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malignant is malicious

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Summer bends low on the lip of the Wayside, melt of the sky that curves towards the valley, shadow shake of august that blows with the breeze. The sky is set yellow, burning at the edges, creasing at the corners and catching on the pavement, all dry mouth humid and sticky cheeked swelter. 

There's a shadow in the park, figures hunkered busy in the belly of summer, and Steve Rogers thinks love is the perfect thing for a Tuesday. 

“Give me the marker.” 

The sun pours heavy on the grass, shaking at the concrete with warm intentions, and the trees lay shadows like old friends, sinking to the dirt and biting at the heat. Steve presses fingers to the brush of Tony’s arm, grabbing for the sheet as Tony jerks it from his reach.  

“Nu-uh, it’s my list. Swipe somebody else’s valuable positions.” 

Steve squints.  

“It’s a Crayola marker.” 

“I see your point.” 

Steve just closes his eyes, a shadow press of darkness, and when he opens them, Tony’s smiling.  

“There, see? My handwriting is fine.” 

There is an ink press of something stretched across the page, dizzy churn of maybe letters, and Steve laughs. 

“I literally can’t read that.” 

Tony just huffs a breath, slight slip of air that sinks through his teeth, and shoves the paper at Steve. 

“Just fix it.” 

Steve laughs, a heavy kind of thing, digging a bottle of whiteout from his pocket with a click, and Tony moans. 

“You’re such a boy scout.” 

He just keeps laughing, press of the brush to the scratch of the page, all thin wash of white that melts to the page, and then he stops.  

“You never told me what this is.” 

And Tony laughs too, a rough sort of thing, chapped at the edges and nipping at his teeth.  

“It’s a bucket list.” 

Steve blinks. 

“Seriously? That’s what we’re spending the last month of summer doing?” 

“What? It’s gonna be fun.” 


Tony frowns, rolling onto his back till there’s nothing but sky, soft sigh of blue to the tip of the earth. 

“Yes, fun. Come on, you’ll love it. We’ll change the world or something.” 

Steve just sighs. 

“We’re gonna change the world.” 


“With your bucket list.” 

Yes. ” 

And Steve has miles, ocean of time and a belly full of promise, and what’s a month to something like love.  

“Fine. A month’s worth of calamity.” 

Tony snickers. 

“Upheaval in its highest form.” 

“Cataclysm,” Steve says sagely, and then he scribbles it on the page, sharpie dark and bleeding through the paper, A Revolution in Thirty Days.  

“Sick,” Tony says, “Anarchy.” 

“You wanted to change the world.” 

And Tony smiles, soft and warm and melting in the day, the kind of thing that wobbles from the weight of it, shivers in the middle from the force of it all. 

“So where do we start?” Steve asks, capping the pen and then popping it back off.  

“Duh, with number one.” 

Steve throws the cap at him. 

“I mean, what is number one.” 

And Tony just laughs, clear and bright and desperately soft.  

“Here, let me see it.” 

And Steve listens, because he’s warm and fuzzy and a little bit dizzy, breathing in the weight of this moment, tucked against Tony like he’s settled in his rib.   

“Okay,” Steve says, quiet, “okay.” 


Tony looks at him, uncertain shake to the curve of his cheek, but he’s smiling. 

“Let’s do it.” 

He’s always smiling. 

“Change the world?” 

He’s a summer kind of thing, burnt at the edges but bright as smoke, the taste of the wind as it leaves you, and he’s smiling, just for Steve. 

“Not the whole world.” 


Steve smiles too. 

“Just yours.” 






The sun pours over the glass of Xu Yuan with a hiss, bending at the edges and spilling to the tile, gold chase of heat that chips at the floor. It smells warm, bite to the air that’s all ginger and pepper, and Steve and Tony are knocking elbows over a plate of dim sum.  

“So we’re at a Chinese restaurant because...” 

“This would be so much simpler if you’d just learn to read,” Tony says simply, half through a fork full of fried rice, and Steve promptly chucks a wadded-up straw wrapper at him. 

“Just tell me what it is.” 

The server comes around then, refilling their water glasses with a soft sort of smile, and Tony’s gone a bit wild behind the eyes. 


And then he turns, smile all summer and sugar, and he starts to speak. 

