April 7th 1912 – Dublin, Ireland
Steve shivered and pulled his thin scarf tighter around his nose. The chill wind whipped through his thin frame, and the ever-present smog from the foundries and tanneries threatened to set off a fit of coughing that he wasn’t sure his body could handle.
There hadn’t been a lot of work today. He got shifts part time at a local shop, but only if the owner had need. Today he’d helped do inventory for a couple of hours before being sent home.
He slowly climbed the stairs, dodging the washing water thrown out the window by Mrs O’Leary on the second floor and narrowly avoiding being knocked down by the gangs of kids that roamed the building.
He made it home to his place on the fourth floor, unlocking and pushing open the door to the tiny room he shared with his best friend.
They were lucky, he knew. Most families shared one room, no matter the number of kids. He and Bucky only had to share with two others, four men sharing two single mattresses on the floor.
He poured water from the drinking bucket into the kettle, set it on the small stove, and grabbed the matches. He was blowing on the kindling, trying to get the fire alight when the door crashed open and Bucky appeared in the doorway, eyes wild.
“Bucky? What’s going on?”
“You’ll never believe it. I can’t believe it. It’s – argh!” He brandished two slips of paper in front of Steve’s nose. Steve’s eyes crossed as he tried to read what was written on them.
“They’re tickets, Stevie. Two tickets to America!”
Steve’s eyebrows shot up. “Where in the hell did you get those?"
“I won them in a game. I almost folded, but I just had this feeling, you know, that I should stay in, and I did, and I won!”
“Game? Were you betting our rent?!”
Bucky faltered a moment before rallying. “Not all of it!”
Steve opened his mouth to yell when Bucky slammed a hand over his mouth, stopping him. “Steve, you ain’t listening. It doesn’t matter, because I won. I tripled my money and I got us two tickets to New York city. We leave in three days from Queenstown.”
“Bucky, no!” Steve said, shoving him off. “I can’t just go to America! What about my ma? What about your ma?”
“We’re doing it for them, Stevie, think about it! It’s the land of opportunity. We could make more money in a week than we do here in a year. We’ll be rich, make enough to send for them, buy them each a house! Just imagine,” He slung one arm conspiratorially over Steve’s shoulders and made an expansive gesture with the other. “Mrs Barnes, Mrs Rogers, the Irish beauties of New York city! Come on, Stevie. You’re always wishing you could help her out more. This could be it.”
He wasn’t wrong. Steve had left Galway for Dublin with Bucky to ease the pressure on his ma, in the hope he could make money to send back to her. He did his best, but once they’d paid for food and rent, there were barely a few pence left for her. Not enough work to go around for skinny artists; the men at the dockyards took one look at him and just about laughed themselves sick. She’d sacrificed so much for him growing up, what with all his health problems. He needed to pay her back somehow.
“We can’t stay here, Steve. This place is a dump. You want to stay here forever, listening to the O’Bradys arguing through the wall on one side and the Doherty kids screaming on the other? You want to end up like those poor souls who died in the tenement round the corner? Or begging on the street?”
“You know I don’t. But Bucky—”
“Besides, Stevie, you might have trouble here, but in America you’ll have the guys and gals all over you. Americans love the sound of Irish brogue!
Steve snorted. He had no idea where Bucky got half the nonsense he came up with.
“Stop, alright, stop! I can’t take it anymore. I’ll go!”
Bucky cheered, grabbing him and swinging him in a circle. “America, Stevie! We’re going to New York!”
11th April 1912 - Queenstown, Ireland
The ship was incredible.
Big as any Steve had ever seen, with huge funnels reaching to the sky and the smell of fresh paint and salt filling his lungs. She fit her name well. Titanic.
This was crazy. He couldn’t believe they were doing this.
The ship cut across the ocean like a hot knife through a block of butter; the waves no match for her size and speed.
There were people everywhere. He and the rest of third class were allowed out on the promenade near the back of the ship and nearly everyone was out, exploring the ship that would be their home for the next week.
As Steve looked up towards the upper deck, his eyes caught on a figure leaning over the railing.
The man was looking up at the funnels rather than at the sea like so many others. He was breathtaking. Impeccably dressed, clearly first class. And with such a sense of sadness, Steve couldn’t help but feel a pang of sympathy, though he didn’t know the cause.
Steve stared, unable to take his eyes off of him. He carefully took out his sketchpad, starting to record the man’s likeness. He quickly sketched the important details, trying not to miss anything.
A second, bigger man appeared behind the first. He was much older, balding, and wore an unkind look as he reached the leaning man and caught his wrist in a tight grip.
He was clearly frustrated, gesturing angrily. The younger man argued back, trying to get free until the bald man leaned in to say something. The younger man flinched and fell silent, his shoulders drooping in submission. And this time, when the older man moved away, the younger man followed. The older man swung an arm around his shoulders, and the young man accepted the embrace without complaint, though his body was stiff with misery.
Steve watched until they were out of sight, his heart in his throat.
A hand clapped down on his shoulder. “Stevie! Come on, you should see the grub here!” Bucky pulled him away towards the stern and Steve let himself be dragged even as he looked back at the upper deck.
Stomach fuller than it had been in months, Steve leaned against the railing and watched the dark churning water below.
The ship was more than he could’ve hoped, luxurious even in third class. They had their own dining areas, places to sit and smoke or drink, and he and Bucky had somehow swung a two-bunk room instead of being crammed in with four other guys. He could hardly believe their luck.
After their various cheap accommodations over the years the warm room and comfy mattresses were glorious. The sounds and vibrations of the ship were loud, but after the noise of the tenements in Dublin, it was easy to block it out. He and Bucky had wandered down to the dining room to find something to eat and had been surprised by how nice it was, given it was used exclusively for steerage. Big plates of hot roast beef and potatoes, soft bread, and plum pudding for dessert. The trip was almost worth it just for that.
Bucky had spotted a gal at dinner with striking red hair and ivory skin. He’d naturally ditched Steve immediately, sneaking into the section reserved for families and single women to sidle up to her and hoping she’d give him the time of day.
Steve had wandered off after dinner, pulling his thin coat tight around him and walking the deck. He still couldn’t believe they’d done this. Sailing across the sea to a brand-new place, with no idea what awaited them or what they’d do when they arrived. He hoped his ma had received his letter. He hadn’t had the time to go home to see her, so a letter had been his only option. He hoped she wouldn’t worry, but he also knew she couldn’t do anything but.
He clutched his St Christopher’s medallion under his shirt. It was a gift from his ma when he’d left for Dublin, something to keep him safe. He felt his eyes prick with tears. He was going to miss her dearly, and he had no idea when he’d see her again. He might never see her again. He prayed Bucky was right – that he might earn enough to send for her and give her a new life in America.
He scrubbed roughly at his face. No use crying about it now, since he was already on board.
“Nice up here at night, isn’t it?”
The voice made him jump, sucking in a lungful of the man’s heady cigarette smoke. He choked on it, coughing as his airways tightened. Hunching over, he struggled to pull in a breath.
“Merda!” The voice near him said, and then hands were grabbing him and holding him up. “Breathe in, come on!”
Steve focused on calming his breathing. In, out, in, out. Slow and smooth. It felt like an age, but soon he was breathing at regular intervals, and the vice in his chest loosened.
He fell back against the railing, eyes closed, the fatigue settling in his bones like it always did after his asthma flared up.
After a moment, he opened his eyes and froze.
It was the man from the upper deck.
He was just as gorgeous up close. Dark hair, lovely brown eyes and light olive skin. Steve groaned internally. Seriously, was his size not enough? Did he have to actively look ridiculous in front of attractive people as well??
“Are you all right?” The man asked, looking concerned. Steve nodded, straightening up and smoothing out his clothes.
“Oh, thank god,” the man huffed. “I was worried I might have actually scared you to death.”
Steve shook his head. “It’s not your fault. I have asthma. It happens.”
“Steve Rogers, actually,” Steve said, delighted at the way the man chuckled in response.
“Nice to meet you, Mr Rogers,” he said holding out a hand. “Antonio Stark.”
Steve took it with surprise. He hadn’t really expected first class passengers to want to mix with steerage in any way, let alone actually touch them.
“Are you American?” Stark’s voice had an unfamiliar twang that Steve had only heard once or twice.
Stark shook his head. “Italian, but my English tutor was American. I picked up the accent as a child.”
There was a moment of quiet as the conversation petered off, before Steve realised something. “Sorry, but why are you here?”
Stark quirked a confused eyebrow. “Same as you, I expect. I’m going to New York.”
Steve shook his head. “No, I mean here. In steerage. Shouldn’t you be in the grand dining room or something?”
“How do you know I’m not steerage?”
“Well, I saw you up on the deck when we came on board. But even if I hadn’t, I would’ve known as soon as I saw your clothes. Besides, how many in steerage do you think had a tutor as a child?”
“You saw me?”
“Oh. Yes.” Steve paused awkwardly, unsure if he should mention what he’d seen. He wasn’t sure what else to say. “I noticed you were looking at the funnels rather than the view like everyone else.”
Stark blinked. “Ah. Yes. I, well, I’m something of an engineer and this ship is very impressive. The ocean is all well and good but far less interesting than seeing the evidence of a ship’s engines pumping away.”
Steve was bemused. “You know how the engines work?”
Stark nodded. “Yes, they’re fascinating. I am…I suppose you could call me an inventor of sorts. I like to make things. But my other hobby is fixing things, like engines.”
“I imagine this ship must fascinate you then?”
“Very much. I actually thought up some adjustments they could make to improve efficiency,” he said excitedly and pulled out a few scraps of paper from his shirt pocket to show Steve. The pages were covered in scribbles and equations, none of which Steve could understand, but he was impressed nonetheless.
“I’m sure the higher-ups must be happy.”
“I was able to speak to the ship designer this morning. I had questions, you see, because the ship seems to be listing port and I couldn’t understand why. Well, that and I snuck down to the boiler rooms and found out that apparently one of them is on fire.
Steve’s eyebrows shot up. “On fire?!”
Stark made a calming gesture. “It’s nothing to worry about. It is contained and safe; it was just too difficult to put out so they have to let it burn out on its own.
Steve wasn’t sure what to say. It didn’t sound safe, a ship on fire, but he hardly had the expertise to know either way.
He was saved from having to speak by Stark leaning forward suddenly. “Oh hey, what’s that?” he asked, plucking the sketchbook from Steve’s hand.
“Hey!” Steve’s complaint made not a bit of difference as Stark flicked through his sketches.
“These are really good,” Stark said, a little reverently, his fingers brushing delicately over the charcoal lines.
Steve flushed. “They’re pretty basic. I haven’t really had any lessons so—”
“Wait, these are just your natural talent?” Stark asked, wide-eyed. “Then they’re all the more incredible for it.”
Steve looked to the heavens, feeling his face really heat up now. Lord, he hoped Stark stopped before he came to the sketch Steve had made of him. He didn’t know how he’d explain that.
He’d look pathetic. Like a mooning kid, who didn’t yet realise that people like Stark didn’t look twice at guys like Steve.
He reached for the book. “Can I have that back, please?”
Stark looked up at his serious tone. “Oh, of course. My apologies.” He closed it and passed it back to Steve a little sheepishly. “I sometimes don’t know when I’ve overstepped. Your sketches are lovely though. Is that what you do? Are you an artist?”
Steve laughed. “Lord no. No one would pay for my work. I just do odd jobs, whatever work I can find. Bosses aren’t exactly lining up to hire guys like me.”
Stark opened his mouth, no doubt to politely refute the claim, but Steve didn’t need to be pandered to. He got in first. “You didn’t answer my question, sir. Why are you down here? Did you take a wrong turn?” Third class was meant to be quarantined after all, surely it wasn't safe for him to be here.
Stark winced. “Please, no ‘sir’.” He sighed. “I knew what I was doing. I just needed a break, a moment to myself.”
“Oh,” Steve said. “Sorry. I can head back to my bunk.” He started to walk away, but Stark reached out and grabbed his sleeve.
“No, no,” he said. “Please stay. I couldn’t bear the thought that I would chase you away when it’s your area to begin with. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of other areas for me on the ship.”
Steve leaned back against the railing, unsure what to say. What did rich folk even talk about?
Stark helpfully broke the silence. “So, what part of Ireland are you from? Sorry, I’m not familiar enough with the accent.”
“Galway. It’s on the west. My Ma is still there, but I’ve been living in Dublin with my friend Bucky these last few years.”
“Bucky?” Stark asked, tone amused.
“Oh sorry, that’s not his given name. There were too many Jameses in our street growing up so we had to tell them apart somehow.”
“Is he travelling with you?”
“Yeah, we’re hoping to do better in New York. Make more money to send home, that sort of thing.”
“Have you always liked to draw?”
“Oh! Yes. When I was sick as a young ‘un my Ma would give me paper scraps and bits of charcoal to keep my busy while I was in bed and she was working at the hospital.”
“And you learned to do all that on your own?”
“Mostly. I got sick a lot, so I had plenty of practice. But Ma would get me donated books from the hospital and the local priest was pretty good at sketching himselg, so he’d help me when he did his rounds.” He sighed. “I’d like to do more portraits, but it’s hard to find the time, for me and the model.”
