He rides all the way to Oklahoma City without stopping for more than fast food and sleep at rest stops. He supposes that he's "seeing the country" but honestly he's wondering aimlessly across the United States, looking for something. He isn't sure what. He turns down 39th Street only to find it blocked off, it seems pretty apparent that there are festivities going on, possibly a parade. He turns his bike around and follows the road signs for parking.
He could use a celebration or festival right now. He pulls into one of the motorcycle parking spaces and peers toward the festival. There are rainbows everywhere. He knows what this is for, this much he had garnered from the various files that SHIELD gave him, it's a homosexual pride thing. He stares at the parade in the distance. He can hear the screams and shouts and claps.
He feels sick. They're celebrating sin.
He gets back on his bike and glances back at the map, there's a mall a few miles away, he can go there to eat and enjoy himself. He isn't going to eat somewhere where sin is celebrated as if it's a joyous thing.
He ends up at the Cheesecake Factory. It's an extremely high end restaurant and Steve does a double take at the prices of the food. He has enough money; the military more than taking care of 70 years of back pay as well as his current work for SHIELD, but it still feels weird to spend fourteen dollars on a plate of chicken and rice.
As if fate, or maybe God, hates him, his waiter is extremely and flamboyantly gay, and he flirts with Steve. He actually flirts. Steve shifts uncomfortably because three months ago this was illegal, three months ago this man would've been put in jail, and yet the waiter flirts with Steve like there's no tomorrow. Steve eats his food quickly, his metabolism helping immensely and then orders dessert, seven dollars for an exquisite Oreo cream cheese cake that tastes chocolatey and fantastic.
When he leaves, he tips the bare minimum for the waiter and doesn't stop to say thanks.
He takes careful precautions to avoid the pride parade on his way out of town. An hour and a half later he ends up in a town called Lawton that's about twenty miles from the Texas border. He makes a promise to head to San Antonio to go to Six Flags and the Alamo. The lady at the counter at the Motel 6 flirts shamelessly with him and maybe he feels a little better about the state of the world. There are still straight people in the world, people with heads on their shoulders that don't participate in sin.
And if Steve goes to his hotel room and googles OKCPride, it's because he's bored, not because he's interested in it.
He ends up in San Antonio three days later, after spending a day in Dallas and another day wondering a college town called Waco.
He makes the trip to Six Flags, with no idea what to do except to ride some roller coasters and try different foods. The credit card feels hard in his pocket, but he pays for the tickets and parking with it and he doesn't cringe about the fact that parking costs $20 for the day.
He goes on the first roller coaster he finds, not caring what the ride does or how fast it goes. He just needs a thrill, something to take his mind off of everything.
Steve strikes a conversation with a brunette behind him in line. She's pretty and a great conversationalist until she asks if his companions are too scared to go on the roller coaster.
"No," he says with a shrug. "I'm here alone."
"Lucky you," she says with a laugh. "My wife and daughter are way too chicken to try any of the fun stuff."
Steve attempts to hide his blatant disgust, because they're exposing children to this? And it's like the websites said, they're perverting and poisoning the minds of children for their personal gain. It's one thing to participate in sin for yourself, but it's another to force an innocent child into this. The little girl needs a father, and two mothers can never equate to a father. And how can they be married? Homosexual marriage is hardly legal in most states, and it certainly isn't recognized in Texas. He continues the conversation, praying that the line would move faster so that he could get on the roller coaster and out of this woman's life.
The world has changed.
He's still Catholic, and the Catholic Church still condemns homosexuality, as it should be. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that homosexuals are directly against God's design for humanity. The purpose of marriage is to create a family with another person of God. Homosexuals can't create families, it's against biological order and it's unnatural, even if there are hundreds of pictures circulating the internet talking about animals that participate in homosexual behavior. Animals also eat each other but humans aren't rallying for that to be legal. The double standard was sickening.
Tone invites (read: forces) Steve to live with him when Steve gets back from his road trip, and it's not bad. Tony drinks a lot, and he works a lot, and sometimes Tony forgets to shower, and change, and eat, and come out of the lab once in a while.
Steve brings Tony food at least once a day, and Tony thanks him and then goes back to work and Steve has no honest idea as to whether or not Tony actually eats the food, but it's the thought that counts.
He spends his days on Google. The SHIELD packet wasn't exactly thorough on the whole marriage thing. He knows that interracial marriage is legal now, and however weird it seems, it's actually a good thing. There's happy, healthy families that have kids, and this is a positive to a progressive marriage movement, but the homosexuality, the homosexuality is different.
He learns about the Stonewall Riots, which paved the way to gay rights in the United States. He reads stories from Matt Walsh and the American Family Association and well as the Blaze. He likes BreitBart and 1,000,000 Supporting Traditional Marriage on his private Facebook, as well as Focus on the Family and the American Family Association. Even if the majority of the country supports this sin, there's still people who understand morality in this country. There's still good Christians on the United States.
It goes well, it actually does amazing until Steve gets to know Tony. It's in the way he talks, the way he gets excited about something and there's this fire in his eyes that makes Steve smile and want to hear more even though he doesn't understand a damn thing. It's when Steve's smooth hands touch Tony's calloused ones when Steve gives Tony his food. It's in the way Tony works, how hard he concentrates when he's working on a project. It's things he hasn't felt since Bucky.
