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The Year of Starting Over

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It seemed like pure magic.

You’d never danced this much before; you’d always felt silly and self-conscious on the dancefloor, certain you were out of sync with the rhythm and too clumsy to even try, but tonight, you didn’t care. You danced with everyone who asked, and even found yourself pulling others out onto the floor. The effervescent joy that seemed to radiate from within you was infectious; everyone was smiling. Even Tony, who always seemed more inclined to stay on the sidelines when the music played, took your hand and dragged you out onto the floor.

The sun was setting and the sky had taken on golden hues, a cheerful Sam Cooke song playing as Tony twirled you around the floor.

“So what’s it like dancing with your favorite Brat-Packer?” he asked in a teasing tone, a humorous sparkle in his eyes. Tony had been on your side from the beginning of the mess that had taken away a year of your life; everyone else had been on eggshells, but he had been as blunt and upfront about it as he could manage. At the time, you’d been angry; he had been brusque in spite of his humor, doing all he could to make you see that the world you had woken to truly was your own.

It had hurt. But you had needed it to hurt.

You grinned. “Actually, I always had more of a thing for Emilio Estevez, if I’m being honest,” you teased right back, and he feigned a wince at your words.

“You wound me,” he deadpanned, and you couldn’t help but laugh, throwing your head back gayly.

“What can I say?” you told him. “I’m a sucker for blue eyes.”

“So it would seem,” Tony said with a hum, nodding towards where Steve stood with Bucky, the two laughing over some shared joke.

“You know, I never did thank you,” you told him, still smiling but a little more serious than before.

“You’re more than welcome,” Tony replied, then frowned. “For what are you thanking me though?”

You smiled. “Everyone was treating me with kid gloves. Afraid that if they pushed too hard, I’d snap or something. Then you show up. Give it to me straight. You were the first one to really make me question what I thought I knew. If not for that push… well. I don’t even want to think about where I’d be today.”

The smile that graced Tony’s face was soft and sweet, a rarity even for his closest friends to see. “You’d be right here, where you belong. You put up with a helluva lot more than just anybody could deal with, and you’re still standing. Nothing would’ve stopped you from getting back to where you belonged. You wouldn’t have let it.”

Your eyes went a little watery at his words, and Tony shook his head.

“Crying? No crying. Capsicle’s got a hair trigger when it comes to you. Might try and knock my block off if he thinks I made you cry,” Tony warned.

You laughed again but before you could tell him not to worry, you felt a tiny tickle on the hand Tony held in his and noticed a little insect had landed on you. Before you could shake it away, it suddenly glowed bright and warm, before flying off. You gasped.

“Fireflies?” you asked in wonder. You couldn’t remember the last time you had even seen one in the city, let alone so high in the sky.

Tony smiled slyly. “Something like that,” he agreed.

You noticed for the first time that the air around you was full of twinkling lights, flitting to and fro, alighting here and there on some of the rooftop greenery. You got a closer look when another landed on the lapel of Tony’s suit; it certainly looked like a real firefly, but where there should have been a shiny black thorax was instead gleaming steel and little mechanical legs. It blinked its light several times before flying off once again.

“Turns out, you can’t just buy a bunch of fireflies. They don’t travel well. Ladybugs, crickets? Those you can get by the pound. But I thought tonight needed a special touch, don’t you think?” Tony said coolly.

You threw your arms around him into a tight hug, the surge of happiness in your heart almost too much to take. This really was your life: you had Steve, your soulmate, and you had such amazing, wonderful friends. You felt like the luckiest person in the world.

Tony’s fireflies had the rest of the party enthralled. Bruce and Helen were dancing in circles, their heads tilted up in the air as they watched the little mechanical insects take flight. Darcy was laughing and chasing them like a child. The gaiety of the party seemed to increase tenfold just with the joy they brought.

That was Tony’s way; things he saw as small gestures that could mean the world to everyone else. He never took credit where credit was due when it came to things like that – just the same way he tried to brush off your thanks.

 

The fireflies continued their dance across the sky as the light completely faded and the garden lights hummed to life. Your feet were aching in your shoes and it seemed every time you turned around, someone else was pulling you out to dance. You managed to slip away after Sam had taken you around the dancefloor and found Steve standing near a table where Bucky and Darcy were sitting.

“Ah, there she is,” Steve said, smiling widely when you slipped immediately into his arms. “You’ve been the belle of the ball out there tonight, Doc. Must’ve danced twice with everybody here.”

You closed your eyes and sighed, pressing your head against his chest. His arms closed around you and for a moment the world fell away, leaving you feeling safe, comfortable, and perfectly content.

“Always going to come back to you, though,” you murmured, and Steve knelt to press a kiss to the top of your head.

“I know,” he agreed, a soft sigh rumbling through his chest. “Lucky me.”

At the table, Darcy made an exaggerated gagging sound, pulling you out of your reverie. You turned and grinned at her.

“Jealous?” you teased.

She grinned back and leaned her head on Bucky’s shoulder. “Not anymore!” she replied.