He shook Tony's hand, holding on to it for a moment, happy and reluctant to let go, and asked about the Avenger who'd helped him fight Zemo.
“Who?” Tony asked back with some confusion, staring at Steve as if he had no idea what he was talking about, staring at his lips for the tiniest of moments, before shaking himself and finally catching up with what had been said. And Steve knew something was wrong when Tony's expression froze and he didn't return his smile any more. Their talk just now had felt like making progress, like he was making a connection, so he was a little confused about what had caused Tony's mood to shift. He simply didn't know the man well enough yet to read him.
“Can you check that, Jarvis? Did we have any black clad intruders? Any hint of who helped Cap and then vanished?” Tony asked speaking to the house, or more specifically the computer that was running this mansion, and Steve was reminded once more how different his life would be from now on. A talking house. What would his mother have thought of him living in a posh mansion that would talk at you.
Bucky would have loved it.
“I have no record of any person of that description entering the mansion,” the computer answered dutifully. “Do you want me to analyze the security footage, sir?”
“Yes,” Tony answered with a frown and looked back at Steve, who by now had figured out that he hadn't done anything to make Tony's mood change; he'd only supplied some information that didn't add up. “I swear the security usually works,” Tony assured him.
Steve shrugged. “Who ever he is he helped me. I thought he belonged here. Why would an intruder help me?”
“I have no idea, Cap. But helpful intruders are still not really supposed to be here.” Tony pinched the back of his nose and fell silent, probably thinking this through. “I'm glad you had help though. It would have been unfortunate to save you from the ice just to loose you right in the middle of our home... What a day,” he sighed.
“There is no indication of anyone who fits the description entering the mansion,” the automated voice said.
“Thank you, JARVIS. Keep checking.” Tony didn't sound pleased, but he also didn't look overly worried.
And Steve didn't think there was any need to be, at least not right at this moment. He looked down at the photograph that Tony had given him before he had asked about the unidentified intruder and smiled, his heart warming at the thought of Tony digging around his things to find it for him. The Wasp had gone out of her way to make him feel more comfortable, and of course Tony had tried to make his new room as accommodating and familiar as possible, but this had been the first personal gesture of welcome from him.
He pondered the picture for a moment – Howard, Bucky and himself standing together – and noticed the fading color and the slightly yellowing edges. To him that had happened only a short while ago, but the picture in its frame looked so very old. His smile turned a little rueful.
This was his life now. Better get used to it, soldier. You're a thing from the past. And this is a whole new world.
From where he was sitting on the sofa Tony was watching him silently and Steve tried to snap out of it and instead focus again on the happy feeling of having found a new friend. So he looked up to meet Tony's searching gaze. It was nice to see that he didn't look worried, only interested. Tony smiled back, surprisingly warm and full of emotion, and Cap took the time to take his first real look at his new team mate. He'd barely had time yet to look at Tony Stark when he wasn't mostly hidden away in the Iron Man armor.
He was, Steve thought, an attractive man, much like his father had been. And for someone who was rich enough to maintain this house and equip a team of superheroes he also seemed surprisingly easy to talk to. Of course, Steve remembered Howard Stark, who he'd always gotten along with pretty well, although he'd seen his cold business man persona emerge a few times. Even though Tony looked a lot like his father he seemed different from Howard in some noticeable ways, and Steve asked himself what had driven him to become Iron Man.
“I really thought you were a robot. Seemed more likely than a walking talking suit of armor,” he blurted out. He tried to muster up another smile to show he meant no offense, although he was feeling a little tired and overwhelmed again with all the thoughts of the past and all the things he didn't know yet about his new place in this world. What was someone like Tony Stark seeing when he was looking at him? A man like Tony who built sophisticated technology like the Iron Man suit that to him looked like it had been magically conjured up from one of the science fiction stories he used to read to forget the real world just for a while.
