It turned out that James Buchanan Barnes wasn't dead after all.
He was right there, in the tower, looking very alive and very pissed off.
"You are an absolute idiot," the (ex)assassin grumbled, not looking at Tony, or Bruce, or Natasha, or Clint, but Steve. His eyes never left the supersoldier as he spoke. "One week. It took one week after I fell for you to turn into a self-sacrificing lunatic. Did you even think about the consequences? Why the hell did you dive into the fucking Arctic? What, you've never heard of a parachute? Or autopilot? Or--"
Steve looked surprised, but a small smile was on his face. "Bucky, c'mon. I couldn't just-"
"Uh, no, you little punk. You do not get a say in this. You--" he pointed his finger at the blonde, narrowing his eyes. With his dark eyes and metal arm, the gesture looked more threatening than it was probably supposed to, but Steve didn't seem fazed by it, staring at Bucky with a soft expression on his face. "--are an ass for what you did. You nearly got yourself killed!"
"I was trying to save everyone, Buck," Steve replied calmly. "You know I had to stop that plane."
Bucky let out an annoyed huff. "Trying to save everyone?" He echoed, waving madly with his arms. Tony looked around the room in bafflement, widening his eyes at everyone as though to say, uh, hello, isn't anyone gonna say anything about the assassin in our kitchen? "There were so many ways in which you could've done that," Bucky continued. "You didn't have to go and crash your flipping plane like some fucking martyr--" Bucky stopped suddenly, and oh, look, Steve was hugging the man now. Nobody else seemed to be bothered -- was Tony the only one who wasn't okay with this?
"I missed you too, Buck," Steve grinned, and brought the two of them even closer together by tightening his grip on the soldier. It took a few seconds for him to register what was happening, but then Bucky was closing his eyes and hugging him back, his anger disappearing all at once as his shoulders sagged in relief. The two best friends looked so happy to be with each other again that Tony would've found the whole situation endearing -- if it wasn't for all the weapons Bucky currently had strapped to his body, or the way his shiny metal arm was wrapped ever-so-tightly around Steve's body, or the fact that he had just turned up, unannounced, after somehow sneaking into the tower. Tony had nearly spilled his coffee in shock when those elevator doors had opened and revealed The Winter Soldier inside, and, quite honestly, thought he was about to be murdered, until Bucky had spotted Steve stood at the sink and started calling him a 'stupid little punk'.
"Okay, hang on a second." Tony kinda felt like an ass for interrupting his boyfriend's reunion with his best friend, but he wanted to know how the hell Bucky had managed to get into the Tower without alerting JARVIS, and what he was planning to do now he was there. "The hell do you think you're doing?"
There was an audible exasperated sigh, and Steve pulled away from Bucky with an apologetic look on his face. "Tony," he began, using That Voice. "Be nice."
"Are you serious?" Tony scoffed and took a step forwards. "Steve, this man just walked in here with zero explanation, decked head-to-toe in all sorts of weapons, and you expect me to 'be nice'?"
"'This man' is my best friend," Steve frowned, and folded his arms. "I'd expect at least some common courtesy."
"Maybe I'll start acting nicer when Mr Hydra Agent over there answers some questions--"
"This is Howard's son?"
Tony stopped abruptly and glared at Bucky, seeing red. "Don't you dare talk about my father."
Barnes raised an eyebrow, looked Tony up-and-down once, then stated dryly, "At least he gave warmer welcomes."
Warmer fucking welcomes-- "You just showed up here," Tony growled, pressing a button on his watch. Within seconds, his Iron Man gauntlet was forming around his hand, and he lifted his arm to point it at Barnes. "You won't get a warm welcome until you explain your intentions."
"Tony!" Steve barked, stepping in front of Barnes as though to protect him. "Stand down--"
"Oh, sure, Steve, protect the murderer."
"Both of you," Steve finished, narrowing his eyes at Tony before looking pointedly at Barnes.
"Boys, c'mon now, let's not start a war," Natasha interrupted, stepping forward. "James," She nodded in greeting.
"Natalia," The man replied, and then he ducked his head slightly. "Look, I'm really sorry about-" He made an awkward gesture towards Natasha's hip. Huh, Tony thought. Interesting.
