“Hey,” he croaks. “Mind telling me what the hell you’re doing down here?”
Steve looks down at their hands, and snaps it back to his side almost too fast to see. “I- I, uh- you were having a nightmare, and I thought-”
“I was having a-? Jesus fuck, Steve, you should’ve just left, I’d have been fine-”
“’Fine?’ You looked like you were having a freaking panic attack, Tony-”
“Yeah, well, one of the unfortunate side effects of PTSD, you know how it goes-”
“I do know how it does, because I’m exactly the same, you should’ve told me it was still this bad, I could’ve-”
“Could’ve what? Come down here and held my hand? What the hell?”
“It helped,” Steve says, and that shuts Tony up.
Steve flexes his jaw. “My mom used to do it to me when I had nightmares, and I couldn’t think of anything else. It helped.”
Tony sits up, looking at the imprint of the screw in Steve’s cheek. “Have you- have you been here all night?”
“The Captain has been here for 6 hours and twenty-three minutes, sir,” JARVIS says, and Tony blanches.
“Six hou- fucking hell, Steve!”
Steve meets his gaze steadily. “You would’ve done the same for me.”
And wow, less than 60 seconds of being awake and Tony’s already been rendered speechless twice. Someone alert the media.
Steve says, “Look, I-”
The look Steve gives him is anything but. “It doesn’t make you weak if you have a nightmare, Tony. The whole team have them. Hell, I used to have them more than most of us.”
“It’s fine,” Tony repeats. “Really, Steve. I just- thanks, I guess.”
Steve hesitates. “Okay. I’ll see you in ten for breakfast, then.”
He starts to get up, but stops when he looks down to see Dummy’s claw in his shirt.
Tony blinks, and Steve barks out a laugh. “Yeah, he, uh. Didn’t let go of me all night, apparently.”
Tony gives Dummy the stink-eye, and Steve laughs again. “No, he was a gentleman about it. Hey, Dummy, mind letting go?”
Dummy tilts his camera up at him before retracting his claw, and Steve straightens up, rubbing his neck. “Thanks. So, uh. See you at breakfast, Tony.”
He trips over his feet as he leaves, but Tony pretends not to notice.
Once the door closes, he turns and glares at Dummy again. “You’re an asshole, you know that?”
Dummy beeps innocently.
“No,” Natasha says flatly.
Clint’s disappointment is palpable throughout his entire body: his shoulders sag, his mouth crumples. “Come oooooon.”
“No,” Natasha repeats. “I’ve pulled your ass out of open fire, I’ve almost died for you eight times, I have died for you once, I went to visit your parents with you, but I refuse to wear a fake moustache as a disguise.”
Clint opens his mouth to complain, but Thor interrupts, balancing his moustache on his upper lip. “But mighty Black Widow, it fills our hearts with joy! Look, the Man of Iron also brought me glasses with no glass in them, which I felt defeated the purpose, but he insisted-”
“I hate my life,” Coulson announces, from where Clint is now attempting to force a wig onto his head.
Steve is watching all of this and trying not to burst out laughing. “You know,” he says, “When I said we should get disguises for when we go out in public, this wasn’t really what I was asking for.”
“False nose,” Clint says, holding it up.
“Oh my fucking god,” Natasha says, rubbing her hand over her face. “Clint, you’ve killed people with your bare hands.”
“And I’m going to use said bare hands to glue a fake moustache to my face,” Clint replies. “I don’t see the problem.”
“I was expecting perception filters, or something,” Steve says, a bit louder, because apparently everyone’s ignoring him.
Tony flops down beside him on the couch. “They haven’t been invented yet, but I can work on them if you want.”
Steve grins. “I think I’ll survive. I was just tired of being stopped a dozen or so times whenever I try to go and get some milk.”
“Such is the price of fame, babe,” Tony says absently, fiddling with his phone- not on it, he’s actually pried off the lid and is now shifting some of the wires around and probably trying to hack into something that shouldn’t be hacked into.
Steve watches him and doesn’t even fight the feeling that floods through him, that stomps on his chest and around his organs and makes a space between his ribs, a sort of pleasant suckerpunch to the face.
