The first time Steve felt that feeling, the pit in his stomach as he realized how helplessly in love he was, he was terrified. He’d only ever felt this way about Peggy, and that had been so long ago, but now he was staring at Tony, amazed and scared at the butterflies suddenly fluttering in his stomach.
Tony wasn’t doing anything special, really. They were just hanging out in the workshop, Tony tinkering away while Steve drew in one of his sketchbooks. Of course, Steve was drawing Tony, because he couldn’t imagine drawing anything else, not when the man himself was standing a few yards away, swaying his hips to music that only he could hear.
Steve had just happened to glance up at the right moment and caught Tony talking to DUM-E. It was adorable, really, the way Tony treated the bots as if they were real living things. In a way, they probably were to Tony, and that was what triggered Steve’s terrifying revelation. This man was just so good in so many small ways and it made Steve’s heart hurt. Tony joked about dismantling or donating the bots, but Steve just knew that he would probably die trying to protect them if it ever came down to it.
And that same level of intense love spread to his teammates, even though he tried to hide it. If people just paid more attention, they would see the ways that Tony showed his love. It was in every piece of equipment Tony made and every random, seemingly irrelevant conversation he had. Tony showed his love through actions and gifts, all so specific that it was hard not to see how much he cared. How could Steve not love someone who showed that level of affection?
Steve nearly jumped out of his skin when Tony turned and looked at him, then tried to hide his blush by staring down at his sketchbook. This feeling was new and terrifying, and he knew it was important to think about it properly before actually saying anything. The likelihood of scaring Tony off by doing so was just too likely, so for the time being, it would just have to stay under wraps.
The second time Steve realized that he was absolutely screwed was months later, the morning after his and Tony’s first night together. It had been a total accident, the result of pent up anger and aggression after a mission, but they had fallen into bed together and it was wonderful. The tabloids could never do justice to the way that Tony Stark fucked. Every second of it was intense and overwhelming, leaving Steve nearly in tears by the end. Somehow, he had managed to get through the thing without shouting a declaration of love, but the morning after was making it difficult.
Steve had actually slept in for once, so exhausted from the night of passion, and Tony was awake before him. When he finally did rise, Tony had gotten out of bed, thrown on a t-shirt, then made coffee for the both of him. All of that was pretty basic stuff, but the important thing was Tony’s t-shirt because, well…
It was Steve’s.
Steve felt his mouth go dry and his blood rush south at the sight of Tony standing there, wearing an oversized t-shirt that definitely didn’t belong to him. He wanted to kiss the man, tell him every ounce of love he felt for him, but at the same time, Steve was ready to ravage him yet again.
Only one of those options was safe, so when Tony asked why he was staring, Steve didn’t even answer and just pulled him into bed, hands already drifting south. The morning sex was wonderful, but it only reaffirmed how madly in love he was with Tony Stark.
He was so fucking screwed.
The third time Steve falls in love with Tony, he’s exhausted and sad and can barely see straight, but it’s the strongest he’s ever felt and there is no denying the desperate need he has for more of Tony.
The mission had been exhausting, leaving the entire team wrecked, but then right at the end, right when it seemed like everything was fine, Crossbones showed up and fucked everything up. It didn’t take long to take care of it, as he fled right when he realized he was going to lose, but a handful of civilians got taken out in the process and Tony very nearly got killed as well.
That was probably the hardest part about it as well. Seeing Tony slam into a wall and then go completely silent had terrified Steve. After the battle, the team had to debrief with Fury while Tony went to medical and the entire time, Steve just wanted to break down into tears. By the time they were allowed to leave, Tony was still being treated, so Steve did the only thing he could.
The rhythm of every punch against the bag was somehow soothing and jarring at the same time. He couldn’t close his eyes because whenever he did, all he saw was the suit laying disabled, with Tony dead inside. Then the other scenes would play, tormenting him relentlessly. Bucky falling from the train, Erskine being shot dead, all of the people he saw killed in the course of the war, and almost all of them because he hadn’t done enough to save them.
