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Steve (Accidentally) Gets What He (Not So Secretly) Wants

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“Sir…. Sir….SIR.” JARVIS’s voice filled the darkened room, interrupting the previous silence marred only by the occasional snore.

Loki stirred, “What is it, J?” He asked, looking at the man beside him, face slack and drool pooling on his pillow. A fond smile crossed his face at the sight, not that he would admit to it.

“Pardon me, Master Laufeyson, but it is a Priority 2 alert for Sir.”

“It is fine, JARVIS.” Loki waved away the A.I.’s apologetic tone. The Priority 2 protocols were private, and Avengers family specific. While the level one alerts called for team intervention, level two was individual based. The group all had their individual needs, and at a point a few years ago in which those needs had been denied or downplayed by their owners one time too many, the Priority 2 system had been established. Though some had more than others, none of the Avengers were without their own Priority 2 protocols. Loki had, himself, been alerted for others’ crisis and been the one in need many a time, so he rolled over and gently shook Tony awake.

“Mmhmh...wha?” Tony grumbled, smacking his lips and struggling to force his eye lids apart.

Loki had no need to speak up as JARVIS’s voice calmly, but with a sense of urgency, addressed the room again. “Sir. Priority 2 alert for you.”

Tony found himself immediately awake at the words. He pushed himself up from the bed and in a few swift paces, grabbed a pair of sleep pants from his dresser. He pulled them on quickly, gave Loki a little wave, and briskly set off for the elevator.

Once the doors closed, he asked, “Steve?” tapping his foot impatiently against the floor. He knew the elevator could go no faster, but every second away from a friend in distress was agonizing.

“Indeed, Sir. I cannot wake him.”

Tony ran his hand through his hair before hanging it from the back of his neck. He mused, “Third time this week it’s been that bad.”

JARVIS’s silence agreed. Tony knew there had been many other violent nightmares, but he was only alerted when JARVIS couldn’t bring Steve out of them on his own. Tony sighed, frustrated and worried for his friend. He still couldn’t believe Steve had hid the extent of his post traumatic symptoms from the team for so long, how often Steve experienced nightmares and bouts of depression. After that night Tony had stayed with Steve as a kitten, Tony couldn’t let his concerns go. He had sat down with Steve and had a long, painful conversation in which Steve agreed to work with JARVIS in letting others know when he needs help. Steve chose Tony as the one to be called when JARVIS could not retrieve him out of a bad nightmare and since, Tony had been called on more times than he’d like. He wanted to be there for Steve, of course, but it was the thought that his friend was suffering so much that nagged at Tony.

The elevator doors finally opened and Tony all but ran towards Steve’s bedroom where quiet sounds of distress could be heard. On the bed, Steve shivered from imagined cold, head moving left and right, whispering indecipherable pleas: a sight that was familiar to Tony. Steve often dreamed about the cold, about never waking up, about losing more time, and losing more people. Sometimes the man lay completely still, the only sign of distress the expression on his face. Other times, he shivered violently as he did now. Usually he was quiet, letting out faint cries or partial words. A few times, he would scream, just once before waking up, an indescribable expression of anguish on his face. Those were the worst nights and the only time Steve would not tell Tony what he dreamed. Luckily, tonight seemed to be one of the lesser evils.

Tony stopped at a safe distance (less from any potential physical reaction and more so Tony would not scare Steve when he woke) and called out Steve’s name loudly, but calmly until the body on the bed went still and his friend’s eyes opened. With that, Tony allowed himself to slowly approach. Steve cleared his throat and wiped his hands harshly at his wet cheeks before looking at the other. He gave a poor attempt at a smile and a quiet, “Hey.”

Tony huffed, “Hey, Steve,” and hopped over him to sit against the headboard. When Steve didn’t budge, he reached down and tugged on Steve’s shoulders, “C’mon, Muscles, ya know I can’t lift ya.” Steve gave half a laugh and obligingly scooted up beside him. When Tony pulled on him again, Steve followed to lean against him, shoulder to shoulder. They simply sat there for a while as Steve’s heart rate and frantic mind calmed down.

“Wanna talk about it?”

Steve sighed. “Just...cold. And the train. Again.”

