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Tony saw the picture almost immediately, from professional camera shots to shitty cellphone pictures taken by the few fans that managed to get into the event. Steve’s smile looked empty, possibly fooling onlookers but hallow to anyone that knew him.

Steve calls him from the bathroom shortly after. He doesn’t mention the picture so Tony doesn’t either. He knew it was fake, but he still wasn’t a fan of seeing Steve’s hand on that stranger’s hip.

Tony talks a little about hanging out with Bruce after work. The conversation fizzles out quickly, both weary from lack of sleep and unwanted information.

“I'll see you tomorrow?” Steve asks, sounding hopeful.

“I don't know, tell me?” Maybe the jibe was unnecessary, but it was 2 am in New York and Steve was calling from LA.

“I'll call you when we leave the airport.”

They say goodnight. Tony realizes a few seconds too late that forgot to say ‘I love you’ before they ended the call.

Tony wakes up to the phone ringing again at 4 am. He answers it because he knows Steve is aware of the time difference and wouldn’t call him if it weren’t an emergency.

“I’m hungry but they’re out there,” he says, his voice heavy with tears Tony knows he’s trying to hold in.

“Steve, come on, Steve.” Tony feels helpless. He whispers sweet nothings, hoping to calm Steve down. Steve has given into the tears, sobbing softly. Tony could picture him, head bent against his chest. “Please, can you just breathe with me?”

Steve finds the ramen Tony had packed for him the night before, and Tony stays on the phone while Steve requests a kettle from the front desk. Tony stays on the phone, knowing it’s resting on the bathroom counter, while Steve showers and brushes his teeth. He forces himself to stay awake because he knows Steve needs to feel him there.

Steve crawls into bed, his voice heavy with exhaustion.

“You’ll be here tomorrow baby. You’ll be here and I’ll be with you.”

This time, Tony doesn’t forget to say ‘I love you.’

Tony cleans the house while he waits. Steve was there just yesterday morning but 24 hours was apparently enough time for him to make a mess. He washed the dishes by hand because there weren’t enough to put in the dishwasher. He threw out the pizza box because he’d ordered in when he remembered Steve was the one who always cooked. He threw it out because he knew Steve would know why it was there and he didn’t want to worry Steve more than he already worried. He threw it out because he wanted Steve to feel safe in leaving him alone.

Tony gets a text and he knows that Steve had sent it the moment the plane skidded to a halt and they were permitted to turn off airplane mode. He knows Steve waited until the flight attendant announced that it was okay. He knows Steve clapped politely when the plane landed because that was the kind of person he was.

Steve doesn’t come home right away. Tony knew he wouldn’t. Steve would probably work out a little, get some groceries even though he’d done it just two days before.

Steve had changed into sweatpants at the gym. Tony much preferred Steve looking comfortable, his bare feet digging into the dirt of their small garden. He brushes his teeth one more time before going out to greet his boyfriend.

“What are you doing here, all alone?” he jokes from behind the screen door between the garden and the kitchen. Steve turns around and beams at him.

Steve tastes like home.

Steve asks what was on Tony’s mind.

“I was just thinking about you. Us.” He doesn’t add the part about how much he misses Steve. How much he wants him home always.


Tony nods and kisses him again, unhurried and soft, reveling in having Steve here with him. Chest filling with love. When they part, Tony pushes his glasses up his nose. He sees the look in Steve’s eyes when he realizes Tony isn’t wearing his contacts, meaning his eyes hurt from being tired. He tries to stifle the yawn but Steve saw it, knowing.

“Pizza?” Steve asks.

“Whatever you want,” Tony says. Steve curls around him and breathes him in. “Anything you want.”

He’s glad he’d thrown out the pizza box from last night. He wouldn’t have wanted Steve to be worried.

Steve wasn’t supposed to happen. Tony had been with someone else. Had been in love with someone else. The songs Steve posted on YouTube, the ones he’d listened to at first out of loyalty to his friend but then later because he liked them, he knew were about him.

Things had ended badly between Tony and the other guy. Tony didn’t know who to turn to so he showed up at Steve’s place late one night. He’d been crying and Steve just knew. Knew what was wrong. He had let Tony cry and talk. He had let Tony tell him the story about the person he loved, the person he was sure he would spend the rest of his life with, had cheated on him. He left out the part about how the scum had the audacity to be jealous of Steve.

He slept on Steve’s couch for two weeks. The same couch that was still in their living room now.


"I know... I know you're still in love with him," Steve had said one night after they’d both had a few too many drinks. Tony could see how painful it was for Steve to say it. "I know you are not over him. But… but if you let me..." He had tried to smile. Tony had known what Steve meant, what he was offering, why he was offering. "I could treat you right. I could make you happy, if you'd just let me?"

"How would that even be fair to you?" Tony asked, his voice thick and slurred from the drinks.

