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Nikolai (Fury of the Avengers Tower)

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In the mouth of an alley off Broadway, there was a box.

It sat mostly in the shadow of the building, nestled among several foul smelling trash cans.

The fluffy white snow, turned to grey slush beneath many muddy steps, had soaked into the corner of the box, turning it into a collapsed sodden mess that gaped wide, letting the frigid winter air seep into its dark inner cavity.

The rest of the box was cold, damp, and stank of things other than wet cardboard. Filthy things.

And inside that ragged, wet, disgusting box, beat one tiny heart.
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There had been four to begin with.

Four tiny scraps of life, each as individual and special as they were innocent and helpless.

Four tiny scraps of life in a cardboard box.

The street was busy; traffic snarled for blocks in the inclement weather, and perhaps a result of this; the sidewalk was even more crowded.

People from every walk of life, with every personality imaginable, all hurrying through the flurrying snow, to work, home, school, grocers, movies, gym, friends, family and a myriad other possible destinations.

Crowds were huddled together for warmth against the biting December air, but individual in their own worlds. Collars upturned, headwear pulled low, and arms hugging coats and jackets close.

Not many people notices the dilapidated box in the mouth of the alley off Broadway.

But it only takes one.
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The first was a pair of sneakers, almost in as bad a state of repair as the box. Sneakers had opened the box tentatively, hands huge and ungainly, pockmarked and acne-scarred. Eyes had been dark blue, dull and empty. They had narrowed over a huge beaked nose that had wrinkled in disgust at the sudden increase of the foul smell.

The flap on the box had dropped closed, and sneakers had stomped away through the slush.

Inside the box,

Heartbeat one.
Heartbeat two.
Heartbeat three.
Heart beat four.

Heartbeat one.
Heartbeat two.
Heartbeat three.
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Heels had been next. Dangerous red kitten heals, with blue-bitten toes peeking from the end. Hands had been small and dainty, fingernails sharp looking and dangerously red, although they’d been seen from a distance, wrapped about a pen used to lift the flap of the awful box.

Eyes had been grey, they widened over a pretty nose, and dangerous red lips had parted in a gasp. Closing the box gently, dangerous red nails had pressed a dangerous red phone against dangerous red lips. Heels walked away, speaking “Oh My God, Shannon! People are so cruel! Someone has dumpe…” and heels faded out of sight.

Inside the box,

A pair of tiny green eyes blinked shut, and wouldn't open upon this life again.
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Combat boots didn't hesitate, coarse hands were firm and sure as they opened the box, and green eyes were matter of fact, and didn’t linger. Box closed, and combat boots continued their firm tread onward down the street.

Inside the box,

A small nose nudged against cold, damp fur, alone with death, surrounded on all sides by loss.
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Shiny Italian leather was last.

They passed by the box, unobservant like so many others. Yet, apparently not, because they came back.

Leather lingered outside the box, starting to step away several times and then stopping.

Finally the wet, smelly cardboard flap opened and hands were not large, but strong, flecked with shiny burn marks and small patches of criss-crossed scars from long ago healed nicks. Eyes were deep dark brown; soft, alive, and warm.

They blinked, and the warm went away, but it came back, with anger and sadness as well now.

Brown eyes disappeared again, and box started to close.

Hands were warm too, as they cradled the tiny scrap of life.
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“This is ridiculous. Home is right there…I can see home.” Tony moaned pathetically, gesturing over Happy’s shoulder, through the fuss of snow visible out the front windscreen.

“Boss, your home is a 1000ft Tower. You can see your home from the other side of the city”, Happy replied, his voice dry.

Tony blinked, and then raising an eyebrow, said, “That was very… Pepper-ish”.

Happy flushed under the examining gaze, answering, “Sorry”, with a bashful shrug.

Suddenly grinning, Tony patted one of the broad shoulders proudly, responding, “Don’t be. I’m actually impressed. But really, the tower is right there. We’ve been stuck here for the past 20 minutes and home is a half-block away.”

