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Calls Me Home

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This might be a very bad idea.  A very very bad idea.  But Tony Stark was rapidly getting used to very bad ideas.  Especially since they seemed to occur to him because of Steve Rogers.  One might think that being around Spangles would ground him on some level.  Possibly point Tony in the direction of good ideas.  But this was happening.  It was going to occur and he had yet to say anything to Steve.  At all.

“So how long is this whole thing going to take?” he asked glancing over at Bruce who was standing next to Reed Richards who was one of the banes of Tony’s existence.

Bruce looked up, glasses having slid down his nose, a slightly unfocused look to his eyes before they cleared.  “You’ll be there for one day exactly.”

“One day.  I can’t come back before then?” it was hopeful and Tony was trying to put everything he could into that one look, but it was for nothing.

“It has to recharge, Stark.” Richards glanced up before going back to the machine that Tony had built as he began putting in coordinates for the exact time and location.  A notebook from Howard Stark as well as several military documents lay open on a nearby desk.  They had been utilized to find the exact location of those most important to the trip.

“Obviously.” Tony muttered and scowled at the other man.  If it wasn’t for that damn broken look on Steve Rogers face all the time and hearing the man in the throes of a nightmare Tony would not have been placed into such a position where he felt compelled to right all the wrongs in Steve’s world.  “Now where is the corresponding device?” he inquired as he looked around for the band.

Bruce held up the mentioned item and Tony snatched it from his hand looking it over, checking for errors and just waiting to see if Richards had fucked it up.  Fortunately everything looked to be in place and the numbers were frozen at 24 hours.

“Are you sure about this?” Bruce inquired softly as he moved closer to Tony who was still staring at the band.  Tony’s jaw tightened, hands clenched around the band briefly before his body relaxed and an unaffected expression flitted across his face.

“I’m positive.  He isn’t happy here and it isn’t fair.” Tony refused to meet Bruce’s eyes because part of him wanted to scream that he was 100% not behind this whole idea and Steve needed to stay here; with him.  That Tony had found himself falling in love with that stupid all-American hero.  That Spangles had rapidly found a place in his mind and burrowed in deep.  Had gotten a very strong foothold and Tony was trying his damnedest not to think about it.  This was for Steve’s good and for once Tony Stark was not going to be selfish about it.  Even if it killed him because Steve was everything good in the world that Tony Stark could never hope to be.

“I believe he is integrating very well into modern society.  Steve has taken to technology and over the past year he has moved through so much information from the end of World War II to the present time.  He seems to…enjoy his interactions with everyone.  Tony…maybe he wants to stay in this time.” Bruce’s voice was soft, coaxing him towards Bruce’s point of view.

Tony pushed down the urge to hug Bruce because he wanted more than anything in the world for those words to be true.  For Steve to honestly be happy in this time.  But the soldier was still waking up at inhuman hours, destroying punching bags and his sleep was anything but restful.  Tony could see the look Steve would get some times and couldn’t bear to see Steve in pain.  It was very annoying.  He did not want to care about these things.   Wanted to throw his mind back to the helicarrier when they were at each other’s throats or some of vicious arguments following the first battle with all of the Avengers assembled.  But he couldn’t.  Those memories were buried beneath ones of using Steve as a pillow during movie night.  Steve’s face when Tony had taken him to the Met.  Mussed hair in the kitchen and the smell of coffee pretty much every morning Tony actually went into the kitchen.  Seeing the super soldier in an apron cooking with Thor who did not understand Tony’s kitchen appliances that all possessed attitudes.  Working together to defeat opponents.  The expression of fond exasperation whenever Tony would announce he was a genius.  Sometimes just for the hell of it because it had become a ritual in and of itself.

But there were still those far away looks.  The obvious pain and loss and sorrow.  It wasn’t right and giving Steve back everything he’d lost was the right choice.  The right thing.  And honestly Tony didn’t do the right thing near enough.  He could soldier through being around Howard Stark for one day.  Saying goodbye to someone who had without warning managed to become his friend.  Had unfortunately found a way into Tony’s mechanical heart.

“We’ll see.  He always has the option of coming back with me, but I don’t believe he’ll take it.  Steve will get his Howling Commandos and Peggy Carter and Howard Stark back.  No way to compete with that.”

Bruce suppressed a sigh.  Tony was stubborn to a fault and he knew his fellow genius would not back down.  After all Tony had put his pride aside to speak with Reed Richards who had some knowledge about dimensions and portals.  Or at least enough information to combine with Tony’s and Bruce’s that they were able to figure something out.  Thor’s information about travel through realms had been invaluable and it had taken awhile to pry Richards away from Thor.  The god had appeared to be going for his hammer.  Tony couldn’t find reason to object to that possible outcome, but Bruce had interfered.  Fuck it all.

*

Tony had managed to drag Steve down to the workshop with vague comments and mutterings that he knew Steve would take as a sleep deprived Tony.  Richards was near Bruce at the controls and mentally Tony was just praying that this worked.  That everything would work out and at least Steve would be happy because someone that good and pure and right and morally sound should be happy.  Should have a chance at honest happiness.  Tony doubted happiness existed near him in modern times.

“We’re going on a little trip.”

Steve blinked and looked at Tony with confusion.  “Trip?  Tony we’re in the workshop…” he trailed off slightly worried before noting the two other people in Tony’s personal space.  In his workshop.  “Um…hello?” Steve’s brow scrunched up before he cast a glance in Tony’s direction that was just screaming What is going on here?

