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Not So Normal After All

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It didn't come as a surprise to Steve Rogers when he first realized that Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes had some kind of problem with him. It wasn’t a secret either, or at least the Colonel didn’t waste much effort in trying to hide it any time he was anywhere near Steve.

Steve suspected that Rhodes’ dislike of him was based only on superficial reasons considering he actually didn’t know the guy very well and Steve didn’t think he deliberately did something to piss him of, therefore he did not find it necessary to spend much time thinking about it and also hadn’t deemed it necessary to take the time for self-reflection regarding the situation. Besides, the super soldier had spoken to the man for no more than a few minutes a handful of times and even during those extremely rare events, they'd only talked of Avenger’s business and nothing else.

To the Captain, it was clear that Rhodes was a military man, and therefore likely appreciated practicality and a straight-to-the-point attitude in his his interactions with others. It was an attitude Steve understood and was familiar with, from his time during the War, and so he should have felt at ease around the Colonel. However, Steve was distinctly uncomfortable around Rhodes, though. The discomfort that he felt around the man was obviously due to the Colonel making a conscious effort to make the supersoldier feel about two centimeters tall. Every time Steve opened his mouth in an attempt at small talk, to get to know his boyfriend's best friend better, the man in question merely gave him an undecipherable look, and Steve's words would fail him.

Now, Steve was a soldier himself, so he knew how hostile some of his fellow soldiers could get over a simple misunderstanding, except Steve could not think of a moment with the Lieutenant Colonel when such a thing could have happened. He wracked his brain and yet the results always ended with not a single clue popping up in his mind because, once again, he had only ever talked to the man about the Avengers… and maybe about Tony.

Tony was probably the only reason this whole situation was bothering him, considering that he normally wouldn’t give a darn about how someone he barely knew felt about him. Except this was Tony’s best friend; one of the very few people that had stood by Tony’s side through every hardship he’d encountered.

Before the Avengers, of course.

And it was only after that realization that the answer came to Steve like a slap in the face.

Steve knew it was just a matter of time before he found out the reason behind the Colonel's latent resentment; after all, it was bound to happen at some point. What surprised and embarrassed him was that it took him so long to figure it out.

And in this situation...

“Rhodey, say something!” Tony demanded excitedly, but Steve could hear the nervousness in his voice.

“So, you guys are dating now.” Rhodes deadpanned. It was moments like this, with the weight of a dark, murderous look directed his way, that Steve wondered if Tony suspected his best friend’s dislike for Steve.

Maybe Tony was a little oblivious sometimes, but really, the Colonel wasn't even pretending to like him, and Tony was a genius, after all.

Still, there was the possibility that he didn't have a clue, especially considering what it took Steve to make the genius believe that he was in their relationship for the long run, and that Tony actually deserved to be happy with someone he loved.

“Yes.” Steve stated while he resisted averting his eyes from Rhodes’ who was still staring, or scowling, at him without blinking. Steve thought it was important to maintain eye contact, especially after finally realizing that the Colonel’s problem with him was probably because he didn’t like sharing Tony. The stare only got worse when Tony put his arms around Steve’s waist as if he wouldn’t let go no matter what.

Tony’s embrace made Steve relax his serious stare a little, and he was unable to stop the warm smile that followed his lover's actions.

“Isn’t that great, man?” Tony prompted squeezing Steve a little. “I think I can finally go steady. Well, if that’s what Cap wants, of course.”

Steve did everything in his power to ignore the very evident frown that was now on Rhodes’ face. Instead he kept his eyes on Tony’s earnest expression and answered truthfully, “I couldn’t want anything more.”

“Okay, okay, I got it. Please stop being so damn cheesy in front of me, man. You’re freaking me out.” The sudden change of expression and tone was pretty evident when Rhodes' eyes were redirected to Tony, who let Steve go with a grin on his face directed towards his friend. “I think it’s great, Tony, really.” Steve’s enhanced hearing didn’t miss the acid undertones of the Colonel’s words.

