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Love's old song will be new

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"Oh, HEL-lo," Tony murmurs under his breath.

His eyes linger on impossibly wide shoulders and then travel down to the tiny waist of a soldier leaning on a column near the bar. The man is currently turned towards a small table crowded with a group of men wearing the same uniform as he is, so there's no chance he'll catch Tony ogling.

James throws Tony a questioning side-glance, rapidly understands who has caught his interest, but only rolls his eyes. Tony's forever grateful that he can count on his friend not to say a word. If it caught on that he's interested in men that way, especially in a bar full of soldiers, he could be in trouble. But then again, war changes a lot of things. Tony would bet that more than one soldier in the room has gotten some… stress relief with another man.

The soldier by the column is unfairly handsome, Tony surmises as he walks closer and is able to admire the front as much as the back. He's currently laughing, and is the epitome of brightness and beauty with his blond hair, blue eyes and fair skin. It's also obvious that he must not lack offers for companionship: the few women in the place who aren't already with someone – and even several of the taken ones - are eyeing him with keen interest. Said women don't even have a glance to spare for Tony, which is rare. Maybe this little town in Switzerland doesn’t get Marvels: A Magazine of Men's Adventures, which would also be a factor explaining this sad situation. It's fine, though. Tony's busy trying not to stare all All-American too much himself.

Nonetheless drawn to the soldier’s periphery like a moth to a flame, Tony takes a seat at the bar as close as possible. By his side, Rhodes sighs.

"I swear to God," he swears under his breath. It's fond, though, and Tony elbows him in the side.

"Shush, you," Tony says, and gesture to the barman. "Best scotch you have for me, and a beer for my friend."

Rhodey's lips curl up when the barman frowns and gets the drinks with jerky motions. Tony knows James would have had trouble getting served if he'd tried ordered by himself, which is infuriating. If there's one thing that Tony detests above all it's stupidity, and racists are among the worst of the lot.

It seems that Tall, Blond and Gorgeous has noticed their arrival, and when Tony turns on his stool to have another look at him, the soldier's blue eyes widen. That's definitely recognition and Tony smiles widely in return. To his delight, his pretty mouth opens up in shock before the soldier clamps his jaw shut and looks down at the ground, reddening. It's adorable.

Tony sips his drink and spends a couple of minutes debating if the best move would be to go to the soldier or let him approach at his pace. On one hand, Tony has to play it subtle, or he might spook the poor lad or get punched in the face for his trouble, if the blush is just from being star struck. On the other hand, sometimes the direct approach is best and without ambiguity, and Tony’s pressed for time. There is sadly no way he can engage in a slow courtship, even if that guy seems like he would be worth every single moment of it. The decision is taken out of Tony’s hands when delightfully the Captain – says the two bars on his shoulders - takes a deep breath, straightens, clenches his jaw for a second, and then strides over.

"Evening, Captain," Tony says, nodding his head in a salute when the man stops before him.

The soldier is fidgeting slightly from one foot to the other and biting at his lip, before he visibly composes himself again and extends his hand to shake.

"Captain Steven Rogers. It's an honor to meet you, Mister Stark," he says with a pretty good show of assurance.

Tony smiles, shakes hands and forces himself to let go of the Captain after just the right amount of lingering. It's a game he's played many times, and if the Captain has any experience in it himself, he will know that it's a definite show of interest. An overture. It's hard to say if Captain Rogers caught on, though, as his smile is frank and honest and with no edge of flirting at all.

"The honor's all mine, Captain," Tony says.

He's pleasantly surprised when Rogers turns to Rhodes and offers to shake his hand, too.

"Mister Rhodes," he says with a smile. "Great to meet you too."

"Likewise, Sir," James says, offering a smile he rarely gives strangers. Unfortunately, James is often treated as if he's invisible, and just for the show of respect Tony gives Captain Rogers extra points.

"Enjoying a little R&R, Captain?" Tony asks.

One of the men sitting at the table where Captain Rogers was earlier laughs loudly and the others follow, making a racket. Captain Rogers throws them an amused smile and when he looks back at Tony he shrugs.