“The trip we’re taking isn’t somewhere we can go to from the front door.”  Tony clasped his hand around Steve’s wrist, locking down and flicking his eyes towards the two men waiting for the silent command.  He nodded and the room was flooded with light.  A sense of weightlessness and coming apart and being pulled back together overcame him as he held on as tightly as he could to Steve because this whole thing would be fucked if he lost the soldier before getting him home.

When everything settled and Tony didn’t feel like killing himself he realized they were outside of some kind of establishment.  There were loud voices and cheering and sounds of what could only be described as a celebration.  Music filtered through the air.  Steve was staring around in slight confusion before startled realization took over.

“What have you done?” he whispered in awe and slight horror.  Blue eyes were darting around, taking in the familiar sights and things he’d never thought to see again.  “How?”

“This after we won.  A day of celebration.  My dad’s notebooks and the files he kept mentioned that eventually everyone got together here to celebrate the end of the war as well as to remember Captain Rogers.” Tony looked to the side and took in the world around him.  So much changed over the decades and he could see Steve fitting into this time so much better than in the future.  Where morals are much stronger and he could find a good woman who would love him; who he could raise a family with.

“Tony.  We’re back in time?” Steve stopped looking around and stared at Tony.  “How is this possible?  Why did you do this?”

“I convinced Richards and Bruce to help me.  Together we have enough working knowledge of dimensions and portals.  Of technology and biology to create something to push us through time.  I might have also convinced Thor to help me a little bit.” Tony fiddled with the band on his wrist, looked at the soft blue glow with the countdown starting and pushed the thought of locking it onto Steve’s wrist out of his mind.  That was not the point of this whole trip.

“Why?” it was soft and filled with honest curiosity.  Tony hated that.

“You’re not happy in my time.  It isn’t fair that you lost everything.” The words were so painfully honest and Tony couldn’t believe they had come from him.  That he was doing something so completely unselfish.  The arc reactor lit Steve’s face as it glowed from underneath Tony’s shirt.  That would be impossible to explain to these people living in the 40s and now Tony felt a mild headache coming on.  Maybe he should duck out of the celebrations and wait out the time before he could go back?  Or just say fuck it all and go with the truth.  Not like they could really do anything about it when he left, right?

Tony.” It was said with feeling and in a tone that Tony wasn’t sure he’d heard that often from the supersoldier.  An emotion Tony couldn’t quite place.

“Come on, Spangles.  Don’t you want to see your friends?  Your…girl?” and that last part almost didn’t come out.  Almost stayed in his mind that wouldn’t shut up and was screaming that he needed to grab onto Steve so the man wouldn’t leave.  But Tony knew Peggy Carter and the amazing woman that he was.  Had personally experience with that strength and kindness.

Steve blinked and stared at the building once more.  “They’re really in there?” he whispered in surprise and Tony was moving forward, wrapping a hand around Steve’s wrist before toting him forward.  It was too late to smack himself for not dressing them in something more period appropriate, but they could pass it off.  Somehow.  Or again just say fuck it to the whole movie world time traveling rules of not letting information slip.

Tony knew that James “Bucky” Barnes wouldn’t be inside and that was someone Steve would probably want to see more than the world.  But Peggy Carter was there, so was Col. Phillips and the Hollowing Commandos.  Howard Stark.

The one moment they all got together to celebrate and mourn.  One Howard Stark often mentioned when he drank and little Tony was around.  It stood out in Tony’s mind as the perfect moment to take Steve back to.  To return the soldier to his own time. 

To the one who loved him.

Peggy Carter.

Return him to those who had fought with him.

The Howling Commandos.  Col. Phillips.

To his father.

Howard Stark.

The bar was loud.  Noisy.  There were bodies everywhere and it was something that Tony Stark should be used to.  After all he was known for his wild years.  This was different.  Everyone was dressed in older clothes.  Some still wore military uniforms and women were dressed very differently than Tony’s time. 

Music and dancing and laughing and alcohol.

Tony’s eyes scanned the room.  There he was.  Howard Stark.  Tony did not want to throw up or scream or run in the opposite direction.  At least that was what he was telling himself.  Mentally Tony steeled himself and promised to steer clear of the man as much as possible.  But it wasn’t Howard who saw Steve first or registered the face of the man pulling him through the throng of bodies.  It was Peggy Carter.  Tony failed to remember a time in his whole life he’d seen someone’s face light up so brightly as though someone had given them the world on a whim just for a smile.

She was pushing through bodies, spilling beers and knocking people off their feet in her quest to reach Steve Rogers.  The group she had been standing with quickly noted the disturbance before zeroing in on the source.  A sea of people surged towards them.

Steve cast Tony a slightly helpless look before Peggy was hugging him without a care in the world.  Tony could remember the strong woman who would often come to visit his father, who would talk with him and tell him stories of Steve Rogers who was known as Captain America.  The woman who had a quiet sadness about her because she had been unable to keep him.  He was out of her reach as she would often tell Tony when he asked about Steve Rogers.

Steve.” And her voice was completely choked up and Tony could hear the tears in her voice.  See the shaking in her hands that were gripping into Steve’s modern shirt.  “How-where…when did you?” she was having issues getting the sentence out and it was out of character of the Peggy Tony had known.

Finally Steve closed his arms around her, face resting in the brown hair and Tony would see the tension leave his body.  The weight finally lifted after so long.

“Peggy.  I’ve missed you.” He whispered and Tony was sure Peggy only heard because she was so close to him.  “I’m sorry I put you through that.” It was honest.  So very painfully sincere and Tony wanted to disappear because this moment was far too intimate for so many eyes.  For someone as tainted as him to witness.