Tony smiled a slightly crooked smile and said: “In the very beginning there was a lot of speculation about Iron Man. Well, not in the very, very beginning, because the people who saw that one had no way to openly speculate... Anyway. I think some people would have preferred the robot theory to be true. SHIELD for one. They'd probably have been very happy with a mindless machine, but instead they got me.”
“I prefer this,” he said out loud, only realizing that he had said it when the words were already out. It made him feel sheepish in a way that he hadn't felt in years. “I mean, I prefer... ehm.”
“Thanks.” Tony chuckled, obviously amused. “I actually enjoy not being a robot. Although I do like machines quite a bit. And robots. And technology.” There was something about the way he said it that seemed a bit wistful and Steve felt strangely drawn to it. “Are you going to be okay here?” he asked him then, serious and not at all joking anymore.
“I think I'll be okay here,” Steve echoed and was glad to find that he really believed it too.
“Good,” Tony said. “Because I'm glad you're here.”
He smiled brighter then, trying to let Tony know how much that meant to him. A warm emotion was welling up in his chest, and he was sure that he had not only found a new team to be part of, but also a real friend.
* * *
Adjusting to the future – the present, he reminded himself for the hundredth time – turned out to be easier than he'd thought it would be in some ways and so much harder in others. He still woke up in the mornings wondering if this was all a dream, a terrible mistake or a cosmic joke. Why was he here when everyone he'd known and loved was dead by now?
He could still hear Bucky's voice, his own voice screaming his partner's name, and the explosion ringing in his ears.
But that was in the past, and the war that had cost his friend's life was over.
There had always been tentative plans for all the things he wanted to do after the war; well, in case he survived the war anyway. But now he had survived much more than “just” the war and all his plans and dreams and hopes were for naught.
He mentioned this to Janet when she asked him how he was doing, after she'd found him sitting in the kitchen alone on his third day in the mansion. “It will get easier, Steve,” she said and looked at him with compassion. “You'll find something new to strive for. You'll make friends and find things to be passionate about. Apart from fighting evil that is. Not that there is anything wrong with fighting evil. It's an awesome thing to be passionate about. I love fighting evil!” She punched the air and jumped a little, then she smiled, shrunk down enough to let her wings carry her and hovered in front of him. “It's a lot to take in and it's only been a few days, but this place isn't so bad. It's still the world you knew. Just a little different.”
“The place isn't what I'm worried about. It's the time.”
She looked at him sadly and said: “You'll catch up, Steve. Trust me. I've already figured out that you're a fast learner. Just give yourself some time.”
He smiled at her then, thankful that someone was trying to make an effort to make him feel better when he was not sure how to deal with his own feelings of disconnect, but very conscious of the words she had chosen. Really, he appreciated the effort and he knew that Janet meant what she was saying, but he'd lost everything, had woken up in a world that was still a little foreign to him and it was hard to see how he was supposed to just pick up the pieces of his life and move on as if nothing had happened. “I think I've lost a lot of time already, Janet,” he said to her.
“What was it you wanted to do when the war was over?”
He froze and looked away from her. The memory was painful. “I don't think it matters now. All the people I knew back then are gone now. All the things I wanted to do then... seem out of reach.”
“No, really, it matters. It matters very much. And you can still do some of it. I'm sure you can. What was it you wanted for yourself when the war was over?”
Her earnestness was touching and Steve's face lit up with another small smile. “What everybody wanted: Peace, going home, building myself a life without fighting and maybe find...” He hesitated, nearly stumbled over the word, then added: “Someone.”