Tony and the Colonel were now dude-hugging. It would be a beautiful thing, especially considering how it almost never happened, if it wasn’t for the fact that Rhodes wasn’t paying Tony much attention. The military man’s arms tightened around Steve’s boyfriend in what could only be called a possessive grip, and the colonel seemed to be concentrating more on glaring at the super soldier in full hatred mode than embracing his friend.

What made Steve finally glare right back was the way that Rhodes refused to let Tony go when his lover declared that it was too much hugging for a lifetime and that he needed to breathe.

“Now who’s the cheesy one?” Tony teased, but then he relaxed again in his best friend’s arms. “Really, Rhodey, this is good for me. Steve is good for me.”

As Rhodes finally relaxed the crushing hug in order to look at Tony at arm length, the deathly glare turned into a soft stare (Steve could bet it was a rare sight on Rhodes). If Steve hadn’t understood right at that moment that Rhodes cared and felt responsible for Tony, then what he said next made it perfectly clear.

“I just want you to be happy, Tony. I hope you get that through your thick skull.” Rhodes declared slowly while slapping Tony lightly on said skull. The way he said it implied that he didn’t want any confusion about his words from anyone present. “And I would support you no matter what, man. That’s what I’m here for, you know? To punch you in the face when your stupidity reaches high levels; which is all the time.”

“It certainly does not. I don't know if you somehow missed it, but I am a genius, which means no stupidity.” Tony affirmed in a soft voice. Even if his words expressed something entirely different, that was a tone Steve knew from experience was reserved for only a handful of people. Thank God that Steve was included in that exclusive group, because if he wasn’t, he’d probably feel a little left out and even more of a third wheel than he felt right now. Probably even jealous. Which he wasn’t. Really. “I’m here for you as well, Rhodey; my need to annoy you sustains my sanity, even if I suck at showing it,” Tony murmured,

“You’re better than you think, though. But I’m not defending you to yourself; I have to do enough of that for you in front of other people,” the Colonel replied playfully. “You certainly are unpopular around the wrong crowd.”

“Probably just ass-clowns." Tony dismissed with a smirk on his lips and a shake of his hand, "You don’t need to worry about them; most people love me. I’m really loveable, ask Steve.”

“Tony, it will be a really damn freaky day when I don’t spend at least five minutes of my short free time - thank you for that, by the way- worrying about what idiocy you decided to do that day.” Rhodes said, deciding to ignore Tony’s last words. Steve didn’t want to jump to any conclusions, but he couldn’t help but feel that the Colonel's response was probably a way of telling Steve to ‘back the hell off’ from the conversation. And by conversation he meant Tony. “Besides, civilians love you, that’s good for a fan club, Tones, but useless for things that do matter.” 

“Hey, my fan club is awesome! At a safe distance, of course. They pulled me out of prison once.” At Steve’s incredulous ‘What?!’  Tony continued in a rush. “Besides, you said that you worry, but you never call me.” He stated with fake-resentment, eyes dancing.

“I don’t need to, I value my sanity and I have Pepper to reassure me that you have indeed done something stupid every day without submitting myself to your bullshit.”

“I’m hurt!” Tony exclaimed while making an exaggerated grab at his arc reactor. Steve couldn’t help but chuckle at his lover’s antics. “That’s just mean, using Pepper for your stalker ways.”

“Whatever keeps my mind at ease.” Rhodes finished ruffling Tony’s hair just to spite him. “How about that coffee you offered just before you dropped that bomb-of-news on my face?”

“Yeah, excuse my babbling. It was because, surprisingly enough, I give a damn about your opinion.” Tony muttered while trying to tame his hair once again. “I’ll go get the damn coffee,” he announced louder, heading for the kitchen.

When Steve made a move to go after him, praying that Rhodes had forgotten he was in the room, a firm hand on his shoulder that was probably meant to hurt him a little – if not for the super soldier serum it probably would have– stopped him right on his tracks. No sudden invisibility today, it seemed.

