Chapter 1: Tony's Side
“You know… there’s one thing I can’t help but wonder about,” Tony suddenly announces, straddling Steve’s hips and making himself comfortable there. Steve looks good in his bed, Tony muses. Dishevelled, comfortable, and lazy; it might just be Tony’s favourite look.
“What do you wonder about?” Steve asks with a small yawn. He stretches a little before he settles back onto the bed, looking up at Tony with an indulgent smile.
“You have a beautiful apartment in Manhattan,” Tony reminds him. “And yet, you’re here again. In my apartment. In my bed. Slumming it.”
Steve chuckles lightly when Tony playfully traces invisible lines on his bare stomach. He takes hold of Tony’s hands and studies them for a moment (they’re scarred and calloused, Tony knows), before he gently kisses the knuckles.
“I like it here,” he finally answers. “It’s your space, after all. And the cat is here, too.”
“I thought you didn’t like the cat,” Tony says, raising an eyebrow. Steve has always been more of a dog person. He wasn’t really the type who was able to appreciate the charms of the tough love of a cat.
“I guess he grew on me,” Steve jokes wryly. “Like a fungus.”
Tony thinks he says something about how comparing his beloved cat to a mushroom is extremely rude, but all he really remembers is his heart threatening to beat out of his chest.
He’s always dreading it, the moment Steve will finally decide that this whole… thing is too much trouble. They are polar opposites; Tony, the prodigal son fallen from grace, and Steve, the street urchin turned coveted artist. Tony can’t go where Steve is, no matter what. Even if he finally bowed to Howard’s demands, he would have to give Steve up forever. And one day, Steve will grow tired of his mess, anyway.
One day, there will be someone better than Tony. Someone easier to love. Someone who can give Steve what he really needs.
Steve smiles up at him, opening his mouth as if to say something.
“Coffee,” Tony blurts out, quickly scrambling off the bed. “I should make coffee.”
Steve doesn’t call after him, and he also doesn’t say anything when he joins Tony in the kitchen a few moments later. Out of the corner of his eyes, Tony can see him pet Nightmare, the jet-black cat gracefully accepting the willingly given affection.
Tony doesn’t dare to look Steve in the eyes when he finally hands him a cup of steaming coffee, but he does get a warm embrace and a kiss on his forehead for his efforts.
Over Steve’s shoulder, Nightmare gives him a judging look.
Tony knows he’s a coward. But he’ll keep running as long as he can.
Chapter 2: Steve's Side
Steve wakes up from a nap on Tony’s beaten-down (but very comfortable) sofa to the sound of a pen moving quickly over rustling paper. As he blinks, Tony comes slowly into focus, bent over a sketch pad and completely absorbed in whatever he is working on at the moment. He is probably inventing something strange yet genius again, Steve assumes. He usually is.
Tony looks good in the soft light of the late afternoon sun, Steve notices. His dark hair is a mess, his eyelashes are a sharp contrast to the golden shine of his skin. His tongue is sticking out a tiny little bit at the right corner of his mouth, an adorable habit that Tony doesn’t realise he has and Steve will never, ever tell Tony about.
Steve is hit by the sudden urge to kiss every single part of Tony that he can possibly reach. He wants to wrap his arms around that man and never let him go. He has been having these feeling rather often, lately.
“What are you doing?” Steve asks instead of indulging in his impulses. Asking Tony that question usually leads to an excruciatingly detailed explanation of whatever Tony is currently working on, and while Steve might not understand too much of it, he loves listening to Tony’s excited babble. It calms him, no matter how upset he is.
For once, though, the question does not bring the expected explanation. Instead, Tony looks up from his work and smiles at Steve.
“Coffee?” he asks, closing the sketch pad and placing it on the coffee table before he stands up.
“Yes, please,” Steve answers, a little baffled. He wonders what Tony was working on, but well, he has already asked and Tony doesn’t seem to want him to know.
He gratefully accepts the cup of coffee offered to him, though, and also Tony’s gentle attention when he makes himself comfortable in Steve’s lap.
In between soft kisses and sips of dark, strong coffee, he forgets that something was bothering him.
In the end, it’s a coincidence that causes Steve to find out what Tony was working on. Or rather, it’s a coincidence named Nightmare, who knocks down everything currently lying on the coffee table, as cats are prone to do. The sketch pad goes sailing to the floor and falls open, and when Steve bends down to pick it up, he ends up staring at his own sleeping face.
Steve is struck by the execution of the drawing. Not only is it done with very obvious artistic skill and really looks like him, but it’s done with a loving care that takes his breath away. It looks so soft, so… Steve looks up at Tony, who is definitely not looking at him and blushing all shades of red.
Steve gives in to the impulse, gets up and wraps his arms around Tony, chasing the heat of Tony’s blush with his mouth, delighting in the way it makes Tony shiver.
“I love you so much,” he mumbles against Tony’s neck. “And I’m never, ever letting you go.”
“Steve,” Tony begs, squirming in Steve’s arms and trying to get away. But Steve is not in a forgiving mood right now, and he won’t let Tony run any longer.
The ring has been a steady companion of his lately and Steve’s tension has been steadily building lately. Finally taking it out now feels like an enormous relief.
“Anthony Edward Stark,” Steve says (and it’s a little different than he imagined how this would go down, with him holding a still squirming Tony, not letting him escape another time). “Would you allow me the honour of marrying you?”
Tony cries a lot that evening. But he also keeps clinging to Steve, kissing him again and again.
Most important, tough, is that he accepts the ring.