Jan pursed her lips and looked at him, hovering over the table for a moment, before she flew to his side and suddenly was her normal size again. She put her hands on his shoulders and brought their faces close together. “Steve, I know it's hard to feel like you must be feeling now, like you're a stranger in the place that once was your home; and it seems like you fell right out of the war into crazy land, but you really can have all these things here. You can still find your happy life – and someone to share it with. It's not out of reach. It will just feel a bit strange for a while. And then it will get better. And who knows? It might even feel normal one morning. And then the special someone you're waiting for may be right around the corner and you just have to stop pondering the things you can't get back - and instead look at what's right here and now.” She was looking into his eyes as if something was hiding there, frowning slightly. “We haven't known each other for long, Steve, but you have to know that all of us have known about you for most of our lives. You're our hero and I think you're a wonderful guy. Any woman would be happy to meet a guy like you and be swept away. I promise.”
He closed his eyes and sighed.
“I promise it will get better, Steve,” Janet repeated and then embraced him, just for a moment before she moved away again.
Her words sounded much like something he himself had told young soldiers during the war; a bittersweet memory, the strangest kind of irony. And that thought made him finally quirk his lips into a sardonic smile, for the first time not forcing himself to do it. He was alive and he owed it to all the people he'd lost to make the best of it. “Thank you, Janet,” he said earnestly.
“See? It's already getting better. Because we're friends.” She shrunk down to wasp size again and flew up to the side of his face. “Welcome to your new normal,” she whispered in his ear. “It might be a bit crazier than you're used to, but it'll never be boring. Find me when you need anything, yes? I'll try to drag Hank away from whatever crazy science stuff it is he's doing now or he'll forget there is an outside world... And maybe somebody should check up on Tony, before he becomes part of his own work bench...”
Steve chuckled and waved her off, watching her tiny form fly out of the room like a little fairy who'd managed to escape her story book.
He liked that thought.
His life was crazy enough to be a fairytale these days. And maybe Janet was right and he should allow himself to hope for a happy ending to his own story.
Then Tony, dressed in his armor, but without the helmet, walked into the kitchen as if Jan had conjured him up. “Hey! Just the man I was looking for.”
“Some work for me?”
“Not exactly... I was thinking about our intruder. Could you come down with me to go over the security footage. You know where to look for him better than me.”
When he followed Iron Man down he saw Janet animatedly talking to Hank in his lab and smiled. It seemed he wasn't the only one in the mansion hoping for a happy ending with the right person either. Only Janet had already set her sights on someone, and Steve had still to give himself the chance to actually start looking.
* * *
Tony seemed a little preoccupied and distracted when he stepped through the secret entrance to the lower levels and emerged in their living room where Steve was sitting on the sofe trying to make sense of the newspaper articles he was perusing. He was about to ask what was on Tony's mind when the man gave him a slightly tired once over and asked: “Hey, what are you up to today? You can't be Captain America around the clock, right?”
Steve looked down at himself. He was wearing the blue pants that belonged to his costume, mostly because he didn't own much clothing and it was comfortable, and his shield was leaning against the side of the sofa for no other reason than Steve feeling a little better when it was nearby. “I haven't really figured that out yet. Need to catch up first.”
“That shouldn't take long,” Tony mumbled distractedly and made his way toward the door. “You can use the databases. JARVIS will give you access to everything you want to know. Just ask him and he'll answer all your questions.”
He nodded, watching Tony standing in the doorway as if he wasn't sure whether to stay or go. Steve himself wasn't sure yet, what he really wanted to do next. “It's that easy nowadays?”
“Well, mostly. When you live in a house I built. If the information is freely accessible – and not say a big S.H.I.E.L.D. secret.” The corner of Tony's lips quirked upwards, giving him an impish look. “Of course, big S.H.I.E.L.D. secrets aren't really that much of a problem either.”
“I'm not even sure where to start.” Some irritation must have slipped into his tone, because suddenly he had all of Tony's attention. There it was again that slightly curious, searching gaze. Steve decided that he did like that expression.
“Ask your questions. JARVIS will help you find the answers.”
Tony lingered in the doorway for another moment, looking at him with piercing brown eyes, before he added: “Go down.” He nodded in the direction of the fireplace, so Steve would know what he was speaking off. Then he turned to go, so Steve asked: “What are you up to? You can't be Iron Man all of the time? And you're not looking like a robot at the moment, so...”