“Nǐ hǎo.” 

The server looks startled, pausing with their glasses, and he repeats the greeting. 

“Xièxiè,” he says again to the man, “Wèile shuǐ. Xièxiè.” 

And then the man is smiling, really smiling, the kind that’s all teeth, laughing and laughing and begging over the dish boy. 

“Nǐ hǎo,” Tony says, grinning so hard his cheeks are pink, “Nǐ hǎo ma?” 

And it’s a little broken, halting at its edges, but they’re all smiling, laughing like friends and joking like fools, and Steve starts to smile too.  

When they amble away, Steve can’t help but laugh. 

“The first item on your bucket list was to say hi in Chinese?” 

Tony pokes him with a chopstick. 

“The first item on my bucket list was to have a conversation with someone in their own language.” 

And Steve doesn’t know what to say to that. 

“Don’t laugh at me.” 

And Steve does laugh, dry and a little bit hoarse, but he shakes his head.  

“I think that’s wonderful.”  

And then they eat their dim sum, and snicker at the chalkboard, and when they go to leave, Tony’s fortune says, ‘Time is a game.’ 

“That’s kind of stupid,” Steve says giggling, “Time is a game?” 

But Tony doesn’t laugh. Just stares and stares, and then he says, “Well it’s kinda true, right?” 

Steve doesn’t know anything about time, except that he’s happy to spend his here. 

Tony pockets a fist full of fortune cookies on their way out, and all he says is, “What? You never know when we’ll need a bit of guidance.” 

Well. That’s kind of true too. 






“So what’s number two?” 

Tony fiddles with the stove, turning the oven on pre-heat and grabbing two aprons off the hook. 

“Easy. We’re revolutionizing the culinary industry.” 

Steve blinks. 


Tony levels him with a look, cool, down the brim of his nose, and Steve just snorts at him. 

“We’re perfecting the chocolate chip cookie.” 

“We’re... making the perfect chocolate chip cookie.” 

“Are you fucking deaf? I just said that.” 

Steve swats him with his apron. 

“Just go get the flour, you ass.” 

Tony throws his hands up, all mock surrender and sugar smiles, and then he flips the pantry open, dragging out the flour and baking soda.  

“Why is this on your bucket list anyway? You don’t cook.” 

Tony keeps his back to him, but it’s soft when he speaks, empty air to the tone of his voice.  

“It’s something Jarvis used to talk about.” 

When he turns around, his smile is watery, drenched in something desperate, but he’s smiling. 

“Anyway, the guide to a perfect cookie: Soft, but not too soft. Gooey, not doughy. Thin, but not brittle. And enough chocolate chips to drown that kid from Willy Wonka.” 

“He didn’t die,” Steve says, “to drown you have to die, but he was fine.” 

Tony stops. 

“Steve,” he snorts.  

“You brought up the chocolate factory thing!” 

And then he’s giggling, easy huff of laughter that melts off his tongue, and Steve is smiling too, shaking shoulders as the sun sinks to evening, cool brush of light that paints things still, and Steve is more in love than he’s ever been. 

‘If I kissed you’ , the thinks, somewhere in the kitchen where the sky can barely reach them, ‘would you let me?’  

The light’s gone blue, beating with his chest to the sound of silence, and Tony Stark is one hip to the counter and smiling like a child. 

If I bent the stars to see this ,’ he thinks, somewhere dizzy and warm and miles away, ‘ would you tell them our story? ’ 

He is empty space and inches to fill, and Tony Stark knows all of his corners.  

If I told you I loved you ,’ he thinks, ‘ would you let me ?’ 

Steve Rogers says nothing.  

He just sits in the silence of Tony Starks kitchen, and tries not to want things so much. 






Wayside shrinks in the heat of the day, heavy wash of summer that scrapes at their shoes, sticking in their throats till they’re chewing through august. Summer hisses off the pavement, biting at their heels and clawing up the curb. The sun in low in the sky, and for some reason, Steve Rogers is at the bus station.  

“Didn’t you make me get my license so we didn’t have to take the bus?” 

Tony scoffs, and the sky seems to catch on his lashes, golden wash of daylight that paints him warm. 

“I didn’t make you get your license.” 