“Captain Rogers, a word?” War Machine asked, when Steve turned to face him with a raised eyebrow. The tone that was reserved for him was back; dark, threatening, full of the promise of a painful death.

Not that Captain America was going to cower before it. “Sure, what’s up?”

“You are up,” Rhodes stated. And was that anger that Steve was sensing? “Look Rogers, I don’t think I have a lot of time so I’ll cut through the crap. I don’t know what your intentions are, but let’s get this clear–”

“My intentions?” Steve asked insulted. The Colonel could dislike him all he wanted, but Steve wasn’t about to let him jump to conclusions, which sounded more like accusations, just because he possibly thought that Steve was stealing Tony away. “Who are you to question my intentions?”

“I’m Tony’s best friend. I’ve been with him through it all, Captain; his loneliness, his drinking problems, his parents passing away, the fucking rapist–”

“Rapist?!”

Rhodes continued as if he hadn't said a word, “Obadiah Stane, Justin Hammer, Pepper’s break up,” and here he paused, making a point of looking Steve directly in the eye, “even his eternal playboy ways.”

Steve was getting angry at being ignored, and even though he knew about most of the points Rhodes was trying to overwhelm him with, and was aware of their veracity, the one that had disturbed him the most was the one that he didn’t know anything at all. Just thinking of someone taking Tony like that…

He took a calming breath, if Steve was going to hear the details of the rapist situation, he wanted Tony to explain it to Steve himself. That last one, though, the ‘playboy ways’, he had already talked with Tony about, and he really didn’t appreciate Rhodes referring to it as if it was something that Tony couldn’t change. That he HAD changed a long time ago.  It was as if the Colonel was trying to say something that Steve didn’t appreciate. “What are you trying to s–”

“Of course you wouldn’t know anything about all of that, because you just got your ass unfrozen and barged into Tony’s life with the sudden purpose of making him miserable for over six months.”

Steve felt those words like a good punch in the gut. He thought that he now understood Rhodes’ resentment towards him better. He'd thought it was a simple case of ‘Get off my little Tony ‘cause I’m his best friend and I look after him’. He had been wrong. Rhodes didn’t like him because of the way he had made Tony feel the first few months, when they were fighting over every single thing, just to make the other feel bad.

The sudden realization that he and Tony had never talked about those months hurt Steve even more. He didn’t know if Tony had forgiven Steve for belittling him for not being like his father. Steve knew now that Tony was so much more.

“And now everything is all better and you love each other? Don’t make me laugh,” Rhodes continued his tone full of skepticism. “I know that Tony really cares for you, and that’s the only reason you’re still alive, Rogers. I know you’re not so dumb that you can’t see how much Tony cares for you and that he would do anything for you. So cut the crap and make your intentions clear, because I’m not buying your fucking lovey-dovey stunt.”

“Hey, listen here,” Steve growled, his voice low and dark. There was no more getting angry. Now, Steve was royally pissed. “I don’t give a darn who you think–”

“Hey, guys, coffee’s ready…” Just when Steve wanted to make Rhodes understand, possibly by shaking him a little or perhaps a punch here and there, Tony came in with three cups of coffee. Apparently, the atmosphere was so suffocating that even Tony caught on that something was off. “Everything alright over here?”

“Of course, dumbass, now hand me that cup ‘cause I haven’t had a decent cup of coffee in a while.” And just like that, Rhodes was his usual self around Tony, and Steve couldn’t stop regretting that he had just lost a battle to the Colonel. He comforted himself with the internal declaration that this whole conversation was merely Round One; he definitely would not lose the war.

At least Rhodes wouldn’t interfere with Tony’s love life more than this.

Right?

 


 

 

Jan thought he was crazy. As in completely crazy.

Why? Well, she simply thought that Steve was nuts for thinking that Colonel Rhodes, as Tony’s best pal, wouldn’t stick his nose into their love life.

“Really, Steve,” she said as if explaining to a particularly slow child. “Don’t you know that the first step to a relationship free of rocks in your path is to ALWAYS make sure that the best friend likes you?!”

