“You are not the guy to make the sacrifice play,
to lay down on a wire to let the other guys crawl over you.”
The funny thing is that if people tell you to be less self-centred, to make a sacrifice, they mean that. They mean every godforsaken, shitty word of it. But if you do it, I mean actually do it, maybe more or less get yourself killed in the process, they tell you that they would rather have died than be saved by someone like you.
“What do you even think you are doing? That was stupid, Tony, you could have died – Bruce could have died too. He was right there, what if he hadn’t turned in the last second? Tony, this was so thoughtless, I haven’t even got words for it. You put everyone in danger, not just yourself, every single one of us! This is not a game, you don’t get a second shot at this! How could you be so reckless?” The 'Captain America is disappointed in you' face works on Tony every time, he instantly he feels like shit. This is great, really, getting blamed for saving someone’s sorry ass.
“What do you want me to say? It was you or me and I had better chances of, well... actually getting out alive, than you. I can do my maths, you know. It wasn’t exactly a hard decision!” You would have done the same for me, Tony wants to say, but he doesn’t because he’s not sure if Steve would actually do the same for him. For Natasha or Bruce, sure. For Clint too, no question, and probably for Thor, but for Tony? He doesn’t know a single person that would do something like that for him. Pepper and Rhodey – yes, Rhodey might, but even that’s not for sure. And it’s not like Tony would want him to. Rhodey needs to be alive and well, no matter what happens to Tony. He’s Tony Stark. He can pay people to take care of him, protect him. Even die for him, probably.
“I don’t care about statistics, Tony! It was so close, you have no idea! There is no way you are doing something like that again, not for me. I can’t keep you from doing it for anyone else, but you don’t get to sacrifice yourself for me. I’d rather die Tony, I mean it.”
That hurt. But it was the truth after all, wasn’t it? You are worth so little, I’d rather die than be saved by you. How much do you have to hate someone to feel like that?
Tony moves his head so he doesn’t have to look Steve in the eye anymore and sits down on one of the weird leather sofas he has in the workshop.
“Tony! God, you are like a child, can you just listen for five minutes?” Steve’s voice is annoyed and painfully loud in Tony’s ear. When had Steve come so close?
He doesn’t want to listen anymore. What he wants is Tequila or anything really, that takes him out of his head right now. But he can’t because he’s sober. He’s been sober for over a year now, he’s not going to let that be the end of it. He’s not going to blame this one on Steve too.
“Tony!” Steve is now just in front of the sofa but Tony’s eyes aren’t open, so he can’t see him, just feel his presence right in front of him. For a moment he asks himself if Steve will hit him, but it’s a silly thought. Captain America wouldn’t do that, and Steve Rogers wouldn’t either. Because he’s a good person. Someone who deserves to be saved. “Tony, this is not funny, okay! I don’t know why I’m even talking to you - You don’t listen anyways!” He turns around and Tony can hear the door close, but then – suddenly, he is back and he sits down on the sofa opposite, the one that is just there because Bruce has a soft spot for discussing stuff in a 'comfortable atmosphere' and Tony hates sitting too close to people.
“I know you hate me, Tony. You’ve made that pretty clear. But still, I mean - why would you do that? How much higher was the chance for you to live? 10%?” He has stopped the shouting and he sounds different now, a bit broken, the way Tony usually sounds when he talks about his past, or alcohol or Howard, or Steve or - well, a lot of things.
“3%,” Tony says and for a moment he can’t believe that he’s telling Steve that. Confessing just how much he wants to belong somewhere – to something, so much that he is willing to die for it. “Yours was 3%. Mine was 6.”
“But why, Tony? You don’t even like me,” Steve says and Tony opens his eyes and it is a mistake because Steve just looks lost and hurt and Tony would do everything to just never have to see that look on Steve again.
