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Calm Before the Storm

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Tony walked fast; that was probably why he made it almost ten steps out of the room before someone caught his hand and held him in place.

Normally, he’d fight, pull away, try to hit them on instinct—but the touch was familiar, almost painfully so, so Tony just stopped. He didn’t turn to face Steve, but he didn’t push him away either, just waited to see what he’d say, his eyes set on the floor. Steve ran his fingers up Tony’s arm, gently, then along his shoulder, until they rested on the side of Tony’s neck, a delicate touch designed to calm him.

Tony let himself breathe; in and out, in and out.

He didn’t have Ulysess’s gift, however exactly it worked, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t see the future in his head, unwinding clearly, cuttingly; another war between heroes where there was no victory, only varying degrees of losing; another war Tony didn’t manage to stop.

Except he would. This time, he would succeed.

Steve stepped closer, not close enough to touch, but Tony could still feel his body heat through the layer of his undersuit, and he tried to relax; he leant back until he was almost falling, and moments later Steve wrapped his other arm around Tony’s waist and held him firmly, securely.

“It’s alright,” he whispered into Tony’s ear, even though it clearly wasn’t, even though he must’ve had a hundred questions—and Tony knew they would come, he knew he couldn’t avoid answering forever, but right then, Steve didn’t ask anything, just stood with Tony, a silent, steady support that Tony didn’t deserve and yet craved so much.

And to think he’d been so happy at the party barely minutes ago, toasting everyone with his coke, Carol at his side.

“Let’s just go home,” Tony said, as if they weren’t in the Tower, and he felt Steve nod behind him.

Steve always knew what he meant, somehow, and he never stopped touching Tony as they called the elevator and together went to their bedroom.

The storm was coming, but it wasn’t here yet, and Tony let himself have this one night.

***

Tony wasn’t really hungry in the morning, but running himself exhausted wouldn’t really help anything and would just disappoint Steve, so he forced himself to swallow a few bites of fried eggs for breakfast. Steve kept his coffee mug refilled, and Tony smiled at him sweetly.

They were the only two in the kitchen, the rest of the Avengers clearly still sleeping off last night’s party, and really, Tony should’ve expected the question, but he was still surprised when Steve spoke up, his fingers tangled with Tony’s.

“So what was it about?” he asked.

Couldn’t Thanos attack now, Tony wondered, but he was never quite that lucky. “I told you I wasn’t going to get into a morality debate with you,” he reminded him, unhappy.

He liked to think he learnt on his mistakes, but really, if he could make one thing right this time, let it be this, let him not destroy this new thing between Steve and him, let him stay on Steve’s side.

“Yeah, and I’m not arguing that,” Steve said drily, but he kept his hand connected with Tony’s. “But it’s not a morality debate, Tony, and whatever dark future you’re imagining right now, it’s not true yet.”

“But it might be,” Tony said. “Don’t you see? We’ve already started taking sides. Me, Carol, even Rhodey. You know how this ends, Steve, you know better than I do.”

Because Tony didn’t remember the first superhero war, and he really didn’t want to live through another. What Tony did remember was this: going to the past with Doctor Doom, seeing King Arthur, a few dots connecting in his mind, knowing the war was coming.

He didn’t remember Steve dying, but he remembered reading about it, and he never, never wanted to see anything like that again.

“Okay,” Steve said. “So you disagreed. That doesn’t have to end in a fight.”

“It always ends in a fight,” Tony muttered darkly. Then he looked up. “You stood there and listened. You never said anything. What’s your position, Steve?”

Steve chuckled. It didn’t sound like he was amused. “Nope,” he said. “You said you weren’t willing to go into a morality debate? Well, neither am I.”

Of course, hoping that Steve would agree with him was too much. Tony looked away.

Steve put his finger under Tony’s chin and forced him to meet his eyes again. “Hey,” he said. “I’m not—I don’t want to be as pessimistic as you’re being here, Tony, but I’m still not taking a side on this one. Not this time. Not after everything. But . . .” He paused, moved his hand so it cupped Tony’s cheek. “I’m here for you. With you. I always will be.” He seemed nothing if not sincere.

And yet . . . The war over SHRA; the conflict about incursions.

“I don’t get you,” Tony whispered. “How could you forgive me?”

Steve sighed, then he knelt in front of Tony so their faces were level. “I thought we agreed to start anew,” he said.

“Yes, but—”

“I love you, Tony,” Steve said, and he raised Tony’s hand to his mouth and kissed it lightly. “Is it logical? Probably no, but I’m not the engineer here. I love you. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy, but it does mean that I want to try. And it’s always easier to be with you than away from you.”

Tony blinked a few times against the tears. He wanted to believe Steve. He did. And yet . . .

“Something will happen,” he said. He let himself lean forward and rest his forehead against Steve’s as he continued, “I don’t know what yet. But something will. Like with Stamford. And then . . .”

“No,” Steve said. “It won’t be like that. We’ve all learnt that lesson, Tony.”

But Tony could see the doubt in his eyes anyway.

“Yesterday was a huge victory, Tony,” Steve continued. “Let’s focus on that.”

Tony smiled weakly. “I’m a futurist, Steve, my job is focusing on the future.”

“But usually you’re optimistic about it.”

Tony nodded. “I love the future, Steve. Everything is possible.” He paused. “And yet, sometimes . . .” Sometimes he only saw the destruction he’d brought on or hadn’t managed to stop, and really, it was the same thing in the end.

(Steve, falling, red blooming on his chest.)

Steve kissed his eyelids, first left and then the right, and that was when Tony understood he’d started crying.

“None of that, Iron Man,” Steve told him. “We’re superheroes. We beat the impossible.”

“When we’re all on one side.”

“We will be,” Steve told him. “You got the X-Men and the Inhumans to have fun at one party, Tony; I think you’ve gotten a hang of that reuniting thing.” Steve grinned. “You started with me, after all.”

Tony laughed almost unwillingly, but Steve had a point, and he was just there, happy and alive, and Tony leant forward and kissed him. Steve was with him this time, and Tony always believed he could do anything, together with Steve.

He told himself to cheer up. Whatever Ulysses would turn out to be, for himself and for the world, they’d deal with this.

Rhodey and Carol walked into the kitchen, Carol wearing an Air Force sweater—except it was way too big to be hers, and Tony would snicker at it any other day, but now he could only appreciate how happy they looked, together.

Rhodey’s smile faltered when he saw him, a question on his lips, but Tony just shook his head. Rhodey nodded, didn’t ask—the “we’ll talk later” obvious in his eyes—and messed up Tony’s hair. Tony hid his face in the crook of Steve’s neck before Carol could see his red eyes.

“Morning,” he said into Steve’s chest.

“I’m taking your coffee,” she replied.

“I’ll forgive you this one time,” he said, and Steve laughed over him, his hand stroking Tony’s back.

They’d all be good. They had to be.