Tapping his fingers on the steering wheel, the driver shrugged again, replying, “This weathers got the whole city in a crawling snarl. There’s not much for it boss, we’ll just have to wait.”

Tony pressed close against the window, the cold of the glass biting into his skin as he looked out into the bustle of people hurrying up and down the sidewalk. It looked miserable, the pavement wet and slippery with half melted slush, the sky a dreary grey that was still dropping bursts of freezing snow on the heads and shoulders of the pedestrians braving the dismal weather.

“I’m going to walk”, he decided.

Happy burst out with an amused guffaw, and then remembering who he was talking to, he realized that it hadn’t been a joke. Trying to dissuade Tony, he protested, “Come on boss – look at the weather! It’s freezing out there, and we’re less than a block away…”

Rather than be deterred, Tony actually seemed to take this as encouragement, and he reached for his heavy coat, exclaiming, “Exactly! Less than a block, I’ll be home before you manage to creep another half-foot forward.”

Happy sighed, but seeing that Tony’s mind was made up, he said, “Have fun in the snow and sleet. I’ll be sitting here in the warmth like I’m paid to, using my common sense.”

Grinning, Tony tucked his pant cuffs into his socks, not caring in the least that it looked ridiculous, as he retorted, “If I had a modicum of common sense, I’d be offended. But as I’m sure Steve will tell you, I am apparently distinctly lacking in that department, and so I’ll see you when you finally get to the tower. Likely next week sometime.”

As the rear door opened and he was blasted with freezing air, Happy shot back, “Well, don’t come crying to me if you get mugged!”

Still grinning, Tony stepped out of the car, countering, “That sounds distinctly like a ‘blame the victim’ mentality, Happy.”

As the door started to close, Happy muttered under his breath, “Well, when the victim is an idiot…”

The cold, biting wind swept Tony’s unheard “Touché”, away into the winter evening.
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There was a lot of people on the sidewalk.

Tony had known before of course, looking out into the swirling snow, that there had been a lot of people on the sidewalk, but there was a lot of people on the sidewalk.

Surrounded on all sides by a thoroughly chilled and mostly pitiful hoard, intent on imposing their miserable mood on any who ventured close enough, Tony, hugging his jacket closer, set his sights on the looming tower, ardently avoiding thinking about sardines and cans.

Cold air whipped his hair into what was surely a snarled mess, prickling painfully across his exposed skin. Tony resisted the urge to look back over his shoulder at the limo, focusing instead on the coaxing image of the gleaming tower, and the glorious warmth that awaited within.

Someone of Thor-esque stature brushed passed him forcefully, and he stumbled slightly, quickly righting his footing before he ended up underfoot. Naturally, the majority of the crowd seemed to be coming his way, and trying to swim up the stream against the current really wasn't working for him.

Melting slush seeped into his expensive shoes, setting his feet on fire with icy tingles that bit up his legs as splashes soaked through the thin material of his pants. In a period of less than ten minutes, his nice, cosy world had narrowed to cold, wet and miserable.

He almost didn’t notice the box.

Almost walked passed, none the wiser, and wouldn’t have suffered for it.

Then a flash of bright red caught his eye, and being somewhat partial to the color, he turned his head.

A box.

Cardboard, partially collapsed. Peeling red letters, illegible.

Counterproductive to his task of getting home as soon as possible.

He continued on, moving beyond the yawning mouth of the darkening alley, towards the tower.

Empty?
Trash?
Hope diamond?

What was in the box?

Tony knew he wouldn’t be able to focus on anything else now. Not until he knew.
Damn his insatiable curiosity.
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The box was rank.

It reeked of wet, rotting cardboard and the foul smell of decay, and Tony pulled away, his nose wrinkling in distaste.

There was no way anything worth finding was going to be found in something that stank worse than his bedroom had at 15.

But that damn insatiable curiosity had him by the throat, and almost against his will, Tony found himself crouching into the dirty grey sleet off one of the busiest streets in New York, slowly reaching for a disgusting cardboard box.