Tony nodded. He guided Steve’s head to rest against his own and they sat in companionable silence for a time. The clock on Steve’s night stand ticked a steady beat and they stared at the sparkling New York skyline out the row of uncovered windows to the left of Steve’s bed.

Eventually, exhaustion returned to him and Steve slumped further onto Tony, his eyes drooping closed. Tony squeezed him, “Alright, Bud, back under the covers.” Once Steve had shuffled his way back to a comfortable position (with only a slight whine over being made to move) the covers tucked under his arms, Tony changed into his kitten form and climbed aboard Steve’s broad chest. He settled down in his usual place directly above Steve’s heart and curled his paws in. Steve smiled as Tony’s purrs rumbled through his own chest and placed a hand upon Tony’s furry rump before succumbing to a peaceful sleep.

*****

In the late morning, Steve woke to find Tony still upon his chest, lightly purring. He smiled and ran his hand down the cat’s back. “Mornin’, Tony.”

Tony scrunched up his nose at Steve’s morning breath, squinted his eyes open, and reached out to place his paw on the man’s lips in protest. Steve chuckled in response, the motion nearly causing Tony to fall off his chest. Flicking his tail in feigned irritation, Tony stood and stretched, lightly spearing Steve with his claws in doing so and smirking at the slight wince under his feet. With one last yawn, he hopped off to the empty space beside Steve and willed back his human form. He stretched again, arms raised above his head, and listened to his bones pop. The transition between human and feline felt natural, but he still felt the need to reacquaint himself with his current size and perspective.

They laid there for a while in pleasant silence, before Steve’s guilt emerged, “Tony, I’m sorry.” Tony said nothing, just reached over to pinch Steve’s arm in response. Steve sighed, “Ow. And fine, sorry I said sorry. But I still feel bad. I hate taking you away from Loki or your inventions or bed or whatever just because I’m having a bad dream.” Steve looked over to find Tony staring at his hands, the man more serious than he normally was of these particular mornings. Usually, Tony tried to lighten the mood and begin Steve’s day with a good start after a rough night, reassuring him that it was no inconvenience and downplaying his help. It appeared that today would be different and Steve braced himself for Tony finally having had enough.

After a moment of contemplation, Tony placed his hands in his lap and turned towards his friend. Making eye contact, he took a breath. “Look, Steve. You are one of my best friends. You’re family. I will drop everything for you any time and for any reason. And I am more than willing to sit beside you after every nightmare or for every bad day. I want to and I will continue to as long as you allow me. But I think you need more help than I can give you. I will always be here for you, Steve, but maybe it’s time to explore some other options, too.”

Steve swallowed his argument and glanced away. He knew Tony was right. He’d thought about it himself for a while now, but he was scared. Scared of change, of admitting he wasn’t as strong as he felt he should be, scared of letting others down… But he knew it was irrational and he hated feeling that way. Maybe it was time to do something about it.

Tony continued, “I have a therapist, been seeing her for years. Since Afghanistan, really, but I wasn’t serious about it until after the Chitauri invasion. JARVIS and I looked into her extensively, as did Pepper and Phil when I asked for their advice, so she can definitely be trusted. I mean, you don’t have to see her of course - or anyone, it’s your choice - but, yeah. Nadia’s great. She doesn’t put up with any bullshit, but she also gives a crap. Think about it?”

“Yeah,” Steve agreed, voice hoarse, “Okay.” It felt monumental, the choice he just made. It felt like a small ray of sun shining into his room and a few pounds of weight taken off his shoulders. It felt like stepping on a path that led to somewhere good. He was still scared, but he was excited, too.

Tony leaned over to knock his shoulder against Steve’s. Steve smiled and knocked him back, with a little more force. Tony laughed as he caught himself, “No fair, Rogers,” and dug his pointy elbow into Steve’s side.

After their playful wrestling match ended, the two falling in a heap at the foot of the bed, JARVIS put on the morning cartoons. Tony draped himself over Steve’s lap and haughtily commanded him to “Pet me, human.” Steve obligingly scratched his fingers along Tony’s scalp even though “You’re not even a cat right now, Tones,” and Tony totally didn’t purr.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The sun was shining stubbornly through the clouds as Steve walked home from therapy on a Wednesday evening. As was his habit every Wednesday, Steve had taken the scenic route home, walking through parks of laughing children, past stores with fancy displays, and even through a little market that seemingly popped up from nowhere that day. Swinging his bag of handcrafted little Avengers bears at his side, he easily swerved through the ceaseless foot traffic of New York.