Stark hummed. “Well, this boat still has another week on the sea. If not now, when?”
“True enough.” Steve didn’t know where it came from, but he suddenly had a surge of boldness. “I don’t suppose I could draw you?”
Stark’s gaze snapped to him. “Me?”
Now that he’d suggested it, Steve felt a thrum of anticipation. The idea of getting to look his fill of this man without judgement. To memorise the details of his face, his hands.
“To further my education, of course,” Steve said slyly. Where the hell was the confidence coming from? He was pretty sure he’d never managed to be this smooth in his life.
Stark snorted. “Far be it from me to hinder artistic progress.”
Hope filled Steve’s chest. “Tomorrow?”
Stark seemed to hesitate for a moment. Finally, he spoke. “Sure. Come after breakfast. Tell one of the stewards when you get to the deck and they’ll come and fetch me.” He took a last look at the dark sea before he turned and walked towards the stairwell.
As he reached the foot of the stairs, he shot a look over his shoulder. “Till tomorrow then, Mr Rogers.” He smiled and slipped out of sight.
Steve fell back against the railing.
Steve smacked his shoulder against the doorway in his rush to clamber into the cabin. “Buck!”
Bucky turned from where he was bent over the sink, using the towel over his shoulders to dab his face dry. “That sounded like it hurt.”
It did and Steve winced, but it didn’t dampen his enthusiasm. “You’ll never guess what just happened!” He took a deep breath, trying to calm his breathing. “I met someone. A guy from first class.”
Bucky raised an eyebrow. “What was he doing in steerage? I assume you weren’t allowed on their promenade.”
“Just out for a walk. But Bucky, he was”—Steve couldn’t think of a word, nothing seemed good enough. He flopped back on the bunk—“beautiful.” That would just have to do.
“First class? You don’t half aim high do you, Stevie?” Bucky leaned against the sink to look at him. “Well, no harm in appreciating from afar.”
“I’m doing a bit more than appreciating from afar,” Steve said, still feeling a bit dazed by his bout of confidence. “I asked if I could sketch him.”
Bucky stared. Then snorted. “God, Steve that is just like you. Why didn’t you just ask him for a kiss and be done with it?”
“He’s got too much class for something like that with me, Buck!” Steve protested, feeling a touch of outrage on Stark’s behalf. “I just wanted another look.”
“When are you sketching him then?”
“Tomorrow, first class deck.”
“Best of luck then lad, can’t say more than that.” Bucky looked at him then, waiting for him to meet his eyes before he spoke again. “Just…don’t get in too deep alright, Stevie? Men in our position, we’re hardly marriage material for them.”
Steve nodded. He knew, of course he did; he wasn’t stupid. This thing with Tony was just a one-off art session. A chance for Steve to indulge a little, maybe talk to him a bit. But he wasn’t deluded into thinking it meant anything more.
“No fear of that. He’d hardly be interested in someone like me, Buck.”
He could see Bucky wanted to protest so he jumped in before Bucky could fumble his way through a platitude. “What happened with that girl at dinner?”
“You just missed her,” Bucky said. “We spent the evening playing bridge in the general room with a couple of others. She’s a good player. Smart as a whip, ran circles around me. Russian but speaks better English than King George. Then she walked me back on the way to her room.” He looked a little dreamy for a second. “She’s joining us for breakfast tomorrow.”
“You just…played bridge with her?” Steve asked, bewildered. “You didn’t offer to walk her around the decks or sneak away for a quiet moment?”
Bucky looked offended. “I am a gentleman, Rogers. I won’t have you ruining my reputation with your talk.” He kept a straight face for a second before they both burst out laughing. “I was just enjoying talking to her, if I'm honest. She wasn’t having any of my bollocks. If I want her, I think I’ll have to earn her.”
“That’ll do you some good,” Steve told him, getting up to undress and wash before bed. “Lord knows you’ve had it easy for too long.”
It was always a bit of a sore spot in his friendship with Bucky. It was hard being the ugly duckling next to his charming, strapping swan of a best friend. His best friend who always had a date and who could walk out of a fight and genuinely say ‘you should see the other guy’. The only time Steve could pull someone is when Bucky called in a favour and made his a double date. There was nothing quite like seeing the look of disappointment on someone’s face when they realised Steve was their date.
“Not afraid of a bit of hard work, me,” Bucky told him, climbing up on the top bunk. “Got to put in the time if something’s worth fighting for.”
“Aye,” Steve agreed absentmindedly, thinking of the handsome man on the deck. “Couldn’t agree more.”
12 April 1912 – North Atlantic Ocean
“You must be Mr Rogers.”
The softly accented words hit Steve’s ear and he looked up to see a woman sitting across from him.
Bucky hadn’t been lying. She was lovely to look at, but with an air of danger about her as well. He felt like she would eat him alive if he put even a toe out of line.
“Yes, that’s me,” he agreed. “But we haven’t been introduced. Your name, Miss?”
“Natasha Romanov,” she told him, placing napkin on her lap. She raised one pointed eyebrow in his direction.
Steve realised suddenly he was still wearing his cap, and hastily removed it. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Romanov."
She smiled at him before beginning to eat her porridge. Steve sipped his water while thinking of something to say. Where the hell had Bucky wandered off to?
“So, Bucky says you’re from Russia?” She nodded. “Why are you going to New York?”
“My family are rather”—she paused, thinking about her answer—“well known back home. They wanted me to marry someone I didn’t want, and I thought it best to leave before the choice was made for me.”
“Oh.” Steve took a spoon of his own breakfast. “Well, that’s understandable. I mean, you should get to choose your life, same as me.”
She smiled at him then, clearly approving of his answer. “You are not married yourself?”
“No,” Steve shook his head. “Not really marriage material, me.”
“I’m sure that’s not true.” She took him in. “A kind heart and handsome face will always appeal.”
Steve blushed, unsure what to say.
“Stevie!” Bucky swung down onto the bench beside him. “I see you’ve met Miss Romanov.”
“James,” Miss Romanov greeted him, sipping her tea politely. Steve could see a spark of mischief about her, though she hid it well. He could see what Bucky liked about her.
“Isn’t she incredible, Steve?” Bucky said wrapping his arm around Steve’s shoulders and gesturing to the lady. “A woman of fine distinction.”
Miss Romanov rolled her eyes. “Your flattery won’t work on me, Mr Barnes.” She sipped decisively, but the faint blush on her cheeks gave her away.
“Well, I hope you’ll deign to entertain me today, Miss Romanov,” Bucky said haughtily. “As Steven here has an appointment in first class so will be unavailable.”
Miss Romanov hummed a question. Steve hastily shoved Bucky off. “I just asked to make a sketch for a gentleman in first class. It’s not important.”
“So, you asked one of the first-class passengers to take time out of his day to let you, a man from steerage, sketch him, and you don’t think that’s important?"
“Hmmm,” Miss Romanov offered. “Well, I’m sure you’ll work it out at some point.”
Steve wanted to question her further, but Bucky was already standing and walking around the table. “Since Steve is otherwise engaged, Miss, would you accompany me for a walk around the deck?” His tone was exaggerated to be posh but sounded ridiculous in his west Irish accent, making Miss Romanov laugh.
He helped her to her feet, and with a wave they left the table, leaving Steve to don his cap, straighten his clothes, fetch his sketching tools, and make his way to the first-class deck.
The steward gave him a dirty look as he stood at the stairs, clearly concerned about breaking the rules and allowing a steerage passenger to mingle with first-class. But eventually he sent for Mr Stark as requested.
Steve was certain he wasn’t allowed up on the upper decks at all since third-class were meant to be quarantined before entering America, but Stark arrived and shook the man’s hand, muttering something into his ear. Steve was waved through without another word.
Steve felt suddenly awkward and unsure. Stark looked as polished as the day before. Up close Steve could smell his cologne, heady and a little spicy. Steve felt ridiculous next to him in his ill-fitting shirt and slacks.
“Thank you again for agreeing to this, Mr Stark,” Steve offered as they walked along the promenade towards the benches. Steve was getting odd looks from other passengers as they passed him, clearly wondering why he was dirtying up their deck in his cheap clothes. He felt a sting of self-consciousness and looked away.
“The pleasure is all mine, Mr Rogers,” Stark said loudly, wrapping an arm around Steve’s smaller frame as they walked. Steve looked up at him, surprised. It was an intentional move, to show others he was with Steve, wasn’t afraid of touching him.
It was kind of him. Steve felt a warm feeling in his stomach.
They reached the benches, taking a seat across from each other. “You didn’t have to do that, you know.” Steve told him, pulling out his charcoal to sharpen.
Stark smiled at him. “Why should you be made to feel uncomfortable here? You made me welcome when I came to your deck.”
“You paid more to be on this ship than we did. I could never afford all this.” He gestured around him, encompassing the beautiful promenade, the laid tables and polished metal.
“And yet they may treat me with politeness, but to them I am still some awful Italian who thinks he deserves to be a part of their society. Prejudice is everywhere, Mr Rogers. It isn’t just about how much you have.”
“Easier to bear with a full stomach and a roof over your head though,” Steve said, cheekily and Tony laughed chastised.
“That is fair, I do not mean to make light of it.”
“Well, if we are equals in their scorn, please, call me Steve.”
Stark chuckled before he held out a hand to shake. “Steve it is. And please, Tony. I hate formality.”
It suited him. Him and his charming demeanour, much more than Mr Stark did.
“Tony,” Steve agreed, shaking his hand. “Shall we get to it?”
He had Tony pose, relaxed against the arm of the bench, looking out towards the sea. He looked grand. His clothes and the background marked him immediately as wealthy, but his relaxed features and handsome face made him seem approachable despite it. There was an underlying sadness there too. Steve could see it but didn’t know the cause.
He sketched carefully, listening to Tony chatter away. He lost the pose he was set in almost immediately, hands gesturing as he rambled about the trip, how haughty his table mates at dinner the night before had been and the ship. The speed, the craftmanship, the engineering. His eyes lit up with his enthusiasm and he was all the more handsome for it. Steve sketched quickly, trying to set down all the details he could, hoping to capture the moment so that he might never forget it. Tony was an engineer, he told Steve, he could take his hand to anything with gears.
Steve paused in his sketching, a thought occurring. “Can you fix watches?”
Tony perked up. “Watches? Of course, easy enough.”
Steve reached into his pocket for his father’s watch. His mother had given it to him after his father had passed, and though he’d been poor and struggling for a lot of his life, he’d never sold it.
“This was my father’s. It stopped working a while back, but I’ve not had the money to fix it.” The time he’d taken it into the shop, he’d been told it was a big job and been quoted a high price he couldn’t hope to pay.
Tony took it carefully, inspecting it. He pulled an item from his coat showing it to Steve. “Offiziersmesse. Made in Switzerland. It’s several tools in one; I never leave home without it.” He carefully pried the back open, taking care not to damage the gears.
Steve watched as Tony hummed to himself before giving an ‘Aha!’ of discovery. He flicked something on the tool to bring out a small pair of tweezers and held the watch up to his face, looking at it almost comically closely, before moving in.
After a moment he removed the tweezers, blew gently on the gears and closed the back of the watch. He placed the tool back in his pocket and wound the watch carefully.
A pause. And then a tick, tick, tick.
Steve’s jaw dropped. “How did you do that so quick?”
Tony smiled and handed the watch back to him. “You just have to know what to look for. The gears all fit together neatly to work, and just one out of alignment throws the whole thing out. I nudged it back into position.”
“You’re a marvel,” Steve said, his voice quiet. The watch hadn’t worked in years, and he’d given up hope it would again. Two minutes with Tony and it was ticking away like new. “Thank you so much.”
Tony shook his head. “It was no trouble.”
“No really, that was kind of you.”
Tony looked uncomfortable at the praise. “The watch was your father’s?”
Steve nodded and began to tell him about his father and mother and growing up in Galway. Tony seemed genuinely interested, asking more questions and Steve ended up telling him all about his mother working all hours to support them after his father had died in a farming accident, how sick he’d been growing up but how he and Bucky had still managed to get up to all sorts of shenanigans around the town. And how as soon as he was strong enough they’d gone to Dublin to try and make their fortune.
“Ah, in Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty…” Tony sang, his voice a low warble. He grinned. “Is it true?”
Steve laughed. “It is. Especially if you look like Bucky.”
“No shortage of company for Bucky then?”
“No, he was pretty popular.”
Tony quirked an eyebrow. “And how about you, Steve? Have you left some lady back in Dublin, ready to follow you when you make your fortune?”
Steve shook his head, carefully shading in the lines of Tony’s jacket. “Ah no, not me. If you saw Bucky you’d know what I had to compete with.”
Tony looked him up and down pointedly. “My, he must indeed be blessed by Aphrodite herself then.”
Steve felt his face flame. “Cut it out.”
“It isn’t my fault you can’t take a compliment,” Tony told him. He leaned forward. “Are you done yet? I want to see.” He reached out to try to snag the edge of the sketchbook.
“Hey!” Steve said, pulling it out of reach. “Keep your mitts off it, it’s not done yet.”
