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How Light Carries on Endlessly

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The funeral is beautiful.

 

It’s a small, private affair. They gather on the unruly lawn outside, all the Avengers, Pepper, Morgan, Hogan, Peter Parker, some kid named Harley. All these people whose lives were touched by Tony Stark.

 

Before the ceremony, Pepper beckons Rhodes and Happy Hogan inside, clutching tightly onto Morgan’s hand. She turns to go in then stops, looking over her shoulder. “You too Steve,” she says softly, beckoning him inside.

 

Steve swallows, uncomfortably aware as everyone’s eyes turn to him, some confused, others knowing. He takes a deep breath to steady himself and follows the haphazard family inside.

 

Pepper and Morgan have settled on the worn couch, Hogan next to them and Rhodes behind. Steve shuffles in next to Rhodes

 

Rhodes put a hand on his arm, “He wanted you here Steve, always. You know that right?” he murmurs, beyond the earshot of the other grieving occupants.

 

Steve nods, unsure. The back of his throat tightens, his palms are clammy. Really he feels as if he should be anywhere but here, but if it makes the rest of them happy, then Steve will stay

 

Pepper clears her throat, looking around at the small gathering. “Before Tony left for the compound,” she says her voice surprisingly steady, “he recorded a message on his helmet. I haven’t played it yet, I thought we could listen to it together.”

 

It’s Tony, all of it. His humanity, his love, it bleeds through in every single pixel. Steve feels a great wave rise in his chest as he watches him talk.

 

“I love you three thousand Morgan Stark,” he says, before fading away.

 

They carry him out to the boat, push him out onto the lake. Steve watches Tony Stark float away and wants desperately to be anywhere else other than here.

 

He catches Sam and Bucky’s eyes, nods. He returns to the house, picks up his suit that’s slung across the back of one of the kitchen chairs. It’s time for him to go.

 

He’s delayed though, by Pepper who stops and stares at Steve as she walks in the kitchen door.

 

“Rushing off so soon?” Pepper asks, glancing at his suit.

 

“I have something I need to take care of,” Steve says, nodding at her. “You take care Pepper, you and Morgan both.”

 

“Steve,” she says, catching his arm. “Before you go–Tony left another message. It’s encoded to you.” Pepper presses another Iron Man helmet into his hands, “It’s for you only.”

 

Steve stares at it for a second, a heavy blanket of grief across his shoulders highlighted by the creeping tingle of worry. He hooks his hand under it, then makes an executive decision.

 

“Thanks Pepper,” Steve says, placing the helmet on the kitchen counter cautiously, as if it’s a bomb. “I’ll listen to it when I get back.”

 

***

 

three hours, or alternatively, eighty years later:

 

Steve sits on the bench for a long time after Sam leaves with the shield, staring out into the lake. The wind laps lazy waves onto the water and Steve can just make out the outline of a boat filled with flowers.

 

Pepper finds him, come nightfall. She puts a hand over her mouth, her eyes bright.

 

“Oh Steve,” she whispers.

 

Steve stands up, careful. His knees aren’t what they used to be nowadays.

 

“Hello Pepper,” he says, holding out a hand.

 

Pepper pulls him into a hug. Steve stumbles slightly, caught off guard but Pepper holds him up. Her backbone like iron.  “Do you have to go?” she asks.

 

Steve shakes his head and Pepper leads him back toward the house.

 

An hour turns into two, four. They sit at the kitchen table, talking quietly, about mundane things. The turning of the weather from spring to summer, Morgan’s rummaging in the living room, stacking jenga blocks high on each other in beautiful, gravity-defying shapes. “I want to build things like Papa.” she declares when Steve catches her eye.

 

Steve smiles.

 

“Okay bedtime Morgan,” Pepper says, standing up, brushing down her wrinkled black dress. “Say goodnight to Uncle Steve.”

 

Morgan smiles at him, Steve’s breath catches in his chest at the familiarity of the grin. “Goodnight Uncle Steve,” she says, ducking her head down.