The flap was sodden, squishing nauseatingly between his fingertips, threatening to disintegrate within his hold, but slowly the box opened and the fading daylight revealed its contents.

Tony stared.

He was so focused on keeping the contents of his stomach where they belonged, that he was completely blindsided by the rush of blinding rage that brought red to his vision and black to his mind.

Sometimes, humanities sheer capability for depravity left him completely without faith.

He couldn't tear his eyes away from the small mass of sodden fur, dark and filthy, matted beyond hope of redemption. Tiny bodies, more than one, but so tangled within their huddled mound as to be imperceptible from one to another. The fragility of such delicate forms obvious in every jutting bone and tiny paw.

Someone had put four helpless kittens into this cardboard box and abandoned them to a freezing death.

Unmeasurably saddened by the death of such inconsequential lives, Tony shuddered, heaving a breath that froze his lungs and did nothing to improve the hollowness of his chest.

Slowly he let the box flap fall.

A tiny paw twitched.

Flipping the lid open with such force as to separate it completely from its host, Tony reached into the box, his hands gentle and reverent as they lifted the uppermost body, carefully detaching from the unease that the morbid stiffness of the tiny corpse drew from him.

Revealed beneath the slightly larger body of its dead sibling, was a tiny bundle of dark, shivering fur.

The decision was made before Tony had even recognized the dilemma, and without hesitation he curled gentle hands around the limp body, and drew it to his chest, standing into the cold swirling snow.

The kitten was, frankly, revolting. Its fur was a sodden mess of filth and rank dampness that was slick and slimy against Tony’s hands, the smell easily reaching his senses, to be immediately classified as eminently not pleasant.

The little feline was also freezing cold, to the point where the only shivering it had the energy to maintain was a pathetic vibrating-shudder.

Unzipping his coat, Tony tucked the little body under his dress shirt, shivering himself as the wet fur plastered against the warmth of his bare skin, muttering as he turned back onto the street, “I hope you appreciate this you rancid little beast – this is raw silk you’re destroying.”
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Entering the tower foyer, heading for the elevator, Tony spoke, “J, I need kitten milk.”

JARVIS, bless his codded programming, didn’t hesitate or question, immediately responding with a perfunctory, “Directly, sir”

Thinking of the state of the kitten, the dead bodies of its siblings and his own complete lack of knowledge in the area, he added, “Also, who is New York’s premier veterinarian?”

JARVIS was silent for the split second it took him to search his databases, before he answered, “Dr Eliot Wilson seems a likely bet, Sir.”

“Hmm. Call him.” Tony replied.

The call to Dr Elliot Wilson had been blessedly short, and Tony had a feeling that he could actually like the man, with his no nonsense attitude and compassion for the helpless. Admittedly, things had been a bit rocky at the start, when Wilson had heard ‘Stark’ and assumed Tony was a rich celebrity calling him, after hours, with a pampered pet in need of a ‘medicinal massage’.

Tony’s haltingly admitted story of his recent acquisition seemed to have touched something in the elderly doctor, but the real moment of persuasion had been Tony’s passionate declaration of his “need to try!” when the doctor had suggested that euthanasia might be an easier option.

The Veterinarian had imparted several quick instructions for early care, and a promise of his presence within the next half hour.

Somehow, Tony managed to avoid all five members of his make-shift family, traversing the 90+ floors without incident. He wasn’t sure why he so desperately wanted to avoid his teammates, but something in him worried that he might just be revealing more of himself than he was truly comfortable with.

Safely ensconced in his and Steve’s bathroom, Tony removed his coat, and opening his shirt, he gently removed his tiny burden. Carefully settling the kitten on a towel in the sink, Tony worried at its lack of response, shallow, labored pants for breath and the occasional tiny lethargic twitch, all it seemed able to manage.