She finally pulled back and before another word was uttered Steve was being yanked into a group of rowdy soldiers who’d thought they’d lost their Captain.  While Steve was being pushed around, hugged and punched in the shoulder Peggy Carter was moving towards Tony.  He looked around, thought about running from the bar and remained glued to the floor instead.

“Did you find Steve?” she inquired softly; there was that intense look in her eyes and the strength that Tony remembered from his childhood.  Thankfulness was taking over her features and Tony swallowed because he didn’t deserve that.  Didn’t deserve any of it because he wanted to take Steve back from those who missed and loved him.  “Did you bring him home?”

Tony strengthened his resolve and pushed forward allowing some of that self-confidence he typically exuded to surface if only to save face.  “Yes.  It was time he came home.”

The pair of brown eyes trained on him studied his features and took in the honesty of the answer.  “Thank you.” A warm hand rested on his for a moment as she squeezed his hand if only to convey how truly thankful she was for Steve’s return.  She glanced back to see Howard now speaking with Steve who was grinning at the men surrounding him.  Peggy looked back at him, eyes narrowed as she studied Tony’s features, before looking at Howard Stark.  Tony could see that intelligent mind working through a problem.  “Who are you?”

“Tony.”

Steve finally broke from the group and was bringing them over.  “Let’s get a table in the back!” he called over the noise and catching the reluctance on Tony’s face continued.  “Come on, Tony.  I want to introduce you.” The large hand clasped around his wrist and was now dragging him forward after the other soldiers with Peggy following behind him.

“Steve…” he muttered and gave up trying to pull his wrist free.  This was not going to end well.  He did not want to be in the same room as his father or his friend’s potential lover.  Not at all.

“Another round!” shouted a man Tony knew was Dum Dum Dugan and he watched as the bartender did a quick count of heads as they went through the doorway.  Dum Dum and another man slipped back out to collect drinks.  Tony found himself pushed into a chair near Steve and surrounded by a table full of people who in his time were dead.  It was a moment he’d never thought possible and then he’d met gods, aliens, and a Hulk.  Had flown a nuke into another dimension.  Nothing seemed impossible anymore.

“How did you get back?”

“Where have you been?”

“Are you alright?”

“Did you have to fight your way out?”

“Who is your friend?”

And so many more questions that caused Tony to drain his drink rapidly the second it was placed in front of him.  The alcohol was warm and soothed his nerves.  For the most part.  A rather impressed look came from Dum Dum who tipped his drink in mock salute before demolishing his own.

“I’m not sure you’ll believe me.” A helpless chuckle escaped and Steve grinned sliding his drink towards Tony because he wouldn’t enjoy the feeling as much as Tony would.  The genius took it with a look of thanks and allowed Steve to take the empty glass in return.

“Considering some of the shit we’ve seen?  I doubt you can surprise any of us.”

“Don’t bet on it.” Tony muttered against the glass as he took another drink before setting it back down opting not to down this one as quickly.

“I actually came from the year 2013.”

It was met with stunned silence and surprise.  Peggy’s head snapped back in Tony’s direction and realization rapidly filled her features as she seemingly connected some dots.  “You’re from 2013?” she inquired staring at Tony.

“Yep.  A time when technology is at its pinnacle and that is all because of me.” A self-satisfied grin managed to slip onto his features before he carefully scaled down the pride he felt at that fact.  “I’m the leading name in clean energy and repulsor tech.”

“Tony.” Steve shook his head and turned back to the now completely captive audience.  “Right now there is a Steve Rogers still frozen in the ice.  He won’t be discovered until 2012.”

That was weird.  Beyond weird and Tony had to fight down the completely unmanly giggle that was threatening to escape.  Maybe he could get out of this completely shitfaced and unaware.  “And then he will become a part of the Avengers and kick ass.  There will be shirts and action figures.”

Steve cocked his eyebrow at Tony’s word choice before continuing, “Tony helped me to get back here so I could see you all again because I won’t be found anytime soon.”

“Tony who?” Peggy asked and Tony really wished she hadn’t.

Now Steve paused and gave Tony a helpless look before receiving a reluctant nod.  “This is Anthony Stark.”

If the comment before about being from 2013 had received shocked looks it was nothing compared to the knowledge that playboy Howard Stark had a relative.  “That’s enough about me!  Steve here has done nothing but talk about you guys nonstop.  So why don’t we all get him caught back up and I’ll grab another round.” Tony drained the rest of his glass before moving to his feet and beating a hasty retreat.

Steve frowned softly before being dragged back into conversations as several voices fought to be heard over the others.  Words washed over him and he could feel himself slipping back into that familiar yet distant feeling of being surrounded by comrades who’d faced death together.  Answering questions and talking about his new team.  About his life in the future.

Tony wandered through the bodies, past the luring scent of alcohol that he needed and out into the fresh night air.  He shoved his hands into his pockets and moved away from the building taking in the foreign sights.  One hand moved out of the pocket and touched the arc reactor.  Felt it hum underneath his fingers as he closed his eyes.  Tried imagining that he wasn’t doing something that was going to destroy his teammates or himself.  But it was the right thing to do and he’d been trying so damn hard to do the right thing that it hurt.

Laughter bled through the walls of the bar, through the windows and out into the night where Tony just wanted to be alone.  Music washed over the other sounds and Tony wished for AC/DC to be blaring in his workshop.  For Dummy to spray him with the fire extinguisher and for one of his teammates to be giving him a disapproving look when he cranked the music even higher.

