The first thing Steve was aware of was the steady beep of a heart monitor. Like a beacon, it beckoned him back to the land of the living, giving him a focal point as he attempted to get his bearings behind his too heavy eyelids.
Next, he smelled the distinct sterile odor of hospital. The sharp scent of alcohol and disinfectants were just jarring enough to give Steve the strength to squeeze his eyes shut tighter.
“Guys! He’s moving!”
The voice was familiar. Steve fought the fog in his head as he struggled for the name. Sam. Yes, that voice belonged to Sam.
His head hurt. There was a distinct pounding over his right temple that seemed to send shooting pains down to his jaw.
That’s right. There was a mission. What was it that happened? There had been people with advanced weaponry. Hydra, Steve recalled. Of course it was Hydra.. It was always Hydra. Then there was something about Tony. Tony had done something stupidly heroic and Steve had needed to stop him, Steve’s brain supplied.
Steve attempted again to fight against the lead in his eyelids and barely managed to crack them before they automatically slid shut again.
“Captain, can you hear me?” It was Bruce that spoke this time. “You’ve had a head trauma. A building collapsed on you.”
Steve managed an annoyed hum in response as he continued to battle his eyelids for control.
“Just take it easy, big guy. They’ve got you doped up on some horse tranquilizers.”
“Don’t listen to Clint, Steve. The doctors just gave you some sedatives before your MRI so that you wouldn’t wake up during your scan. They should be back with the results soon,” Bruce reassured.
Tony. Steve had to find out what happened to Tony.
Thanks to the serum, the sedatives were wearing off quickly. Still, processing thoughts felt like walking through molasses. He just knew he had to ask about Tony.
Flexing his fingers, Steve realized that he could once again operate his hands. He groped for the wires and tubes that connected him to the beeping machines, but half a dozen or so hands grabbed his wrists and a cacophony of voices called out his name, begging Steve to relax.
His first view of the room seemed too bright to be natural. Natasha’s hair stood out in a stark comparison to the whitewashed walls. Steve blinked several more times before he was able to distinguish the details of the hospital room and the people in it.
Everyone looked tired. Natasha’s uniform had a rip in it. Clint was sprawled out in a chair with his left ankle propped up and quite swollen. Bruce was moderately ruffled, but Sam and Thor both had streaks of dirt and grime all across their faces and arms.
“-Ony. Weer’s Ony?” Steve’s words slurred through his uncoordinated lips. His mouth was dry as if it had been stuffed with cotton. The super soldier coughed and licked his lips before trying again.
“Tony. Here? Tony!”
Natasha didn’t break eye contact with Steve as everyone else exchanged glances. “Stark!” Natasha called out, making the decision for the group. “Stop fighting with the nice doctors and get in here!”
Steve’s heart rate sped up as he saw a familiar figure rush into view in the doorway. Tony was twice as rumpled and dirty as Sam and Thor combined. His eyes were wide as he rushed in and Steve knew based on the look of the mechanic’s hairdo that he had been running his hands through it for hours. Steve couldn’t help but smile fondly at his boyfriend.
“Tony,” Steve called out, “you okay? C’mere!”
The genius paused for a moment, giving Steve a wary look before approaching. The blonde reached out his hand to take Tony’s, but Tony just stared at it.
“I think I should be asking you that, Rogers. Still kind of groggy, huh?” Tony asked.
“Please,” Steve replied, reaching out again toward Tony, “I’m not mad at you for going against orders. Just, please, let me hold your hand, baby. I was scared I’d lost you.”
Tony’s eyebrows shot up so high they were in danger of touching his hairline. Clint started coughing violently as more meaningful glances were exchanged among the Avengers teammates. Steve dropped his outstretched hand and felt his heart rate accelerated as he studied the familiar faces in front of him. They didn’t need to say anything for him to know that something was very wrong. Bruce jumped as the beeping of the machines attached to Steve gave away his distress.
“What is it? Just tell me.” Steve locked eyes with Tony as he gave his order in his best Captain America voice.
“Steve,” Natasha said quietly, “this is just a very public place to be displaying affection. Isn’t that right, Tony?”
Tony opened his mouth, but then let out a sharp cry of pain before shutting it again. Natasha seemingly hadn’t moved, but Steve knew better.
“Nice try, Romanov, but I’m not buying it,” Steve addressed the assassin. “Now, somebody better tell me what’s really going on.”
Tony took another halting step forward, closing the final distance between himself and Steve’s bedside. He seemed to study the super soldier’s hand for just a moment before reaching out and gingerly lacing his fingers with Steve’s. Letting his gaze travel up from their joined hands to Tony’s expressive, dancing brown eyes, Steve knew that everything was going to be fine.
“He got away, Cap. I’m sorry.” Tony finally spoke and the blonde knew that he meant it.
“Who got away?” Steve’s confusion was evident in his voice. The Avengers exchanged looks again before Bruce supplied an answer.
“Bucky’s dead.” Steve didn’t hesitate to respond, but a lump caught in his throat as he tried to push away his fear. Why would they be talking about his childhood best friend?
“Does the name Winter Soldier sound familiar?” Bruce questioned Steve, but Steve just shook his head.
“Do you know who I am?” Sam asked carefully.
“Sam Wilson. The Falcon.”
“How did we meet, Steve?” The blonde’s heart rate picked up again as he racked his brain for an answer.
“I don’t remember,” he quietly admitted. This was wrong. He knew Sam but he had no memories of how they had met. He knew he trusted the man with his life. He knew that Falcon had joined the Avengers. He knew that the two of them had become good friends, but Steve drew a blank when he tried to pick out any details.
