“You don’t have to see her,” Steve says, not for the first time, as he paces in front of Tony like a caged animal. The shield-provided room they share is barely big enough for both of them and at moments like this Tony wishes they had given them two rooms.
Tony can feel his frustration growing because he’s explained this before, goddamnit, Steve. He’s told Steve countless times since they’ve woken up, rising from the ice like some knock-off Phoenix metaphor. He needs to see the Tea Maker, and not just out of some tiny piece of hope that if they’ve survived maybe, just maybe, Bucky has as well.
“What are you afraid of?” Tony asks because there has to be something Steve hasn’t told him. Some reason Steve seems so set on talking about this over and over even though Tony has his appointment the very next morning and would just like to spend time with his soulmate.
Steve stops pacing but doesn’t look at Tony. Tony watches as Steve seems to come to a decision, his shoulders slumping forward as he runs a hand down his face. Steve sits next to him on the bed and leans in to Tony’s side. Tony wraps his arm around Steve’s shoulder.
“I think I’m scared,” Steve admits quietly.
“Oh really,” Tony replies sardonically, raising a brow as he looks down at the man.
“Tony,” Steve admonishes, glaring up at Tony.
“Sorry, it’s just that I figured that out a while ago, Stevie,” Tony tells him, running a hand down Steve’s back. “Probably about the third time we argued about this. What I haven’t figured out is why you’re scared.”
“I think,” Steve starts before hesitating. Tony lets him think as he rubs the back of Steve’s neck. “I think I’m afraid we’ve changed too much.”
Tony’s gotten better at thinking before reacting, he really has, so instead of yelling like he wants to—because that’s absolutely ridiculous and borderline offensive—he pulls away with a frown. His heart skips a beat when he sees tears running down Steve’s cheeks.
“Babe,” Tony says, pulling Steve to him, grateful for the strength the reactor core has given him. “Yes, we’ve changed, Steve,” Steve’s breathing hitches and Tony wraps both arms around the super-soldier holding him tight. “But fundamentally we’re the same people. Whatever she tells me, we’ll figure it out. Alright?”
“Alright,” Steve agrees, relaxing into Tony’s side with a sigh. “That sounds nice.”
The suit still feels like a bit much considering what he remembers The Tea Maker wearing the last time he was there. Dark blue hugs Tony’s body in all the right places and he doesn’t look bad—in fact he looks quite good if Steve’s reaction is anything to go by—but he still feels overdressed.
“I hate suits,” Tony whines, squeezing Steve’s hand resting on the seat in between them. “I grew up wearing suits, and yet I still hate them.”
“You look great, Tony,” Steve says, turning away from the window to look Tony up and down. “I don’t see why you’d hate them when they make you look like that.”
“Okay,” Tony says, taking a deep breath and trying to will away his sudden blush. “Maybe they’re not all bad.”
Tony slides out of the taxi with Steve right behind him and Tony looks up at the Tea Maker’s house with a frown. He can feel his hands shaking so he slips them into his pockets to hide it. The house looks exactly the same as he remembers it.
“It hasn’t changed a bit,” Steve murmurs, resting a hand on Tony’s shoulder for a moment before leaning down to kiss the top of his head.
“Okay,” Tony says a moment later, taking a deep breath. “See you on the flipside.”
“It’ll be fine, Tony,” Steve says with a shy smile. “You said it yourself.”
“Yeah,” Tony agrees, standing on his toes to place a chaste kiss on Steve’s perfect lips. “It will be.”
“Anthony,” The Tea Maker’s assistant greets when Tony steps through the door. “We were certainly surprised when you requested a second appointment.”
“Things have changed since I was twenty-one, sir,” Tony says carefully, eyeing the man who really doesn’t seem surprised.
“They sure seem to, you disappeared for eight years, Mr. Stark. Everyone thought you were dead.”
“Not that easy to kill,” Tony says with a faint smirk.
“Well, go ahead and wait here, The Tea Maker will be ready for you soon.”
“What’s your name?” Tony asks before the man can slip through the curtain to the back room.
“Stan,” The man replies, a look of surprise on his face that makes Tony think no one has ever bothered to ask before. “Stan Lee.”
“Thank you, Stan,” Tony says, then the man disappears into the back, and Tony is left alone in the lounge once again.
Tony takes the time to look around the room, noting the little trinkets and shelves on books. They look like they belong in an antique shop, in fact, the entire waiting area looks like what he imagines his grandmother’s house would look if she were still alive. The couches are a light pink floral color, there’s a brown leather recliner by the fire that looks worn and comfortable.
He feels more at home here than he did his first time visiting.
“She is ready for you,” Stan says, pulling back the curtain. Tony turns from the tall ship in a bottle he was looking at with a smile and steps into the tea room with a feeling of calm that often evades him.
“Anthony,” The Tea Maker greets genially, gesturing for him to sit on the cushion across from her. “Lovely to see you again, I don’t often get visitors twice. With your case, however, it makes perfect sense that you would be here for another cup of tea.”
“I still don’t like tea,” Tony informs her with a small smile. “I much prefer coffee.”
“Coffee is a fine choice,” The Tea Maker agrees genially. “Today, however, we have chai for you with just a splash of milk, I think you might find that this better suits your taste.”
Tony takes the offered tea and inhales it, noticing that it doesn’t smell nearly as grassy as the last time he had a cup. He exhales and then takes a sip, surprised at the spicy, milky flavor.
“Oh,” Tony breathes, moving the cup away from his mouth to look at the tea. “This is definitely better than last time.”
“I’m glad,” The Tea Maker smiles softly, taking a sip of her own drink.
Tony drinks his tea in silence, savoring the taste and finding that he doesn’t want the cup to end. It won’t replace his love of coffee, nothing could possibly replace coffee but he could see himself enjoying a cup every once in a while.
He sets the cup with a clatter and watches quietly as The Tea Maker takes it and peers inside. She makes a humming sound that has Tony raising onto his knees but for a moment no one speaks.
“You found them,” The Tea Maker breaths, looking up at Tony with unconcealed joy. “I don’t know how you managed that but by golly, you found them.”
“Them?” Tony asks breathlessly, a hope that he hasn’t allowed himself to feel building in his chest.
“Steven Grant Rogers, already met,” The Tea Maker looks Tony in the eye. “And James Buchanan Barnes, set to meet June 2016.”
“2016,” Tony repeats breathlessly. “He’s alive.”
“It would appear so,” The Tea Maker smiles gently. “Congratulations, Tony.”