Stark is still in a daze from hearing the horrific news that Agent Coulson is down. Steve didn’t know the man for very long – merely awkward conversations and the deep feeling that he was going to disappoint the 44 year old man with the 6 year old eyes by not living up to his trading cards and comics – but what Steve does understand is the gaping hole losing a fellow soldier leaves behind.
Steve jumps down from the ledge, the comms going dead. A helmetless Stark looks over at the commotion. They lock eyes and although Steve said some pretty cruel things, the eyes aren’t mad or angry. They’re just tired.
“Hey Cap,” Stark says and his voice is as tired as his eyes. “Can you do me a solid?”
“A solid what?” Steve asks, confused at the phrase.
“A favor, Steve, a favor.” And that’s the first time Stark calls him by his real name.
“Sure, Tony,” Steve replies, shrugging his shoulders. They’re going to be on the same team; their fighting can’t go on for any possibility of success. And, honestly, Steve only got in Tony’s face like he did because the man looks so much like Howard, yet has none of the man’s courage. It angered him; when he read the files and watched all the clips of Tony, he seemed to have all of Howard’s best qualities; his genius, his quirkiness, his snark and his kind eyes. He had hoped that he would have a little piece of his old life back; that those kind eyes would help ground him.
But then Tony was also bitter and angry and took everything as a joke, even dangerous things, putting everyone in the possible crossfire. So Steve got even angrier because it was like looking at a warped version of the Howard that he had lo-
“Can we put the pissing contest off until all of this is over?” Tony interrupts his thoughts with a weak smile and a joke. Steve instantly feels ashamed. Taking his anger out on Tony was a mistake; he realized that the moment Tony’s eyes started to shimmer with unshed tears.
Steve takes a step forward. “Tony, I’m sorry about that.”
Tony holds up a hand, shaking his head. “No, it’s okay.” The silence stretches between them but Steve feels like Tony’s not done. “I once said that I had never met a man who was willing to go toe-to-toe with me on my best day. Then you came along.” Tony glances over, his smile sardonic. It fades as he says, “I was just surprised.”
Then Tony smiles, a real genuine smile that reaches the corners of Tony’s brown eyes (the Army Captain part of him recognizes the disinterest that some soldiers would get when learning of a friend’s death; denial) and Steve’s heart aches in a way he didn’t know was possible.
“You look just like him,” Steve blurts. Tony loses the smile, lips turning into a sneer. He looks away as Steve starts to panic. Cue babble. “It’s a good thing, I promise. I mean, you’re obviously not him but you’re kind of like him anyway.” Tony’s still sneering at the tattered remains of the helicarrier. “You make me feel the same way he did.”
That gets Tony to slowly look up, his eyes curious. (There’s a glint in the eyes, the same one Howard got when he asked Steve about whether or not he had ever kissed a girl. The nosey bastard.) Steve sighs and crosses his arms.
“He used to make me mad all the damn time. He was frustrating and stubborn and bullheaded. He never listened to me and he took what he wanted when he wanted it and I always felt like I was the only person in the room when he spoke to me. He used to provoke me just to see how red I would turn, the bastard. In front of the whole SSR too, not when it was just us. He would smile in this stupid way whenever he did it like he lo-“
Steve stops himself and looks away, glaring at the wreckage around him. Tony takes a step forward; he feels it in the vibration of the metal.
“Like he loved you,” Tony sneers. Steve nearly flinches, the hand on his shield’s strap squeezing tight until he can feel his pounding pulse. There’s a beat of silence before, “You loved him too.” It isn’t a question.
Steve swivels his head back towards Tony, locking eyes. Not backing down, never backing down. “Does that bother you?”
Tony shakes his head, scoffing. “It must be heredity then.”
Steve doesn’t get an answer to his next question because Tony is hauling him forward, jostling the shield from his hand. Tony’s face is inches away and Steve thinks that he’s going to be thrown from the ledge of the helicarrier but cracked bloodied lips meet his and he tastes copper and gold-titanium alloy and it’s delicious.
Steve backs Tony into the doorway, hands slipping onto the other man’s hips. He’s a little shocked at the cold, dented metal that greets him but it doesn’t deter him in the slightest. The brush of facial hair against his lips is familiar yet not. The metal covered hand grips the base of his neck, toying with the sweaty curling of hair and Steve relishes in the differences of Tony’s and Howard’s kisses. Howard was fast and dirty, gritty in desperation and with a hint of self-hate. They used to kiss in hidden alcoves; hidden in planes and every kiss tasted of Howard’s too strong cologne and shame. But Tony kisses like he was born for this very moment - that he exists just for Steve - and damn if he doesn’t take all of it for himself. (An angry vicious part of him wonders is this is Tony’s way of getting the upper hand on his long dead father; he quickly shushes the tinny voice.)
Cold metal gently, oh so gently, scratches at the back of his head as Tony tears his lips away just long enough to hiss, “Stop thinking about him.”
And in the next moment, Steve doesn’t think about Howard, Loki, the Tesseract or even the starting crackle of someone about to enter the comm. All he thinks about is Tony: Tony’s lips, Tony’s kind eyes, Tony’s blood on his tongue, and how he never wants for this moment to end.
“Cap. Stark. Where the hell are you two? Get your asses on deck. ASAP,” Fury announces over their matching devices and Steve pulls away from Tony, just a hair breath away from one another. Steve’s chest is heaving and his heart is pounding, just like it had when he kissed Howard back for the very first time.
Their eyes meet and nothing is said for a long moment. Steve’s thoughts are in a flurry and from the way Tony’s eyes are searching Steve’s face, his probably are too.
Instead of words, they press their lips together again, a simple kiss that is shared between lovers who say goodbye to one another before they head to work; a kiss usually shared between lovers of years, not mere moments.
They break apart and, in complete silence, Steve bends, picks up Tony’s helmet and holds it. Together, they walk back towards Fury, back towards a war that they never asked for, back towards magic and monsters and nothing they were ever ready for, their shoulders pressed tight together.