“Yes you did,” Steve says, “You said ‘if you don’t get your license, I’m divorcing you.’” 

Tony laughs. 

“Yeah, I’m not really sure how that worked.” 

“Probably the old Camaro you parked in my driveway while you yelled at me.” 

Tony just hums, heaving a breath as the sky melts through his shirt, sticking at his back as he tugs his collar in search of something cool.  

“At least the bus has air conditioning?” Steve says, and he swipes at his forehead, pawing at his shirt with two hands and rubbing at his cheeks with the hem of it.  

“Oh, it definitely does not.” 

Steve does not find that funny. 

“C’mon, it’s for the list.” 

And the sky is dragging along the concrete, scratching at the sidewalk with a heat that’s all teeth, and Steve is a puddle in his shoes for a piece of paper. 

“You dragged me out to southside to catch the bus so you could cross something off your bucket list?” 

Tony grins. 


Steve really does not find that funny. 

“I want a divorce.” 

And then Tony is spluttering, stutter of breath that catches in his cheeks till Steve starts to laugh, and then he’s shoving at him, all elbows and sharp things till he’s laughing too. The bus rolls by while they’re catching their breaths, and when the doors hiss open, cold air chews at their ankles. 



And then he’s tugging at his sleeve, and Steve is moving on shaking knees, lungs full of wanting and desperate to drown it. They pick a seat somewhere in the middle, and Tony is scanning through the seats in search of something. 

“What are you looking for?” 

Tony doesn’t glance at him, just rolls his eyes through the back on the bus and lands on a woman with a Kroger bag in her lap.  


And then he’s scooching in his seat, nudging at the aisle with the tips of his shoes, and saying, “Excuse me?” 

She looks over, polite tug to the lines of her face, and the smile is all margarine and nearly .   


“Have you heard all of the buses are stopping today?” 

The woman shakes her head, a dizzy sort of thing, and she looks tired, older in a moment, like she’s had a lifetime of heavy moments. 

“Is there a strike?” she asks, and Tony just shakes his head. 

“No,” he says, and then he’s chewing on a grin, doing his best to swallow it down, “They have to let the passengers off.” 

And it’s funny, the way the world melts sudden off her shoulders, the way it happens all at once, surprise to the way she’s smiling, laughing, a choke of something coming loose in her chest, and she’s beautiful. 

Steve hadn’t noticed that she was beautiful. 

And Tony’s laughing too, something giddy, rough in his jaw, shaking past his teeth with a hum that startles, low in his chest, bubble of something that melts off his tongue. 

Steve always knew he was beautiful. 

She gets off at the next stop, and Steve bumps his elbow. 

“Are we getting off too?” 

There’s still a smile on his face, but he shakes his head. 

“I didn’t do it yet.” 

Steve blinks. 

“The joke wasn’t on the list?” 

Tony’s smile doesn’t shake, but he leans back in his seat, lets his eyes brush closed against his cheeks like old friends. He shakes his head, nudge of his jaw where he presses into the vinyl, lines of his throat impossibly long, and Steve can’t drown it, can’t puddle away the urge to touch, so he tucks his fingers under his thighs. 

Just in case. 

“I have to make someone laugh until they cry.” 

Steve’s fingers itch, curling into plastic where they press into the seat, and all he says is, “You’re probably gonna need better material.” 

He curls them into fists when they finally get off. 

Just in case. 






“You’ve got to be kidding me.” 

Steve and Tony are pressing toes into pavement twelve minutes before midnight, scrubbing at their eyes two feet from the front door of Everything but the Kitchen Ink, and Steve thinks he’d kill for a cheeseburger right about now. 


“Why is getting a tattoo on your bucket list?” 

Tony grins, something light, breathless, the kind of thing that slides away with the wind.  

“Seemed sick as fuck when I was making it.” 

And then Steve’s just laughing, hunched over his knees as he chokes on a breath, snickering by the curb as Tony bitches through it.  

“For god’s sake, Steve Rogers, tell me a tattoo is not sexy and we can go home.” 

“Oh sure,” Steve says, smile all molasses as he swallows down a snicker, “almost as sexy as that bowl cut from fourth grade.” 