 

“Goodnight Morgan,” Steve says, pushing away from the table. “Thank you Pepper, I should really get going now–“

 

“Don’t be ridiculous Steve,” Pepper says, her voice weary. “I’ll make up a bed for you. You’re in no condition to be going anywhere this late at night.”

 

“I–“

 

“Sit here a while,” Pepper says, ushering Morgan up the stairs. “I’ll put Morgan to bed then come back.”

 

Steve sits back down, looking around the tiny cabin.

 

Steve’s gaze lands on a helmet, sitting on the kitchen counter. His blood runs cold. He stand up, mirroring himself from eighty years ago, from three hours ago. Each step over feels like an aeon, his knees shaking as he clings to the back of the chairs for support. He lays his hand on the cool surface of the Iron Man helmet, and suddenly it doesn’t feel like it’s been eighty years at all.

 

“You didn’t listen to it,” Pepper says from behind him. Steve jumps, turning around to face her. He looks down and away, caught red-handed.

 

“I couldn’t bring myself to,” Steve admits in a murmur.

 

Pepper walks over and picks up the helmet. She looks at it for a second, a quick hesitation, tears shining anew in her eyes. “I think you should.” she says, handing it over to Steve.

 

Steve stares at it, the weight in his hands. “If you want me to–“ he begins.

 

Pepper shakes her head. “No,” she says. “He didn’t record it for me.” She takes a step back, brushes her hair behind her ear. “Second door on the right as you go up the stairs.” Pepper says, “I laid out some of To–some old clothes for you. Hopefully they’ll fit.”

 

Steve nods, pads of his fingers smoothing over the bumps and fissures in the helmet. “Thank you Pepper,” he says.

 

“Goodnight Steve,” she says, and leaves.

 

Steve takes a deep breath and looks down at the helmet. His fingers itch near the catch at the side, the button that would activate whatever Tony’s last words to him were.

 

At the last second he stops, button half–pressed. He takes a deep breath and lets it be.

 

He walks up to his bedroom, taking the steps one at a time, enters the second door to the right and puts the helmet down on the bedside table.

 

Even eighty years later, he’s a coward.

 

***

One night turns into two, turns into a week, turns into four. Pepper appreciates the company, Steve thinks. Their nightly chats about the mundanity of life have become a ritual. Art installations, the weather, Morgan’s projects and antics. Sometimes, their voices will drop, become quieter. Steve will mention Peggy and Pepper will smile. She never speaks Tony’s name but he’s there, a third presence in their every conversation.

 

The message Tony left him still remains unseen in the form of the Iron Man helmet on Steve's oak bedside table. Today, Steve promises himself. Today will be the day he watches it.

 

He fails his promise every time.

 

Morgan has warmed to Steve now, she’ll sit with him and beg for stories of the Avengers, of Captain America and Iron Man. One night, when Pepper’s fallen asleep at the kitchen table, Steve puts her to bed. She reaches for him, cradles his head in her tiny hands and plants a kiss on his forehead. “I love you a hundred,” she declares, before burrowing into her pillow.

 

“I love you too Morgan,” Steve managers to choke out before he switches off the light.

 

It works, this strange little dynamic. Pepper returns to Stark Industries just long enough to set up the Tony Stark foundation, then retires to chair that instead. Steve cooks three nights a week, experimenting with new flavours and spices, as well as the tried and tested classics while Pepper slaves over event-planning and financials and Morgan builds things in the living room.

 

The other nights, Rhodes comes over, or Happy Hogan, or a couple of times Clint and Laura. Cooper, Nathaniel and Morgan take to each other like a house on fire and spend hours running around near the lake screaming with delight while Lila, the responsible eldest, scrambles around after them shouting at them to be careful. After that, Morgan is always eager for a visit from her cousins.

