For once, Steve wishes he had let Tony convince him to take the private jet.
It’s a standing argument between the two of them. “I have the thing for a reason, Steve,” Tony will say, rolling his eyes. “Seriously, what’s the point of knowing a rich guy if you don’t take advantage of his jet? Especially if said jet has a Jacuzzi on it. Am I going to have to teach you how to mooch? Mooching’s been the American way since at least the 80s, Steve, and you, my friend, are behind the times. First lesson: take the jet!”
But it makes something inside Steve squirm to think of having a whole plane to himself if it’s not for an urgent mission. He always puts Tony off and takes whatever S.H.I.E.L.D. gives him. Sometimes that means a silent ride with Agent Hill and her stony-faced pilots; sometimes it means lining up for commercial airlines. And sometimes, apparently, it means waiting for hours to be told you’ll have to wait hours more.
After three delays, the frazzled girl at the desk has finally admitted that they’re canceling the flight. Steve tries not to let his disappointment show. She’s already got one person yelling at her, and he doesn’t need to make her day worse. Instead, he does his best to be patient as he waits for more news from the airline.
When it comes, it’s not good. He hunches down in the tiny plastic chair and listens to the management apologize over and over.
He finally digs the phone Tony foisted onto him out of his pocket. Flight is canceled because of the mechanical problem. Next one is tomorrow morning, he types.
what time? comes back almost instantly.
0635, Steve writes. He watches the screen with a scowl, waiting for a lecture about how he should have taken the jet. When it doesn’t come, he somehow feels even worse.
It’s been a week since he saw Tony. Two months ago, he would’ve thought he could last much longer without seeing that smug grin, but that was before--well--Steve snaps the phone shut. That was before.
Now it’s like his whole body’s been rewired, tuned just to Tony. When Tony walks into a room, Steve can feel it, a low-level buzz in his blood. When Tony speaks, his voice slips down through Steve’s ribs like brandy and burns bright and slow in his gut, so Steve is still thinking about the sound of it hours later. When Tony touches him, even just a brush of fingers over his shoulder, it’s all Steve can do not to reach out and drag him close, kiss him, hold him, anything, always.
He doesn’t know what to call the thing between them. At first, it was just sex. Really great sex, sure, but nothing more than two soldiers getting each other off, finding a little corner of something that made sense in the sharp, dizzy aftermath of battle. Somehow, without Steve noticing, it slid into something deeper.
Three weeks ago, he came out from a meeting with Fury and headed to Stark Tower on autopilot. Tony was working on a new project, hunched over the table and up to his elbows in wires and metal. “What happened to the well-water purifier?” Steve asked, coming up behind him to peek over his shoulder.
“Just sent off the patent,” Tony muttered. He tweaked something with a pair of pliers, and the thing taking shape beneath him lit up in pink and hummed like struck crystal. “This, this is just for fun.”
The pink dissolved slowly into green. Steve decided he could ask later, when Tony’s creation actually looked like something. He kissed Tony behind his ear, just over the strap for his safety glasses, and said, “We should eat soon.” There was an armchair and he had his book; he settled down and waited half an hour to drag Tony out for pizza.
“We could just order in,” Tony said when Steve guided him to the door. “Come on, let me take a couple schematics, Steve. Okay, fine, one schematic, one tiny schematic. Please? I’m not even hungry. Traitor,” he told his stomach as it growled.
Steve just laughed. “Pepperoni or olives?” he said, steering Tony up the stairs.
Tony heaved a sigh worthy of the movies. “You’re a tyrant, Rogers. Both.”
And Steve remembers smiling, really smiling; his face creasing up helplessly, his body feeling light, his heart glowing soft and full as a moon inside him. He remembers knowing: this is it. I’ve got what I want.
What did you even do with that?
Steve closes his eyes as a faint flash of grief goes through him. He felt that way about Peggy, once, and then he flew a plane into ice for her. That hurt’s mostly healed, now, but it just goes to show--he can’t do small. He can’t do cold. He’s always jumped into things with his eyes wide open and pointed straight ahead, and the way he loses his heart is no exception.
“What?” Tony had asked over pizza, squinting at Steve. “Do I have sauce on my face? Should I stop talking about robotics? Am I going too fast? We can go back to equations if you want, but come on, everything’s better with robots, I’m going to really question your judgment here if they’re making you zone out.” His eyes sparkled with laughter.
Steve felt his cheeks heat, and dropped his gaze to the table. “There’s nothing on your face,” he said. I just can’t help staring at you, he didn’t. “Uh, keep going. I’m listening.”
It’s been like that ever since--this huge thing living under his skin, this sweet ache under his breastbone. Once he noticed it, he couldn’t stop noticing it. He lights up when Tony comes in the room. He wants to call him up all the time just to hear him talk, even if it’s about how stupid his board members are or the chemical composition of coffee. He wants to hold Tony’s hand, which they haven’t quite made it to yet, when they go out for dinner. He wants everything, all of it, for as long as he can get it.
He thinks Tony’s on the same page, maybe. He smiles at Steve like he is, anyway, when he thinks Steve’s not looking. And for all his whining about leaving his workroom, he always lets Steve take him out for food or an adventure, where he'll ask what Steve's thinking about or for stories of old New York. He’s started texting Steve with these little symbols that Bruce says are supposed to be hearts, too, which he never used to do.
He's sure if he could only ask, or Tony could, they could stop tiptoeing around each other and just have whatever they want. But Steve doesn’t know the right way to ask for it these days. Out of all the things he’s had to adapt to in the future, twenty-first century etiquette is the one that still trips him up.