The past few months of weekly appointments with Nadia were definitely paying off. He still had bad days, but it was steadily becoming easier to pull himself out of them or to seek help from his friends. Changing his thought patterns was difficult, but like much of his work with Nadia, it was worth it. Being able to stop his dark spells before they got too deep was an ability he treasured. He still had nightmares; he couldn’t stop them, of course, but he was working on how he reacted to them. They also seemed to be getting less frequent and intense, though he knew they would never completely go away. Positive self-care habits and rituals were making his days brighter and he found himself smiling more genuinely than he had in a long while.

His feet took him past the storefront of a pet store, cute little puppies in the window napping and playing tug-o-war with a colorful knotted rope. He stopped for a moment, appreciating the sight with a grin. A spotted puppy towards the back sneezed, waking himself up. The pup looked around in startled confusion, drawing a laugh out of his audience, before settling back down to resume his nap. Steve found his smile taking on a wistful edge. He wanted a pet. A cat, specifically, though he would love a dog, too. It had been a passing thought for a long while - since that first day with Tony as a kitten, at least - but he hadn’t allowed himself to seriously entertain the notion. Shaking his head, he resumed walking home.

The Avengers led a dangerous life. A pet would be a huge responsibility. And it’s Tony’s building! The others may not appreciate it... What about when he is on missions? Someone would have to take care of it. And… He is looking for excuses to deny himself, isn’t he? It’s not like he would bring his pet to a battle and if a battle came to them, JARVIS would lead the animal to the bunkers swiftly. Hell, Tony would probably build something to expedite the process. A mini elevator to take his cat to a safe room or something. Point is, the animal would be safe. And a pet is a huge responsibility, sure, but he is a responsible person. He would take the best care of that cat, and he knows JARVIS and the others would help, too. And yeah, it’s Tony’s building, but he’s been telling them for years that it’s their home, too. Their floors are even under their own names. And Tony is his best friend, he wouldn’t begrudge him any bit of comfort. The same could be said for the rest of the team and he knows they would come to care for the cat for its own sake as well.

He was out of excuses, wasn’t he? So, what was the real reason?

Steve watched his feet as they continued to step one in front of the other, relentlessly, steadily taking him home. He looked up at the sky, the sun now covered by darkening clouds. He picked up his pace.

He lost Bucky.

He lost Bucky and he lost Peggy and he lost the Commandos.

He lost all the people he knew. He lost his time and his culture and his life. He lost his home.

It’s been 80 years since he was given the serum. And he hasn’t aged. It’s been gnawing at him since the war, a question he couldn’t answer, a frightening ‘what if’. Since the ice, the worry has only grown. Ten years he has been a super soldier, minus the decades of stasis, and the face in the mirror is identical to the one that greeted him when he emerged from the chamber. He knows he could ask Tony and Bruce, knows that they could give him the most educated answer, but he is terrified. He thinks he knows the answer already and he is not ready to face it.

This is his worst nightmare: him living alone beyond his team, his family. Beyond even humanity.

It’s better to love and lose, he mused, as he neared the tower’s back entrance, but losing hurts so damn much.

People don’t live long enough. And a cat? God, a cat really wouldn’t.

Steve wasn’t sure he could open himself up to that kind of loss yet again. As he pulled open the door and let his eyes adjust, he wondered how Bucky did it, befriending that sickly little Brooklyn boy who was never likely to make it past the next winter.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Steve wiped his grimy brow, succeeding only in adding another streak of dirt from his gloves. If this wasn’t one of the most ridiculous calls the team had ever had, he didn’t want to find out what he had missed. A giant ferret came from nowhere, wiggled its way through buildings -no, not between, through -  and then instantly calmed down and allowed itself to be transported out of the city once Thor scratched under the creature’s chin. Ridiculous. Not that he was complaining, though. Easy battles with no human casualties (luckily they were able to evacuate the block the lengthy rodent terrorized) were more preferable to the alien-invasion or destroy-the-planet variety. Cleanup was going to be a bitch, though, Steve thought as he looked around at all the rubble. Well, might as well start now.