Steve had laughed at that, a sad sound that was trying to be light and missing by a mile. "I was ready to just let you fuck me, and pretend it's him. I just... I just want to take whatever I can get before you change your mind."

"That's... Steve that's..." Tony had no words for what that was.

"I'm crazy about you, Tony. I've been for years. I don't mind being second, or third. I just want to be with you. Just give me a chance to be with you."

Tony didn’t love Steve. Not yet. But he knew he would get there. Knew he’d get there sooner than later. He wasn’t going to ruin it with a pity fuck. Sweet, kind, perfect Steve.

He kissed Steve’s cheek and rested his face on his shoulder. A quiet promise to himself.

They’re lying side by side in their bed when Tony asks, “Are you okay?” The bags under Steve’s eyes are more pronounced than they have in years. Steve brushes his thumb over the crow’s feet at the corner of Tony’s eyes.

“I’m good. The trip was hell.”

Steve never elaborated. Tony knew, though. Tony knew Steve had been forced to take down the videos with Tony in them.

Tony is sitting on the toilet the next morning, not awake enough to stand while he and Steve brushed their teeth side by side. He stills the toothbrush mid stroke.

“I talked to Brucie today,” he said, his voice tight even to his own ears. “He’s not against having a roommate. It could…”

“Absolutely not.” Steve had been putting toothpaste on the brush but at Tony’s suggestion he throws it to the other side of the bathroom, knocking Tony’s face cream from the shelf.

“It’s just… Steve.” Tony holds up his hand before Steve can protest again. “I get how important this is to you. I do.”

“They were joking about the paparazzi coming here. And even if they weren’t, you’re not moving out.” Tony could tell Steve was fighting tears at the suggestion.

Tony pushed on anyway. “It could just be for a month or two, you said.”


Tony can’t fall asleep if people are touching him. He lets Steve find his lips in the dark. Tony can tell that Steve is close to tears again. He lets Steve cling to him while he waits for sleep to claim him.

Tony wakes up to a text from Steve about food and a text from Rhodey about coffee. He drags himself out of bed and brushes his teeth before dragging himself into clothing. He’s exhausted again, his eyes burning. He forces himself into his contacts so Steve won’t worry.

At brunch, Tony sits on the far opposite of the table of Steve, allowing Steve to catch up with their friends. He talks enthusiastically with Thor about foreign politics. They’ve gotten together like this a few times when Steve is away, but it doesn’t feel like family until they’re all there.

“Excuse me? Are you Steven Grant?” She can’t be more than fifteen. Tony notices the phone she holds low at her side. Sees that she’s recording. “Is Sharon here with you? She’s your girlfriend, right?”

The blonde in the picture from the other night. The one with the forced grin standing next to Steve and his sad eyes.

Natasha swoops in. “Please get out. This is a private area.”

“I feel ancient.” Clint shakes his head, and finishes up his mimosa. It’s 11 am and it’s brunch. “What the fuck, how old was she?”

“Tony, let's get another round.” Thor gently pulls him toward the bar inside. Tony follows automatically even though they all know he doesn’t drink anymore.

Steve was away for a few days. Tony fell into a hole on the internet, watching a few of Steve’s new live performances. Steve plays the song he wrote for their first anniversary so many years ago.

Steve says “she” and Tony’s stomach roils and he has to click away before it consumes him. Steve isn’t due back for a few hours. Tony leaves and goes to the store. He buys a six-pack of beer and a carton of cigarettes. He sits on the curb outside the store and stares at his vices for longer than he’d care to admit.

He throws it all in the trash, gets in his car, and drives home.

Tony eyes the table suspiciously, his favorite pizza waiting, the bottle of Prosecco chilled to perfection next to white-grape juice.

“What did you do?”

Steve laughs, and comes to collect his kiss.

“I talked to Pepper today.” Steve hands him the bottle, which Tony opens with ease. Tony is surprised, confused, but not upset. “Phil is actually the one who called at first. She's exactly like you described.”

“Charming and delightful?”

“Driven and lethal.” Tony makes a face at Steve’s description, causing Steve to laugh lightly. “I sent her my contract, and she decided to help me cut any ties with Pierce.”

Tony is happier than he can describe but he can’t let it show. He doesn’t pry. He hands Steve the glass of wine and pours the juice for himself. He takes a quick sip before he kisses Steve’s jaw.

“I'm glad Phil called her. She's amazing, and I'm not saying that because she's in charge of my company.”

“I'm meeting with her tomorrow.”

Tony sighs in relief. Steve was going to be his again. He feels guilty for thinking it.

Tony is pacing, the person on the other side of the phone call talking about stock options. It’s boring. He hears Steve come home and thinks about closing the office door but decides against it.

Steve, strangely out of character, comes into the room and presses Tony against the wall. Steve doesn’t usually interrupt Tony when he’s working. Tony isn’t complaining.

He makes a half assed excuse and hangs up, letting the phone drop to the carpeted floor.

