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Bloody Mary

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There’s a time, one night, in between the flickering of the street lights, that Tony is given the first key to understanding Steve. He wakes with a jolt, an unpleasant skittering of spindly fingers up his spine, and she is there. Blood on white silk, hair in perfect pin curls, with her umbrella idly tick-tocking back and forth in one hand.  The other slim, pale hand rests on Steve’s bared foot, and Tony simply swallows, hard, bleary eyes fixed on her. He knows who she is (what she is)- Steve’s spoken of her far more often than any other. She fixes him in a frightening gaze, pupils black as dark alleyways and Tony isn’t even ashamed of his fear. She is something wild- something to be scared of- something only Steve could love, with that strange lion heart of his.

“Don’t you hurt my grandbaby, Anthony,” She murmurs, her hand stroking carefully across Steve’s ankle. “Don’t you even dare.” He wouldn’t dare- doesn’t dare- oh no, Tony won’t cross her. Steve mumbles in his sleep, her name, eyelids fluttering- and when Tony looks back to her after checking that Steve’s still asleep, she’s gone.

He sees her face again every time Steve mentions her for weeks afterwards, expressions wreathed in shadows and a voice like bullets studding the side of a brick-built house. Steve calls her Nana. It’s his reflexive habit, from the days when Tony didn’t know. He never quite lost it- if there’s business to be done, a casual statement about going to help out Nana is made, and Tony will wave Steve out the door with a pasted on- grin, never letting himself wonder if Steve will come back this time with a bullet in his bones.

In the beginning (the second beginning, after Tony was kidnapped), Tony had tried to ask Steve if he’d ever leave the Howling Commandos- if he’d ever stop loving this double-sided life, with the head end of a mild-mannered art instructor and the tail end of a hardcore gangster. Steve had a simple answer.

“You can stop loving Nana,” he’d said, quiet and slow, pastels on his fingers and a small blood stain on his shirt hem. “But trust me, Tony, she will never stop loving you.”

Steve’s Nana- She’s beautiful, straight out of some 1930’s flick, cold cream and violets and the acrid smell of gunpowder, and he knows, god, Tony knows that he’s imagining her. He knows that no one else sees her sitting on the edge of the couch with a cigarette in her hand, smirking over the top of a wine glass at Bucky’s latest crude remark. (Sometimes he wants to ask if that’s the truth- if Steve really doesn’t actually see her because he almost wants him to, to know just how much Nana seems to care about him.)

Logically, Tony knows that there’s no black umbrella in the stand by the door, but every time he walks in to see it sitting there he feels a little bit safer. No- safer’s not the word. Reassured, more like it, to watch Steve trip his way down the steps with Sam and Bucky at his back, the wide raven halo of Nana’s umbrella following a meter behind.

Because he knows, in that sick way of his, that Nana will bring Steve back.

No one’s gonna dare hurt her precious grandbaby.

And how fucked up is that, that Tony’s boyfriend’s grandmother is the mob? Pretty fucked up, that’s how much. There are no Sunday lunches with her, no hand-knit sweaters or boxes of fudge or moving couches. No. There are driveby shootings and drugs rolled up in sock shipments and boxes of ammo and moving bodies instead.

 It should have bothered him- it should have made him want to run the other way, but after a while… He found, after a while, that he didn’t actually mind. Because he doesn’t know what did it- his overwhelming love for Steve or one too many concussions or the fact that he’s so, so desperate for an actual family- but he’s turning out to be just as fucked up as the rest of them.

 And finally, for once, Tony Stark fits in