Tony hadn't really been hiding since he'd got back from Zenith; he'd just found himself a lot busier than usual. Granted, he didn't technically need to attend to all of these projects personally, as his people were used to working on their own. Still, he'd been putting off checking in with a lot of his international interests for longer than he should. Also Pepper seemed to be taking an unholy joy in burying him alive in paperwork. In conclusion, he totally wasn't avoiding anyone, and Captain America really should attribute the fact that it took him almost a week to track Tony down to simple misfortune.
Obviously, he didn't. When Tony rolled out from under his fourth favourite car in his garage in California, and saw Steve standing over him, hands on his hips, he almost slid right back under and stayed there. Forever. He was going to have to deal with this someday though, so he pushed himself to his feet and looked Steve in the eye. "Hi," he said.
"Hi," Steve said back.
They stared at each other.
"I meant to call you," Tony lied at last.
"Right," Steve said, "but you were just so busy reconditioning a sports car that I've never even seen you drive." He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm sorry, that was unkind. I really didn't come here to fight."
Tony nodded, but couldn't think of anything to say to that.
Steve stepped towards him, moving so close that their chests almost touched. "I've missed you," he said softly.
"Me too," Tony admitted. He closed his eyes and sighed. Some of the tension that had kept him constantly moving this last week seemed to flow out of his body with the breath. He felt smaller afterwards, and tired.
Steve's calloused hand slid over his cheek, fingers twining with his hair and gently pulling his head forward to rest on Steve's shoulder. Tony just stood there for a moment, arms hanging limply at his sides, then tentatively hugged Steve around the waist. He breathed deeply, inhaling the smell of sweat and soap from Steve's cotton shirt. He wanted to lean against him forever, stay until they melted into one person.
He felt Steve's lips against his hair, while his other hand ran up and down Tony's back. "I meant what I said when I told you that I understood. I do. It's just..." he stopped, pressing his face into Tony's hair.
"What?" Tony asked, even though he really didn't want to know. Even though he knew already.
When Steve continued, his words were muffled, but every one went straight to Tony's heart. "You made me forget this." He sounded small and utterly bewildered just then.
Tony wrapped his arms more tightly around Steve, pulling them hard against each other. "I didn't mean to," he said. God, they both sounded like they were five about now. Not that Tony knew many five-year-olds.
"Sure you did," Steve whispered, an edge of frustration in his voice again.
"No, I didn't..." Tony had to stop for a moment to figure how to explain. His mind kept going back to that first moment when Steve had seen Tony and hadn't remembered. How he'd given Tony one of those friendly grins he directed at anyone he generally liked but didn't know especially well. Tony's chest had hurt so acutely that, for a moment, he thought he was having another heart attack. "People were dying because of who I was, and I wanted to keep them safe, to keep you safe. I didn't think... I didn't realise until it was too late that if you didn't know I was Iron Man, that you wouldn't love me."
He knew that he should probably pull away then, give Steve space, but couldn't bring himself to do it.
His head rose and fell as Steve took a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then let it out with a sigh. "Tony," he said slowly. "You had an alien go into my mind and alter my thoughts. I have no idea if any of what I felt about you then is at all like what I would really feel if I'd never known about Iron Man. I'm not inclined to feel bad about it either, considering."
Tony nodded. That was fair enough, and probably a lot better than he deserved. He wished again that he'd been able to spare his friends. He still thought that he'd made the right decision when it came to the general public, but he wasn't going to bring that up right now, or possibly ever. He pulled away enough to meet Steve's eyes. "I am sorry that I hurt you," he said, a compromise, but true for all that.
Steve studied his face for a long time, then leaned forward and fiercely pressed his lips to Tony's forehead. "I know you are," he said after, "and I forgive you. Now are you going to come out, or are you still in hiding?"
Tony frowned. "I wasn't hiding," he insisted, but he leaned back into the touch as Steve ran his hand over his neck with a rough affection.
"Sure you weren't," he said, one of those patented, superior Captain America smiles tugging at his lips.
Tony grinned back, feeling, at last, that there was a chance that things might actually work out.