“Shit, Rogers! Easy!” Tony’s voice broke Steve’s train of thought and he realized that he was crushing the smaller man’s hand in his grip. Steve quickly released Tony’s hand, but that only seemed to raise the level of panic in the room. He buried his face in his hands, asking the question that he feared most.
“What year is it?”
The few seconds of silence were too long a pause, feeding Steve’s fear spiral.
“WHAT YEAR IS IT?! Tell me! Right now!” He was screaming at the only family he had in this world, but right now he couldn’t make himself stop. He ripped off several of his wire tethers, barely aware of his friends loud words and grasping hands, before Tony’s hands on his cheeks brought everything to a screeching halt.
“Steve! Stop! Listen to me! It’s 2015. You’ve only been out for about 3 hours. I promise. Look! Look at me!” Tony pleaded with super soldier.
Steve took a steadying breath before meeting Tony’s gaze. The two men breathed in unison for several agonizing seconds. Steve finally allow his muscles to relax and brought one hand up to cup Tony’s hand on his left cheek, pressing it further into his cheekbone for reassurance.
“It’s 2015,” Steve breathed. “You promise?”
“I promise.” Tony still seemed uncomfortable. The super soldier knew that his boyfriend still wasn’t telling him the whole truth, but it seemed like there were plenty of things Steve didn’t know right now that he probably should.
“Why can’t I remember certain things?” Steve turned to Bruce for an answer, but the man just adjusted his glasses uncomfortably and shifted in his spot.
“You know I’m not that kind of doctor, Cap,” he finally responded, “but I’m more than certain it had to do with that building coming down on you. Do you remember the building collapsing?”
“Yes, and something about Tony. Tony was also there when it collapsed.” The genius had since pulled away from Steve and now he shifted around and furrowed his brow like he did when he knew that the two of them were about to fight. “I already told you, I’m not mad at you, sweetheart.”
Steve’s words seemed to do little to put Tony at ease. The man still paced about with his face deep in concentration. His brain must be moving a thousand miles an hour and he was being uncharacteristically quiet. Maybe once they were alone Tony would finally tell Steve what was going on.
“I’m afraid this will be a difficult explanation for you, Captain,” Thor supplied, “but your sweetheart went into an unstable Hydra base in an attempt to capture your friend James Barnes who was once thought to be deceased but was recently found to be kept alive by Hydra experimentation and trained as an elite assassin. You went in after your sweetheart because you feared for his safety.”
Steve hadn’t had asthma since he went in into the chamber that made him Captain America, but it sure felt like his airways were shutting down. His head throbbed and his right shoulder and back were stiff. Tony was keeping things from him. Nothing was right at all. It was a small consolation that he hadn’t lost any more time.
“Just leave,” Steve said quietly. “I’m fine. Just...leave me alone.” He laid back against the small hospital bed and tiny crinkly pillow and closed his eyes as he listened to the retreating footsteps of his teammates.
“I’m going to look over your scans with your doctors, Steve,” Bruce whispered to him. “Hopefully we’ll have you home tomorrow.” With that, Bruce’s footsteps grew fainter and his room fell into silence.
That was, except for the whispers he could hear coming from the other side of the door to his room.
“Get back in there, Stark,” Natasha whispered.
“Why me?” Tony shot back.
“You know damn well why. Now, get in there.”
“You realize that I’m just going to fuck this all up, right? I’m not exactly a tactful, supportive, nurturing person and you want me to go in there and kiss all his boo boos all better? Fat chance there, Romanov!”
“Am I the only one that thinks this is hilarious?” Clint asked. “I mean, I think we could all read Tony like a book, but Cap? Who knew!”
“Shut your trap, Barton,” Tony hissed.
“Anthony, I must offer you my congratulations. I was not made aware –“ Thor was cut off.
“All of you, cut it out! You realize that he can probably hear us, right?” Bruce joined the conversation. “Natasha’s right, Tony. You need to go back in there. He needs you right now. He has amnesia.”
“Et tu, Brucie? This is a fucking stupid idea, but fine! Whatever! Just don’t get mad at me when I get to say ‘I told you so!’”
There was a brief pause before the door opened and Tony stepped through with his plastered on media smile.
“Hey, baby,” Tony started with that same fake grin, “I told the others to go on ahead.” He settled himself into a chair next to the bed leaned over so that his elbows rested on his knees.
“Tony,” Steve sighed, “I heard everything. I’m not sure why you don’t want to be here, but I know that you want to leave. So, just go.” It hurt to tell Tony to go, but it hurt worse to be pitied by the man who was supposed to love him.
Tony let his smile drop, but when he looked up to meet Steve’s gaze Tony’s eyes were soft and bright.
“I know what I said out there, Steve, but I do want to stay. Full disclosure, I do think that I’m going to fuck this up. You know that I don’t have a nurturing bone in my body. I can’t just sit here and coddle you and tell you that everything is going to be okay. I don’t know if everything is going to be okay.” Tony seemed to chew on his next words before he finally spat them out. “I can’t fix your brain, Steve. I don’t know how. I wish that did, sweetie, but I just don’t. I’m sorry.”
For the first time since waking up, Steve felt a warmth creep up in his chest and settle around his heart. He smiled down at the brunette and reached out his hand again. This time, Tony reached out without hesitation even if he wouldn’t meet Steve’s eyes while he did it.
“I know, baby. Just hold my hand.”
When Steve awoke again, the throbbing in his head had dissipated. Outside his only window, the world was still dark. He yawned and looked down at Tony who was still seated in his chair from last night, but his head rested on his crossed arms on Steve’s bed. The soft, steady breathing indicated that the genius was still sleeping.