 

May 29th, Tony’s 54th birthday, is painful. Rhodes and Happy turn up and Pepper spends most of the day talking quietly with them, Steve just out of earshot in the kitchen with Morgan. He’s begun to teach her simple baking and as they chop, stir and mix he tells and retells her all the all stories. His chest fills with a pathetic ache as he speaks, loving unintentionally spilling out into every word.  They place the apple pie into the oven and when they look up, Pepper at the threshold of living room to kitchen, Happy’s arm around her shoulders and Rhodes hovering protectively on her other side.

 

She smiles at Steve, a bittersweet thing, there’s a hint of pity in her eyes. Rhodes sends Steve a glare and Steve supposes he can’t really blame him. 

 

Summer fast approaches and on the evening on the fourth of July Steve opens the front door to see Sam and Bucky standing on the other side. “Happy birthday old pal,” Bucky jokes, as they embrace.

 

“Surprise,” Pepper says from behind Steve . Steve turns around and hugs her too.

 

“Thank you,” he says, his throat tight.

 

“Anytime Steve,” she murmurs back.

 

Pepper cooks that night and it’s mouth-wateringly delicious. Delicious to the point of embarrassment where Pepper has willing been putting up with Steve’s ‘experimental’ cooking for three months. Roast chicken sprinkled with herbs, homegrown potatoes with delicious gravy and onion sauce. The five of them, Sam, Bucky, Pepper, Morgan and Steve, all sit around the table. Sam and Bucky keep Morgan in peals of laughter with dramatic tales of their various escapades. Pepper fishes out of the oven an apple pie which she claims Morgan made all by herself, although Steve is pretty sure she had some help. Nevertheless he kisses Morgan’s cheek. “Thank you Morgan,” he says.

 

“I got you a gift!” Morgan says, perking up, sliding out of her seat. “Mom can I go get the gift?”

 

Pepper nods and Morgan races out of the room and comes back with an envelope, which she hands to Steve. “Happy birthday Uncle Steve,” she says.

 

Pepper stands and hands Steve a letter opener, Steve shoots her a grateful smile and slices the thick, creamy paper of the envelope open.

 

Inside, there’s a drawing. It’s crude, in the way that most five-year old's drawings are, but there’s a clear artistry in it, Morgan has obviously inherited her mother’s artistic nature. Love and intent in every line and colour.

 

It’s a metal armour, positioned among clouds with skyscrapers far below, its arm around a stick man with blond hair and a shield emblazoned with a white star. Along the bottom Morgan has written in carefully precise lettering IRON MAN AND CAPTAIN AMERICA and in brackets underneath that, (Papa and Uncle Steve).

 

Steve stares at it for a second, five, ten and suddenly realises that he’s crying. He brushes the the tears away hurriedly with the back of one hand before anyone can notice. “Thank you Morgan.” he says.

 

Morgan smiles and reaches up to kiss Steve on the cheek.

 

The rest bring their presents out, Sam and Bucky get him an easel and artist paints. Pepper, a cookbook. He laughs when he unwraps it and Pepper raises an eyebrow. “Now you don’t have to guess how much spice to put in.” she says.

 

Steve sits up on his bed later, his finger tracing the lines where the red and gold of Iron Man and the blue and white of Captain America blend into one.

 

***

 

The summer bleeds into fall and Pepper takes the executive decision that Morgan should go to school. They spend ages pouring over school profiles, different education styles, to the point where Steve gives up one night, burying his face in his arms on the table. Pepper just pats his back, makes them both mugs of coffee and resumes the research.

 

They finally decide on one a fifteen minute drive from the cabin, from kindergarten to fifth grade. It’s in a series of interconnected brightly-coloured wooden houses and when Pepper goes in for a meeting, she comes back beaming from ear to ear.

 

“It’s perfect,” she says.

 

Steve goes with Pepper, the day that they drop her off at the little kindergarten in upstate New York. Morgan’s uncertain at first, biting her lip, holding tightly onto Pepper’s legs and Steve’s hand. They turn her over and Morgan tightens her grip on Steve’s hand, refusing to leave.

