There’s a split second before falling into bed with Steve where Tony thinks it’s a bad idea, but then Steve’s got his hand resting on Tony’s hip, his fingers pressing against the tattoo Tony never got removed; he’s looking at him with wide eyes, and Tony—.
He can’t not strip Steve’s shirt off, run his hands over Steve’s beard, and drag him down for a kiss, revelling in the feel of Steve’s mouth against his, re-learning all the ways to make Steve gasp that he used to know so well.
“Tony, is this—”
Tony cuts Steve off with another kiss, and from there, it’s academic.
Steve’s still there when Tony wakes up, face unfairly peaceful as he sleeps, and—Tony’s not panicking. He’s not, it’s just—it’s Steve, and as much as Tony’s missed him over the years, his brain on the verge of shutting down at the mere idea of letting Steve in again, at the thought that maybe it’s too goddamn late for that to be a choice.
Sliding out of bed, Tony heads for the bathroom where he splashes water on his face and stares at himself in the mirror. “Well,” he says quietly. “That was stupid.” Resting his hands against the edge of the sink, he tries to ignore the shake in his arms and the ache in his body that’s all too familiar. Switching the water on, Tony steps into the shower and closes his eyes, letting the water rush over him as he contemplates his life choices. It’s not that he—he’s missed Steve, so much, but he doesn’t—.
He’s sure that someone will point out to him that it’s fucked up he managed to forgive Bucky before he forgave Steve, but he never knew Bucky, not like he knew Steve. Tony knew every goddamn inch of Steve, everything that Steve ever gave him he took and folded up inside of him, trying his hardest to keep Steve close, but in the end—it wasn’t ever what Bucky did that killed Tony, it was Steve keeping it from him.
Scrubbing his skin roughly, Tony’s fingers run over the twenty year old tattoo on his hip, the one that made Steve laugh with joy the first time he saw it, that Steve pressed soft kisses against each time he saw it after that. Flashes of of Steve’s face when he saw the shield still there on Tony’s hip last night flood Tony’s brain, and he quickly tries to push it out of his mind because it did enough damage to his heart the first time round.
“Tony?” comes Steve’s voice, interrupting Tony’s thoughts. “Are you—can I—”
Pausing as he reaches for his shampoo, Tony turns and sticks his head out of the shower to see Steve standing there naked, his arms folded across his chest like he doesn’t know what to do with himself. “You’re awake,” Tony says, blinking against the water running into his eyes. “I—”
“I can go,” Steve interrupts, shoulders hunched as he stares down at the floor, not meeting Tony’s eyes. “If that’s—if all you wanted was last night, then I can leave.”
And fuck Tony’s life entirely because if there’s one thing he can’t resist, it’s Steve looking like he’s still that small pre-serum kid waiting to be rejected. He’s almost sure that’s how he ended up in this situation to begin with all those years ago. “Get in,” he says before he can really think about it. “Come on, before I take it back.”
Tony forgot, over the years, how much space Steve takes up; when he’s not in the battlefield, it always seems like Steve is trying to make himself smaller, like he’s trying to make a point of showing there’s a difference between Captain America and Steve Rogers. Now, in, what Tony considers a pretty goddamn large shower, Tony’s forced to remember just how much of that is what Steve wants you to see, not how he actually is.
The water sprays over Steve’s head, flattening his longer hair over his face and Tony watches as he reaches up to push it out of the way, his eyes somehow looking brighter as he looks at Tony. “You didn’t have to invite me in,” Steve says. “I could’ve showered somewhere else.”
“I know,” Tony says, grabbing the shampoo and passing it to Steve. “But I didn’t want you to.”
Steve looks at the bottle before squeezing some out in his hands and reaching up, working the shampoo through Tony’s hair. His hands are gentle, and Tony ducks his head, letting Steve’s fingers work their magic; he almost hates it, how easy it is to let Steve do this, to let Steve slip back into his life like this, but—.
“I missed you,” Steve says, so quietly that Tony almost doesn’t hear him over the water. “Whatever happens, if last night was only—I missed you every day.”