Tony huffed. “If I had known art required so much patience…” He flopped back against the bench with a put-upon sigh. Steve hid a smile.
He added a few final touches and blew the last of the charcoal dust from it. He signed and dated the corner before tearing it carefully free and handing it to Tony. “Here you go.”
Tony took it and stared at it. Steve felt anxious, as he always did when he showed someone his work. He hoped he’d caught everything. He’d kept some of the sadness, not wanting to ignore it or hide it. But he’d tempered it too, capturing some of the passion Tony had shown when he talked about the ship and the good humour he’d had while teasing Steve. He was truly a complex creature and Steve wished he could get to know every facet.
“Dio mio,” Tony said softly. Steve tensed. Was that good? “This is incredible.”
“Oh, it’s not that—"
Tony cut him off. “May I keep it?”
“Oh, of course.” Steve nodded eagerly. “Sorry, I don’t have anything to keep it in.”
“No trouble, I’m sure I have something in my rooms.” Tony was still looking over the drawing with a touch of reverence that Steve wasn’t sure it really deserved but by god he’d take it.
Steve felt suddenly awkward. He’d finished his flimsy excuse to talk with this man and now he should probably head back. This wasn’t his deck after all.
He carefully packed up his paltry drawing tools and patted his knees. “Well, I suppose I should go—”
“Hmm? Go?” Tony’s head snapped up. “Go where?”
“Back to steerage?” Steve said. “I’m not really supposed to be up here.”
“Oh, right,” Tony said, looking disappointed. “But, I mean, you don’t have to go right this second.” He looked around, visibly searching for something to say. “Tea!”
“Yes, why not have a cup of tea before you go? They should be serving some in the Café Parisienne.”
Steve huffed good-naturedly. “They’re not going to let me into the café, Tony.”
“Right, right.” He looked a little uncomfortable, but then clicked his fingers. “I’ll just have it brought here. What’s the point of paying all this money if I can’t get tea for two on the deck?”
“Really you don’t have to—"
“Say no more about it. I’m going to order us some tea and place this safely in my state room.” He stood, looking at Steve seriously. “Don’t go anywhere—I won’t be a minute.”
Then he was gone in a swish of his coat.
Steve leaned back against the bench and closed his eyes. He should leave. He knew he should. He didn’t belong here and dragging it out was doing them no favours. But for some reason he couldn’t. He wanted all the time he could have with this man and to hell with doing the smart thing. He just hoped the steward didn’t turn up to throw him out.
When Tony finally returned, he’d been gone longer than expected. “Oh good, you didn’t leave!”
“You asked me to stay,” Steve responded, taking him in. One side of his face was tinged red. “Are you ok?”
“What? Yes—Why wouldn’t I be?” Tony asked, seemingly flustered.
“Your face is a bit…” Steve tried to think of a descriptor that wouldn’t offend.
Tony brushed off his concern. “Too much sun. Perhaps we should move into the shade?”
The answer gave Steve an odd feeling, but he couldn’t pinpoint why. Tony was already leading the way to a sheltered area and the moment passed.
One cup turned to two and then to a walk around the deck. The walk turned into a game of chess once Tony had managed to wheedle from Steve that the same artsy priest who had given him sketching tips had taught him to play. He’d been trounced, of course, but he’d managed a few moves which had raised Tony’s eyebrows, so Steve was feeling pretty pleased with himself.
Steve didn’t think he’d ever had so much fun. Tony was intelligent, cultured and funny. He liked to rant and rave about things he was passionate about, and to argue with Steve back and forth over nothing. And he never made Steve feel foolish. Not once throughout their time did he make Steve feel small for not having been educated to the same level, or for growing up in a small town in Ireland instead of being worldly.
That didn’t stop Steve from wishing things were different. That he could take Tony somewhere, show him a good time and prove he had something to offer.
As the afternoon changed to evening, they stood on the deck watching the sun set on the North Atlantic. It was breathtaking.
“I suppose,” Tony offered, looking a little sheepish, “that I should let you get back to your cabin. Sorry I kept you all day.”
Steve shook his head. “No, I had a good time. Sorry you had to slum it with me instead of dining at the restaurant.”
Tony snorted. “Ah, I dine at the Salon. The man I’m travelling with, Obadiah, is new money. I’m allowed in the restaurant, but he isn’t, so it’s a source of agitation between us.”
Steve rolled his eyes. “Oh well, the Salon then.”
Tony laughed. “I know, terrible isn’t it? And they’re all so dull. All anyone talks about is how much money they’ve made as they all compete for who has the biggest balls. It’s exhausting.”
Steve snorted, making Tony grin. “That sounds awful.”
Tony’s face lit up. “You know what would make it better? If you came with me.”
Steve stopped laughing. “That’s not funny.”
“Come on, Tony,” Steve said. “I can’t get into first class dining and I don’t belong there.”
“I could get you in.”
“My clothes wouldn’t get me in the door, and I couldn’t keep up with the people in there. I would stand out like a sore thumb.”
Tony leaned in. “Don’t worry about them. They’re as fake as they come. And I know where we can get you something to wear.”
Steve straightened his jacket nervously as he came down the staircase.
His borrowed clothes from Tony fit him better than his normal wardrobe. They were still a bit big, enough to look clearly not his, but they didn’t hang off him as badly as Bucky’s hand-me-downs.
He fidgeted as he walked, his stomach erupting into butterflies.
An arm linked with his and he looked up to see Tony smiling kindly at him. “Don’t look so glum. You’re about to try some of the best food on offer with some of the worst people available. Try to smile.”
Steve chuckled, shoulders losing some of their tension. “Are they really that bad?”
“And then some,” Tony told him cheerfully, leading him into the Salon.
They walked through the room, and Steve’s eyes lit on the elegance of the décor. It was beautiful. He’d never seen anything like it.
“See over there?” Tony leaned in to whisper to him as they walked. “That’s Dorothy Gibson. She’s an up and coming actress.”
Steve tried not to stare, but part of him couldn’t believe that a week ago he and Bucky had been scrimping to pay rent, and now he dressed in coat and tails and standing twenty feet away from a film star.
“And there?” Steve followed the line of Tony’s gaze to a woman wearing a large hat, her laughter carrying across the room. “That’s Molly Brown. Irish family, made it big in mining. The older ones can’t stand her. They think her new money is newer than their new money and all of them except her wish they were dining in the restaurant with a countess or a duke.”
He led Steve over to a table where three gentlemen and a lady were already sitting.
The bald man Steve had seen the day before turned to looked at them, his gaze suspicious.
“Good evening, everyone,” Tony announced, letting the steward pull out his seat before sitting down, slowly enough to allow Steve to copy.
“Antonio, who is your friend?” the women asked, giving Steve a once-over with an unimpressed eyebrow.
“Everyone, this is Steven Rogers. He’s an aspiring artist from Ireland.” Tony gave Steve a reassuring smile, which Steve returned, and then nodded in greeting to the table. “Mr Rogers, please meet Obadiah Stane, an industrialist and my travel companion. This is Alexander Pierce, who is a big name in the mining industry. Hugh Jones, he’s made his fortune with his company Roxxon, and finally Miss Sunset Bain, of the South Carolina Bains.”
The table nodded at him politely, resuming their conversations but sneaking looks at him when they thought he wouldn’t notice.
The first course arrived, and Miss Bain turned to Steve. “Mr Rogers, I haven’t seen you around. Wherever did Mr Stark find you?”
Steve froze, unsure what he should say. But he didn’t see much point in lying. They’d see right through him. “I’m in steerage, Miss. I doubt we would have had course to meet.”
Her eyebrow shot up. “Third class? My, don’t you clean up well.”
“Thank you ma’am,” he offered, ignoring the intended insult and adopting the same tone. “And may I say that’s a lovely dress.”
Tony snorted quietly beside him, and Steve fought a smile.
“If you’re in steerage, how on earth did you and Mr Stark meet?” Mr Pierce asked, sipping from a glass of whiskey.
Tony stepped in. “I went for a walk on the lower decks. I saw Mr Roger’s work and asked him to complete a portrait for me. As a thank you, I asked him to join us for dinner."
“The lower decks?” Stane asked, frowning. “I thought I told you not to wander too far.”
Tony looked away. “I just wanted to take a look at the ship. No harm done, Obie.”
“See it doesn’t happen again.”
There was an awkward silence before Pierce broke it. “So, Mr Rogers, you’re an artist? How do you survive?”
Steve looked at him. “My art is more of a hobby. I do other things to pay the bills.”
“Like what?” Miss Bain cooed. She looked around the others at the table. “I do love to know how the other half lives.”
Steve took a calming breath. “Anything, really. I do shifts at a corner shop, help unpack stock, that sort of thing.”
“Well you could hardly be a manual labourer, could you?” Pierce chuckled, and Steve fought back an annoyed flush.
“No,” Steve said shortly. Steve looked down at his entrée and realised there was a lot more cutlery than he was used to.
He looked at Tony with a slight bit of panic.
Tony’s eye twinkled with amusement, but he quickly tapped the correct fork, and Steve grabbed it gratefully.
“Not what you’re used to, eh, Rogers?” Stane asked him, his jovial tone at odds with his earlier attitude.
“Much higher quality than I’m used to,” Steve agreed. “Though the food in third class is nothing to sneer at. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much.”
“Best eat your fill then,” Stane told him, scooping his oyster in his mouth. “Who knows how much you’ll get to eat once you arrive. Do you have a job waiting for you in New York?”
Steve finished his entrée and set his fork aside. “No, this trip came up by chance and I had to take the opportunity. But I’m eager to work, so god willing I’ll find something quick.”
“I think it’s romantic,” Miss Bain said, sipping her wine. “Just going where the wind takes you. It must be so freeing, having nothing to your name.”
Spoken by someone who’s never had to decide between rent and a meal, Steve thought bitterly, but he smiled politely at her.
“Well, not nothing.” He reached into his pocket to pull out his father’s watch, sensing an opportunity to change the subject. “Given to me by my father. You know it didn’t work until today? Tony fixed it in seconds. It was brilliant.”
“Nothing to it,” Tony told him, looking pleased.
“Tony does love to tinker,” Stane said. “I’ve told him he needs to make more of his life, but he never listens.”
Tony flinched and Steve frowned. “I would hardly call it tinkering. Being able to fix things is a grand skill to have.”
“His little designs are fine as a hobby,” Stane continued, “but he needs to be doing real work. That’s why I’m so glad I was able to take him under my wing.”
“I like to fix things, Obie,” Tony told him, voice low. He pulled out the papers he’d shown Steve the day before. “I showed these to the chief engineer, Mr Bell. He said they were impressive.”
Stane snorted. “Of course he would. He was humouring you.”
Tony’s face fell, though he tried to hide it, and Steve felt outraged on his behalf. “I think he’s brilliant.”
Stane raised an eyebrow. “Yes, I’m sure your background and expertise make you an excellent judge of that.”
Steve felt an angry flush on his cheeks but made sure not to let his expression shift. He wouldn’t give the man the satisfaction.
He managed to make it through the rest of the courses (ten? Who needed that many? Rich folk were so odd) without starting a fight in the fine dining room, but it was hard.
Veiled comments about his rank that he just had to smile through and Stane talking about Tony as if nothing he did was worth anything, undermining him at any opportunity.
By the time they were able to leave, and Steve had been pointedly not invited for a cigarette and scotch with the others, he was near breaking point.
Anger hummed under his skin as he walked out of the salon. Those people! He’d never met anyone so pompous and self-important.
“Steve!” He could hear the approaching footsteps before Tony’s hand came down on his shoulder.
He stopped and let himself be turned around until he was looking Tony in the eye.
“I’m sorry,” Tony said, looking upset. “I didn’t realise they’d be so…” He looked lost for words.
“It’s alright, Tony,” Steve told him. He shrugged. “I knew what I was getting into. I was more angry at the way they were treating you. Nothing they said about me was wrong. I don’t have a lot and hardly an education.”
“No but,” Tony huffed angrily. “That’s not all there is! You’re creative and witty and funny and very kind. And brave! Travelling across the world just for the chance at a better life. It’s incredible. That’s much more important than anything they’ve got.” He looked incredibly offended on Steve’s behalf, and he didn’t think anyone had ever defended him so hotly before except maybe his own mother.
Tony was awfully close. Steve had to stop himself from leaning in. “Thank you, Tony.”
Tony pulled up short and looked at him apologetically. “I’m just sorry I showed you such a terrible evening.”
Steve thought about how earlier he’d lamented being unable to show Tony a good time. He took Tony’s hand. “Let me show you a real party.”
The party was already in full swing by the time Steve dragged Tony down to steerage.
The beer was flowing and a couple of men had gotten their instruments to play a fast-moving jig. Several of the ladies had been dragged up to dance and there were kids chasing eachother and getting underfoot.
“Welcome to your first céilí,” Steve said, gesturing to the gathering at large.
“It’s a dance.” Steve went and retrieved two pints for them and went back to join Tony, who was watching from the edge.
“Here,” he said, passing him a jug. “Drink up, we’re behind.”
Tony laughed, taking a glug. “Not bad.”
Steve tasted his. “Better than some of the swill I’ve had back home.”