 

Steve crouches down, so he’s level with Morgan, “Hey hero,” he says, a name picked up from the stories he tells her. “I know you’re scared, but all these other kids? They’re just as scared as you. You can help them, be brave for them.”

 

Morgan straightens up, her eyes hardening with determination. “Yeah, I’ll do that,” she says, tugging her hand out of Steve’s.

 

“I know you will hero,” Steve whispers, nodding his head and standing up. “I believe in you.”

 

Morgan waves and disappears into her classroom. Pepper tucks her arm through Steve and they stand there for a while, until all the kids are inside.

 

***

 

The days are quieter, now that Morgan’s at school and Pepper’s kept busy at the Tony Stark Foundation five days a week. Steve distracts himself with housework for the first three weeks, scrubbing at every nook and cranny until the cabin practically sparkles. He’s not what he used to be, he has to take regular breaks, the strain on his back and knees sometimes too much, but he’s still doing pretty damn good for over a hundred–he has the serum to thank for that.

 

When the house is done, he moves onto the garden, tidying up the unruly mass of weeds that seem to pop up. He leaves the shed, the last of Tony’s projects still lying half-assembled in it, but in a week, the garden is as spotless as the house.

 

Finally, when there’s nothing else left to do, Steve brings out the easel and colours that Sam and Bucky had bought him.

 

He sets up on the porch and draws the days away. He starts basic, the view of the lake from the porch, a complex array of jenga blocks in the living room and gradually moves onto more complicated topics; his and Peggy’s home back in New Jersey, the Avengers Compound at sunrise, Morgan, Pepper and Tony, entwined on the couch together. Pepper with piles of paper beside her, all emblazoned with Stark Industries. Tony, with one hand on an Iron Man helmet (the same one that rests on Steve’s bedside table) and arm around Morgan, who looks up at Tony with her patented cheeky grin.

 

He gives this last one to Pepper for her birthday, in late September. She takes it from Steve, while Steve watches closely, tissues on hand.

 

Instead, she smiles, fingers tracing along the outline of her, Tony and Morgan on the couch she’s sitting on. She looks up at Steve.

 

“Thank you,” she whispers, and hangs it in the living room, above the fireplace. Pride of place.

 

After that initial one, it’s like the floodgates have opened. Tony’s in almost all of his drawings. Flying in the Iron Man armour, working in his lab, asleep in front of Star Wars, walking by the lake, hoisting Morgan up.

 

One day, Steve accidentally draws himself in too.

 

His young self and Tony, both of them wearing the outfits they wore on their excursion to 1970s-Camp Lehigh. Their foreheads are pressed together, their eyes closed, they’re standing palm to palm. It’s a careful, quiet moment of intimacy, a declaration of something that Steve’s always been too afraid to voice

 

Steve finishes it, then stares at it. “Fuck,” he whispers, digging a palm into his forehead. He tears it out of his sketchbook and folds it up, throwing it in the paper recycling.

 

Later that night, after they’ve put Morgan to bed, Pepper makes them both herbal tea, another thing they found in common, and brings it to Steve on the couch.

 

“So I found this in the recycling today,” Pepper says, bringing out Steve’s drawing and smoothing it over.

 

Steve blood runs cold, his mouth opens, desperate excuses forming on the tip of his tongue. Adrenaline pumps a steady rhythm of his heartbeat in his ears.

 

All that stills as Pepper reaches out. “Oh Steve,” she whispers, curling her hand around his. “I’m so sorry.”

 

Steve takes one hitching breath, then two, then, to his mortification, he’s crying. Crying over the husband of the widow next to him. Pepper puts a hesitant arm around his shoulders and suddenly she’s crying too.

 

What a pair they make, the both of them. The only idiots stupid enough to fall desperately in love with Tony Stark.