"Yeah. Seize the good moments as they come and all of that," he says. "What about you?"

"We have a lead for something that could be of interest for a story." A cube of limitless energy, the rumors says, which is promising in regard to Tony's heart problems.

He does less adventures these days, constantly busy working with General Fury and building better armament, better planes, better everything for the troops so they can defeat the Axis. He never managed to retire completely from the magazine as he meant to do after the fight with Arsenal. He really needs to fix his heart; when he has a great lead, he pursues. Also, as Tony found out, the public does need escapism in these dark days and if he can provide, once in a while, he's happy to.

"I know you've done and have been through a lot," Captain Rogers says. It's clear by his expression and body language that he's treading carefully, as if he knows that what is going to come out of his mouth next is not going to be received well. "But isn't a war zone just, hum, too risky?"

Tony isn't surprised at all. He hears it all the time, especially from military personnel that don't know how deeply involved he already is with General Fury and the war effort. The only people who encourage Tony to run all over the place, in fact, are his advertisers: danger does sell. But also, to be completely honest, the Captain isn't wrong that this time around their plans are a bit crazier than normal.

"Risky, yes, since our next quest leads straight to Hydra…" Tony says, opening his free hand in a 'what can you do' gesture.

Roger's gaze turns sharp at that. "Hydra? You're not going after them by yourself, are you?"

Tony decides to take the question as a show of concern about his safety, and not disavowing his capacity to deal with a tough situation by himself.

"I'll have my team-" he starts. Rhodey is worth five men, cunning, fast and strong and Pepper is immensely resourceful. On top, Jarvis is never really far with the armors. When Captain Rogers opens his mouth to complain some more, Tony completes his thought. "And the support of the US Army. The best of the best, or so I've heard."

"Yes?" Steve says, intrigued.

"I'm meeting a Colonel Phillips tomorrow, we'll hash it out."

It makes the man beam, and Tony takes it as a sign he might see this soldier again a lot sooner than he thought. Maybe he serves with Phillips, but he seems too new, too innocent to be in a highly trained special Ops team. Frankly, Tony thought they'd part ways at the end of the evening and only keep a nice memory of each other for lonely nights.

Tony has struck a deal with the Army: they have something to show him, a secret weapon unlike anything else, if it's to be believed. General Fury has devised that Tony will meet Colonel Phillips, give his ideas to help that mysterious weapon reach its maximum potential, and in exchange he'll be given a highly trained team to help obtain the cube. He won't stay in this town for long, if he has any say in the matter. He can do weapon upgrade designs in hours, and Tony plans to be moving out by midday. A shame, really, because he'd like to see much more of this particular soldier for sure.

"I used to never miss an issue of the Marvel Magazine," Steve says. "I've always loved your stories best."

Apart from being a bit pink around the edges, Rogers doesn't seem embarrassed in admitting that at all.

"Well thank you, Captain Rogers," Tony says saluting with his drink before taking a sip.

"Steve, please," the man says. "I'm off duty."

"Then no more of that Mister Stark crap either, then," Tony replies. "Call me Tony."

"If you're sure," Steve says, before trying it out, "Tony."

He throws Tony a shy but definitely happy little smile.

"Definitely," Tony says with a wink. "So you're a long time fan, huh? I'm glad you like the stories, we do try to make them entertaining."

Steve nods. "Yeah. I was sick a lot, for a long time. I read all I could get my hands on, but those stories took me along on your adventures, you know what I mean?"

It's hard to imagine this hunk of a man confined to a sick bed, but what Steve is describing is the very reason they do this. Well why his editors do this. Tony has his own agenda, of course.

"That's great to hear," Tony says, and then gestures at the bar around them, and by extension Switzerland and Europe. "I'd say you found your way to your very own adventures."

"True," Steve replies with a little pleased smile. Visibly the war hasn't soured him yet, and Tony finds out he has opinions on how Steve's innocence should be protected at all cost.

