The invitation comes in the mail one Tuesday. It’s beautiful: clean, pristine, white cardstock with swirling silver letters announcing the upcoming nuptials.
Even Wade Wilson had found someone.
The thought crosses Steve’s mind more times than he’s entirely proud of. He reads and rereads the flowing script and thinks of nothing but his own loneliness. The endless ticking clock.
He shuffles over to the couch and sits down with a heavy sigh. The TV is off, the apartment cold and he's sure his bed would be even colder. There's one bowl in the sink with a solitary spoon next to it leftover from his breakfast that morning. Meat's defrosting nearby for his dinner for one.
When Steve was coming up, marriage was the last thing on his mind. Sure, he had crushes and he’d never forget Sally McClintock breaking his tender heart at age seven, but he’d certainly never pictured himself with a wife. He’d come close with Bernie and Miranda. Closer than ever with Sharon and when that didn’t pan out, he’d pretty much stopped trying.
Now, he's right back where he started: alone.
He tosses the invitation on the coffee table and runs a hand through his hair. It's hard to pinpoint the last time he hadn’t felt this isolated. Maybe when they put the team back together? Before Wanda? The original start of the Avengers? With the Commandos? The Invaders?
Maybe he’d always been this way.
Lying back, his eyes fall to his Starkphone dark and silent on the table. He's at home alone on a Saturday night and the worst part is, should he want to call someone, he doesn’t know who would answer.
As if hearing his thoughts, the phone rings. Steve’s eyes cut to it disbelievingly. It's awfully late and he doesn’t recognize the number. Sitting up, heart pounding, he answers it cautiously. The voice on the other end is loud in his ear, “Hola, mi Capitán! Wade, your friendly neighborhood merc here. Seeing as I’m having an issue with some unwanted party crashers threatening to ruin my last night on the meat market, I am in need of a band of very brave (and very handsome) merry men to come along on my quest to the greatest bachelor party ever thrown!”
Steve recoils, holding the phone away from his ear. This isn’t exactly what he had in mind. “Wade, I’m not sure about that. I have work and… work.”
“Don’t be like that!” Wade whines and Steve can hear the distinct sound of a sword slicing through the air and a scream. He should ask but part of him is afraid of the answer. Steve had heard Wade is more on the straight and narrow these days but did he believe that? “I’m getting married, Cap’n. Tying the knot for what’ll probably be the last time ever (if I have a say in it). Help an old pal! I’ll repay the favor.”
Steve couldn’t imagine what kind of trouble he’d find himself in when he needed to call in a favor from Deadpool. But the guy is getting married and as much as Steve’s personal life is depressing him at the moment, everyone deserved to enjoy their special day.
Sitting up, he pinches his brow and asks, “What do you need me to do?”
After Steve gets the directions he goes to his closet to pack, dinner plans abandoned. He grabs a backpack and throws in two pairs of jeans, a few t-shirts and the bag he carried to conceal his shield. It would only be 5 days, Wednesday to Monday; he could leave town for that long. Sam would hold down the fort.
When he’s got his toiletries packed, he moves back into his bedroom and his eyes fall to the phone on his bed. He marches forward before he can stop himself, picking up the phone and dialing the number by heart.
It’s only after he dials that he realizes the number could have changed. It had been years and they’d gone through several different houses, towers, mansions: had the number stayed the same? They used communicator cards for anything urgent. When’s the last time he’d dialed this number?
There’s a click as it switches over to voicemail. Steve’s face falls a little but he supposes this may be a blessing in disguise: it’d probably be easier just leaving a message.
“Hi, Tony. Listen, I had a favor to ask - it’s me –it’s Steve,” he explains, covering his face in shame. “So, Wade Wilson is getting married which is… amazing. He’s having a bachelor thing and it’s a pretty big deal for him. He asked me and a few other guys to come along in case things got tense. There are some people after him. Did I ever tell you about the time Wolverine and I helped him out a while back? Maybe I didn’t tell you about that…” This is horrible. He should hang up and try again. He sighs, “Anyway, I started thinking about my life and why nothing ever really worked out with any of the women I dated and it’s all starting to come together for me. I just… I really want to see you. Can you come? With, I mean. On the trip? It’s next Wednesday through to the following Monday. I know it’s a lot to ask but let me know.”
He hangs up and slumps down on the edge of the bed.
Now he just had to wait.
Mira’s Coffee shop in Midtown is a pretty nice place. Very wholesome and clean and nothing at all like Wade’s usual haunts. Steve hikes his backpack strap higher on his shoulder and sits down at a table. He orders a water while he waits, knowing coffee didn’t usually have too much of an effect on him but he already had nervous hands. He shredded the straw wrapper and some innocent napkins after that.
When Tony arrives, he looks as apprehensive as Steve feels. Steve stands, slyly wiping his clammy hands on his jeans before moving forward. Tony holds out a hand as Steve goes in for a hug. It’s a little awkward but he takes Tony’s hand graciously as he sucks in a deep breath, heart pounding. Even on shaky ground, Tony is a sight for sore eyes.
“Thanks for coming,” he says by way of greeting and the corner of Tony’s mouth quirks up. He cocks his head to the side, a curl of hair falling in his face as he gazes at Steve curiously.
“Well, you sounded weird on the phone.”
Steve’s skin warms as he rubs the back of his neck. He’s finding it just as hard to hold Tony’s gaze as it is to look away. Even in jeans and a t-shirt, Tony looked like a model. His hair effortless and cool, his eyes bright and clear blue and he's still in fantastic shape. His long lashes flutter as he waits for Steve to respond. “I know, I’m just… going through some things at the moment.”
“Little late for the mid life crisis,” Tony offers and Steve gives a sheepish smile.
“Nice to see a friendly face.”
Tony’s smile widens, some of his hesitance fading away. “Well, I’m here as long as you need me. What’s next?”
Steve glances out the window and then returns to Tony. “Not sure. Wade told me to meet him here.” Tony nods as a waitress sets down a plastic to go cup of coffee. He sips it gratefully, downing half of it immediately. It makes Steve smile. He can’t remember the last time he watched Tony gulp down a coffee like it's water. “Late night?”
“Is it late if you don’t go to sleep after?” he asks and Steve refrains from starting in on a lecture. “I was working on a new prototype and then I wanted to work on Pepper’s suit and an upgrade for Rhodey’s suit. Kinda spiraled into me working on everything but the prototype.”
Steve nods, the conversation lulling into silence. He wanted to say something like ‘some things never change’ but that isn’t something he's allowed to say anymore. He’d been away from Tony’s life for so long and now he's such a distant part of it. For all the things that stayed the same: Tony putting everyone else’s things before his own, Tony’s late nights, Tony’s coffee habits, for everything familiar, there were so many things that had changed.
Whether Extremis or good genes, Tony had aged at a much slower rate than the average man but his face had changed. He’d aged, grown his hair out a little closer to the way he used to wear it so long ago. He looked good; he’d always been handsome and the years had only amplified that. He didn’t wear suits, dress shirts and slacks everywhere. He wore t-shirts and jeans. He's less quick to smile but he seemed more at home with himself.
Steve struggles for something to say and finally, he asks, “So, how’s Rhodey?” at the same time Tony starts to say, “So, Wade’s getting hitched?”
“You first,” Tony says with a smile.
“Great, great,” Tony says kindly. “Still keeping me on my toes. He’s Iron Patriot right now which is nowhere near as cool as War Machine but I didn’t have a say in it,” he adds dryly. “His niece is something else. She’ll be running her own company someday.”
Steve smiles and Tony trails off, his eyes warm. “That’s good to hear. What were you saying?”
Tony blinks confusedly and then says, “Oh, I’m still surprised someone nailed down Wade Wilson.” He averts his eyes and taps his fingers on his coffee cup. “Of all people…”
“I know what you mean,” Steve says. Come to think of it, Tony is sort of in the same boat. He’d certainly been with a lot more women than Steve had but he’d never settled down either. They’d bonded over that before.
“I’m happy for him though,” Tony adds with a wry grin. “If he can make it work, anyone can, right?” Tony asks, meeting Steve’s eyes, his hands nervous on the tabletop.
“I think so-“ he starts when a car drops down from the sky and lands on the perfectly between two cars. Steve laughs as several of the other patrons gasp and run to the large windows. “Guess that’s our ride.”
They exit the shop as Logan gets out of the car. An older black woman Steve has never met climbs out in a SHIELD uniform and locks the car. Logan hikes a duffle bag over his shoulder and comes over, lighting a cigar. “Captain. Stark,” he greets gruffly.
The woman comes closer and Steve offers a hand. “Steve Rogers.”
She takes it with an extremely firm grip, “Agent Preston. Nice to meet you.” She points behind her, “I thought we’d take my ride but Wade was worried these guys would know my car.”
“What do we know?” Steve asks, focusing in.
She sighs, “Well, it could be anyone. We haven’t been able to narrow things down and I told Wade he should think about postponing but he’s determined to see this through. He’s putting himself in danger but I’m going to keep him safe.”
Steve senses she's closer to Wade than the average SHIELD agent. He nods with a firm, “We’ll be glad to help, ma’am.”
“Where is this shindig?” Logan asks, leaning against the car.
“The wedding is in, well, hell but the bachelor party is in Vegas,” she replies. Tony’s eyes widen and he looks to Steve who is just as surprised. He stares at Preston with wide eyes.
“Vegas?” Tony asks. “As in one of the most crowded cities in the world?”
“He wants to do it right,” she says with a grin as a car pulls up and screeches to a halt beside them.
It’s a 1970’s powder blue limo and Wade must have seriously pulled some strings to find this thing. The front window rolls down revealing Wade in the driver’s seat in a floral bowling shirt and a rather bored Spider-Man in the passenger seat. Wade pulls his mask up from over his mouth, “I know, I know, I’m surprised me and old Web-head aren’t tying the knot too, but I met the love of my life and she wants me back in time for these nups, fellas. Let’s get this show on the road!”
Logan shakes his head and tosses his bag in the trunk. Steve goes around the back and busies himself loading up Preston’s bag, his shield and backpack. Tony comes over with a rolling suitcase. Steve gives him a look and Tony glares at him lightly.
“You planning a few outfit changes?”
“I like having options.”
“Several, apparently,” Steve teases and it sounds a little flat, it having been a while since he freely teased Tony. Tony seems a little surprised but he sticks his tongue out and climbs into the back of the limo. Steve closes the trunk and takes a deep breath. He could do this. He could try to get this part of his life back.
He closes the door behind him as Wade revs the engine a few times. Worryingly.
“You sure you want to drive?” Steve asks nervously.
Tony takes up his cause, “It’s your big day, Red. You sure you don’t want one of us to take over?”
Wade waves a hand, swerving as he does and Steve takes hold of the armrest, looking into Tony’s wide eyes. “S’fine! You boys enjoy yourself! Next stop: Vegas, baby!”
“Next stop: rest stop,” Logan grumbles, lighting up another cigar. They were stopped at a gas station about an hour out from New York. “The third in six hours.”
“Awww, don’t get grumpy, Wolvy. The kid’s got a tiny bladder,” Wade says.
“Why’s he here, anyway?” Logan asks.
“We’re buddies,” Wade says dreamily.
“He know that?”
“He will,” Wade replies confidently as Spider-Man exits the station. Their little group is still short two members with Preston in the car checking in with SHIELD.
Inside, Steve went through the meager food selection with a sigh. “Junk, junk and more junk.” He straightens up, stomach growling. He starts eying the hot dogs rotating beneath the heat lamp in front when a hand touches his shoulder. He turns to see Tony eying him amusedly.
“I wouldn’t, if I were you. Not even your stomach could handle it. We’re getting food soon.”
“I know that but my stomach doesn’t,” Steve says with a heavy sigh. He leans against the counter as Tony sets down some candy and a bag of chips. Steve eyes them curiously.
“What? Best part of a road trip is the candy. Everyone knows that,” he replies defensively with a spark in his eye.
“When’s the last time you went on a road trip?” Steve asks and Tony’s eyes dim a little to his dismay.
“When I was on the run from Osborn. Seemed safer,” he answers quietly and Steve hates seeing that look on his face. He knew so little of Tony’s time after he was gone and the more he heard about it, the more off kilter he felt. Despite what transpired between them, his stomach twists at the thought of Tony fleeing a mad man like Osborn and erasing his mind at the same time. Steve had never been a fan of Extremis and after hearing that it was capable of doing that, he’d wanted it out of Tony’s head as soon as possible. But it wasn’t his place to try to convince Tony of things like that anymore.
He used to be Tony’s confidant, his closest partner and now he's the guy that knew little more than what's in the paper.
Steve tries to keep it light. “Didn’t take you for the candy type.”
Tony gladly takes the out, “Why not?” He unwraps a Blow Pop and pops it in his mouth with a grin. Soft pink lips close around the bright red candy rather distractingly and Steve feels oddly warm watching Tony suck on it. He lifts his gaze to meet Tony’s as he pulls the candy out. “Want some?”
Steve stares at him for a moment before he realizes Tony is holding an unopened sucker in his other hand. He wonders if that one would taste the same as the one in Tony’s mouth and he starts to take it before shaking his head. Slightly flustered, he replies, “I need real food.”
Tony shrugs, having somehow missed Steve’s odd response. “Suit yourself, Grandpa.”
He leaves the gas station and Steve takes a deep breath and waits for his face to cool.
The road is rather bumpy the closer they get to the next stop. Wade apparently made a few reservations along the route and they were all just along for the ride. He’d been surprisingly organized about this whole trip and Steve would probably be more impressed if his stomach isn’t eating itself.
He winds up next to Tony for most of the drive and Tony falls asleep after about five hours on the road. He’d been tapping away at a tablet, entirely focused on the task for quite some time until Steve looked over a few hours in and saw his eyes droop. Smiling fondly, Steve reached over to take the tablet before it fell. He looked a little cold, Steve notes and considers tossing his jacket over him when he feels Logan’s eyes on him.
“What?” he asks and Logan shakes his head.
“Thought you two were done,” he says gruffly.
“We’re working on it,” Steve says, not that he owes Logan an answer. He sees Spider-Man turn around to face the front and frowns. How truly remarkable is it that everyone in this car had been touched by the war in some monumental way and yet, here they all were in a car together. For the most unlikely of reasons.
Shaking his head, Steve leans back and envies Tony’s ability to sleep when Wade is driving. He highly doubts the road is full of this many potholes.
By the time they arrive at Al’s Steakhouse, Steve’s ready to eat Logan. His stomach growls violently the moment the sign comes into view. Wade made reservations and they’re seated in the center of the floor which Steve and Logan aren’t too happy about. But despite the discomfort at not being in close proximity to the back exit and not having a clear eye line to the entrance, his stomach can’t handle waiting for a booth in the back to free up. He orders his food before anyone else can open their menu and Tony pets his hand kindly. It’s an odd gesture from him but it’s nice.
“Pretty swanky place, Wade,” Tony notes, a curious look in his eye.
“Don’t worry about the price tag, Starkster,” Wade replies cheerfully. He looks to Steve, “Nice of you to bring old Shellhead along. You planning on getting lucky this weekend?”
Spider-Man chokes on his beer as Tony turns beet red. Steve doesn’t quite put two and two together and answers honestly. “We’re here for you, Wade. This weekend isn’t about me.”
Logan pats Spider-Man on the back rather harshly as Tony pointedly concentrates on his menu. Wade raises his hands in surrender, “Hey, let ‘he who has never let their little admiral distract from the job’ cast the first stone. We’ve all been there.” He raises his beer and cheers, “A toast! To my personal bodyguards. To Iron Buns!” Tony rolls his eyes. “Cap’n Handsome,” a similar eye roll. “Old Muttonchops,” a grumble. “Cutie Pie,” Spider-Man blushes, the lower half of mask flipped up. “And my personal angel,” Preston allows a small smile.