"Don't," Natasha insisted. "You weren't in control-"
"Oh, so you know eachother too, huh?" Tony cut in, raising an eyebrow. He looked at Clint and Bruce. "What about you two? Is there anyone who hasn't met this guy?"
"Tony, stop it," Steve said, and it actually came out sharp and severe. Tony turned to his boyfriend, frowning.
"I said-" Steve exhaled, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Look. Hydra kidnapped Bucky, okay? They took him, and the changed him. They brainwashed him. They-" Steve stopped himself, realising that he was bringing up old memories that Bucky most definitely didn't want to remember. "Sorry, Buck. The point, Tony, is that Bucky wasn't himself when he...when he did what he did. He wasn't in control of his own body. He couldn't stop-"
"Alright, alright," Tony said, raising a hand. "Fine. I get it. It was all Hydra's fault, yada yada yada...but that still doesn't explain how he got here, or what he plans to do when-"
"It wasn't hard," Bucky shrugged, eyeing Tony. "Your name is everywhere, Stark,"
"Right," Tony replied, meeting the man's gaze and narrowing his eyes slightly. "Well then, you obviously know about Iron Man, and how I can kick your ass into next week-"
"For the love of-Tony!" Steve shouted, and Tony couldn't help but flinch a little. "Stop. It." He turned to Bucky and smiled awkwardly. "I'm sorry, he's never normally like this-"
"If you're going to talk about me like I'm not in the room, Steve, then I might as well just fucking leave," Tony grumbled, narrowing his eyes at Steve. He spun on his heel-
-and left without uttering another word.
Naturally, he'd headed to the workshop. AC/DC was blasting through his speakers, so loud that it was probably damaging his ears - but Tony didn't really care. He was upgrading the armour, singing along to Thunderstruck, trying to clear his mind from all thoughts related to Bucky. And it was working, in a way.
That was, until the music cut out.
"Jarrrviiiiiis," Tony whined, tilting his head back to look at the ceiling (even though he'd told Steve countless times that, no, the artificial intelligence did not live in their roof). "Whyyyy-"
And then he heard it. Someone was knocking at his door.
"Ugh," Tony rolled his eyes. "How many times, Steve? You don't to knock, you can just-" And then he paused, because the figure behind the glass door wasn't Steve.
It was Bucky.
The brunet was scratching his neck awkwardly, avoiding eye contact as Tony watched him through the glass door.
"For crying out loud," Tony mumbled. "What's he doing here?"
"I believe Sergeant Barnes has come to apologise, sir," Came the automatic response from J.A.R.V.I.S.
"What?" Tony questioned, sratching his head. He had a mental debate with himself, before saying, "Oh, what the hell. Let him in, J,"
"Of course, sir,"
The door slid open with a hiss, startling Barnes. His widened eyes looked directly at Tony's and he made a hesitant gesture towards the doorway. "Can I-"
"Yes," Tony said, briskly. His eyes never left the man as he wandered into the room, and he couldn't help but feel smug at the look of awe on James' face once he spotted his car collection.
"Are they all yours?"
Bucky whistled. "Geez, they must be worth thousands,"
The soldier reached out tentatively with his metal arm, and his fingers hovered for a few seconds over the 1932 Ford Flathead Roadster, but then he sharply pulled his hand away once he caught Tony staring. "Sorry,"
Bucky raised an eyebrow at the lack of enthusiasm in Tony's voice. "Look, I get it, okay? You don't like me. That's...that's fine, I guess. But can you just listen for a moment to what I have to say?"
"Why?" Tony asked, tilting his head. "I know it was Steve who made you come down here, so what's the point?"
"Actually..." Bucky smiled sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck. "I lied. To Steve, I mean," He shrugged. "I told him I was going to explore the tower. I never said I was going to see you, and Stevie never told me to,"
That nickname stood out the most from what Bucky had just said. Tony tried not to let it bother him. Instead, he said, "Huh, right,"
"Yeah," James nodded. "I feel like I need to-"
"Hang on," Tony held up a hand. "What was that about exploring my tower?"
