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Silence is (not) golden

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Rogers’ phone is an insult, Tony decides the moment he lays his eyes on the outdated, plastic monstrosity.

Rogers probably thinks it’s an olive branch - Tony’s was way, way cooler, by the way - but recent events have proven there’s a sizable chasm between what they understand about each other and what actually is.

Wanting to smash it is a perfectly reasonable impulse. For a shitload of reason, the least of which isn’t the fact that the damned thing has rubber buttons.

The fact Tony doesn’t, is a testament of self-control. Of fucking epic proportions.

There is also the - not insignificant - matter of it functioning as a very effective torture device because the very look at it makes Tony feel as if his chest is caving in on itself.

Well. No one could ever accuse Tony Stark of having functioning self-preservation instincts.

***

He’s going to call, Tony knows this.

For a number of reasons. Curiosity is one, and, well, Tony has never known to leave well enough alone.

There is also the thing where he feels like he’s going to choke on the sheer amount of words that are locked inside him, desperately wanting to get out.

The words meant only for Steve Rogers’ ears.

He has a small bet going on with himself as to what exactly is going to make him break down and dial the only number in the Monstrosity’s phone book.

Right now, his money is on a combination of drunkenness and exhaustion from lack of sleep. Which, considering his latest behavioral pattern, means any day now.

Close second is... well. Good, predictable, old-fashioned anger. Pissed off has kinda turned into his natural state. A simmering rage that churns in his gut 24/7. And the fun thing? Denied of its object of focus, it morphs into something else, turning to only available safe outlet - Tony himself. It’s... nothing new, really. Bad for his blood pressure, though. And sleeping habits. Hence, the drinking.

Tony is only somewhat surprised - and boy isn’t that pathetic - when he makes the call completely sober, weary to his very soul, and feeling completely and utterly alone.

***

“You know, I’m happy to finally have an indisputable proof of you not being perfect, Rogers,” Tony blurts out into the phone without giving Steve a chance to say anything. Steve who answers after the second ring. It could mean something. Something like Steve being desperate to hear from him, almost tripping over his perfect feet in his haste to answer, afraid Tony will end the call if he doesn’t answer immediately.

It could also mean he really, really dislikes the ringtone.

“Tony?”

Steve’s voice - Tony cannot help it, the damned bastard is back to *Steve* in his head - sounds soft, hesitant. Reluctantly hopeful.

Tony sighs, shuts his eyes. It does nothing to ease the ache that sole word, said in that voice evokes in the hollow of his chest.

“Of course it’s me. How many people did you send top-secret crap phones, Rogers?” Tony snaps, but there is no real venom to his voice. He feels too tired for it. Too damn tired to be angry. Just bitter. “And here I thought I was special.”

There’s a long, drawn-out silence on the other side of the line after that. Tony could almost see Steve: his face drawn into a frown that is simultaneously accusing, resigned and disappointed.

“So you called me to pick a fight.”

Tony swallows a snort of dark laughter. It is good to be right. Even when it means his chest feels like it is being crushed under a ton of concrete.

“Not really, no,” Tony says, ‘cause, hey, it’s the truth. Not that he has a fucking clue why he did call. Potentially, it could have something to do with the empty common room at the compound, and the fact that his skin feels like it has slime all over it after a three hour meeting with Ross. Though, Tony would rather cut off his own tongue - and he really likes it - than admit that particular fact to Steve Rogers. “But you can’t seriously tell me you’d be surprised. Given our history.”

Another pause. Long enough for Tony to start clutching the damn phone to his ear tighter, feeling like the world’s most pathetic excuse for a human being.

“No,” Steve says finally, and the tone of his voice makes Tony think of sleepless nights and empty places. “Not really.”

Taking a deep breath, Tony rubs at his temples, feeling the first signs of one hell of a headache. Calling Steve was a mistake. It still is not enough to make him end the call. It may be pathetic and loaded with meaning Tony doesn’t want to contemplate in his current sober state, but there is something strangely comforting in listening to Steve’s somewhat unsteady breathing on the other side of the line.

“Tony,” Steve asks after a few long moments. He sounds... funnily enough, he sounds exactly how Tony is currently feeling. Weary beyond belief. It’s... less of a comfort than Tony thought it would be. “Why did you call?”

There are words burning inside his throat - insults and accusations and questions and pleas - clawing to get out. Needing to be heard. Needing to be answered.

Tony ends the call.

Throwing the cell on the cushion beside him, Tony leans his head on the back of the sofa and squeezes his eyes shut.

The silence around him feels deafening.