“Thank you for coming with me on the adventure of a lifetime!” The group raises their glasses and even Logan begrudgingly lifts his beer before downing it. Tony sips his ginger ale and it’s only by the grace of this action that Steve catches the reflection of the scene behind them.
“Get down!” he shouts, tackling Tony to ground as a bullet slices through the space Tony had previously occupied. The restaurant erupts into chaos, screams sounding all around them above the clatter of broken glass as the patrons flee. Logan crouches down, claws out as he scans for the shooter.
Steve hovers over Tony, pulling out his shield as the firefight goes on above them, Agent Preston shooting back as the culprit backs themselves into a corner. Steve longs to go after him, his blood singing with the adrenaline, that old anger returning but he can hear Tony’s accelerated breathing. He looks to him as Tony stares up at him a little dazed.
“You okay?” he asks, his body heat melting into Tony’s. He nods jerkily, petting Steve’s shoulder.
“Great call there with the whole saving my life thing,” he breathes, blue eyes widening as Agent Preston tosses a man in black to the ground beside them.
“Fight’s not over yet, soldier,” Steve replies and gets into position next to Logan.
Beside him, the armor falls over Tony’s body as Logan charges forward. He leaps across the room towards another man in the corner. The man turns, racing towards the kitchen as Steve starts after him. A bullet grazes his shoulder and he turns to see two more men at the entrance, a large hole blown through the front wall. Headlights shine into the restaurant, nearly blinding him to the shapes of the two men shooting at them. Tony and Agent Preston turn to take care of them and Steve takes off.
He hopes they’ll be okay while Logan and he chase after this guy. Steve is nearly to the alley, listening to Logan’s grumbling when he realizes something: he has no idea where Wade is. He stops, looking around for the red suit but he finds nothing. Racing back inside, he looks around and finds nothing but a mask at the table.
There’s a loud crack and the roof gives in, two men in black tumbling to the ground. Steve stares up, shield raised as Wade drops down.
“Wade!” Agent Preston calls with relief. He hugs her tightly, “You’re okay.”
“Just fine, Mama,” he replies and Steve frowns at him but Agent Preston takes it in stride.
“The shooting was a distraction.”
“They hit big for the first shot,” Steve says and he can’t forget how close they’d come to taking Tony out. He shakes himself a little, noting that they also caused quite a bit of damage for a first strike. It would take a lot of money to fix this place up with the bullet holes in the walls, the holes in the ceiling and most of the front wall is missing. Steve wanted to catch whoever this was and fast.
A man drops down in front of them, hanging from a spider web on the ceiling. He's trying to speak through the webbing over his mouth, his hands stuck together. Spider-Man drops down, “Maybe this guy can give us some information.”
Logan appears, face gruff as he throws another man in black down next to Spidey’s offering. “Who wants to ask the questions?”
“Who sent you?” Steve asks. The men stay silent, glaring up at him in response. Steve can sense the group getting restless. Aside from Tony and Spider-Man, the others were used to getting information by other, less than savory means. Logan’s claws are starting to look awfully sharp and Steve leans in closer, eyes narrowed. “Listen, I’m gonna level with you. My friends here are getting impatient and they’re a lot scarier than me. You want to answer my questions.”
The one on the left spits at Steve’s feet and he sighs, stepping back. Logan growls, “Let me at him.”
“We’re not solving this with violence,” Steve says solidly.
“Right, because one of their little friends didn’t try to shoot me in the head,” Tony says and Steve frowns at him. He shrugs, crossing his arms. “Sorry, Cap. I’m not saying let’s start skinning them alive but things are a little tense around here.”
Sighing, Steve pinches the bridge of his nose and then looks to Wade hesitantly, “Wade, what do you think?”
“Knife practice,” he replies simply and Steve holds up a hand.
“Not what I meant. What do you think about the set up?”
Wade cocks his head to the side, peeking around Steve’s shoulders for a second. “They don’t know.”
“What?” Agent Preston asks.
“They don’t know who hired them. A hired gun gets paid when the job’s done and that’s that. You see how quickly the others turned tail and ran? You screw up the job, it’s more than money at stake. Now you’ve pissed off your sugar daddy and he can hire new guns to go after the old ones. They know it’s in their best interests to sell out their boss and they still haven’t.”
Steve frowns, thinking this over as Logan kicks one of the men’s boots. “That true?”
One of them glares at Wade but remains silent. It brings a smile to Wade’s face. Or, at least that’s what Steve thinks is going on under there. Wade giggles gleefully, “You guys are so screwed.”
“Wait a minute,” Tony says. “We can’t just leave them to die.”
“One of them took a shot at you,” Logan points out gruffly.
“Close friends have taken shots at me,” he counters and Steve averts his eyes. “I’m not okay with wrapping them up in a bow for some assassins. We do this the right way.”
“Cap’n?” Wade asks.
They leave the men at the local police station and climb into the limo.
“We’re no closer to finding a lead,” Preston notes. A pause, “And they know our car.”
“No!” Wade cries. “Dorothy was my dream ride!”
“Captain America is driving a minivan. This is one for the history books,” Logan says with a low chuckle. Steve hears a camera snap but looks over too slowly to find the guilty party.
“You look good behind the wheel, Daddy,” Wade calls from the back row.
Steve sighs, resting his elbow on the windowsill as he drives. Tony spares him a sympathetic glance from the passenger seat. It’s quiet and then Tony smiles, his face soft in the corner of Steve’s eye.
“Remember when we crash landed in the Savage Land?”
“Which time?” Steve asks with a smile and Tony laughs.
“When we got captured and stripped naked,” he clarifies, his voice dropping in an interesting way. Steve takes his eyes off the road for a moment to glance at him. Tony is lost in a memory, a small smile in the corner of his mouth.
“I remember,” Steve replies with a laugh.
“You’re laughing now but at the time, I didn’t think it was funny, “ he drawls and Steve shakes his head fondly.
“I didn’t either,” he says softly. “Sometimes, I think those were some of the best times for the team, you know? The closest we’d come to building something since the good old days.”
Tony bites his lip, sneaking a glance, “You think about that a lot?”
“Sometimes,” Steve answers honestly. “We all lived at the Tower. Carol and I were starting to get back on good terms again. We were balancing out the team again and Luke and Jess were together. You and I were…” he trails off.
They were happy. Or, close to it, anyway. Steve had been happy. Being without the team had always been hard on him. Every hiatus, no matter how short, had been painful for him. That brief period where he’d quit the team and took the blame for the mess with the Triune of Understanding had been one of the hardest things he’d ever done. After the ice, the Avengers became his livelihood, however unhealthy that sounds. The missions aside, he’d met his closest friends; he’d found family with the Avengers. Perhaps that nostalgia led him to keep desperately trying to bottle lightning and bring that feeling back with every team he’d formed since.
Tony averts his eyes, picking at invisible lint on his pants. “See, I think about that time as the beginning of the end,” he says quietly.
Steve’s stomach tightens but he hears himself ask, “How so?”
Tony peeks back at the back rows - it's late and everyone appeared to be sleeping. He turns back, watching the road for a moment, gathering his thoughts. “We were infiltrated,” he says. “I don’t know how I missed it. The secret missions, the details Veranka didn’t quite get right. At times, she even seemed distrustful of me and I just thought… well everyone’s a little distrustful of me. It made sense.”
Steve frowns, “Tony,” he began.
“I should have seen it coming - the invasion. Looking back at it now, it was so clear but I had my own things going on and I was blind to it. I was lying to you,” he murmurs. “The rumblings of the SHRA were getting louder then and it was like living a double life: pretending everything was business as usual with you guys and trying to keep the DoJ calm. I hated lying to you,” he admits somberly.
Steve watches the dark road for a long time. The calming sound of the drive, the lights guiding the way down the dark interstate. His heart rate slows from the usual heightened state when someone brought up the war. He’d lived through several battles in his lifetime but none sent his blood pressure rising like the one against his friends. The war that split his team and the superhero community right down the middle. Steve spent the last eight years wondering if they would ever recover.
“We never really got back there, did we?” Steve asks thoughtfully.
Tony hears what he means; he always did. “Can’t keep trying to relive the good old days, Cap. You miss what’s happening right in front of you.”
He reaches out across the armrest between them before faltering, his hand closing into a fist and dropping down silently.
“Wade? Wade,” Tony calls and Wade grumbles sleepily, burying his face further into Spider-Man’s chest. Somehow they’d fallen asleep in a jumble in the back seat. It's kind of adorable and Tony wishes he’d thought to snap a picture. “Wade,” he tries again and Deadpool sits up, rubbing tiredly at his eyes.
“Are we there yet, Papa?”
“If you mean the hotel, then yes,” Tony replies. They were in the parking lot of a rather large fancy hotel. “Who’s paying for this?” Tony asks.
“I got my own allowance, Iron Dad. Don’t worry.” He unbuckles his seat belt and crawls out, stretching his arms over his head. “That being said: Spidey, you’re with me; look forward the mani pedis. Logan, you’re on your own. Agent Preston, you’re on your own because you’re a lady. Superbabes, you’re in the honeymoon suite.”
Steve rolls his eyes and grabs the bags from the trunk. He offers to take Agent Preston’s but she shoots him a rather amused glance and takes her bag. She starts towards the hotel calling out, “Gotta go call my other kid.”
Tony reaches for his bag but Steve grabs it without question and starts lugging it towards the front door. Tony blushes and follows after, hiding a smile.
If Steve thought Wade was kidding, he was sorely mistaken. They were indeed in the honeymoon suite: complete with rose petals on the floor and two fluffy, white bathrobes on the bed. The single queen sized bed.
Tony stands on one side of it with a wince. “This is ridiculous. I’ll call the front desk.”
But Steve is so tired. He yawns and pulls his shirt over his head, folding it on the dresser. He misses Tony’s quick glance away and mutters, “Don’t worry about it. It’s fine.”
“It’s a rather small bed,” Tony says slowly and Steve shrugs.
“We’ll budge up. I’m not that big,” Steve says and pulls his pants off. Tony crosses his arms, appearing smaller as Steve undresses down to his briefs. Steve frowns at him, curious, “We’ve shared beds before.”
“A few times,” Tony says awkwardly. “But that was before…”
Before the war.
“This will be ten times more comfortable than that time we shared a horse,” Steve remarks to lighten the mood and it works.
Tony spares a smile, uncrossing his arms, “You told me about that.” Steve stares at him in confusion before he remembers. Right… that would’ve been one of the events Tony lost when he erased his brain.
Steve lay down on his back, sucks in a deep breath, and closes his eyes. He hears Tony undress and unzip his suitcase. When he crawls in alongside Steve, he’s in an old Stark Industries shirt and sleep pants. Seems a little warm for the night, Steve notes.
Tony settles on his back, their sides touching. He turns his head to face Steve, his hair a messy halo against the crisp, white pillowcase as he asks, “So, why are we driving to Vegas?”
Steve hums in response, “Not sure. I think Wade really latched on to that Hangover movie.”
“I’m surprised you heard about that,” Tony says with a laugh, eyes bright.
“Heard about it? Tommy Shepherd made me watch it one day,” he confides. “It was a little gross at times but some of it was actually funny.”
“I would not have taken you for a Zack Galifianakis guy.”
“Nice to see I still have some secrets,” he says and this close, he can see Tony’s eyes light up in the dim lighting. He could feel Tony’s breath on his face, the heat from his body where they had no choice but to touch on such a small bed. Two grown men over 6 feet and with Steve’s broad shoulders? A queen is a stretch for Steve by himself. With Tony, it's a recipe for unwanted limbs in soft areas.
They make do: Tony turns on his side, resting his cheek on his palm. His eyes are so blue, wide-awake and alert and they steal Steve’s breath away. Steve is tired, honestly exhausted but he loses himself in watching the range of emotions wash over Tony’s face. He's so responsive: a livewire, his lashes dark and fluttering as he blinks at Steve curiously, a soft blush to his cheeks.
Steve’s stomach twists in anticipation as he whispers, “We’ve got a long road ahead of us.”
“You think he reserved the honeymoon suite in every hotel?” Steve cracks a smile, watching Tony offer one in return. He really had a great smile and Steve had missed seeing it.
“Of course,” he replies. He closes his eyes, willing his heart to slow down. “This is Wade we’re talking about.”
When Steve wakes, it’s quiet and he’s unusually warm. He hears soft breathing in his ear and when he turns towards it, he breathes in a comforting and familiar scent he can’t quite place. He feels soft puffs of air on his cheek and he peeks one eye open to see Tony fast asleep beside him. His hair is a mess, mouth open a little as he softly snored.
Steve’s heart beats faster, having never been quite this close to Tony. He should move away but it's almost… nice being here. He's relaxed and sleep warm, breathing in time with the soft rise and fall of Tony’s chest. He's comfortable and clearly Tony felt safe enough to be this close to Steve. Craziness aside, it's awfully nice to have one on one time with Tony again. Almost like the old days when they’d spend the night talking strategy over dinner in the control room or they’d take a break, bunk off and catch a movie together.
He’d really missed Tony.
Steve isn’t stupid. All their attempts at working together after Osborn’s defeat had never come close to the way they’d been before the war. There's this distance, a chasm between them that seemed insurmountable. And if Steve is truly honest with himself, he hadn’t tried as hard as he could have. They’d both suffered losses and heartbreaks since: Sharon, Happy, Bucky (for a while there), Tony giving up his sobriety for Odin, giving up his mind. Now, they were trying yet again to be a team and Steve had higher hopes than before but something had been missing.
This trip would be good for them.
If anything, it would help Tony and he repair what had broken between them. He’d be lying if he says he isn’t hoping they’d find themselves one step closer to the way they used to be.
Tony’s face scrunches up rather adorably as he stretches out. His voice is rough, “We leavin’ soon?”
“Soon as Wade wakes up,” Steve replies.
“So, that’s a no,” Tony murmurs and rolls over onto his side. Steve smiles fondly and pats Tony’s thigh, “Get up, Shellhead.”
Preston takes over driving.
Wade sits up front with her and they start talking about her son. Steve's surprised to see that Wade actually appeared interested. They had a friendship that didn’t quite add up to Steve but he's glad of it. Wade seemed more restrained with her here.
He looks to his left where Tony is tapping away on his tablet. As familiar as the sight is, it strikes a small nerve for Steve. “You ever stop working?” he asks lightly and Tony shakes his head.
“Can’t. I was broke for a long time and I wanna ride this wave as long as I can.”
What? “You were broke?”
“For a while there. Lost a lot of money paying for collateral damage, my name was in the mud for a bit and I couldn’t keep the doors open. I’m finally getting back to some semblance of stability again,” he spares a small smile.
“So, you were a normal Joe for a while?” Steve asks and Tony rolls his eyes.
“As normal as I get,” he replies dryly. “You into broke guys, Cap?”
“I just can’t imagine you going to Wal-Mart and shopping like everyone else,” he says and Tony grins.
“I didn’t. I still had Jarvis, though I couldn’t pay him much at the time. He made sure I didn’t starve.”
Steve nods, thinking for a moment. Then he adds, “I forget sometimes how much you paid for. Pay for,” he corrects.
“S’just money,” Tony says somberly and Steve shakes his head.
“It’s not.” Then he sighs, leaning back against the seat. “How many more days of this?”
“Five days in total, Flag Man,” Wade replies happily.
“And why couldn’t we fly?” Tony asks.
“Easier to track me that way.”
“Won’t they find us in Vegas?” Spidey asks, sipping chocolate milk through a straw beneath his mask.
“They can try. I’ve got disguises. Nobody’s gonna keep me from having a normal bachelor party,” he claims determinedly.
“Four more to go,” Tony says kindly, smiling at Steve.
He nods gratefully, “I can do four more days cramped up in a car.”
“I’m just about the same height as you, you big baby,” Tony replies teasingly.
“Just about,” Steve repeats slyly. “We any closer to stopping for lunch?”