Tony chuckled and turned around to look at him. “Oh, Cap, Iron Man is busy, but Tony Stark is the one who never sleeps.”
“You don't mean that literally, I hope.”
“Most of the time I don't,” Tony said and nodded to himself. There was a hint of humor there that Steve couldn't miss.
“Ms. Potts will be sure to tell you that he does go without sleep much too often,” JARVIS supplied helpfully.
“Traitor,” Tony accused.
“You programmed me, sir.”
Steve chuckled. “You programmed him to be smart.”
“What would be the point of programming a non-smart AI?” He looked at Steve as if he couldn't believe Steve had even found the need to point it out. Now that Steve had the time to more closely look at Tony, he noticed that he indeed looked like someone who had gone without any sleep far too long. “Stupid question, huh? Yeah, I guess so. Time to catch some sleep.”
“Yeah, I won't keep you. But...”
“Yes?” Tony was leaning inside the door again. Steve felt bad for holding him back, but he was also quietly grateful that even now Tony seemed to be willing to hear him out.
“I've talked to Director Fury.”
“Ah, I see,” Tony said. “He's made you an offer already? I'm sure SHIELD would be glad to have you. We're not always seeing eye to eye, but...”
“Yeah, I gathered as much. But that's not what I wanted to talk about. Fury has given me – back that is – he's given me back my old bike. I've left it in the garage. I hope that's okay.”
“Your bike? Really?” Tony was smiling. “It must be nice to get back something that belonged to you. Is it in good condition?”
Steve was surprised to hear much enthusiasm in his voice. He had half expected to be teased about clinging to it instead of getting a new one, appropriate for the times. “Yes, it's been treated well. Runs just like it did when I used it.”
“Why don't you come down to the workshop tomorrow and we take a look at it?”
“I used to restaurate old cars for fun when I was younger, when I wanted to relax. Also tweaked a few bikes in my life... Believe me.” He yawned.
Steve smiled. “Tomorrow then.”
“Yeah,” Tony answered, a drowsy smile of his own on his lips, when he vanished into the hallway.
Steve looked down at the newspaper, made up his mind and reached for his shield, before he got up and made his way down to their base of operations. He had some questions to ask the smart, house-running AI, and it was probably a good idea to do it in a place where he wouldn't be interrupted.
* * *
New York had changed, but at its heart it was still New York and he loved it. His bike made it easy for him to explore the city when there was nothing else for him to do. Sometimes he went out alone, sometimes Thor or Jan or even T'Chala, who'd recently joined them and was no longer a mysterious intruder would come along.
Jan liked to introduce him to restaurants and take him shopping and see the movies, while Thor showed him the places he'd discovered for himself. Tonight the three of them had gone out together.
But now Steve was sitting on the sofa with Janet watching television, Thor sitting in the armchair off to the side, but none of them had really been paying attention for the last few minutes. Thor had had even more questions about the program than Steve in the beginning and that made Steve chuckle, when he realized that an alien god-like being was the one person he could relate to the most in this house. Jan had smiled at them and patiently answered their questions, until she'd gone on a passionate rant about fashion that neither Steve nor Thor had been able to follow.
“Let's order pizza,” Jan mumbled. “And don't look at me guys. I'm not going to cook. We can probably convince Hank to come up and eat something too,” she mused. “He's been hiding in his lab for hours again. I knew it wasn't a good idea for Tony to built him a state of the arts lab like that.”
“Does Tony Stark not have his own lab equipped in the same way?” Thor asked.
“Well, not in the same way, I suppose,” Jan answered, “but it's probably a pretty awesome lab too. If, you know, you're a scientist and care for this stuff. Just, Tony is used to the best, and I always helped Hank along, but I'm sure he's pretty fascinated with a lab set up for him by someone who has not only the money, but also an idea of what Hank would need.” She frowned a little. “We should totally go and get him. He's never going to come up if we don't.”