“How so?”

“You’re kidding, right?” When she saw the honest confusion on Steve’s face, she let an exasperated sigh leave her mouth. “I sometimes forget that you're older than a dinosaur. Have you never heard the saying ‘boyfriends come and go, but friends are forever’, more commonly known as ‘bro’s before ho’s’? No? Right. Well, something that has changed a lot since the 40’s would be the appreciation of friends, especially since divorces started to be so common. People realized that your friends stick with you no matter what but a romantic relationship can end with just a stupid quarrel.”

“That’s certainly not true.” Steve refused to believe that the way people these days saw commitment was anywhere near true. Especially when they were so open-minded about a lot of other stuff nowadays. “Tony and I fight every now and then and we are perfectly fine.”

“Well, yes. That’s what mature relationships are about, but you do realize that if you left it to Tony to fix your arguments, you’d have already broken up, right?”

That was mostly true. Steve knew that Tony wasn’t as bad at relationships as most people would probably expect of him, given his reputation. Though, Steve was happy when he’d realized that if you put all of Tony’s insecurities and truly horrendous self-esteem issues behind, he was actually pretty good at it.

 

They had struggled a lot when all of this started, but Steve was never one to give up on the few worthy things that crashed into his life, and he was glad that he had never given up on Tony. The genius was getting better by the day at the ‘relationship stuff’, as he called it.

However, he still remembered their first argument as a couple, when Tony had thought that fighting over his lack of self-preservation instinct warranted a break up. Steve had never laughed so hard in his life. Then they’d had tons of glorious reconciliation sex.

“Steve Rogers, stop thinking perverted thoughts and focus!” Jan nagged at him and Steve realized that he had spaced out a little.

“Sorry, Jan. What were you saying?” He honestly was sorry; Jan was just trying to help.

“You were thinking about make-up-sex, weren’t you?” Jan asked slyly, with a huge grin.

Steve sometimes forgot the danger of displaying any form of affection towards Tony in front of the little, devious woman, even if Tony wasn’t around; she seemed to be over-interested in their relationship. Tony suspected she was taking pictures of them making out and selling them on the internet to the highest bidder.

At Steve’s fidgeting and evident blushing, Jan decided to spare him a little from embarrassment and instead continued with the important topic. “Anyway, for someone like Tony, Rhodes’ opinion of you is very important. If Rhodey dislikes you, the Colonel may try to persuade Tony to move on to someone ‘better for him’” she finished, with air quotes.

“I don’t think that Colonel Rhodes would do something like that.”

“Normally, I would agree, but this is Tony we’re talking about here, Steve.” Suddenly, Janet was completely serious. “I mean, if we’re protective of him, can you imagine how protective someone who has been with Tony through all of his problems since they were like, sixteen would be?”

“You're right; he mentioned something like that.”

“’ I’m never wrong,” agreed Janet. “Now, you have to stop believing this doesn’t matter. Tony is never going to leave you, Steve, you know that, but it means a lot to him that you to get along with his most treasured friends, and since you’re already on the good side of all the members of the Avengers, you’ve actually got it pretty easy.”

“You’re probably right, Jan, I would want Tony to get along with Bucky, too. But I don’t know what to do to make Rhodes like me,” Steve confessed. “He was pretty clear about his distaste for me, and it’s not like he even let me defend myself.”

“Then maybe you should talk to him,” Jan suggested, putting a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Clear things up.”

“Yeah, it really is important to Tony,” Steve added, thoughtful. “He was really nervous when he told me he thought it was time for him to tell Rhodes about us.”

“More nervous than when you were going to tell us?” asked Jan, bemused. Tony had almost passed out when she’d lecherously asked him, in the middle of a movie night when they were the only three present, about the Stark-sounding-moans coming from Steve’s room the night before. When Tony had refused to answer her, and Steve was a speechless, blushing mess, she’d told them she already knew they were together and that she had tons of proof to back her up, so they should probably stop trying to hide their relationship.