He tries to keep reading The Book Thief- for the sixth time, he might add- but a sentence keeps blaring out at him, and he can’t seem to get past it, even though he’s read it before.
He stumbles over it, trips and skids and clambers, and everyone else is still arguing over the correct usage of a fake nose, and Tony is only half paying attention due to his phone.
Steve can’t get past the goddamn sentence- he keeps thinking of Tony’s lips curling upwards in the Helicarrier on that first day, of how he had said his words like he meant for them to bruise. How he had jerked out of Steve’s grasp and didn’t let him get him out of there until Steve had grabbed him with both hands.
Then the past few months: the overlapping grins, the seamless parties, the late nights and early mornings with too much coffee and not enough time.
He looks over at Tony, and the words tattoo a beat in his head.
The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy that loves you.
For the last week or so, the Avengers have been all trying to catch Steve up with the 70 years that he’s missed, even though he’s been unfrozen for almost a year.
They made him a playlist- he listened to 3OH!3 and wondered why the heck someone would ‘trust a hoe,’ and when garden implements suddenly turned sentient, until he remembered that people nowadays used bad language to badly explain bad things and it was bad.
They spend three days on Youtube, showing him ‘important historical shit.’
They show him the 9/11 footage, which Steve has already seen. Then the ‘I have a dream’ speech, and a few shootings that blur into each other after a while, and then the moon landing, and Steve can’t stop thinking of something his eleventh grade Biology teacher had said.
“Humans,” she had said, stick-thin and world-worn and three days away from dying in a car crash, “are a bad example of everything.”
For a while after he had woken up- and even before, sometimes, when people hadn’t called him ‘Steve’ in a few weeks and he was getting too used to sleeping in shifts- Steve had felt sort of see-through.
Not, like, literally- he would glance down and everything would be there, hands and knees and chest, just five sizes bigger than usual.
And his body still surprised him, sometimes, when he was holding something or throwing something and end up breaking a dozen things in rapid succession. He’d still wake up and be confused as to why there was so much of his body, the mass of it, because he had spent 26 years barely coming up to Bucky’s shoulders and being about two thirds of his weight.
After four years of this, though, he’s more or less used to it. Maybe sometimes he breaks a door handle, or pulls too hard at something, but that’s to be expected, and he’s made his peace with it.
The see-through thing came hand in hand with being Captain America.
The thing about being a superhero, you see, is that 99% of people don’t get that you’re more than the cover photo.
That you’re more than punching out Hitler on a stage, or buying bonds, or kissing babies. More than saving soldiers from a high-security prison, than jumping off of buildings and making tanks explode and parachuting out of planes.
That you’re more than the monuments that have been gathering dust for the last 70 years.
And most of the time, Steve had coped. He had gritted his teeth and smiled politely and said his lines, because he’s helping his country and that’s what he’s always wanted to do.
But every now and then, he had slipped up. He had made the wrong decision out of panic and almost gotten someone killed. He had punched someone too hard, because anger issues don’t just go away overnight. He hadn’t restrained his sigh at someone asking for an autograph, and he can still remember the woman’s face at that.
He had gotten used to everyone calling him ‘Cap,’ and being able to look down at everyone but choosing not to, because that’s not how he does things.
To calling his costume his ‘suit,’ and everything else ‘civvie clothes.’
And he fought, he hauled people out of the way of grenades and shouted orders and it was fine, he was helping, and after being frozen in the ice, that’s what he had stuck to: he was helping.
So he did some research, got semi-caught up on 70 years of history, saved the world, and it was fine, it was good, he was helping, and if everyone called him ‘Cap,’ then he could handle it.
Mostly, he kept himself moving.
Then the Avengers happened, and not just a run of the mill, ‘holy fuck, shit’s about to go down, we need some firepower,’ but full-time hero work, which didn’t actually involve much hero-ing.
It had been shaky at the start, because none of them had been used to living with anyone, let alone an unstable group of superheroes, but, like they always did, they adapted.
And it didn’t take long for Steve to see that they all have the same problem- being see-though, he means.
