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“Here.” Tony almost flinched when Strange abruptly thrust something into his hands. With a slight frown, he looked at hand hands and arched a brow when he saw his sunglasses.

 

“What?”

 

Strange’s expression was unreadable as he gestured towards Tony’s face, “Wear them.” He commanded curtly before walking away. Tony gazed at his retreating back in confusion before absently putting the glasses on his face.

 

When he turned to look back at his former teammates, all still laughing together, it didn’t hurt as much.

 

**

 

“- been injured!” Tony raged, resisting the urge to grab Peter by his shoulders and shake him. “Do you know how reckless that was?! Do you have any idea what would’ve happened if I had- what?!” He hissed when Strange’s molesting cloak wrapped around him, “Don’t you try to-hey!” He exclaimed as the blasted cloak stole his glasses and flew away, “What the- oh no you don’t!” He grabbed Peter’s shirt right as he was about to escape, “I’m not done with you!”

 

“I’m sorry, Mr. Stark!” Peter looked up at him with puppy dog eyes turned up to the max, “I didn’t really mean to, I just reacted!”

 

“Well, don’t just react! Think! What’s the use of that big brain of yours if you jump into every battle like you’re invincible?!” Rhodey coughed and Tony spun around to shake his finger at his best friend, “You, shut it!”

 

His sugar plum just raised his hands in surrender with an amused grin. Tony ignored him and looked down at his baby spiderling again, “You’re always reckless, always impulsive!” Peter cringed at every word but there was a soft look in his eyes that didn’t go away no matter how much Tony scolded him.

 

“Are you even listening to a word I’m saying?” Tony demanded, crossing his arms with a scowl.

 

“He heard every word of your paternal dressing down.” Strange drawled in amusement, “And like all sons since the birth of mankind, he’s going to forget all that as soon as he walks out of the door.”

 

“Dr. Straaange!” Peter whined as Tony backtracked to save his soul. No paternal feelings here, no siree.

 

“I… I’m just gonna go.” Tony murmured as he fled to his lab, Rhodey’s laughter following him.

 

**

 

“We never got to talk… about what happened.”

 

Tony stilled at the sound of Roger’s voice and closed his eyes in dismay. “What’s there to talk about?” He asked as he opened up a project and started sorting through the details. Maybe if he appeared busy, Steve will go away.

 

“Tony, look at me please.” No such luck.

 

Tony rubbed his face and spun around to look at his former friend, steeling himself against that earnest expression.

 

“I made a mistake.” Steve said softly, “No… it was more than a mistake.” Tony’s heart thundered when Steve offered no excuse, no explanation. “There were thousands of better ways to go about it and I took the most selfish path, I get that.”

 

Tony licked his lips, “But?”

 

Steve shook his head and stepped forward, “But nothing.” He said gently, reaching forward to remove Tony’s glasses. He almost flinched back, locking his jaw and forcing himself to bear the scrutiny as Steve looked at him in the eye.

 

Whatever Steve saw broke his confidence. The genius sucked in a sharp breath when a raw pain crossed those stern features. “Rogers...”

 

Steve bowed his head, placing it on Tony’s shoulder. “Will you ever be able to forgive me, Tony?”

 

Tony didn’t know what to do, how to react. He felt the urge to comfort Steve, to brush away all hurt but there were already too many lies standing between them. “I don’t know.” He admitted honestly, “It’s getting… old. Forgiving every hurt, brushing away small or big betrayals like they don’t tear into my soul.” Steve flinched. “I want to.” Tony’s voice dropped into a small, helpless whisper, “But...”

 

“But?” Steve asked, refusing to pull away.

 

“I’m a man of science.” Tony said softly as he pushed Steve away with gentle hands, plucking his glasses from lax fingers, “And it’s foolish to run the same equation multiple times expecting different results.”

 

Steve swallowed, “What does that mean?”

 

“Natasha, you, Thor, Clint, even Bruce… you guys have been quick to turn on me and blame it on my ego.” Tony said, slipping his glasses on and somehow things were less personal, “With you guys, I’m never on the winning side of the equation. I can forgive you, with time, maybe even forget everything. I have a lot of practice with that.” Tony’s lips twisted in derision, “But I will never let the equation run again.”

 

“We’re still teammates.” Steve’s voice was faint, shaking.

 

Tony blinked and smiled wryly, “But we are no longer friends.”

 

And it was such a loss because they had the potential to be something great. Captain America and Iron Man; partners, friends, maybe even lovers? Who knew?

 

All the variables were wrong now.

 

**

 

Strange was fascinating. Everything from the way he carried himself to the way he spoke was enchanting. Tony was reluctantly drawn to it all, unable to keep his eyes off the sorcerer.

 

And Strange probably knew it too, though he never said anything. Tony didn’t know if he should be grateful for that or not. On one hand, standing on this precipice of attraction was the most stressful feeling. On the other hand, taking the plunge seemed like a risk he couldn’t afford. So few people tolerated him these days that he didn’t want push to anyone away, even if it meant crushing the newly blossoming warmth in his chest.

 

He grimaced and turned away, staring out of the window of the Sanctum as Strange searched for a solution against their latest villain.

 

But loneliness gnawed at his chest, infecting his days and nights with sadness he just couldn’t shrug away. It seemed like he was back where he started, back in that cave where Yinsen proclaimed him to be the man with everything, yet nothing.