Steve reached out and gently carded a hand through Tony’s disheveled hair. At least he meant to, but the mechanic shot up like a rocket the second Steve’s fingers brushed against him. Tony looked around wildly for a moment before settling his confused gaze on the super soldier.
“Ah, sorry, Tony,” Steve said sheepishly. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“’s fine. Whatever, Cap.” Tony rubbed his eyes blearily. Steve wasn’t sure when Tony slept last. Admittedly, he couldn’t remember much about the day leading up to the mission and subsequent accident that caused his memory loss.
“You should go home. You’re tired.”
“We both know I can’t do that, Rogers,” Tony said as he stretched his neck from side to side. The silence that followed was palpable. Steve knew that he’d have to be the one to break it.
“Look, I don’t understand why you’re acting so strange. I don’t remember the last conversation we had. I can’t even remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday.” Steve paused to take a breath before continuing. “I don’t remember seeing my best friend alive in the 21st century. I don’t know your middle name. I have no idea where my shield is. I can’t remember when any of my teammates birthdays are. I don’t know when or if I’ll ever get these memories back.”
“My middle name is Edward.” Tony stared at his hands as he spoke. “Your shield is with my armor. I wasn’t about to leave it behind. I could bring it here if you wanted.” Steve didn’t know how to respond. The answers were helpful, but they didn’t fix the problem at hand.
“Tell me something.” Steve looked up at Tony’s words to find the smaller man smiling at him.
“What do you want me to tell you?” Steve questioned warily.
“Tell me something you remember about us.” Tony’s gaze was firm but gentle. It was one of the expressions that Steve loved most. It was strange how thoughts like that would float to the surface, as if the littlest of things could trigger a sudden memory to return to him.
“I remember our fourth date,” Steve said quietly. “The date where you surprised me by taking me to Paris.”
Tony’s eyebrows raised and a big smile broke out across his face. “You remember that, huh?”
Steve felt a blush creep from from his neck and cheeks all the way to the tips of his ears. Tony chuckled, but Steve smiled anyway. “Yeah, I remember it,” Steve confirmed.
“Well, go on, Cap! I want to hear everything you remember about our trip to Paris! I mean, everything. Judging by that blush, you remember some interesting details. Yes, I saw it. No, you can’t use amnesia as an excuse on this one.” Tony settled back into his chair and propped his feet up on the hospital bed, giving Steve an encouraging look. He tilted his head back until it rested against the chair and his eyes blinked heavily a few times.
“I remember the jet ride.” Steve smiled softly as he rested one hand on Tony’s crossed ankled. It was my first time in your private jet. You tried to convince me that the poles in it provided structural support.” They both laughed and Steve felt himself relax for the second time that night.
“Do continue,” Tony prodded with a grin.
“I remember that it was dark when we arrived. The lights on the Eiffel tower were beautiful. I was so excited to see Paris in its full glory since I hadn’t been there since the war. I remember staying up too late with you, going the the Louvre in the middle of the night thanks to your generous donation to the museum. I remember the extravagant hotel you booked for us and – the perfect quiet breakfast at the little café down the street the next morning.”
“Oh yeah? That’s all you remember, huh?” Tony’s eyes were closed, but he was still smiling devilishly.
“No,” Steve confessed, grinning to himself.
“Then go on,” Tony reprimanded.
Steve did continue telling the story. He watched Tony’s smile slowly fade and his face soften until the genius’s breathing evened out and he began to gently snore.
“Where are all the pictures?” Steve looked around the Avengers’ common area. He had gone through dozens of tests where doctors poked and prodded and asked probing questions until they were satisfied that he was healthy enough to go home. The process had been tedious and he just wanted to go home and relax. The problem was that it didn’t feel like home.
“The hospital psychologist told us to take them down,” Natasha answered. “He was afraid that they might overstimulate you. We’ll put them back once your memories starts returning.”
Steve nodded. He had no reason not to trust Natasha, but something still felt wrong deep in his gut. Perhaps it was just the fact that everyone seemed to be treating him like he was an invalid. He appreciated that they cared enough to be attentive towards him, but Steve was more than ready for life just to go back to normal.
“Did they tell you when that might be exactly, Dr. Banner?” The doctors had told Steve a lot of things, but they, too, seemed reluctant to be frank with him and speak to him like an adult.
“They said that they didn’t find any brain damage. The amnesia is likely temporary and possibly psychological. Other than that, the doctors don’t really have any answers, Steve. Also, I understand the sarcasm, but please just call me Bruce. I hope you haven’t lost so much memory of our friendship that you feel it necessary to use professional names.” Bruce gave a tired smile and Steve clapped him gently on the shoulder.
“You were right the first time. It was just sarcasm. I may not remember the last time I visited your lab, but I do remember enough to know that we’re friends.” Steve was sure that the smile he gave Bruce was just as tired as the one that he had just received from the scientist. It couldn’t be helped.
“I think I’d like to just relax. Maybe I’ll just head up to the penthouse.” Greeted by only his teammates poker faces and Clint’s violent coughing, Steve was once again unsettled. It was funny how that was becoming his normal state of being.
“You know, I told Tony that I’d help him with his experiment down in his workshop. I think I’m going to head down there.” Bruce excused himself without making eye contact with anyone. “I’ll see you guys later. Maybe dinner and a movie together tonight?”
Bruce didn’t wait for an answer before the elevator doors closed around him and he presumably descended down to the workshop that Tony had retreated to as soon as they had all returned to the tower. Steve turned back to the rest of his teammates, but Clint just put his hand on Steve’s shoulder and gently pushed to turn him around.
“How about some video games, Cap?” Clint offered as he steered the two of them toward the couch. “ You, Sam, and I have a grudge match to finish. Hey! Maybe it’ll help jog your memory!”