How everyone thinks they know someone from a screen, or from a magazine, or from what people say about them, and they all took it and rolled with it.
The suits came down almost in unison, after a few months of nudging and fighting and laughing at the wrong times.
‘Black Widow’ turned into ‘Tasha,’ ‘Hawkeye’ to ‘Clint,’ ‘Banner’ to ‘Bruce,’ ‘Iron Man’ to ‘Tony’, and Thor turned out to be a hell of a lot more than a guy who likes poptarts and smashing things.
It’s patchy, and shifting, and they get good nights and bad nights, and they get critically injured every second week, and the tabloids fall on anything they say like rabid animals, but Natasha starts laughing at whatever Clint’s doing and everyone else joins in a few seconds later, and Steve feels more solid than he has in years.
Because their suits are a big part of them, that’s inarguable.
But at the end of the day, they can shed their suits, and come and sit on the roof and lean on each other, and just… be.
Later, Steve thinks of it as an accident, but when it’s happening, it feels anything but.
Tony’s shaking snow off from his cuffs, and Steve cranes his neck from the kitchen. “Nice to see you didn’t melt.”
“You’re a horrible person and I hate you,” Tony says, snow dripping from his hair as he runs his fingers through it.
“Uh-huh,” Steve says, grinning at him. “Clint rang. He said to, and I quote: ‘get your ass back downtown to help clean up the doombots.’ Where’s your phone?”
“Dunno. Broke it at some point. Oooh, cake!”
Steve draws it away from him. “Cake for later. Go help Clint.”
“Horrible person. Hate you.”
Tony rolls his eyes, but his smile betrays him. “Whatever. See you for dinner?”
“See you then.” Steve bends forwards, because for some reason, it feels automatic.
Looking back on it, it sounds incredibly, horrendously stupid, but in those few seconds, it’s just- normal.
Normal for Tony to make room for Steve to lean in, for them to kiss each other goodbye and not even realise it until the middle of the kiss, which Steve still thinks is unfair. One of them should’ve realized something was wrong before the actual kiss, someone should’ve leaned back while someone was leaning in, and said, whoa, hold on there, cowboy, what do you think you’re doing?
Because Steve- Steve had just been acting out of what had felt like habit, like moving to avoid someone bumping into you, or moving your hand to open a door handle.
Kissing Tony goodbye just feels normal, and right, and apparently Tony feels the same about Steve, because he kisses back like nothing is wrong for a millisecond, before they both realize holy shit what the hell we don’t do this why am I kissing you what and freeze in unison, lips still touching, which is a hell of a lot more awkward than it sounds.
They freeze, then bolt backwards simultaneously.
“Sorry, I don’t know why I-”
“Yeah, just automatic, right, someone kisses you and you kiss back-”
“Absolutely, that’s what I was-”
“Well, I should go and find Clint-”
“Yep, have fun, bye-”
This time, Steve just sticks to waving shakily, and Tony gives him a stuttering nod before tripping over his ‘goodbye,’ and half-stumbling out.
Steve stands dumbly in the kitchen for a few seconds, blinking and wondering what the hell just happened, before something clicking in his head.
He runs for the door; flings it open.
“YOU FORGOT THE SUIT.”
“I HAVE THE WRIST BEACON-Y THING,” Tony yells back, waving his hand and not faltering in his run down the stairs.
Steve yells, “OKAY,” and closes the door, his mind whirring too fast for him to keep up with.
He stands in the doorway, seemingly incapable of doing anything but stand, and every small movement he makes seems blundering and heavy.
Finally, he manages, “What the heck was that?”
A week passes, and the Thursday means it’s officially been a year since Steve’s been unfrozen.
Steve, unsurprisingly, has other things on his mind.
Friends kiss each other occasionally, right?
He’s seen Thor kiss at least two of the other Avengers, and often random civilians, to celebrate not getting viciously beaten to death.
Most of the time, the random civilians don’t share his enthusiasm, except for that one lady who dropped her copy of ’50 Shades of Grey’ and practically climbed on Thor until she had to be pried off.
It’s still getting thousands of hits on Youtube every day.
