He’d survived it all; the betrayal of the only father he thought he’d ever had, or perhaps never did, when Obadiah tried to kill him; survived the poisoning of the very invention he’d created to keep him alive, defying the odds by creating a new element; flying a nuke into space, because there was no other way, and fell only to come back gasping to life.
Tony Stark had survived it all, was stronger than the indestructible metal alloy he’d encased himself in, or so Steve had believed.
“Mornin’ Cap,” Tony greets, voice sleep-soft as crow’s feet wrinkled the corners of his eyes - another imperfection that perfected the man.
“Morning Tony,” Steve whispers back, leaning forward to steal another kiss, one of many, and knew he’d never tire of them.
The flame Steve felt burning for the man kindled brighter in these moments, and he relished in the warmth it brought.
The moment they’d met their words were twisted in magic and barbs, cutting and biting, were spat as freely as a snake’s venom. They’d survived it. They’d survived the dissidence, resolved the distrust that tainted every embrace - every kiss. They’d laid together, embraced every dawn in the soft glow of the morning light, and Steve prayed to never lose this, to never lose Tony, not again - never again.
And yet…here they were.
Stark was a futurist, and perhaps that had always been his greatest strength and his glaring flaw, but to Steve he was the way forward; the embodiment of everything the world he’d woken up in was and could be, if only Tony could believe in himself as much as Steve believes in him. His knight in shining armor, a knight who never saw himself as the hero he truly was.
Tony’s eyes are cast down, body shaking, “I’ll never understand what you see in me…I’m only going to leave you broken and alone, Steve.”
Steve wraps his arms around the inventor’s trembling form, “you may not see what I see, but you’re my best fella and I believe in you, Tony…I love you.”
It’s then the man breaks, choking back sobs as he leans back into his lover’s chest, but clings to him just as hard. Steve doesn’t dare let go; never again, and knows Tony shares the near-overwhelming feeling just as deeply.
Tony burned hot and bright, an eternal flame Steve would never hesitate to give his entire being to.
The dust stung his eyes and nose, the smell of copper heavy and sickeningly thick in the air, “T-Tony, why?”
“I…had to protect…protect my best fella," Tony coughs wetly, blood spilling down his chin, crimson mixing into his goatee like a ghoulish painting.
Tony clung to Steve, lithe arms wrapped around his broad shoulders as he thrust into the man, each movement deeper and more powerful than the last, “Steve!”
“Tony, my beautiful fella,” Steve rasps, breathing hotly against the man’s marked neck - against Steve’s claims on his golden skin.
They fall over the edge together in a symphony of reckless abandon and adoration, their shared climaxes coursing through each of their nerve endings, and never had Steve felt so complete. They collapsed entwined, neither ready to let go, and Steve doesn’t fight back the smile that curls his lips when Tony kisses his jaw.
“I love you, Steven Grant Rogers,” Tony whispers, a secret vow for only Steve to hear, and right then the Captain knew he could never be as happy as he was in that moment.
The kindling of a single light burned hot and blinding, a city on fire, and never would Steve have thought flames could be so beautiful - so addictive.
The plasma blast from the alien robot’s repulsers had pierced through the armor, the warped metal of Tony’s chest and abdominal plates were now con-caved and charred - no longer the stunning red and gold they’d always been, even in the worst of battles. The blast had ripped through Tony, the congealing crimson splattered all over the man - the fresh bright blood that continued to seep from him - was a reminder they didn’t have long; no one would come in time, no one could save the man he loved…they had but moments left.
It hadn’t been a hard decision to come to, the only difficulty was getting Tony to realize his intention.
“Cap, I think you should get off your knees before we end up having to call Life Support,” Stark jokes, grinning down at his lover.
Steve huffs fondly, Tony’s sarcasm was always more fond these past few years - less of the shield to his emotions as they had once been, “Tony you goon, I’m askin’ ya to marry me, so why don’t you just say yes and save us the hassle?”
For once in their long relationship, Steve had managed to render the man with all the words silent for the first time, “you- fuck I…yes! Of course! YES!”
The bellowing cheers of their friends - of the family they’d cultivated over the years - washes over them, but all Steve can hear is Tony, relishing in the softly muttered repeated word of ‘yes’. His heart swelled, feeling like he’d almost drown with the happiness that consumed him as he clung to the smaller man - to his husband.
“I love you, Steve,” Tony cries into his shoulder, clutching at his dampening shirt, Steve could feel the smile against his neck. “I love you so much.”
“I love you too, Tony…forever and always.”
Steve feels the flames licking at his skin, but he doesn’t shy away from the heat, instead he turns towards it and welcomes the bright and ever growing fire; silently swearing himself to Tony’s hearth, a devout believer.
Forever and always.
They hadn’t known about the bomb, but the moment they did Steve didn’t hesitate to run into the stricture to save the innocents caught in the crossfire, and yet despite knowing he’d done what had to be done…the regret strangled him. It had been during the evacuation that Tony dove in, at a sound-barrier-shattering level of speed, reaching Steve just in time; just in time to take the blast that had been intended for him.
“Tony…please, help is coming-”
“We know they won’t…won’t get here in time,” Tony chokes out, but reaches out a trembling armored hand - Steve doesn’t hesitate to take it in his own gloved ones, and wishes for nothing more than to feel the rough skin of his husband’s hand. “Watch after…after everyone, yeah? They need you…P-Peter especially, he’s a good…a good kid….”
“I will Tony, I swear I will,” Steve promises, gripping the gauntlet in his trembling fists, fighting back the tears that threaten to drown him alive.
"I love you, Steve…f-forever and…and always….”
“I love you too, Tony, I love you so much baby- Tony? Tony, no, nononono…TONY!” Steve cries, heart stuttering in his chest. “Please don’t…don’t leave me, please,” he cries, but the limp form of Iron Man doesn’t shift despite his pleas, the armored limb in his own now heavy.
It’s as he feels the rain beginning to pour down on him, droplets of water washing away the crimson Tony left behind, that Steve collapses and wretches; never had the rain burned his skin so badly. Acidic against him as he cried out for his husband. Steve hears the running footsteps, the panicked cries of his teammates as they rush over to them, Natasha shouting out instructions and Thor trying to tear away Tony’s chest plate to find a way to help; hears Clint yelling for the medical team, the Hulk bellowing in anguish and Parker’s choked up stuttered words that it’ll be okay, Tony will be okay, because Tony has to be okay; but it was all too late because…because Tony was gone.
It was he watched the flames - the ones that Steve had seen once burn so brightly within Tony - dying with the man he loved, that Steve realized the flames had never been his friend, after all.