He's assuming that Steve's next question will be to ask if everything that is written in Tony's adventures is true or embellished, or something of the same, but no. Steve genuinely wants to know what he missed.

"What's the last issue you remember?" Tony asks.

"The scuffle with the pirates in Timbuktu," Steve says.

It’s been published only six months ago.

"Then you never read the one with the Yeti," Tony says, as if an almost mythical creatures is a perfectly normal thing to encounter on adventures.

"A… a Yeti? As in Big Foot?" Steve asks, before narrowing his eyes. "Are you trying to mess with me?"

Tony laughs. "No, not in that way," he says, upping the flirting.

The thing is that Steve just… doesn't catch on. He's fully invested in hearing about the Yeti story on the other hand. So Tony starts talking, going through the twists and turns of the adventure, sometimes laying it on thick just to make Steve laugh.

Steve is captivated, drinking Tony's every word and the resulting feeling is heady. His focus is so intent that Steve is listing forward, narrowing the space between them. One of his knees has even been pressed against Tony's thigh for a bit, slightly distracting, but somehow comforting too. He does try to get Steve to talk about his own adventures (getting more than one sheepish 'sorry, it's classified') but ends up the one babbling on and on. God, Steve is so earnest, no calculation on his face, no direct leering, just genuine interest. Tony is acutely aware of the spell he has put on the man, and how he could probably use it to his advantage. But as the minutes and then an hour pass, less and less does Tony want to just get in Steve's pants. He genuinely needs for the guy to like him, and how is that for a surprise?

Tony waves off James when he calls it a night, and by the way Rhodey smirks, he expects teasing on the morrow. The Captain's gang is still drinking, getting louder and louder which makes the few couples trying to dance and in charge of the gramophone crank up the volume for the music. Predictably, that makes the soldiers speak even louder, and so on and so forth. On one hand, Steve is leaning even closer so they can continue to converse. Unfortunately it also triggers the start of a headache for Tony, one that promises to be harsh because the few lamps in the bar are starting to get too bright. He should leave and find a quiet corner to nip it in the bud, but he loathes the idea of parting with Steve even a moment too early.

"Are you alright?" Steve asks, eyes scanning Tony’s face and frowning in concern.

Obviously Tony didn't manage to hide his discomfort. Probably by how he's gesturing less, or speaking more slowly. The cat is visibly of the bag, and since it's really becoming hard to keep the conversation going, Tony sighs and comes clean.

"Just a headache," he confesses.

"You should have said! It's awfully loud in here," Steve says. He gets up and grabs Tony's elbow. "Come on, let's get you some air."

Tony lets himself be led out a door in the back of the bar that opens up in a dark alley. The rush of clean and cold air is a blessing and the noise reduction, once the door closes behind them, is a total relief. So much that Tony finds himself listing against the stone wall and breathing slowly, rubbing at his temples.

"Do you need a doctor?" Steve asks.

"No, no, I'm fine," Tony says, looking up at him. It's so dark in the alley, he can't see much. At least not yet since his vision is already starting to adjust from the clear night's sky. Steve does cut an impressive silhouette back-lighted by the moon; he has at least two or three inches of height on Tony.

"If you're sure," Steve says, slowly.

The volume of the music – a waltz by Bing Crosby is just starting – is now just loud enough for a nice background noise, peppered with echoes of laughter from within. Tony should go to bed, let this lovely young man go back to his friends with the story of having met someone he admires. Quit while he's ahead.

"Thank you for a great conversation, Steve," Tony says. "You should go back inside, dance with one of the nice young ladies that have been eyeing you all night."

Steve scoffs, dismissing the idea immediately. "Yeah, right."

It's surprising enough that Tony feels the need to ask. "And why not?"

"I don't know how to dance," Steve admits.

"I'm sure they'd love to teach you," Tony says. Anyone would.

"I- Maybe, but-" he stutters, most probably blushes – curse the low light – and then Tony would swear he looks at him from under his lashes. "Someone once told me that-" he cuts that train of thought, starts again and it's fascinating. "Maybe tomorrow, if we're still here, and if you're feeling better… maybe you could teach me. If you want."