Preston pulls over at a diner in a small town. She and Logan check the place out before letting everyone else enter. They get some strange looks what with Spider-Man and Deadpool in masks and costumes. They shuffle in a little awkwardly and then there’s an ear splitting squeal.
“Wade Wilson! Is that you?” A short girl comes rushing forward, red pigtails flying as she did. Steve tenses, watching carefully as she stops in front of Wade. He isn’t sure if she plans on slapping Wade or something worse and Steve’s eyes caught on the tense way she held the serving knife in her hand. Then she stretches up and throws her arms around the masked merc.
“Well aren’t you a sight for sore eyes, Puddin’!” she exclaims as Wade hugs her back enthusiastically, spinning her around.
“Betsy! Had to come back for my second best gal!” he cheers to her dismay.
She pouts, placing her fists on her hips. “Second best?”
“I sent you a postcard. I’m getting hitched!” He pulls a photo out of somewhere. “Come this time next Saturday, I’m off the market for good,” he announces proudly.
She takes the photo with a smile. “Good for you, Hot Stuff. I was startin’ to think you would never settle down.”
“Me too,” he says quietly.
“Well, your usual?” she asks and Wade nods. They’re seated at a booth in the back with clear view of both exits. Steve breathes a sigh of relief and takes the laminated menu with a smile. If someone interrupted their lunch, he's going to be a lot less agreeable about it.
Tony offers to let Logan sit next to Steve but Wade stops him with a shake of his head. Logan sighs and moves down to the next chair, leaving Tony to sit next to Steve with a bemused expression. He takes the menu from Betsy with a smile and maybe Steve is seeing things but it looked like Betsy blushed in response.
Steve orders two burgers and two orders of fries. Tony makes sure to add, “He’s not ordering for me. That’s two full meals for one guy.” He shakes his head fondly, a teasing glare for Steve as Betsy giggles and takes the order down.
“And a milkshake. Oh! And a slice of that apple pie if you’ve got any left. I don’t want to be bother,” he says and she gives a bemused grin, adding to the list.
“Where do you put it all, darlin’?” Steve blushes a little and she turns to Wade. “More guys like you?”
Wade scoffs, puffing out his chest. “They broke the mold when they made me, honey.”
Logan rolls his eyes and orders two whole stacks of pancakes. Spidey orders one stack of pancakes, two plates of scrambled eggs and three side orders of bacon. Wade asks for the Fantastic Family Four plate for himself. Agent Preston doesn’t order anything and Tony modestly orders an omelet and coffee. Betsy slides her pen behind her ear and smiles at him, “You the normie amongst these guys?”
Tony shrugs helplessly, “Looks like it.”
He’s uncharacteristically bashful and it’s cute, Steve thinks. A little less cute when Betsy touches Tony’s shoulder, winks and says, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you.”
Conversation at the table comes to a screeching halt when the food arrives. Wade shovels down all four orders of sausage on his plate. Logan seems content racing Peter to finish one stack of pancakes. Agent Preston looks on despairingly and Tony’s in pretty much the same boat.
He watches Steve finish off his first burger and start on his second with wide eyes. He holds his coffee to his chest in amazement, “This is pretty gross but I can’t look away.”
Steve gives him a look and returns to his food. “Stop staring at me. Eat your food.”
“I will. It’s just been a while since I’ve seen you eat two whole pounds of beef.”
“I had a big breakfast. This is modest for me,” Steve says. He remembers when Tony used to tag along for meals after missions. They’d sit side by side and try to replenish some of the calories they’d burned fighting their monster of the week. He learned a lot about Iron Man that way. Even more so when Tony could take off his helmet to eat.
Tony sighs wearily and cuts into his omelet. He held his knife and fork like he's in a much fancier establishment and it brings a smile to his face. Amongst plastic booths and placemats, Tony Stark is still Tony Stark. Steve shakes his head fondly and bites into his burger.
“So, you looking forward to married life?” Spider-Man asks and Wade sighs happily.
“Can’t wait! I want everything: all the Hallmark bullshit like having someone to share everything with,” he describes dreamily and Steve pushes down his envy. “The His and Hers towel sets and just coming home to someone every night, you know? And not because I’m camping out in a crime scene.” Steve sets his burger down with a grimace and Tony spares him a sympathetic smile.
“Can’t believe someone’s marrying you,” Logan mutters and Tony kicks him beneath the table.
“Me neither,” Wade replies honestly. “I lost a lot of people over the years but Shiklah’s stickin’ around. She can kick my ass so she’s pretty safe from anyone coming after me. She knows my past and she doesn’t care. It just made her want me more. Match made in heaven.”
“Or hell,” Logan says. “Take your pick.”
“Well, I think it’s sweet,” Tony interjects and Steve looks to him in surprise. His eyes are fiercely blue and certain as he looks to Wade. “When you find that person you want to stick around, you hang on to them. I’m happy for you, buddy.”
Wade beams, a wide grin where he’d pulled the bottom of his mask up to eat. “I’m happy for you, too, Iron Babe.”
Tony blushes in response, averting his eyes to his food. Steve eyes him curiously, several questions running through his mind. Had Tony found someone? He knew Pepper and Tony had been an item a while back but he's pretty sure that's over. Had Tony met someone new?
It knocks Steve off kilter for a moment and even more so when Betsy returns with Spidey’s second order of pancakes. She lays a hand on the booth behind Tony’s back and asks, “You get enough to eat, sweetheart?”
Tony nods, “Yes, ma’am. This is wonderful, thank you.” He's laying on the charm a little too much in Steve’s opinion and he stabs his fork into his piece of pie and little harder than he intends. Betsy pays him no attention.
“Good, good,” she says sweetly, leaning in closer. Steve is sure her shirt had been buttoned higher the last time she came around. Her eyes lower as she murmurs, “If you need anything else, just let me know. You look like you could use something sweet.”
Steve’s eyes widen incredulously as Logan stifles a laugh. Tony turns an interesting shade of pink. He laughs nervously, stumbling over his words, “That won’t be necessary. Thank you but I’m taken – care of, I mean. Well taken care of.”
She sighs, petting his shoulder. “Let me know if that changes, cutie.” She shuffles off and Steve stares at Tony curiously.
“She was hitting on you,” he says and he isn’t quite sure why he seemed more shaken by it than Tony had. Well, shaken isn’t the right word. Annoyed? It's quite presumptuous of her and they had a job to do. Although, to be fair, Betsy had no way of knowing that.
Tony waves Steve off and cuts into his omelet again. “There’s hitting on and throwing yourself at and that was definitely the latter,” Spidey says.
Tony looks to him with a shake of his head, “Not helping, kid.”
“She’s cute,” Logan says gruffly before sipping from the flask at his hip.
She's cute, Steve had to admit. She had pretty red hair, bright blue eyes and she is, for lack of a better word, adorable. She's spunky and outspoken and seeing as she's a friend to Wade, the superhero thing isn’t off-putting to her. Steve begrudgingly had to admit: Tony could certainly do worse. Not that he needed Steve’s approval.
Why is he so on edge about this?
“I’m okay,” Tony says with a breezy smile. He shoots Steve a reassuring smile and returns to his food. Steve returns to his pie but it doesn’t taste as good as it had before.
The hotel Wade booked for them that night installed aquariums in every room. Of course, Wade booked Steve and Tony the honeymoon suite and Tony sighs the moment they open the door. Steve sets their bags down in the corner and turns around to see Tony’s horrified expression. “He must be kidding,” he says miserably.
“It’s a small town, Tony,” Steve says amusedly and Tony shakes his head.
“It’s a waterbed, Steve. It’s 2014, these things should’ve evaporated by now.” He sits down and the bed rolls him onto his back without warning. He shouts, reaching out and Steve covers a laugh watching Tony struggle to sit up. He can’t quite get there and Steve moves over to help, taking hold of his hands. There’s a spark Steve ignores as he pulls Tony to his feet, earning a grateful smile. Scratching at his brow, he looks to Steve with a sheepish expression. “Guess we should get ready for bed.”
“Guess so,” Steve says with a gentle pat to Tony’s shoulder. He moves in towards the adjoining bathroom. The his and hers sinks bring warmth to his cheeks as he tugs his t-shirt over his head. “I can’t believe how tired I am.”
“Me too,” Tony replies. “It’s just sitting and riding. I don’t know why it’s so exhausting.”
“It’s driving and constantly looking over our shoulders to see if we’re being followed,” Steve adds. He turns on the tap and pulls out his toothbrush. Tony comes in after, his sleep shirt reads “she wants the Ph.D.” and Steve shakes his head in fond disbelief. Tony shrugs, pulling out his toothbrush. Well, the benefit of this setup is they didn’t have to take turns getting ready for bed. Steve sneaks glances at Tony as he brushes, watching Tony work efficiently and quickly. It seemed unusually intimate knowing someone else’s sleep routine. The only other people he’d observed like this had been women he dated.
Tony catches him staring and his eyes widen. He bends over, rinsing his mouth out and grabs a towel to wipe his mouth. He flashes a wide, friendly grin and pats Steve’s shoulder on the way out. Steve watches him go, his stomach twisting before he glares at the goofy look on his face in the mirror.
When he’s finished, he turns the light off in the bathroom and strips down to his briefs. Tony is plugging his tablet and phone up to a wall charger. Steve climbs underneath the covers and laughs as the bed waddles. “I can’t believe Wade found a place that still has these.”
“I can’t believe this is their idea of a honeymoon suite,” Tony counters. He crosses his arms and honest to god pouts and Steve can’t resist tossing a pillow at him.
“It’s kind of nice, isn’t it?” he asks, looking over at the bright blue aquarium that lined the far wall. “It wasn’t too long ago that this would’ve been a palace compared to some of the places I’ve been.”
“Remind me to stay away from those places,” Tony says wryly. He sighs, rubbing at his eyes as he shuffles over. He climbs on the bed and the rocking motion sends Steve to the floor. Tony laughs, trying to reach over to help Steve back in but he can’t quite manage. “I’m sorry,” he gets out through laughs and it’s contagious. Steve takes his hands and lets Tony pull him up. It takes a few tries and they can’t stop laughing as every movement threatens to send Tony over the edge.
It takes a few tries and then, finally, Steve comes up, the momentum pulling him on top of Tony. The bed rocks them for a moment before settling again as Tony looks up at him with wide eyes. This close, Steve can feel Tony’s heart pounding and he figures it must be the exertion. It had been a while since they shared a laugh and he smiles down at Tony, his eyes soft. Tony’s eyes widen and then he pats Steve’s shoulders awkwardly.
“The 70s were great times, huh?” He carefully pushes Steve back and they both try to lie on their backs. Every movement sends Tony into Steve and vice versa until they finally manage to lay side by side, their elbows over the edges.
“This isn’t very comfortable,” Steve says.
“I can manage,” Tony insists but Steve isn’t having it. He turns on his side to face Tony, his eyes bright in the light from the bedside lamp. Tony’s breath caught, taking in Steve’s face.
“Better?” Steve whispers and Tony nods jerkily, swallowing his next words. Steve nods and drifts off.
When Steve wakes hours later, there’s a warm weight on his chest. He looks down to see a nest of messy brown hair inches away from his face. He thinks he should be a little alarmed, as most men didn’t sleep this close to their pals. But this is Tony. Why would he be alarmed? Plus, Tony is exhausted and Steve is exhausted. And it is quite nice.
He goes back to sleep moments later.
Spider-Man drives the next day.
Logan made several comments about whether the kid had his permit before begrudgingly sitting in the passenger seat. Wade is currently draped across Logan’s headrest asking Spider-Man several, slightly invasive questions about his personal life. Steve wondered, yet again, why Logan agreed to this.
He sits in the back watching Preston work on a report for SHIELD and Tony work on a blueprint for some new communication system. Steve sighs and leans back. He could try to take a nap but, despite trusting Spidey, he could never really sleep with other people driving. Even knowing he should grab all the rest he can, he couldn’t quite manage.
In some ways, he wished he’d thought ahead to bring something to work on. He’d reasoned this was his vacation but how sad is that considering he's technically working too? When is the last time he took a real vacation? He’s trying to figure that out, coming to the conclusion that he probably never had when he feels a soft weight on his arms. He opens an eye to see Tony eying him apologetically.
“Sorry, I thought you were asleep,” he says quietly and Steve looks down to see Tony’s jacket over his arms. It warms his heart for a moment and he gives Tony a grateful smile.
“Thanks.” He sits up a little and adds, “And I would except I’ve never been good at sleeping on road trips.”
“The motion?” Tony asks, taking his jacket back. As Steve passes it, Tony’s scent wafts through the air. It's amazing that, after all these years, Tony still smelled the same.
“I think it’s just the fact that someone else is driving,” Steve explains.
“So, if you were driving, you’d sleep just fine?” Tony asks, a brow raised and Steve rolls his eyes.
“You know what I mean.”
“Yeah, you were always a bit of a control freak,” he says. He means it fondly but it gives Steve pause.
Tony hurries to explain, “Not in a bad way. Well, not always. I’m like that, too. We like to be in charge. It’s a little harder for us to let other people run the show sometimes.”
Steve frowns, “You let me run the show all the time.”
Tony shrugs, “I trust you.”
It’s so simple. Tony says it so plainly and matter of fact. Even so, as absently as it was said, it fills Steve with warmth. So naturally, he has to ruin it. “Even now? After everything?”
“Even now,” Tony replies, eying Steve cautiously. “It wasn’t a lack of trust that made me keep secrets from you. I know it must’ve felt that way. I just thought… well, sometimes I think I thought I was sparing you. If you really knew the world like I do, it would be harder for you to keep believing in it.”
For once, Steve doesn’t feel as defensive as he usually felt talking about this. “So you took the burden upon yourself?”
“Someone had to,” Tony says and then he laughs softly, pointing to himself. “Control freak. Couldn’t let you do it so I had to.”
Steve doesn’t like the look on his face and he reaches out to kick Tony’s foot softly. “Well, you don’t have to do things like that on your own anymore.”
“I don’t think I ever had to do it alone,” Tony replies quietly, his eyes soft.
The third place they stay in is a quaint little bed and breakfast.
Steve’s admiring the cute, cottage exterior as they unload the car. Everyone grabs their bags and Steve realizes they were missing one. He thinks for a moment and then freezes, cursing quietly. He remembers loading everyone’s things into the SUV that morning. All save one.
“Uh, Tony…” he began regretfully and Tony turns around. Steve cringes internally, “We left your bag at the hotel.”
“My… my one suitcase. The one with all my clothes?” he asks forlornly and Steve feels like a real heel.
“Well, that’s one way to get someone naked,” Wade mutters to Spidey and Steve blushes.
“It was an honest mistake,” Steve explains. “I must’ve forgotten to take it from the room.”
Tony tries to smile but it doesn’t quite work. “That’s okay,” he tries and Steve feels awful. He sighs, rubbing the back of his head as Tony steps in closer, touching his arm. His eyes are more certain, “It’s okay. I’ll just… buy something here, I guess.”
“The nearest mall is about twenty miles out,” Agent Preston says and Steve feels even worse.
“I’ll buy you something, first chance we get.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Tony says. “I’ll be okay for a night.”
They head inside to set up for the night. The caretakers were and elderly couple, Lucille and Meredith. They were so welcoming and gracious that Steve didn’t have the heart to explain that he and Tony were sharing a room but no, they weren’t a couple. And worst of all, they were quite old fashioned.
“It must be so nice for Wade to have such a nice role model in you two,” Meredith says kindly. “How long did you say you two have been married?”
“They’re not,” Logan says and Spider-Man steps on his foot. “What?”
Lucille’s face falls a little, “Well, surely they’re not sharing a room if they’re not betrothed?” Tony blushes but steps forward to take her hand, sparing a chilling glare for Logan.