Tony takes a step back, dislodging Steve’s hands as he does so, and tilts his head into the water, closing his eyes as the water rinses his hair clean. It hurts, still, and Tony’s thought about what to say in this situation a million times, but now Steve is here, he can’t find the words. Taking one more moment under the water, Tony runs a hand through his hair before looking at Steve. “I think I made it pretty obvious last night that I missed you too.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t—”
“The sex?” Tony interrupts, closing the gap between them and touching Steve’s hip, fingers rubbing against the warm skin. “I won’t lie, that—anyone would miss that, but—”
“Tony you don’t have to—”
“You fell asleep on me, once, when we were watching Die Hard and, at first I was insulted because honestly Steve, who falls asleep during Die Hard? But then—” Tony pauses and turns his head to look away. “Then I realised that you were able to fall asleep like that because you felt safe, because you trusted me. At least, that’s what I thought.”
“If I could—I’m sorry,” Steve says. “I don’t know how to—”
“Here’s the thing,” Tony says, talking over Steve because he can’t—he needs to get this out. “Even with what happened afterwards, with realising you didn’t trust me completely, I—I couldn’t stop loving you. I tried, I really fucking tried, but you, Steven, you wormed your way into my goddamn soul and I couldn’t get you out.”
Steve’s quiet, not saying a word, and then his fingers brush over the tattoo on Tony’s hip. “I thought you’d get this removed,” he says, his voice unsteady. “I know you got it done before we even met, but I thought—after everything, that you’d want it off your skin, and that—” Steve pauses, letting out a sigh. “That killed me. More than I’d like to admit. When we were apart, I wanted that to still be on you, so that if you slept with anyone else they’d see that you—”
“That I was yours.”
“Not my proudest moment,” Steve says with a wry smile. “Knowing all I’d done to hurt you and still wanting you to be marked by me?”
“Well, I always knew you weren’t perfect,” Tony says as Steve’s hand curls around his hip. “It’s why I—” Tony swallows and looks up at Steve, meeting his eyes. “It’s why I can forgive you. Why I want you to stay. If you want to.”
The smile that crosses Steve’s face at that should be ridiculous, but somehow it’s the best thing Tony’s seen in months. He can’t help reaching up and tracing Steve’s lips with his fingers, pressing his thumb against Steve’s bottom lip and trying to ignore the way his heart rate picks up when Steve’s hand grips his hip a little firmer.
“I never did finish watching Die Hard,” Steve says as Tony drops his hand. “We could start there.”
Tony laughs, the ache in his chest that’s been living there since Siberia finally lifting as he pushes up on his toes to kiss Steve, letting himself get lost in the feel of Steve against him, letting himself admit that he’s missed this, that he’s needed this, more than he even knew. “Water off, FRIDAY,” Tony says, kissing Steve one last time before getting out of the shower and grabbing some towels from the heated rack. Handing one to Steve as he steps out of the shower, Tony wraps his around his waist and leans against the wall, watching the water droplets still running down Steve’s body. “Did you bring any clothes?”
“What there is needs to go through the laundry.”
Tony nods, turning around and fiddling with the various products on the counter. “I still have—there’s some of your clothes in the bottom drawer,” he says as he opens a pot of moisturiser, rubbing some on his face. There’s no response from Steve and he assumes Steve’s gone back into the bedroom to look, but then Steve’s right there behind him, pressing a kiss against Tony’s neck.
“I didn’t stop loving you,” Steve says quietly. “I need you to know that. All these years, I never stopped.”
Tony turns around and takes Steve’s hand, lacing their fingers together before bringing them up to his mouth and kissing the back of Steve’s hand. “Me either,” he says. “Not even when I tried to stop.”
“Don’t. I don’t want you to apologise again. Not for that,” Tony says, squeezing Steve’s hand. “If you keep apologising then we’re never going to—” he breaks off and pinches the bridge of his nose for a second. “We’re going to watch Die Hard, we’re going to eat a lot of pizza, and you’re going to kiss me.”
“Okay,” Steve says, kissing Tony’s forehead. “I can live with that.”