“Should I be worried?” Tony joked. Steve lifts him clean off the ground, allowing him to kick of the sandals he’d been wearing. “I feel like I should ask.”

“I love you,” is all Steve says. They laugh and make their way to their room, kissing the entire time, pausing every so often in their journey to shed another offensive piece of clothing.

When they finally make it to their bed, they are both naked and hard. They aren’t laughing anymore.

“How do you want me?” Tony brushes his thumb on Steve's lips. Steve pulls it into his mouth and Tony feels himself becoming impossibly harder. Steve sucks on the finger before releasing it, the sound deafening in the quiet room.

“In me.”

Tony almost chokes on his spit before smiling. They’ve done it like this a few times before, but those times were few and far between

Steve grabs the lube and kneels on the bed, looking back at Tony.

“You fuck me.”

Tony wakes up at 6:30 to a cold bed and the faint sound of Steve’s guitar in another room. He makes coffee before following the sound of the melody of a song he hadn’t heard before.

“Come cuddle me,” he whines, mentioning the cold sheets. Steve grins and grabs the cup of coffee Tony offers him. Their free hands twine together while they walk back to their room. They spend the morning lazily kissing in bed. Disgusting morning breath and coffee blend together but Tony wouldn’t trade this for the world. If it meant leaving this bed. Their bed.

They briefly debate ordering in but Tony hints that he’d strongly prefer a home-cooked meal. Steve goes to the kitchen, leaving his laptop behind. He tells Tony there is a new song he should listen to.

He listens with the headphones. He can’t contain the sob that tears through him. He covers his mouth to hold in the rest but can’t stop the silent tears. Steve is there, kissing the top of his head while Tony’s shoulders shake.

When it’s over, Tony tries to smile up at him.

“I just... I always knew but. You're happy. To be with me.” This throat is tight. It’s overwhelming, everything he’s feeling for the man that’s standing in front of him. The unconditional love.

“I am. I love you Tony. You know I do.”

“I know. I know.” And he does. Know, that is. He’d known for years before they’d even gotten together. “I just never thought you would. Tell people. About me.”

The call for pizza from their bed. Steve gets up for the few moments it takes to pay the delivery person and grab two sodas from the fridge. Tony is embarrassed by his outburst. It took a little coaxing and a few kisses for Steve to get him to eat a few slices, but he did.

“I was ready to be your secret, I suppose.” They’d been pretending to watch a sitcom neither cared about. It was easier to open up in the dark. Tony briefly wondered if Steve had planned it before he remembered he was the one that turned out the lights. “I was ready for you to be this uber macho version of yourself, and me having to play your sweetheart.”

“We are more than clichés. You're a man. I love you because you are a man.”

“I...” Tony couldn’t find the right word, so he settled with, “I'm glad.”

They're almost asleep when Steve adds, fingers brushing Tony's hair.

“You sacrificed a lot for me. But you were never my dirty secret. Never.”

It’s a small thing, just people from around the city who’d found Steve early on. Tony stands backstage while Steve plays his old songs, this time with the pronouns the way that they were meant to be. He blushes a little when Steve plays the new song, ‘You F Me.’

Sharon is there. Tony doesn’t shake her hand or say much. He knows it’s petty, that Sharon never did anything wrong. She requests a selfie and he agrees. She captions it on Instagram about how nice it is to be in the presence of real love. Tony isn’t a fan of the caption but the support in the comments makes up for it.

When Steve goes out for an encore after the picture with Sharon, he drags Tony out with him. They kiss after the anniversary song and Tony can feel Steve smiling as they do.

The kiss makes it on the covers of a few magazines. Sharon’s photo accompanies it in nearly every “article.” Soon, support comes in from various celebrities, some part of the LGBTQ community but many who aren’t.

Clint uploads the old videos, the ones with Tony in them.

Steve gets flooded with emails and calls that he is not prepared to deal with. When Steve doesn’t answer, messages start pouring in to Tony’s business account. Pepper deals with it, sets something up with the lawyer who had help Steve cut ties from the label that had been trying to sign him.

They’re at the beach a few weeks later. Steve has chosen a record label that he feels comfortable signing with. They haven’t told their friends.

Tony, uninterested in the volleyball game his friends are playing, walks to get some ice cream. Thor follows. While they wait in line, Tony sees a kid with big glasses start talking to Steve.

When they get back, Tony catches the tail end of the conversation. The kid saying, “Just because I love guys doesn't change me.” Tony smiles at that and takes it as his cue to step in and steal a kiss.

He gives Steve his ice cream cone, just because he wants to. He laughs when Steve makes a face at the coconut-lime flavor Tony chose. Tony takes it back, jokes about Steve not appreciating his generosity, and finishes the cone himself.

On the way home they sit in the front, their friends piled in the back. Tony is driving and Steve is holding his hand over middle compartment and everything is alright. Everything is better.

Steve starts humming a new song and Tony smiles.