Agreeing with the doctor, that being warm and dry was more important than being clean at this point in time, Tony reached for the other towel, registering the soft blue micro-fibre as belonging to Steve, but sure his lover wouldn’t begrudge him the use.

With careful pats he started to dry the little body, murmuring soothingly, “Hello, there…..Soft, I know. Yes, this is luxury. Luxury, meet kitten….don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. Okay, let me have a looksee here... A little boy then. ”

Little was definitely the right word; his hand practically covered the small emaciated body. Tony could feel every tiny bone under tightly stretched skin, feel every fragile joint, the poor thing was more than half-starved.

As damp fur dried, his coloring's were not, as Tony had suspected, a result of the water, instead, the kitten was revealed to be a dark charcoal black, his long straggly fur creating a little puff of black against Tony’s red towel.

Smoothing down the tangled fur as best he could, Tony winced and then grimaced as his ministrations revealed a blind, mangled eye, “Oh- Poor little cretin. J- let the doc know, he might need other supplies….”

JARVIS responded, “Done. Do you require anything else sir? - is the kitten… ” the AI’s voice was oddly tentative, concerned.

“I don’t think he’s very well off J, -cold, exhausted, starved…having trouble breathing – The doc said get him warm and dry.” Tony replied. He was worried about how much the kitten was struggling to breathe, each inhalation a hard fought for panting gasp that seemed to offer too little oxygen.

He couldn’t do anything about that though, and so he focused on what he could offer, hands gentle on the kitten as he tried to rub some warmth into the tiny body.

The kitten mewed softly, a barely audible squeak, and blinked its one large brown eye upward at his savior. Tony smiled gently, whispering, "Hey there, little one-eye. You're shivering, still cold?”, he picked the tiny body up and cradled it to his chest, hoping that the warmth of his skin would offer comfort.

"I have the perfect name for you, little beast- how about Nikolai? One-eye-Nikolai- Fury of the Avenger Tower. You're going to need a little eye-patch...."

The kitten shuddered weakly and then between one gasping breath and the next, fell ominously still.

"Hey? Hey, little beast? Niko?" Tony asked softly, pulling back slightly to look down at the kitten worriedly, but in his heart he already knew.

The kitten was gone.

The thoughtless cruelty of humans.

How could anyone do such terrible things to so innocent a creature? Tony could understand the fact that sometimes irresponsible pet owners ended up with unintended offspring, that they didn’t want or weren't equipped to handle – but even if putting them down was the best course of action, there were so many humane options, instead of abandoning them to a slow, agonizing death.

There was no excuse for this.

His voice strangely empty, Tony said quietly, "J- tell Dr Wilson his services are no longer required. Compensate him for his time."

"Sir." JARVIS acknowledged, without superfluous conversation, as always, remarkably sensitive to his creators needs.

Tony sat on the toilet seat in his and Steve’s bathroom, the tiny lifeless body of a month old kitten cradled gently to his chest, settled over the arc reactor – as if hoping that might bring it back, as it had him.
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Steve had been at SHIELD, drilling new recruits all day. The ones who always stared too long, and tittered too loud. And there was always one, who asked him to prove that he was who they said he was. But despite all this, Steve was in a very good mood.

It was Tuesday.

Tuesday evenings were Steve’s favourite. Date night. One night a week, set aside no matter the busyness of their schedules or any other commitments. One night, just for Steve and Tony.

Steve even had permission to literally throw Tony over his shoulder and carry him from the workshop if necessary.

Sometimes they went out; dancing, a walk under the stars, or a fancy candlelit dinner. Sometimes they flew to some far off country – Steve and Tony had shared strawberries at the top of the Eiffel Tower. More often than not, they just stayed in, ate something deliciously easy for dinner and snuggled in bed with a movie…often the snuggling soon progressed into more.

Tuesday nights were the best. Not even the bone shattering cold, and miserable wet weather could dampen his enthusiasm for Tuesday nights. Snuggling was going to be nice tonight.