He began heaving large slabs of bank and Chinese restaurant over his shoulder and dumping them in a neat pile to the side of the road. Over the comms, Nat informed him that the clean up crews were arriving and the police could handle the residents until it was safe for them to be let back in the area. He thanked her and sent her home, promising he would leave soon as well. When Thor reported that the ferret was safely in SHIELD custody, he gave him permission to stay and play with the odd beast, suggesting that he call Bruce and invite Hulk along. Thor agreed exuberantly and Steve flinched in pain. He really ought to ask Tony about further volume moderation on Thor’s audio feed when he and Loki return from the S.I. business trip in Tokyo. 

In a short amount of time, Steve had cleared a good portion of the the block. He stood back, looking at his work, and felt accomplished. Deciding to leave the rest for the crew to take care of, he brushed his rubble-covered gloves off on his pants and turned in the direction he had parked his bike a short jog away. Before he could head off however, a faint sound tickled his ear. He froze, listening for it again. There, in an alleyway to his left. There was something trapped under a fallen piece of skyscraper. The small cry came again, faintly. A mouse, perhaps?

Reaching the pile, he began to strategically remove objects, taking great care so the pile would not cave in. As he neared the bottom, the cry came once more, weaker this time. He hurried to finish. He pulled the last piece away to be met with the wide, scared eyes of thin, gray tabby. The cat, for all its fright and now freedom, made no move to run away. It cried again and laid its head down.

Steve tore off his gloves and shoved them into his left thigh pocket. He then slowly crouched down and reached for the cat. The creature gave no protest as Steve lifted him up and gently cradled him to his chest.

“JARVIS. I need a vet.”

*****

It’s been too long.

No, stop, it’s fine.

The nurses might know how it’s going.

Don’t get in the way, just let them do their job.

Steve warred with himself in the waiting room, foot jittering a literal mile a minute, drawing stares towards the red plastic chair in which he sat. A woman whispered to her girlfriend, wondering if the small chair would break under the Captain’s bulk. The chair in question croaked ominously and Steve blushed, forcing himself to still.

“Mr….Captain, sir?”

“Yes?” He refrained from shouting, only just, and stood up quickly, the plastic of the chair all but sighing in relief.

“This way, sir. Second door on the left.”

He thanked her and approached the door with an imperceptible shake in his hand.

Inside, the cat lay on a cold, metal countertop, the vet standing behind it writing on a pad of paper. For a moment, Steve swore the cat was still, before its stomach gently rose in shallow breath. He gave a sigh of partial relief and shut the door behind him.

Their conversation would later be a blur in Steve’s memory, emotion clouding his eyes and ears, but some parts were clear and sharp. He would remember the doctor’s kind eyes and sad smile, telling him that the cat was close to death. No broken bones or wounds, the man said, but severe dehydration, malnutrition, and blood loss from fleas. He wouldn’t have lived much longer, he said, and still might not. Steve would remember shaking his head and saying no, denying this possibility, promising he wouldn’t let it happen. He refused to lose anyone else and, dammit, he may have only known this cat for ten minutes, but he rubbed his face against his hand! The doctor’s kind eyes smiled at him again as waited for him to calm down with a hand upon his shoulder.

The rest of the conversation faded in and out of clarity until the moment he finds himself at the counter, debit card in hand. He thanks the staff for their help and assists Happy in loading the special food, litter boxes, medication, and tools the doctor suggested. He nods absently when Happy tells him that JARVIS sent for his bike as well. He pads the cat carrier with a pet bed and his uniform jacket when the cat insists upon it (his claws were locked in and Steve wasn’t going to argue) and latches the tiny door. “It’s just for the short ride home,” he promises and climbs into the waiting car.

The trip home will also be a blur. He will not recall what roads they took or how the traffic faired. He will only remember the weight of the carrier on his legs, the cramps in his fingers from holding them through the bars, and offering a constant stream of quiet comfort to the fragile and weary passenger on his lap.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“JARVIS, my man, did ya miss me?” Tony grinned widely as the elevator doors closed. Loki rolled his eyes behind his companion and leaned against the paneled wall.

