Tony grunted, pulling harder against the handle. A small creak from the door had Tony bracing himself for one last tug – when a pair of hands grabbed his shoulders gently, stopping him in his tracks.
He let said hands guide him slightly to the left, one trailing away, no doubt to grab the handle. Tony huffed, crossing his arms when he heard the door groan open. Of course he only needed one arm, Tony thought with a roll of his eyes.
He sent a dirty look over to the owner of those arms, Steve just giving him a small shrug and nervous smile in return.
Tony had a theory that somewhere, deep in the core code of Steve’s DNA, there was a certain combination that strung together to give him what Tony calls the ‘help’ gene. Very beneficial, but comes with the annoying side effect of incapability to not help. It was like Steve had a radar that was always searching for any hint of distress, body springing straight into action. Useful at times, of course, but Tony’s a grown ass man and no, he doesn’t need help reaching a mug on the top shelf.
Steve swung the door all the way open, a blast of cold air blasting out in return. Tony shivered slightly, tugging at his sleeves as he stepped around Steve. His nose wrinkled instantly, the smell of dust and stale air tickling his nostrils. Light had flooded in when the door was opened, but darkness and shadows still remained, making this place a little bigger than he thought. The echoing steps he took once inside confirmed that fact.
A buzzing sounded, accompanied by the familiar clicks of florescent lights flickering on.
Walls of boxes burst into view, lining the room in neat little rows. They were mostly indistinguishable, except for coded labeling that was peeling on the sides of each one, jumbled numbers that sat in front of the same word:
“Well, I don’t know what I was expecting,” Tony sighed.
“What, like Stevie’s secret stash of dirty magazines?” came a familiar drawl.
A sputtering came from his right, as Bucky snickered to his left. “I never owned any of those!” Steve cried.
“Oh, sorry,” Bucky continued, stepping further into the musty room, but not before shooting a wicked grin over his shoulder. “I must be thinking of mine.”
Tony snorted, patting Steve on a blushing cheek, letting his eyes linger.
Tony had another theory. That he, for as long as he was alive, would never not be attracted to Steve Rogers. There was never a bad look for him. Whether he was donned in the finest tux or covered in the unmentionables of the New York sewer system, Steve always burned bright. However, the slight dusting of pink that flashed over the blonde’s skin was always a personal favorite of his, if not more so, Bucky’s.
Bucky had told Tony that the first time he’d seen Steve blush post serum, he almost cried from laughter. It was during the war, right after Steve swooped in and liberated the remainder of the 107th from behind HYDRA’s lines. Steve had managed to cart Bucky off to a dark and secluded corner of the weapons tent for some alone time, which, as they were an active war camp in the 1940’s, didn’t seem like the most rational thing to do.
“Please,” Bucky said as he told Tony the story. “It’s Steve. Are you really that surprised?”
“Like you were any better,” Steve had snapped back.
Long story short, Steve ended up shirtless with a hand down his pants, while Bucky whispered less than saintly things into his ear. Which is how Bucky had made the discovery that the serum had enhanced, well, everything.
Bucky described it as a drop of red paint dropping onto a blank sheet; Steve’s natural flush concentrated at his face, but slowly fanning out on to his body of white canvas. And usually, Tony would roll his eyes at the over dramatization, but he had to agree with Bucky on this one. He liked to think that getting a peek at Steve all riled up was bound to make Michelangelo cry.
But for Bucky, being the ass that he is, who had spent his life cracking wise at pre-serum Steve’s rosy cheeks, was delighted to find out that it now spread all down Steve’s chest. In the end, they couldn’t even fool around, as Bucky’s laughs had alerted over half the camp. Steve hadn’t been amused.
“You planning on helping, or are you just going to stand there?” Bucky’s voice finally broke his eyes away from Steve.
Tony rolled his eyes, but dutifully branched off into a corner of the room, walking idly between the rows of boxes. He poked his head in a few, being met with nothing but stacks of paperwork. It’s not like they were looking anything in particular, but Tony had hoped for something a little more substantial.
It was Steve’s idea; he was the man with the plan, after all. Bucky’s recovery has been a long and difficult road – not to say it wasn’t worth it. Tony was in constant awe of how strong that man was, how far he had come. But, despite the leaps and bounds that he’d made, there were still plenty of gaps. And while both he and Steve was more than happy to sit for days upon days, regaling Bucky about his past and filling him in on the things he’d missed, Steve suggested they tried something new.