Entering the foyer, Steve wondered if he was going to get the added bonus of hoisting Tony up over his shoulder and taking off with his chosen mate like some pre-historic caveman. It had been a while, and Steve kind of missed it. He took comfort in the fact that not having to fetch Tony for their night showed where his lovers true priorities lay. Still, having Tony ass-up over his shoulder was an alluring thought.

Still looking up instinctively, even after so long, and so many reminders, The Captain asked, “Evening JARVIS. Is Tony home yet?”

JARVIS’s reply was almost hesitant, “Evening, Captain. Sir is in your rooms. Although, he is…not himself-”

Hurrying into the elevator, all Steve’s carefully maintained good humor, deliberately cultivated throughout the day, fled, and was immediately replaced with concern, “What’s wrong? Is he hu-”

The elevator shifted almost imperceptibly beneath his feet and began to ascend, as JARVIS answered.

“Apologies Captain, it was not my intention to cause panic. Sir is unharmed, he is simply…distressed. I am unsure as to whether your presence will be appreciated, however, I have made the decisions that it is required” JARVIS responded, and Steve heard the unspoken decision that the AI had made. JARVIS trusted Steve to take care of Tony.

“What hap-” Steve began to ask, but cut himself off as the elevator doors opened into their hallway.

Mindlessly wondering at the speed of the elevator, Steve hurried into their rooms, his voice soft as he called, “Tony?”

There was no answer, and some of the abated worry came flooding back, because what if JARVIS was wrong, what if Tony had been hiding some terrible injury or-

He caught sight of blue cashmere, trailing out of the slightly ajar bathroom door, the same color as the coat Tony had been wearing when he’d left the tower that morning.

“Tony? Are you in the bathroom?” he waited a beat, before continuing, “I’m coming in.”

Pushing the door open carefully, so as to not injure his lover, if said lover happened to behind said door, Steve entered their bathroom.

His concern abated somewhat when his eyes lit on Tony’s turned back, but didn’t fade completely, as he wondered what had caused such reserved withdrawal of his extroverted lover.

Not sure what he was dealing with, Steve didn’t move from the doorway as he asked, voice pitched low and soothing, “Tony? You’re worrying me a bit here…is something wrong?”

Tony sighed, soft and broken sounding, but at least he replied, “So wrong. So, so wrong. I can’t…”

Sure now, that Tony knew he was in the room, Steve approached slowly, and rounding the toilet, he sunk into a crouch by Tony’s knees, asking, “What’s wro-”

And that’s when he saw the kitten.

Unable to fathom why his lover was cradling a kitten, and an obviously dead one at that, Steve just stared for a moment, trying desperately to work out what he was supposed to do in this situation.

His lover was visibly distraught, and Steve couldn’t say why. Mild upset over the death of a stray kitten might be understandable, but this was so far beyond mild that Steve had no idea what to make of it.

In the end, he simply boiled it down to – ‘Tony’s upset’ and therefore, Steve was there for him. He could work out the why’s later, if they mattered at all.

Steve carefully uncurled Tony’s stiff fingers from the limp body, and gently, with utmost reverence, pulled the corpse away from its last port of shelter on this earth.

Steve felt Tony flinch, watched as hands still curled to cradle empty air convulsed, and saw something tangible snap within his lover. Tony, his Tony…strong and steady, who laughed and raged with ease, but hadn’t, didn’t…couldn’t cry – seemed to just let go and to Steve’s combined astonishment and alarm, tears formed in agonized brown eyes, before welling up and trailing stinging paths down heated cheeks.
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Steve, the dead kitten dwarfed by his hands, stared at his crying lover…and had no idea what he was supposed to do.

Manic, destructive, stubborn, mischievous, spiteful, defensive, excited – these were all versions of Tony that Steve could deal with.

But despondent?
He had no idea.

But then, he’d had no idea how to deal with any of those other Tony’s, until he’d been forced to learn on the fly.

The absolute best advice he could give about dealing with every varied facet of Tony Stark?

Wing it.