“Of course, Sir. In the mere minutes since our last conversation via your phone, I have yearned for your voice. Truly, I have been devastated in your absence. Mere contact through your mobile devices, suit, cufflinks, commlink that was not necessary to wear to those meetings, and the QuinJet were not nearly enough.”

Tony grinned and adjusted his cufflinks. They had worked perfectly across the globe, as he knew they would. He’d have to start the production on Phil’s and the team’s tonight. “Aw, I love you, too, J. What about the rest of the gang?”

“Agents Coulson and Barton are still enjoying their tenth honeymoon; They have decided to extend it for a few more days and will return Monday. Mr. Odinson has missed you greatly, Master Laufeyson, and is eagerly awaiting you in the living room-”

With a curse, Loki promptly vanished, presumably teleporting elsewhere to temporarily elude his beloved brother.

JARVIS carried on, unperturbed, having predicted the god’s actions, “Dr Banner is losing against Agent Romanov in a vicious game of MarioKart in the game room and Captain Rogers is currently in his kitchen.”

“That’s strange. Steve takes all his meals on the common floor,” Tony pursed his lips and then grinned, “Well, I’m sure he’s dying to hear about my trip. To Steven’s floor, JARVIS!”

The doors dinged open and Tony stepped out. What sounded like a toddler’s enthusiastic pots and pans band interspersed with what was unmistakably a banged head and subsequent curse greeted him. Tony cringed at a particularly grating noise and made for the racket Steve was making in his kitchen, only to stop in his tracks, walk backwards a few steps, and turn around swiftly on his right heel. There, on Steve’s obnoxiously yellow and ridiculously comfortable sofa was a cat.

Tony stared.

The cat lifted its head from the pillow of its paws to stare at him in return, sniffing the air and narrowing its eyes at Tony. Strangely, Tony felt the hairs on the nape of his neck rise as the two shared a long, unblinking gaze.

The banging sounds in the kitchen finally settled and a cheerful Steve entered the room, humming a random tune and unknowingly interrupting the stand off in his living room.

“Oh-kay! I’ve got dinner and meds for ya and an extra treat if you don’t claw me this time-” He cocked his head sideways, noticing the extra person in the room, his previous smile growing larger, “ Tony? You’re back.”

Tony blinked at him, still discomforted from the interrupted confrontation. “Did you replace me, Rogers? ‘Cause I’m feeling a bit replaced.”

Steve laughed in good humor. He took a moment to place the food dish in front of the cat and the medicine on the coffee table. Hands thus free, he quickly embraced Tony tightly. “Of course not, Tony,” he said, reaching a hand up to scratch through Tony’s hair. Tony leaned into his fingers. He caught himself as his eyes began to close and the corners of his mouth lifted in appreciation. He forced a frown onto his face, but was not quite able to move away from the lovely skritches. Steve continued for a moment, before stepping back. “How was your trip?”

Tony easily rambled on about his trip for a bit as Steve apologetically shoved a pill down his cat’s throat. “...and the beach was nice, I guess, but what’s the big whoop about beaches anyway? It’s just a bunch of sand and water and people and seriously, Steve, what is with the cat?”

Steve glanced to the side, “Um, well, there was a battle, small time, and then I found him in the rubble and he was in bad shape and the doc wasn’t sure if he’s make it, but I followed his instructions to the T and he’s doing better now and I hope you don’t mind that I brought him home, but he didn't have anywhere to go and I couldn’t leave him. I’ve kinda gotten attached and I named him Charles and I can’t give him away, I’ve named him, Tony-”

Tony cleared his throat, attempting to get his heart back down in his chest where it belonged and halting Steve’s nervous ramblings, “His name is Charles?”

Steve looked at his friend, unable to read the unfamiliar expression on his face. “Uh, yeah.”

Tony swallowed, “That’s. That’s a good name for a cat. I’m happy for you, Steve.” He attempted a smile. He succeeded, though it was a little sad in the left corner.

Steve smiled brightly back at him, “Thanks, Tones.”