“Yep!” Sam chimed in. “You remember Mario Kart? Maybe with that amnesia of yours, I’ll finally be able to beat your super soldier ass!”
Steve laughed. He was tired, but doing something normal with his teammates was too appealing to turn down. The sooner he could get back into his normal routine, the sooner everyone would stop treating him with kid gloves.
Much to Sam’s dismay, it turned out that amnesia did not affect Steve’s ability to play video games. Still, it was distracting enough that the blonde didn’t notice that evening had crept up on them. The smell of Bruce’s cooking filled the air, causing Steve to sit up straight and look around.
“What is it?” Sam asked worriedly. “Are you okay, buddy?”
“It’s Tandoori chicken,” Steve stated. He looked back at Sam and smiled. “It’s my favorite dish that Bruce makes.”
“See? What did I tell you?” Clint grinned. “Video games helped!”
Tony seemed to pick the perfect time to stumble out of the elevator, nose buried in his StarkPad. Steve watched as the genius crossed through the living room to the kitchen, oblivious to the room around him. He was jolted out of his train of thoughts by Sam’s elbow in his ribs.
“Go on! We’ll play the next round without you,” he encouraged.
Steve shot the two men an apologetic smile as he trotted off after Tony. By the time he caught up the the mechanic, he was by the stove trying to sneak past Bruce for taste of the chicken. Distracted by Bruce swatting him away with a wooden spoon, Steve was able to sneak up on Tony and place his hands on the mechanic’s shoulders. Tony tensed beneath his touch, but Steve quickly pressed a kiss into Tony’s temple to reassure him.
“Get a lot of work done today?” Steve asked gently. Bruce had turned away quickly to stir a boiling pot during the display of affection, but Tony seemed to be frozen in place. As Steve twisted the smaller man in his arms to see his face, he noticed a faint hue across Tony’s cheeks.
“You’re blushing!” Steve pointed out gleefully. “Please tell me just what I did to earn a blush because it’s about time I pay you back for all the times you embarrassed me.”
“Oh my god! I am so not blushing! It’s hot in here! Bruce, tell Steve how hot it is in here!” Tony attempted to defend himself.
“Don’t drag me into this,” Bruce shrugged. “ Dinner is ready, anyway. Go tell the others to get their plates ready.”
Steve grinned and placed a chaste kiss on Tony’s cheek before bounding out the kitchen door to pass along Bruce’s message. Turning back, he saw Tony smiling and touching his cheek where Steve had placed the kiss. Perhaps he had been right. All he needed to do was get back into his old routine. Tony was already acting less strange.
Steve couldn’t remember where his usual spot was at the dining room table. He hovered awkwardly with plate in hand until Natasha walked past and nodded at two seats next to each other. Fumbling slightly, Steve picked one of the two at random and hoped that his teammates would simply allow him to eat dinner in peace even if he had chosen incorrectly.
Tony faltered for a second as he entered the dining room. He glanced at Steve for a second before making a bee line for the empty seat next to him.
“I’m in your spot, aren’t I?” Steve sighed.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Cap.” Tony avoided eye contact and dug into the food in front of him, instead.
“Thank you for dinner, Bruce,” Steve said, turning toward the cook. “The Tandoori chicken was a great idea. Just smelling it helped me remember.”
Bruce smiled and shrugged. “I’m glad. I was hoping that it would help, but I wasn’t sure. Want to pick the movie for tonight? Maybe that’ll be helpful, too.”
“What’s my favorite movie?” Steve asked no one in particular.
“You seemed to greatly enjoy Casablanca,” Thor offered.
“I think it’s Olympus Has Fallen,” Natasha corrected him.
“No way, it’s Star Wars.”
“Clint’s wrong, too. Steve’s favorite movie is The Patriot.”
“Real funny, Sam. I know that one isn’t true,” Steve shook his head with a half smile.
“I thought that you liked Jurassic Park, but I could be wrong.” Bruce shrugged noncommittally.
None of those options sounded quite right. The names sounded familiar enough, but didn’t bring back the same zing of realization that dinner had. The group continued eating silently, the only sound being the scraping of silverware against plates.
“Really?” Tony’s voice suddenly broke the silence. “None of you know what his favorite movie is? This is unbelievable. I mean, at this point in my life I should just assume that I’m the smartest person in the room, but I really expected more out of you people.”
“C’mon, Stark,” Clint complained. “You don’t know what it is either.”
“I’ll take that bet.” Natasha’s smirk was small but dangerous.
“You’re on.” Then again, Clint never did seem intimidated by his best friend.
“You better cut me in on this, Romanov,” Tony said, pointing his fork at the Russian. “Now, prepared to be dazzled.” Tony turned to look at Steve and the super soldier couldn’t help but be amused at the situation even if it was at his own expense.
“Go ahead and dazzle me, Stark.” Steve fought off a smile as he raised his eyebrows expectantly at his boyfriend.
“As you wish.” Tony’s eyes danced as he spoke the phrase. He broke out into a grin at the shocked expression that overtook Steve’s face.
“Inconceivable!” Steve was laughing as he uttered the exclamation. It was the best laugh he’d had since the accident. The rest of the table joined in and, for just a moment, everything felt normal again.
“Really, Steve?” Sam gave the super soldier an incredulous look. “The Princess Bride? That’s your favorite movie?”
“Figures his boyfriend would know.” Clint didn’t seem very put off by losing the bet. Aside from pegging Tony with a pea to the forehead, he actually seemed to enjoy being proven wrong. Tony gave Clint a withering look and the archer just chuckled, loading another pea in his fork to fling across the table.
This time Steve was ready and reached out to snag the pea mid flight.
“That’s enough, kids,” he chided. “Next person to throw food has to clean dishes.”