He had no idea how long he’d been down there when the door opened. He stopped punching, but he stayed where he was, breathing heavily against the bag. The silence stretched out for what was far too long before he felt arms wrap around his waist. It was Tony, of course it was, it was always Tony, and Steve immediately melted into the touch.
“Come on, let’s head back to bed, sweetheart. It’s late…” Slowly, Steve turned around to face Tony, pulling him close and burying his head in his neck. The rush of relief at having Tony there in his arms was so wonderful. There were words on his tongue but none of them came out, instead opting to just hold him and try not to freak out.
He ended up in Tony’s bathroom while Tony undid his hand wraps and cleaned up the knuckles that had gotten bloody but were already starting to heal. Still, it was peaceful and relaxing, just letting Tony care for him, and once it was all done and they were curled around each other in bed, Steve could only think of one thing.
He was so freaking in love.
The fourth time is the first time he actually says it out loud and it’s such a goddamn idiotic situation that Steve wants to pretend it didn’t happen, even as Tony stands across the room from him.
He had been talking to Bucky in his apartment, just relaxing, when Bucky brought up Tony (because his best friend was a goddamn asshole). Steve relented, admitting that things were getting more serious, but it was still a private thing. That seemed to appease him, but then a minute later, Bucky cut him off to ask one intense question.
“Do you love him?”
Steve didn’t even have to think about the answer, but he still hesitated. Saying it out loud just felt so real and terrifying, but after an awkward moment of Bucky staring at him, he finally took a breath and said it. “Yeah. God, I love him so much it’s ridiculous. I’ve loved him since we got together, honestly. Haven’t said it yet, though, he doesn’t feel the same. I’m sure it’s just casual for him.”
There wasn't time for Bucky to respond because almost immediately, Steve's phone started going off like crazy. With a sigh, he pulled it out, only to see a slew of messages from Tony, all along the lines of 'wait, really?' The biggest thing, however, was the bar at the top of the phone helpfully reminding him that he was on a call with Tony.
In a moment of panic, Steve just hung up, then tossed the phone on the couch and started pacing. He didn't want to look at the grin on Bucky's face or think about how he might have fucked this up so badly.
"Dude, did you just hang up on him?"
"I don't know, I panicked, Buck!"
"You do realize he literally is only 2 floors up, don't you?" Right on cue, Tony busted through the front door, his gaze immediately locking onto Steve, who just froze.
"Shut up, I love you too. I've been wanting to say it for a while now, and there it is, I'm madly in love with you, Steve Rogers."
Steve stared for a second before practically leaping across the room to grab Tony and kiss him silly. It was perfect and beautiful and when he pulled away he was breathless and filled with so much happiness.
"I can't believe you hung up on me, though, Rogers. I may consider rescinding my love declaration."
Steve laughed out happily and leaned in closer. "Nope, too late. No take backs on love."
"I don't want a take back anyways." With that, Tony leaned in for another kiss, taking his breath away all over again.
“Yeah, yeah, congratulations, now get a room already, you two are sickening.” Bucky’s grumbling came from the corner of the room, and Steve still couldn’t do anything but smile at Tony.
The fifth time is at their wedding. They've been together for years at that point, and it was a freaking rollercoaster. Years of love and affection that knocked Steve off his feet daily. Years of ridiculous fights with no real purpose that ended with both of them angry and exhausted. Years of make-up sex that made everything better and led to actual sensible discussions. It was crazy and wild and their love made no sense but it was good. And here they were.