After that they’d been forced to come clean with the whole team.  Ever since, Tony had been afraid of Jan’s lecherous smirk, whilst Steve had made her his go-to person when he had relationship problems.

“Definitely, but only until Rhodes arrived, then he handled it pretty well.”

“Damn it!” she swore. “I would have loved to be there!” Steve chuckled in response.

“So, should I give him a call?”

“Sure thing!”

 


 

 

Lieutenant Colonel Rhodes answered the phone at the first ring. His voice tight and sharp.

“What’s wrong with Tony?” he demanded.

Steve needed a few seconds to process the question and try not to stutter when he answered. “Nothing, I was-”

“Then what do you want, Captain? I’m in the middle of something important.”

“I was just thinking that maybe we started with the wrong-”

“Captain, cut the bullshit. What do you want? I don’t have time for your babbling.”

Despite Steve’s effort of draining his quickly growing anger with a quiet sigh, he found that he couldn’t let anyone talk to him like that. Not even his lover’s best friend. “You’re being rude without a cause, Colonel, I would suggest for you to-”

“So I’m judging without knowing? Is that what you’re saying? I feel like I’m getting this from the wrong person, Rogers.”

 Steve was now seeing red. He knew what exactly the Colonel was bluntly hinting about; he could almost see Tony in front of him calling him a laboratory experiment just after he told him in lot of words how he was such a failure.

And he felt guilty enough for someone who hadn’t even been there to add to it.

“So this is what this is all about to you? You’re pulling the ‘an eye for an eye’ game here? This isn’t a game, Rhodes, this is about Tony and-”

“And for once we agree on something; this   is   about Tony and how you’re just an asshole who thinks he’s better than anyone for pulling Tony through his bad habits with great sex. He’s not a charity case, Rogers. Find someone else to pity on because Tony Stark is a great man who deserves to be loved the way he is.”

“How dare you assume-!”

And before the whole sentence leaved his mouth, Steve could hear the constant bip of his phone’s line indicating the dead line.

He hung up on him.

Lieutenant Colonel Rhodes just hung up on Steve leaving him with the word in his mouth. Again.

Now Steve had to ask Tony for a new phone. It had been a while since he had felt so damn frustrated and now the poor technological thing laid spread out all over the floor where it’d crashed loudly. And he was just starting to get a grip on the texting and on the saving contacts with their pictures. The idea of struggling with a new, unknown phone just made him, if possible, more irritated.

“Steve?” the familiar voice calling him from the doorframe of their room made him relax at least a little. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” Steve lied taking a long calming breath that betrayed his words. Tony approached him carefully and put both of his hand soothingly on his shoulders, giving him a little massage. The brunette was searching for his eyes in an attempt to read the blonde better.

Steve couldn't stand still anymore and before he knew it, he was on his feet with his hands tightly curled in fists, walking in small circles and ready to punch something into another dimension where not even Reed would find it.

“Of course you are,” the genius conceded sarcastically eyeing the destroyed device. “I can even see the wonderful piece of art you were trying to create with the wall, the floor and the newest Starkphone. Very modern, let me tell you.” Tony didn't give up his need to comfort Steve and he followed his walk until he was standing infront of him. At seeing his calmed, worried stare, Steve at last relaxed a little and let Tony cup his face with both hands.

“Sorry.” He whispered sincerely, soothed by Tony’s touch and sarcasm when once upon a time it would’ve surely triggered another fight.

“What happened?” Tony inquired gently while running his hands slowly up and down Steve’s neck. The Captain gave up his tense demeanor and found comfort by rounding Tony’s slim waist with his arms. “You seem really frustrated, and don’t you try to deny it because that’s my normal state and I can recognize it from miles away.”

“I would think your normal state would be something between loud and stubborn.” He teased with a little smile.

“Now, that’s just mean. I can be perfectly quiet and submissive when I want to be.” Tony stated with fake-indignation.

