Tony and Sam mirror each other far more than anyone seems to realize. Like parallel lines, they run strangely similar paths with a number of similarities. Like perpendicular lines, they run opposite paths, with incredibly different starting points and seemingly different ending points. Like asymptotes, they reflect but never quite reach each other.
Like tangent lines, they meet at a single point where everything falls the same for both of them.
(Tony and Sam understand each other. They both lost things to the arid Afghan desert- their hearts, others’ lives, and their own organs. Such losses leave scars, leave marks on the mind and body that are not easy to remove.)
(In this, they are far more than lines. They become paintings, become art, become something far too sentimental and emotion-based than Tony will ever be comfortable admitting. But this- this partnership of sorts- will do a good many things that Tony wasn't comfortable with before the Avengers.)
(So, there is that.)
Everyone's tried to lift Mjolnir by now and no one's succeeded. By this point everyone's half drunk, their minds easily distracted by the candy-floss appeal of Coulson's old war stories.
No one's really paying attention as Sam walks up to Thor, a bit of tipsiness to his posture but a clearness to his gaze.
"Lemme try it again,” Sam jokes, and then half-heartedly tries to lift Mjolnir. He fails, of course, and by this point Tony is paying attention. He peels himself away from the group of Avengers and swaggers over to Sam, glass of wine in hand.
“Looks like you need some help, Wilson,” Tony says, a teasing glint in his eyes.
Sam looks up and flashes him a grin. “Have at it, Stark.” He steps to the side a bit, making room for Tony.
Tony sets his glass down and rolls up his sleeves to his elbows, playing up the drama. Then he leans over, sets his hands on the hold next to Sam's, and lifts. Next to him, Sam does the same thing.
And it moves.
All the mirth drains out of Tony's face as his eyes snap up to meet Sam's, hands snatching away from the hilt of Mjolnir. The expression Sam's face is one of shock, mirroring what Tony's sure his own face looks like.
"The fuck?" He manages to croak out, and Sam nods.
"Same here, man," he says.
"Two sides of the same coin," Thor says, a strange twist to his tone, and Tony looks up to see Thor staring at them, glass forgotten on the table next to him. "Back on Asgard, there were tales of warriors who could only become worthy of true greatness when they fought in pairs."
Tony's gaze flicks back to Sam's, meeting his eyes. Sam seems just as surprised as him, but there's something in Sam's expression that is accepting of such a declaration. If anything, Sam's posture seems pleased.
"Here that, Stark?" Sam says, "We're worthy of true greatness." There's a certain sardonic lift to his words that brings a smirk to Tony's lips. Sam says the words 'true greatness' in a slightly mocking tone, as if he thinks that the idea of a hammer proving such a thing is hilarious.
Years ago, a man named Yinsen died in a cave in Afghanistan. Years ago, a man named Riley died in a desert in Afghanistan. Out of these deaths stumbled two men, sand encrusted in their hair and parts of their body blown away. These deaths were born on shoulders too used to tragedy, were used to become something- someone- new. Someone better.
Later, a man would receive a bionic leg prosthetic as part of an army rehabilitation program. The detailed, typed instructions bore only one piece of evidence that a human had touched them- a small note written in cramped cursive.
Use it well, it said.
"Why'd you do that for everyone?" Sam asks, years after he's gotten used to the leg.
Tony arches an eyebrow. "Do what?"
"Make the replacement parts. Give us back mobility." He pauses, takes a deep breath, and says: "Give us back our lives."
"'Cause I know what it's like, Wilson," Tony says, "I know what it's like to lose part of yourself like that. I know what it's like to lose-"
He's cut off by Sam's lips on his own, muffling the words that are trying to explain. He shuts up, grabbing onto Sam's shoulders and hair and bracing himself against the tsunami of emotions threatening to break against the walls he's built.
He pushes back against Sam's lips and decides to let himself break. He lets himself drown in Sam, lets his broken pieces fit into Sam's. He feels the pound of his arc reactor under his chest, feels the perpetual cool of Sam's robotic leg press against his own leg.
He lets himself feel, and break, and climb.
There is this: two broken mirrors, facing each other, tangent lines reaching each other at the one point that matters. They will grow and reach and find each other, knowing that though they will never entirely understand each other they will always be able to lift that hammer together.
Iron fused in their veins, desert sand scarring their minds, and robotics building them up from the inside: these are similarities that run far beyond skin deep.
(So, there is this.)