Tony’s been avoiding him. Making excuses to leave whenever Steve walks in the room, going out of his way to avoid accidentally bumping into him.
Granted, Steve has sort of been avoiding Tony, too, but there’s a point where you have to just- just- okay, Steve hasn’t been in this situation before, but he thinks he should… apologize, and get on with things.
An accidental goodbye kiss shouldn’t get in the way of friendship, or at least that’s what he tells himself.
Because Tony’s the one he’s closest to, out of all the Avengers. He’s the one who Steve goes to when he’s missing Bucky, or hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in a few days. It had slowly migrated to the others- Clint was great for reminiscing with, and Natasha made a mean vodka on the rocks, and he’s had some great one on one times with everyone- but Tony was first, Tony was always the first.
But knowing Tony, he would rather jump out of a building without the suit on rather than have a conversation like this.
He makes sure there aren’t any windows in the room that he finally corners him in.
“Cap,” Tony says, and okay, that might have pinched a bit.
Steve raises an eyebrow, and Tony backtracks, rolling his eyes. “Steve.”
“Tony,” Steve repeats. “I’m sorry for kissing you. I don’t know what I was thinking. Can we go back to being friends, please?”
Tony sort of- deflates. Like he was waiting for another answer, but not expecting one.
It’s fast, but Steve knows him well enough by now to catch it.
He opens his mouth- he has no idea what the hell he’s going to say, but he’s going to damn well say it- but Tony cuts him off.
“Yeah, of course.” And there’s the Stark grin that Steve knows and loathes.
Steve’s eyes flicker over him, whatever he was going to say dying in his throat.
Instead, he just says, “Okay.”
Tony nods. “Okay.”
That should be the end of it.
Tony isn’t sulking, no matter what Clint says.
So what if Steve just wants to be friends? He wants that, too.
Sure, he also wants to hump the guy’s brains out, but that’s a minor sideline.
It’s sidelined along with wanting to curl up with him on the couch, and wake up with him, and fall asleep tangled around him, and do stupid, annoying couple stuff that Tony probably wouldn’t even like, anyway.
He might kick a few things on the way back to his room, but whatever. He can deal. He’s a big boy, and he’s handled rejection before. He can handle it.
He can handle Steve not wanting him like that, he’s still surprised he’s managed to maintain this friendship with him for a year.
Hell, he’s maintained his friendship with all of the Avengers for a year, and if that isn’t a fucking feat, he doesn’t know what is. He should get a medal for this, because it’s- it’s-
It’s actually a lot easier than he thought it would be.
It’s too easy, how they fit together when they shouldn’t. Because they shouldn’t, there are too many variables and they don’t have enough in common, but somehow, they make it work.
They make it work when they’re leaping over each other to get a shot at whatever bad guy thought it was a brilliant idea to attack New York again, when they’re catching each other because only half of the Avengers can fly and the other half just seems to forget and they jump off the building anyway.
One of these days, Tony is going to let one of the bastards hit the ground, just to prove a point.
Or not. Y’know.
They make it work because they’re all unstable, they’ve all lost too much and sometimes forget how to be around people.
They make it work because they all have at least mild PTSD, and they have their share of bad nights, nights where they just take off and don’t talk to anyone for a few hours, nights where they drink until they pass out or talk about bullshit until their throat hurts.
It’s been an interesting year, really.
But there’s still that thing in his head that he can’t shake, the thing that curls up inside his skull and taps at his brain, the same thing that won’t let the numbers shut up, that won’t let him sleep.
It sits and it grins and it nods towards the liquor cabinet, the one that Tony’s been veering away from lately.
He hasn’t stopped drinking completely, but he hasn’t been utterly shitfaced in a while, either- the last time was a few months ago, at least, and even then, it had been the fun, carefree kind of drunk, not the one that Tony will head towards if he goes over and opens the cabinet.
He’s having a stare-off with a fucking bottle of vodka, Jesus fucking Christ.
But he keeps making aborted half-steps towards it, and at this point, he’s really not sure who’s winning.
When his phone rings, Steve’s expecting Coulson to debrief him on something, or tell him about another impromptu mission.