“Steven Grant-” 

“Or that baseball cap you wore for six weeks straight when we were nine,” and he’s laughing again, a rush of something that trips off his tongue, “Or the-” 

“Is there a point to this verbal assault,” Tony sighs, spitting it through his teeth like chalk, and Steve can’t stop laughing, easy in the light, the way the stars run muddy down the sky like they’re mouthing at the sidewalk, a lovely kind of kiss that pools silver at their ankles.  

“My point,” he says, a little breathless at the way the light stretches over Tony’s jaw, “Is that you liked these things for approximately a month, and then got tired of them.” 

Tony frowns, low stretch of something that chips at his teeth. 

“Are you saying I should have kept the bowl cut?” 

“God no,” Steve says, and Tony chews on a smile, worrying at something lovely in the press of the night, “but what are you going to do when you get tired of the tattoo?” 

Tony stops smiling. 

“Maybe I won’t.” 

“You get tired of me sometimes, Tony. You can’t divorce a cartoon corn cobb on your ass.” 

“I don’t get tired of you,” is all he says, soft is the shadow of the sky, all cool darkness and quiet promises. 

The way it rattles it his ears, Steve thinks the stars must be able to taste his pulse. 

“And I don’t want a corn cobb,” he says finally, and it’s certain, all straight lines and clean brow, the easy sort of way he melts towards the door.   

“What do you want?” Steve asks, two steps behind, and the door falls open with a hiss, sigh of the bell from somewhere above them. 

“I’m gonna let him pick.” 

Steve blinks. 

“Are you,” Steve says, quite lightly, “fucking serious?” 

The door hits him on the ass, and he is certain that cheeseburger has never sounded better, sputtering in the silence, empty rush of air as Tony laughs in the corner, heady kind of snicker that sticks to his teeth, and from somewhere up front a man says, “Hello?” 

The shop is all low light and dry silence, and somewhere in the corner a fan sighs its last breaths. The desk is painted over, green as mold, and man at the middle has a name tag that reads, ‘Ashley.’ 

“We’d like to book one butt corn cobb,” Steve says, and the elbow Tony throws lands stiff between his ribs. 

“We’re here for a tattoo.” 

“Both of you?” Ashley asks, and Steve shakes his head. 

“Just him.” 

And he draws out a sheet of paper, all blank white parchment and clean lines, and he says, “What are you looking to have done?” 

Tony smiles, something soft and warm, and then he says, “I was hoping you could tell me.” 

Ashley blinks. 

“You want me to pick?” 


“You might be better off with the ass cobb,” Ashley says.  

Steve starts to snicker, ruffled in the corner under blue washed light. 

“Just go pick something out of the book, kid.” 

And Tony flips through the damn thing for what feels like an hour, careful eyes and steady hands, and then he stops. 

“What’s this?” 

Ashley doesn’t bother to look, just scribbles at something on the desk and says, “What’s what?” 

“It just says, ‘first there is a mountain’.” 

And then Ashley smiles, and it’s an easy kind of thing, quick as smoke and heavy as lead. 

“It’s an old Chinese saying. First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain.” 

And Steve starts to laugh again, but Tony doesn’t smile. Just stares and stares and barely seems to breathe. 

“That’s the one.” 

When it’s over, they get cheeseburgers. Steve tells jokes till the night is soft, but Tony never seems to catch his breath.  







“So how are we crossing off number six?” 

The sun is heavy in the sky, low hang of silence that pools at their feet, sticky hush of darkness that drips down their backs, and Steve can’t take his eyes off the way the stars melt the shadows on Tony’s face a cool sort of blue.  

“No idea.” 

The night is soft, dizzy with wonder, and it’s cold, chilly somehow, like the sky’s up and kissed away the sun, but he’s warm. The day blows cool at his cheeks, mouthing at his jaw till he’s pink all over, but he’s warm, washed in summer like love could feed him, and it’s sudden. Certain, the way he can’t seem to drown the want in the space between his ribs, the pull and tug and drag, the desperate kind of way he is aching to kiss away the stumble in the lines of Tony’s mouth, so he stares and stares and tries not to speak.  

“What is it?” he says, when the silence has washed the warmth from his belly, when the stars have melted in the middle to brush away the heat of day, when he thinks he can stare and stare and not quite touch.  

“What is what?” 

