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After Afghanistan, Tony was never without his sunglasses. Of course people were curious about whatever the eccentric billionaire inventor was up to. Tabloids and gossip sites constantly debated why he wore the sunglasses. Tony always gave the same answer to all the questions – who cares? And, once he unveiled the Iron Man armor, nobody was talking about his sunglasses any more.

Today, Tony had an extra bounce in his step. He had signed a contract for a special line of Iron Man-inspired sunglasses, with all the profits going to charity. He decided to reward himself with an extra hour or two in the workshop. Maybe he’d putter around with some quinjet redesigns. Or fix up the armor. He wasn’t sure.

Steve was camped in front of the common room television, watching a baseball game and reading mission reports. “Hey, Tony,” he called out.

“Hey,” Tony replied. He decided to make himself a cup of coffee in the common kitchen.

Steve decided to join him. Not that Tony would ever say no to Steve. He liked the guy, more than he really should. Sometimes he thought he might even have a chance with Steve. There was clearly something between them, Tony could tell. And today Steve was clearly happy to see Tony.

Especially when he gave Tony a blindingly brilliant smile as he leaned against the counter. Distracted, Tony dropped the coffee tin. Both he and Steve reached out to grab it, and in the process, Tony’s glasses were knocked right off his face. They clattered across the floor, and Tony’s hands flew to his face.

But it was too late. Steve had seen his face – and the secret he had hidden for so long from everyone except Rhodey and Pepper was exposed in the brightly lit kitchen.

“Tony,” Steve said in a shocked whisper.

Tony had suffered more in the roadside attack in Afghanistan than needing the arc reactor to save his heart. He lowered his hands from his face to reveal the jagged white scar that bisected his left eye and trailed into his hairline. Remnants of the shrapnel that had maimed and blinded him.

“It’s okay, Steve, I know how this looks,” Tony said and ducked his head. He had hidden his disfigurement as soon as he saw the pity and revulsion in other people’s eyes. He could not bear that from Steve.

“I’ll – I’ll just put the sunglasses back on. We’ll go on like this never happened.”

Steve reached out gently to Tony. "Please. Tony.”

Tony froze as Steve put a hand on his shoulder. “Seriously, Steve. You don’t need to pretend you’re not repulsed.”

“And why would I be bothered?” Steve asked, his tone earnest and direct. “I had friends back in the War with worse injuries than yours, and I never once thought any differently about them.” He ran a finger along Tony’s jaw. “And all this time, you built machines –”

“To hide that I’m blind in one eye, yeah.” Tony snatched his sunglasses from the floor. “I engineered the glasses to help me navigate and identify places and people. The Iron Man helmet is more complex –”

Steve smiled more deeply, a twinkle in his blue eyes. He cupped Tony’s face in his large, warm palms. “Tony, you are the most brilliant man I’ve ever met. It’s amazing what you can do.” Slowly and carefully he leaned over to brush his lips against Tony’s, in a brief, tantalizing touch. “And I would never ever think less of you because of your injury.”

Tony gusted out a deep breath, feeling as if all the strings holding him taut and tense had been cut at once. He felt lighter than he had in all the time since he left Afghanistan. He felt as if he had been freed, and could at last let down his guard, and be himself with Steve.

Steve wrapped careful arms around Tony and held him as if he was treasured. Cherished. Loved.

He pressed a kiss into Tony’s hair. “I’m always honest, Tony,” he said.

His head tucked underneath Steve’s chin, Tony breathed for a moment, nestled snugly in Steve’s arms. Then he said, “So, you’ll give me your honest opinion about the very expensive restaurant I’m taking you to on our first date.”

“Um. How expensive?” Steve asked.

“Wait and see,” Tony teased, as he pressed a secret smile into Steve’s skin.


Badge art by Inoshi.