Tony internally shook himself. “Yup. No problem. He better not actually replace me, though. We’re still having our playdates in the gym. And the workshop. And the game room.”

“Of course, Tony. You’re still my best friend,” Steve assured, grinning widely.

“Good,” Tony stated awkwardly, shifting from foot to foot.

“So,” Steve nudged him, “Would you like to meet him?”

“Uh, sure? I guess?”

Steve gestured him down unto the couch and sat beside him, patting his lap for Charles to lay down. Once he had, Steve told Tony all about finding Charles, taking care of him, and some of the humorous things the cat had done since his health began to improve (he had a weird obsession with knocking over cups to Steve’s dismay) while the cat sniffed Tony’s hand and deemed him friend. Tony, in return, told him more about his trip while stroking his hand down the tabby’s side: about how Steve would have loved this museum he went to, how boring the meetings were, how sexy Loki looked in that maid outfit (“Tony!”). The two friends joked back and forth while Charles was content to ignore them, curled up tight in Steve’s lap and purring quietly under the warm hands worshiping him.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Tony was bored. Bored, bored, bored, bored, bored. He heaved a heavy sigh and laid his chin down upon his paws. He purposefully ignored Phil rolling his eyes from where he stirred the night’s dinner. Tony had been barred from his workshop for a full twenty-four hours. So, there had a been a little fire. A teensy weensy little fire that was completely an accident, entirely not his fault, and quickly put out. It was no big deal. Really.

An excruciating thirty minutes into his sentence, Tony lay on the kitchen counter watching soup simmer. Fascinating.

Phil smirked fondly at his sulking friend. “Dinner won’t be ready for another half hour, Tony. Why don’t you go grab Steve. He should be done with his workout by now.”

Tony huffed at the suggestion, but hopped down to the floor via a stool of convenient height and padded his way to the elevator, head hanging and tail dragging in his wake. Phil rolled his eyes once again at the theatric display, sipped a spoonful of soup, and added another dash of salt.

*****

Tony stepped onto Steve’s floor, ears flicking forward. Steve was in the shower, singing half the words to some pop song Tony pretended he didn’t know himself. He would have to wait for him. Tony rounded the couch, deciding to spend his wait relaxing in his favorite lounging spot in Steve’s apartment: a round fluffy cushion that caught just the right angle of sun from Steve’s windows.

He stopped in his tracks. Right, his replacement. He had forgotten. The hair on his nape rose. Should he turn human? Go back downstairs? The cat had accepted him in his (mostly) fur-less form a number of times Tony had visited, but he had yet to run into the other as a kitten. The other cat was much bigger than him and this was his space (part of Tony bristled at the thought - Steve was his, the tower was his, that perfect sunbeam spot was his, this cat was in his territory - but he shook it off), he may take offense to Tony’s presence. He wasn’t left to wonder long, however, as the cat opened a single eye to peer at him. Charles gave a lazy mrt and stretched before rising to a seated position.

You are a strange cat.

Tony startled. He did not expect to be able to converse with the creature.

Why do you walk on two paws with my person? Where does your fur and tail go?

Tony was unsure how to answer. I’m usually a human, like Steve. Sometimes, I’m a kitten like now. If I want to be. Or I get in trouble.

The tabby blinked at him. Okay. Charles yawned and found a new spot to lay on the cushion.

Tony stared. That was it? Just, acceptance? Ya know, that’s kinda my sunbeam you’re luxuriating in there, pal. He couldn’t resist poking the apparently docile and sleepy dragon.

The other cat opened an eye at him again and waved his tail in invitation. Tony watched him for a moment before shrugging and climbing up onto the cushion beside him. Soon, the warmth of the sun and the body beside him made Tony’s eyelids heavy and he found his stiff posture loosening.

*****

Steve stepped out from his bedroom at JARVIS’s summons for dinner, dressed in fresh clothes with hair still damp. Searching out Charles to give his cat a pet and tell him where he was going (he’s not weird, okay), he smiled at the sight of his tabby curled in a ‘c’ on his favorite cushion, soaking up the sun, with a small black and white kitten splayed out across him, snoring.

Steve ran his hand softly down both cats’ sides before leaving for dinner. He would bring Tony a bowl when he returned.