“Number six.” 

Tony’s all profile, nose to the sky, and if Steve closes his eyes, he knows he’d hear the hum of his heart, knows the weight of the wishes he’d beg the sky to keep, knows Tony would smile and hum and talk about Orian. 

“I have to say yes to something I’d normally say no to.” 

And maybe it’s for a yes. Maybe it’s the silence, or the darkness, or a lifetime of empty bellies, but he leans over. Bends and bows and buries his fist in the folds of his jacket, and then he’s off, desperate, lungs full of air that’s all borrowed and bleeding, breaths that weren’t his but he shakes them down anyways, all carbon and excess, and maybe that’s why he’s dizzy, maybe he’s shaking and sighing and leaning into Tony like he can taste the rush of him, and then he is. 

And he’s still shaking, still sighing, but the rush of him is gentle, easy melt of mouths and teeth, and then Tony tugs , fists full of fabric and the weight of Steve’s jaw, pressing and pooling until there’s no space between them left to be filled, till there’s a rib someone near that’s not quite his, like the lung and the heart and the stars in his chest are atoms he doesn’t know.

“Does it count?” Steve asks, melting in the middle like the stars and the evening, empty lungs and pink cheeks, but all Tony does is smile. 

Tug and reach and fill, sliding into space like Steve is caverns to fill, and he just says, “What makes you think I would have said no?”

They have oceans of time for yeses and nos. Spill a little sky in his belly, and Steve could turn rivers into mountains. 

For a yes, at least. 






The days melt on, dripping past each other, turning and sliding and sinking to the next, and nothing really seems to change. 

“Seriously,” Steve laughs, toes against the chill, cold chase of evening that bites at his cheeks, “skinny dipping?” 

“It’s a two for one,” Tony says smiling, “I get to cross something off my list, and you get to see me sans pants.” 

“Don’t tell me you’re counting this as a date,” he says, and then he’s grabbing at Tony with both hands, tugging his close till they’re sharing space, bump of noses and the taste of proximity.  

Okay. Things change a little. 

“Are you saying you’re not comfortable being naked on a first date?” 

Tony completely deserves the face full of water he gets, mind you.  

The sky melts to darkness at the lip of the world, cold hum of black that seeps to the water, brushing at their toes with a chill that startles. The stars play at dancing, laughing at the sun, shaking and sighing where the night kisses day. And Tony is smiling right with them. 

He is a cool wash of lovely, cherry dark and painted like the sky, kissing at his vision like a dizzy sort of wonder. He is dark washed and bluejeans and crying, suddenly, soft press of tears to the nudge of his cheeks, smiling and smiling and kissing at the sadness with a warm stretch of teeth.  

“Tony?” Steve asks, soft as the night. 

“Do you see Polaris?” 

Steve is not the wondering sort. He is first thoughts and quick motions, the stretch of a fist and the ache of his jaw, no pace and all thunder, the kind of hurried action that bites at your thumbs in comic book pages, but he doesn’t say a word. Just tilts his breath towards the brush of night and searches for a star. 

“The brightest,” Tony says, crying with a stillness that nudges at his smile, “right next to the big dipper.” 

“What about it?” 

Shakes, cracks, rattles at his teeth till he can’t seem to hold it, churning and chipping and eating at his grin. 

“That’s Polaris,” he says again, “the northest star.” 

They sit in silence, blinking at the sky as it blinks back, Tony’s finger still held at Polaris like the touch might ground him.  

“They say,” he says, slow as molasses and biting at his cheek, “that as long as you can find Polaris, you can find home.” 

Steve blinks. 

“Who says you’re lost?” 

Tony tugs at his sleeve, feverish and hurried and yanking, puling at cotton with heavy fists, struggling at polyester with fingers that shake. 

“First there is a mountain.” 

“Tony, what’s wrong with you.” 

“Everything goes. First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain.” 

Steve tugs his sleeve down, firm fingers and steady grip, and he holds. 


“Time is a game,” he just says, and then he’s crying, really crying, the sort that’s all moans and spit, “Time is a game, and I want to play.” 

The sky is spilling to the pavement, ruddy run of wishing that’s all Orion, and Tony won’t stop crying. 