Reaching out with his free hand, Steve wiped away the steadily running tears from pale skin beneath hollow brown orbs.

Bending, he pressed a kiss to Tony’s lips, licking away the salt that remained, as he said, “I’m coming back. I’m coming back in a minute, and it’ll be okay -” and he hurried out the door, already talking to JARVIS, “JARVIS– get…”

Who?

“Get Clint up here for me – ASAP please”, Steve decided.

It took a minute, but Clint dropped out of the vent a little further down the hall and met Steve halfway, a strange mixture of cocky and unsure bleeding onto his face.

Eying the black ball of fur in Steve’s hands, the archer started to question, “Cap- what’s go-”, but Steve cut him off.

Pressing the kitten into Clint’s hands, he said, “I need you to take care of that. I don’t know, something nice. A vacant-lot burial or…I don’t know. I- I need to get back to Tony.”

At mention of the billionaires name, Clint’s eyes snapped up, and he asked, “What’s Tony – ”

Again, uncharacteristically, Steve cut him off, “I don’t know. Whatever happened, he’s... I’ve never seen him so... I don’t know, but I‘ve got to get back. Just, please - the kitten. ”

Clint was silent for a second, his eyes assessing Steve, seeing the need to be back in with Tony almost vibrating off the Captain.

Despite being thoroughly confused, a little unsettled and quite startled, Clint simply agreed, and wandered off with the tiny, emaciated and obviously ill body cradled to his chest.

Steve sighed with relief, and turning, he hurried back into their rooms.
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When Steve re-entered the bathroom, the first thing he noticed was that the tears had stopped.

Thank god.

The second was that Tony was still, and quiet.

Tony was rarely still and never quiet.

Steve, still not sure what to do, just did what came naturally.

Kneeling on the hard tiled floor at Tony’s feet, he simply reached up and wrapped both arms around Tony’s shoulders, and pulled him forward into a smothering hug, not saying anything.

For a moment Tony stiffened in his arms, and Steve feared he was going to pull away, and then the smaller man slumped boneless against him and returned the embrace, his own arms looping around Steve’s waist.

With a hiccuping snort against Steve’s shoulder, Tony spoke, “I’m sorry. I know I’m being ridiculous. I must be ridiculous. I feel ridiculous. Sorry for acting like a blubbering idiot- ”

Steve chuckled softly, and bumped his head gently against Tony’s, hushing him with a murmured, “Shh – You’re not ridiculous. You are cold though – your shir- all of you is wet. Why don’t I strip you off, and then you can tell me what bought this on…”

“I think you’ve got the better half of that deal”, Tony muttered, but he obediently let Steve unbutton the last few inches of his shirt and drop it to the floor, and helpfully raised his feet for Steve to tug his shoes and socks off. Getting the damp-legged pants free was more difficult, with Tony refusing to relinquish his hold about Steve’s waist, and Steve not particularly minding.

Sweeping his mostly naked lover up into his arms, Steve padded into the bedroom, scooping up a pair of sweats and tumbling Tony into them, both unconcerned that they may, or may not have been several inches too long in the leg.

He dumped Tony onto the bed, and yanked the covers from their neat hospital corners to pile them over his notorious blanket hogger. Flopping down himself, Steve dragged his fair share of blankets across the bed, also managing to roll Tony into his grasp at the same time.

“So. Kitten?” He prompted gently.

Tony sighed, and Steve could see the faint flush of embarrassment splash across pale cheeks, and wondered if he should tell Tony he didn’t have any reason to be embarrassed. He decided against it, mainly because Tony wouldn’t listen anyway.

“Kitten. There is- was…” Tony took a deep breath, relaxed against Steve’s chest and started again.

“Don’t tell Steve, but I walked home from the corner of Anderson- Happy was caught in the traffic snarl”, Tony hurried on, most likely to waylay any recriminations Steve might (did) have about his lover walking home in the dismal weather.

“There was a box- a cardboard box in the alley near that coffee shop no one likes…” Tony continued, and Steve grinned, because there was no way Tony Stark would have been able to just walk passed an unopened box.