“We’ve known each other for years, ma’am,” he says smoothly and Steve frowns at him. He didn’t approve of lying, especially when they were guests but technically, Tony had told the truth. Steve hopes they can get by just nodding politely to everything they were asked. He sighs, watching Lucille excitedly take Tony up on his request for a tour and starts up the stairs.
Tony returns hours later in a panic. “You’re sick, okay? Pretend to be sick.”
“To who? It’s just you in here.” Steve says amusedly and Tony closes the door behind him and darts forward, wringing his hands. A foreboding feeling sends chills down Steve’s spine and he asks, “Tony, what did you do?”
“Nothing, nothing, just… they were so kind and so sweet, I didn’t have the heart to tell them we couldn’t renew our vows because we never made any,” he explains.
“So, instead…” Steve trails off and Tony covers his face.
“I said you were sick and I had to take care of you.”
Steve lies back on the bed with a huff. “Meaning we’re stuck here for the night?”
“And I can’t go down for dinner?”
“And those poor women are going to be stuck with Logan and Wade with only Preston and Spider-Man to keep them in check?”
“Yep,” Tony replies. “I’m sorry.”
Steve sighs, sitting up. “It’s okay. Honestly,” he says. “If I went down to dinner, I don’t think I would’ve been able to keep up the charade. Who knew Wade had so many friends across the country?”
“Well, he’s not afraid of making friends.” He sits down on the edge of the bed. “I think I saw a deck of cards on the hall table?”
They play fifteen games of gin, three hands of poker and resort to a few of Go Fish before Steve calls it quits. “Your poker face isn’t a poker face at all, is it?” Steve asks. “I honestly think you forgot how to play.”
“Rude,” Tony replies, tossing a chip at him. “Is that trash talk from Captain America?”
“Is it trash talk if I’m right?” he asks wryly. He’d eaten three sandwiches and considered taking the second half of Tony’s. Lucille had graciously made Steve some soup and Tony took that while Steve grabbed the monstrous ham and cheese sandwiches.
“You know what I miss most about the early days?” Tony asks and Steve looks to him curiously. “When Jan would lead, she had such a nice way of calling us idiots.”
Steve laughs, “She never called us idiots, Tony.”
“You were out of commission for a while there but while you were out, ‘sweetheart’ gained another meaning. Sometimes it’s a term of endearment and sometimes it means ‘idiot’. ‘You look lovely tonight, sweetheart’,” he drawls and Steve face warms. “That’s a term of endearment. ‘You’ll lose power if you keep trying to break through that dragon’s shell, sweetheart’…”
“That means ‘try another plan, idiot’?” Steve asks with a laugh as Tony joins him. He averts his eyes, trying to remember if he’d ever cottoned on to that. “I guess I always thought she meant it.”
Tony shrugs sheepishly, “I’m sure she did at times. Jan’s a peach. She would never intentionally hurt our feelings. Sometimes we were being idiots,” he adds and Steve smiles at him. He climbs to his feet, dusting off his hands. He starts cleaning up their plates and bowls and Steve helps. He leaves the room to return them to the kitchen and when he returns, Steve is stripping down to his briefs.
They were in a queen-sized bed again and they’d both gotten used to it at this point. Tony starts to pull off his button down and then stops, frowning at the bed.
“What is it?” Steve asks.
“I don’t have anything to sleep in.”
“What do you mean?” Steve asks and the corner of Tony’s mouth quirks up.
“I always sleep in a t-shirt.”
“I’ve seen you shirtless before,” Steve says and Tony shakes his head slowly.
“Not with the RT, you haven’t.” Steve freezes, kicking himself once more. He’d assumed Tony was just being modest during their stay together. He hadn’t thought that Tony is just being considerate of him.
“I don’t mind it,” he says quietly. At Tony’s apprehension, he steps closer. “Honestly, I don’t.”
Tony studies him for a moment and then nods. Steve sits down on the bed and it almost feels intimate watching Tony touches one of the buttons on his shirt. As if hearing his thoughts, Tony laughs and says, “I feel like I’m putting on a show here.”
“You want me to play you some music?” Steve asks teasingly and it has the intended effect: Tony laughs some more and reaches for another button. The lapels come apart and Steve watches avidly as the bright light comes into view. The shirt falls off of Tony’s shoulders and Steve stares on in amazement.
Tony shifts nervously, “Say something.”
Swallowing, “Tony,” he began. “That’s… it’s beautiful,” he finishes. Tony comes in closer and Steve reaches out to touch it, halting just before his fingers landed. “May I?” he asks and Tony nods jerkily. Steve touches the ring of the device carefully, glancing up every so often to make sure he isn’t hurting Tony. “I feel like it should be hot.”
It took up more room inside Tony’s chest than Steve had thought. It looked painful and Steve’s brow furrows as he touches the scar tissue surrounding it. Tony’s breath sounds loud in his ears as Steve traces the outer rim. It seems unfair that the universe kept finding new ways to damage Tony’s body. First the shrapnel, then the artificial heart, RTs and by Tony’s own design. Steve had never met anyone else that matched Tony for the sheer tendency to destroy himself for others. It's one of Tony’s most frustrating and awe-inspiring qualities.
“One of the benefits of repulsor tech,” Tony murmurs, his lashes fluttering over his cheeks as he looks down at Steve’s hands. After everything that happened, he still trusted Steve not to hurt him. It sends a flash of warmth through Steve’s body as his fingers leave the RT and trace over Tony’s bare skin. He forces himself to take his hands back.
Gazing at the bright light coming off of the RT, he says, “It’s a little bright.” He meets Tony’s nervous eyes as Tony shivers, averting his eyes. Steve hurries to add, “I don’t mind but if you want, you can borrow one of my shirts?”
Tony’s cheeks redden and he starts to wave Steve off, “No, no, I couldn’t-“
“It’s no trouble,” Steve says, reaching into his bag for a clean shirt. He’d brought two extras, knowing this job often led to his clothes getting ruined one way or another. He hands Tony one of his t-shirts and Tony takes it hesitantly, smiling when he sees the logo.
“Stark Industries?” he asks and Steve shrugs.
“Jarvis said you had extras and it’s comfortable,” he explains. Tony slips it over his head and laughs, turning to the side as it fell well past his waist and over his thighs. It hangs off one shoulder and Steve laughs. “I guess it’s a little big.”
“A little bit,” Tony says. Standing there in Steve’s overly large shirt, his hair mussed, he looked a little ridiculous but the sight sends warmth through Steve’s body. His eyes are bright and full of mirth as he does a little spin and Steve wants to pull him close.
The urge stuns him for a moment and he brushes it off, saying, “It’s late” somberly. Tony stops spinning with a sheepish smile and nods. He pulls off his jeans and, without them Steve’s shirt looks a little like a nightgown. He climbs into bed and Steve turns the lamp off.
It’s quiet and he wonders if Tony’s fallen asleep but it has to be said, “About the RT, I hope you didn’t feel like you had to cover up for me.”
“Steve, it’s really bright,” he began.
“I know that but,” he turns over on his side and he can just make out Tony’s outline in the moonlight streaming in from the window. “I don’t want you to feel like you have to hide things from me.”
Tony’s eyes go wide and he bites down on his lip, thinking this over before he responds, “I don’t know if I thanked you for coming to help me.”
“You did,” Steve says solidly.
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t know if you would,” he adds and Steve’s chest tightens. “I mean, you’re here now and that’s just… swell but I know it couldn’t have been easy for you. The last thing you remembered was fighting with me in the street.”
“You were one of my closest friends,” Steve insists and he almost misses Tony’s flinch. “Of course I came. You needed me.”
Tony bites down his next words and he’s quiet for quite some time before he looks Steve in the eye and says, “I always need you, Steve.” It makes Steve’s heart beat faster and ties his tongue in knots. He doesn’t know what to say and Tony saves him the trouble. He spares a weak smile and turns over, Steve’s shirt sliding down his bare shoulder. “Goodnight.”
Steve fights the need to touch the bare skin touched by moonlight streaming in through the window. His stomach twists with it, hands clenched beneath his pillow as he murmurs, “Goodnight, Tony.”
When Steve wakes, there’s sunlight outside and he’s nice and warm. In the night, he’d moved in closer to Tony, his nose buried in Tony’s hair… and his cock is pressed nice and snug against his ass. Steve freezes, blood running hot and his stomach twists. He's hard, his cock pulsing desperately in his briefs as he tries to refrain from pushing up into the warm, soft mound in front of him.
He listens past the pounding of his own heart and hears Tony’s soft snoring. A little relieved, he carefully detaches himself and climbs out of bed. He grabs a towel and pads to the bathroom down the hall. It’s early so the shower is mercifully free and he closes the door and runs the water hotter than he can handle.
The water soothes the aches from being cramped in the car the past few days. He washes up and finds his hand drawn to his cock. He gives in, taking hold of it and stroking it firmly. His stomach tightens in anticipation, bucking into his grip as he swipes over the precome dripping from the head and uses it to slick the slide of his palm.
He tries to conjure some random image of a woman, someone that didn’t look too much like Sharon or Bernie or Peggy or anyone he knew in real life. He lays his free hand on the tile as he strokes and sees bright, teasing blue eyes framed with dark lashes. Pictures a strong hand, a little smaller than his own pumping around his cock in time with his own strokes. He sees a familiar smug grin, his stomach twists in pleasure and then it’s simply Tony staring back at him.
It’s Tony he sees reaching out to take over with a knowing grin. Steve gasps, trying to picture someone else - anyone else but he remembers the overarching need to thrust forward and grind against the toned ass pressed against him. The desire to bury his nose further in Tony’s scent and slide against him until he came. To slide a hand inside Tony’s briefs, tug them down and slide his cock between his cheeks. Bury his cock inside of him and take a hold of his shirt that Tony’s wearing and press kisses along the bare skin of his throat.
He sighs, murmuring “Tony,” beneath the spray of the shower. Water trickles down his back as he rests his head on his hand, working himself harder, tighter. He’s close, having given up on his imaginary woman. It’s just Tony: Tony wrapping a hand around him, Tony’s warmth at his front, Tony’s scent around him.
Tony focusing intently on him in a way he never had before, eyes bright and sincere as he whispers, “I always need you, Steve.” It’s like a punch to the gut, the sudden tightening of his stomach, insides twisting in pleasure as his vision whites out and he spills over his hand.
His cock pulses hard, almost painfully as he shoots over the tile wall and down the drain. He lets out a shuddering breath, working himself through it as the water starts to chill. He reaches forward to turn it off, his heart pounding. He steps out of the shower and grabs a towel as the door opens.
Steve tenses in shock before the shame settles in but Tony doesn’t seem to notice, “Mornin’,” he murmurs. With this being a shared bathroom, there’s only one sink and Steve slides around him nervously. His shirt is hanging off Tony’s shoulder even more, having shifted in his sleep. He can make out the shape of Tony’s toned ass beneath the worn cotton and his cock gives an interested twitch.
Tony starts brushing his teeth when he feels Steve’s eyes on him. He smiles, pulling the toothbrush out to ask, “What? Am I in your way? You need the sink?”
Steve’s tongue-tied, his face warming as he shakes his head. “No, I just - I just forgot my toothbrush. I’ll be right back.”
Tony watches him awkwardly leave the room and shrugs, returning to brushing his teeth.
What was that? What the hell was that?, Steve asks himself, gathering up his things. It's one thing to wake up with morning wood. It's a normal, natural bodily reaction to being close to someone. The consequence of a too small bed and light blankets. He could explain that away.
But this? Touching himself and thinking about Tony? Thinking about touching him, making love to him? He blushes just thinking about it and he feels ashamed of himself. Tony is here as a friend, because Steve had called. Wade booked them these suites as a joke and Tony didn’t have a choice in rooming with him. It's disrespectful of Steve to take advantage of that situation.
Steve believed it was none of his business what people did in their personal lives but he isn’t attracted to men. Not like that. It's all well and good for others like Arnie and Rictor and Shatterstar and Tony had seemed a little too close to Tiberius Stone and Henry Hellrung. That's their business and Steve would fight any bigot he encountered but he just isn’t attracted to men. He's sure he would know by now. This all must be crossed signals in his brain associating nostalgia and physical closeness with attraction.
It’s just this trip, he reasons. If they weren’t sharing small beds and living in each other’s space so intricately, this wouldn’t have happened. When this is over, he’ll laugh about this.
He's sure of it.
Steve climbs in the front seat and his eyes go wide. “You got me sesame seed bagels?” Steve asks in awe and Tony offers a bashful smile. Steve takes the bag gleefully. “You’re the best, Tony.”
“Well, you’re stuck driving today and it was the least I could do.” Steve beams at him and it’s only moderately dimmed by Logan’s next comment.
“You grab breakfast for the rest of us poor schmucks or just your little sweetie pie?” he grumbles and Tony’s blush deepens. He tosses another bag towards the back seat and Logan snatches it with a gruff, “Thanks, bub.”
Tony grabbed shotgun for the day and Steve is glad of it. They’d started up a familiar argument that morning and were interrupted when they opened the door to their room and Spider-Man blatantly asked if Tony was wearing Steve’s shirt. Steve knew it must’ve looked a little odd and he started to explain when the young man held up his hands and said, “I don’t want to know” over and over until Steve stopped trying to explain.
Now, Tony turns to him and says, “You think it was eight o’clock. I know it was seven.”
“What’s this?” Spidey asks, leaning over Tony’s headrest.
“A year or so after we started out as Avengers, Cap and I agreed to see a movie at seven-“
“At eight,” Steve replies insistently and Tony rolls his eyes, mouthing “seven.”
“And we missed it. Granted, Doom decided to invade New York at the time but the point still stands, we would’ve missed it anyway because Steve insists it started at eight o’clock.”
Steve shakes his head, “The pettiest of arguments. Why does it matter?” he asks.
“Now that you say it out loud, in front of another person, it suddenly ‘doesn’t matter’,” he mocks and shakes his head fondly. “It was one of the first movie nights we missed. It was a big deal to me at the time. Captain America asks you to see a movie with him, you don’t say ‘no’,” he says with a smile and Steve shakes his head fondly.
“What were you going to see?” Spider-Man asks interestedly and Steve thinks for a moment, looking to Tony.
“Goldfinger?” he asks and Tony shakes his head.
“A Fistful of Dollars?” he suggests and Steve laughs.
“We can’t even agree on the movie!” he exclaims, shaking his head. “Doesn’t matter, I guess.”
“We can still watch the movie,” Tony says. “There’s still time.” At Steve’s raised brow, he adds, “Both of them” and Steve nods, satisfied.
“You argue about this stuff all the time?” Spider-Man asks and Steve laughs.
“No. Sometimes it’s really petty,” he replies and then he catches a glint of something in the rearview mirror.
He looks up just as Logan says, “We got company.”
An engine revs and then another and Steve looks over to see two large pick-up trucks running alongside of him on the roadway. They were on a highway, connecting to the interstate and they were taking up one of the pass lanes to get at them. Steve slams on his brakes, watching the trucks pass.
It buys him a few moments to reevaluate. Or so he thought.
A large black SUV slams them from behind and Steve swears, looking up to try to get a look at the driver. “I think it’s the guys from before!” he shouts.
“How can you tell?” Wade asks, pulling out two pistols.
“All in black in broad daylight? Might be the first clue,” Logan says and glares through the back window. Steve slams the gas pedal to the floor and the van lurches forward, more pick up than Steve is expecting. He’s pleasantly surprised, weaving through the traffic ahead to try to gain some distance. Tony turns, unbuckling his seatbelt as he assesses the situation.
“What are you thinkin’?” Steve asks and it's nice to have Tony at his side again.
“I’m thinking, there’s three SUVs in total, a roadway full of innocent people and these guys aren’t gonna stop.” He slides the armor down one arm and asks, “Can you get me in line?”
“To shoot at them?” Preston asks from the back and Wade echoes her happily.