“I like you a lot actually,” Tony says because he can’t lie when Steve looks at him like that. “Maybe a bit too much,” he adds and looks down at the floor. “But it’s alright I get it. No more sacrifice plays, I promise.” It’s a lie. If it’s going to happen again, and it will happen again, they are Avengers, after all, Tony will do it again. Because it doesn’t matter if Steve wants to be saved or if he hates Tony, if he is so disgusted by the thought of Tony dying for him that, he’d rather just die himself because Steve doesn’t get to decide who loves him. That has always been Tony’s favourite thing about love. Nobody can make you stop loving them. This is his, no one can take it away from him. If he wants to give up everything for Steve then he can and Steve doesn’t have the power to stop him.
He can hear Steve take a deep breath and for a moment there is nothing but awkward silence.
“You’re in love with me,” Steve finally says and that’s how it’s out. Very simple and uneventful. No fireworks. He should have planned fireworks, that would have lifted the mood.
Tony doesn’t know if he is supposed to answer that, but it isn’t a question so he just waits because he doesn’t know what else to do. At some point Steve has to leave, he can’t stay down here forever and even if he tries – Tony has gone far longer than a few days without food and sleep.
But Steve doesn’t say anything and he doesn’t leave, he just stares at Tony and Tony wants to die. If he dies right now, he doesn’t have to sit through all this awkwardness. Steve is too nice to be an ass, Tony knows that. It’s one of the things that he likes about Steve. But that doesn't mean that it's not going to be super awkward.
“I am,” Tony finally says and now it’s out and he can’t take it back.
“I’m not a good person to love,” Steve says softly.
“You can’t stop me from loving you,” Tony says before he can stop himself. “You can do whatever you want, hurt me, leave me, ignore me, shoot me, I don’t care, but you can’t stop me from loving you.”
“I know,” Steve says and the next part is the funny part because Steve smiles and it’s a nice smile, the kind that stays in your eyes, even after your lips stopped smiling. “I just wanted to see how sure you are.” And then - he kisses Tony.
Tony has been kissed before, but the funny thing is that every time someone new does it, it feels like the very first time all over again. And Steve’s lips are soft and he tastes like coffee and doughnuts and it’s so sweet and soft and ridiculous that Tony wants to cry. This is what it’s supposed to feel like.
“You are crying,” Steve says and kisses his cheek softly on the spot where the tear is. “There is nothing to cry about, Tony.”
“I know,” Tony says. “It's just leftover adrenaline.” I am just too happy right now, he thinks.
“Can you promise me something?" Steve asks and kisses another tear away from his cheek.
“Don’t do anything like that ever again.” Tony swallows hard, the weird knot in his throat is back. Steve kissed him. That doesn’t mean that he thinks that Tony is a good person. That Tony is good enough. Loving someone doesn’t magically make your sins disappear, sometimes Tony forgets that. It’s dangerous to forget that stuff, he knows that. That’s what he did the first time, with Pepper and everyone knows how that one ended.
“Anything but that,” Tony says and turns his head away from Steve who is on the same couch now.
“I can’t lose you, Tony. I just can’t lose you, I’ve lost everyone who ever meant anything to me, don’t make me lose you too.” Tony wants to start crying again. He can’t decline Steve his wish, not after this kiss, but he can’t promise that.
“I’m sorry,” Tony says and Steve just gets it.
“I know,” he says. “I couldn’t promise you that either.”
“What?” Tony asks.
“To let you die,” Steve says. “I would do the same for you. I wouldn’t be able to stop myself.”
“Oh.” Tony stares at his shoes. “You-“
“Yeah. Let’s talk about these things another time. I am too happy right now.” Steve smiles and for a moment Tony’s heart seems to stop. He looks like this because of me, he thinks. I make him happy.
He leans into Steve’s chest to hide his tears but he knows that Steve had seen them anyways. He doesn’t mock him for it though. For a moment it is quiet and they just lay on the sofa, Tony half on Steve and it should be awkward and uncomfortable and it kind of is but they don’t mind.
“I’d still throw myself on a grenade for you,” Tony whispers into the shirt. “You wouldn’t be able to stop me.”
“I know. I would do the same for you.” Steve’s voice is comforting, almost too soft.
“That scares me,” Tony says.
“Me too. But aren’t all the good things scary?”
Steve smiles and Tony knows it will be okay. He can believe in this.