And wow, that's as unexpected as it's thrilling. There's no way this is just an offer to dance. Tony was planning to be as moral as he can be and walk away before ruining this sweet man, but for a second he reasons that if Steve’s asking… But no. Steve deserves better than a quickie in a back alley. Tony can at least show him how to dance, though.

"I'd be delighted," Tony says, and his heart lurches at how Steve beams at him. God he's beautiful. "But seeing as we're supposed to leave early tomorrow morning, I think I'll have to give you that lesson right now."

Good Lord, Steve will have to learn to shield his emotions because he went from grinning to devastated to bashfully happy in the course of that sentence.

"Now?" he asks.

The alley is narrow, but there's a little bit of space that should be enough.

"Why not?" Tony says, offering a hand.

"What about your headache?" Steve asks, but he does grab Tony's fingers.

"Just needed a bit of air, that's all," Tony says. Oh, he's still hurting, a lancing pain that flares with every heartbeat, but it's a lot more manageable now than it was inside. "Plus we've got the music."

"We do," Steve says, voice going soft when Tony steps closer.

"This is a waltz. For the steps, you have to think of it like moving inside a box," Tony says, raising their joined hand and putting the other on Steve's shoulder, who mirrors the stance. He puts his arm over Tony's, though.

"Placed like this, you'd do the ladies' steps," Tony says, starting to change their positions.

"It's fine," Steve says, keeping his arm firmly on the top of Tony's back. "I'd rather see how you do the leading?"

"Sure. A bit trickier for you, but we can switch later. I wasn't kidding when I said we're going to act as if in a box." They are almost chest-to-chest and Tony has to resist closing the distance the rest of the way. "First thing, on one, your right foot is going back a step…"

Tony guides Steve through the steps slowly, for which he listens very carefully. It's a simple pattern, so he's not surprised when Steve catches on almost immediately. They do the box three, four times and Steve starts to smile and relax a bit.

"You're doing great," Tony praises.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Steve says with a chuckle. "People generally move around a lot more with the waltz, though."

"Ah, well that's because this is just the basics," Tony admits. "Now we're going to rotate this box. Ready?"

"Yes."

"With each half box, we'll turn a quarter of a turn counter clockwise," Tony says, demonstrating as he progresses. Maybe surprised by the change, Steve stumbles for the first time.

"Sorry, sorry," Steve immediately says. Tony's eyes have adjusted, and he can see Steve is flushed.

"Not a problem," Tony placates gently. "Remember the box, but twist it. A quarter turn, each side of the box, on the count of one."

Steve seems to redouble in concentration, but it makes him stiffer, cautious on the turns as if he suddenly doubts what was easy a minute ago.

"Relax," Tony says, firming his hand in the middle of Steve's back. "Just trust me."

It was the right thing to say somehow because Tony can feel Steve just… start to follow where he leads him. They manage a couple of full turns in the little space they have available, Steve graceful now that he has gained confidence, before the song inside comes to an end.

"There you go," Tony says, smiling at Steve as they stop too. "Wasn't too hard, right?"

He doesn't want to step away, he loves the proximity and the intimacy, but Tony has to remember the promise he made himself earlier to limit this to a dance lesson. He tries to step back, but Steve isn't having it, holding on to his shoulders and his hand.

"You're a good teacher. Thank you, Tony," he says, intent.

A shiver goes down Tony's spine because it's clear that Steve wants more by the way his eyes are lowering to Tony's mouth.

"My pleasure," Tony says softly. He might not be strong enough to stop this, after all. Maybe if he doesn't initiate the kiss, Steve won't dare.

It turns out that Steve is plenty capable of daring all on his own because he leans down and brushes a soft kiss to Tony's lips. It's so careful and sweet that Tony is afraid his weak heart is about to burst from a sudden bubbling warmth within. His conscience's voice fades and his hand grips the back of Steve's shirt. It emboldens Steve who tightens his hold on Tony's shoulders and lets go of his hand to hold on to Tony's nape instead, kissing him again more firmly. How is Tony even supposed to be able to resist that? He's weak, always has been, and he folds like a cheap suit. He kisses back, even takes the initiative to touch Steve's tongue and couldn't swear on whom makes a sound first as the kiss deepens.