Tony must have noticed his grin, and correctly deduced it, because it earned him a swat to the arm, as Tony added, “Shut up, I totally almost walked passed it. But there could have been…anything in it.”

Steve’s hummed sound of too-earnest agreement earned him a second swat.

Tony was silent for a moment, one hand coming up to fiddle distractedly with the hem of Steve’s shirt. Steve waited patiently as Tony gathered himself, and soon enough, the genius continued, “Someone had stuffed four kittens in the box. They’d frozen to death. All but one.”

Steve felt his own disgust and anger boil to a peak, but soothed it with the knowledge that Tony, the one he’d chosen, was the opposite, caring and nurturing instead of cruel and neglectful.

Tony went on, “I dried him off. I just – I rang a vet. He was coming to help. But the kitten… It didn’t- It was too…”

Steve finished for him, “It was too far gone. Too little. Too sick. You tried Tony. You have no idea how that makes me feel- that you would pick up a dying kitten off the street and bring it into our home…I’m proud. Makes me love you.”

Tony swallowed, replying, “I only did what anyone would do- He was helpless, I couldn’t leave him there.”

“Tony, I saw how busy the streets were this evening. You couldn’t have been the only one curious enough to open that box. Just accept that you did a good thing”, Steve reasoned, pressing a kiss to a bare shoulder.

Tony squirmed, wriggling until he managed to turn in Steve’s embrace, propping himself up on Steve’s chest, his voice was almost agonized as he spoke, “Someone should have tried to save them”.

Steve’s answer was simple, but it threw Tony for a loop, “Someone did.”

Tony was silent for the longest time, before he breathed long, slow and deep. Letting go.

“Sorry I blubbered all over you”, was his rejoinder, and Steve laughed at the absurdity.

“It was hardly all over me. So, you were a bit teary. More than a bit, even. I think you just invested more than you realized or intended, in that little kitten. I think you may have underestimated the depths of your heart, love… Got yourself a bit overwhelmed”, Steve deduced.

Tony looked like he might want to argue, probably deny the existence of said heart, but instead he sighed, and nodded, replying, “You may be right. See...I named him.”

Steve’s eyes widened, “You named the kitten. You’d had him, what – a half hour? It took you three months to name the pet rock Clint gave you!” he exclaimed.

Leaning into the hand that Steve settled against the side of his face, Tony defended himself and his pet rock. “It wouldn't have taken that long if Clint hadn’t kept mocking every name I chose! And he wouldn't have ended up named Clint!”

Shaking his head at the craziness of that entire memory, Steve grinned, carding his fingers into soft tangles, Tony settling against his chest with a blissed out look, as he murmured, “Mmm- ‘s nice. Keep doing that.”

Always happy to oblige his lover, especially the simple things, Steve continued, his other hand finding warmth beneath the blankets, his fingers trailing possessive paths across hard muscle and soft skin. It was odd, he’d often heard Tony likened to a shark, but he personally didn’t see dead, cold, hunger when he looked at his lover.

Steve saw carefully sculpted angles and sharpness, that only served to make the soft and gentle it covered all the more perfect.

If anything, Tony was a cat.

Steve could actually see it in the way Tony was curled up against his side, gently nuzzling his face into Steve’s shoulder as slumber drifted closer after his overwhelming evening.

Suddenly realizing he’d never found out the kittens name, Steve asked, “So – what was this perfect name?”

Tony’s grin was snug, as he answered, “Nikolai.”

“Nikolai?” Steve asked, confused, not understanding the significance.

Tony nodded through a yawn, as he explained, “The kitten was missing an eye- so I named him One-Eye-Nikolai….fury of the Avengers Tower.”

Steve snorted, amused as he asked, “Why would you want to name your kitten after Nick Fury?”

Tony shrugged minutely, half-asleep as he murmured, “I just thought it was about time everyone knew that Nick Fury was a pussy.”
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