Instead, he gets Coulson: crisp, decisive, calm, and saying, “Get back here, now. Stark’s half a bottle away from getting his stomach pumped and he’s forbidden JARVIS to let anyone into the workshop.”
Steve almost asks, why, but he shoves it aside. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
“Be here quicker. Every second is another layer of Starks’ stomach gone, and something tells me he’s not going to stop anytime soon.”
“Will do. Thanks, Phil, and keep trying to get in.” Steve hangs up, already breaking into a sprint.
“I’m pretty sure his bodily fluids now consist of 70% alcohol,” Bruce says the second after Steve accidentally breaks the door on the doorjam while running into the lounge.
“That’s comforting,” Steve wheezes, taking the stairs two at a time down to the workshop.
Everyone turns to him when he reaches the bottom, except Coulson, who is still hammering at the code bar.
Steve tries to stop panting as he shoves his sweaty hair off his forehead, and leans over to see the pad. “Anything?”
“If one of these worked,” Coulson says, “we would be dragging Stark’s sorry ass to the hospital right now.”
“Sir’s blood alcohol level is toeing the line of return,” JARVIS says urgently. “I suggest someone get a bazooka.”
“Well, fuck, I left my bazooka in my bunk at SHIELD,” Clint says, and Steve isn’t sure if he’s joking or not.
Leave it to Tony to make an AI that can be sarcastic with anyone, assassin or otherwise.
Steve cranes his neck, trying to see the alcove of the workshop through the glass. “You’ve tried shouting?”
“We’ve tried cussing, threatening, begging, the works.” Natasha folds her arms over her chest. “Your turn.”
“What makes you think he’ll-”
Steve shuts up as Natasha stalks over to him, stopping when her face is only a centimetre away from his. “One, because you guys have the whole ‘bond’ thing. Two, Bruce has already tried, and Tony didn’t respond, which leads me to three: something tells me he’s in there because of you.”
She tilts her head. “Also because he’s an emotionally retarded moron who started drinking at age 12, but mostly the other reasons. Go fetch.”
Steve stares. “Uh.”
Natasha throws her hands up and says something in Russian that he suspects Russian children shouldn’t be allowed to hear.
“Uh,” Steve says again.
He turns. “Tony?”
“Tony, get out here.”
More silence, and this isn’t looking like it’s going to end well.
He glances back at the others, and then at the mass of what he can see through the glass, which isn’t much. “Please, Tony?”
“Fuck off,” comes a slurred, wavering voice, and Steve’s heart jolts.
“Tony, can you let me in?”
A pause, and then: “Fuck oooooff.”
“I think we both know the chance of that happening.”
Tony doesn’t say anything, and Steve shifts from foot to foot.
“Tony, if you don’t come in, I’ll get Dummy to punch in the code.”
“He wouldn’t dooooo that,” Tony yells, just as Dummy whirs into sight.
“You trait’r, Dummy,” Tony yells, and there’s a thump.
JARVIS says, “He has your best interests at heart, sir.”
Steve can’t hear what Tony says, it’s too jumbled, but he can make out a few swear words in there.
Steve’s tongue darts out to wet his lips. “Tony, this will be a lot easier if you just let me in.”
“No hospitals. Let me in?”
“J’RVIS,” Tony drawls, and the door clicks.
Steve glances over his shoulder.
Bruce shrugs. “Hit him on the head for me.”
“Nope,” Steve says, and pats Dummy on the head as he goes past. “Good boy.”
“Trait’r,” Tony mutters, and Steve follows the sound of his voice around the corner.
He doesn’t say, “Oh, Tony,” but he has to swallow it down, because Tony is lying on the floor, his top half propped up against a chair, his arms looped through the holes.
There’s a bottle of vodka in his hand, but he doesn’t bring it up to his lips.
Steve kneels, and has to pry the bottle from where Tony’s still clinging onto it.
“S’rry,” Tony mumbles. “Know I shouldn’t do shit like this now.”
Steve says, “It’s fine, let’s just-”
“Yeah, no hospitals, but I need to get you up on the couch, okay? Then I need to get you- some water- Dummy, go get Tony a glass of water, okay?”