With his eyes closed he could almost forget his father was alive and in the building behind him.  That he was aware of Tony’s existence.

“Anthony?” a voice called behind him and Tony’s whole body tensed up so completely that he felt stiff.  Frozen almost.

Someone hated him.  Someone really hated him.  “Yes?” it was so very reluctant and he had to force himself to turn around.  But his hand was still near the arc reactor drawing unneeded attention to the glowing circle.

“What is that?” Howard Stark inquired as his eyes stared at the arc reactor in complete fascination and Tony recognized that look.  It had never been directed in his direction before in his life.  A very real feeling of rage almost clouded over his vision because this is what it took to get his father’s attention directed towards him?  Seriously?

“An arc reactor.”

“Why is it under your shirt?” the man stepped forward to get a closer look at the soft blue light and Tony saw it wash over the younger version of his father’s face.

“It keeps the shrapnel in my chest from shredding my heart.” It was bitter and he did not disguise it.  Howard Stark did not deserve kindness and Tony had no problem just giving facts.  It was easier when dealing with his father.

Howard’s eyes snapped up to meet his in surprise before looking back down, “You created it?”

“Yes.”

“Amazing.” It was whispered awe and Tony felt smug satisfaction because Howard Stark would never create something this amazing in his lifetime.  He’d create the huge reactor that was used as a publicity stunt, but he wouldn’t create something so revolutionary nor would he succeed in an honest clean energy effort as Tony had in the future.  “You’re an engineer in the future?”

“Yes.”

“Not much of a talker?” a slight chuckle escaped, “We’re related though, right?”

Tony tried to figure out how to deal with this, how to possibly answer it in a way that he believed was best and settled on the truth once more.  It was annoying.  “You’re my father.”

It was as though a physical blow had struck Howard as the man stumbled back a step, “You’re my…son?  I have a son?” he sounded completely incredulous and stunned.

“Yeah.  You have a son.” Tony couldn’t stop the muttered, “Not that it ever mattered.” But it didn’t appear as though Howard heard him as the man was still so very surprised.

“And you brought Steve Rogers back?  To what?  Say goodbye?” Tony was already moving back towards the bar entrance with Howard on his heels.

“Something like that.” And Tony finally lost Howard in the mass of bodies.  He made his way to the bar and no sooner had he taken a seat to order a drink an arm had wrapped around his shoulders.

“So you’re a Stark?” the voice of Dum Dum sounded near his ear and the man had a grin on his face.  Tony knew the man could hold his liquor and watched as the other man’s eyes met his own.  “Another round for my friend and myself!” he called.  “Put it on Stark’s tab.”

“Yeah…a Stark.” Tony nodded to the bartender as he received his new drink and clinked his together with Dum Dum who continued to offer an amicable grin.

“Thank you for bringing the Captain home.  I think it is worse not knowing.”

“Always worse and Steve needed this.”

Dum Dum stared at him over the glass and nodded, “Nice to know there are still good men in the future.  Would have hated to have fought for something so hard and on some level it be a waste.”

“I’m not a good man.” Tony took another drink and noted Steve across the bar with Peggy who was smiling at him as though he’d hung the moon.  Wasn’t that the most clichéd thought in the world?  Alcohol was already playing with his thoughts.  But he was leaving here in less than a day so why not throw some cards down on the table?

The other man leveled him with an intense stare and Tony remembered his father’s assessment of the man before him.  Dum Dum was extremely loyal to his fellow soldiers and he was one of the most skilled soldiers.  A formidable man when pushed.

“Steve would not speak so highly of you if you were not a good man.  From the minute you left and he got a chance to speak there were nothing but good words from him about Tony Stark.  The man in the future who gave him a home, who fights by his side.  The Iron Man I believe is what he told us you are known as, is that right?”

“Yes.  I am Iron Man.”

“And that is where the blue glow comes from?” Tony’s hand moved towards the arc reactor and he aborted the movement at the last second.

“It helps to power the suit.” He remembered the video Pepper had sent him on his Starkphone and wondered if it still worked.  Carefully Tony reached into his pocket and retrieved the phone.  It worked, but he very much doubted it could place a call through time.  He moved through the files and dragged up the one with footage from the latest battle.  Some of the better PR the Avengers had earned lately.  It was often better to just show things than to try explaining them.

Tony held out the device and clicked play.  Dum Dum stared down at the phone in wonder and chuckled at the sound of a clang that Tony knew was Steve’s shield striking one of the many opponents they’d been battling that day.  The next scene Tony knew was him dropping from the sky and utilizing Steve’s shield to direct a blast towards several attackers in a move reminiscent of the battle in New York with Loki.  They’d found it to be an effective move in the midst of a fight.

“That is amazing.” The soldier stared at the phone before handing it back.  “Is that Steve’s new team?” he inquired clearly interested and Tony found that Dum Dum came across exactly as Steve had described him.  Tony glanced over his shoulder once more to see Peggy pulling Steve towards where several people were actually dancing and Tony knew Steve had no idea about dancing.  Watched her guide his hands and then as they began to move to the music playing.  He didn’t bother to look for the source of the music deeming it unimportant.

“That’s the Avengers.  The green guy is known as Bruce Banner or the Hulk.  The man with the hammer is Thor who is a god from a realm known as Asgard.  And the man with the arrows is Clint Barton; the woman Natasha Romanov.  They’re a strong group.” Tony saw the look of embarrassed happiness on Steve’s face as he turned Peggy and could almost hear the laugh escaping from near the bar.  Howard Stark stared at him from next to Col. Phillips and Tony turned his attention back to someone who was not making him completely uncomfortable.

