And there’s no turning back.
He made the sacrifice play.
And he saved the world.
What a twisted sentiment for the world, for the Avengers, for Peter, for Nat,
There were words unspoken between Steve and Tony, but looking back, their actions spoke louder.
The harboured feelings never made it past their lips. Never made it past their breaths.
It got stuck, in their gestures, in their eyes, in their hearts, in their smiles, but not once were they spoken out loud. They never got the chance to. There was never a right time.
Sometimes they were so caught up in the moment, having fun, saving the world, that they forgot to confront their own emotions. To really understand what they felt.
But maybe they didn’t need to say it out loud, maybe just being in each other’s presence was enough.
And as maybe the world's leading authority on waiting too long, he did. Both of them did.
Tony Stark’s funeral was sad, bitter sweet, proof that he did have a heart.
“Hey, Steve, how are you holding up?” Rhodey says, approaching Steve who sat on the bench, weeping quietly. He wiped away a silent tear before looking up at Rhodey, “I’m okay, you?”
Rhodey gave him a worried smile, knowing full well that Steve was completely and utterly devastated. But, who wasn’t? He sat down next to the soldier who looked down at the ground to hide his emotions.
“I know you’re hurting Steve, and that’s okay,” Rhodey consoles, placing a hand on Steve’s shoulder. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out an envelope, handing it over to Steve whose attention has been drawn to it. The soldier stares at it blankly for a while before looking at Rhodey for an answer.
“It’s- It’s a letter”
Steve gave him a puzzled look, furrowing his eyebrows. The other man simply takes Steve’s hands and places the letter in them, manually closing them for him and holding it in place. “It’s from Tony. He wanted me to give you this, in case anything ever happened”
The Captain’s expression softened, at the realization that Tony wrote him a goodbye letter. It made his heart ache, knowing that the inventor knew all along what would happen.
Rhodey applies light, but a comforting pressure around Steve’s hand, as a way to affirm him. “I guess he knew what would happen in the end. I know he cared about you, Steve. Maybe more than he’d like to admit”
Steve gives a saddened but hopeful smile to Rhodey, and nods. The other man returns the smile and gets up, walking away from the soldier to allow both of them to grieve more.
He never got a chance to have a heartfelt talk with Tony, did he? Nothing about their feelings, nothing about their relationship, or anything. It was always about saving the world and doing what’s right. Placing everyone else before them, because that’s what heroes do.
But even if they were aware of their feelings, was there a chance? Could they have been together despite all the barriers? Were they willing to give it a chance?
There were so many obstacles they had to face before even coming to terms with their inner turmoil, and Steve chose to deny most of it. The feelings he felt, the emotions he felt, they were all pushed aside.
Holding the letter in his hand, he decides to get up and take a stroll by the lake. Hoping to clear his mind and breathe a little.
Steve walks along the shoreline, slowly, reminiscing about all the good times they had together. Thinking about how Tony would smile when he made a breakthrough that lit up the room, brighter than any arc reactor he could ever build. Remembering how Tony truly, and deeply, cared about people despite all the accusations of him being cold hearted. He remembered how strong Tony was, fighting through all the criticism while trying his best to improve himself.
It wasn’t obvious that Steve knew all this, but he knew. He observed from afar only subtly showing his appreciation for Tony without being too overbearing.
Steve thinks of what could’ve been, what could’ve happened between them.
Following this thought, he sits on a rock facing the serenity of the lake, deciding it was time to open it. Grazing his eyes over the handwritten letter, he begins to read from the top, and it went like this;
There were so many words I wanted to say to you but I didn’t. Where do I begin?
So many times I wanted to tell you that I loved the way you laughed at jokes, hearing it was like music to my ears. So many times where I wanted to give you a hug, knowing you were hurting. So many times I wanted to comfort you, hearing you weep at night alone because you thought you were alone.
But I didn’t.
I knew sooner or later I would have to “make the sacrifice play”. It was only a matter of time before this happened, I hope you’re not too mad at me.
A part of me also knew that I would never be able to say these words to you, so I’m writing this in hopes that it makes up for all the unspoken words I never got to say. I know I’m a coward for not doing it when I was still alive, but how could I? None of the stars in the skies aligned to a situation where we would be together, and I didn’t want to risk it,
I didn’t want to risk you.
Whenever I was with you, I felt a sense of peace, a sense of serenity. You never made me feel like I wasn’t enough. To everyone else I always put up a phony facade to keep my reputation of some eccentric, heartless, billionaire.
But you saw through me, you treated me like I was none of those things and that’s what I needed. You kept me grounded from all of the crazy things I shouldn’t have done and you kept me in check.
With you, I could just be myself and I felt so free. I was liberated when I was with you and it always made my stomach flutter. Every time I got to spend even a slight moment with you I could feel my heart soar. I didn’t need to be fake, and you never condemned me for being myself.
Whenever we went on missions together, I was never scared. I trusted you with every inch of my body, knowing that we could do it together. There was nothing that you and I couldn’t do. We always came out stronger in the end.
I’m sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye, and I’m sorry this is the way I had to tell you how I felt. But you knew all of this already, didn’t you?
I love you, and I wish things could have been different.
Maybe in another time, we could have been together and I know it would work.
Because my love for you doesn’t just exist in one universe, it exists in all of them. No matter where we are, even if we’re worlds apart, I still love you with all my heart. Remember that.
You don’t have to say it back, I know.
Just do me a favour and move on. Don’t think about me for too long, find someone else who will love you the way I do.
Until the next lifetime, Steve.
Little words were spoken, but the tears of joy running down Steve’s face spoke millions. At that moment, Steve felt as still, as at peace as the lake in front of him.
There are other universes, this just wasn’t the right one.
And that’s okay.