“He’s just trying to look after you,” Steve says, as Dummy beeps sadly and rolls over to the sink. “It’s one of the things we have in common.”
Tony’s throat clicks. “S’rry.”
“Don’t be.” Steve pulls Tony up gently, dragging him over to the couch and laying him out on it, lifting his feet up last.
“No, but ‘m s’rry,” Tony says into the couch. “’M- I should be- str’nger. Bett’r. I’mma be bett’r, I promise.”
“’M be bett’r, kay? So don’t leave. Don’t-”
“I like you already,” Steve says, the words thick in his throat. “We like you already, Tony, you don’t have to be better, we’re not going to leave you.”
“But I like you diff’rn’tlyyyyy,” Tony slurs. “N’t faaaaaair.”
Steve blinks at him. “I- what?”
“N’t fair,” Tony says. “Ev’ryone leaves, ‘nyway. Doesn’t matt’r.”
He trails off, his eyes fluttering closed.
Tony doesn’t answer.
Steve shakes him slightly, and Tony’s head flops sideways.
“Sir should be fine if he regurgitates what he has ingested in the morning,” JARVIS says. “I suggest you make him drink large amounts of water, Captain.”
Steve restrains himself from saying, no shit. “But he’ll be okay?”
“Sir will be fine,” JARVIS says. “Most likely.”
“’Most likely’ isn’t good enough, JARVIS. Does he need to go to a hospital?”
“Not if he regurgitates-”
“Yeah, got it.” Steve looks down at Tony, who is snoring quietly.
He feels a nudge at his shoulder, and startles.
Dummy beeps at him, and extends his claw.
Steve just stares at it for a few seconds before it clicks in his mind, and he laughs. “I’ll just sleep on the floor this time, Dummy. Thanks, though. Your- claw- was very comfortable last time.”
Dummy whirs, and Steve glances down at Tony again.
He thinks of his mother singing at his bedside, and of waking up in the 21st century for the first time, and seeing Tony’s flashbulb smile that time on the boat, when Thor had tried to catch a crayfish and had failed spectacularly.
He remembers that millisecond:
kissing Tony like it’s the most natural thing in the world, and Tony kissing back in exactly the same way.
Tony isn’t exactly a stranger to waking up with his head literally in the toilet, but he can’t say he’s missed it.
“Ghhhhhrnnnn,” he groans, and it echoes around the toilet bowl.
“You look so attractive right now,” Natasha says from behind him. “Seriously, I’m holding myself back from ravishing you at this very second.”
“I hate you all,” Tony declares into the toilet bowl. “What happened?”
Natasha shrugs. “We have no idea, but you decided to go and get completely and utterly wasted because of it, so I’m guessing you’re not going to like it when you remember.”
“We have an idea of what it was about, but nothing solid,” Bruce adds from the left of him, where he’s leaning on the wall.
Tony blinks groggily, and trying to remember last night is the all-too familiar feeling of fumbling his way through fog- he remembers something about Dummy, and- Steve?
Tony opens his mouth- to speak or to vomit, he’s not sure- but stops when Thor bursts in. “Man of Iron! It gladdens me to-”
“Ears,” Tony reminds him, and Thor lowers his voice to his ‘inside voice.’
“Man of Iron,” Thor whispers, which is still one of the most hilarious things Tony’s seen in his life. “I come bearing an ancient herbal remedy for your alcohol-addled state.”
“I’m not drunk anymore, Thor-”
“I misspoke,” Thor says. “The remedy is for the morning after said alcohol, I believe.”
Tony raises his head enough to rest his cheek on the toilet seat. He stares at the bright, golden liquid that Thor is carrying in a vial. “You got me an Asgardian cure for a hangover?”
“I believe that is the term, yes.”
Tony grins smugly at the others. “See? This is how you’re supposed to treat me. Go to exotic realms and bring me shit. Take notes. Gimmie, Thor.”
He extends his hand, and Thor uncorks it and passes it to him.
“Bottom’s up.” Tony drinks it all in one go, and the headache starts to fade almost instantly, along with the strong urge to throw up everything he’s eaten in the last week.