“If you’re talking about sex, and you always are, then I would totally discard the quiet thing. It’s simply not possible for you.” Steve replied pulling Tony closer to hug him completely, tucking his lover's face under Steve's strong jaw. His lover’s hands adjusted to the new position and were transferred to Steve’s back, resuming their soothing spell in the form of lazy circles. “I really love the way you are noisy in bed. You know that, right?”

At Steve’s question, Tony pulled back a little so he could cup the blonde’s cheek with one hand and force him to look Tony straight into his eyes. “Steve, what’s wrong?”

“I just want you to know that.” Steve lied smoothly. But maybe not so much considering the skeptical look he was receiving from Tony.

For one instant there, he wanted to ask about the so called rapist. It was something that had been nagging him since it came out of Rhodes’ mouth. But considering the urge of shaking answers out of his lover so he could hunt down the responsible and make them pay dearly, he decided, for the sake of avoiding a big argument, to voice his other concern instead: “I never apologized for the things I called you when we met.” He confessed finally.

“What?” Tony now looked confused. “Is that what’s been bothering you? Why? That was like years ago.”

“I just realized that we never really talked about it.”

“Well, I thought it wasn’t necessary considering that I wasn’t a defenseless victim enduring your evil harassment since I was striking right back at you, Steve. We are both guilty.”

“But I started it,” Steve accepted in a whisper. “I made you feel miserable for a while and you didn’t deserve it.”

“How did you…?” Tony tried to ask, surprise reflected in his eyes. Steve could even recognize the hint of anger hidden in the depth of his dark-blue orbs. Tony was now pushing against his chest trying to make Steve let go so he could create some distance between them, except that Steve didn’t let him; he knew that Tony was more prone to get mad at him when he was out of his arms and the blonde simply didn’t feel like letting go, anyway. In addition, Steve really wanted all of this sorted out as soon as possible, which was unlikely to happen if he had to chase after Tony.

As if suddenly turning on a really bright light, Tony looked sharply at Steve as if he suddenly understood everything that was happening in his mind.

“Is this about Rhodey?” he asked hitting the nail head on. At least he’d stopped trying to get away in favor of what seemed to be headed to a bad-cop-interrogation. “Did he say something to you?”

Steve then realized that the anger wasn’t directed at him. At least not entirely.

Even if Rhodes frustrated him big time, it would be unfair of him to get him in trouble with Tony over the phone call that Steve had initiated. Besides, like hell would he go to his lover to tell on the guy for insulting him and ‘hurting his feelings’. He would rather have another pleasant chat with the Colonel.

“No. We were just talking and he was just… We were just talking about-”

“Steve, stop right there. You’re a horrible liar. Really, I know that Captain America isn't expected to lie and all that, but seeing you try is painful.” Tony stated, cutting his stuttering. “What did Rhodey say to you?”

At Steve's silence, Tony scowled a little in suspicion. “Don’t worry; you don’t have to tell me, we had a discussion about you a few days after we told him about us, so I can easily guess.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I asked him what the hell did he do to make you punch your way through all my sandbags the day he came over. I had a vested interest in asking, you see, especially considering that we had about fifty of them, and you had to sweep the sand all night leaving me all alone in bed. You’re making the people who sell me all the boxing equipment quite happy, Steve.”

“Sorry.” He apologized regretfully. He really did feel bad when Tony had to buy stuff because he broke them; he had enough to repair because of Bruce hulking out as it was. At Tony’s wave of dismissal, he inquired, “So? What did he tell you when you asked?”

“He was pissed that I was going out with a national icon that ‘probably just have a crush on me’. I told him that his lack of faith in me was insulting.” He scoffed. “I can’t believe that he actually told you directly to leave me alone or something. I was pretty clear when I told him to leave you alone.”

It was something in the wording of the last phraise that had Steve understanding just how important Rhodes was to Tony. No ‘fuck off!’, nor ‘go stick your nose wherever it’s your business’, not even ‘leave us alone’. Just, to leave Steve alone.

“But what did he tell you exactly for you to be this angry? I’m thinking that that was a really nice phone, so now you have to tell me,” his lover demanded with clear indignation on his behalf and Steve thought that was adorable. “Did he call you?”