The world narrows to this place and time, the softness of Steve's lips, how he's hot all over, from the hand still keeping Tony right where he wants to the inferno of the inside of his mouth. It's been a long time since Tony has been that into a kiss, that into a person, and he feels as if he's been set ablaze. The lust, that had been muted by the exhilaration of discovery, slams Tony right in the gut as Steve takes charge and guides him boldly backward, pushing him into the stone wall and shoving a thigh between Tony's legs. The bright bust of pleasure at the contact pulls a needy sound out of Tony's throat, and he's getting desperate enough that humping Steve's leg seems like an excellent idea when reality rudely intrudes. The bar's door, the same they went through earlier, opens up to let light and music spill into the back alley. Fortunately they remain in the shadow, but it's too fucking close.

"Stevie?" a man calls out, stepping outside.

Shit shit shit, that's not good, he can't let Steve get caught in flagrante delicto with another man by a soldier in his unit, he'll get in so much trouble. Steve had tensed and broke the kiss when the door first cracked opened but stayed close, too close, as if they're even hidden enough. They are not, they'll get discovered in a second and it's going to be bad. Fortunately for Steve, Tony can think fast. He puts a hand up against Steve's shoulder, palm towards himself, and head-butts it so his nose crashes against the heel, hard. Pain explodes in his head, compounding the remains of his headache into white-hot suffering.

"Fuck," he curses out loud, knees almost buckling. Tony can feel blood gushing out of his nose, which was the goal, so at least there's that.

"What the hell?" Steve yelps, grabbing Tony's upper arms to keep him upright instead of stepping back, the fool.

"That was really unnecessary!" Tony calls out, and since Steve isn't letting go, he shamelessly wipes his bloody nose on the back of one of Steve's hands. There.

"What the fuck is going on, here?" the soldier who so rudely interrupted them asks, coming over. Thankfully the door closes behind him, so it seems that there are no other witnesses.

"Just a little argument!" Tony says, and Good Lord, if Steve could just catch a clue and start playing along instead of looking distressed it would be swell.

But no, he's manoeuvring Tony towards the middle of the alley, where there's a tad more light.

"Why the hell did you do that for?" he chides Tony, tilting his face up.

He's terrible at cover up, even producing a handkerchief from somewhere and starts dabbing softly at Tony's face, trying to clean him up. The other soldier is now by their side, looking totally confused.

"You know, Steve, if you didn't want him to bleed everywhere, you shouldn't have punched him in the nose." He has the tone of a long-suffering friend.

"I didn't-" Steve starts, the fool, but Tony steps on his foot pointedly and then, just then, realization dawns and Steve's eyes go wide. "Oh!"

"Oh indeed," Tony mutters, shaking him off but keeping the handkerchief, as he puts pressure on his nostril. He is prone to nose bleeds, but fortunately they never last very long.

"It's okay, it's just Bucky!" Steve says.

"And what does that mean?" Said Bucky asks, still looking confused and maybe a little affronted now.

"Tony, he won't talk," Steve says reassuringly, putting a hand on Bucky's shoulder, totally trusting,

"Well excuse me if I didn't immediately guess your pal Bucky wouldn't object to what we were doing!" Tony exclaims.

"And what, exactly, were you two doing?" Bucky asks, saying the words slow as if he's not even sure he wants to know.

"Dancing," Tony says rapidly because, dammit, there's trusting and just plain not being stupid.

"Kissing," the big idiot immediately adds and Tony groans, putting both hands over his face. He then grimaces because he'd forgotten the blood, this is disgusting.

"Are you serious?" Bucky exclaims. There we go, Tony thinks. Poor Steve will find out that friends can say one thing, but when faced with the reality of men together they react differently. "You were kissing Tony Stark? Jesus Fucking Christ."