Bruce eyes him expectantly. “Better?”
Tony pulls a face, bringing up a hand to wipe his mouth. “Ugh. Tasted like anchovies.”
“It expelled all the alcohol from your system,” Thor says helpfully. “I was told that it is often lethal for humans.”
“Mmm,” Tony says. “Gotta love alcohol poisoning. Had my fair share. Hey, I didn’t do anything outrageously stupid, right?
“Define ‘outrageously stupid,’” Steve says from the doorway, his arms folded across his chest.
“Uh,” Tony says. “Public nudity?”
Clint sits down next to Bruce, nudging him to make room. “Lacking in that department, thankfully.”
“Youtube videos getting millions of hits as we speak?”
“Something Fury’s going to bitch at me about later?”
Steve’s looking at him in a way that’s making him kind of uncomfortable. “What do you remember from last night?”
Tony shrugs, trying to sift through it- he remembers getting pissed off at the world for a majority of the evening, and Dummy wheeling away to- somewhere- and Tony had slurred, traitor, and then there had been someone lifting him up onto the couch with abnormally large hands-
His eyes fall on Steve’s abnormally large hands, and it comes to him like hitting a brick wall: I’ll be better, I promise, I’ll be better, please don’t leave me.
He might cringe a bit, because everyone starts to look concerned.
Great. Let’s just get four decades worth of abandonment issues and dump them on Steve, because that’s just perfect, and Steve probably already thought he was fucked up enough without his drunken freakout.
At a loss of what the hell to do, Tony holds out the empty vial. “Thanks, Thor.”
“It is nothing,” Thor assures him, his smile doubtful. “Our friend Coulson was saying something about a snowball fight. Are you prepared for battle?”
“Nah, I’ll- catch up.” Tony pushes himself to his feet. “Well, this was traumatising. I’m going to go hide in a corner now.”
“Tony.” Steve moves to block the door, and Tony thinks fleetingly about trying to shove past him. “You have nothing to be ashamed of.”
“Oh, absolutely,” Tony says. “I can’t even manage two weeks sober, and then I blurt some private, self-depreciating crap to some guy who’s trying to get me to not puke over myself. Awesome. Can I go now, and you guys can go and build a snow fort?”
Steve doesn’t move, and Tony tries to duck past him, but Steve only has to lean sideways to block him, because holy hell, the doorframe is basically the length of his shoulders.
Tony’s lips thin. “I will crawl under your legs.”
“I think now is time to make our strategic exit,” Clint says in a stage-whisper to Natasha, who bats him over the head.
Steve glares at them both before looking back at Tony. “Could we just- talk?”
Tony’s glare rivals Coulson’s. “Fine. Shoot.”
“Uh.” Steve looks over his head at the others. “I don’t think this is a team conversation.”
“Strategic exit,” Clint says, more loudly, pushing at Natasha.
Steve glares at them again, but it’s lacking heat. “I- can I talk to you somewhere private, if you promise not to run away?”
“Can’t promise that, sorry, Cap.”
Steve grits his teeth, his blush getting more pronounced as he looks towards everyone in the bathroom. “Fine. You said you liked… that you like me differently.”
“We can move,” Tony blurts, with too much of an edge to it. “Fuck, we can definitely get out of this room, I totally promise not to run away, let’s just-”
“Too late,” Steve says, and Tony keeps darting from side to side, trying to find a space where he can slip through.
From behind him, he can hear Bruce say, “Wow, I really don’t want to be here for this,” and Tony feels his face burn, because what the fuck, he doesn’t remember saying any of what Steve’s saying.
Steve looks equally embarrassed, but he holds his ground. “What did you mean by it?”
“I was drunk! I was- hallucinating?”
“Why’d you kiss me back?”
Clint says, “Whoa, what,” and Thor clears his throat.
Tony can’t manage to make his tongue work for a few seconds, so he just stutters incoherently before saying, “I told you! Someone kisses you, you kiss them back! It’s automatic-”
“I kissed you,” Steve says, blushing so hard his entire face is flushing red, and not in an attractive way, “because it felt like the thing to do. Like- like it was just something we always did. It was a knee-jerk reaction, even though we’ve never- kissed, and while it was happening, I didn’t find anything strange with it, and I think you felt the same.”