“Let’s go to bed, baby,” Steve whispered in the dark.
The teammates had ended up watching a few movies and everyone has slowly lulled off to sleep during the last few hours. Unlike dinner, Steve had remembered exactly where he normally sat for movie night. It was nice to do something that finally felt familiar. It was also nice to have Tony pressed up against his side, head resting heavily on Steve’s shoulder as he dozed. He stirred and stretched at the sound of Steve’s voice, causing the blonde to smile warmly.
“C’mon, sleepyhead. I’m tired, too, and I’d rather spend tonight in our bed..” Steve softly coaxed the genius to wake up so that they wouldn’t disturb the others.
“In our bed, huh?” Tony asked.
“That’s right,” Steve confirmed with a soft kiss to the other man’s forehead.
Tony looked up to meet Steve’s gaze with a pained expression. Steve’s stomach knotted up, but he just clenched his jaw and waited for Tony’s excuse.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this. As much as I’d truly, truly love to, Cap, I have a ton of work to get done. You know, master inventor of Stark Industries and whatnot. Very, very busy.” He gave Steve a half hearted smile. “You go on ahead. I’m going to head down to the workshop.”
Steve just nodded slowly. Of course. He was still broken. Tony was still sulking or whatever it was he was doing. He sighed and tried to smile convincingly as he got to his feet and offered Tony his hand. After considering it for a split second, the brunette accepted it and Steve pulled him to his feet. They walked to the elevator together and Tony even rode it up to the penthouse with Steve to say goodnight.
They paused as the door slid open and JARVIS welcomed them to their private floor. Steve blew out a breath that he hadn’t realized he was holding as they both stepped out of the elevator.
“Are you sure that you don’t want to stay up here with me?” Steve asked one last time as he turned toward the mechanic.
“Steve, you have no idea how bad I wish I could.” He knew that Tony meant it. Whatever it was that beckoned him down to the lab, Steve hoped that he would sort it out soon.
“I think I do, Tony.” He cupped Tony’s face with his large hands and tilted the brunette’s chin up. The smaller man’s eyes fluttered closed as Steve closed the distance between them.
Steve felt Tony’s hands come to rest on his waist as the brunette kissed him back. He ran his fingers through Tony’s hair and the kiss deepened. Steve smiled against his lips lover’s lips, tongue darting out to ask for more.
Instead, Tony gently broke the kiss and pushed him away.
“Fuck. Fucking shit, Steve. Fuck!” Tony’s hands still clung to Steve’s waist, but his eyes were squeezed shut and his head hung down. “I have to go right now or else I’m going to change my mind.”
A soft smile played across Steve’s lips as he replied, “That was kind of the point.”
“I really have to go,” Tony said as he shook his head. He finally opened his eyes to look at the super soldier and immediately let go and started backing away toward the elevator. “Fuck! Goodnight, Cap.”
“Goodnight, Iron Man.”
He watched the elevator doors close before he turned to walk around the floor that the two men shared. It hardly felt like home with all the pictures missing. He sat down on the bed for several minutes before coming to a decision.
“I think I’d like to go to the workshop.”
JARVIS didn’t reply, but after a beat the elevator doors opened. Steve rode down in silence, hoping not to be turned away at the door. As the doors slid open again, he could see Tony with his hands braced on a workbench with his head hanging low between them. His mouth was moving, indicating that he was probably conversing with his AI, but before Steve could get close enough to lip read, JARVIS must have alerted Tony to his presence.
Tony looked up sharply and immediately stood up straight and assumed a loose posture. He smiled at Steve through the glass and waved him inside.
“Miss me already, sugar plum?” Tony asked with his media smile.
“Always,” Steve answered without missing a beat. “I’d rather be down here with you than up in the penthouse alone.”
“Right, right. Makes perfect sense. Just make yourself comfortable like you always do.” Tony turned and started walking toward his coffee pot. “Do you remember spending any time down here?”
“Vaguely,” Steve replied as he sat down on the couch. “It feels familiar even though I don’t remember anything specific about it.”
“Well, you normally draw,” Tony said as he began pouring himself a cup of coffee. He held it up in a silent question to Steve, but Steve just shook his head. “I think mostly you draw the bots and the suits, if that helps.”
“I don’t know where my sketch pad is.” It felt stupid to admit. He was supposed to be one of the greatest tactical minds to ever live and he couldn’t remember where he last set down his art supplies.
“Easy enough fix,” Tony answered. He held out a few blank sheets of graph paper and a lead pencil. Steve took them and smiled gratefully. “Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes even I, the great futurist, need good old fashioned paper and pencil to visualize things just right. DUM-E! Go pose for Steve! I’m sure he’ll be happy to see you.”
The bot wheeled over to Steve and whirred happily. Tony picked up some seemingly random materials and JARVIS automatically opened several holographic images for his creator. So, Steve settled in and began sketching the familiar lines of DUM-E’s arm.
“We watched it together, didn’t we?”
“Huh?” Tony articulately responded.
“The Princess Bride.”
“We did. We do. All the damn time.” Tony’s words were harsh, but his tone light and a smile played across his lips.
“What was our last date?” Steve tried to keep his tone light and he continued to distractedly sketched the clumsy bot. Tony paused for a second as if considering for a moment before he answered Steve.
“We could talk about that, but I’m more interested in hearing about what else you remember about me. About us.”
“You took me to a Dodger’s game when they came into town to play the Mets.”
Tony dropped what he was holding and turned around all too quickly. His expression was disturbingly unreadable. “Do you remember the date for that, Cap?”
