Steve cursed as the cyclist sped by, bending over quickly to rescue his mail from the puddle in front of him. He snagged his art portfolio, swinging it over his shoulder as he hurried back to his small apartment. Steve glared at the out of order sign in front of the elevator, hugging his mail to his chest as he pushed the door open to the stairs, jumping two steps at a time.
Fumbling with his keys, Steve managed to finally pry the front door open and kick the door closed behind him. Dropping his art portfolio and rain coat in a wet pile by the entrance, he rushed to the bathroom.
“No-no-no, come on, it has to be here-”
“Steve? That you?”
Bucky popped his head out of the kitchen munching on a bowl of cereal as he heard Steve yell in triumph. Bucky furrowed his brow as he heard the loud blast of his blow-dryer on full blast. Slurping the rest of his sugary milk, Bucky wandered over to the open door, snickering as he entered the bathroom.
“This is where I get to gloat and say ‘I told you so’ when I said we needed a blow dryer.”
Steve narrowed his eyes. “Not another word. Or did you already forget the reason why we have to walk up six flights of stairs everyday and not have a working elevator?”
Bucky waved his spoon. “First, you were totally with me so it’s not entirely my fault. And second, how was I supposed to know that it would explode? All I’m sayin’ is don’t mock a man’s necessity for dry hair.”
Steve turned back to his task at hand, carefully aiming the blow-dryer around the previously soaking envelope. The familiar handwriting was pretty ruined, but Steve was hoping that the contents would still be dry enough. Carefully turning the blow dryer off, Steve darted over to his desk for his letter opener.
Bucky carefully turned the envelope over. “It should be fine, this side is pretty dry.”
Steve carefully slit the envelope open, sliding out the contents with baited breath. His sigh of relief filled his entire body as the contents were thankfully mostly still dry. As Steve unfolded the letter, a something small and colourful slipped onto the floor. Bucky laughed as he picked it up.
“Wow, you were gone on him even back then weren’t ya?”
Steve couldn’t hold back the dopey grin on his face as he stared at the small polaroid picture. It was taken right during class the day they met their pen pals, a year after writing to them. Tony with his curly soft hair and brilliant smile, was grabbing onto Steve’s wrist.
Man, he was a skinny kid.
But even Steve could see the bright red blush on his cheeks as he stared into Tony’s soft brown eyes…
Steve grinned as he unfurled the letter. Bucky leaned his head over Steve’s shoulder as they read.
I was cleaning out my old desk in my old room, and look what I found! We were pretty adorable weren’t we? Man, I’m glad we got that picture taken before Justin Hammer decided to put that gum in my hair, and you decided to teach him a lesson. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen him cry that much in my life, ever.
Actually, now I wish that Mr. Coulson took a picture of that instead. Damn.
Can you believe that it’s already been fifteen years since we’ve been writing back and forth? Fifteen! It’ll be almost our fifteenth anniversary, I guess that means I have to send you something crystal? I think that’s how it works.
Anyways, check your mail for it, I’ll be sending it over to you soon. I’m sorry to cut this letter short, but Rhodey is literally dragging me away from my desk and trying to tell me something about the benefits of something called 'sleep’.
I keep telling him that there’s no such thing in the life of a phD student, but apparently he won’t listen to me.
I’ve said it before, but let’s never let Rhodey and Bucky meet. They’ll get along way too well, and our lives will never be the same. How did your final project go by the way? Did you get that last piece finished like you wanted? I’ll talk to you soon!
“Well congrats on the fifteen-year wedding anniversary. Please tell me you’ll both be getting married before the twentieth, I’d like my handsome and roguish good looks to be memorialized in your wedding pictures.”
Steve glared, ears a bright red. Curse his Irish skin. “I don’t-”
Bucky rolled his eyes clasping his hand over Steve’s mouth. “Don’t even. You’ve been in love with the guy since he stood up in front of the entire class and called Tiberius Stone out for making fun of your mom. You both were making googly heart eyes at each other the entire day our class spent with theirs. I don’t think anyone else even kept in contact with their pen pals two years after, much less fifteen. You’re both way past that stupid will they, won’t they stage, so just suck it up already.”
Steve slumped as he pried Bucky’s hand off. “Fine. I’ll admit it. But what I can I do about it Buck? He’s all the way across the country at MIT, and off to Stark Industries the second he graduates.”
Steve closed his eyes, leaning against the wall. “We’re leaving in two weeks Buck, I can’t- I won’t do that to him.”
Bucky sighed, slinging an arm around Steve’s shoulder. “Fine. But at least give him that option. You need to tell him you’re leaving.”
Steve slid his hand under his shirt, his brand-new dog tags warm under his touch. “Yeah, I know.”
Steve growled as the punching bag snapped off again. Dragging it off to the side, he wiped his forehead with his towel, tossing it aside with a snarl.
Turning on the hot water, Steve scrubbed at his hair furiously. They were leaving in the morning, and Steve needed to be at his very best. Hundreds of successful missions under his belt, and while he logically knew that they were doing all they could…
Steve still felt like a failure.
It’s been eighty days since Tony Stark had gone missing, and Steve had never felt more like a failure in his entire life.
He knows that Bucky’s worried about him, but Steve just couldn’t help it…
Because it was Tony…it’s always been Tony.
Reaching under his bunk, Steve carefully unfolded the well-worn paper. The familiar loops and spilled ink blotches made his heart hurt, as his eyes locked onto the end of the letter.
…after my presentation, I’ll be heading over to your base, so we’ll actually get to meet up for the first time in over ten years. I’ll even bring you a cheeseburger, Happy found a new place that makes the best burgers, and I know that Pepper pretends not to know that he sneaks out at least once a week to eat them. Stay safe soldier boy.
The doctor’s words were a jumbled blur in the back of his mind as Steve rushed out of the empty medical ward, sprinting down the hallway. He skidded to a stop in the middle of the hallway, almost running into a giant mop of brown curly hair.
A rush of air left Steve as Tony turned a brilliant smile up towards him.
“Long time no see.”
Steve enveloped Tony into his arms, burying his face into Tony’s hair. The smell of sand hit him as Steve trembled, sliding to the floor gently with Tony clutching at him.
“I’m never letting you out of my sight ever again.”
Steve could feel the smile against his neck. “Not sure the rest of your unit would like that Captain, I’m sure Bucky at least would complain from my snoring.”
Steve tightened his arms. “Bucky snores louder than anyone, he’ll survive.”
Steve could feel Tony’s laugh. “I’ll just stick Rhodey on him them, they can complain together.”
Tony tucked his head under Steve’s chin. “I’m sorry I missed it.”
“Our twenty fifth anniversary.”
Steve’s hand slid down to Tony’s chest, the soft blue glow outlining his fingers.
“No you didn’t. Technically, you did give me iron.”
Steve shifted his hand over, Tony’s pulse strong against his chest. “Rescuing yourself, bringing yourself back to me. You gave me back yourself Iron Man.”
Tony snorted. “Iron Man huh? I guess I like the sound of that. A bit cheap of a gift though-”
Steve growled softly. “Never a cheap gift. Your life is always priceless Tony, always.”
Tony tilted his head, eyes half lidded. “I’m always yours, Steve. Always.”
Their lips met, slowly then all at once, as Steve finally pulled away with a soft sigh. Steve tugged the dog tags off his neck before slipping them gently over Tony’s to pull him in for another kiss. After pulling away, Tony gasped staring up at Steve with wide eyes.
Steve smiled tenderly. “Will you be mine forever?”
Tony beamed, leaping once again into Steve’s arms. “I’ve always been yours Steve. Now, and forever.”