 

Nothing had changed. He was still trapped in that cycle of-

 

Tony stilled when a shaking finger gently tipped his chin up, encouraging him to meet piercing blue eyes. “How do you expect me to work when you’re like this?” Strange asked softly, running a thumb across Tony’s cheekbone with tender affection.

 

Tony swallowed, “Like what?”

 

“Open; with everything you feel written in your eyes clear as daylight.” Strange leaned forward, “Always so expressive.”

 

Tony glanced away, suddenly itching for his glasses, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He stood up hurriedly, “Call me when you find something. And eat something, you haven’t eaten all d-”

 

“Running won’t help.”

 

Tony licked his dry lips shakily and turned his head to look at Strange. “I can’t do this.”

 

Strange’s lips twitched into a wry smile, “You can.” He replied, “But you’re not yet ready for it.” He created a small portal and fetched something from it. Tony frowned as Strange stepped forward as placed a pair of glasses on his nose, “Better hide those speaking eyes from me then.” The sorcerer said as he tipped Tony’s chin up against and brushed a soft kiss against his lips, “I can withstand many things,” He murmured, “But you can’t expect a man to hold back when you look at him with such open longing, Tony.”

 

Tony fled quickly after that.

 

**

 

Speaking eyes’ Tony thought as he quickly placed a pair of tinted glasses over his eyes before walking into the conference room. The sight of  Rhodey conversing casually with his former teammates never failed to shatter him in small ways.

 

His oldest friend had been able to forgive and move on while Tony was being left behind, clinging to half-forgotten wounds.

 

Loneliness.

 

“Rhodey bear! Starting that party without me, are we?” Tony asked with a grin, masking his hurt with a skill that came from years of experience. Rhodey rolled his eyes while Sam’s friendly expression melted away into something more neutral. Not unkind, not hateful… indifferent.

 

It burned.

 

“Mr. Stark! Did you get my last report?” Peter’s cheerful voice dragged him out of his musings and a helpless smile crossed his lips, “Just a minor adjustment but I think it would help so much!”

 

“Yes, Friday ran calculations.” Tony said as he removed his phone from his pocket and gestured Peter to come forward, “Tell me what you think,” He handed the phone over to the kid, smirking as Peter immediately become engrossed in the data.

 

He was still grinning down at the bent head when warmth fluttered around him, soft fabric wrapping him up in a playful embrace. “Stephen, your cloak is molesting me again,” Tony called out, helplessly charmed as the Cloak of Levitation nuzzled him like a cat.

 

“It’s an Ancient Artefact,” Stephen replied. Tony looked over his shoulder to see the sorcerer hold the door open for Carol and Hope. “I don’t control its actions.”

 

“Well, I think it’s cute.” Hope pipped in as she greeted Tony with an affectionate smile, “The Cloak is just hugging you because you’re cuddly Tony.”

 

“Lies!” Tony said, “It wants to kidnap me and lock me away in Stephanie's sanctum.” He declared with a grin as Carol nudged his shoulder with hers in a quiet greeting

 

“Well if that’s the case,” Stephen’s voice had a sly tone to it, “I wholeheartedly approve of its mission. Take our treasure away, Cloak.”

 

Tony yelped when the blasted molesting cloak actually lifted him off the ground, “Stephen no! Put me down!” The cloak deposited him in front of the sorcerer, releasing him abruptly. He stumbled into the taller man and grumbled when Stephen wrapped his arms around him, “You did that on purpose.” Tony murmured against his chest, feeling everyone’s eyes on his back.

 

“I admit to nothing,” Stephen said as he released him. Tony looked up just as Stephen nudged his askew glasses back into place, “Too many unworthy people here,” He whispered, “To reveal those beautiful eyes.”

 

Tony’s lips twitched into a smile.

 

What loneliness?

 

**

 

Tony knew he was staring. Open admiration was probably written all over his face as he watched Stephen practice sorcery in swift, precise movements. Sweat clung to his pale skin as the muscles of his arm bulged as the sorcerer moved quickly from one stance to another.

 

“Tony...” Stephen’s deep voice was lined with a warning, “You test my patience.”

 

Tony grinned as he rested his chin on his palm, “What?” He asked, pretending to be clueless, “I’m not doing anything!” He continued to stare with an impish light in his gaze.

 

Stephen narrowed his eyes before creating a portal right behind Tony. “Cloak.”

 

Tony yelped when the Cloak of Levitation wrapped around him and propelled him through the portal. “Wait, what? Aw come on!” He complained as the Cloak deposited him on his own bed. Tony couldn’t deny being dismissed like that hurt, especially when the dismissal came from Stephen.

 

He looked at the portal, ready to see it close but that didn’t happen. Tony scrambled back on his bed as Stephen stepped through, his expression intent. “You really do like to test my patience.” The sorcerer said as he removed his practice gloves. “And actions have consequences.”

 

Tony hesitated for a moment, caught by Stephen’s bright blue eyes. Soon his sense of mischief reared its head again and his lips curled into a challenging smirk, “What if I want those consequences?”

 

Stephen stepped forward, nudging his chin up. For a long moment, the sorcerer just stared into his eyes, his gaze serious and direct. “So honest,” Stephen said softly and Tony closed his eyes instinctively when the taller man kissed them, lingering over each eye. “Always so honest, even when your lips lie, your eyes are honest.”

 

Tony smiled and leaned back, pulling Stephen along until the tall sorcerer was braced above him. “So what do my speaking eyes say now?”

 

“I think,” Stephen murmured against Tony’s lips, “They speak a tale of love.”

 

“Well,” Tony’s smile was beatific, “You’re not wrong.”