Tony had told Steve about Howard’s storage rooms ages ago, back when the team had originally moved into the tower. Said storage rooms filled with any and all possible Captain America history and memorabilia. Tony had thought of it as an olive branch after their disastrous first meeting, a chance for Steve to at least get something of his old life back. Of course, it failed spectacularly, and Steve didn’t want anything to do with them. Too painful of a reminder of a life that was ripped from him. So, the storage rooms were locked back up and forgotten about.
Until Bucky came crashing into their lives. And then Steve brought it up again. As Captain America’s #2, most of their history was intertwined. Steve thought it would be a good idea for Bucky to poke around, look at some old photos, artifacts, anything that would connect him to the man he once was. As a fervent tactile learner, Tony hastily agreed.
Which is how they found themselves here. This was the second stop on their tour de storage rooms. The first one had been quite successful, Steve finding a huge photo album of all The Commandos and their exploits throughout the war. It was nice, sitting back, watching the two of them bicker back and forth, never really finishing a sentence before they were off to the races and pointing to another photo.
I don’t think we’ll be as lucky today, Tony mused to himself as he picked through one of the boxes. A few quick scans confirmed what Tony was thinking; these were all of Howard’s notes on Project Rebirth. Which, as interesting as they may be, hold nothing to offer Bucky. But Tony pushed on, closing the current box and moving to the next. He heard the comforting sounds of Steve and Bucky puttering around him, all soothing rumbles and even breaths, and Tony found himself losing time.
He rifled through a few more boxes, peeking up at the other two every once in a while to check in. The last time, while looking at photos, they just seemed so at ease. Laughing, joking. It was like they really were back in time, like he could see glimpses of the men they used to be. Steve, with wide open eyes; expressive and soft, not crumbling under the weight of the world. And Bucky, innocent and carefree, with a flashing smile that could put the sun to shame.
It wasn’t all great, however. The only bad part to this constant trip down memory lane is the look the pair will get in their eyes sometimes. So distant and lost. Tony wants nothing more than to bundle them both up and take them away, keep them safe, but even Tony can’t protect them from time. That’s probably the main reason he insisted on coming with them. They’d been alone for far too much of their lives; it was Tony’s goal to make sure they never had that feeling ever again.
Tony was about to call it quits, when a final box caught his eye. It was smaller than the than the rest of the file boxes, nestled towards the back. Tony sauntered over, flipping the lid off.
“Well, I’ll be,” he murmured.
“What’d you find?” he heard Steve call out.
Tony didn’t respond, just leaned in and pulled out.
He heard the familiar steps of super soldiers. Steve huffed out a laugh. “That’s my jacket,” he said, reaching out to trail a hand over the worn material. Tony lifted his gaze, intent on handing it over to Steve, when the look on Bucky’s face stopped him.
Bucky frowned at the leather, brow furrowing, his mind no doubt whirring at lightening speeds as he tried to piece something together. “No,” he finally responded, slowly. “That’s my jacket.”
Steve beamed at the man, which Tony had translated to a ‘stop what you’re doing, my boyfriend is being incredible’ face. “Yeah, Buck,” he replied happily, pulling the brunette close. “You’re right. It was yours, too.”
Tony held the jacket up in front of the two men. “Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I don’t think it’ll fit either of you, now.” Like that would stop them, Tony thought to himself. The Brooklyn Boys had made a hobby out of cramming into clothing clearly not meant for them. Not that Tony had a problem with it, no sir.
“No, this is from before the war,” Steve replied, taking the jacket from Tony. “It was Bucky’s, but he grew out of it. I could never really find clothes that were in my size, and when I did, it was a miracle if I could afford them. Bucky was nice enough to give me his hand-me-downs.”
“Benefits of only having sisters,” Bucky replied taking his turn looking at the jacket. “I remember giving this to you. Your fingers barely stuck out of the sleeves,” he said with a smile.
“How did it end up here?” Tony asked.
“I wore over my uniform the day they injected me with the serum. It was breezy that day; I needed the extra layer. I guess Howard just packed it away with everything else, seeing as I didn’t have much use for it after the procedure.”
Tony just nodded, looking back to the jacket, trying to picture a smaller Steve swimming in the material, or even a younger Bucky, as he struggled to fit into the same sleeves.
The jacket was thrust in his face. “Put it on.”
Tony blinked. “Excuse me?”
Bucky just shrugged, pushing the jacket closer to his chest. “It’s not gonna fit us.”
“So your immediate answer is to shove me in it?” Tony asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Come on, doll. Give us a show.”
And, wow, there it was again. That city drawl and dark gaze that had Tony feeling like a bumbling highschooler again, experiencing flirting for the first time. A quick glance at Steve to make sure he hadn’t crossed any lines, and Tony was slipping on the jacket.