When Tony invited the Avengers over for dinner for the first time, Steve brought flowers in a vase instead of wine like everyone else; Bruce smiled at him, and Natasha muttered something in Russian under her breath, her eyes fond. When he held the door open for Fury and Hill at their last briefing, they both stared at him. When he handed Pepper a thank-you note for the book she got him on his birthday, she blinked a lot and then gave him a big hug. He keeps missing the mark just a little, apparently, and asking Tony for more is definitely not something he wants to get wrong.
In his own time, people would have said he was Peggy’s young man or Peggy’s fellow, and Steve would have called her his girl. He wishes it was the same, that he could just say “my guy Tony” and have everyone get it. He wants everyone to get it. He wants to take out an ad in every paper in New York and buy time on the radio just to talk about it. But people don’t seem to read the papers much anymore, and does Tony even listen to the radio?
His phone chirps suddenly, bringing him out of his thoughts. He sighs. Even that noise gives him a little flutter of excitement lately, since it’s almost always Tony texting him.
spending night in airprt? says the latest.
Steve glances over at the long line of people waiting to hear about the hotel and winces. Probably, he texts back, then tacks on a Sorry. I miss you, before he can talk himself out of it.
He closes the phone keyboard and presses his lips together, wishing he had a sketchbook or novel to distract himself. He finished the book he brought a couple hours ago, when only the first delay had been announced. Maybe he should go buy a new one. Everyone’s been teasing him for never having read this Harry Potter series--even Thor, who is usually Steve’s compatriot when it comes to modern stuff, has read it. (“You, too, would have read the saga of Harry Potter if Darcy and her lightning dagger had prompted you to do so, my friend.”) Before he can decide, his phone pings.
miss you too big guy. see you v soon <3
Steve’s heart stings with want. If only. He brushes his finger over the little heart, then puts the phone in his front jacket pocket.
Instead of buying a book or finding napkins to draw on, he closes his eyes and tries to nap. Maybe Tony will pick him up from the airport tomorrow morning, he thinks. Maybe they can go for breakfast. Steve’s been meaning to take him to Sarah’s for a while, and it’s only two blocks away from the Tower. Maybe, maybe, maybe...
The chime of his phone wakes him. He blinks sleep from his eyes, quick from old habit, and fishes it out to see another text from Tony.
go to gate a59
Steve frowns down at the screen. Why? he taps out.
just do it stars and stripes
Steve rolls his eyes, but he’s already awake, and now he’s curious. So he stands and stretches, rolling his shoulders to loosen up his neck, and gets his bag.
It’s about oh-one-hundred, and the airport is quieter now. People are sleeping in plastic chairs and leaned up against walls, and when he gets to gate A59, the cafe next to it is empty except for the bored cashier. Steve takes a seat next to a dozing couple and gets out his phone.
Okay, I’m here, he tells Tony. Now what?
A few seats ahead, someone gasps and points at the window.
Steve turns to look, tensed and ready for a fight. His heart leaps when he sees a pulse of light out in the clouds. There are only two things that color blue: lightning and the arc reactor. The fear drains from him, and he straightens up, eyes wide.
The light zigzags toward the windows, too even for lightning. Before Steve can take another breath, there Tony is, suited up and floating outside the gate door. He looks bright and brand new, like he just polished up the armor. He throws a lazy salute through the window, then turns to examine something next to the door.
The people around Steve are getting excited, murmuring and standing for a better look. Steve stands too, but his mind’s still stuck a few seconds back with that beam of blue light streaking through the clouds. Did Tony fly here all the way? Just for this? He swallows hard and tries to get his breathing calmer, edging forward.
Tony puts his hand next to the gate door and makes something let out a mechanic whine. Suddenly the door is sliding open with ease, letting the cool night air into the building. Steve squeezes the strap of his bag. The eyes on the Iron Man suit flare, and its metallic tones spark out over the crowd.
“Okay, people, back away from the gate door. That’s it, excellent, thank you,” as everyone follows the order. “Don’t try this at home, kids, this is strictly superheroes only,” Tony adds, and flies a few feet inside, hovering over the airport carpet.
Steve threads through to the front of the crowd, where Tony’s making a gentle landing. “Tony,” he calls out, stepping up close when Tony’s feet hit the ground.
“Steve Rogers,” the suit intones, sounding pleased. Tony flips up his helmet piece and cracks a grin at Steve. “Fancy meeting you here,” he says.
A couple people have their phones out to take videos, but Steve doesn’t care. “You flew here?” he asks.
“Boyfriend rescue service,” Tony says. Then his grin wavers just a tiny bit, like he’s not sure he’s allowed to say that, and Steve’s heart swells in his chest. If Tony can make it that easy--
“Hi,” he says, reaching out to touch Tony’s metal wrist.
Tony’s smile dials back up to a hundred, and Steve can’t help but beam back, his stomach doing giddy flips. “You didn’t have to come all the way here for nothing,” he tries.
Tony snorts. “You’re ridiculous. I can’t believe you actually exist. Look, I’m not giving you a choice this time--you’re coming in the jet.” He jerks his chin over his shoulder, where a gleaming black jet is making a smooth landing on the runway. “If I have to drag you kicking and screaming, Rogers--”
“I’ll come,” Steve says. “Let’s go.”
He takes Tony’s gauntlet, lacing his fingers with Tony’s, and tugs him back towards the nearest exit. He's definitely taking his boyfriend for breakfast tomorrow, he decides, not even trying to tamp down his smile.
Boyfriend, he thinks, is a great word.