An arm landed around his shoulders. “Steve! Where’ve you been, lad?”
“Bucky!” He’d clearly had a couple from the way he was acting. Behind him was an amused Miss Romanov.
“Who’s this?” Bucky gestured to Tony, who looked torn between laughing and hiding behind Steve.
“This is Antonio Stark,” Steve said. “Tony this is Bucky, and with him is Miss Natasha Romanov.”
Tony shook Bucky’s hand and looked over his shoulder. “Romanov?”
She raised an eyebrow and muttered something Steve didn’t understand but made Tony laugh. He tipped his hat to her. “Your secrets are yours, Miss.”
Steve wanted to pursue that line of enquiry, but Bucky was pushing him to finish his jug and get more and he soon forgot all about it.
He and Tony stood with Bucky and Miss Romanov (“Gentlemen, you may call me Natasha”) for a while, enjoying the music and chatting. Steve was pleased to find Tony seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself.
The band picked up a familiar tune and Steve found himself singing along, noticing Tony smiling at him as he rose in volume.
I'll tell me ma, when I get home
The boys won't leave the girls alone
Pulled me hair, and stole my comb
But that's alright, till I go home
She is handsome, she is pretty-
“She’s the belle of Dublin city!” Steve and Bucky finished, laughing at the outraged shouts of Belfast! from across the small crowd.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” Bucky said, putting his jug down on the table. He turned to Natasha and held out a hand. “Miss, if you would?”
She smiled, taking his hand and letting him lead her out to the dance floor, leaving them alone.
“Bucky certainly can move, can’t he?” Tony offered, gesturing to where Bucky had started spinning them round the floor to a fast beat, dipping Natasha at odd intervals and making her scream with laughter.
“He’s had plenty of practice,” Steve agreed, fidgeting with his jug. He’d always wanted to go dancing with someone, but the dates Bucky scored for him had usually vanished long before they got anywhere a dancehall.
The song came to an end and everyone stopped to clap.
He didn’t want to miss his chance.
The band picked up again, a quick and upbeat jig that Steve realised he recognised as well. He took a breath and knocked back the last of his beer. Liquid courage.
He discarded the jug and held out a hand. “Tony?”
He couldn’t say anymore, all his confidence pushed into that one word. He wasn’t sure what he’d do if Tony said no.
Tony looked at him for a moment before grinning widely and taking his hand. “I hope you know how to lead.”
Steve didn’t know if he could, but he’d be damned if he’d admit it now and miss his chance.
He pulled Tony to the middle of the dancers, took one of Tony’s hands in his and placed the other on his hip and started a quick paced, moving step.
He spun Tony round, his heart pumping, and pulling the man tighter as he laughed and followed Steve’s lead.
Tony was flush with exertion as they rounded the dance floor, and Steve felt a roar of pleasure. Everyone would see this man was with him, and they’d know that he wanted to be with Steve. Pride rushed through his body, fighting with heat as their bodies were pushed together.
Thank the lord he’d made Bucky teach him every trick he knew.
He and Tony danced till late, the rest of their party wandering off. When Steve felt his chest start to tighten, he knew he’d need to rest a spell unless he wanted to have an attack on the dance floor. They slowed to a halt to clap with the others at the end of the song, and then Tony tightened his grip to pull him back to the edge of the room.
“Time for a break, I think.” His tone was knowing. Steve looked at him sheepishly as he took some even breaths. “Shall we take the air?”
They wandered along the deck, pulling their coats close as the heat of dancing gave way to the chill of the night air.
As they stood looking out over the dark water, Tony grinned. “That was the most fun I’ve had in a while. For someone who says he doesn’t get much opportunity, you’re rather quick on your feet.”
“Guess I was just waiting for the right partner,” Steve told him, breathless in a way that had nothing to do with asthma or exertion.
Tony turned to him, and the tension pulled tight between them.
Steve didn’t know who leaned in first, but suddenly his lips were pressed against Tony’s. The kiss was hesitant at first, both of them getting used to the feeling. But it wasn’t long before it turned hot, Steve trying to taste as much as he could of the other man. His hands found their way to Tony’s waist, pulling him closer as Tony’s hand wound into his hair.
His body thrummed, the need he’d felt since he’d first seen Tony on the upper deck surging to the forefront and making him hum in pleasure.
Tony let out a soft moan, and Steve couldn’t help but buck his hips up against him.
“Oh, hello,” Tony purred, feeling the hard press of Steve’ groin. Steve blushed, moving away and stuttering an apology, but Tony pulled him closer.
“No, I want it. I want you right now.” His gaze was hungry, and the open lust sent a shudder through Steve’s body.
“We shouldn’t,” Steve protested. “We’re not married.”
“So?” Tony rubbed against him, insistently. “I don’t mind.”
Steve had to snap his eyes closed and take a deep breath, trying to think with a clear head. He wanted it. So much. He could hardly deny that. “But if someone found out, they might think you’re...” he trailed off.
Tony smirked. “Oh, just me? What about your reputation then, my little artista?”
Steve flushed. “No one’s going to be worried about marrying me, Tony. Who would take a look at a skinny Irish lad they could step on and think him a good match?” He met Tony’s eyes. “But if we did this and someone found out, it could ruin your chances in the future. And someone like you is going to have plenty of chances.”
Tony’s smile went soft. “I think you’re going to make someone a wonderful husband, Steve.” He leaned in to give him a hot kiss that spread heat all the way to Steve’s toes. “But perhaps for now, you could just fuck me like a man.”
The words sent a spike of lust through his whole body and Steve groaned. He was weak. “Where? Your room?”
Tony shook his head. “Not much privacy. There must be somewhere else.”
An idea popped into his head, and Steve grinned triumphantly. “I know just the place.”
Bucky jumped as Steve pulled the door open. “Stevie, what—"
“You need to leave,” Steve told him, a bit gleeful, leading Tony into the cabin by the arm.
“Now,” Steve said grabbing him and pulling him up. “Out.”
Steve grabbed the boots on the floor and pushed them into Bucky’s hands as he shoved him out the door. “Why don’t you hit the pub for a pint, there’s a good lad.”
“Oh you must be jokin’—” Steve slammed the cabin door and Bucky’s outraged cry was almost drowned out by Steve’s laughter.
Tony looked at him, amused. “What was that about?”
Steve snorted. “That’s Bucky’s line. He’s been using it on me for years, every time he wanted me out of the way so he could get with one of his gals for the night. Locking me out even if it was late and I just ended up wandering the streets of Dublin for hours. I’ve always wanted to get him back for it!”
Tony looked around the small room with interest, and Steve tried not fidget. The third-class rooms were nicer than any place Steve had ever stayed, but still nothing like what Tony would be used to. He suddenly felt foolish. Why would Tony want to spend any time in here?
“Looks like we have everything we need,” Tony said, catching him by surprise. He took Steve’s sleeve and gave him a gentle tug. “How about you make me see stars?”
Tony led them back until they were lying down on the narrow lower bunk, the small space forcing them close together. He kissed Steve again, hands cupping his face and tilting him to get a better angle.
Steve didn’t have much experience, but he was no slouch. He gave as good as he got, experimenting, taking note when Tony shivered or clenched his fingers.
This was the best thing he’d ever done.
He let his hand drift down, unbuttoning Tony’s shirt and waistcoat. His hand brushed against the hot skin of his chest and Tony trembled beneath him.
He pushed the clothes aside, leaning down to mouth at the newly revealed skin. Tony sat up enough to pull the clothes free, dropping them off the side before taking Steve’s mouth again.
He got lost in the kiss for a few moments, before he felt the brush of Tony’s hands near his waist. He broke away, looking down to see Tony unbuttoning his own slacks.
Steve pulled away to get a good view as Tony wriggled himself free of his clothes, leaving him stretched out naked on the bunk.
“I, uh…” He wasn’t sure what to say.
Tony winked at him. “I thought it might be easier if I went first. Care to join me?”
“In a minute,” Steve told him. His eyes roved over Tony’s body hungrily. He leaned down to mouth up the firm, tan thighs under him, blowing cool air over the skin and making Tony hiss and shiver. He felt ten feet tall – this beautiful man at his mercy, letting him touch and kiss.
Eventually, Tony got impatient, pulling at Steve’s buttons until Steve got the hint and undid his shirt, shrugging it off.
His face flushed at what Tony must think of him. His narrow shoulders and chest, his visible collarbones and ribs from years of not enough food and cold nights. He’d never really considered that a partner might find him attractive. He’d always just hoped that they’d be able to look past it.
But Tony didn’t seem put off, his hand trailing down Steve’s chest. His fingers brushed against Steve’s stomach, his thumb teasing at the waistband.
Steve caught sight of a dark shadow on Tony’s side.
“This looks like it hurts,” Steve murmured, brushing against the bruise gently.
Tony twitched. “It’s nothing. Come on, don’t make me wait.”
This was it. He reached down to unbutton his breaches, pushing them down. He wasn’t sure if he should get up and take them off completely, but as he was deciding he pulled his cock free.
“O dio mio,” Tony whispered.
Steve’s head shot up. “Huh?”
Tony let out a surprised sounding laugh and Steve felt a wave of shame wash over him. He knew it was too good to be true.
He knew what he looked like after all.
He started to pull away but then Tony grabbed him.
“No, no, sorry!” He was smiling, but there wasn’t any mockery in it. “I was just surprised. I wasn’t expecting—Well, given your size, sweetheart, I wasn’t expecting your size. You’re very impressive.”
“So, it’s good?”
“Oh it’s very good, darling,” Tony purred, and Steve felt the earlier heat return to his belly. “Very good indeed. Now take off your trousers.”
Steve stood quickly, shucking off the last of his clothes. As soon as he was free, Tony leaned up, wrapping his arms around his neck and pulling him down until he was lying between his legs, chest to chest.
“I don’t suppose you have something to…ease the way?”
Oh. Oh of course. What could they—
“Oh!” Steve leaned down to his rucksack, digging through until he pulled out a tin of petroleum jelly. “Will this do?”
Steve spread the jelly over his fingers, making sure to coat them thoroughly.
He looked down at the man beneath him, stretched out in the glow of the electric light. He winked at Steve and spread his thighs invitingly.
He gulped. Oh boy.
He carefully opened Tony up with his fingers, making sure not to move too fast and hurt him. The man moaned pleasingly, panting hard until he was begging for more.
Once he was ready, he removed his fingers, leaning down to kiss Tony again. When he pulled away, Tony’s eyes were dark.
“Fuck me,” Tony whispered, and Steve complied.
He pushed inside, feeling the heat of another person’s body for the first time. He couldn’t help but moan. If this was what it always felt like, he couldn’t really blame Bucky for kicking him out all those times.
He gave an experimental thrust, the slide creating a delicious pressure on his cock. “Oh, Tony.”
“Is it good, darling?”
Steve nodded. He picked up the pace, starting to move faster and harder. He lost himself in it for a moment, before he remembered that he had another job here.
He started listening to the panting and whimpering from the man beneath him. He instinctively hitched his hips, delighted when it elicited an appreciative groan.
“There,” Tony panted. “Again, please.”
Steve angled his hips and began to move.
“Oh fuck, fuck!” Tony cried and pride burst in Steve’s chest. He could do that, make this beautiful man make those sounds. He kicked up the pace, leaning forward to deepen his thrusts and make Tony howl with it. He felt powerful, like he could do anything, but all he wanted to do was his best for Tony. He leaned down to nip at his lover’s throat and Tony moaned wantonly.
"More, caro, please," Tony whimpered, his hands grasping at Steve's back and rolling his hips to meet each thrust.
He could feel Tony’s muscles clenching, and without thinking reached down to stroke the other man’s cock until it tipped him over the edge.
Steve crushed their mouths together, desperate for his own release as his rhythm became erratic. A few more thrusts and he was coming, thrusting his cock in deep as he finished, relishing the feeling of coming down.
He rested his forehead against his lover’s shoulder, kissing his jaw before rolling off to lay beside him.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph. If that’s what you got to do when you were married, no wonder everyone was so for it.
He lay there breathing deeply for a moment before tilting his head to look at Tony. “Was that alright?”
“Alright?” Tony whimpered, eyes closed. “Jesus, Steve, you fuck like a stallion. I can’t believe no one’s had you before - they don’t know what they’re missing.”
Steve was surprised he could still blush, but he felt the tell-tale warmth in his cheeks. “Oh?”
Tony opened his eyes, grin wide and wicked. “And to think that was only your first time. Imagine what you’d be like with a bit of practice.”
Steve huffed a laugh, pulling Tony over to lie against him. “I always thought I’d end up having an asthma attack my first time and put my lover off. I’m glad to be proved wrong."
He pressed kisses to Tony’s skin, basking in the warmth. After a moment, he got up, grabbing a cloth from the sink to clean them both before he ducked back into the bunk. He dragged the blankets up to cover them, trapping the heat, and snuggled against Tony.
They lay quiet for a moment before Tony spoke. “You’ll make someone a very good husband someday, Mr Rogers.”
“Really?” Steve asked, cautious. “Anyone in particular?”
It was a careful question. Steve could never expect to marry someone like Tony. It was one thing for rich folk to have fun with a bit of rough, but Tony would need to marry someone well above Steve’s station.