It was a bit loose, whether that be from age or just because of his smaller frame, and the smell from being in storage for over seventy years wasn’t doing any favors, but Tony could tell that the jacket worked for him. Not that he was surprised in the least; Tony could wear the hell out of a trash bag if he had too.
“Lookin’ sharp there,” Steve smiled.
Tony swept his gaze over the jacket. It was well used, heavily worn down, but not in a bad way. The fabric felt softened over years of use, and the slight discolorations seemed to suit it. Tony could see the marks left over from the previous owners. A small patch, sewn perfectly in neat little stiches on the inside breast pocket screamed of Steve’s steady hands, while the fraying on tails remained as evidence of Bucky’s impatient tugging.
He made a move to shrug off the jacket when Bucky stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “You should keep it.”
“Yeah,” Steve agreed. “It doesn’t do us much good anymore, but it looks good on you.”
Tony looked back down on at the jacket to hide what felt like a flush on his cheeks. “I-I couldn’t,” Tony started. “It’s not really my style, and I’m pretty such this is a historical- ”
He broke off when he looked back up at the pair, both shooting him the look. Furrowed brows and pouts, accompanied with wide, blue eyes, one pair like waves shimmering in the sunlight, the other like the first frost forming on a window.
“I mean, I love it,” Tony corrected, shooting them a quick smile.
The beaming grins he got in return were enough to seal the deal.
Tony wore it all through lunch, at some run down diner Steve dragged them to after leaving the storage site. He found himself slipping it on for meeting Rhodey for coffee the next day. It ended up as a make shift blanket when he drifted off in the lab. It accompanied him on his plane as he made a quick hop over to Malibu, a press conference in DC, and much to Pepper’s chagrin, even board meetings.
Tony liked to think it was an act of charity, just wearing the jacket not to hurt Steve or Bucky’s feelings. But deep down, he knew it was more than that. It was a security blanket, giving him a false sense of being surrounded by the super soldiers. And, it was a sure ticket to get them to smile at him when they saw him wearing it, thus adding to the delusion that they would ever want him.
But for Tony, it was enough.
With ages comes wisdom, and Tony had learned long ago that even he can’t get everything that he wants.
He shouldn’t complain. Tony didn’t have them, but he still had them – they were a constant presence in his life, one that he would not trade for anything.
And besides, it wasn’t just Steve and Bucky. It was all of them. His team. He had them, and it was enough.
It was a thought that struck him about two weeks later. Tony had walked out of the elevator, chatting tiredly with Pepper, massaging his temple as the recent, and loud, conversation he had with the board still rattled around in his skull.
The noise didn’t seem to want to go away; but that was when Tony realized that it was coming from in front of him. Opening his eyes, he was met with a scene that he never though he’d ever see. Pepper slipped away from him, gravitating immediately to where Natasha was chopping vegetables at the kitchen island, a glass of wine already waiting for her. Steve stood at the stove, a slight pout on his face as he looked between the cookbook and the pot he was currently stirring. A loud thud had Tony looking left, to where Bucky and Clint were currently fighting over the TV remote. The pair wrestled to the ground and over to Bruce, who just lifted his legs for the two to roll under, eyes never leaving the book he was reading. Thor sat in a large armchair, hands waving madly as he described something to Sam, Rhodey bent over laughing, intently focusing on Sam’s reactions rather than Thor’s story.
This is my life.
To be fair, moments like this rarely happen. Turns out scheduling was one of the greatest foes the team would ever cross. There always seemed to be another mission, meeting, or even intergalactic travel that kept them spaced apart at times. But whenever they were all together, Tony found himself soaking every moment up, not daring to forget a single moment.
“You got a family?”
“Yes, and I will see them when I leave here. And you, Stark?”
“So you’re a man who has everything… and nothing.”
Yinsen’s words had cut deeper that the shrapnel, when he whispered that to Tony in that dark cave. But now… Tony liked to picture how it would be different. What he would tell Yinsen if he were here. How he would sit for hours talking about anything and everything about them. His family.
Maybe Howard was right about one thing. There is no better reward than that of which you create yourself. He always thought the old man was raving on about inventions – which he to agree with, seeing as JARVIS, his suits, and even his quirky bots housed a large section of his blackened heart. But this rag tag group in front of him might be his crowning achievement. Sure, it was a ‘team effort’, and Tony certainly didn’t make it easy, but he liked to trick himself into thinking that he was part of the reason why they were all still here with him.
He’d found his everything.
He was happy.
And then Tony got a cough.