“This is going to make for years of blackmail material,” Clint says, and Natasha hisses, “Shhh!”
Tony is stuck between clawing at the doorframe and getting as far away from Steve as humanly possible. “I- yeah, well-”
“I like you,” Steve says, looking like he’d rather be in a pit of rabid, flaming snakes than here. “I- really like you, and I think I might even-” he cuts himself off, swallows, and barrels forwards. “I want- that. With you. Dating. And kissing. And- things.”
Because he can’t stop himself, Tony says, almost teasingly: “Fondue?”
Steve groans, shoving a hand over his face. “I’m never going to hear the end of that, am I?”
“Not while I’m still breathing.”
“I think I can cope with it, then,” Steve says, and he’s grinning reluctantly, like he’s trying to stop himself. “But not just that, I want- you, and whatever goes with it, and if that includes occasionally dragging you out of a drunken stupor, then so be it.”
Tony is suddenly incredibly aware of everyone staring at him.
“I can deal with that,” he hears himself saying. “The dating thing, I mean. It sounds- bearable.”
“Yeeeep. Have fun with me and my drunken stupors.”
“I will,” Steve says, and the grin is getting wider as he speaks. “I. Um. So…”
They both turn, to see-
Coulson, standing innocently with his suit slightly wrinkled and snow on his hands.
Steve brings a hand to scrape the rest of the snowball out of his hair. “Hi.”
“Captain,” Coulson nods. “I was informed of a snowball fight.”
Clint whoops, weaving through Steve and Tony and out the door. “To the roof!”
“Go fuck yourself,” Tony says flatly.
Bruce grabs one of Tony’s arms, and Steve takes the other.
Tony digs his heels in as they start to drag him. “Oh, my god, seriously, it’s snow, what the hell is so great about-”
Bruce says, “It’ll be fun-”
“It’s cold as fuck-”
“We’ll all get pneumonia and die-”
Steve cuts in, kissing Tony silent. He pulls back after a few seconds, and, ignoring the look that Bruce is giving them: “Come on, Tony. Team bonding.”
“And I’m all about team bonding.” Tony rolls his eyes, but he can’t keep the smile off of his face if he tried.
It even stays as he gets hit in the neck with a badly-packed snowball, which breaks apart and slides down his shirt collar.
Tony whips around to glare at Coulson. “Where the fuck are you getting this shit, we’re inside, what the fuck-”
Coulson just smiles wryly and opens the door to the roof.
They can see most of New York from here, skyscrapers and buildings and city lights, littered across the roads.
And the snow, as always, is cold as fuck, like Tony had predicted.
It’s cold as it slithers down into places it shouldn’t, it’s cold as it hits his face and melts in his shoes, and it’s cold when Clint tackles him down into it.
It’s fucking freezing, and Tony can’t breathe from laughing, because Thor is trying to make a snow angel behind Natasha’s snow fort, which is actually a lot better than a lot of real forts that Tony has seen.
Halfway through getting sweet, sweet revenge on Coulson by beating the shit out of him with a snowball from a distance, Steve takes Tony’s hand, the with the snowball in it and the snow crumbles in their hands.
Steve spins him, dips him in a way that makes Tony thinks he’s been practicing since last time.
Tony kisses him first this time- cold mouth against cold mouth, snow melting between them, and their lips are warmer when Tony pulls back slightly.
Their breath is coming out in clouds of condensation, their noses pinking from the cold, and Tony grins into Steve’s jacket. “Twice, and you didn’t drop me. I’m impressed.”
“I’m very proud,” Steve says, tugging them both up. “How about we get Coulson back?”
“I was just in the middle of that before you so rudely interrupted me.”
“Well, golly gee and gee willikers, sorry, Tony.”
“I forgive you. Let’s kick some ass.”
“Roger that,” Steve says, and kisses him again before bending down to scoop up some snow.
Tony watches him, feeling the grin stretching his face to aching point, and feels incredibly, unbelievably warm.