"Buck-"

Tony's mind is going a hundred mile an hour, trying to find mitigation measures so that at least all the blame falls on him. Maybe he can pay off Bucky? Possibly being further blackmailed would be worth it to protect Steve.

"I'll never hear the end of this, am I?" Bucky is still ranting, but it's taking an unexpected turn. "It was bad enough with the fawning over the fucking magazines-"

"Bucky!" Steve repeats, but this time it's in warning.

"Oh, Bucky, look, he's so handsome," Bucky is saying, miming what must be a swooning Steve, who is coloring by the second. "How could she betray him like that? I would never do that. I wish I could go with him on-"

"Shut up!" Steve says, jumping on his friend and Bucky is laughing now, even when he gets a hand on his mouth to silence him. "God! I hate you!"

It's heart warming, really, to see them horse around. Tony is happy for Steve, because all signs are pointing towards Bucky being a supportive friend just as advertised.

"Nah, you love me," Bucky says, when he manages to twist out of Steve's hold, still grinning wide.

"So help me God," Steve says with a heavy sigh. "You menace."

"As glad as I am that I didn't get you in trouble," Tony says, edging himself in the conversation again. "I'm a mess, my head hurts and I think I'm going to call it a night."

"Oh," Steve says, deflating. Immediately Tony feels bad and he can't believe he's so invested in that man's emotional well-being after so little time spent with him.

"I'm sorry I interrupted," Bucky says with a wince. "But Stark's right, though, it could have been someone else. It's a bad idea to do that where anyone could see. Hell, you know I don't mind and even I don't even want to see."

"We were alone," Steve says. "I'd hear if someone got close, you know that."

"Still," Bucky says, going back to the bar's door. "I know it goes against every fibre of your being, but being cautious isn't a bad thing. I'm back in thirty seconds, no funny business," he adds, before going back in the bar.

"I can't believe you did that." Steve, who has walked back in Tony's space, gently cups his jaw and makes him look up, peering down at his face with concern.

"Didn't think much, mainly reacted," Tony admits.

Steve's fingers are gentle as he assesses the damage. "I don't think it's broken."

"My nose? No," Tony says. "Does hurt like a bitch, though."

"Headache?" Steve asks.

"I'll let you guess," Tony says with a wry smile. Blood is still pounding in his head like a marching band and he's borderline nauseous with it.

He's graced with a butterfly-light kiss to the forehead for this admission and Tony's damaged heart does a triple turn at the tenderness of it.

"How are you even real?" Tony realizes he spoke out loud only because Steve's eyes have widened. "Not a bad thing," Tony reassures. It's not a bad thing at all. "Just saying that you're something else, Captain Rogers."

That definitely makes Steve smile, sweet and happy. He's opening his mouth to reply when the bar's door opens up again and Bucky reappears.

"For God's sake," he curses, shaking his head. "Not subtle, guys."

They are indeed pretty close, again, and still in the middle of the alley. It's easy to get distracted when faced with a solicitous and gorgeous man like Steve. Tony has plenty of experience, and several years on Steve, he should know better than to be almost caught twice in twenty minutes.

"We weren't doing anything," Steve protests.

"Looks fishy," Bucky insists. He throws something balled up at Steve, who catches it easily, hand shooting up as if he doesn't even need to think about it. It makes a wet sound, turning out to be a damp dishtowel, and Tony is extremely grateful.

"Thanks," he tells Bucky, who's already turning towards the bar with a goodbye wave over his shoulder.

"Hey Buck, remind the guys that we've got a 0600 meeting, okay?"

"Sure thing," Bucky says before leaving them alone once more.

Tony is trying to clean his face the best he can, and he notices that his shirt is covered with quite a bit of blood, too. Oh well. He'll surely get Pepper's disappointed stare if she notices before it gets laundered. A last dab below his nose and Tony looks up at Steve and smirks.

"So, how do I look?"