“No, I called him.” Steve confessed which made Tony blink his eyes in surprise. “Yeah, I asked JARVIS his mobile phone number, but apparently he already had mine because he knew it was me the moment he answered.”

You called him? You called him to his personal phone?!” Tony asked like he couldn’t believe his idiocy. “Do you have a death wish or something?!”

“What?” Steve asked naively, not understanding what the big fuss was over. “I thought that we could fix things. Maybe start again?”

“Steve, judging by the way you ended up breaking half of the gym’s equipment (shut up! The sandbags are half of the gym’s equipment!), and the way you pulverized your unbreakable Starkphone, I can only assume that he didn’t like your conversation on the phone.”

“Well, I had to try.” Steve insisted.

“And you did,” His lover agreed gratefully, smiling warmly at him. “And I know you did it for me, so I’m really happy to have someone like you with me, but if you think I’m hardheaded, then that’s because you don’t know Rhodey, at all. He’ll come around with time, Steve. With a lot of time, frankly, but let it go for now.”

“Tony,” Steve in a persuasive tone, “I know this is very important to you. Maybe I should try one more time?”

“Seriously, Steve, let it go. So what if my best friend doesn’t like you? I love you and that’s what it’s important, right?” he finished his statement with a chaste kiss on Steve’s lips and a good grope of his ass to show his encouragement in his own way.

“Right...”

Steve, being Captain America and all, wasn’t convinced that their conversation could realy mean the end of the whole situation. Things were never that easy no matter the finality in Tony’s voice. Instead, he gave Tony a well planted kiss and before it could turn into a passionate one, he pulled back and continued with the topic at hand.

“Tony, what did you tell Rhodes about me for him to dislike me so much?” Steve really wanted to know what had warranted such hostility towards him. At Tony’s guilty expression, Steve decided to reassure him before his lover had time to turn his obvious thoughts of ‘Danger! I gotta go!’ into action. “Not that I blame you, Tony, you know I don’t; I just want to know before I face him again.”

At Tony’s obvious reluctance, Steve thought the worse, but really, he couldn’t feel hurt about it since he complained about Tony a lot in those days, too. “Please, I’m going to have to meet him eventually and I want to be prepared.” He added.

“But you have to remember that I was just angry and I didn’t really know you and it–” Tony started in a rush.

“Tony, I know. Just tell me.” Steve asked taking both of his hands in between his big ones, his thumbs massaging the back of his lover’s hands.

“Fine!” he exclaimed loudly with resignation. “I told him you’re nothing but a charade; that the instance you got out of the ice you decided that you were too much for this world but you were going to grant us the favor of your presence by ordering us around; that I couldn’t stop seeing you as a brainless gorilla wrapped in a flag and couldn’t picture myself following you anywhere.”

“…Well, that wasn’t so bad.” By that, Steve meant ‘Ouch!’. But still, it didn’t sound personal enough for the Colonel to hate him.

“And then I kindda ruined it when I got really drunk with Rhodey and just couldn’t stop talking.” Tony confessed in a lower tone. “I told him that you thought that I was nothing like my dad and that I never will be; I said to him that everytime you looked at me I could feel you searching for someone who wasn’t there and that you’d just get mad at me about it.

“I said to him that you’d insinuated that I was nothing but a spoiled brat who made himself an expensive toy in order to cure some of my boredom; that you told me that I just fought for myself and didn’t give a damn about anyone else and that I should stop acting like a hero because I was too selfish to ever become one.”

“… Tony.” Steve couldn’t feel guiltier, especially because he knew that some of that was right; he had looked at Tony expecting him to fill a void within Steve than no one else could for being the only remote connection to his past. The impossible expectations and the disappointment he felt when he believed that Tony only fought for himself. “Oh my God, Tony, I’m so sorry.”

“Hey, you shouldn’t be. Stop looking at me like that, Steve.” Steve knew he meant the pained face he was probably pulling right now. “I called you a brainless gorilla wrapped in a flag. I think we’re even.”