 

***

 

The first snow of the year happens the day before Thanksgiving, they wake up to the lake frozen, glistening white as far as the eye can see. Morgan bounds out of bed, delighted, running outside and laughing.

 

Steve goes out to remind her that she still needs to get ready for school, that Thanksgiving-proper isn’t until tomorrow and she pouts and whines, so Steve goes to get reinforcements in the shape of Pepper. Together, they bundle her into warm clothing, then out to the car.

 

Steve and Pepper are hosting Thanksgiving, so most of the Wednesday is spent frantically buying more and more tables, stocking up on food. When Morgan is dropped off home by another kind parent, they’ve set up about six tables and the kitchen looks like the epicenter of a massive storm.

 

Thanksgiving day dawns bright and clear. The Bartons are the first to arrive, with the kids. They learn from the television that the Avengers are delayed by an unfortunate parade-float come to life in downtown New York.

 

“Fucking capitalism,” Bucky says, as they all stumble though the door five hours later.

 

Ice packs are distributed along with the turkey. The house, filled to bursting, comes alive with song and memories. There are two empty places set, one on the Barton’s table and one on the main kitchen table. Every time someone walks by one of them, they brush their hand over the top of the wooden arch of the chair in a silent thank you.

 

Later, Sam and him are doing the dishes when they run out of dishwasher soap. “There should be more under the sink.” Steve says.

 

Sam peers, “I got nothing.”

 

“I’ll go ask Pepper,” Steve says, shrugging on a coat.

 

Steve goes outside, Pepper’s name on his lips when he stops abruptly in the doorway.

 

Happy and Pepper are entwined on the porch, snow falling around them. They break away, laughing. Pepper’s smiling, Happy’s smiling.

 

Somehow, Steve knows that Tony’s smiling too.

 

Steve thinks of Peggy, thinks of second chances, and quietly lets them be.

 

 

***

When Steve listens to the message, it’s not a special day in particular. It’s a bit more than a year and a half after the funeral, Pepper and Happy have taken Morgan to Happy’s parents for the weekend, Sam, Bucky, Carol and Valkyrie had come round for dinner. It had been a nice evening, but not particularly extraordinary.

 

Steve gets ready for bed, then looks at the helmet, covered in dust on his oaken bedside table. He takes a deep breath and picks it up, carries it downstairs quietly.

 

He makes a cup of cocoa, sets the Iron Man helmet on the table and clicks play.

 

Suddenly, Tony Stark is sitting in front of him. He looks up, just over Steve’s left shoulder, Steve shifts to the left a little bit, just to maintain the illusion.

 

“Hi Steve,” he says, and Steve feels the weight of eighty-four years drop away from him.

 

“I’m recording this message with the hope that you’ll never have to see this,” Tony says, his voice only holding the slight distortion of digitisation. “Tomorrow, I’m coming to the compound, to help with whatever hare-brained plan you’ve somehow convinced me to go along with. But I’m gonna leave this first. Even though the chances of you coming back and not me are, let’s face it, extremely small, I don’t want me to die without you hearing this.”

 

Tony shifts, takes a deep breath. “Steve Rogers, I forgive you.”

 

Steve releases a breath that he didn’t realise he’d been holding.

 

“Damn you, you old stubborn bastard I forgive you,” Tony continues. “How could I not? The moment I walked off that ship, the only person I could see was you. You drive me crazy, so crazy I can’t think straight. But I need you on my side, I need us. Together, like you said. Always.”

 

“I love you, Steve Rogers,” Tony whispers, into the quiet of the little cabin. “I love you so goddamn much I sometimes think I’m going to die from it.”

 

Steve shuts his eyes, and lets the tears start to fall.

 

That’s where Pepper finds him, come morning, still staring at the helmet. She motions for Happy and Morgan to go upstairs and gently pushes the button on the side of the helmet.

 

She watches the message, eyes filled with tears, then she turns.

 

“Oh Steve,” she whispers, “You didn’t know?”

 

Steve shakes his head, scoops the helmet up in his hand, and plays the message again.