“He talks very fondly of all of you.” Dum Dum looked over at Steve who was trying not to step on Peggy’s feet, “She missed him.  It’s good to see some closure.  When are you leaving again?” it was abrupt and to the point.

“I’m only going to be here for the twenty four hours.  Steve I’m sure will be staying.” He took a drink to hide the bitterness that was threatening to show its ugly head once more.  He liked Dum Dum and wasn’t going to show that same feeling as he’d done with his father earlier.

The soldier raised his eyebrows, “If you think so.” There was little conviction behind the words and that was when Tony noted Howard making a move towards them.

“Well it was great speaking with you.  I’m going to go away…over there.” And Tony was grabbing his glass and fleeing from his father because he recognized that look.  It was a stubborn look and usually appeared on Howard’s face when he was determined to get something.  Tony did not like it directed in his direction.

Dum Dum’s laughter followed him and he could hear Howard’s voice calling for him, but Tony ducked through the bodies and ended up getting intercepted by a young woman.

She was pretty in a classical kind of way that Tony was not used to seeing in women.  “Hello.” She spoke softly and looked at him with interest.  It was a look Tony was quite familiar with and it was a great excuse to duck Howard.

“Hello.” He grinned pouring on the charm and watching as a light blush appeared on her pretty face.  “What is a pretty young woman doing with a dance partner?” he inquired and watched as she looked up at him through her lashes.

“Just looking for the right one.” And it was that easy.  Far too easy.

“Would you care to dance?” he held out a hand and smiled charmingly as she accepted with a giggle.

“Yes.” She allowed him to lead her to the dance floor and with careful observation Tony figured out the dance steps the couples dancing were following.  Carefully he took the lead and was leading her around the dance area with a grace born from being forced into far too many events in his lifetime with far too many partners.

Steve watched him from his own dance with Peggy, a thoughtful frown on his features before turning his attention back to Peggy, but Tony paid him no mind instead focusing on his chosen distraction from his father.

“You’re an excellent dancer.” She spoke as they took another turn and Tony could feel her allowing him to lead her around without any resistance.  Just smooth gliding, careful steps and a steady lead.

“Thank you.  It helps when your partner is equal to your skill.” Another giggle escaped her and she looked at him with more interest.

“You speak differently.  Where are you from?”

“I live in New York back in the States.”

“Oh.  I have never been there.”

The music slowed and stopped as a new song began to play.  “Thank you for the dance.” He bowed lightly to the young woman who smiled at him.

“Thank you, sir.” She curtseyed back with a laugh.  “You are very different from most men.”

“I try.” A roguish smile and he was moving away from the dance floor never having inquired about the young woman’s name.  It wasn’t of interest anyway and wouldn’t it be creepy if she was the mother of someone he knew?

“Tony!” Steve’s voice cut through the sound and Tony’s head was unwillingly jerking towards the sound.  Peggy was walking with Steve towards him.  “Saw you found a dance partner.” There was something odd in his voice but Tony couldn’t place it.

“You looked like you were having so much fun and I thought why not try dancing myself?” he grinned and winked at Peggy who gave him a slightly disapproving look before blowing it off.  Tony figured being around his father so much maybe she’d built up a resistance to Starks.

“She seemed very taken with you.”

“I’m a handsome man.  What can I say?” it was full of arrogance and confidence and ego that Tony knew Steve was not a fan of, but he couldn’t help himself.  Sometimes it just forced its way to the surface and then he was trying to annoy Steve on some visceral level so he’d shed that usual calm, polite persona.

“No one said otherwise.” it was a joke and Tony cracked a grin in response.  It took quite a bit nowadays for Steve to get irritated with Tony’s arrogant remarks.  Part of the genius missed how easy it had been to wind Steve Rogers up and another part was happy that the other man could be counted among the few people who could appreciate every layer of Tony Stark instead of the superficial layers.

“Steve was telling me about your suit.” Peggy chimed in.  “The Iron Man?” she turned her head slightly as she regarded him.  Tony could feel her studying him, looking for flaws and strengths.  Weaknesses and possible lies.

Without asking he pulled out his phone once more repeating the process from before with Dum Dum.  Steve stared at him in vague horror.

“You can’t just pull out your tech like that in here!  Tony can you imagine the questions?”

Tony cocked an unimpressed eyebrow at Steve, “Well then we’re already screwed since this is the second time I’ve pull my phone out.”

“How is it even working here?”

“I’m not tapping into a satellite or tower.  Just accessing data stored on the actual phone.  How many times do I have to explain that Starkphones hold an insane amount of data?  How can you continue to doubt my genius?  My ability to create amazing tech?  Why am I friends with you?  Why?” the last bit sounded as though he was vaguely horrified and Steve snorted a laugh.

Peggy handed the phone back, “You’re in the…metal suit?” she inquired.

“Yep.  My pride and joy.  Well Dummy was my first pride and joy, but the Iron Man is one of my favorite creations.” Tony grinned because he honestly loved talking about Iron Man.  It was something he’d done that was good.  That helped others.  Saved lives.

“Hey we’re heading back to base!” one of Steve’s Commando’s called.  “Are you coming with us?”

Steve looked at Tony who shrugged before nodding.  The group moved out of the bar and through the streets.  Tony was surprised they were so close to the bar, but shrugged it off.  He had no idea where they were located at this point and who knows where the US had set up a base over here.