"You're beautiful," Steve says, pinking up. He takes a corner of the dishrag and wipes at a spot on Tony's cheek, then cleans up his hands. "I understand what you were trying to do," he adds. "But I hate that you're hurt."

"Walk with me?" Tony says after he puts the dishtowel on the top of a trashcan so it’s easy to find. Spending time with Steve was great, but Tony needs to reach his hotel, get some rest.

"I'm happy you have a good friend like Bucky," Tony begins to say as they finally exit the alley and start down the street. "But getting caught… you know what you're risking, right?"

"Yeah," Steve says.

"So promise me you'll be more careful, okay?" Tony doesn't want to think about the other men Steve will potentially kiss and more in the future, but he must make sure that Steve is going to be smart about it, for his sake.

"Yes, okay, we'll be more careful," Steve says dutifully.

Tony is nodding gravely when the words play back in his head and he almost stops short. "We?"

"We."

God, he can't believe he has to be the bad guy, here. Tony would love nothing more than to see Steve again, and kiss him while being more careful. But since he's leaving for a dangerous mission in the morning, the chances of seeing each other again, at least before the war is over, are slim.

"Steve," he says on a sigh.

"I know it's crazy, we've just met," Steve says. "And maybe you don't want-"

"It's not that I don't want, Steve," Tony interrupts. "I do. But you're fighting in a war, and I'm leaving for an adventure, I just don't see how-"

It's Steve who interrupts him this time. "What if we see each other again?"

Unlikely, but they could be lucky, and end up at the same place at the same time in the future.

"If we're both still single and interested, then sure," Tony says.

Steve grins. "That's all I'm asking for."

It's totally endearing and Tony smiles, shaking his head. "You're adorable. But don't get your hopes up too much, okay? We're living in a very cruel world."

"I have a good feeling," Steve says, smiling at him. It's as if he knows something Tony doesn't, and he's a lot more cheerful than the situation deserves for sure.

They have reached Tony's hotel. "That's my stop."

He hates this, wishes he could hang on to Steve a little, enjoy a minute more, or even better an hour, the night, and many more to come. But no, he has to let go now while he’s still able to do it.

The street is deserted, but Steve darts a look all around then pushes Tony against the wall, right there beside the hotel's door. He immediately leans in to kiss him, fast and hard. Tony barely has time to react that Steve is stepping back, leaving him dazed.

"Good night, Tony," Steve says, walking backwards down the street, towards the military encampment, as if he can't fathom the idea of looking away while he doesn't have to.

"That was not being more careful!" Tony says when he finds his voice. "That was the opposite of careful!"

"What can I say, I like danger," Steve answers with a goddamn wink.

"Don't like it too much, okay?" God, he must be a terror. Tony can totally imagine Steve leading a charge with absolutely no regards for his own safety if there is a Good Thing that needs doing.

"Be safe Tony," Steve says, the hypocrite.

"Same to you. And when it's all done, contact me in New York?" Pipe dream, but what does he have to lose at this point?

"Will do."

This is too much. With what feels suspiciously like heartache – for a guy he's known less than two hours, this is ridiculous – Tony enters the hotel's lobby. Life is cruel indeed, having dangled Steve right in front of his face only to snatch him away. But if he wants to see the end of the war, and have hope for a real future, Tony first needs to fix his heart.

He’s already mapping out the steps to get there and beyond. He will go meet that Colonel Phillips, give his advice on that weapon, and then work with him and his men on a plan to take the cube from Hydra. Studying the cube without the Army taking it away will be tricky, but Tony’s confident that he’ll manage if they get that far, especially since he has General Fury's promise. Then, once his heart is fixed, Tony will go back to the grind and do everything in his power to make this war end sooner rather than later. After that, if God allows, he’ll find Steve again. Only then will Tony be able to work on a happy ending. Funny how he never thought he'd get there, but a brief meeting with a stranger just changed everything.

Tony hasn't had a medium to long-term goal in forever – save from winning the war of course. But first thing first, he needs to go to bed. Tomorrow is the start of The Plan, and he will be ready for it.

 

The End