Tony turned to look at him. “I wish I could say. But that’s not the plan Obadiah has for me.”
“I know that he looks after you, but surely you’re not to marry him?”
Tony sighed. “No, not that, but not so different. I would be in much the same position either way.”
Steve’s gaze slid down to the bruise on Tony’s side, and he thought about the mark Tony had had on his face that morning.
“Does he hit you?”
Tony looked away. “He has a temper.”
“You should tell someone. He shouldn’t be allowed to hurt you.”
Tony looked ashamed but shook his head. “No, there’s no point.”
“Of course there’s a point! If this is how he treats you, then you don’t need to stay with him!”
“I don’t have a choice!”
“What do you mean, you don’t have a choice?” Steve demanded.
Tony smiled, a soft broken thing that made Steve’s heart clench. “I mean, it’s done. My father had so many debts, and he owed so much to Obadiah, he…” He sighed. “In exchange for settling his debts, he gave him…me.”
Steve frowned. “What?”
“Second sons are never of much consequence to their fathers. He has his heir, my brother Gregory, and so I am a tradable asset, nothing more.” He sighed. “Stane wants me to work for him. He wants to lock me away so he can make money, and there’s no way out. This is my last week of freedom, and only because people might ask questions if Obadiah doesn’t let me out to eat or walk the decks. But once we hit New York, that’s it. He can lock me away and treat me however he likes.”
“He can’t do that!”
“He can. He’s got connections all over. If he wants to have me declared mentally unfit he can; he knows doctors and judges on both sides of the Atlantic. I’ll never be free. I have no money and I can’t trust any of my old friends. What would I even do? My father never told me were in trouble until it was too late. There was nothing I could do to stop it, nowhere I could go, and no one who could help me.”
“Tony that’s - no, you have to get out of this.”
Tony choked out a laugh that was more of a sob. “Why do you think I was on the steerage deck, Steve? That first night? I figured, this would be my chance. I could just disappear into the dark sea and no one would be able to control me ever again.”
“Tony,” Steve whispered, horrified at the thought of what might have happened. That he might never have met this incredible man, that he might be lost before the world got to see what a wonder he was.
“But then I got there, and there was someone already in my spot.” Tony smiled. “And I decided perhaps it would do no harm to wait, since I was so decided, and that it might be nice to speak to another person and share a last conversation. And then I just about scared the poor chap to death and then foolishly agreed to let him sketch me the next day. How could I end it then, when that kind, good-looking man was waiting for me?”
One breath. Two. And then Steve wrapped his arms around Tony, holding him tight. He breathed in the scent of him as he felt Tony respond, tangling them together till they were nearly one person. They kissed desperately, the need almost unbearable.
When they parted, Steve spoke. “You could come with us.”
“When we get to New York. You could come with Bucky and me.” He rubbed a hand up and down Tony’s shoulder, the plan forming in his head. “We’re going to Brooklyn. We’ll get a cheap place to share, look for work. You could come too. Be free of Obadiah and live your own life.”
He looked at Tony. “It wouldn’t be what you’re used to, but it could be ours.” Tony’s eyes looked a little misty, so Steve continued. “And I may not have the schooling, but I could see what you were scribbling on that napkin. You’re smart, very smart. You could do anything. What would you want to do if you had the choice?”
Tony blinked. “I’ve never really considered it. Ideally, I like to invent, engineer new things. But if I had to work? A mechanic.”
Steve snorted. “A mechanic?”
Tony looked affronted, and Steve hurried to reassure him. “Sorry, it’s just hard to imagine you covered in grease when I’ve only seen you in glad rags.”
“And out of them,” Tony said, eyebrows waggling suggestively until Steve blushed. “But this isn’t my usual state. I prefer just wandering around in my shirt and trousers while I work. My father was one of the first to have an automobile, more than one, and I loved getting under the bonnet and improving them, fixing them when they broke.”
“So working on cars for the rich? That’s a good plan.” Steve nodded. “We could live in Brooklyn, you could fix automobiles, and I could wait tables or try and work at a grocer’s or something.”
“Or you could draw?” Tony suggested. Steve looked at him. “I’m not an expert, Steve,” he said, his tone clearly parroting Steve’s. ”But I can tell you your work is good. Very good. You could do portraits or even start out drawing comic strips for the papers.”
“I don’t know about that,” Steve protested. He wasn’t that good and someone in his position was hardly first choice for a job like that.
“I do,” Tony said fiercely. “You’d be so good at it.” He grabbed Steve’s hand tightly. “Promise me you’ll try. I mean, you can be a paperboy or whatever to make money but promise me you’ll at least try and get your work published. Don’t waste your talent.”
Steve wanted to argue, but the look on Tony’s face made him stop. He was free, and Tony wasn’t. “I promise.”
Tony leaned over him, bringing their lips together. Steve leaned into the kiss, wrapping his arms around Tony’s neck.
They kissed until they grew sleepy. Steve pulled Tony down to his chest, curling up against him under the blanket.
He could do this forever, even as he knew deep down it couldn’t last.
Guys like Tony didn’t marry guys like Steve.
My general headcanon is that pre-serum Steve was a sex god and everyone missed out XD
Also I know what you’re thinking. If Natasha was trying to escape her family, wouldn’t she lie about her last name? Yes of course she would. Natasha knows what’s up. But if she did, could I drop that sweet historical easter egg that may not matter to anyone else besides me? No, I could not. So let’s just assume her plan was to change it at Ellis Island :)
0800hrs 13 April 1912 – North Atlantic Ocean
Steve woke with a start as he was hit in the face with something wet.
“Argh,” he yelped, sitting up fast and narrowly avoiding hitting his head against the upper bunk.
“’Bout time you got up,” Bucky told him gruffly. “The trick to spending the night with someone, Stevie, is to get them out before anyone notices.”
“What time is it?” Steve asked, rubbing his eyes. Tony stirred and blinked up at Steve from where his head rested on Steve’s hip. He felt the smile spread across his face.
“It’s 8 o’clock. I spent the night in the general room since I couldn’t tell if you were done.” He turned a stern look on Steve. “What were you thinking?”
Steve turned to Bucky, confused. “What do you mean?”
“I mean with him. I mean, I’m impressed you bagged a fancy fella like him, but Christ, what’s going to happen when someone realises he’s down here, slumming it with you? They’ll have you shot. And you!” Bucky turned on Tony. “Shouldn’t you be dining in Café Paris, or whatever it’s called, by now?”
Tony paled at Bucky’s words, pushing himself up and out of bed. He hurriedly gathered his clothing, pulling them on in record time.
“Tony, come on, stay, don’t-“
Tony turned and gave Steve a sad smile, cutting off his protests. “Goodbye, Steve. Thank you.” And then he was gone.
Steve fell back against the bed, something that felt like despair trickling into his heart. Their night was over. Tony wasn’t coming with him. It was a stupid idea really. They’d be caught as soon as they left the ship, and Tony would be taken away by Obadiah to be hurt and used.
Bucky sat down beside him. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to kill the mood.”
Steve shook his head. “No, it was better he not get caught in here. The man he’s with, he doesn’t treat him right.” He gave Bucky a brief recitation of what Tony had told him.
“I don’t know what to do, Buck,” he told him miserably. “I think I might be in love with him.”
Bucky sighed. “Normally I’d say that was your cock talking, but since I think I’ve met the girl I’m going to marry, I can hardly talk.”
“She’s incredible, Stevie. A proper firecracker. And I’m going to marry her.”
Steve grinned, trying push down the jealousy. “Good catholic girl then?”
“Ah.” Bucky rubbed the back of his neck. “Orthodox. I figure I’ll wait till after the wedding to write and tell Ma.”
Steve snorted. “You’ll hear her yelling from across the pond.”
Bucky laughed. “Well, what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her for now.”
Steve smiled. “I’m happy for you, Buck.”
“Thanks. Maybe you can work something out with Tony. If this guy is as horrible as he says, then we have to do something.”
“I know,” Steve said miserably. “But what?”
14 April 1912 – North Atlantic Ocean
Steve had waited all the previous day hoping Tony would come back, but eventually as the sun went down and the ship grew dark, he’d had to accept the man wasn’t coming.
He had tried to ask for him, but the steward on duty hadn’t been sympathetic and had refused.
By the time breakfast rolled around the next morning he was near jumping out of his skin and he couldn’t take it any longer. He had to do something more drastic.
Bucky picked the lock on one of the gates separating steerage from the other classes. Steve peeked around the corner, keeping watch.
“Can you hurry it up?”
“It’s not like I brought my tools with me. I’m having to improvise. Give me a minute.”
There was a clunk and then Bucky was pulling the gate open for Steve to slip through. “Don’t get caught.”
“I’ve got to see him.”
“I know,” Bucky agreed. “Just don’t get caught doing it.”
“I won’t.” He clasped Bucky’s forearm tight. “I’ll be back soon.”
He walked quickly down the corridor, keeping an ear out. It was midday so most people should be at lunch. He just had to stay out of sight till he spotted Tony.
He wandered out to the promenade, tucking himself into a hidden space on the deck to wait.
He heard the faint chiming of the bells from the clock for half past and hoped that Tony would take a walk after his lunch. Given how he felt about Stane, he was sure Tony wouldn’t be spending much time in his rooms.
He heard their voices before he saw them. A group of men, patting themselves on the back and speaking about the telegrams they’d received that morning about their deals across the sea.
The group walked past, and Steve spotted the hulking figure and bald head of Obadiah Stane. His heart started to thump he held his breath as he waited. The men passed in a cloud of smoke and laughter. There was beat, two, and then the slumped shoulders of Tony trailing despondently behind them drifted past the gap Steve was hiding in. Relief flooded his chest and he reached out to grab the back of Tony’s coat.
Tony let out an ‘urk!’ as he was dragged out of view.
“Tony,” Steve breathed. There was barely any space between them.
“What are you doing here?” Tony growled. “You could’ve been caught, and god knows what they would’ve done to you!”
“I had to see you.”
“What else is there to say? It can’t be any more than this.”
“I can’t leave you here knowing he’s going to keep hurting you.”
“There’s nothing to be done. I wish we could have that life, Steve, god do I wish it were that easy. But he’d never let me get away.” He turned his head away and Steve saw a dark shadow at the edge of his collar.
“What’s that?” He pointed, a sick feeling in his stomach.
Tony flinched. “Nothing.” He tugged his collar up to cover it.
“Is that from him?”
Tony’s silence was telling.
“I’ll kill him,” Steve growled and he stepped out of the alcove ready to show Obadiah Stane what happened to people who thought they could bully others.
“No!” Tony grabbed his arm and dragged him back. “Are you insane? He’d have you beaten by his hired thug or worse if you even got near him.”
Steve was fuming. “I don’t care. He doesn’t have any right to treat you like that.”
Tony stared at him, shocked. “You would really go out there and try to punch him, wouldn’t you?”
“I’d do more than that.”
Steve’s back suddenly slammed against the side of the vent as Tony crashed their mouths together. His hands found the front of Tony’s jacket, pulling him close and giving back as good as he got.
When they parted for air, Tony sighed against his neck. “You are marvellous, do you know that?”
“Doesn’t do you much good even if I am, does it?”
“Steve…” Tony trailed off, giving him a sad smile. “It’s not your fault. This is my lot in life and would have happened whether I had met you or not.” He reached a hand up to cup Steve’s jaw. “But I am so very glad I did.”
Steve reached up to cover the hand. “Come find me tonight. After dinner.”
Tony looked at their joined hands, watching Steve’s thumb brush against his. He looked conflicted for a moment, but then let out a long breath. “Ok. I promise.”
Steve spent the day in a fit of nervous energy.
He joined Bucky and Natasha for lunch. In the afternoon they went for a walk that ended with he and Bucky getting pulled into an impromptu game of tag by a group of children while Natasha watched, heckling them and calling encouragement to the kids.
They ended up in the general room for tea, joining a game of bridge with a few strangers. It was a pleasant way to spend the day and at any other time Steve would’ve been content. But with the promise of seeing Tony later, it was hard to relax.
Bucky had been right about Natasha being a killer player. Steve and his partner, a pretty blonde woman who blushed when Steve had introduced himself, were beaten rather thoroughly.
He ate quickly when dinner came around, still in awe over the food and how much he was allowed, before he bade the other two good night and made his way up to the entrance to the first-class deck.
He didn’t have to wait too long before Tony appeared. He looked as handsome as he had before, dressed in his dinner best.
“Hello,” Steve offered, feeling shyer than he should, given he’d woken up with this man in his bed this morning.
“Hello,” Tony returned, smiling at him warmly.
Steve wasn’t sure what was allowed, but faint heart never won fair lady. Or gentleman. He stepped forward, making sure to make his intent clear as he moved into Tony’s space. When he tilted up to kiss him, Tony’s lips met his first.
Relief flooded him. He’d ignored the gnawing anxiety in his belly all day, that Tony might regret what they’d done, but it had surged to the forefront as soon as he set eyes on Tony.
When they pulled apart, Steve rested his head against his shoulder. “I thought maybe you’d change your mind.”
