Steve had, logically, known that many legends were true. Ever since the War, he had been aware of this other part of the world; hidden and secretive, where the strangest things can become your new normal in a blink.
After changing his whole body in a few minutes, finding out that vampires are a real thing and fighting Dracula, he had been aware that he could never go back to the easy and normal ignorance most people are gifted with. Sometimes, in the dark and cold nights when sleep wouldn’t come because the enemy could emerge at any minute; his imagination flew and he thought about all the dangerous and evil creatures of legends that could be very much a real threat. He never stopped to think about that other, non-deadly creatures could exist.
When he woke up in the future, the knowledge of this darker and dangerous world was still with him. He pushed it back, though, because he had hoped that somehow in a century where everyone knows everything about everybody, the creatures would have disappeared. Dracula proved that wrong. Evil magical creatures still existed. And while Steve had only ever faced vampires, he never encountered something or someone that proved that fantastic beings could be actually good.
He had brought this up with the team once. They had just come back from killing a bunch of rogue vampires and werewolves that had started a war in the middle of a mall, killing and infecting many civilians. When Natasha had pointed out that he didn’t actually knew that many fantastic beings, he said that he knew more than enough, and that none had proven to be more than the blood-thirsty creatures the legends described them to be. Hawkeye had said that his best friend from his childhood could hold his breath underwater for half an hour easily; that he always thought he was a merman. He added that when he had fallen in a frozen lake, the other boy had saved him. Sam said that he had never encountered a magical creature except for battles with the Avengers, so he couldn’t comment. Hulk said that he had a friend that smelled sweet and was gentle and had beautiful wings and that he was glad that his friend couldn’t die, because many people tried to kill him all the time. Steve, a little taken aback by the different opinions, said that if so many people were trying to kill his friend maybe he deserved it and left.
He never got to see the heart-broken expression on his boyfriend’s face, and when Tony didn’t come to bed that night he thought he was in the Workshop. He apologized to the whole team with pancakes the next morning, and things were back to normal.
Two days later, when Justin Hammer showed up at the end of a Hulkbuster training session in the middle of the desert (he finally lost it because some actress he had a crush on forever commented on her crush on Iron Man and distaste for the unoriginal and lacking owner of Hammer Industries), he taunted and taunted Tony until the man left the armor. The Avengers expected a few petty words, maybe one or two punches. But no one expected Hammer to shoot point blank at Tony in the head.
After the shot there was a minute of absolute silence, while Tony’s body crashed on the sand. Then Hammer started laughing, and Natasha, Clint and Sam took him down while Steve ran to fall on his knees besides Tony. He could see the perfect circle in the middle of his boyfriend’s forehead, and he could smell and see the blood seeping into the sand and dying it a deep red. He could feel the warmth leaving the genius form while he hugged him to his chest.
But Steve didn’t start screaming until Hulk separated him from Tony and started to drag him away. The blonde fought and kicked and cried while the distance between him and his heart grew and grew. He kept on screaming until Hulk shook him and pointed at Tony, where flames were starting to devour his body. He said something but Steve wasn’t listening, he could only hear the shot and that awful laugh over and over. He could only see his love’s body burning, and he fought harder to go back to him. Steve managed to stick his elbow on Hulk’s eye and then took off.
He ran as fast as he could, but by the time he got close he couldn’t see anything, because the flames were so bright that it hurt his eyes. And the heat was so high that his uniform was starting to chafe. When the brightness finally receded, there was movement where there should be only ashes. And while his eyes couldn’t totally believe it, Steve’s heart was singing; because from the ashes, like a vision, Tony emerged. He shook his head a couple of times and looked around, before his eyes fell on them.
“So” he said with a smirk “who was the unlucky bastard that tried to kill me?”
In the second it took him to understand that Tony must be the magical friend Hulk was talking about (a Phoenix maybe? That’d be so poetic); Steve remembered the opinions he had about fantastic creatures just this morning. That they were dangerous, evil, blood-thirsty.
But all of that didn’t matter. His biases against a whole underworld he had never lived it, the innate fear of magic, all the reasons he thought he had for hating that underworld just… vanished. Because the only thing that mattered was that Tony was alive, that he was whole and smiling.
So Steve ran and closed the distance between them, embracing Tony long and tight, until all he could feel was the warmth of the person he loved most in the world.