"Oh, that. Stevie suggested that I should, uh, get used to the layout of this place if I was going to, uh, you know, stay here..."
"Oh, he did, did he?" Tony said. "So, Stevie said that you could stay here?"
"Right," Tony nodded, drumming his fingers on the table. "Right. Well. I suppose you'll have to, won't you?" If it makes Steve happy.
Barnes seemed taken aback. "Wait, what? Really?"
"I'm not a complete asshole, you know," Tony stated. "I'm not going to cast you out onto the streets or anything. How cruel,"
Bucky seemed lost for words. "Wow, that's-are you sure?"
"Don't get all emotional on me now. I still don't like you," Tony muttered.
"Consider this some part of a truce, I guess,"
"A truce," Bucky repeated. "Um, yeah, okay," And then he smiled. "Thanks, Mr Stark-"
"It's Tony. Mr Stark was my dear ol' dad,"
"Oh, right...sorry," Bucky actually blushed. "But yeah, I-It really means a lot, Mr-Tony. Not a lot of people would-"
"Yeah, yeah," Tony waved his hand, dismissively, and then turned his back on Bucky, opening up a blue hologram of an Iron Man gauntlet. "Look, these repulsors aren't going to fix themselves, okay?" It barely came out like a question, and the actual message behind it was clear: leave, please.
"Right," Bucky nodded, clearly not offended by the sudden blunt tone in the billionaire's voice. "Sorry-"
"And stop apologizing," Tony continued, his back still turned. "Honestly, you're worse than Steve,"
There was a small noise - the tiniest huff of a laugh - and Tony couldn't help but smile a little. If the man had the guts to come and apologise, when it was clearly Tony who'd been a jerk (he wouldn't say that out loud, of course)...well, maybe he'd been wrong about Bucky after all.
Three days later, and Tony wished he'd kept his mouth shut.
Steve and Bucky hadn't left each other's sides since the Winter Soldier's arrival. Tony knew that they hadn't seen each other for seventy years, and that Steve had always thought that Bucky had fallen to his death, but still. The pair were now practically joined at the hip: they ate together; watched movies together; sparred together; went shopping together; heck, they'd even shared a bed on the first night. (Tony told Steve that no, of course he didn't mind if his boyfriend abandoned their usual sleeping chamber so that he could cuddle up with Bucky under the thick, warm duvet in one of the guest bedrooms. Tony had instead spent the entire night in his workshop, fueled only by coffee, cold and alone. But he didn't mind. Obviously). It wasn't that Tony was jealous - he just...he didn't like the fact that Steve and Bucky were now basically inseparable.
And there was another thing, as well. See, Steve and Tony always had this routine every morning (if Tony had actually left the workshop): Steve would wake up at the crack of dawn, like the perfect soldier he was, and go for a jog, or kill punchbags in the gym. Then he'd make breakfast (he was one of the only Avengers who could actually cook). And then, he'd
drag Tony's lazy ass out of bed calmly wake up Tony with a kiss, and then they would go downstairs, hand in hand, and either go out to save the world (again) or laze about in the tower. Or go for a walk in Central Park, if the weather was nice.
It didn't sound like anything special, but, well, it was their routine. Steve and Tony's. Tony and Steve's. It hadn't changed since that day when Steve had bashfully confessed his feelings to Tony, and it wasn't going to change, either. At least, it wasn't supposed to.
And yet, it had.
When-if Tony went to bed, he always woke up again the next day with a comfortingly warm (and safe) arm wrapped around him. And it was nice. Today, however, had been different. Today, Tony had woken up from a nightmare, screaming silently, clawing at his arc reactor to confirm that it was still in his chest, and Steve? Steve wasn't there. He wasn't there to gently calm Tony down from his panic attack. He wasn't there to wipe away the shameful tears. He wasn't there to whisper 'it's okay' and 'you're safe' over and over again as he held Tony in his arms.
He'd left a note, of fucking course, as though that made it any better. A small ripped piece of paper lay on his nightstand, with a small message scribbled on it in Steve's familiar font. Taking Bucky to the Smithsonian. Won't be long. Steve x. And though Tony had sighed, still shaking slightly from his panic attack, he told himself that it was okay. Steve hadn't seen Bucky in seventy years. Steve deserved it.