Loud voices, laughter and the sound of feet on the ground filled the air as Tony walked along.  Could hear jabs at each other’s character, snippets of conversation about conquests both successful as well as failed and battle tales as the group moved towards its destination.

Howard fell back to walk in step with Tony and it took every ounce of willpower Tony possessed not to flip the fuck out on his father.  “What kinds of advances have been made in your time?”

“Nothing your mind could wrap around.” Tony grumbled even as his hand tightened into a fist; he didn’t want this.  Didn’t want to deal with his father.

“Try me.” It was a challenge and annoyed Tony to no end.  Steve glanced back over his shoulder with a concerned look before Peggy reengaged him in conversation.

Tony pulled out his cellphone.  “This.  It can do everything you can imagine.  Place calls to anywhere in the world, calculations, applications, documents, scanning, creation, video, pictures, sending messages, linking to a satellite that orbits the Earth for all sorts of lovely reasons, break into other types of technology and more things that I have time to explain.”

Howard took it from Tony’s hands to inspect it, looking over the keypad and accidently turning it on.  The video Tony had taken to showing the others was on and the video came to life when Howard’s fingers brushed the button.  Sound filtered out into the air, sounds of battle and destruction.  It was color and clarity and video proof that Tony came from a time far beyond the one currently in progress.

Without any tact Tony snatched his phone from his father’s hands.  “Don’t touch my stuff.” He looked over his phone, but Howard was staring at it in his hands.

“What was that metal man?”

A scowled took over Tony’s features, “Me.”

“You can fly.” There was amazement and a touch of jealousy.  Tony knew of the failed hovering car Howard Stark had presented.  Tried not to grin at that tone in his father’s voice.

“Of course I can fly.  I’m a genius.  I’ve cornered the market on repulsor technologies.” Pride infused itself in Tony’s voice as he put his phone back into his pocket.

“Everything ok, Tony?” concern colored Steve’s voice and Tony glanced up at him.

“Of course Spangles.  When am I not ok?” Tony was really hoping Steve didn’t call him on that because the other man had woken him from far too many nightmares.  Nightmares from shrapnel, failure, Afghanistan, Obie, Palladium and Loki’s attack.  Far too many things to pull nightmares from.  The supersoldier was far too understanding and Tony took far too much comfort from that.

Howard kept with the questions.  Inquiring about various advances.  Questioning Tony’s clipped responses and it was all Tony could do not to attempt patricide because Howard needed to live or Tony wouldn’t exist.  It was a very annoying little detail that Tony just wanted to burn or bury or ignore.

I will not scream.  I will not scream.  I will not kill my father with that broken bottle over there.  Or that bottle.  Or the brick.  Or any of the possible blunt objects surrounding me.  I will not.

It was a horrible mantra that played in his mind.  But he answered most questions and without information that could be damaging to the timeline.  Just little things.

They arrived at the destination, more alcohol and the soldiers were even more rowdy than when in the bar.  Tony watched Steve laughing and joking and happy.  Watched his friend glow with the happiness and cursed the fact that he couldn’t cause those emotions.  That seeing those expressions and hearing Steve’s open laugh was causing him to fall in love with Steve further.  And he couldn’t keep him.  Steve wasn’t his.

Peggy took a seat next to him eyes watching Steve as a grin tugged at her lips, “He is a good man.  I was very relieved to hear that someone had been taking good care of him.”

Tony glanced sideways at her, “A strong, brilliant woman used to tell me stories of Steve Rogers.  Of Captain America.  The boy from Brooklyn who threw himself onto a grenade to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.  The man who outsmarted everyone to get the flag and ride back to camp in the car.”

A smile pulled at her lips, “Do I know this woman?” she inquired with interest and a hint of teasing that Tony knew was rare from her.  A woman in her position had to be tough to make it in this world and Peggy Carter was tough without question.

“Of course.  She stole Steve’s first dance tonight.”

“I know you as a child?”

“Yeah.” Tony offered a grin because it was hard to be mad at the woman who had made his childhood bearable when Howard Stark couldn’t be bothered to be a father.  To care about Tony’s creations or life.  The woman who told him tales about Steve Rogers in a different light than his father.  Howard told stories of Captain America and why couldn’t Tony measure up to that man?  Why was Tony so flawed when Captain America had so many virtues and was courageous?  Someone who sacrificed everything and failed to stay with those who loved him first?  “You were a very bright point in my childhood.”

A surprised laugh escaped, “I doubt that.  I just can’t see myself accomplishing being good with children.”

“You’re excellent with children.  Howard could use some lessons.”

Peggy frowned thoughtfully before looking at Tony, “I’ll make sure I have some good stories for you then.”

“I’m sure you will.  No pressure.” The sun was actually peaking in through the windows and Tony blinked.  How much time had already passed?  He looked down at the band on his wrist.  Close to sixteen hours left.

He could see some of the others had already moved off for sleep and knew Steve Rogers would not be tired yet.  The supersoldier could run on far less sleep, but Tony knew Steve enjoyed sleeping in when he could.  He’d burrow into his covers and pillows with happiness.  It was sickingly adorable.  Clint’s words.  Not his.  Nope.

“Let’s find you boys some cots.  Sleep will do all of us some good before the new day.” She rose to her feet before noting that other than herself only Dum Dum, Steve, Howard, and Tony were still awake.  Howard was writing in a notebook and sketching what she knew were ideas from Tony or Steve about the future.

Tony ended up laying there staring up at the ceiling listening to snoring, mutterings and breathing from the others in the room.  His arc reactor lit the ceiling above him.  The windows were darkened by heavy linens so as to create night for the soldiers but he was still aware of the hidden daylight.  Slowly Tony rolled over to his side partially covering up the arc reactor light with the cover only to see Steve staring at him.