He felt Tony shake his head. “No. I thought about you all day. I know this isn’t a good idea, but I can’t seem to make myself care.”
“I just want to spend more time with you,” Steve told him honestly. It was true, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t thinking of ways to get Tony out of his predicament all the while.
“I wanted to see you too,” Tony said, and he looked around carefully. “Obadiah wasn’t happy about me disappearing last night. I want to go somewhere we won’t be seen. I don’t want to risk him finding out I’ve come to see you.” He smiled. “Do you trust me?”
2230 14th April 1912 – North Atlantic
Steve stared in wonder as Tony led him into the engine rooms.
They had to be careful, Tony keeping him close and warning him about moving parts, but Tony was in his element. He explained to Steve how everything fit together, what made them move.
“The ship is a feat of engineering,” Tony told him, speaking loudly over the boilers. “They used over three million rivets, and there are sixteen compartments down here. Each one can be sealed off, so if there is a hole in the hull, they can stop it from leaking into the rest of the ship. It’s marvellous.”
He spread his arms to encompass the whole of the ship. “And she’s huge, 882 feet long. You know her rudder is so large, they have to use steering engines to move it!”
Steve listened, struck by Tony’s passion. This man was incredible.
“Oi!” Someone shouted behind them, and Steve’s heart just about shot out of his chest. He turned and saw an angry looking man glaring at them, covered in coal dust and sweat. “You can’t be down here!”
Tony grabbed his hand. “Run!”
They took off, darting as fast as they could without risking injury, until they hit a ladder taking them to the upper floors.
As they spilled out of the doorway, slamming it shut behind them, Steve bent over with laughter. “Oh god!”
Tony snorted behind him. “I hope that wasn’t too vigorous for you, Mr Rogers. I’d hate to wear you out.”
Steve looked up and caught the sly look in his eye. “I’m sure I still have plenty left in me.”
Tony dragged him along the corridor, peeking into the open doorways until he let out an exclamation of triumph.
He pulled Steve inside and Steve was surprised to see a large storage space. There were crates, luggage and automobiles all stacked up and tied down.
Rich people sure didn’t travel light.
They walked through the maze of boxes, Steve taking time to read the names on them.
There was a very large crate in the centre, and Steve ducked his head to read the name on it. “William Carter. I wonder what he’s shipping. This thing is big.”
Tony looked at the crate. “Oh! That’s an automobile. He’s been bragging about it at dinner. It’s a Renault - very nice car.”
Steve raised his eyebrows in surprise. “A whole automobile? That’s amazing.”
“Rich folk will bring anything. You know there’s a kennel for dogs in first class?"
“You’re teasing me.”
“I swear I’m not!”
As they rounded a corner, Steve found himself tugged into a secluded space, well-hidden from sight.
“Woah, Tony,” Steve breathed out, as Tony dropped down to his knees in front of him, pushing him up against the Renault’s crate. “What are you—"
Tony’s hand undid his belt and unbuttoned his breeches. “I’ve been thinking about you all day. Can I?”
Steve’s tongue felt tied, but he managed to nod his head enthusiastically.
Tony winked. “Don’t worry, I think you’re going to like this.”
Steve lost himself in the pleasure. It was a struggle to remain a gentleman, resting his hand in Tony’s locks and resisting the urge to speed up the pace. The pleasure rushed over him like a wave, until finally it peaked. He moaned low and panted. When Tony stood back up, Steve grabbed him tight and kissed him for all he was worth.
“You are fantastic.” He told him sincerely.
Tony laughed. “It is good to know le petite mort puts you in such a good mood. I will have to remember that.”
Steve snorted and then kissed him again. “Let me return the favour.”
2340 14th April 1912 – North Atlantic
Afterwards they lay together, very content, on Steve’s coat draped on the floor. Tony had complained, pointing out that it was Steve’s only coat and he had several, but Steve was stubborn and eventually Tony had given in.
They’d slept for a while, trusting no one was likely to find them down here at this time of night.
When they woke, Steve took Tony’s hand and kissed each knuckle. He didn’t want to let him go.
After a while, Tony sat up. “We should probably go before some nosey steward really does come down here.”
They got up and tidied their clothes. “Have you thought about what happens when the ship docks?”
Tony froze. “Yes.”
“And?” Steve asked hopefully.
Tony turned to face him fully. “I’m not sure if it will be possible. But if it is, I’d like to come with you and Bucky.”
“And Natasha,” Steve added, the grin nearly taking over his face. “Bucky’s sweet on her and I don’t think she’ll take much convincing herself.”
Tony smiled back at him. “And Natasha.” He let a little sadness seep into his expression. “The four of us, an apartment in Brooklyn. I want it. But Obadiah isn’t going to give me up without a fight. If he takes me, you’ll just have to forget about me.”
Steve heart started to pound. “No.”
“He can’t keep you prisoner.”
Steve looked at Tony’s face and took in his distraught expression. He had to drop this for now.
But only for now. “Alright Tony. Alright.” He leaned in to peck Tony’s cheek and Tony turned his head to meet him.
They were tossed sideways as the ship suddenly shuddered and shook, a godawful noise filling the air.
Steve fell to the floor, knocking his hip painfully. Tony fell against the crates, scrabbling to hold himself up. The moment seemed to stretch forever but finally the sound stopped and everything was quiet.
“What the hell was that?!” Steve asked, looking up at Tony from his place on the ground.
Tony looked shaken. “Whatever it was, it’s not good. I think we hit something.” He held out a hand to Steve. “Are you alright?”
Steve used the hand to pull himself up and nodded. “Yeah, it’ll just be a bruise I think.”
“We need to go find out what’s going on.”
It was cold when they made it up on deck. Steve shivered, wishing, not for the first time, that he had a better jacket.
They walked along the deck, dodging the people who had wandered out to see what was going on.
As they reached the bow, they could see a few men kicking chunks of ice across the deck.
“An iceberg,” Tony said. “We must have hit an iceberg.”
Steve frowned. “Is that bad?”
“It can be,” Tony rubbed a hand over his jaw. “That sound was us dragging along it. It could have seriously impacted the hull.”
“Let’s go inside,” Steve said, shivering. “If there’s a problem, I’m sure they’ll let us know.”
Tony still looked concerned as they walked back in, but they eventually wandered into one of the rooms for tea.
It wasn’t long before they were interrupted.
“Lifebelts! Everyone needs to put on a lifebelt – Captain’s orders,” one of the officers walked through the room called loudly. “Then everyone needs to head up on deck.”
Tony put his cup down with a clatter. He looked at Steve. “That’s not good. If they’re getting us up it means they want us near the lifeboats.”
“You mean the ship might sink?”
Tony nodded. “And the water is cold. Too cold.”
Steve stood up. “I have to go find Bucky.”
“Yes,” Tony agreed, taking his hand and rubbing his thumb over it in gentle circles. “I have to get something from my state room, but then I’ll meet you on deck. Find me.”
“I promise,” Steve told him and, after checking for peeking eyes, leaned in and kissed him.
“I’ll see you soon.”
Tony took off down the corridor and Steve watched him go, the worry settling into his stomach. He had to find Bucky.
He started towards one of the stairwells when a hand clapped down on his shoulder.
He turned and came face to face with the man he’d seen walking in a group with Stane.
“Mr Rogers,” he said, smile wicked. “Mr Stane would like a word.”
Final chapter - here we go
0047hrs 15th April 1912 - 640 kilometres off the coast of Newfoundland
The ship was sinking. There was no doubt about it.
There was a whooshing sound and then a bang. White light lit up the sky as Tony looked up to see the flare explode.
He’d been walking around the ship for what felt like forever to meet up with Steve, but he couldn’t seem to find him. He wished now that they had specified an exact location.
“Stark!” Tony turned at the sound of his name. There was Bucky, storming his way down the deck with Natasha in tow.
Tony blanched. “Wait, he’s not with you?”
“He said he was meeting you!” Bucky growled, grabbing the front of Tony’s jacket.
“He was, but I had to go get some things from my stateroom. I thought he had gone to find you.”
“Well he didn’t! And now the ship is bloody sinking and I don’t know where he is.” His mask slipped and Tony could see the panic. “How am I supposed to face his ma if he doesn’t make it?”
“We’ll find him.” Tony said resolutely. “But Bucky, there aren’t enough boats. Not by half.”
Bucky flinched. “Half?”
“Half. Natasha needs to get to a lifeboat, they’re loading women and children.”
Bucky gave him a sharp nod, turning back to face the red-head and starting what looked like a heated debate.
Given a moment to think, Tony pondered. Where could Steve be? Surely he’d think Bucky would head up on deck once he realised their bunk was empty. He’d said he’d wait for Tony; why would he just run off?
He felt a hand on his shoulder and for a moment he felt a wave of relief. Steve.
But as he looked around his heart sank. “Obadiah.”
“There you are,” the man growled, grabbing Tony’s wrist in a tight grip. “Where have you been? I sent my man up and down this ship to find you.”
“I was just…” He wasn’t sure he should say, let alone put into words what the evening had meant for him. But luckily Obie wasn’t interested in his explanation.
“We have to go to the other side. I have an agreement with an officer, he’ll get us onto a boat before the rabble.” He started to drag Tony away, but he dug in his heels.
“No, I can’t, I have to find someone, he—"
“Who? That Irish dog? You won’t be seeing him again.”
Tony froze. “What did you do to him?”
Obadiah leaned in, breath hot with the smell of alcohol, and Tony flinched. “You thought you were being so careful. I’ve known about him from the beginning. You think I’d let you wander this ship without keeping watch? I know what he’s been saying to you, filling your head with nonsense.” Obadiah clenched his arm tight and Tony fought back a yelp. “So, I had him taken care of. I thought I’d have to make it look like an accident, but now the ship is sinking, he’ll go down with the rest of his filthy lot and no one will be any the wiser.”
Tony tried to free his arm. “Where is he?!”
He tried to look for around for Bucky and Natasha, but he’d been swamped by the crowd. There was no one to help him.
“You won’t find him, so there’s no point resisting. You’ll get on the boat and when we reach New York, I’ll teach you some respect.”
Tony felt tears of pain prick his eyes. He saw Steve’s kind face, heard his voice, and thought about the future they’d talked about.
You won’t find him.
Still alive then.
He kicked out at Obadiah, catching the back of his knee and causing the man to stumble. As he tried to catch himself, Tony wrenched his arm free and bolted in the other direction. He heard Obadiah scream his name, but he didn’t dare stop. There was only one person who could help him find Steve and Tony was going to get the information one way or another.
Tony stalked the bottom floors.
He’d found the ship’s architect, forced him to fetch the plans so Tony could work out where best for Raza to have squirrelled Steve away without notice.
It was a matter of deduction really. This wasn’t an official detention, so where could a man be held without anyone realising, but not so isolated that Raza’s very presence might be strange.
He’d had four false starts already and the frustration was starting to overtake him.
What if he’d miscalculated? What if Steve was in a room that had already flooded?
He pushed the sickening thought aside, trying to stay positive. He was going to find him.
He picked up the pace, near running down the corridor, calling Steve’s name.
He poked his head into room number five, cursing when it was empty. It was the last room on the floor, and as he came to the stairs he drew in a sharp breath.
The water had already started to flood the next level. He headed down, gasping as he entered the water. It was only knee height, but the cold felt like needles on his skin.
He waded down the corridor, calling Steve’s name.
He stopped. The voice was faint, but real. “Steve?!”
“Tony, this way.”
Tony started towards the source of the sound. Steve kept calling, the sound getting closer and closer. He rounded a doorway and—
Steve stood chained to a pipe attached to the wall. His skin was pale and there was a nasty bruise on his forehead that Tony assumed had been caused by Mr Raza.
“Grazie a Dio,” he whispered as he moved and pulled Steve into his arms, emotion swelling in his chest.
“There was a man here,” Steve started to tell him, but Tony shushed him.
“I know. That’s Stane’s man, Mr Raza. Obie knew we were spending time together. I’m so sorry Steve.”
“It’s ok,” Steve told him, nuzzling his jaw. “It’s not your fault.”
Tony stepped back, feeling irritated. He gestured to Steve’s bound hands. “You wouldn’t be like this if it weren’t for me!”
Steve huffed a laugh. “Tony. The ship is sinking. This is actually the least of my problems.”
Tony stared for a moment and then burst into laughter. Steve joined in, and the release made the stress of the situation fade a little.
“I’m going to get you out of there,” Tony told him. “I should be able to pick the lock, I just need something to use.”
He began searching the drawers in the room, trying to find anything that he could work with.
The metal of the ship groaned, and the water started to rise faster, up to his thighs. It made it harder to move, but he didn’t stop.
“Tony,” Steve said softly behind him. He turned to look at him.
“It’s ok.” Steve’s face was calm and resolute. “You need to go.”
“The water is getting higher. If you wait too long you may not be able to get out. You need to go.”
“I’m not leaving you.” He could hear the conviction in his voice and he hoped Steve did too.
“Tony, you’ve got to get to the boats!” Steve snapped, trying to shove him with his shoulder towards the door.
“No!” Tony ripped his sleeve from Steve’s grasp. “I just need a minute. I can do this.”