Steve smiled. He hadn't known Jan for long, but it was clear to anyone how she felt about Hank Pym. Well, to anyone but Hank Pym, it seemed.
“Where is Tony, anyway?” he asked. “We're living in his house. We should at least ask him if he wants some food, too.”
“I did not know our friend had returned,” Thor said.
“Mr. Stark is...” JARVIS interjected, but another voice interrupted the computer.
“...right here. Hey! What's up? Did I miss any villainous schemes? Evil on our doorstep? Murder and mayhem?”
“No battles were fought in your absence, my friend,” Thor informed him reassuringly.
“You shouldn't sound so excited about murder and mayhem anyway,” Steve said.
Tony stepped fully into the room. He was wearing a crumpled suit, but didn't look tired this time. “I don't know. Try sitting through a three hour board meeting with Pepper making sure you actually listen and let's see what you get excited about after.”
While Tony came over, Steve watched him carefully, not sure how to respond to his joke. Tony's life still was a bit of a mystery to him.
“I'm excited for pizza,” Janet said. “Let's get some.”
“The fair Wasp speaks true.”
Steve nodded. He was beginning to feel more at home in this place by now. And he was learning new things everyday. He knew now that Hank Pym was preoccupied when he was working on something, that Janet was stashing away chocolate for her secret sweet tooth, that Thor missed his home a lot more than he was letting on and T'Chala liked American sitcoms. And Tony Stark, billionaire genius who grew up in this grand house that all of them had made their home now, loved pizza.
This future – present – wasn't perfect, but his own time hadn't been either. He still missed it sometimes, when he thought of all the people who'd died while they must have thought him lost forever, but he had a team here, a group of friends, a home.
He could learn to appreciate this new life.
“Let's get pizza,” Tony agreed, sounding pleased.
* * *
On a normal day Steve went for a run after getting out of bed and then down to their training room, sometimes meeting up with T'Chala, Clint or Hulk. Their little team of heroes was growing and although with a group of people with different strong personalities not everything was going smoothly all of the time, they were working well together in a fight.
He also tried to get to know every single team member, tried to understand everyone's skills and combat styles, but also tried to learn about their interests and about their lives before the Avengers.
And because Tony was telling him a lot of things when he was asked about them, but never seemed to talk about the things he was building at the moment or the things he had achieved as an engineer, Steve tried to read up on all the things that Tony had been involved in at one time or another. There were pages of articles on the weapons business his company had at one time been dealing in. But there were even more articles on Tony Stark, genius, celebrity, playboy.
In fact this morning's paper had one such article, too.
He was sitting at the kitchen table, again perusing the paper, while Tony was sitting in front of him reading something on one of his Stark tablets. So Steve grasped the opportunity and asked him directly. “The paper says you're quite the playboy.”
“Hmm,” Tony answered without looking up. “The paper isn't wrong.”
“I never see you date anyone. You're always here working, or fighting, or watching TV with us. When do you have the time to be a notorious playboy?”
Tony waved a hand before him, still focused on the screen. “Tight schedule. Reputation. Earned it. Now I don't live the party life I once did, but I'm not exactly a monk either, Steve.”
“Are you dating Pepper?”
A startled chuckle. “Pepper has more sense than that. Believe me. I don't have any sense at all.”
Steve blinked, because that wasn't really something he'd expected Tony Stark to say about himself. He was trying hard not to frown or be sidetracked. “Why would you say that? You can be annoying, but you're a good man.”
Another surprised chuckle, but finally Tony focused on him. “Thank you, Steve, but I can be much more than annoying. And Pepper knows very well what she'd be getting into. So we're past that stage in our relationship where dating is a possibility.” He got out of his chair to pour himself another cup of coffee.
“It says here that you've dated quite a few celebrities,” Steve went on, still stubbornly refusing to be sidetracked.