“I’ll wake you.” Was the soft promise and Tony felt deep appreciation filling his soul.  It was vaguely annoying and he was more than sure his past self would smack him upside the head for such mushy feelings/thoughts.  But not having to suffer through nightmares or having such a weakness exposed to strangers was far more daunting than accepting help from a friend.

“Thanks.” He muttered as he closed his eyes and willed his mind to quiet.  To still and allow him to drop off into what would hopefully be peaceful rest.  Nightmares were far too common in his life since he’d received his first makeshift arc reactor.

“Night, Tony.”

“Night, Steve.”

It seemed like no time had passed before Tony was being shaken awake by Steve as others had shuffled off for showers and to change clothing.  “Peggy got us some clothing.  Hope you don’t mind military issue.  I gave her my best estimate on your sizes.”

Tony glanced at it.  “Did someone else wear any of that?”

“Nope.  All brand new and waiting for the next recruit.” It was said with a grin and Tony carefully accepted the clothes.  Very tempting to keep with the clothing he was wearing, but it would be rude to turn down something from Peggy Carter.  His inner child would not allow it.  No matter how slightly jealous his current self was at her relationship with Steve.

“Great.  Shower?”

Freshly showered, shaved and clothed Tony followed Steve towards the sounds of life.  Loud, chaotic and messy life.  Tony tried not to focus on that feeling in the pit of his stomach when he read the time on his band.  Eight hours.

It was only eight hours until Steve was gone from his life.  One of the most important people would be gone and he wondered if it would alter the timeline too horribly or if Steve would fight to keep things relatively close to how they were in the future Tony knew.

Time was moving far too quickly.  Steve caught up with Col. Phillips, with Howard who was peppering him with questions, the Commandos and Peggy.  Tony mostly observed.  Memorized the laugh, smiles, questioning looks, how Steve’s face lit up with excitement and how when he was completely relaxed his hands would start gesturing.  Took it all in.  Catalogued each detail of Steve Rogers because he had no idea if he would ever see the man again.  How it would change the timeline and if the Steve Rogers he would come to know would be an old man or a memory buried under a tombstone.  Would Tony even get to keep the memories he had of Steve?  Or would they be left behind in the past?

“So what time did you come from exactly?” Peggy inquired absentmindedly.  Or at least to Tony it seemed that way.

“The day?  May 3.” Tony blinked at her, took in the intent expression and wondered on it.

“Alright.”

The day moved on closer to the final countdown.  “What time is that thing set for?” Steve inquired when he caught Tony looking at his wrist.

“Thirty five minutes.” It was said with dread and choked Tony.  A sick feeling in the pit of his stomach and his heart ached.  Mind and body screamed.  Rebelled against what he was doing.  But he’d steeled himself already.

A sad look overcame Steve’s face before he nodded, “Thanks, Tony.” And he moved away towards Peggy who was sitting down looking over a file.  Tony could see the pencil in her hand moving over the page as she made notes before he looked back.

“You know Steve Rogers belongs in this time.  He doesn’t belong with you in the future.  He should stay here with those who love him and care about him.  Steve has a bright future with Peggy.  Our world needs him.” Howard Stark’s voice sounded from beside Tony.

Tony’s fist clenched on top of his leg, knuckles white and his jaw tightened.  Do not kill your father.  It will do no good. His mind unhelpfully supplied those encouraging words.  “You think I don’t know that?  That he never belonged to my time?” fury and rage and sorrow and regret and far too many emotions coated his voice.  Caused it to crack and Tony was not going to break in front of his father.  It didn’t matter.  He was Tony Stark.  He was Iron Man.  He didn’t fucking break.  Wouldn’t break in front of this man who had never cared and that video, that stupid movie clip was far too late in the game.  What were empty words on an old movie reel?  NothingAbsolutely nothing.

“I’ve seen the way you’re watching him.  It’s wrong.  Steve deserves a nice woman to love him so he can raise children.  To have a family of his own.  He doesn’t deserve something so abnormal.”

Without warning Tony jerked to his feet.  He was devastated in the face of his own father calling his feelings, something he tried to ignore and push to the side but mentally basked in, abnormal.  Steve had been watching them, observing the interaction and was moving across the room with another one of those unreadable looks on his face.

“You know I’m right!” and it had risen up to catch the attention of everyone around them.  Another spectacle thanks to Howard Stark and didn’t Tony have enough of these growing up?  When was he going to escape them?

Steve took in the broken look on Tony’s face and the righteous anger that had appeared on Howard’s face.  Had seen the other man staring at Tony with a peculiar look on his face most of the day.  Without warning his fist lashed out catching Howard on the face and knocking him down.  The other man’s eyes rolled in his head and a sound of pain escaped.

Tony was completely positive that Steve had pulled his punch so as to not kill Howard.  If only because he didn’t want to be responsible for inadvertently killing Tony Stark.  The soldier walked off back towards Peggy Carter who was staring at him in surprise before a fond expression took over.

Howard sat up and stared at Tony in surprise as he rubbed at his face.  A dark bruise already forming.  “You’re an ass.  A horrible father.  The only good thing you ever did was leave that model behind showing me how to recreate vibranium so I wouldn’t die of palladium poisoning.  But other than that one thing you’ve done nothing that makes me proud to call you my father.” Tony leaned close, voice dropping lower so only the two of them would hear his next words.  “And in my time loving who you love is accepted.  Welcomed and encouraged.  It must be fortunate for you that you don’t live to see that, huh?  Especially if it disgusts you so much.”