“You have time,” Steve says, holding him like he might disappear, “It’s okay, Tony, you have time.” 

And Tony just cries harder, shaking like the breeze, warm and wet and a little bit desperate.  

“I’m sick,” he just says, and it’s funny, how sudden his heart forgets how to beat. 

“You’re what?” 

“Steve, I’m sick.” 

The black of the night is heavy where it lands, and it seems to stick in the hollow of his throat. The dark pools in the shadow of his rib, rubs at the silence in Tony’s own jaw, nips at his chest where Tony’s smile sits, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony and dim sum and Kroger bags and paper mâché miracles. 

They said as long as you can find Polaris, you can find your way home. Steve’s starting to wonder if he’ll ever be found again. 





It’s a month before the sun stops dripping down their back, and it’s another month before they finish the bucket list. Clean white walls and hospital brand Clorox are the recipe for homeliness, and St. Marshalls room 303 marks the end of a revolution.  

“I guess forty-two items in a month was a little ambitious.” 

Tony’s laugh, though breathless, was lovely as ever.  

“Nurse Manson really liked the bus joke. I guess I didn’t need better material after all. 

It’s enough to leave Steve breathless himself. 

“You did it,” Steve says, soft as a kiss in the hum of the evening. 

“Everything but save the world,” he says, and he’s smiling, always smiling, but he wobbles with the weight of it.  


“You know what that means?” he smiles, and there’s no weight, no touch of a sigh that beats at its back, just lovely and bright and filled with promise. 

Steve is suddenly furious. 


Not at Tony. Not at God. Just hot brimmed fury, melting in scorn, dripping and pooling with the ache in his jaw, boiling and battered where his cheek meets his scowl.  

Tony hands him something. 

“I don’t want it.” 

“It’s yours now, Steve. Number 43.” 

“I said I don’t want it,” he says again. 

The sheet bites at his knuckles, catches at his fingertips when he pushes it away, and the fury is suddenly drowning, biting and kicking at a current of grief, lonely and bitter and aching for breath.  

“I don’t want to save the world,” he says, clutching to fury, grasping at its shadow and begging for its heat, “I don’t want to save the world.” 

And then he’s crying.  

“You have to,” Tony says, soft as a song, but he won’t stop crying, “You have to. I can’t.” 

“You can. You can, you have to, because-” 


The silence is a breathless melody.  

“I don’t want to save the world,” he says again, and it’s broken, shaking between his lips, a shiver of a thing that might have been an exhale. 

I just want to save you.  

Time is a game. Time is a game, and Tony’s all out. 

“He got it wrong,” Steve finally says.  


“Ashley,” Steve says, quiet as a shadow, “Ashley’s mountain.” 

“Are you telling me my tattoos bullshit?” he laughs, dry and desperate, and then he tugs up his shirt, and there, just above his hip, it sits. 

First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain. 

“Then there is,” Steve just whispers. 

“I don’t understand.” 

And then Steve’s smiling. 

“First there is no mountain, then there is no mountain. Then there is.” 

And Tony smiles. And Steve, beating back a grin, pulls out forty-two sheets of loose-leaf from his jacket pocket. 

“You did change the world,” Steve says.

Forty-two promises. Forty-two wishes. A Chinese thank you from the boy from Xu Yuan, a breathless joke from the woman on the bus, a napkin sketch from Ashley and his mountain. 

“You changed their worlds,” he says. 

‘You changed mine,’ he doesn’t say. 

Tony smiles like he heard it anyway. 

“I still have a fortune,” he breathes, and Steve wants to kiss him. 

“Yeah? What’s it say?” 

The cookie’s crumbled in his pocket, like it has been there the whole two months, but Tony just pulls out the strip of paper with careful fingers.  

And laughs. 

“Tony? What is it?” 

“’Time does not change things’,” he reads, “’You change them yourself.’” 

And what can Steve do but join him? 

The days are heavy. Summer is faded and broken and beat its last breath. But Tony falls asleep with a smile on his face, and Steve’s got one last sheet of loose leaf in his pocket. 

He starts to write. 






Steve Roger’s bucket list: 


1.) Save the world 


2.) Make him proud 









“Time is a game played beautifully by children.”  

Chapter Text



now with some amazing typography by rhea!!!! :D