“The boat is sinking; you can’t stay down here,” Steve pleaded, the freezing water reaching his ribs. The shivering looked painful in its intensity. “Come on, Tony, you’ve got a chance you have to take it.”
Tony ignored him, still searching through the now floating debris. Steve growled. “Tony!” He grabbed at him.
Tony spun around to face him, eyes hot. “I wasn’t lying when I said I wanted it, you know. I meant it. You, me, a life in Brooklyn. But I can’t have that if I leave you here. So please, please, let me do this? I can, please, I know I can.” The last was a desperate plea and he stared hard at Steve, willing away the tears pricking at his eyes.
After a moment, Steve swallowed. “Ok, sweetheart. Ok.”
Tony nodded, eyes a little misty, but he turned back, pulling out drawers, hands moving quick and sure.
Why was there nothing—
“I’m an idiot,” he said and Steve frowned at him.
“No, you’re not.”
Tony shook his head. “I am. I never go anywhere without it.”
He reached into his pocket, digging around until he pulled out the offiziersmesse, brandishing it triumphantly.
He got the necessary tools free and started to fiddle with the lock. He couldn’t tell how long it took, but finally he yelled in triumph. There was a click and the cuffs came free.
Steve stared in disbelief and then grinned widely.
“You’re amazing,” Steve told him, pulling him into his arms and brushing a kiss against his cheek. Tony melted into his embrace, the warmth a sharp contrast to the cold of the water.
“We have to go,” Steve said, pulling away. He grabbed Tony’s hand. “We’ve got to get to the boats.”
0120hrs 15th April 1912 - 640 kilometres off the coast of Newfoundland
“Women and children only!” The officer shouted, shoving back the crowds.
Steve swore. He turned to Tony. “Come on, we have to find another one. We’ve got to get you on a boat, then I can go find Bucky.”
Tony glared. “I’m not going to take a seat from some lady or her child, Steve. And why do you keep saying get me on a boat like you aren’t coming with me? We’ll both go and find Bucky and then try and get on a boat together.”
Steve growled. “They’re not going to let me on a lifeboat.” He gestured to himself, in his second-hand clothes and third-hand shoes. “But you might have a chance. I’m not going to let you waste it just for my sake, not when I’m not getting out of this. I’m either going to drown or freeze and I would rather do that knowing you made it out of here!”
They stared at each other, the tense moment between them accompanied by the classical music being played by the orchestra who’d assembled on the deck. Then Steve was dragged forward and Tony’s lips were on his, desperate and possessive. Steve fell into it, hands grasping Tony’s jacket and feeling the chaos of the rest of the world slip away, just for a moment.
“I love you,” Tony said, pulling away, his eyes wild and breath coming in quick pants. “I never thought I’d fall for someone so quick or so completely but, Steve Rogers, I’m in love with you.”
Steve stared back, speechless, shock keeping him silent. Tony hugged him close, burying his face in his neck. “I love you, and I’d rather die on this boat with you than leave you behind.”
Steve swallowed, overwhelmed for a moment before wrapping his arms around Tony and holding him tight. “I love you too.”
The tension flowed out of Tony’s body and he melted into Steve’s embrace. “Good. So you should.” Steve snorted. “And I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan on ours being a tragic love story.” He pulled away, taking Steve’s hand in his, expression determined. “Come on, let’s find Bucky.”
Steve squeezed his hand gratefully and nodded. Then they turned and ran back towards the stairwell.
They found Bucky smoking a cigarette on the opposite deck, looking out over the water.
“Buck!” Steve shouted as they got close, making the man turn around.
“Steve.” He was engulfed in a hug and he clutched at the back of Bucky’s coat just as tight.
Tony came up beside them as they broke apart. “Did you get Natasha in a boat?”
Bucky nodded and pointed to a white shape in the distance. “She wasn’t best pleased. But she agreed three would have a better chance than four and it would be foolish to make things harder for us. She said she’d better see us at the end of this or I’d regret it.”
Tony whistled appreciatively. “That is one hell of a woman, Barnes. I hope if we survive this, you don’t let her slip away.”
“Don’t I know it,” Bucky said, taking a long drag before he flicked the butt into the sea. “What’s the plan?”
“We’re going to have to wait till they start letting men on board,” Steve said, gesturing to the lifeboat nearby where an officer was handing off a toddler to a woman already seated in the vessel.
Bucky raised an eyebrow. “A few first-class lads have made it on. What about you, Stark? I bet if you grease the right palm you could be outta here, no problem.”
They stared at each other a moment. The cries and pleas of the women and children being herded onto the boats echoed around them in a desperate cacophony.
Tony’s mouth set in a grim line. “I am no coward. And I won’t leave Steve.”
Bucky stared Tony down for a moment, before he nodded, putting out his hand to shake. “Then I’m with you.”
Tony grasped his hand in a tight clasp. “We’re going to get out of this.”
Bucky grinned, and offered Tony a cigarette. “I believe it.”
They stood looking out the ocean, the pinpricks of light from the lifeboat lanterns barely visible against the dark sea and waited for their chance.
0208hrs 15th April 1912 – North Sea
The bow of the ship was nearly fully submerged.
Steve, Tony and Bucky had retreated closer to the stern, trying to avoid the frigid water as long as possible.
None of the boats had come back despite pleas from the officers still on board. They’d been listening to one of the men call back the lifeboats over a megaphone, but to no avail.
The water was climbing further towards them as the band continued the play. The music was jaunty, a direct contrast to the panic of everyone around them.
Tony growled in frustration. “The boats aren’t coming back, and the ones that are left won’t take us. We need to find our own way.”
“You’ve seen the plans,” Steve said looking at him. “There must be something.”
Tony ran both hands through his hair roughly, squeezing his eyes shut as he thought hard. He could see the plans in his head, looked over the lines and shapes until-
His eyes snapped open.
“The collapsibles,” he said, looking back towards the bow. “The ones near the front didn’t launch. They might still be there.”
Bucky threw his cigarette into the water. “May as well take a look. We’re getting nothing done standing here.”
They moved through the throngs of people scattered around the deck, heading towards the bow. The deck was slanted, and the wooden floor was icy. They walked carefully, trying not to slip.
As the got closer to the waterline, Steve could see something ahead of them.
“There!” Steve yelled, pointing at up the deck.
In the dark, he could just make out the outline of a lifeboat, already in the water that was covering the front of the ship. Several people were already near it, trying to get it loose.
Tony turned to them. “We’ll never survive the water. We need to be on that boat.”
Steve steeled his body, shoving through the panicked people trying to get away from the rising sea. He was scared, freezing and exhausted. But no matter what, he kept sight of Bucky and Tony. If they got separated, he knew he might never see them again.
As they reached the boat it became clear why people were struggling. It was face down and the ropes were jammed.
Tony gripped his shoulder. “No matter what, don’t let go of this boat. Understand?”
He and Bucky nodded, and Steve slipped his hand onto Tony’s to give him a reassuring squeeze.
The water was coming up further onto the deck, wickedly cold and dark.
He tried to help push the boat, watching as one of the officers climbed up to try and cut it loose from the hoist.
The ship shuddered as it dipped further into the sea. The water lapping at his legs felt like tiny knives, but he did his best to ignore it, shoving at the boat with the others.
There was a loud creaking groan and Steve looked back to see one of the funnels break off and collapse into the sea. It was both amazing and terrifying and his mind almost couldn’t comprehend it. The splash it made sent a wave of water crashing over the deck, lifting the overturned lifeboat with it. It snapped away from the joist and started to wash away overboard.
“After it!” Tony yelled, and they followed it, grabbing at the ropes as it drifted away.
The cold was a painful shock as he was submerged. It felt as though his blood had frozen in his veins from the cold of it. For a minute he couldn’t move, but then the splashing sounds around him pushed him to start moving.
He swam towards the lifeboat, clinging to it once he reached it. He looked around frantically for Tony and Bucky, unable to see them in amongst the shifting water.
“Tony? B-B-Bucky?” He called, scanning the darkness for them. His heart started to sink.
He turned his head, trying to follow the sound.
Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder and Bucky appeared next to him. He gripped Bucky’s shoulder desperately and looked around for Tony.
Where was he?!
There was a splash and Tony popped up beside him breathing hard. “Fuck it’s cold!”
Steve laughed in relief even as his teeth began to chatter painfully. “We need to get out of the water.”
The three of them clambered up to straddle the hull of the boat, pulling each other and trying desperately not to tip it.
They weren’t the only ones to have the idea. People quickly joined them climbing up, until the boat dipped low in the water, and the cold spread to their knees.
“We need to get away,” a man next to Tony shouted. “If we’re too close, the suction will pull us under,” and began to paddle until others followed suit. They moved away from the Titanic, drifting through debris—and the bodies of those who had already succumbed to the cold.
Steve felt sick. That would have been them if not for Tony’s quick thinking and might still be them if help did not come. He imagined Bucky and Tony that way – pale and bereft of life. The pain was almost unbearable.
Getting the boat free of the dead was arduous and tiring. Steve lost all sense of time.
As they got further out, a woman grabbed the side of the boat. She was shivering and her skin was nearly translucent. “Please. Please sirs, help me. I’m so cold.”
“I’m sorry. We can’t take anymore,” one of the men shouted. He was dressed in an officer’s uniform and clearly thought himself in charge. The woman wailed.
“Help her up,” Steve said, voice raised enough to reach the man at the other end
“Any more and we’ll sink,” the officer snapped, glaring at Steve.
“Enough people have been lost tonight without adding another to the list! You help her up or I’ll push you off to make room,” Steve growled, staring him down.
The rest of the boat had fallen silent, waiting to see who would come out on top. Steve had been in enough fights to know when he won.
“Get her up here,” the man ordered, and the others pulled her carefully up to join them, the boat sinking a little lower to accommodate her weight. They were near hip deep, but it was still better protection from the cold than others had.
Tony leaned over to kiss him, his shivering making him miss at first. “You’re a good man, Mr Rogers.”
“I’m only doing what needed to be done,” Steve told him, wrapping his arms around himself as his body shook harder, trying to warm itself up.
He didn’t know how long they sat there, stunned into a disbelieving silence. The sounds of the sea were broken by panicked cries.
“Oh, my lord,” one of the women whispered and they all turned to see what had caught her attention. The lights on the ship had finally gone out, the spectacle lit only by the light of the moon. The shouts and cries from the sea had gotten louder, and as they looked on, the stern of the Titanic began to lift itself into the air. It rose higher and higher till it was vertical, sticking out of the ocean like a misshapen tower. It was an incredible sight. They sat transfixed, watching as the ship bobbed slowly, balanced in the unnatural position for long, endless moments. The shouts and splashes of people abandoning ship increased. Then, at last, she began to go down, sliding below the surface in a groan and crash of waves, until she was gone.
“It’s going to be a long night,” Bucky said, seemingly to himself, as they looked back towards the empty space where the ship had been.
The cold settled into his bones as they perched on the hull. Steve couldn’t feel his legs. He hoped they were still attached.
The screams had quieted as time passed. The meaning behind that had not escaped Steve. The horror was too hard to comprehend, and he let his mind go blissfully blank.
He also felt tired. Really tired.
He slumped, and Tony grabbed him, holding him upright.
“Steve, you have to stay awake,” he told him as he wrapped the edges of his coat around him. “If you fall asleep, you might not wake up.”
“I’m ok,” Steve said, though he knew it wasn’t true.
“You’re thinner than Bucky and I,” Tony said, and Steve had a sudden moment of outrage – why was he bringing that up now? Did he think Steve hadn’t noticed? Tony must have felt the way he’d stiffened against him because he was quick to explain. “Less body heat, darling. The cold is going to hit you harder. Let me keep you warm.
“Don’t waste it on me,” Steve said, or tried to say. The words were clumsy and he frowned as they tumbled out. “Don’t—"
“Steve? Steve!” He was being jostled by two strong hands and he could hear Bucky trying to talk to him, but he was just too tired.
His eyes slipped shut and sound of the rest of the world slid away.
0800hrs 15th April 1912 – North Atlantic Ocean
When he could hear again, he knew time had passed.
It was light out, he could tell. The bright white of morning shone behind his eyelids.
He tried to move his hand, but his arms felt like they were made of lead.
He could hear talking, growing louder by the minute.
The only he could be sure of is that he was leaning against someone, because there was warmth along his back, arms wrapped around him tight, and the steady beat of someone’s heart in his ear.
He couldn’t make sense of the words at first, they sounded so muffled and confusing. But as he focussed they became clear.
“Please, don’t take him. They’re close now, please let him live,” someone whispered desperately in his ear.
It sounded like Tony, but he didn’t understand.
“Over here! We’re over here!”
That was Bucky; he’d recognise that idiot anywhere.
He could hear more voices now, joining the call, frantic in their need to be heard.
They’d been on the ship, he knew, but he couldn’t work out the sequence. Flashes of memory and fear filled his head but with no way to put them together.
He could smell sea salt, and he could tell he was cold but he couldn’t really feel it.
“Caro,” Tony’s voice asked, the Italian word unfamiliar but soft and fond under the layer of desperation. “I need you to wake up now. Please amore mio, open your eyes. Help is here. We are saved.”