And then there was the clinginess. The casual touches. The arm around Bucky's shoulder. The hand on Steve's waist. They're just friends, Tony told himself. Brothers, even. Nothing more. He kept telling himself this, even on Friday (movie night), when Steve and Bucky had squashed up together on the loveseat, Steve and Tony's loveseat, and forced Tony to sit on a cushion on the floor.
"Sorry, Tony," Steve had said. "But Bucky hasn't-"
"Yeah, yeah," Tony had waved him off. "I get it," He'd sat in front of the two, leaning against the couch, and had expected Steve to lightly run his fingers through his hair, or something. But nothing happened, and, when the movie was over, Tony saw the the two had fallen asleep. On eachother. Typical.
Tony wasn't jealous. He wasn't. He was just a little bit ticked off that Steve had suddenly become so...distant...that was all...
The thing is, Tony had done so much for Steve. The blonde had lost everything and everyone he loved (or so he thought. Bucky being alive obviously proved this wrong, but that wasn't the point). He'd crashed into the ice leaving behind a world at war, only to wake up in the future with the world still at war. He'd struggled to adjust to this bright, modern century, and, despite his intelligence, had taken ages to learn how to use the new technologies, because nobody had been there to teach him. He'd suffered from horrendous nightmares and sleepless nights, panic attacks and flashbacks, and everything else PTSD related, and he'd had to do it all alone, because all of his friends were dead.
And Tony? Tony had helped. God, how he'd helped. Steve couldn't be more thankful - he'd told him himself. Tony had introduced him to as much tech as possible, and he took to teaching Steve slowly and patiently. He'd shown him movies, songs, and told him about all sorts of historical events that had occurred in the pre-defrosting years. He had held Steve close when he needed it, whispered calming words during his panic attacks, and had always just been there for him. He'd shown Steve that he wasn't alone, that he had friends, and that he had a family (the Avengers weren't related by blood, obviously, but that didn't matter).
And, gradually, he'd fallen in love with him, too.
And yet, after seeing Steve with Bucky, looking happier and laughing more (more than he'd ever done with Tony), the billionaire couldn't help thinking one thing: hadn't he been enough? Yes, Steve had become happy and felt at home when he'd met Tony, but now that Bucky was here? He was happier, as though he hadn't been fully enjoying himself before the (ex)assassin's arrival. And Tony...well, he couldn't help feeling slightly
jealous annoyed about it.
But, like a broken record, he just kept repeating the same thing to himself: they're just friends. Brothers. even. Nothing more. Let Steve have this. Steve deserves this. He carried on with his life, with his work, and tried to ignore the tiny pang of jealousy he had when he saw Steve with Bucky. He didn't complain. He didn't protest. Steve hasn't seen Bucky for seventy years. He deserves this.
Tony didn't mind. Of course he didn't.
Everything was fine.
That is, until the night of August 28th rolled by - the night of their anniversary.
Tony sat, with his shoulders slumped, on the edge of the bed, staring gloomily at the leaflet in his hand, reading the bold, black letters over and over and over again: MoMA - The Museum Of Modern Art.
The night was supposed to have been perfect. Now, a trip to an art museum sound boring, and to Tony, well, it was. Yes, he often appreciated the brushstrokes of paintings and the smooth pencil lines of portraits, but his plan for the evening was purely for Steve's benefit. God, how excited he'd been to give Steve the leaflet, to watch the look on his face change from confusion to disbelief to pure giddiness as he read the leaflet. His lover had been rambling on and on about the place for months, promising himself that he'd go and see it sometime - he never did though, because, being Captain America, he didn't have the time, and he was also worried about being spotted by paparazzi. After all, how would Steve be able to truly appreciate the museum's work if he was constantly being yelled at by crazy fans? Because of this, Tony had gone to the trouble of making sure that the entire exhibition was closed off from the public that night (he could do that - he was Anthony Edward Stark) so that they could have the building to themselves, and to allow Steve to take as much time as he wanted.
They'd go and have dinner first, of course. Tony was going to let Steve choose, and he was going to pay for the whole thing, though he knew Steve, being the gentleman he was, would've protested, but still.