“To shut down their engines. EMP,” he says and Steve smiles. He zooms forward, honking the horn to get people to move out of the way. It takes Spidey rising up through the sunroof and waving people away for them to get it. To tell the truth, Steve isn’t entirely sure this would work but he had to try.
They get enough space in the roadway for Steve to pump the breaks and spin the van around. The tail wings out and then they’re facing the oncoming traffic as Steve shifts into reverse and slams on the gas again. Tony stares at him in awe, speechless for a moment before he asks “Are you crazy?”
“I don’t like your tone,” Steve snaps and Tony’s eyes narrow.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. What the hell are you doing, sweetheart?” he asks and Steve laughs.
“Better!” he replies.
Logan yells out a gruff, “You got a plan, Iron Pants. Go for it!”
Tony shakes himself out of it and rolls the window down. He climbs out and sits on the sill, thrusting his arm out. Steve hears the repulsors sound and then there’s a bright flash of blue, similar to the RT and one of the SUV’s goes dark, slamming into the median several times with a sick grinding noise. Tony waits; firing on another one only after Spidey directs the cars away from them. It slides over the empty lane to the right and nearly goes over the grassy area beside it.
The last one is in weaving through traffic, avoiding Tony and surrounding itself with other cars. Steve hears Tony swear before he drops back inside, “Any ideas?” he asks and Logan grimaces.
“Just the one.” He climbs up through the sunroof and before Steve has time to ask what the hell he’s thinking, he leaps off the van and charges at the SUV. Tony watches him cut a whole in the roof and disappear through it. There are flashes of gunfire and Steve stares on before the SUV steers over to the median, crashing into the concrete wall and flips over onto the opposite side. Steve stares on in concern as brakes screech, a few cars swerve but, thankfully, no one crashes.
He sighs, turning the van around and sliding over to park in the stalled car lane. Logan climbs out of the SUV and grumbles, shaking off broken glass as he comes over. He climbs inside with a rough, “How many of these assholes are there?”
“I counted about three in each SUV,” Preston says, typing a message into her communicator. “Assuming these are part of the crew from before, we’re looking at a much bigger group than we originally thought.
“Well, we lived,” Spider-Man says quietly and Steve nods. He goes around to the back of the van to check out the damage. The bumper's hanging on by a prayer but the glass window is intact and everyone is safe. He feels Tony’s eyes on him and he spares a small smile. Tony returns it, poking his head back inside the van. Steve takes a deep breath and nods to himself. Everyone's safe and that's the most important part.
He climbs back into the driver’s seat and says, “Sorry about the van, Wade.”
“S’okay. Blanche still has a lot of life in her,” he says, petting Steve on the shoulder. They pull back onto the road way as the sirens come closer. He meets Prestons’ eyes in the rearview mirror. “We stickin’ around?”
“No, Captain. All taken care of,” she says and holds up her communicator.
Steve nods and merges into traffic. Tony leans over and says lowly, “Where did you learn how to do that?”
“What?” Steve asks, face warm.
“The Jason Bourne driving in reverse thing? How long have you been able to do that?” he asks and his voice is huskier than Steve is entirely comfortable with. His thoughts return to the image of Tony in the shower with him and he clears his throat before he answers.
“Don’t know. I took a chance. Why, you impressed?” he asks and the corner of Tony’s mouth turns up.
“Maybe,” he says, leaning back in his seat. “All these years together and you still surprise me.”
“I have to keep things interesting. Otherwise, you may grow bored and stop loving me,” he replies and Tony treats him with a soft smile.
“Not a chance.”
Logan takes over driving and Steve keeps looking over his shoulder for more SUVs.
They should make it to Vegas by nightfall if they don’t stop too many times. Which seemed improbable with Spider-Man’s tiny bladder.
They’re stopped outside a rest stop when Agent Preston’s eyes narrow on a truck at the back of the lot. Steve follows her line of sight and pushes Tony towards the car. “Get inside.”
“What is it?” Tony asks and Agent Preston answers.
“We’ve been on the road for a few hours since that mess back there. I swear that truck has been following us.”
“The nearest rest stop after this one is about thirty miles out. Maybe they know the route,” Tony suggests but it doesn’t look like he believes it.
Preston continues watching for a moment before saying, “Get the kid and let's move.”
When they drive away, the truck stays in the lot and Steve breathes a sigh of relief. Logan grumbles about having to put up with the smell of Spidey’s spicy corn nuts and all seems right in the world.
Wade lounges in the back, legs propped up on the window as he rests his head in Preston’s lap. He gazes up at her lovingly, “When you got married, was it everything you hoped it would be?”
She laughs, “No, Wade. I love my husband very much but things aren’t perfect. We still have arguments and issues with boundaries. Then I died and my consciousness was put inside of a mercenary for a while there, so we’ve had some obstacles.” Tony, Spidey and Steve gape at her but Wade nods understandingly. “It’s work but it’s worth it. I’m happy for you.”
He preens, dumping more skittles in his mouth before turning to Steve. “And you and Iron Dude?”
“We’re happy for you too, pal,” Steve says and weirdly enough, he means it. He’d come on this trip to help but also because it's nice to see someone else find happiness. Wade is clearly in love and as much as Steve had his own reservations about this whole thing, it's nice to see.
Wade scoffs, “Much obliged but I meant you two have known each other for a while now. Is everything all sunshine and blowjobs?”
Tony chokes on his water and Steve has to pound his back concernedly. Tony coughs, wheezing out, “Sorry. Went down the wrong tube.”
Steve returns to Wade, rubbing Tony’s back as he answers what he thinks Wade is asking: “We’ve known each other for years, yes. But things weren’t always easy between us. You know that.”
“There was a war between you two for a while there,” Wade says.
Steve’s temple pulsed but his smile remains congenial. “Yes and I deeply regret that.”
Tony chokes down some more water and looks to Steve curiously. “You do?”
Steve treats him with a firm stare, his voice steady, “I regret letting things escalate the way they did. I still don’t agree with what you did or the SHRA but I don’t think I tried as hard as I should have to talk things through.” Tony gapes at him in disbelief.
“What?” Steve asks defensively.
“You just… I... well,” he rubs at his neck, a dusting of red across his nose. “I thought you hated me.”
Steve’s chest tightens, voice going soft, “I never hated you, Tony. I don’t want to drag everything back up but I never hated you. And we’re working on it now.”
“Yeah, we are but…” he scratches at his brow. “We’ve been working on it for the past six years and this is the first time you really seemed to forgive me.”
Steve studies his face, the wide blue eyes and the hope he found there. It makes Steve want to pull him close and assure him that despite whatever certainty Tony had that Steve hated him during the war, he was wrong. If only he could explain that, had he actually gotten to that point, the war would’ve been a lot easier on him. The hardest part had been fighting against someone he loved.
“Tony, I don’t talk about these things because we’re never going to see eye to eye on them. Not completely. You don’t regret your actions and, aside from trying harder to talk things out, I don’t regret mine.”
“A break up that caused a war,” Wade says in awe. “Goals, man.”
Steve frowns at him in disapproval before returning to Tony. “I would’ve stayed by your side forever but there are some things I can’t compromise on. I would have lost part of myself.” He remembers Tony’s words, If you really knew the world, like I do, you would stop believing in it. Sometimes, Steve wondered if Tony hadn’t truly believed Steve was wrong. Maybe he’d simply been more willing to lose himself for the safest outcome? He’d always been willing to sacrifice himself before.
Tony’s face is pained, eyes shining before he averts them. His voice is rough, “I should have let you in. Maybe if I had, then… well, things probably would have ended the same way,” he says with a sad smile. What it must’ve been like to read about everything that happened during the war and have no memory of it? Steve couldn’t fathom it.
He feels some of that old resentment bubble to the surface and tries to shove it down. There's no place for it here. “Weren’t you the one that told me to stop dwelling on the past?”
“You throwing my own advice at me?” Tony asks with a smile and Steve returns it.
Then everything turns on its side.
There’s a loud crunch, the van turns onto its side, the pavement rising up to meet them as the window smashes into pieces. Steve turns to take the brunt of the hit for Tony, his back slamming into the pavement as the van skids and stops on its side. Horns sound all around them and each sound of screeching brakes ratchets up the adrenaline running through Steve’s veins.
“Everyone okay?” he calls out and everyone nods except Tony. Steve adjusts as carefully as he can, broken glass digging into the back of his arm as he gets a better look at Tony’s face. There's a pretty bad gash on his forehead, his eyes were closed and he is clearly unconscious. Steve rips off part of his shirt and holds it to the cut, asking, “What the hell happened?”
“A truck came out of nowhere at a cross section and rammed into us,” Logan says from the front, growling as he poised for a second hit.
“What kind of truck?” Preston asks as she pulls out a gun. Spidey and Wade were crouched, ready to strike.
“A semi,” Logan replies, his claws extending as two cuts on his cheek heal.
Steve looks to them as the sound of crunching glass meet his ears and he sighs, curling protectively over Tony’s still form. “They’re coming to finish the job.”
“No, they know better than to think an accident would take Wade out,” Preston says. “Unless we’re dealing with idiots.”
A blade comes into view and Logan grumbles, “We’re definitely dealing with idiots, Lady.” He strikes out and slices the sword’s blade into pieces. Then he leaps out of the van with a roar and Spider-Man and Wade follow.
Preston looks to Steve who waves her off. “You go. I’ll stay with Tony.” He trusts Preston and Spider-Man won’t kill anyone and stretches over to reach the back of the van in search of a first aid kit. He’s pleased to find one fairly well stocked. He cleans the cut as best he can, broken glass stuck to his hand and Tony’s face. He ends up picking glass out as he hears gunfire and Logan’s war cry. “Can’t worry about that. Just focus on this,” he murmurs to himself.
It wasn’t often he got the chance to patch Tony up. He used to say Tony was like a cat because whenever he got hurt, he would lock himself away to lick his wounds in private. Although, half the time he just ignored them or pushed through them to an extent that frustrated Steve to no end and usually led to him passing out on his own. Steve had never understood it; believing it to be a chip on Tony’s shoulder at being the only “normie” on the team at first. Over the years, Steve had come to realize it was Tony’s way of punishing himself. It only worsened after the war.
Now, Steve is painstakingly careful as he cleans the cuts and picks out broken glass with tweezers. It’s lengthy work but pays very close attention to detail and the covers the cleaned wounds with bandages. Then he can only wait, touching Tony’s cheeks softly. He’s a little clammy and Steve starts to worry. Tony would need medical attention and with a firefight or a sword fight going on around them, it would take longer for medics to get to them. Steve wishes he could lay Tony down and get in on the fight out there because he had some choice words for the culprits that kept trying to take Tony out.
Taking a deep breath, Steve strokes his thumb over Tony’s cheek and tries to calm himself. He doesn’t know how long he sits there before the van doors, which were now doubling as the roof, open above him and Spidey peers down at them. “He okay?”
“Still out,” Steve says with a sad smile and Spider-Man reaches down. Steve sees flashing lights and wonders how long he’d sat here and how he’d possibly missed hearing the sirens. The paramedics take Tony and get him on a stretcher.
Steve follows them out, feeling off kilter with Tony so far away as they roll him over to the ambulance. When Tony wakes, he nearly falls off the stretcher. “Hey, hey,” Steve says soothingly, coming in closer. Tony grabs his wrist, eyes wide and Steve breathes out in relief. “You’re going to be okay.”
They don’t make it Vegas that night. After Tony gets taken care of, they find another hotel just outside of Vegas to stay for the night. Wade went ahead of them to make the reservations. The honeymoon suite was actually booked but he still booked a single room for Steve and Tony.
With a full sized bed.
“Okay, no way,” Tony began but Steve sat him down on the bed with a smile. “Steve, you can’t fit on a full sized bed by yourself.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ve slept on worse.”
“You want me to sleep on the floor?” Tony offers and Steve rolls his eyes, tilting Tony’s head up with a hand beneath his chin. Tony’s mouth quirks despite the rant he's working up to. Some things never changed. “Double checking their work?
Steve’s brow furrows, blue eyes focused intently on the line of stitches on Tony’s forehead. “Can never be too sure.” He looks them over for a moment and then nods in satisfaction. “Looks good.” He steps back a little and slides his hands over Tony’s shoulders. “I’m sorry.”
“What for?” Tony asks. His eyes seemed too bright in his pale face; he needed food ASAP. Steve wonders if they have decent room service here. It is a pretty nice hotel.
“I’m thinking it was a mistake to drag you on this trip with me.” Tony frowns at him, his eyes wide and clearly hurt. It reminds Steve that sometimes, what Tony hears isn’t actually what Steve says. “It’s getting riskier every day.”
“I can handle it,” Tony insists. “I was caught off guard.”
“We all were.” Steve slides his hands down Tony’s arms, as if warming him up. “This isn’t anything against you, I just meant that you didn’t sign up for all of this.”
“But I did,” Tony says with a weak smile. “You said we were going on a road trip for Wade’s bachelor party. I knew what I was getting into.”
He slides a hand over the thin quilt on the bed, a brow rose, “I didn’t count on the tiny beds, I must admit.” Steve laughs, squeezing Tony’s arm.
“Neither did I.” He sits down beside Tony and softly asks, “You’re sure you’re okay?”
Tony bumps his shoulder with his own, with a tired smile. “Definitely. I’ve had worse.” Steve shakes his head fondly.
“Lets see what they have for room service.”
Steve orders them enough food for a three-day standoff. They send up three bellhops to bring in the carts and load up two tables in front of the bed. Tony eats more than Steve had seen him eat in a while: polishing off a roast chicken and potatoes, shoveling half of Steve’s fries into his mouth midway through. Steve eyes him amusedly as he finishes his own plate of ribs and his chicken sandwich.
“I’ve never seen you eat like this,” he remarks.
“Well, that little brush with death meant no lunch for me and I only had coffee for breakfast,” Tony explains with a shrug.
“And who told you to eat breakfast this morning?” Steve asks dryly and earns a glare for his trouble.
“You and Spidey ordered three breakfast platters and Logan walked out with their entire stock of bacon. I don’t think there was any food left.”
Steve rolls his eyes, “Be glad they had a decent selection here.”
“Oh, I am,” Tony says and steals the remaining half of Steve’s sandwich.
“Hey!” Steve shouts with a laugh. “What are you doing?”
“Eating,” Tony says plainly. Steve shakes his head fondly and sips his water.
“You ever wonder who comes here willingly?” he asks observationally.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, it’s outside Vegas. This is a fairly small town off the highway. I don’t even think it was on the road signs for lodging. Who is this for?”
“People stranded on the roadway,” Tony replies. They ordered a rental in the name of one of Tony’s old aliases (“Hogan Potts? Really, Tony?” Steve had asked) and it would arrive tomorrow morning. They’d gotten an SUV this time for less embarrassment. Wade had already named it Rose.
“And no one else?” Steve asks. “It’s a nice place.”
“It is but who wants to visit a town where there isn’t anything exciting to do?”
“I do,” Steve says solidly. “Life isn’t all about excitement. I would think you’d be glad for a quieter time.”
Tony cocks his head to the side, “You would?”
Steve rests his chin in hand, explaining, “Our entire lives are about excitement. I mean, this is supposed to be a relatively fun and joyous occasion: Wade is getting married. For a more… average person, that would mean a flight to Vegas and a night at a casino. The worst thing that could happen would be losing all his money or getting too drunk at a club. But because of the lives we lead, he has to forgo the easier plane ride for a five-day drive and he needs bodyguards because people are trying to kill him. We don’t get to be normal.”
Tony nods, lowering his eyes. He asks, “So you want boring and easy?”
“I want boring and easy,” Steve replies with a smile. “This town – outside that window is the part of the country we tend to forget about when we’re tackling dragons and the Hand. These are the people that don’t show up on a super villain’s radar because their town isn’t flashy enough. These are the people that read about us in the papers and see us on TV and probably think New Yorkers are crazy for not moving to a safer place. These are the people I fight to protect but never see.”