“Uh, yeah. April 25, 2013.” Steve paused before smiling up at the brunette. “It was our first date. You even got us real tickets, not box seats, so that we could be in the action. It was a media nightmare,” he laughed, “but you toughed it out with me. Dodgers won. I finally got up the nerve to kiss you at the end of the night. Our first kiss was pretty perfect, if you ask me.”
Tony swallowed thickly, but he genuinely smiled at Steve before he nodded. “Almost.”
Over the next few days, it became apparent that the Avengers had made Steve their primary mission. Sam retrieved Steve early in the mornings for a long run. Afterward, he’d eat breakfast with whoever was milling about. Steve had come to understand that Sam didn’t actually live at the tower, but had just been staying there to aid with the super soldier’s recovery. Eventually he’d have to go back to DC.
The rest of his days were filled with organized activities. One day Steve sparred with Thor for hours. The next day Clint took him to Coney Island. It was the fourth day after his accident when Natasha tried to take him to the Met. Steve wondered when they’d be allowed to put their own pictures back up in the tower. “I’ll ask,” was the only response that Natasha gave him.
It was on the fifth day that he tried to get more information about Bucky. Admitted, he lost his temper when his teammates had politely declined to tell him anything. Thankfully it was only a punching bag that suffered.
Each night was the same. The group ate dinner together, watched movies, and then he and Tony would head down to the workshop where Steve would inevitably fall asleep on the couch and Tony would pass out against a workbench as Steve talked about his memories.
The movie part of his nights were uneventful. Eventually, Steve had to insist that other people pick movies because it wasn’t fair that they were only watching his choices. While watching the movies was fun, they didn’t do much to jog Steve’s memory. The best part about them was getting to be close to Tony.
Tony was probably the most perplexing part of Steve’s recovery. The man would seem to avoid him as much as possible during the day, but want to be close whenever they were in the same room, like magnets that both pushed away from one direction and pulled together from the other.. It was Tony that had come to gym after Steve had demolished the punching bag. He had soothed Steve’s nerves with his flippant jokes, kissed him until he let go of his anger, and grieved with him once the tears came. Steve had the distinct feeling that it wasn’t the first time that Tony had that conversation with him. Still, the mechanic’s behavior was disturbing.
“Tell me the truth, Tony,” Steve demanded as they rode the elevator to the workshop after the most recent movie night.
“What do you mean?” Tony’s tone was still light, but he looked straight ahead.
“Did we break up? Is that part of what I’ve forgotten? Just tell me. I know all of you think that I’m broken right now, but I have to know. Don’t keep this from me.”
Tony actually laughed. He turned to look at Steve, his bright brown eyes dancing.
“No, Steve. We didn’t break up. I promise.”
Considering it for a minute, Steve decided that Tony was telling the truth. Then came the next hard question.
“So, why won’t you sleep with me in our bed?”
Tony stared back at Steve, mind probably searching for the right answer.
“JARVIS? Change of plans. Take us to the penthouse.”
“Yes, sir,” came the disembodied voice. The elevator slowed to a stop before changing directions.
“You don’t have to do this if you’re not comfortable,” Steve stated. “I’m not nagging you. I’m looking for an answer as to why my boyfriend would rather sleep sitting up on an uncomfortable stool instead of next to me in our giant bed. I know that sleeping like that can’t feel good. You’re pushing 40.”
“Hey! Hey! Hey! No need to bring numbers into this, grandpa,” Tony combated. “But I will level with you, Steve. If we share that bed, for me it’s going to feel an awful lot like taking advantage of your situation. No, we didn’t break up. That’s not something that’s been taken away by your amnesia, but as long as there are things you don’t remember I’m not comfortable asking you to make that decision. It’s called informed consent, Cap, and I’m not convinced that you’re completely informed at this point in time.”
“Then inform me!” It came out a lot harsher than Steve planned, but he was entirely fed up with being coddled by his closest friends.
“I want to, but right now all the doctors think that it’s in your best interest to remember in your own time. Something about shock, blah, blah, blah. Sending Captain America to the looney bin is not something that I want to be responsible for.”
The elevator door opened, revealing their shared living space. JARVIS remained uncharacteristically quiet and neither man moved from their spot in the elevator.
“Fine.” Steve was slightly shocked by how cold his own voice sounded. “Just go down to the workshop, then.”
Steve looked back over at Tony to see the brunette looking at his nails casually, as if Steve hadn’t just snapped at him.
“What do you mean, ‘no?’”
“I mean, ‘no, I’m not going to spend the night in the workshop.’”
“Tony, you just said…”
“I know. I know what I said. Unfortunately, I care about you entirely too much.”
Tony’s tone was still flippant, but Steve had to smile. He reached out and pulled the smaller man into a tight embrace.
“Promise me,” Tony’s voice was muffled against Steve’s shoulder, “that you will remember this.”
“I’ll do my best.” Steve stepped away and into their floor.
“That’s not a promise! That’s not even fair! You make me promise you things all the time!” Tony followed him.
“You sassy bastard.”
Steve laughed. He was caught. He turned back around and saw that Tony had taken his shirt off. The abrupt end to his laughter must have caught the mechanic’s attention. He looked over at Steve and must have noticed the blonde’s heated stare.
“Do you like what you see, Cap?”
“Very much.” Steve couldn’t stop the words that tumbled out even if he wanted to. He quickly closed the distance between the two of them before Tony could object.
Steve immediately began kissing his way down the shorter man’s neck, licking and nipping as he went. He was just barely aware of the soft moan that Tony let out as his own pulse pounded in his ears. Tony’s hands found the hem of Steve’s shirt and yanked it over his head.
As soon as Steve was loose from his overly tight t-shirt, his hands were back on Tony’s hips and his mouth on Tony’s nipple. He smiled into Tony’s skin as he heard the genius sputtering obscenities. Tony’s hand fisted in Steve’s short blonde hair and he tugged until the super soldier ceased his ministrations.