It would've been the perfect night.
Gazing into each other's eyes at the dinner table.
Holding hands as they stroll around the museum.
Laughing and smiling at one another's corny jokes as they walk home.
Pressing kisses on their bodies as they lower themselves onto the bed.
Falling asleep in the warm embrace of each other's arms.
It was supposed to have been the perfect night.
Only, Steve...Steve had...well, he'd been a no-show, basically.
Meet me in lobby at 7:00 x, Tony had texted. He had waited, patiently, to hear the blonde's heavy footsteps as he approached. He had waited, patiently, to see the puzzled, adorable look on the blonde's face. He had waited, patiently, for hours, not moving from his spot even when the clock had turned from seven, to eight, to nine, to ten...
With a sad, exasperated sigh, he had ran a hand over his face and through his brown locks and-and then he had left. Steve isn't going to show. He-He's forgotten our anniversary.
And now he was sat on their bed, still waiting, clutching at the leaflet in his hand.
He wasn't sure how long he'd been there for, though he was pretty sure it had been a while from the pins-and-needles and the stiffness of his bones, when Steve had finally stumbled into the room.
"I'm so sorry, Tony. My phone died. I didn't-I've only just got your message," He was panting slightly, as though he'd been in a hurry, and his eyes were full of guilt. For a moment, Tony thought he remembered, but then he said, "What did you want to see me about?"
Tony couldn't believe it. "What did I-are you serious?" He scoffed. Steve raised his eyebrows in surprise at the tone of his lover's voice.
"Huh?" He blinked. "Tony, I-"
"I can't believe this," Tony actually laughed, short and harsh, more out of disbelief than humour. "You actually forgot,"
"Forgot...what?" Steve furrowed his eyebrows, and bit his lip. "Tony, I-I'm sorry, I don't-"
"What's the date today, Steve?!" Tony snapped, and yes, he was shouting now; he'd had enough with...with all of it. "Huh? What's the damn date?!"
"I can't tell if you're being serious or not," Steve said, "but it's the...twenty seventh? Wait, no-" He pulled his phone out of his pocket, and checked the date on the lock screen, the way Tony had taught him. "-it's the eighth, uh, the twenty eighth," He raised an eyebrow. "Are you happy now?"
"Am I happy?" Tony echoed. "Tell me, Steve. What were you doing today? What was so important that you had to miss our anniversary, huh? Go on, do enlighten me,"
Steve looked taken aback. "I-I was with Bucky. I, uh, we were just at-" He paused, registering what Tony had just said, and then: "Wait, what?"
Tony stared at him, coldly. "You heard me,"
"Y-you mean, t-today is-" Steve stammered, and then he went pale. "Oh, shit. Oh, God, Tony, I-I'm so sorry-" He ran a hand through his hair, shakily. "God, I feel awful-"
"Yeah, well, the feeling's fucking mutual," Tony grumbled, staring daggers not at Steve but at the ground, because he couldn't look at his boyfriend, not yet. He heard the light shuffling of feet on the soft bedroom carpet, and then he felt Steve's presence by his side.
"Tony," Steve said softly, too softly, like he was afraid to speak. "Please, look at me. I-" He placed a tentative hand on Tony's shoulder. "I'm so sorry-" Tony flinched, and shrugged Steve's hand away. Then he turned around, sharply, and slapped the MoMA leaflet against the supersoldier's chest, still averting his gaze. Steve took it from him with shaky hands. "What-"
"I was going to take you there," Tony said. He assumed by the silence that Steve was reading it, so he continued, "I knew how important it was to you, how long you'd been wanting to go...I thought we could go together. I-I persuaded them to keep it closed for tonight, so that the public wouldn't be able to-so that we could be alone. I-"
"God, Tony. That's-" Steve's voice broke, then, and Tony spared a look at the blonde to see that his eyes were red, and his bottom lip was quivering slightly: he looked like he was about to cry. He must've caught Tony watching him, because he brought a trembling hand up to his face and wiped his eyes. "I can't-thank you, To-"
"Don't," Tony said, stopping his words. He raised his hand. "Don't thank me. What's the point? I mean, it's not like we actually got to do it, since you didn't turn up-"
"I am sorry, Tony," Steve replied. "I really, really am. There's only so many times I can say it, though-"
"Yeah?! Well, sorry doesn't cut it, Steve!" Tony shouted, standing up. "You can't just expect me to accept your apology and move on, Steve! One apology won't excuse the last few weeks-"
"What?" Steve cut him off. "Woah, Tony. Hang on. What do you mean by that?"