“Steve, I know this entire thing has been a wild ride, but I couldn’t be happier about it. Every single moment with you makes me so insanely happy. You also drive me so crazy that sometimes I just wanna punch you in your perfect teeth but I couldn’t bear to ever see you gone. Amidst all the insanity, you make me better, you really do, and I truly don’t deserve any of it. I’m not half as good at- at anything, really, as I am when I’m doing it next to you. You are my light and my soul and you make everything about this life so much better. I’m undeniably grateful that you’re here, that I have you in my life. I love you, Steve. And I’m not gonna vow anything because you know me, I won’t keep most of them, but I will say here and now that I love you. And in the future, when I say stupid shit, when we fight, I will fully believe that I don’t anymore, but I always will. I want you as long as you’ll have me, Steve Rogers.”
Steve had known he was going to cry, it was just inevitable, but he was sniffling before the first sentence was over. The tears were fully falling by the end, and suddenly everyone was looking at him, expecting him to give his vows. Through his tears, he looked over at Tony, meeting those beautiful eyes and immediately feeling his heart stop for a moment.
“Give him a minute, he’s just floored by how beautiful my vows were,” Tony beamed, despite his eyes being watery as well. “I did say he should have done his vows first, he’s gonna cry too hard for them now.”
A tearful chuckle swept through the crowd, and Steve couldn’t help but laugh as well. “You ass, you know you’d be doing the same thing if we did this the other way around.”
Tony gasped quietly, mocking offense. “I don’t know what you’re implying, sir, I would never cry in public. Unless that works for you?” He winked and Steve felt a blush cover his face. Still, he smiled and leaned in closer, kissing Tony’s cheek gently.
“There’s really nothing to say, Tony. I’ve expressed all my tearful love already, doll, so all I can say is that I love you. And I promise that I’ll always love you, no matter what.” He heard a few aws from the guests, but he just focused on Tony, who was sliding in closer already.
“Well, those were some shit vows, babe.” It was whispered and fond, though, making both of them laugh despite the tears. Steve managed to relax into his hold, feeling the drifting of Tony’s hands across his back and letting it calm him.
The minister spoke up then, finally. “I now pronounce you husband and husband. You may kiss the groom.” Steve didn’t even hesitate, just grabbed Tony and yanked him even closer, kissing him with as much love as he could possibly convey.
Tony looked across the table to see Steve, slumped down and practically half asleep. The battle had been exhausting, and this shawarma place had been the only restaurant that would let them in. All of them were crowded around the table, every single one dead tired, but Tony could only look at Steve.
Still wearing the cap uniform, it was kind of a hilarious sight. He looked like an exaggerated cartoon character, in a way, but it was also endearing. It made this man, supposedly the greatest of all, peak of perfection, seem so… human.
Tony almost felt bad for him. The man had only been awake for a month, at the most, and thinking about what he must be feeling was just too much for Tony. Losing everyone, waking up in the future, and then almost immediately going straight into battle? Yeah, way too much to process.
After a second, Tony stretched under the table and knocked Steve’s foot with his own. When the man looked up, he offered a small smile, a peace offering of a sort. He hadn’t exactly been nice to the man on the helicarrier, any form of kindness had to be welcome, right?
Thankfully, the man smiled back, then glanced down at Tony’s half eaten tray. Immediately, a frown spread across his face, but Tony just shrugged and shook his head. ‘Stop worrying, I’m fine,’ is what is was supposed to be, and whether that came across was doubtful, but Steve didn’t push, simply nudged Tony’s foot, then started scavenging from the leftovers of Natasha’s food.
Tony watched him a little longer, though, and he couldn’t help but feel lighter. Knowing that things were okay with Steve, that their angry words could go forgiven, was a weight off of his shoulders. A part of him couldn’t handle the thought of Captain America hating him, mostly because then he would turn into the spiteful teenager he used to be, and everything would just get worse. He could be friends with Steve, surely, it couldn’t be that hard to be nice to the man, right?
Then Steve looked up and caught his eye again, and he smiled that bright smile, the one that seemed so child-like, and gentle, and kind, and Tony felt that pit in his stomach drop immediately.
Fuck. He was in love with him, wasn’t he?