Tony wipes his mouth and holds his hands up in surrender, “Hold on, Steve. You’re going into speech mode. I see the flag waving behind you.”
Steve frowns at him, “I just… I guess I sometimes forget the world exists outside of New York. I keep meaning to do a road trip, reconnect with what’s going on in the rest of the country but I haven’t taken the time.”
“And this place would be first on your list?” Tony asks doubtfully.
“Why not? They were awfully kind to us considering we booked half their rooms and cleaned out their kitchen.”
“We might be the first friendly faces they’ve seen in months,” Tony says and slurps spaghetti into his mouth. Steve shakes his head in disbelief. There are two drops of marinara on Tony’s cheek and Steve wants to wipe them off but he’s afraid that, once he touches him, he won’t stop. “What?”
“Is that what I look like when I eat?” he asks in dismay and Tony throws a roll at him.
Steve strips down to his briefs as Tony comes out of the bathroom brushing his teeth in the borrowed shirt. It hangs off Tony’s shoulder even more tonight and Steve’s stomach twists with a feeling he can’t name. All he knows is he’s growing more and more appreciative of the sight of Tony in his clothes and he doesn’t know what to do with that information.
“How does this work?” Tony asks, returning to the bathroom to rinse his mouth out. He returns and turns the lights out, stopping on one side of the bed. Steve climbs in and Tony does the same cautiously. Steve lies back on his side and Tony does the same. It’s like the previous night only they’re so close, they’re breathing the same air.
Steve’s feet hover off the edge and Tony’s do, as well. He tries to curl up more but almost knees Tony in the stomach. Finally, he huffs out a laugh, “This isn’t going to work.” He thinks for a moment and then comes to a solution. “Okay, here.”
He pushes the bed a little way away from the wall and settles on his back. Then he curls his arm around Tony’s back and pulls him onto his chest. Hesitant, he whispers, “Is this okay?” His heart pounds, listening intently for an objection.
He doesn’t get one. Instead Tony sighs and rests his cheek on Steve’s chest. “A firmer pillow than I’m used to but you’ll do.” Steve can hear the smile in his voice and his face warms. He’s thankful for the dim lighting.
“Sorry,” he murmurs.
“No complaints. It’s just different,” he replies, breaths coming out in soft puffs against Steve’s chest. Steve holds him closer, resisting the urge to stroke his back. As odd as this is, it’s nice. Tony is soft and warm and relaxed against him. He fits here as strange as that sounds.
Steve falls asleep within minutes.
Steve wakes up in a more precarious position than the morning at the bed and breakfast. For one thing, they’re more closely tangled together and for another, his morning wood is pressed against Tony’s stomach this time. He's still sleeping, his cheek smushed against Steve’s chest as he snored, entirely unaware that Steve is silently having a meltdown.
He disentangles himself and nearly falls off the bed. He gets to his feet and shuffles awkwardly into the bathroom for a cold shower. He lowers his head beneath the chilling spray and wills his erection away. He also avoids any and all introspection because he certainly doesn’t need to spend another morning awkwardly avoiding eye contact with Tony.
When he returns to the bedroom, Tony is sitting up and rubbing tiredly at his eyes. He checks his phone with a frown. “Everything okay?” Steve asks and Tony spares him a reassuring smile.
“Yeah, I’m just being a helicopter parent. I’m sure they have everything handled but when I’m not there, I just feel kinda guilty, you know?” he asks and Steve understands.
“Well, you called me a control freak not that long ago,” he remarks and Tony winks at him.
“I do it with love,” Tony says coyly and Steve’s face warms. “Time to get back on the road.”
They meet the others in the lobby and they wait for Wade to come down. Logan shuffles over and Steve waves in greeting. Tony sits on one of the couches and struggles to get comfortable, a wince on his face. Steve hides a smile, “Had too much last night?” he asks.
Tony frowns, “I can barely sit down,” he replies and Logan chokes on his coffee. Steve eyes him curiously and returns to Tony.
“I hope you feel better soon. We should arrive in Vegas tonight.”
Thankfully, the drive is uneventful and they reach Vegas that night. Riding in through the haze of lights, even Steve’s jaw drops. It isn’t a first for him but he’d never really gotten the chance to just sit back and enjoy the tourist experience. Even knowing this is just the bright and flashy cover presented to the public, even knowing there's a seedy underbelly, it's beautiful just watching the lights pass him by.
He looks to Tony who smiles back at him, the lights reflected in his eyes. He’s backlit, a halo of lights around the crown of his head and the sight takes Steve’s breath away. For a moment, he forgets there are others around them and the light reflected in Tony’s crystal blue eyes is the only thing he sees. He’s sure that if he could see his face at the moment, he’d be embarrassed by the goofy grin he found there. He swallows and forces himself to return to the window but he can’t resist sneaking a few more glances at Tony as Logan drives.
“You ready for tonight?” Wade asks, rubbing his hands together. Agent Preston shakes her head fondly.
“I’m hitting the casinos. You guys have fun at whatever establishment you find yourselves in,” she replies.
“I’m hitting the Joint,” Wade says. “Strip club for all tastes.”
“Meaning?” Spidey asks and Wade proceeds to go into excruciating detail about the entertainment offered at the Joint. Enough detail that Tony turn slightly green.
“Hey, hey can we maybe keep that kinda talk to a minimum for a bit?” Steve asks and Wade pipes down.
“Sorry, Dad,” he says, chastised.
Steve frowns but returns to watching the world outside the window. “They used to call us that,” Tony says with a small smile. He’d returned to a normal hue, thankfully.
“What?” Steve asks.
“Mom and Dad,” he explains.
Steve thinks for a moment and then he remembers Jan telling him something like that a while back and he shares Tony’s smile. “Yeah, I remember. Only when we argued.”
“Because you have terrible taste in TV shows,” Tony adds with a brow raised.
Steve bristles, “I’m sorry I like my shows with less cheese.”
“We’re still talking about CSI, you know that right? You think it had less cheese?” He frowns, “Do we have to explain what ‘less’ means?”
Steve bites down a smile, the familiar fire returning. “You wanna talk? Grey’s Anatomy is a soap opera.”
“And yours isn’t dramatic?”
“Someone blew up in your hospital,” Steve says dryly.
“Someone got buried alive on your show,” Tony counters.
“Still less ridiculous than yours.”
“It’s chock full of cheesy one-liners,” Tony exclaims and Steve had missed this.
“You’re chock full of cheesy one-liners,” he mutters and it startles a laugh out of Tony.
His eyes are bright with amusement as he asks, “That the best you got?” and Steve flashes a grin.
“Worked, didn’t it?”
When they arrive at the hotel, Tony’s eyes go wide. Steve follows his line of sight and his jaw drops. Tony turns to Wade, “Okay, seriously, who’s paying for this?”
They climb out of the SUV and Steve gets a better look at the hotel. It’s huge with beautiful, golden fountains flowing in front with large pillars. There has to be over a thousand rooms inside. It’s flashy and ostentatious and unlike anything Steve could ever hope to afford. He’s still staring when the valet driver comes around and bellhops come over to grab their bags.
“What is this place?” Steve asks as Tony grabs his elbow and pulls Steve out of their way.
“The Bellagio,” Tony replies. He looks to Wade, “Do I wanna know how much this costs a night?”
“No worries, beautiful, I’m your sugar daddy tonight,” Wade says. Tony blushes as Wade shuffles them forward with a laugh. Steve’s not used to seeing Tony worry about money. He’d be lying if he said he hadn’t wondered what Tony would be like had he not been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He’d never wished ill fortune on him but he’d wondered and Tony's the same as he ever was: putting other people ahead of himself. Working himself to the bone and worrying about his own needs after.
“I’m sure I can buy you some clothes to wear here,” Steve offers and Tony winces.
“I’m sure a t-shirt costs more than a month’s rent here,” Spidey says and Preston kicks him.
Steve feels warm, “I’ll buy you something,” he assures Tony.
“Don’t worry about it. Honestly,” Tony says. “This okay for dinner tonight?” he asks Wade.
Wade shrugs, “More clothes than you’ll need for the Joint.”
Tony laughs nervously, “I think I’m gonna sit that one out, buddy.”
“Suit yourself,” Wade says, rubbing his hands together. “Dinner in 10!”
They get the key to their room and Steve doesn’t know why he expected anything else. “At least it’s a king,” Steve notes as Tony races over and jumps back on the bed. He spreads out his limbs with a happy sigh, eyes opening as he beams up at Steve. Steve feels his insides melt as he takes in the pure joy he sees there. He smiles despite himself and comes closer to the edge of the bed.
“Not just any king: it’s a California king,” he cheers. Sure enough, there’s more than enough room for both of them to sleep here without ever touching. Steve isn’t sure the benefit of a honeymoon suite with that much room between newlyweds. It seems a little odd to him.
“Looks good,” Steve says. Then, he sighs. “About your bag-“
“Don’t worry about it,” Tony says, closing his eyes.
“You just told me you were struggling with money not too long ago.”
“A pair of jeans and a shirt aren’t going to bankrupt me, Cap.” He opens one eye to peer up at Steve and closes it again. “I could totally go for a nap, right now.”
He did look pretty comfortable and the spot next him looked pretty damn tempting. Steve shifts his weight from foot to foot, thinking it over. A part of him reminds that he had a job to do. He isn’t here for fun. The other part of him wanted nothing more than to curl up beside Tony and find that warmth again.
“Wade wants us at dinner in a few minutes,” Steve says.
“But sleep,” Tony whines.
“But food,” Steve counters and his stomach growls. He reaches out to take hold of Tony’s wrists. “Come on, you can sleep later.”
Tony tugs him down and Steve lets himself be pulled onto the bed. He lands on top of Tony, holding himself up carefully so as not to crush him. Tony’s eyes open and he gazes up at Steve almost adoringly, his blue eyes bright and amused as he takes in Steve’s dazed expression. He licks his lips, drawing Steve’s eye and a blush to his cheeks before rising up again.
“Hi,” Tony whispers and Steve’s heart beats fast in his chest.
“Hi,” he replies. He gets the distinct feeling that there’s something he should be doing here. And it isn’t getting ready to join the others downstairs. It’s something different, some unknown urge like – like before when Tony had shown him the RT and when he’d woken up curled around Tony’s back. He should go – he should distance himself.
“Steve,” Tony began quietly and Steve can’t explain the intense need to hear what he says next.
But he makes himself say, “We should go. They’ll be looking for us.”
Tony looks like he wants to say more but ultimately, he spares a quick smile and pushes at Steve’s shoulders. He grabs the blazer he’d brought along, the only other item he’d had with him in the car. Steve trades his t-shirt for a dress shirt.
They ride down in the elevator together, sparks between their fingertips where they nearly touch at their sides. Steve sneaks glances moments after Tony sneaks his own. It’s a tension Steve had never felt between them before but it’s not bad. However, it’s not a tension he knows how to deal with.
They stop on Wade’s floor, Steve’s heart near pounding out of his chest. Tony looks to him, licking his lips as he whispers, “Steve,” and then the doors open and Logan’s gesturing them forward.
“Finally,” Logan grumbles. “We were waiting.”
“Be quiet, Wolvy,” Wade chides. “We were just fine. Figured you two were doing the horizontal lambada. Or having a meal of your own,” he adds with a bawdy wink for Steve.
Tony blushes and steps forward as Steve responds, “We were getting dressed.”
“I bet you were,” Wade says and Steve stumbles over his clarification when Tony stops him with a hand on his shoulder and a shake of the head. Steve sighs and moves into the lush room to sit down.
Spidey and Agent Preston join them moments later, dressed for the night.
Wade’s room is barely smaller than their own and the staff had pushed four tables together to make room for the ungodly amount of dishes threatening to topple over the edges. Wade had ordered some of everything: seafood, soul food, Italian food, sushi, Indian food and there's even room for a spattering of desserts around the edges. Steve’s stomach growls even as his eyes widen in disbelief.
Tony is in the exact same boat, muttering, “Even you couldn’t finish all of this. I think even Hulk would need a few doggie bags.”
“Dig in, sweetcheeks,” Wade says with a grin as he loads up a plate with some of everything. Watching him drizzle ranch over some lobster seriously threatens to turn Steve’s stomach but he starts on making a plate for himself. He sits it down and finds himself grabbing a second. Tony starts toward the stack of plates but Steve holds the one in hand up. Tony gives a baffled smile but sits down next to the place Steve had chosen for himself.
It's like a test to see if he remembered what Tony liked to eat. Last night, he’d eaten pretty much everything in sight but he’d been starving. When given a choice… let's see, he remembers Iron Man passing up all things shellfish, preferring the turf to the surf. Tony loved sweet things, although he refused to admit it. Steve loads up a smaller plate with a cupcake and two mini cheesecake bites. He grabs a smattering of fries and a couple of beef sliders as well.
He sets the offering down for grading and Tony takes it in for a moment and then smiles up at him gratefully. “Thanks, Steve.”
“Did I get it right?” Steve asks and Tony shakes his head fondly.
“It’s perfect, thank you-“
“Ain’t that sweet,” Logan chimes in and Steve blushes, averting his eyes as he sits down. Wade kicks him and Logan shrugs, “What?
They’re halfway through one end of the table when Wade stands and taps a crab leg against his wine glass. “Alright kiddos, where to next?”
Spidey asks, “You wanna go out?” He's rubbing stomach with a groan.
“What’s a bachelor party without going out? We have all of Vegas at our fingertips!” he boasts and it earns a small smile from Tony.
Steve holds out a hand in apology, “No offense, but that place you mentioned doesn’t sound my speed.”
“Fine, be a bore, but I know a pretty nice club where we can dance the night away!” he announces, doing a rather sloppy salsa. He looks around and everyone seems pretty unenthusiastic.
So Tony puts on a brave face and says, “I’m in.”
“You are?” Steve asks curiously.
“You are?” Wade asks excitedly.
“Why not? We’re giving you a proper send off,” he says and the others muster some excitement. Preston waves farewell before heading off to the casinos and the others climb to their feet. Steve’s more than a little apprehensive but he puts on a brave face. Tony elbows him as they start towards the door.
“Don’t worry, Cap. I won’t let you embarrass yourself too much.”
“Thanks,” Steve says dryly, setting the bag with his shield down on the couch.
“This place is pretty nice,” Steve notes when they enter. It’s dark and everyone is mercifully clothed. Something soft and sultry is playing overhead and of course Steve doesn’t recognize it. It’s nice, he supposes, as he follows Wade through the crowd to the back area. Of course, he's a VIP.
As if hearing his thoughts, Wade turns around to say, “Helped Vince out with a problem way back and earned one of those ‘if you’re ever in Vegas’ lines. I’m sure he never thought I’d be in Vegas again. I got chased out of this town not too long ago.” He sits down on the long red couch and stretches out, patting the spot next to him. Spider-Man sits down reluctantly while Logan shuffles off to the bar to get a drink.
Tony catches sight of something and heads for the balcony, the corner of his mouth turned up. Steve could sit with Wade but he’s curious about the smile on Tony’s face. He follows him out, the cool air refreshing to his flushed skin. Hearing him approach, Tony flashes a little grin and returns to what he’d seen.
He points across the street at a club across the way. “That was one of my old haunts. Before. Me and Henry,” he supplies. Steve looks across at a club that looks very much like the one they were in. Then he notices, even in the blazer, Tony is shivering slightly. Steve offers him his jacket. Tony treats him with a bemused look but takes it regardless.
“I never liked that guy,” Steve admits quietly, resting his elbows on the cold railing. They were the only ones on this side of the balcony, the music from inside decently muffled.
“Yeah, I know,” Tony says with a smile. “We were bad for each other. I’ll admit that. Brought out the worst in each other but since he got clean, he’s been nothing but good to me. You know?”