It took nearly all his energy, but he managed to crack his eyes open, blinking at the brightness.
The sun sat above the horizon, the brown of Bucky’s jacket filling most of Steve’s field of vision as he sat in front of him, perched astride the upturned hull. He could see a thick frost settled on the fabric.
The ache is his legs and tailbone told him he was likewise astride.
He realised the noise that had been at the back of his consciousness was the sound of the sea lapping against the sides of the overturned boat. He could feel the slow rocking side to side. The sound of a horn boomed across the sea and the other passengers cheered in relief.
Had they made it?
He must’ve made a sound because he suddenly he felt the body behind him shift. “Steve?!”
Bucky looked over his shoulder behind him, his eyes lighting up when he saw Steve was conscious. “Steve!”
Steve managed to tilt his head back until he could see Tony’s face. “Tony?”
“There you are,” Tony said softly, his eyes wet but a big smile taking over his face. “There’s a ship coming. We’re going to be alright.”
“Ship?” Steve looked to the side. His sight was still a little blurry, but in the distance he could see a large black and white shape.
“A ship.” Tony agreed, hugging him tight and pressing his lips to Steve’s hair. “We made it.”
15th April 1912 – The Carpathia, North Atlantic Ocean
He sat on the sunny deck of the Carpathia, wrapped tightly in a warm blanket.
Bucky had left them immediately, running off to search the ship for Natasha, and he and Tony had hunkered down in the first free space they could find.
He was tired and his body still ached from the cold, so the relief he felt when an officer approached them armed with hot coffee was almost palpable.
Steve reached out to grab two mugs for himself and Tony, passing one over to the tired man leaning against him.
“While I’m here, can I get some information please?” The man asked, tone gentle.
They nodded. He turned to Tony. “Your name sir?”
Tony looked at Steve for a moment, looking nervous before his face smoothed out into a determined expression. “Anthony Rogers.”
Steve stared at him in disbelief. Tony smiled, sweet and warm, before he continued. “And this is my husband, Steven.”
Steve was riding a wave of hope, answering the man’s other questions on autopilot before he thanked them and moved on to the other survivors.
He turned to Tony. “Really?”
“If that’s ok with you?”
“I don’t know what we’re going to do when we reach the city,” Steve said, reaching out to take Tony’s hand. “But whatever comes our way, I want to do it with you.”
Tony broke into a soft smile. “I certainly hope that you’re planning to make an honest man of me for real then, Mr Rogers.”
Steve felt his eyes mist up a bit. He’d never truly seen himself married for all he’d wished it. Too little, too sickly and too poor to provide for a partner.
And here was this beautiful man, far too good for him, who said he wanted to be his.
“I don’t care what I have to do, but I’m going to give you the life you deserve. I promise.” Steve told him solemnly, interlocking their fingers and squeezing tight.
“Sweetheart, whatever our life is together, it’s going to be exactly what I want.” Tony smiled. “Whether you make us rich beyond your wildest dreams or we spend it curled up together on a mattress on the floor, eating beans out of a tin.”
Steve huffed out a laugh. “Well, I hope after coming all this way I can at least do better than that.”
“Well, we can at the start at least. After that we’ll be at the Lord’s mercy.”
“At the start? What do you mean?”
Tony grinned, a mischievous glint in his eye, and reached beneath the blanket and into his pocket. He drew out a bundled handkerchief, unfolding it carefully. Inside lay a jewel-studded gold pocket watch, several pairs of diamond cufflinks, tie pins and a handful of gold coins that were clearly worth a lot, even with Steve’s limited knowledge. “These should cover us for a bit, provided we sell them properly and spend the money wisely.”
At Steve’s gobsmacked expression, Tony laughed. “Think of it as Obadiah’s wedding gift. I think he owed me one, don’t you?”
Steve grinned. “You are such a troublemaker, you know that?”
“Your troublemaker,” Tony told him cheekily and Steve couldn’t help but laugh.
“My troublemaker,” he agreed, leaning in to kiss him. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
March 20th 1916 – New York City
Steve stepped from side to side nervously at the dock.
Tony grabbed his hand. “She’ll be here.”
Steve huffed. “I know, I know. I just—" He sighed, shoulders slumped. “What if she isn’t?”
He felt a flare of the nausea that had been his near-constant companion since his mother’s letter that she and Mrs Barnes would be making the voyage to join their sons in America.
The memories of their own trip still haunted him. Sometimes he woke with the icy cold deep in his bones and the faces of those who hadn’t made it flashing behind his eyes.
If he’d been alone, he’s not sure he could’ve handled it – the guilt he felt over surviving when so many others didn’t was almost overwhelming at times. But over the last four years he’d worked on getting better, leaning on Tony when he needed it, and letting Tony do same, and while it would never truly go away, they didn’t let it ruin the life they’d made for themselves.
He still remembered standing with Tony and scanning the survivors list for Obadiah’s name. It turned out his arrangement with the officer hadn't been as rock solid as he'd thought. Tony had sagged with relief, near sobbing with it when he realised they were safe from his influence but it had still hurt him to think of his old family friend lost to the tragedy, no matter how cruel he had been near the end.
But the war had brought with it worse things than icebergs. The Lusitania lost last year, and only a few months later from Ireland the SS Arabic. He’d been dreaming of torpedoed ships for a week, trying not to let on to his husband how worried he was.
He realised Tony knew though. He’d been around the apartment more, keeping him fed and bringing Steve tea while he drew. He’d managed to push through the magazine illustrations he’d needed to meet deadlines for. He’d arranged to take time to get his mother settled in and had worked hard to make sure he’d be free.
They’d talked about it though before sending his mother enough for the ticket. It was the right move.
“They had to come now, Steve, you know they did. The war’s made it to France; we don’t know if they’ll be safe at home for long. And you know your mother has been worried about the rebels, she’s mentioned it in her letters. Better they come now, before things get any worse.”
They had the money now, and it was the right time. He just hadn’t been able to imagine his mother not making it, not when she was so close.
But now the ship had docked, and all that was left was for Sarah Rogers and Mrs Barnes to make it through processing at Ellis Island.
If she showed any illness she might not be let in, and as a female on her own she might be detained if the officers thought she was being untruthful about having a son and his husband ready to support her in the city.
There was a risk she might get sent back, and he didn’t know what they’d do if it happened.
He wanted her to come and see America so badly. To see the new life he’d made for himself.
And he couldn’t wait for her to meet Tony.
She’d been so happy when he’d written her to tell her not only had he survived the sinking (she’d thought him dead for sure for all the time it took his letter to get to her) but that he’d married the smartest and handsomest man he’d ever met.
He’d wanted to go to the so-called kissing post on the island to meet her. But his mother had made him promise to wait for the ferry, that she would see him when she and Mrs Barnes took their first real steps on American soil.
They stood on the dock, waiting for the ferry to arrive.
Bucky and Natasha were late. Bucky had had to work a longer shift at the factory site. Steve hoped he got here soon; he’d hate for him to miss his mother’s arrival.
“She’ll be here, I know it,” Tony told him, nudging his shoulder until Steve turned to look at him. “And she’s going to be so proud of you. Successful illustrator with a classy apartment in Brooklyn. You’ve come a long way from the sickly boy from Galway.”
“Don’t forget married far above my station to a dapper gentleman who I can’t believe looked at me twice.”
That earned him a pinch on the arm, though it was more an automatic response by now. They’d ironed all that out long ago. Tony loved him and that was that.
And he had Tony to thank for all of this.
That wasn’t to say Steve hadn’t done his part. He’d managed their money and budgeted in a way only someone who’d had nothing could. He’d cooked and cleaned when it became clear Tony didn’t have the first clue how to do either. He’d taken shifts wherever he could to make sure they didn’t have to go through their nest egg too fast while he received letter after letter rejecting his designs.
But it was Tony with his quick mind and charm and hard work that kicked off the start of their new life. Tony who had gotten a job fixing cars for the blue bloods on the Upper East Side.
His colouring made him the target of abuse more than once, but his education and American accent made him friends in a way Steve could never hope to do.
It was Steve who bore the brunt of it. Working for barely anything for bosses who didn’t want to pay fair wages for immigrants, and too small to fight back against guys who had too much to drink and didn’t like the way he said his vowels.
But then when he dragged himself home, Tony would be there, always horrified he’d been hurt. He’d worry and dote on Steve, and often all the fuss and attention would almost be worth the beating.
It was Tony who had gotten Steve’s work in front of one his clients who worked in a publishing firm. Steve had been given a shot, illustrating for a few dime novels. But since then he’d gotten more work, moving up to magazine covers and some advertisements. It was good work he loved, and it was an opportunity he would never have gotten had he not made the trek across the Atlantic. Something Bucky was all too ready to point out at any opportunity.
The thing that really made their good fortune was Tony sending his designs to the War Department, knowing there would be a market for the Allies when war had been declared. Regular jobs as a well-paid military consultant and a burgeoning illustrator had made them real money, enough to start putting some aside for a transatlantic passage, to rent an apartment of their own, and for them to spend their weekends readying it and making it a home.
It was Tony as well who had put in a good word for Bucky and gotten him a supervisor job in the munition’s factory, just in time for Natasha to announce she was with their first child.
This man who had changed Steve’s life forever and given him everything he ever wanted.
And loved Steve just as he was, skinny limbs and all.
He leaned in to kiss him, unable to hold back. Tony whimpered pleasingly, and Steve felt the pride heat in his chest. He did that; he could make Tony sound like that.
“Ugh, really?” A voice interrupted, sounding slightly disgusted.
Steve pulled away to glare at Bucky, who had arrived with a very pregnant Natasha in tow, sweaty enough that he must’ve rushed. He’d changed his clothes though, obviously eager to avoid being lectured by Mrs Barnes.
“Took you long enough!”
“Hey, some of us have to work hard for a living!” Bucky whined good-naturedly.
Steve shoved at Bucky while Tony moved to greet Natasha. She was dressed up as best she could, given her passenger, fussy with the fold of her dress. Steve realised it wasn’t just he and Bucky who were anxious about their mothers’ arrival.
His mind flipped back to earlier in the day when Tony had disappeared for half an hour, finally to return dressed impeccably in suit and hat and smiled.
“They’re both going to love you,” he called over, grinning when both Natasha and Tony looked bashful at being caught out.
“Of course they are,” Tony replied haughtily. “Natasha is a vision and I am a delight to be around.”
There was the sound of a boat’s horn loud and clear as a ferry appeared in the distance.
This was it.
He felt Tony’s arm come down around his shoulders as the boat edged ever closer, until it was alongside the dock and the gangplanks lowered.
People began to spill from the ferry, burdened with the all the remnants of their old life they could carry. White, black, brown and olive skin, young, old, cheap breeches and dresses, long flowing linens and silks, and a cacophony of unfamiliar words and tongues as they called to the waiting friends and families at the dock.
He tried to peer over the top as people rushed together. He couldn’t see her. Where was she?
Then he heard it.
The clear ring of Gaelic over the noise. His name shouted with so much emotion he thought he might cry.
“Mamaí,” he called, trying to spot her.
People shifted and suddenly there she was. Dressed in her finest, Mrs Barnes in tow, moving quickly towards him.
She was here; she was safe. And he had missed her so much.
She was a small woman - small enough that when he rushed forward, he could catch her in his arms and swing her around as she laughed and hugged him.
“A leanbh,” she whispered, holding him close as Mrs Barnes ran past them to Bucky.
He didn’t know long they stood there, rocking gently from side to side, but after a time they pulled apart. His mother looked over his shoulder and her eyes widened. She looked back at him, eyebrows raised.
He looked back. “Oh,” he said softly, seeing what his Mam could see. Tony, in his best suit he used for meeting rich clients, hat pulled down over his thick Italian hair, and a nervous but pleased smile on his face.
He reached out to take Tony by the hand and pull him over.
“Mam, this is mo stó,” He watched her eyes get a little misty when he smiled proudly. “This is my Tony.”
“Pleased to meet you, Mrs Rogers,” Tony said, moving forward. He barely took more than a step before he was swept up in a hug.
“You can call me Mam,” she told him firmly. “I won’t have my son-in-law address me like a stranger.”
Tony sounded a little choked. “Mam,” he agreed, wrapping his arms gently around her.
Steve looked over at Mrs Barnes, who was crying and pressing her hands to the belly of a similarly teary but smiling Natasha.
He could see Bucky’s expression, looking like the proudest, happiest man in New York City, and he smiled as Bucky caught his eye.
He knew that feeling well.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
- The New Colossus, Emily Lazarus
- THE END -
I said inspired by the film, people! More than 700 people survived the sinking, no reason the boys couldn't as well.
As a historical note - Collapsible B is a real thing and approx. 25 people survived by climbing on top of it and spending the night.
Also, although I make passing note of it, I didn't really delve into the psychological effects of the sinking. I certainly don't mean to downplay them by any means, as they were incredibly severe for a lot of survivors, but given it was an epilogue, I had to shorthand it a bit. So while I only mention it briefly, know that the four years leading up to the epilogue would've been mentally tough for everyone and while they built a happy and fulfilling life for themselves, the sinking would likely still always affect them.
Hope you enjoyed!