But they would never be even because Steve knew that Tony not only surpassed all his expectations, but he really did fill the void within him in an entirely different, unexpected way. That was something he wouldn’t ever be able to repay.

And just like that, a pair of lips were seeking his own in order to cheer him up. Steve allowed himself to let go off Tony’s hands in order to cradle one of his lover’s cheek with his left while the right went around his waist and pulled him impossibly closer.

After what felt like a moment that Steve didn’t want to end, Tony broke the kiss too soon in order to look him in the eyes.

“Besides, this isn’t about me and my daddy issues.” Tony clarified with a smug look, probably at Steve’s lusty face. His lover’s arms clinging around his shoulders left Steve wondering when they got there. “We get enough of that.”

“True.” He teased with a smile. “So let’s get to the part that started all of this: What was the Colonel's response to that?”

“Okay, his part I’m gonna make a small polite resume.” Tony announced warily. Steve could tell that he wasn’t going to like it. “He said that you were nothing but a big asshole that didn’t read the files before judging me and that your ego got to the point where you couldn’t see beyond your ‘greatness’ and that you should shut the fuck up when you didn’t know shit.”

“And that was the resume.” Steve knew that Tony was probably molding whole phrases for the sake of his anger. Steve considered the words rude even diluted like that.

“He was just upset because he was the one who found me almost death in the desert, Steve.” Tony stated, trying to defend his friend a little. “He was pretty upset that you thought that the suit was some kind of toy for my entertainment when I built it to escape a facility where I was being tortured for kicks. I guess he took it personal.”

“Well, I probably deserved that,” Steve agreed with a wince when his mind started running all kind of scenarios of Tony being tortured and dying in the dessert. Accepting it didn’t mean that it had to make him feel any better, though.

“He’s just trying to be a good friend and look after me, you know that, right?” Tony asked hopefully. Steve couldn’t help but feel worse at how blind he had been to be unable to see such an amazing person as the one standing before him; even when trying to please Steve by telling him what he wanted to know, he would still show loyalty to his best friend trying at the same time to defend his actions. He was still trying to make Steve understand how much Rhodes meant to him.

“Of course,” he conceded easily. “I feel like I own him a lot considering that looking after you, of all people, tend to be an almost impossible task.”

“Hey! I resent that!” Tony complained while playfully trying to push him away. Steve only held on tighter regaining his smile. “I’m a perfectly pliable person when I want to be.”

"I agree," Steve conceded easily with a snort, “Then again, that is only when you absolutely want to. But I’ve never seen you want to be ‘pliable’ outside the bedroom.”

“And you said I’m the one who can’t keep his mind out of the gutter.” Tony teased while trying to make his smirk look like a sweet smile and failing horribly. The brunette was now running his hand all over his chest with obviously faked innocence.

“Well… Since I seem to be incapable of thinking of nothing but ‘the gutter’…” Steve lifted Tony bridal-style, who totally shrieked in surprise. Steve didn’t give him time to complain when he threw him almost immediately towards the bed, making him land perfectly on the middle before he could protest the ‘princess treatment’, as he called it. Super aim did come useful in a lot of different ways. “Why don’t we give it a try?” he asked while crawling over to Tony, positioning himself between expecting legs.

“See? This is why I get confused when people ask me if you’re any shy in the sack.” Tony joked and pulled him down for a mind-blowing kiss.

Steve responded in kindly. He decided to stop it after a while when he noticed that there were too many clothes between them.

When he caught sight of the arc reactor, he couldn’t help but halt his clothes-removing-actions and kiss tenderly around it, just like the first time they’d made love. This artifact was the reason Tony’s heart was still beating and he couldn’t be more grateful for its existence.

Used to listen to the faraway whisper that was his conscience, Steve couldn't help but recognize its voice reminding him that if Rhodes hadn’t found Tony in that dessert in the middle of nowhere, he wouldn’t be kissing the best thing that’s ever happened to him in that moment.

Crap...

He was so screwed.