"You said weeks,"
Shit. Shit, shit, shit. Tony hadn't meant to let that slip. He kept his mouth shut and stared at the floor, at his shoes, at Steve's shoes - anywhere but his boyfriend.
"Tony?" Steve stepped closer. "Look at me," He said, carefully placing his fingers under Tony's chin and lifting gently. Tony's eyes met Steve's for a split second, and then he looked away sharply.
"Quit it," He muttered, because Steve wouldn't stop staring, damn it! "Don't give me those puppy eyes, Steven,"
"Very funny," Steve couldn't help but smile - then he remembered the conversation topic, and his grin fell from his face, replaced with a worried frown. "C'mon, Tony. Tell me, what's bothering you?"
"Oh, yeah?" Steve raised an eyebrow. "Well it doesn't seem like nothing-"
"Tony. I know I hurt you tonight, but...there's something else, isn't there?" Steve tilted his head. "What is it, sweetheart? Hm?"
"You're avoiding my questions-"
"I am not-"
"You've got that look on your face-"
"What do you mean, that look-"
"And you won't look me in the eyes,"
"I-" Tony paused, because Christ, Steve knew him so well. Steve was the only person who could tell when his smile was genuine and when it was fake. Steve was the only person who Tony trusted with his life. Steve was the only person who loved him...
And then it hit him - Tony had finally found his happy place, only now it was about to be ripped away from him because of Bucky's arrival, and he wouldn't be able to-
Suddenly Steve had the pad of his thumb on his cheek, wiping away a tear, and-fuck, since when was he crying?
"It's okay," Steve mumbled, pulling Tony into a tight hug. He kissed he top of his head, whispering in his ear: "Whatever's happened, we can sort it out. It'll be okay,"
"I don't want to lose you," Tony whispered, squeezing his eyes shut and inhaling Steve's comforting scent.
"What?" Steve said. "Tony, darling, that's not going to happen,"
"It..." Tony paused, taking a shaky breath. "I think it already has..."
"What?" Steve echoed, more startled than before. He pulled away from the hug, and Tony pouted slightly - Steve was warm!
And squishy... "Tony, what are talking about?" Tony stayed quiet, his eyes dropping to stare at the floor. He mumbled something inaudible, and Steve's eyebrows knitted together. "C'mon, Tony. I love you, you know that. You can tell me anything,"
"I love you too," Tony said automatically, and Steve smiled despite everything, because those words were music to his ears. Then Tony said, "But ever since Bucky..." He trailed off, his voice barely a whisper, but Steve managed to pick it up it with his enhanced hearing.
He frowned. "Bucky? What do you-"
"You two...ever since he arrived, he-" He sighed, shaking his head. "It sounds ridiculous, but you, uh, you..."
"Look, I-I know you're best friends, and I know that he means a lot to you, but-" Tony ran a hand through his hair. "You've been spending so much time with him lately, a-and not with me, okay?! I-I'm scared that you...that you'll leave me f-for Bucky..."
"God, Tony. No, that's-" Steve inhaled sharply. "I would never-"
"But you already have," Tony said, sadly. "It's fine, I-I totally get why. Bucky's from your old life, he understands you, he-he's a frickin' specimen. He's young, attractive-"
"Tony, please, I-"
"And then there's me. Boring, old, fucked-in-the-head Tony," He continued, eyes welling with tears. "I know I'm nothing special, but you could've at least-"
"Tony, stop," Steve interrupted, his voice slightly hoarse. Tony looked up briefly and saw that the blonde's eyes were filled with tears as well. "I-Is that what you really think...?"