“Well, yeah. If dating is what you want to call it.”
“And that you were last seen with a model called Andrew Lei.”
Tony froze at the counter. When he turned around and leaned back against it to watch Steve there was some tension in his shoulders. “And is that a problem, Steve?”
“No,” he said and smiled. In fact he had just found something new that made him like living in the here and now.
* * *
Life as an Avenger was never boring, but also never quite easy. Steve was happy enough to throw himself into a fight for the right cause, but the last year had been a little too busy even for his taste. Ultron, his own unfortunate abduction during the Skrull invasion, and finally the fight against Galactus had taken its toll.
“You sure about this?” he asked, stepping towards Tony, who was still half in armor and standing inside his armory ready to get rid of the rest. The light was dim and the Iron Man armor was the only bright colored thing down here, the arc reactor in Tony's chest bathing everything in the soft bluewhite glow of its cold and artificial light. Steve felt the urge to reach out and touch it.
“Yes, you're a better leader for this team than I could ever be, and I think it's time for me to focus a little more on my work again. Don't you want to take charge?”
He'd not really thought about it.
“We're a team, but somebody has to call the shots. And who better than Captain America, master strategist, to do it?”
He reached out to clasp a hand on Tony's shoulder, still clad in the dark fabric of his dark undersuit. “As long as you're still part of the team. You're not planning to leave us?”
Tony smiled at him, tired and a little crooked, but sincere. He was getting so much better at reading him. “You're not getting rid of me that easily, Cap.”
“Good. Not sure that people will really like this change all that much.”
“People will forget the invasion, Steve. And for the time being it's probably even best if Captain America takes the lead and shows everyone what he's made of.”
He'd gone through hard times as an Avenger now too, had found Bucky again, although the kid from then had grown up and had his own baggage to carry these days, but strangely that had only made him feel more at home here. He had a purpose and a home now. Both Captain America and Steve Rogers were no longer stuck yearning for the past they couldn't return to, but were ready to built a new future.
He could take charge, take his own fate into his hands again and make it work.
And he only needed to look at Tony to know that it was time to face his own feelings and take a few risks.
It was easy to ask Tony to spar with him more often. Tony never questioned him, aware that he could use the exercise. It was even easier to ask Tony to go out with him and grab something to eat, whenever it seemed Tony needed to be dragged away from his armory or work for a while. Jane gave them a knowing smile whenever he did. It was easy to go down and visit Tony in his workshop now and listen to him talk about his newest projects and ideas. It was simply easy to be friends with Tony, even though they both were so very different sometimes.
Jan winked at him when he appeared in the doorway to ask Tony for another training session. He just smiled back. She was all dressed up, so he expected she might be going out. “Again?” Tony asked. “Are Carol and Clint not interested in sparring with you anymore, or do you think I'm so bad at this fighting thing that I need to train this often?”
“It can't hurt to put in a little more work.”
“Says the super soldier who never takes the beatings.”
“I like sparring with you.”
“And isn't that just the sweetest compliment?” Jan asked Tony with a smile. “It's like Hank asking me to his lab, although he knows I only come down to see him and not because of the science...” She waved her hand around to illustrate.
Tony looked from one to the other, before he gave Jan a final skeptical look. “Is Hank spending time in the lab again? You are getting through to him, huh?”
“And you're getting through to Cap, Tony. Isn't that nice?”
Steve clasped a hand to Tony's shoulder. “It's nice. Lets go.”
Tony and Jan exchanged a final look and then Tony followed him out the door and to the training room. Steve was already dressed in sweat pants and a muscle shirt, but Tony was dressed in Jeans an a red button-up and needed to change. So Steve watched him silently as he slowly opened one button after the other, revealing a tight sleeveless undershirt beneath it. Tony caught him watching, held his gaze for a moment, but didn't comment on it.
Steve knew exactly why his throat had gone dry suddenly, but tried to shake off the nervousness.