Steve nods, “I know.” He sucks in a breath and catches Tony’s scent in the air. He looks out across the city line, the bright lights and the sounds of traffic and people down below. “This place has nothing on New York.”
Tony laughs, turning to him incredulously, “You really think so?”
“Are you that swayed by shiny things?” Steve asks dryly.
“New York has its share of shiny things,” Tony points out. Then he sighs, “I’m a New Yorker, born and raised but this is pretty nice, right?”
“You’re just blinded by the flashing lights.” He leans in closer, taking some of Tony’s warmth for himself. He asks, “What do they have here that we don’t have at home?”
Steve takes in Tony’s hopeful look, the excited glint in his eye and his breath catches. It had been so long since Tony looked at him this way. Like he's happy just being in the moment and he's glad to share that with Steve. If Steve could freeze this moment, stay here forever before something inevitably came along to ruin it, if he could just stay here a little while longer…
Tony studies him for a long time, lip caught between his teeth before he leans in and kisses him. His lips are soft, pressing gently and then a little more insistent as Steve’s mouth opens in surprise. A hand touches Steve’s cheek but it’s the first touch of Tony’s tongue startles him. His brain finally catches up to what’s happening and he steps back, eyes wide.
His fingers touch his lips as Tony eyes open in surprise. “I’m – I’m sorry. I – did I move too fast?” Steve stares at him in confusion. “I know, I know, you wanted to go slow but I kinda thought that’s where you were headed. I’m sorry.”
“Slow? What? – Tony, you just kissed me,” Steve says, still reeling.
“Did you not want me to do that?” Tony asks confusedly and Steve gapes at him.
“Why would you think I did?” he asks and Tony stares at him for a long while before he shakes his head, eyes going wide with horror. He covers his mouth, stepping back and staring at Steve.
“Steve, why did you bring me here?”
“What do you mean?” he asks.
“Why did you bring me on this trip?”
He starts to ask if Tony’s okay because the way he’s looking at Steve is starting to scare him. “Wade needed help.”
“You left me that voicemail,” Tony says, covering his face. He starts to pace, muttering to himself. “You said you were thinking about why things didn’t work out with any of the women you dated.” Steve continues staring at him blankly. He turns towards Steve, his eyes pained. “You said you needed to see me.”
“Oh, Tony,” he says lowly and Tony turns around, his breathing labored. Steve steps forward, his heart pounding, as his mind raced. There were so many questions swimming around his head but he can only offer an explanation, “Tony, I just meant that I wanted something back from my past. Our friendship-“
“Christ,” Tony mutters, covering his mouth.
Steve reaches out for his shoulder, “Our friendship means a lot to me and I wanted that back. I really missed you.” His hand lands and Tony moves out of his grasp. The chasm between them wider than ever.
He turns around, head lowered, his voice brittle, “I thought maybe I was reading too much into it. It was too good to be true but this whole trip… you were so nice to me and Wade made all those stupid jokes and you never said anything. I guess I got wrapped up in it and I let myself hope that-“ he cuts himself off, covering his mouth as he steps back. “It doesn’t matter. God, I’m an idiot.”
He turns to leave and Steve starts to call out for him but he doesn’t know what to say. For the first time in a long time, he is well and truly speechless. He watches Tony disappear into the crowd and curses, “Goddamn it, Rogers.”
Every joke Wade made, the honeymoon suites, the little digs at their closeness… everyone else thought the same thing Tony had. And god, Tony’s comment at the diner: he hadn’t been seeing someone else; he thought he was seeing Steve. And he’d slept beside him night after night, so close that it’d probably given Tony some idea that they were much closer than Steve ever intended.
God, what a mess.
“Hey, Cap,” he hears and he turns around to see Spider-Man standing by the entrance.
“Peter,” he greets and the man jolts for a second. Steve gives a quick smile, “No one heard me.”
“It’s still pretty weird, you know?” he says, coming closer. “Tony doesn’t know me anymore,” Steve nods in understanding.
“I know the feeling.”
Peter picks at a scratch on the railing and then says, “So, you and Tony?”
Steve blushes, “You saw that?”
“Hard to miss. It’s either pay attention to Wade’s dramatic retelling of how he met Shiklah for the eighth time or try to find Logan. How long has this been going on?”
Clearly, Peter had missed the end of their conversation. “It hasn’t. I was blindsided.”
“Ouch,” Peter says. He pulls his mask up over his face, staring out across the balcony.
“It came out of nowhere,” Steve says and he’s aware that he may be oversharing but he's still reeling from it. His lips still tingling and he touches them softly. Peter politely looks away. “I wasn’t expecting it at all. We were just getting back to being friends again.”
Peter nods, tapping the railing before he sucks in a breath. “Listen, It’s probably none of my business and lord knows I’m not the guy’s biggest fan but it’s not exactly coming out of nowhere, is it?” he asks and Steve stares at him. “The guy’s been in love with you for as long as I’ve known him.”
Steve swallows, voice rough, “Peter-“
“Just hear me out. The Avengers are legends. It’s something bigger than us and I get that. You get that. But when you guys were on the team… it was like, if you guys didn’t work, the team didn’t work. I don’t know when or why everything changed. It seems we’re all fighting each other for one reason or another these days but that guy… he would do anything for you.” Steve’s chest aches and he averts his eyes from the truth he found there.
“How many times did we hear about some crazy stunt he pulled to save your life? Some insane thing he did trying to protect you? Look, losing us was bad. Clint, Wanda, Vision and, in a different way, me. I know it hurt him, but losing you broke him. You didn’t see him after the war, but I did. He was broken, Steve. Looked like he lost the last thing keeping him here. I was scared.”
Steve looks up at him, eyes wide as he continues. “We all thought this was a sure thing and maybe I didn’t look hard enough at how you felt about it but you seemed happy. And the guy was over the moon just being in your orbit again.” He tugs his mask down again, “I’m not the guy’s biggest fan but this didn’t come out of nowhere.”
He pats Steve on the shoulder and walks away. Steve takes in a shuddering breath and holds onto the railing. He looks out across the way and remembers Tony’s eyes, bright with nostalgia as he talked about the past. The corner of his mouth turning up as he talked about the good ole days and teased Steve about the same old arguments. Tony’s eyes soft and warm as he whispered, “I always need you, Steve.”
This hadn’t come out of nowhere.
Steve spends another hour on the balcony before he goes back inside. Wade and Spidey are competing in some kind of drinking contest. Steve looks around and sees Logan drinking at the bar but no sign of Tony. He slides through the crowd looking for him when he sees a flash of blue velvet head for the doors. Steve follows, heart in his throat.
He didn’t know what he’d say when he caught up to Tony. Only that it better be eloquent and he better come up with it fast. The doors close behind him and Steve sees Tony shuffling towards the corner. Steve starts towards him when a black van pulls up. Five men in black climb out and charge towards Tony.
Steve shouts, racing forward as they inject something into Tony’s neck and he goes limp. Steve gets there just as the door close and one of the men fires at him. Steve pays him little mind, eyes focused on Tony as they lay him in the back and close the doors. Steve leaps forward when they send a concussive blast and send him backwards into the wall of the club. The brick crumbles, cracks riveting out from where he’d made a dent. He falls to his knees, the wind knocked out of him as he watches the van turn the corner.
Steve races inside, scanning the floor for Logan. He hurries over, still out of breath. Logan looks at him and does a double take, “Well, Stark certainly did a number on you. You were only gone for an hour. You two wreck the balcony?”
Steve ignores him, “They took him.” Logan blinks at him, “The guys after Wade.”
Logan’s eyes narrow and he stands. “How long ago?”
“A few minutes. Got in a black van. License plate LZ76 dash 984.”
Logan huffs, “Not quite how I work, Bub but grab the others and I’ll see what I can find.”
Peter’s a little tipsy but in fairly good shape. Wade sobers instantly. When they get outside, he phones Preston. Logan grumbles, shuffling over to them. “Not much of a trail here but they left a present.”
He hands Steve a note that reads, ‘Bring the mask to Springdale Street or the world loses an Avenger.’
“This seems personal,” Steve notes and Wade sighs.
“I know who this is.” He looks to Cap, “You’ve had encounters before and not the fun kind.” At Cap’s questioning look, he elaborates, “Ultimatum. They’ve had it in for me since I blew up one of their labs.”
Steve grimaces, “One of Skull’s offshoots. Explains why they went after Tony, too.” He looks to the group, “When Preston gets here, we hit ‘em hard.”
“That’s it? No plan?” Logan asks and Steve stares at him. “Don’t get me wrong, that’s my style, but these guys are quick and they’re smart.”
Steve sighs, trying to calm his mind but every time he closed his eyes, he saw Tony being shoved into the van. He runs a hand over his face and thinks for a moment. “Well, they want Wade.”
“So we give them me,” Wade says.
“Absolutely not,” Preston says from behind them. She's wearing a SHIELD uniform, gun in hand.
“No, we give them me,” Steve says and no, he doesn’t like where this is going. “Tell me you have another uniform,” he says and Wade shakes his head. Steve cringes internally.
“I do,” Preston says and Wade treats her with a masked stare. “You know how many times we ended up naked when I was inside you? I wasn’t taking any chances.”
The group stares at her and Spidey asks, “Do I wanna know?”
“Don’t think so,” she says. She reaches into the trunk and pulls out a uniform. “You sure it’ll fit?”
“I’ll make it work,” Steve says and turns inside to find a bathroom.
The offset of this plan meant Wade would have to wear Spidey's uniform since Cap’s cowl didn’t cover his whole face. Which put Peter in Cap’s and that's a dream come true for him. He follows Cap to the bathroom to change and Steve watches him flips around for a moment. He tries to stick to the walls but that doesn’t quite work in Cap’s boots, which are a little too big.
He nearly falls to his face. “Big feet,” he says and then blushes deep red.
Steve cracks a small smile. “Wade’s about the same size, surprisingly.” He stretches and Wade’s costume moves with him. The mask would take some getting used to.
He leaves with Peter and they slide back outside. Wade comes out after in Spidey’s uniform, strutting proudly. “I fantasized about wearing this thing.”
“Please don’t while you’re in it,” Peter says. They get in the SUV and start towards the location on the note. Steve drove because the idea of sitting in the back letting someone else do it when he knew Tony is out there physically pained him. Everyone else knew better than to try fighting him for the job.
“Won’t they be expecting a trap or something?” Peter asks.
Steve frowns, “You mean won’t they be setting a trap?”
“Well, both. How do we know that they don’t know that we know they’re planning something, you know?” he asks and Steve gives him a look. “They’ll know we’re planning something.”
“Sure they will,” Steve says. “And so will Tony. No one outsmarts Tony Stark,” he adds.
Peter flashes him a smile as Logan asks, “Why was he outside anyway? Last I saw, you and Stark were on the balcony sucking face.”
Steve blushes but stays silent. “Logan,” Peter chides.
“I’m just saying. You two have a fight or something? Why’d he get taken but you’re still here looking pretty?”
“Dude, c’mon,” Wade began but Steve’s had enough.
“We’re not dating, okay?” Steve exclaims. He sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I know you guys thought that but we’re just friends. Or we were.”
“Blowie?” Wade asks and Peter smacks him in the back of the head.
“We had a fight,” Steve says. “He left because he was upset with me and then this happened. It’s my fault-“
“Hey, Captain, no one thinks that,“ Preston starts but Steve shakes his head.
“But we’re gonna get him back and I’m gonna make it up to him.”
Peter’s hand is over Wade’s mouth but Steve can still guess he asked, “Blowie?”
“We’re here,” Logan mutters. Steve pulls around to the back but the place is deserted. He doesn’t see a single car.
“If they ditched the van, how’d they bring Tony here?” he asks and then the ground around them caves in. Steve unbuckles his seat belt, crouched on the seat as the car falls about two stories into some sort of basement. The glass cracks and Logan lets out a pained groan as Steve climbs out and scans their location.
It’s pitch black except for a light in the corner. There's a figure in the corner. Getting a little closer, Steve realizes its Tony sitting in a chair, a gag around his mouth and ropes tied around his front. Steve starts forward and then reigns himself in, hands shaking as they itch to run over and make sure Tony is okay. He looks to Peter even as his heart pounds. “Cap?” he asks and Peter nods, moving forward but Tony starts shaking his head.
Steve frowns, looking to the others who have fanned out scanning the dark basement. Logan sniffs the air, “Don’t smell anyone else.”
“Don’t hear anyone else,” Preston says.
Peter stops, looking to Tony and back to Steve curiously. “Something’s not right here.” He moves forward and Steve sees the wire.
“Stop!” he shouts and Peter steps back just as Tony breaks free of his bindings and charges forward. He slides down and takes Peter’s legs out, stomping on his chest before turning to the group. His face is warped, twisted in a sinister grin.
“That’s not Tony,” Steve says quietly, horrified as Logan snatches him around the waist and pushes him back.
“You think?” he asks gruffly.
The clone comes towards them, stomping on Peter again as Preston moves forward and fires bullets. They have no effect, healing instantly as Logan races forward. Steve’s stomach turns watching him embed his claws in Tony’s midsection.
Not-Tony slides under Logan and kicks out at his knee until Steve hears a sickening crack. He rolls out of the way of Logan’s claws and races forward, coming after Steve. He lashes out violently with his left arm, following with a cross when Steve blocks. Steve is playing defense and Not-Tony is all about offense. Taking advantage as he scratches and claws and comes after Steve as he retreats. The clone is strong, clearly as strong as Wade and he’s giving Steve everything he has.
“What the hell are you doing? This foreplay for you? Fight!” Logan curses and Steve dodges again, not used to being without his shield. The clone comes at him again and Steve should respond back but he can’t. Just watching Logan and Spider-Man attack had been painful, especially Peter as him. Steve couldn’t do it.
The clone fights dirty, scratching at Steve’s eyes and he rears back in surprise as the thing pounces on top of him. He tears at Steve’s mask and Steve stares up at him in horror. Even during the war out of the armor or when Tony’s helmet cracked in the street, he’d never seen Tony look at him with such hate in his eyes. Even knowing this isn’t Tony, even knowing the last thing he’d said to Steve confirmed that he very much didn’t hate him… even knowing all of that, this cuts Steve to the core.
The clone pulls a knife from somewhere unseen and raises it up above Steve’s head and Steve stares up in fear and resignation.
Then the clone is blasted to the side, rolling several feet away. Steve pants, looking over to see Tony shirtless and barefoot, a repulsor on his arm. He’s dirty, his hair a tangled mess but, aside from a split lip, he looks okay. He’s alive and Steve can breathe a little easier.
Tony grimaces, his voice rough, “Get off my friends.” He strides closer, arm outstretched as the clone starts to regenerate. Tony looks to Steve with a reassuring smile and then over to Deadpool in Spider-Man’s uniform. “Hey, how do we stop these things?”
“With fire!” Wade shouts and comes closer. “But, if we can take them down without hurting ‘em too much, that’d be great.” Tony frowns at him and nods. He goes over to where his clone is regrowing part of his shoulder and knocks him out. He waits, hovering over them cautiously but, mercifully, they stay down.
“Well, that was weird. I’m never doing that again,” he says with a wince. He returns to them and Steve notices he’s walking a little stiffly, favoring his left side. Steve starts to offer to take some of his weight when Preston stops him.
“How do we know you’re not a clone?” she asks and Steve’s stomach tightens. He knows - he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt but he can’t very well tell the others to trust his gut.
Tony sighs, “When Captain America found out about my secret identity, I was wearing a red thong.” The others blink at him and look to Steve in question. Steve blushes bright red and nods, averting his eyes. Wade, Preston and Peter graciously don’t comment further and Steve is thankful for it.
“Wait, how’d you get free?” Logan asks suspiciously. His claws look awfully sharp and Tony holds up his hands in surrender.