Steve doesn't like Tony, at least not like that. He's straight, and even if he wasn't, he's not going to engage in sodomy just because his body tells him to.
It's when Steve gets off in the shower with his hand between his legs and images of Tony flashing in his mind that he realizes that he has a fucking problem.
Everything explodes when Clint and Natasha move in. Both of them are still reeling with Coulson's death and it makes the tower feel a bit more cramped.
Steve goes to the common area to watch television because he can't sleep. Even a hot shower and rubbing one out didn't work, and he needs something to entertain himself.
Clint's in the living room if the common's area watching a movie where the characters are screaming about paying rent and setting things on fire. Clint points out that the movie had just started and that Steve is welcome to watch.
"You know," Clint says as he pauses the movie. "I'm not gonna lie, Anthony Rapp is pretty hot, you know?"
"I don't know," Steve says defensively. "I'm straight."
Clint shrugs. "I'm just saying that can appreciate an attractive man when I see one."
"Are you a queer, Clint?" The words are out of Steve's mouth before he can stop them.
Clint is silent. "Would that bother you?" Clint finally says, his voice sounds more hurt than anything. "Fighting next to a queer, working with one, having dinner with one, becoming friends with one?"
Steve grits his teeth and doesn't say anything. He's changed in front of Clint and god it's fucking disgusting, it's just-
"Steve," Clint says sharply. "Would it bother you?"
"I've changed in front of you," Steve says quietly. "I've changed in front of you and you're a faggot."
"And I respect you enough not to look," Clint grits out. "God, Steve, I'm not going to look at you."
"It's just, it's wrong Clint," Steve finally says. "You can continue like this. This road leads to-" Steve stops, because he can't fucking say it. Because if Clint's going to hell, then so is he, and the thought makes his chest constrict.
"Hell?" Clint bites out. "Are you going to tell me that God hates me, now. I mean, god hates fags. If I'm going to hell for loving someone, then I don't want to go to heaven." Clint says, but he sounds cold and hard and Steve knows that he's fucked up. "JARVIS, maybe you should turn Rent off, it's pretty obvious Steve doesn't want to watch this."
Clint stalks out of the room.
Steve lies down on the couch. He knows what he needs to do; he can't keep living like this, not in a way that will lead him to hell. He closes his eyes and finally says, "JARVIS, how do I get into contact with Exodus International?"
"Do you really think you're going to hell, Steve?" Natasha says when she enters Steve's room.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Steve says, throwing a pair of socks into a duffel bag.
"I want to know why you're going to Exodus International." Natasha clarifies.
"Because I need to," Steve rubs a hand through his hair. "I need to change; I can't keep living like this. It's sick."
"Steve," Natasha says gently. "You can't go. Steve,"
Steve puts a pair of underwear in the duffel bag. "If I go, then maybe Clint'll see and then-" Natasha grabs the bag and pulls it away from Steve.
"Clint'snot interested in changing the person that he is. There's nothing wrong with being queer, Steve. You are still human, you can still be a happy, healthy productive member of society."
"Natasha," Steve says. "I cannot be this person, I can't be a queer. I'm a Christian, Natasha." Steve sits on his bed, his head in his hands. He's not going to cry, men don't cry. "Six months ago, men were beaten and murdered and imprisoned because of their sexuality. Six months ago, the feelings that I-" Steve takes a deep breath. "The feelings that I feel for men were illegal and immoral. Six months ago, you could fucking murder a gay man for hitting on you and the worst you would get is a slap on the wrist."
"It's not like that, anymore, Steve," Natasha says.
"You don't think I know that?" Steve snorts. "I know that damn well. But imagine going to sleep in a world where being yourself was the worst possible thing imaginable and waking up and finding out that not only is it not the worst thing imaginable anymore, it's celebrated, like it's something to be proud of. Imagine being told that your feelings are invalid for your entire life only to wake up and be told the opposite. I'm supposed to be an American icon, a sign of morality and truth and America at it's prime. I can't be that if I'm queer. "
"Steve," Natasha says. "You are under no means morally bound to the ideology that morality can only be attached to being a straight Christian male, and anyone who says otherwise is a dumb ass. You are a human being, Steve. You're not just an icon, you have feelings and a life and you are not bound to someone's idea of normal."
"I fucked up," Steve finally says. "I hurt Clint because in scared of the person that I am."
"Clint gets that," Natasha says. "At least to an extent, he had foster parents who beat the crap out of him for wearing nail polish. He's upset for himself and for you. Look," Natasha finishes. "You cannot move forward in your life if you don't learn to accept yourself."
"I don't know if I can do that," Steve says quietly.
Natasha hands him a business card. "This is Clint's therapist; he's unrelated to SHIELD, and he helped Clint through his feelings, and he's Christian. It'll do you good."
"He's christian?" Steve questions
"Protestant, I believe," Natasha replies. "Although he might be Catholic."
"I don't know," Steve says.
"Steve, you can work through this. Your feelings are valid and there's absolutely nothing wrong with you, and one day you'll understand it." Natasha turns on her heel to leave. "And maybe then you can tell Tony how you feel."
Steve nods numbly, glancing at the card. He could do this, he could find acceptance for himself in this new century. He pauses, Natasha's words finally catching up with him. "I didn't say anything about Tony."