When Tony had changed Steve pulled him towards the mats.
“You're eager today,” Tony commented. “Did someone piss you off and I'm going to be the one who pays for it now?”
Steve smirked at him. “You're not afraid of a little hand to hand combat, Iron Man?”
“I'm an Iron Man without his armor, Cap.”
“You're good enough to hold your own in a fight, Tony.”
“Not against you, Mr. Original Super Soldier,” Tony said, not entirely joking, simply aware of who was at an advantage in this fight. Sometimes his pride got the better of him, but most of the time Tony was too intelligent not to assess his own chances of wining objectively, even in training. It was undeniable that Steve had the upper hand in their little self-defense and hand to hand combat training sessions.
“Lets not pretend that you don't know how to get an advantage by now. I've taught you well,” Steve said, while already attacking, although not with full force, smiling when Tony easily evaded and grabbed for him, just like he'd taught him. But he wasn't trying to get behind Steve.
Instead he moved in, their faces suddenly uncomfortably close and all thoughts of fighting and training were all but forgotten, when Tony's lips suddenly brushed against his own, the beard tingling against his skin. His heart leaped in his chest, making him feel dizzy. Then Tony pushed against him and they landed in a heap on the floor, Tony sitting on his stomach and looking down at him with a guarded look. “I know how to cheat,” he offered.
The only thing Steve could think was that he really wanted to to know more about the feel of Tony's lips on his own, desperately wanted to know for a fact how well he could kiss. So he used his own battle-honed reflexes to pull him down by the shoulder and press their lips together again.
He wasn't surprised to learn first hand that Tony Stark really knew how to take his breath away.
“Hmm, maybe we should spar more often after all,” Tony concluded, panting a little when he pulled away. “This is fun.” He still sounded cautious as if he expected Steve to change his mind about this any minute now.
But Steve still had a hand on his shoulder and let it slowly move down to slightly push at Tony and then hold his hips in place with both hands. “Sparring? Is that what they're calling it these days?” He bucked up to let Tony know exactly how much sparring was not on his mind anymore, and was happy at the little chocked noise it earned him.
* * *
He woke up, not in his own bed, with a warm body pressed against his side. Steve had no trouble seeing the lines of Tony' face, because the arc reactor was bathing him in that soft artificial glow he was getting used to. His arm was trapped beneath Tony's back, but he really didn't want to move. He couldn't resist pressing a kiss to Tony's forehead though.
Tony stirred, blinked a little. “Did I wake you?” he slurred, still half asleep.
“Actually, I think I woke you. Go back to sleep, Tony.” He pulled his arm into a position that was a bit more comfortable and watched Tony pull halfheartedly at the blanket, hiding the arc reactor and letting the room fall into darkness.
“I'm glad you're here,” Tony mumbled.
“I'm glad, too,” Steve whispered, his throat constricting a little. “I should have done this sooner.” He pulled at the blanked, so the light of arc reactor wasn't all swallowed up anymore and he could see the lines of Tony's face again in the darkness.
“I meant in the present.”
“That's what I meant to.”
Apparently Tony wasn't his usual eloquent self when he was half-asleep and comfortable. “I'm also really glad you're not a robot.”
A soft very sleepy chuckle followed. “Why? Could be fun dating a robot,” Tony mumbled, falling back asleep before Steve could disagree.
He watched Tony as he settled back into sleep, a hand curled up in front of his chest in a strangely vulnerable manner, his face losing all the tension and worry lines he'd seen so often in broad daylight.
Tomorrow he'd tell Jan that she'd been right in those first days of his new life: He had found all the things he wanted for himself, right here and now.
He was finally home with that one special person by his side.
There lives weren't exactly as peaceful as he had once imagined and their sweet little home was the home base of a growing team of heroes, but it couldn't be more perfect - and it would also never be boring.
He pressed another kiss to Tony's temple, careful to not wake him again and then settled down beside him, watching him until he finally fell asleep.