Was it? Fuck, Tony hadn't intended for this to happen. He was supposed to have simply blamed tonight for his upset, not Bucky. Since when did he have such little self-control? (It was those God-damn puppy eyes.) You were supposed to have kept this hidden. Now Steve probably thinks you're a pathetic, jealous idiot.
"I-" Tony dipped his head in shame.
No, that's not what I think, I was just being dramatic, you need to forget all of that and just- "Yes..." Goddamn mouth. No, no, no, that was not the plan at all-
"I-I'm sorry," Steve whispered, closing his eyes and shaking his head. "I'm so sorry, Tony, I-God, I thought I was just introducing Bucky to the new world, I had no idea that-" He paused. "I've been ignoring you, haven't I? Leaving you out of things, cancelling plans, and now tonight, I-fuck, this is all my fault," Steve felt like an idiot. All this time, he'd been abandoning Tony for Bucky. "Tony, please, I love you, I love you so much, you have to remember that. I would never leave you. You mean too much to me," And then he pulled Tony into another hug, more tightly than before. Tony barely flinched, just allowed it to happen, keeping his arms loose by his sides. He rested his head against Steve's chest, knowing full well that he shouldn't be doing it, that he should be angry at Steve. But he couldn't help it - he'd missed this physical contact from Steve so much.
"I'm sorry," It was Tony who was apologising now. "I shouldn't have doubted you-"
"No, don't apologise. This is my fault, I-I should've realised," He kissed the top of Tony's head shakily. "Yes, Bucky's my best friend, and yes, he means a lot to me. But you, Anthony Edward Stark - you mean everything to me. You're intelligent, charming, hilarious, adorable, brilliant, caring, sweet, sexy, beautiful, and mine. You're mine, and I'm yours, and that's never going to change. You're a rarity, Tony. There's nobody else out there who's as talented, generous, wonderful and loving as you. I-I'd never leave you, because I love you, and there's no chance that I'd ever find another man like you, because you're you. Perfect, in every single way,"
Tony lifted his head, staring at Steve in disbelief. "I-you really mean that?"
"Every word," Steve said, still looking like he was about to cry, though the tears hadn't actually escaped yet. Then the look in his eyes changed, and he smiled. "I know words don't always mean a lot, so let me-I can show you just how much you mean to me-" He kissed Tony again, and then reached into the bedside drawer where he kept a numerous amount of things: a sketchbook, a pencils, a compass (with a photo of Peggy inside), some old sweetwrappers, two photos (one of himself, The Howling Commandoes, and Peggy in black and white. The other a recent picture of him and Tony, arms wrapped over eachother with huge grins on their faces) and, finally-
His dog tags.
He was grabbing them now, which was odd, because they were sacred to Steve, and he never, ever, took them out of that drawer, and, oh-
There was a small clicking sound of metal on metal as Steve let go of the dog tags that were now around Tony's neck. They came to rest infront of the arc reactor. Tony couldn't speak, his words caught in his throat.
"Steve, this is...I-"
"Back in the forties, fellas would give their sweethearts their dog tags as a way to show them that they loved them, and that they'd never leave them," Steve informed Tony, his voice surprisingly steady. "I don't want you to think that you're unwanted, or worthless, or whatever else you said, ever again, okay? I want you to keep them as a reminder that I love you, Tony, so fucking much,"
"Language..." Tony teased, trying to smile despite the fact that he was practically sobbing now, fresh hot tears sliding down his cheeks, because, Jesus, Steve really did love Tony. "Honestly, Steve. I-I can't take these, I-I'm not worth-"
"Yes, you are. You are worth everything," Steve said with an honest smile. "I'm sorry, Tony, for the way I treated you, and for the way I made you feel,"
"I-" Tony paused. He was clutching at the dog tags with his right hand, wiping away his tears with another. "It's okay...I-I'm sorry for being such an idiot,"
"It's okay," Steve repeated, with a smile. And then he pressed his lips to Tony's. The billionaire was startled at first, but then kissed back, pouring as much love into it as possible.
He mumbled against Steve's mouth: "I love you, too," And felt Steve smile.
They stayed like that for a while, locked in eachother's embrace like two jigsaw pieces, the only noise being the sound of their breathes and, of course, the clicking of metal on metal around Tony's neck.