Tony crashed their lips together. All hesitance gone, Tony bit and sucked on Steve’s lips as their tongues battled for dominance. Teeth clanked together in their enthusiasm to consume each other. Their bare chests pressed together, sending sparks of electricity through his body, but Steve suddenly needed even more contact. He pulled on Tony’s belt buckle, eliciting a groan from the brunette.
“Steve, I’m trying really hard to be good. I need you to help me out though, buddy,” Tony panted.
Steve blew out a breath, but stepped back with his hands up. There was hard evidence of how much he had enjoyed what just transpired, but it was obvious that he wasn’t the only one. Still, he couldn’t stop himself from eyeing Tony hungrily. The shorter man groaned again and scrubbed at his face with both hands.
“I have the worst luck! JARVIS! Get the shower running for me. Extra icy tonight, please.” He turned toward the bathroom as the AI confirmed the running shower.
“Can I join you?” Steve called out with a snarky smile.
“Not helpful!” Tony didn’t turn around as he yelled back his response.
Steve begrudgingly dragged himself out of bed the next morning. He briefly mourned the loss of the warm body cuddled up next to him as he put on his running clothes, knowing that Sam was probably already heading toward the workshop to look for him.
Steve paused to admire the beautiful man that still snored away in the lavish bed before pressing kisses to his scarred chest and forehead. As quietly as he could, he snuck out for his run.
By the time he returned to shower, Tony was gone. In his place was Tony’s personal StarkPad along with a carefully composed note.
Hopefully this will get you a little more informed.
You know where to find me if you need me.
As Steve picked up the StarkPad, it jumped to life in his hands. He sat down when he saw what Tony had pulled up: top tier security clearance SHIELD files on the Winter Soldier.
It took the man out of time an hour and a half to make it through all the materials and then another two to process everything that he had just relearned about his oldest friend. When he was finally ready to be around people again, JARVIS helpfully directed him toward the kitchen. Steve could already hear their voices as the elevator deposited him on the communal floor.
“This can’t go on indefinitely!” Tony’s voice rang out. “Somebody has to tell him. He’s not mentally handicapped or a fucking child! Stop treating him like one!”
Those words made Steve stop in his tracks.
“We’ve been over this, Tony,” Bruce pleaded. “You know what the doctors said.”
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you! The doctors don’t know shit! They don’t even know Steve!”
“Sir, if I may interrupt—“
“No, you may not, J. The grown ups are talking.”
“C’mon, Stark. We all know that you’re secretly loving this. Just give it a rest.” Clint sounded exhausted. This argument must have been going on awhile.
“Not now, JARVIS! And you leave that fucking out of this, Barton!”
“Sir, I have to insist—“
“What I am talking about is what’s best for Steve, but we all have to be on board!”
“Fury agrees with the doctors.”
“That’s not helpful, Romanov. He doesn’t call the shots here, anymore.”
“What! What the hell do you want, JARVIS?”
“According to my calculations and prior data collected, the Captain is within hearing range, sir.”
The pregnant pause the followed JARVIS’s announcement made Steve’s already churning stomach turn into a giant knot.
“Shit. Steve?” Tony called for him, rounding the corner, but Steve was already putting space between himself and his teammates. He heard the genius instructing the others to “fucking stay put” as he attempted to chase down the super soldier.
In all honesty, Steve didn’t really know where to go. Last time he beat a hasty retreat from people hiding the full truth from him, he ended up causing a traffic jam in Time’s Square. That wasn’t exactly an experience he felt like repeating. Instead, he opted for freedom.
The didn’t know whether to be mad or impressed to see Tony already waiting in the garage when he got there. The mechanic’s hands were already up in a placating gesture, one hand holding keys. Of course Tony would have a spare key to Steve’s bike. That man had his hand in everything.
“Steve, I know it’s bad. I know how terrible this all looks. Please, just know that I’m on your side.”
Steve considered Tony for a minute. He wanted to be alone at the same time that he didn’t. He just needed to get away from the lies.
“Then you better put on a helmet.”
“Are you sure that the vehicle you want to take? I’m not sure the insurance policy on my hair covers motorcycle helmets. Also, would this be a good time to ask where we’re going?”
Steve just turned to stand nose to nose with Tony, who once again raised his hands as if surrendering. Steve just plucked the keys out of the brunette’s hand and turned back to the bike saying, “If you want to come along, you’re going to have to be quiet.”
Steve didn’t actually know where they were going when he pulled out of the garage. He drove until he reached a graveyard. He was at a loss as to what to do next when Tony seemingly understood and took his hand. He lead Steve through the headstones until they reached Peggy’s. They stood in silence as Steve remembered putting her to rest just several month ago.
As if sensing he was ready, Tony lead him back through the cemetery to his bike. They rode around aimlessly again until Steve pulled into a diner. The waitress inside knew his name, which really wasn’t all too surprising, and his order, which was surprising. Tony only ordered coffee.
“Alright, you can talk again.”
“Oh, thank god! I really didn’t know how much longer I could be your mute companion. At least I know now that Iron Man is definitely not cut out for the side kick business-“
“Ah, alright. I see I’ve abused the privilege. I’m shutting up again.”
“That’s not entirely necessary. Just ease me back into it, will ya?” He tried for a smile, but Steve was sure that he came up a little short.
“Do we go there together often?” Steve asked quietly.
“Nope.” Tony answered quickly. “Today was the first time.”
“You never asked. Didn’t feel right to offer, either.” Steve nodded slowly at Tony’s answer before asking another question.
“Does this mean that you’re telling me everything I want to know now?”