 

 

***

“Happy asked me to marry him,” Pepper says, two months later.

 

Steve takes a sip of his tea, “Congratulations to you both.”

 

“I haven’t said yes yet.”

 

Steve sets his mug down, “Why not?”

 

Pepper shakes her head, looking down at her lap, her long hair unbound and falling around her face. “I can’t help but think of Tony,” she says in a quiet sigh.

 

It’s an understatement, Steve knows. They both can’t help but think of Tony, every single second of every single day.

 

“He wants you to be happy, Pepper.” Steve says. “That’s all he’s ever wanted. If marrying Happy will make you, well, happy, then you should do it.”

 

Pepper frowns, “It feels like a betrayal,” she says, quietly. “To him, to Morgan.”

 

“You’re not giving up Morgan,” Steve says. “She’ll still be here, and you’ll still be her mother. Will marrying Happy make you happy?”

 

Pepper nods, still looking down at her lap.

 

“Then you should do it,” Steve says softly, “and you should do it in his honour.”

 

***

 

Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan are married on a bright summer’s day, three years after Thanos. Morgan is a bridesmaid and Rhodes is best man.

 

Pepper forgoes the white wedding dress and instead dons a splendid red and gold gown. Steve helped her pick it out. Steve, to his great surprise, is ushered into the bridal party. “You’re my bridesman,” Pepper says, fastening a red and yellow rose to his buttonhole.

 

It’s a private ceremony, on a beach in Upstate New York. All the Avengers are invited though, and make a huge racket once the last “I do,” is pronounced.

 

Steve stands, looking out to sea. If he doesn’t turn his head, he can imagine that Tony is standing just beyond his peripheral vision, beaming, his breathing drowned out by the rush of the waves.

 

 

***

 

Life goes on, Morgan grows year by year, becoming wickedly sharp, an intellect to rival her father’s. Her and Peter Parker grow ever closer, ever since a fatal babysitting incident where Steve had gone to the Compound and Pepper to a gala and both had returned to find near every electrical device in the house disassembled and reassembled in the shape of a strange beeping object in the living room. Peter takes her into Stark Industries now on Saturdays and they build stuff together. Drones, robots, and on one memorable occasion, a mini Iron Man suit.

 

“Well done hero,” Steve says, looking her over as she executes a wobbly landing next to Steve, who’s come to pick her up. “But you got the colours wrong, it’s red and gold, not red, white and blue.”

 

Morgan snorts, flipping up her helmet. “The suit is for Papa, red, white and blue is for you.”

 

Something catches in Steve’s chest and he can’t help the bright smile that blooms across his face.“Maybe we shouldn’t tell your mother about this,” he says.

 

“That’s okay,” Morgan says, tapping something on the suit and it disassembling around her. “She doesn’t need to know yet. It’s for when I’m older, so I can save people like Papa did.”

 

She’s grown so much from that little five year old who used to tug at Steve’s sleeve for stories, Steve’s heart aches, he wishes Tony was around to see her.

 

“And you will my hero,” Steve says. “You will.”

 

Later that night, Pepper gathers them all on the porch to tell her news. She’s pregnant, three months along.

 

“If it’s a boy, it’ll be Tony,” she says, looking over at Happy beside her. “If it’s a girl, Antonia.”

 

It’s perfect, Steve thinks, as the others swarm Pepper with their congratulations. Absolutely perfect.

 

Steve looks around at these people, his family . He thinks of Tony, it still hurts, but it’s not sharp or sudden anymore. It’s a positive pain, one born of remembering a life well-lived of someone well-loved.

 

“We turned out okay, Tony,” Steve murmurs to the wind. “They all turned out okay.”

 

 

***

 

 

 

Sudden failure of the serum, they’d whispered, bundling him into an air-ambulance. He was flown to the compound, to his old room. Morgan holding tightly onto his hand every second of the way.

