Oh, God. Tony couldn't even look. Pretending he wasn't about to die here, he fiddled with one of the holographic displays. Out of the corner of his eye, though, he could catch just a glimpse of Steve, reflected in a screen—could see those broad shoulders, the tilt of that heroic brow.
The tightness around the edges of his mouth.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, everything inside Tony was sinking, and he was bracing himself. It was the goddamn giant rabbit incident all over again, he'd fucked up all over again. Grand gestures were worthless if you couldn't drag your traumatized ass out of the workshop long enough to have dinner like a normal person, and no one liked giant rabbits. Pepper hadn't liked giant rabbits. It'd taken her days to actually come out and tell him that, sure, but she hadn't, and Steve was way more diplomatic and self-sacrificing than Pepper was. He'd probably silently hate it and silently seethe every time he had to look at the stupid thing taking up space, and he'd silently start to hate Tony, just like Pepper had, and Tony did not understand why nobody liked giant freaking rabbits. Tony just plain did not understand.
He'd tried so hard this time.
Tony pulled himself out of his downward spiral and refocused his gaze on the display instead of on the flaming wreckage of what had, right up until this moment, been pretty much the best part of his life. Struggling to seem disinterested, he tilted his head up. "Hmm?"
"Tony. Is this…" Steve trailed off and Tony's stomach descended a little further.
Still, there was a plaintive note to Steve's voice, and Tony was made of vibranium and titanium, not stone. He turned around. Steve was gesturing at the present sitting in the center of the workshop, and he didn't look mad.
Because he was diplomatic. Because he was self-sacrificing. Maybe he'd tell Tony how much he hated this someday, though. Like when he was breaking up with him.
"This is a motorcycle," Tony said, a lump in his throat making the words sound tight.
Because, no. Even he wasn't stupid enough to buy an actual goddamn giant rabbit, not again. Just a metaphorical one. Just another over-the-top offering that would never patch over all the neglect that came with being romantically attached to Tony Stark.
But it was an over-the-top offering that Tony had put so much thought into. The bike was patterned after the one Tony's father had put together for Steve back in the war, and yeah, he'd even gone over the old man's notes in order to get the foundations just right, that's how much he loved Steve. He'd made some kick-ass improvements to it, too, but he'd respected the general feel of the thing. He'd made it just Steve's height, and custom-fitted the handlebars to Steve's grip. It was for Steve. Everything Tony did these days was for Steve.
Steve was silent, and his face blank. Fuck it. Tony turned away again and blinked his eyes at the display, his vision blurring, and whatever. It didn't matter. "You don't like it," he said. "Fine. No problem. I'll get it hauled away tomorrow." He flicked a finger over something on the display, he couldn't see well enough to tell what.
Because he'd put his heart and soul into this, and he should have known that neither of those was worth a thing. He swallowed and it hurt, and he dug his nails into his palm, and it hurt.
"No," Steve said stiffly. "I don't like it."
Tony's throat ached with the bitter edges of the laugh he bit back. Apparently Steve was less diplomatic and self-sacrificing than Tony had given him credit for. Well, good. Tony liked honesty. At least this was one less thing to come out someday when Steve finally lost it because Tony had gone too far and Steve started digging up every bit of hurt Tony had inflicted on him over the past year.
Tony braced himself and waited for Steve to walk away or for a missile to blow through the side of the building—yes, could he get a missile to blow through the side of the building? Preferably right now?
But the wall didn't explode, and Steve's footsteps weren't echoing on the stairs.
Instead, there was warmth at Tony's back and a hand on his shoulder, and Tony flinched, because he was too raw to be touched with such care. He didn't want Steve's kind, perfect hands or Steve's warm voice or Steve's unflagging impulse to make Tony feel better all the time. Except he did. Of course he did.
And then Steve's breath washed across Tony's ear, and Steve's arms wrapped around Tony from behind. Steve pressed his lips against Tony's neck and then his face to Tony's shoulder, and was it damp? Was Steve shuddering? Steve squeezed him tighter, and Tony couldn't help himself. He put a hand over Steve's, tentative, because holding on too tight was what he did, and he always did it when it was far too late.
Then Steve murmured, shaky and too earnest to be a lie, too earnest to be any kind of polite dissembling, "I don't like it. I love it. Tony, how--?" And Steve was asking questions, and he loved it.
"Really?" Tony asked over the Steve's babbling. "For real?"
"So much. I can't even explain."
Tony turned in Steve's arms and let Steve hug him tighter. He wrapped his arms around Steve and rested his head against that solid chest. "It's not too much?"
Steve shook his head, chuckling. "Of course it's too much." He leaned away and tipped Tony's head back so they were looking each other in the eye, and his expression was open and fond. "But what else would I expect from you?"
And Steve wasn't lying. Steve knew Tony. He knew what to expect, and sometimes that was neglect and missed dates, and sometimes it was grand gestures. And somehow, for Steve, that was okay.
"A giant rabbit?" Tony asked weakly.
Laughing for real this time, Steve leaned down to brush his lips over Tony's. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Probably better that way." Tony paused for a second, and he wasn't this insecure, really, he wasn't. But he asked anyway. "You really love it?"
"I love it," Steve confirmed. He touched the side of Tony's face, and for the briefest second, there was a hitch to his breath. "Just like I love you."
All the sinking parts of Tony froze. Tony froze, and Steve wasn't exactly moving either. Because they'd said that before, in all kinds of little ways. Steve said it in coffee cups left on Tony's workbench when he wasn't paying attention and in the way he curled around Tony when Tony crept into bed at two in the morning, in little touches and ham sandwiches and the time and freedom for Tony to be himself when no one else had really wanted that before. Tony said it in grand gestures. In giant freaking rabbits and custom motorcycles, but they'd never said it out loud before.
Tony forced himself to relax, but the funny thing was…Tony believed him.
Too quiet for human hearing but plenty loud enough for a supersoldier, Tony whispered it back.
Then he pitched forward to press his face against Steve's collar bone and pull in a deep breath before letting it out. Steve ran his hands up and down Tony's arms, and he was glowing. Tony could feel the heat.
After a minute, Steve cleared his throat. "So," he asked, voice a little rough around the edges. "You wanna take it for a ride?"
An hour later, clinging to Steve's waist, Tony sat on the back of that motorcycle as they roared out of the city and out onto the open road. Every line in Steve's body—even the ones that were so often tense and restrained—was pouring off pure joy.
Unseen behind the visor of the helmet, Tony smiled smugly to himself. How could he have doubted himself? He was the best damn present-giver in the world, and this wasn't the giant rabbit incident at all. Because Tony knew Steve. Tony knew Steve didn't like giant rabbits
Steve loved motorcycles and freedom and things that felt familiar. And Steve loved Tony.
So Tony would give Steve every single piece of him he could.