“The answer to that question would also be a no, Cap. I’m sorry.” Tony played with the spoon in his coffee, not making eye contact. “As I’m sure you heard, there is dissension among the ranks. If we’re going to tell you everything, we all have to be on board.”
“Since when do you follow orders, Stark?” Steve was aiming for lighthearted, but it wasn’t easy.
“Since going against orders could very well be harmful to your wellbeing. We’ll need support if we go that route.”
“You told me about Bucky. You helped me remember about Peggy. What else could there be?”
“Full disclosure, that file wasn’t exactly up to date. I considered it a compromise considering you wanted to know everything and the folks back home don’t want to tell you anything. There are plenty of other things. Honestly, at this point not even I’m sure I fully understand what you do and don’t remember.”
Steve tried picking at his food, but for once he didn’t have much of an appetite. Tony kept stirring his coffee and lifting it to his mouth, but the super soldier couldn’t help but notice that the cup never seemed to get any closer to being empty.
“What do you think, Cap?” Tony’s words pulled Steve out of his reverie. “Are we going home or continuing on with our adventure?”
It hadn’t been an easy decision to go back to the tower, but Steve knew that it was for the best. There was no team dinner or movie night that evening. Tony must have already informed the rest of the team to stay away. What there was instead were several pictures haphazardly hung in the elevator. Steve appreciated the attempt.
They travelled directly up to the penthouse. Chinese food was already laid out in the entryway and Steve suspected that Tony had really somehow been in contact with JARVIS the whole time they were gone.
“Will you tell me another?” Tony was trying to act nonchalant but was failing. Thankfully Steve found it endearing.
“Another what? Another memory?” Steve asked in response.
“Yeah, you know, tell me something else you remember about us.” Tony opened the takeout containers and carefully sorted them out into what Steve could only assume were each of their individual orders.
“Would you like hear about the time you took me dancing?”
“You know what?” Tony grinned, “I think I would.”
Steve slept in the next morning. He felt that he had earned that much. He and Tony ended up preparing their breakfast in their personal kitchen, which was also nice. Steve knew that he couldn’t avoid the Avengers forever, but today he was taking the day off.
“I really do have a lot of work to do, or else I would love to just play hooky all day with you again,” Tony apologized.
“Go on ahead, babe,” Steve smiled at the brunette. “I’m going to track down my sketch pad and then I’ll join you in your workshop.”
If it weren’t such a terrible situation, Steve would have been proud of himself. It took the combined efforts of the Avengers six hours to realize that he was not going to go to the workshop, find him without JARVIS’s help, and then disassemble his barricade without causing structural damage to the tower.
Not surprisingly, they sent Tony in first.
Steve felt nauseous at the scene that Tony walked into. Four triple reinforced punching bags lay strewn about the gym. Weights and machines were overturned. Steve sat in the back corner, head in his bloodied hands.
“Should I ask what happened, or just assume that you’ve completely lost it?” Tony joked.
Steve couldn’t look at him. He just pointed at the ripped paper around him.
Tony crouched down and gathered up the sketches. Steve had remembered everything when he found them. Maybe the doctors were right. Maybe he couldn’t handle the truth.
Steve now remembered that he didn’t doodle sketches of DUM-E when he sat in Stark’s workshop. He had been drawing a comic strip. There were years worth of the fictional interactions of a cartoon Captain America and a cartoon Iron Man. There was a story where Iron Man surprised Cap with a trip to Paris. There was another story where they went dancing. All of the dates that Steve thought he remembered were nothing but doodled fantasies. Those stories weren’t even the worst of what was in there.
“I really did take you to that Dodgers game that day, you know,” Tony offered quietly.
Steve clenched his jaw and forced himself to answer. “It didn’t go quite like I drew it, though.”
“At the risk of making everything worse, I will admit that I wish it had,” Tony tried.
“You do realize that I remember everything now, right? Everything!” Steve was starting to lose his temper, but he couldn’t stop himself. It was all too painful and too humiliating.
“Your response to this whole situation was to humor me? You let me believe that I was your boyfriend! You let me kiss you and sleep in your bed…” It was all too much for the super soldier.
“I didn’t ever want to lie to you, Steve. Please believe me that I didn’t. From the moment you woke up and you were confused, I wanted to tell you the whole truth. See what happens when I follow orders? Everything just goes to shit.” It was supposed to be a joke, but Steve really couldn’t find it in himself to find humor in the situation yet.
“Clint wasn’t entirely wrong,” Tony tried sheepishly. “While I didn’t love the situation, I did love getting to be your boyfriend. I’ve only been pathetically pining over you for the last year or so.”
“The Dodgers game was over two years ago, Tony.”
“I know, I know. I still had my head in my ass back then. I think if you had kissed me that night, though, that it would have rattled it loose.
“I really don’t know what’s worse: realizing that you’ve been pretending to be my boyfriend or suddenly remembering all the events surrounding the fall of SHIELD. It’s sad that I can even compare those two things.”
“I can’t take it back, Cap. I really wish that I could, but not even I have invented a time machine yet. What I can do is keep moving forward, and I would really, really, really like to find out just where this goes.”
Steve finally looked up to lock eyes with the man he’d been quietly pining away over for years. The super soldier’s world had already changed completely twice in the last week.
“What do you say, Steve? Will you give me the chance?” Tony gently reached out and touched Steve’s cheek.
Steve cautiously leaned into the touch before turning his face to kiss Tony’s weathered palm. Turning back, he caught sight of the mechanic’s tender smile.
“Just so you know, cartoon Tony set the bar pretty high.”
“I think I can manage.”
Steve finally smiled and tilted his chin to meet the real Tony halfway. What the hell. Third time is a charm.