It was cold.  And dark and Tony partly couldn’t believe he’d said those words.  But he felt better.  A weight had been lifted because those were things he’d never been able to say to his father.  Had never been able to tell him what a horrible parent he’d been.

“I made myself a family.  Built my own world and sometimes I can’t believe it but there are actually people who consider me a hero.  Who look up to me.  I’m not worthless.  I’m not a failure.  I deserved attention and care.  Not someone so lost in their own world.” He turned and moved away from the man who would grow up to be his father.  The man who would fail at that simple job.  Part of him hoped those words would change something, but another part realized that any changes might cause a worse world that he would return to.

Steve was hugging Peggy, receiving claps on the back and hugs from his fellow soldiers.  Tony watched as Col. Phillips shook Steve’s hand while speaking with him.  Saw the look of surprised happiness before Steve was kissing Peggy on the cheek.

He walked towards them and was pulled in for pats on the back, handshakes and words he was not quiet catching.

“It was great meeting you, Tony.  Take care of the Captain for us.  He is a hell of a guy.” Dum Dum was saying with his arm thrown around Tony’s shoulders.

“What?  But he is staying with you…” he trailed off as Steve stared at him in surprise.

“I’m not staying Tony.” It was said carefully.  “I have a home in the future.  A family and friends.  A reason to return.”

“But you’re…you miss them.  All of them.” He moved his arm to indicate those surrounding them.  “This is your time.  Why on Earth would you leave?”

“Because I know they’re in good hands.  That they thrive and live and love.  That they move on and their worlds don’t revolve around me.  Life moves forward Tony.  It is hard to look back.” He smiled now, “You gave me something that I never thought I would get a chance at.  The chance to say goodbye.  To have these last happy moments and knowledge that they’ll be ok.  Let’s go home, Tony.”

Peggy pulled Tony in for a hug, “Please take good care of him.”

Tony gave up the need to argue because how could he argue with getting to keep Steve?  To not have to leave him behind?

“How could I not?  The man is a saint.” Tony joked into her brown hair as Peggy Carter pulled back.  The strength, resolve and determination he knew of radiated from her in waves.

“Do you like toys?” she inquired with a grin.

Now a smirk pulled at his features, “As a child it was rare to get a toy that I didn’t make myself, but the ones I received were cherished.”

The band read one minute.  Steve caught a glance at the number on the band as he picked up the bag with their clothes.  “Thank you for the memories.  I’ve never lost them.”

Then Tony felt heat on his wrist, felt the warmth coming from Steve Rogers at his side and the feeling of coming apart took over his senses once more.  The workshop came into view and Tony noted they were not alone.  The Avengers were waiting for them with Pepper.

“How could you think I would stay?” Steve asked staring down at Tony who didn’t want to meet his eyes, but couldn’t help himself.  He would face this head on.

“Peggy Carter was the love of your life.  Your friends were there.  Your world.” Tony felt Steve’s hands on his shoulders as the soldier squeezed slightly.

“Dammit, Tony.  My world is right here.” The pressured increased slightly and Tony didn’t get the chance to respond because suddenly Steve’s lips were pressed against his own.  Teeth clacked slightly at the suddenness and Tony just went limp in Steve’s grip because this couldn’t be happening.  How could Steve Rogers possibly have interest in Tony Stark?  Someone so selfish and horrible and not morally sound?  Someone so broken?  But then he responded.  Lips moved against lips and hands wandered.  Tony could feel himself being pulled closer and hummed against Steve’s mouth.  A sound of pleasure and contentment.

They broke for air and Tony realized his world had tunneled down to only Steve.  The others surrounding them were on the periphery.  The sounds and voices were so very far away.  “What…why?”

“I couldn’t stay there because I love you, Tony.  I’ve loved you for months now.”

Warmth curled in his belly and Tony felt surprise, elation and a sense of peace because he needed this.  Had been hiding those feelings and emotions for far too long.  He wanted a reason to settle, something to ground him and keep him sane.

“I’ve loved you for months.”

“About damn time.” Was muttered from the side and it set off several laughs.

Steve glanced at Tony, “Thank you for giving me my goodbyes and my dance with Peggy.”  He caught movement out of the corner of his eye and noted Pepper walking towards him holding a couple envelopes in her hands.  She carefully held them out while grinning at them.

“These were set to arrive today.” It was soft and careful.  Something in her eyes told Tony there was something more to them.

He looked down.  Two were addressed to him and one addressed to Steve.  They were slightly brown with age.  When he opened the first Tony almost dropped it.  The first letter was from his father acknowledging his visit to the past.  The second was from Peggy Carter.

Steve looked up from his own letter from Peggy, “That trip happened.  It was always meant to happen.” He muttered in surprise.

Tony stared down at his arc reactor and started laughing.  “Howard created that model because I told him he created it.  It’s a fucking loop.  The whole thing is a loop!”

Bruce grinned as he adjusted his glasses, “I had thought it might be the case.  If you were to leave Steve in the past then there would not have been a reason for you to travel to the past to begin with.  A paradox.”

“Ha!  I saved my own ass.  In your face Howard!” Tony crowed, “I’m a fucking genius.”

Clint snorted, “We know.  You tell us that at least once a week.”

“If you get movie night then I my own weekly ritual.”

“So how was the trip?  Anything exciting happen?” Pepper grinned at Tony as a far too gleeful look took over his features.

“Steve punched my father in the face.”