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I'll Do Better

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The silence in the quinjet is stifling, and all Tony can think about as he looks at the weary faces of his teammates is: This is my fault.

Tony’s flown headfirst into death more times than he can count, but it was never quite like this.

He looks over at Steve, who’s sitting just a few feet away from him, his face illuminated by the rays of the early morning sun.  

For a few moments, the world stops, and all Tony is aware of is Steve

Steve must feel Tony’s gaze on him, because he looks up a little while later and meets Tony’s eyes with his own.  

He remembers the first time he looked into those eyes—really looked—and all he wants now is to go back to that moment when everything was actually… okay.

Tony glances towards the back of the jet, and Steve must understand his silent plea if the way he stands up and retreats to the secluded corner is any indication.  Tony gets to his feet and follows wordlessly, ignoring the stares from the other occupants of the jet.

Steve is leaning against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest.  If it were any other day, Tony would expect him to start lecturing, but Steve remains silent, waiting for Tony to speak first.  

“Do you hate me?” Tony blurts, and Steve’s face falls immediately.

“Do I—Tony, I could never hate you.”

Tony can’t bear the of pure hurt on Steve’s face, especially knowing that he’s the cause of it: he’s always had a knack for saying the wrong thing.  “But you’re angry.”

“I think I have a right to be,” Steve retorts, making Tony flinch. “I’m sorry, that… That came out wrong.  I didn’t mean to—”

“No, it’s okay—”

“No, Tony, it’s not,” Steve interjects. “It’s not okay.  This isn’t—” He scrubs his hand in his hair and mutters something unintelligible under his breath.

Tony approaches Steve slowly, afraid of driving him even further away than he already has. “I messed up.  I should’ve told you, but—”

“You didn’t trust me,” Steve finishes for him.  

Tony looks down at his hands. “It’s not that simple.”

“Then why didn’t you tell me?  Why all the lies and the secrets?”  

“What would you have done?  What would you have done differently?” Tony demands, his tone bordering on hysterics. “Look, I know I messed up, okay?  But I saw a way to prevent what Wanda showed me, and I thought I’d… I…”

“What did she show you?”

Tony does his best to keep his expression neutral. “Does it matter?”

Steve tilts his head back, staring at the ceiling of the quinjet. “No, I guess not.” He glances over at Tony, an apologetic look on his face. “I probably shouldn’t have asked.  I’m sure it isn’t something you can uh, easily talk about.”

Tony’s mind flashes back to their conversation on the farm:

“I don’t trust a guy without a dark side.”

He knows the others had seen visions too, but Steve didn’t seem affected in the slightest.  Looking back, he realizes he shouldn’t have assumed.

“I’m no better than you,” Steve says. “That’s why I…”  He sighs. “You’re always saying that you’ll never be as good as I am, but that’s just… That’s not true.”

“C’mon, Steve.  We all know you are.  Everyone’s always afraid of disappointing you.”

“Disappointing me?”

“You hold us up to these ideals.  You make us want to be better people—you make me better.  Well, at least I try to be—”

“You are a good person, Tony.”

“You see?  This is what I mean!” Tony exclaims. “We’re all trying our damn hardest, but you make it seem so easy.  The worst thing about you is probably your bedhead in the morning.”

Steve smiles wryly. “I’ve been told on multiple occasions that I can be a bit stubborn.”

Tony rolls his eyes. “No kidding.”

“Look, I understand a little better now why you didn’t think it would be a good idea to tell any of us,” Steve says, and he sounds so tired, “and I’m sorry.”

“Sor—What do you have to be sorry for?”

“I’m not saying that none of this wouldn’t have happened if you had talked to me, but things may have gone a little differently if I had given you more reason to trust me,” Steve explains. “I know I often jump to conclusions, but I’ve been trying to work on that.”

“I should’ve told you,” Tony says, defeated. “I know that, and I’m owning up to it, I just—”

“This mess isn’t just your fault, Tony.  You need to stop thinking you’re alone in all of this.  I could’ve—” Steve shakes his head. “I can’t believe we’re actually fighting over who should take the blame.”

“I can,” Tony quips, and it eases the tension, if only for a few moments. “What do we do now?”

“We talk.  We communicate,” Steve says. “We need to be completely honest with each other from here on out.”

“So… what?  You want us to share everything?” Tony asks incredulously. “You do understand how difficult that is in our line of work, don’t you?  For all of us.”

“I want us to trust each other,” Steve clarifies. “We’re supposed to be a team, and you shouldn’t have to fight your battles alone.”

“I…” The thing is, Tony does want to tell Steve about his nightmare.  Tony desperately wants to tell him everything; wants to make Steve understand why he felt the need to do what he did.

Tony hadn’t been able to bear the thought of losing his friends, but Wanda made him live it.  

He’ll never be able to shake the feeling of holding Steve’s lifeless body in his arms.

Tony doesn’t realize he’s shaking until he feels Steve’s arms around his shoulders, steadying him like an anchor.  He’s murmuring something into Tony’s ear, but Tony can’t make anything of it.

All Tony is aware of is that Steve is warm.  He’s warm and he’s alive and he’s looking at Tony with so much concern that Tony’s pretty sure he doesn’t deserve.

“I love you.”  Tony realizes it’s probably bad form to say right before fighting an army of murder bots, but it’s too late to take it back now.

He’s expecting Steve to turn around and walk away—to forget everything that had transpired between the two of them over the past six months. 

What he isn’t expecting is for Steve to gently cup his cheek before pressing their lips together in an achingly tender kiss.

Tony can feel his entire body thrumming with energy; can hear the blood pulsing through his veins.  Kissing Steve always made him feel like this: so happy, so carefree, so… whole and perfect.

The kiss never deepens, but Tony finds himself clutching at Steve’s shoulders, his arms, any part he can touch.  If this is all they’re going to have left, then Tony wants to remember the feeling of having Steve near him.

It’s Steve who pulls away a minute later, albeit reluctantly.  Tony’s considering pulling him back in before Steve speaks:

“I love you,” he murmurs, his fingers carding through Tony’s hair. “I’m sorry if I’ve made you feel like I don’t.”

Tony swallows. “You have every right to be mad at me, Steve.”

“Being mad at you isn’t the same as me not loving you,” Steve says. “Tony, I’m so ridiculously, head-over-heels in love with you that I doubt anything will ever be able to change that.”

Tony buries his face into the crook of Steve’s neck, and feels Steve’s arms curl around him protectively.  He doesn’t feel like he’ll ever truly deserve Steve’s love, but he’s grateful for it all the same.  

“When we…” he starts, his voice thick with emotion. “When we get out of this, I’ll do better.  I promise.”

Steve pulls him in closer and kisses his hair. “We both will.”