 

“It’s okay, Uncle Steve,” she says, with all the confidence of a ten-going-on-eleven year-old. “It’s all going to be okay.”

 

They settle him in his old room in the compound and hook him up to a myriad of machines. Steve sees people he knows, people he loves bring chairs in, line the walls of the room. People take turns to talk to him in low tones as Steve fades in and out of consciousness.

 

Steve awakes, quite suddenly, in the middle of the night. For a second, he’s not sure what woke him. The rest remain asleep. Happy and Pepper are holding hands, so are Sam and Bucky, to Steve’s great amusement. Clint is leant back, his mouth open in a snore.

 

The he sees it, at the end of the bed. A bright light, hovering. Steve reaches out and the light folds, moves and rearranges itself into an achingly familiar shape.

 

Morgan’s the only one awake, her eyes wide as she stares at the faint glow of Tony. “Papa?” she whispers.

 

“Hi sweetheart,” Tony says, kneeling down, his arms open.

 

Morgan runs into them and Tony gathers her up in a tight hug. His face is pure bliss as he hangs onto her

 

Steve stands up. He feels different, it’s not until he looks down that he realises he’s young, strong again. As he watches, the same glow that Tony sports sputters in his chest, suffuses along the rest of his limbs.

 

Tony looks up, “There you are,” he says. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

 

“I came the long way round.” Steve jokes.

 

“Damn right you did Rogers, never took the easy route did you?” Tony asks, but his eyes are soft.

 

Steve takes a step forward, unsure. “What you said on that recording, do you still mean it?”

 

“Every word of it Steve,” Tony says. “More so, even.”

 

Steve takes a step forward, then another. Tony rises and they crash into each other. Steve mashes his face into Tony’s shoulder and Tony’s arms scrabble up, hands tightening on Steve’s shoulder blades.

 

“Easy there big guy,” Tony says, a tone lace with laughter that Steve thought he would never hear again.

 

“I missed you,” Steve whispers, into the warmth of Tony’s shoulder.

 

Steve raises his head, looks at Tony, warm and smiling and full of light and thinks fuck it.

 

He leans down, capturing Tony’s lips in his own. The light around them pulses bright and Steve smiles against Tony’s mouth as they break for air.

 

“Hi,” Tony murmurs.

 

“Hi,” Steve replies, feeling slightly giddy.

 

“So we’re doing this?” Tony asks, a hesitant question.

 

“Whatever this is.” Steve answers. “I think we are.”

 

Steve pulls back to see Morgan, watching them with narrowed eyes. “Uncle Steve?” she asks, pointing to the bed.

 

It’s quite unnerving, seeing his old body lying there, when Steve knows full well that he’s standing right here, next to Tony and Morgan.

 

“Hey hero,” Steve says, crouching down beside Morgan, revelling in his young knees again. “You be good okay? You’re a Stark, you’ve got fire and iron in your blood. You’re going to be amazing, my hero.” Steve says, brushing a peace of hair behind Morgan’s ears.

 

Tony leans down, presses a kiss to Pepper’s forehead, grief written across his every feature. “Thank you Pep,” he whispers, taking a step back and finding Steve’s hand with his own. “You’re okay now. Everyone’s okay.”

 

Tony hugs Morgan one more time, “You turned out so well, my little girl,” he says, “Steve and I are leaving now, but we’re always with you. Right in here.” he taps on Morgan’s chest. “I love you three thousand, Morgan Stark.”

 

Morgan blinks at them, her eyes heavy with sleep. She returns to a chair and curls up, her little face softening into peace.

 

Tony leads him by hand to the door, dragging them through. The compound fades away, replaced by a soft all-encompassing glow.

 

Steve squeezes the hand in his once, “Where are we going?”

 

Tony turns to him, his face soft and open. “Where do you think?”

 

Steve draws Tony in close, counts their shared breaths. Tony leans his forehead against Steve, pulling them palm to palm.

 

“Home,” Steve says. “I think we’re going home.”