“Easy, Logan. I didn’t get away,” Tony says. He gestures to the dark corner and explains, “They left me here in that corner and took my clothes.”
“Why?” Spidey Cap asks.
Tony ponders this for a moment and then hurries as fast as he can over to the corner he’d been sitting in. Then he returns, moving faster even as his ribs protested. “We need to get out of here! This warehouse is going to blow!” He starts towards the double doors, waving them on ahead of him. “Come on! They never wanted Wade; you know that. They wanted him dead.”
Steve curses, “You’re right. Everybody out!”
“Wait!” Peter shouts, pointing at the clone tied up on the ground. “We’re just gonna leave you? Er, him?”
“He just tried to kill you,” Logan says and Peter looks to Tony who nods, agreeing with Peter.
“Very well.” Peter goes over and pulls the clone over his shoulder. They all race outside, Steve taking more of Tony’s weight as they run. It’s only after they’re a few blocks away, an explosion sounding behind them, that Steve realizes they’d lost yet another car.
“Well, one thing to be said for my bachelor party. Lost three cars and rescued a damsel in distress,” Wade remarks cheerfully and Tony glares at him. “Where to, gents?”
They hurry down the block and Preston calls for a cab.
“Do you have to be naked?” Logan asks while they wait and Tony sighs, ignoring him.
“Hey, Cap?” he asks and Spider-Man and Steve respond. He grins bemusedly, “Cap Cap,” he clarifies and Spidey nods with a smile. “These guys aren’t gonna stop.”
Steve nods determinedly, rubbing Tony’s bare arms to try to warm him. He's shivering and Steve's hoping it's the cold and not from shock. He didn’t know how many injuries Tony had sustained. And he's fully aware that Tony would most likely downplay them if asked.
“If it’s the same guys from before, we can take them out but whoever sent them will send more,” Preston says. Tony nods, looking around the group.
“What do we do?”
“This is stupid,” Tony mutters and Steve has to agree but Wade is the only one with a real plan. They’d dropped the clone off with the authorities and gone back to the hotel to regroup. While it stung that Tony refused to look at him the entire trip back, Steve is glad of the chance to grab his shield. The guys that kidnapped Tony hadn’t left much by ways of identifying them but Tony had been resourceful. Once he came to, he thought to drop a tracker in their van.
Now, they were following the signal.
“We tracked a van to a warehouse to a building to an ad agency to this apartment building outside a Denny’s. Anyone else think this is a total long shot?” Tony asks. He’s still favoring his left side and Steve tried to get him to sit this out but Tony refused. He's insisted he's fine more times than Steve could count until he’d finally given up and allowed it. He’d made sure Tony stayed back and let the others take the lead.
“Maybe but it’s all we have. Now shhh,” Wade says and they follow him over to the intercom. It's busted but that is to be expected in an apartment building as dilapidated as this one.
They enter and ride up to the address they’d found. Once in front of the door, Tony looks to Steve and Steve shrugs in response. He is still in Deadpool’s uniform. Wade moves right up to the door and knocks.
The residents don’t answer.
Instead, they blow a hole through the door and through Wade’s torso. He crashes to the ground with an agitated, “That’s just rude. I could’ve been a Girl Scout!”
Steve springs into action, knocking the rest of the door down and barging inside. There were twelve guys, all in black with guns. “My kinda party,” Wade shouts and climbs to his feet. It's disconcerting to watch him move with a hole through his center but Steve charges at one of the men as Spidey and Logan do the same. Tony gathers his armor and goes with Agent Preston to chase after the stragglers trying to flee.
Things happen pretty quickly and Steve loses himself in the adrenaline of a good fight. Tony and Preston return after some time and join the rest of them. For a second, with Tony at his back firing repulsors and Steve tossing his trusty shield, it's like the good old days. When he’d trusted no one more than his pal Shellhead and Tony looked to him and just knew what his next move was. They work together, making quick work of the remaining assassins.
By the end of it, the bad guys are all roped up and Wade mercifully hadn’t killed anyone. Steve looks around at the mess of the apartment and weeps for the poor guys having to fill out the paperwork on this.
Wade steps forward, pulling off Spidey’s mask. “Good job, gents and milady,” he says, rubbing his hands together. “Looks like we’ll make it back in time for desert,” he announces as one of the men falls unconscious from the ceiling.
They take a cab and Tony rides in back with Logan. As much as Steve wanted to run his hands over him and make sure he's okay, Tony had mastered the art of being more than ten feet away from Steve at all times. Steve sighs, watching Tony stare resolutely out at the world flying past his window. At least they’d get a chance to talk when they got back to their room, Steve reasons.
Or so he thought.
When they get out, Tony gets in the elevator and doesn’t say a word to Steve. The blond just barely manages to slide in through the closing doors. Tony’s still in the shirt he’d borrowed from Steve before the left for the apartment building. It’s too big and hanging off his shoulder as he stares at the closed doors. It’s deathly silent, the tension making Steve’s heart race as the numbers change above them. His hands shake by his sides, his mouth dry. He should say something. Anything.
He’s building the courage, feeling a little nauseous when the doors open and Tony leaves the cable car.
Reluctantly, he holds the door to their room without a word. Steve swallows, “Tony, listen-“
“I’m gonna bunk with Logan for the night. He’s getting a cot from the front desk.” Steve blinks at him: how had that never occurred to him? In all the places they'd stayed… Steve never thought to ask for a cot. “I’ll be out of your hair in a second.”
Steve stands in place at a complete loss for words. He watches Tony shuffle around and grab the toothbrush he’d bought downstairs, his jeans and the one shirt he had left. When he’s done, he starts for the door and Steve swears he feels himself reach out to grab Tony’s arm but there he is, standing in the doorway and Steve hadn’t moved an inch. He hadn’t made a single move to stop him.
Tony turns, brow furrowed, “I did wonder… if I got this whole thing wrong, what did you mean? You said you’d done some thinking about why things never worked out… did you ever figure out why?” he asks and Steve shakes his head, eyes on the carpet.
The door closes and Steve’s left alone.
He sighs, shuffling through his nighttime routine but it felt like wading through mud, his limbs lazy and heavy. He doesn’t look in the mirror more than strictly necessary while brushing his teeth and washing his face. He turns the light off and goes back into the main room where he stands in front of the bed and remembers Tony beaming up at him, his eyes teasing and bright before he pulled Steve on top of him. Why didn’t I see it?
That hadn’t been the first time he’d seen that look on Tony’s face. He could pinpoint several times over the course of their history when Tony had beamed at him across a breakfast table, cutting into his grapefruit. When Tony came in at the last second with a save and offered some teasing comment about saving his ‘better half’. When he saved Tony and Tony would look at him with so much adoration in his eyes. When he used to look at Steve like he was the only one that mattered.
You liked it, a voice supplies. You didn’t want your friendship back; you wanted the adoration back. Peter’s right: Tony has been in love with you from the start and you didn’t want to see it. Didn’t want to acknowledge it because then you’d have to do something about it. You’d have to break his heart. You let it go on because you didn’t want to deal with it.
He's a coward.
But, if that’s true, then why did it blindside me?, he counters.
Because you came to blows in the middle of a public street. You split the superhuman community right down the middle. He lied to you over and over for years beforehand and justified leaving you in the dark. You waged war on each other and at the end of all of that, he never stopped.
Knowing all of this, he had to wonder how Tony had fought alongside him for so long and never gave anything away? How had he fought against Steve and never given anything away?
He thought he had to, his brain supplies.
Steve covers his face and curses. Maybe he’d known, maybe he’d always known. Maybe he’d suspected but avoided confronting it because he didn’t want things to end.
Or maybe he truly had been blindsided and interpreted Tony’s affection as friendship because why would someone like Tony love him? Tony is… Tony is gorgeous. He's funny and charming and kind. He's brilliant and handsome and had no shortage of women knocking down his doors for a chance to date Iron Man. Even without his riches, he's still on the list of New York’s most attractive bachelors. Why would he be interested in boring old Steve Rogers?
So, maybe Steve had been a coward or he’d been an idiot. Either way, it didn’t change the fact that he’d set out to rid Tony and himself of the chasm between them and he’d only widened it.
He couldn’t fix this with a rousing speech, a nice conversation, or a night out over some burgers. This would take time and from the looks of things, it would have to hurt for a while.
He runs his hands over his face and when he opens his eyes, there’s a face staring back at him. He screams, reacting without thinking and punching the intruder straight in the face.
Wade tumbles to the ground, snapping the wire he’d come down on. He rubs his nose cursing, “Christ, you pack quite a wallop for a boy scout.”
Steve crawls over the edge of the bed to help him up. “I’m sorry. How’d you get in here?”
“Vent system, baby. Learned the layout during a particularly scary booty call with a couple Asgardian bounty hunters. They do not like it when you skip out on calling them back.” He sits down on the edge of the bed, the fluffy white bathrobe not covering quite as much as Steve would have liked. Wade doesn’t seem to notice, pushing back to lie down on his back.
“Make yourself at home,” Steve says dryly.
Wade beams, reaching into the cooler by the bed and pulling out some grapes. He drops one in his mouth and asks, “So, I hear Iron Dad’s knocking boots with America’s second favorite Canadian. After Ryan Reynolds, of course.”
Steve shakes his head, “He’s not- it’s none of my business but he’s sleeping there for the night.”
“Bummer. Maybe you can share? Some guys are into that.”
“Wade,” Steve began tiredly. “I already told you-“
“Yeah and I already knew that.”
“What?” Steve asks in shock. “But, the rooms - the suites and all your little comments. You knew?”
“When you told me you were bringing him along, I thought maybe you were trying to get something started,” he says with a teasing grin. “I thought I’d give you two kiddos some encouragement. Play a little mood music, if you will. The guy adores you,” he adds somberly. “And you didn’t seem too opposed to any of it.”
Steve stares at him, “I didn’t?”
“Well, I thought maybe it was just you being a gentleman. You could go toe to toe with the world’s best Canadian for politeness. I could’ve booked us some rooms in a tour of America’s best shitholes and you probably would’ve thanked me. You’re nice like that.”
Steve shook his head, lying back to stare up at the ceiling. “I thought it was a joke.” He bites back a laugh, “You thought you’d give me a push, huh?”
“Well, it had to be you because I knew he’d never make a move. The guy makes my self-esteem issues look like a freaking picnic.”
Steve’s chest aches and he silently agrees. Wade goes on, “Is it the penis thing?”
Steve groans and covers his face. He sees a flash of Tony’s smug smile and his skin warms, the memory of hot water beating down his back. “Wade,” he began.”
“It is, isn’t it? New things can be scary,” Wade says matter of fact. “Shiklah actually has this tentacle thing that sorta wraps around-“
“Wade,” Steve says with a grimace. “I don’t need to know this.”
“I’m just bonding with you, Cap’n. You share, I share, that kinda thing.” He turns to Steve with a grin. “You’ve never hooked up with a guy? Not even during those old, lonely days in the foxholes?”
Steve rolls his eyes. “No, I haven’t.”
“So, it’s the penis thing?” he asks again.
“It’s not,” Steve says solidly. At Wade’s doubtful look he says, “Trust me, its not.”
Wade’s eye widen before he says, “Wow.” Steve blushes but holds his gaze. Then, “You don’t think he’s cute?”
“Wade,” Steve sighs.
“He’s pretty damn cute,” Wade says.
“I know that,” Steve insists with a shake of his head.
“I mean, his eyes actually sparkle. The guy smiles and everything just seems better you know? He’s got those toothpaste ad pearly whites and those sweet, sweet, beautiful blue eyes,” he says dreamily, inclining his head towards Steve. “Plus, he’s in great shape and his ass,” he makes a hand motion that Steve reaches out to halt immediately. “I mean who hasn’t thought about burying their face in there? I’m pretty sure Logan’s got his muttonchops in there as we speak-“
“Wade,” Steve cuts in, his heart beating faster. Wade stares at him for a moment and Steve realizes he got what he wanted. “You made your point.”
“He’s adorable, is all I’m saying.”
“I know that,” Steve says.
Wade hums, then asks, “Is it the war?”
“We’re working through that.” He sighs, staring up at the ceiling. “I didn’t see it coming,” he says although, even now, he’s not entirely sure of that.
“I don’t know. I can’t just make a decision without thinking. It’ll only make things worse if I make the wrong choice.” He sighs, “I can’t hurt him again.”
Wade is quiet for a moment, then, “So, he never asked?”
“All those years and he never asked?”
Steve thinks for a moment and as he says the words, he knows they’re true, “Tony only ever asks for things he needs; never things he wants.”
Wade leaves Steve alone and it’s a return to form. These past few days had been the first time in a long time he’d had to adjust to sleeping beside another person. In such a short time, he’d grown used to the soft breathing in his ear, the warmth seeping into his skin, and the softness at his side. He thinks of that night he’d woken up to Tony’s head on his chest, his soft breathing.
Now, he turns over and stares at the broad expanse of the bed. He had so much room here.
They finally had a bed large enough to share and he's alone.
Over breakfast, Tony sits at the other end of the table beside Logan. They didn’t seem to speak much and Spidey and Wade filled the breakfast chatter with conversation about the wedding.
Steve listens on politely but he’s lost in his head. “We’re flying back,” Agent Preston announces. “SHIELD doesn’t want to risk us out in an area we can’t call for backup and clearly Wade’s threat is legitimate. We’ve got flights for later this afternoon.”
Steve knows this: Hill called earlier that morning to tell him that and he’d asked for an extra week of vacation.
He waits until they’re in the hotel lobby to announce it. “This trip has been… an experience.” Spidey laughs, covering his mouth. Tony’s head remains lowered. “I’d call it a success because we got Wade where he needed to go and that was the plan. So, good work everyone. I’m glad Wade had a good time and I wish you the best.”
Wade stares at him through his mask as he takes a deep breath. “I’m gonna drive back. I already got a ride and I think I need the time. I’ve been told I work too much,” he says with a sad smile.
Spidey chimes in, “You do.” Then more somber, “But you’re not coming with us?”
“I’ll see you at the wedding but I’m gonna take some time on the road.” Agent Preston nods, offering a small smile.
“It was good to have you with us, Captain.” She turns to head towards the cab.
Logan offers a guff, “Good luck, Bub.”
Spidey hovers at his side before hugging him jerkily and turning to follow the others. Wade comes over and hugs him tightly, “I’m sorry about all this, Cap’n.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Steve says. “You were just trying to help.”
Wade nods, pulling back, “Thanks for saving my ass. It means a lot.”
Steve nods, seeing him off before Tony comes forward, his hands in his pockets. Steve bites his lip, averting his eyes when he hears a weak laugh, “You can’t even look at me.”
Steve swallows, his chest tightening. “I don’t know what to say.”
“You said it,” Tony says simply. “I made a pretty wild leap of logic.” He steps forward, his voice quieter and somehow louder in Steve’s ears. His scent in Steve’s nose and he has to take a deep breath. “Can you please just look at me?”
And Steve can’t - he knows what he’ll see there. He knows it’ll just make it harder to leave but he forces his chin up, meeting Tony’s eyes solidly. What he finds there takes Steve’s breath away. Tony’s jaw is tense, his eyes bright, open as he ran through a range of emotions. He's clearly upset but the longer he looked at Steve, the more his sadness turned to uncertainty and finally, sympathy. His hands clench into fists at his side and he looks as though he’s refraining from comforting Steve.
“Tony,” he whispers, his throat tight.
Tony swallows, lowering his eyes briefly as a tear rolls down his cheek. Steve would only keep disappointing him. “So, this is it, huh?”
“I’m coming back,” Steve says weakly and Tony nods, wiping at his face. “Tony,” he says, stepping closer as Tony steps back.
Tony crosses his arms, his voice rough, “Well, be safe out there. If you need anything… this doesn’t change anything. I’ll still be there if you need me.”
Steve stares at him, pained and trying to keep it together. He can’t calm the part of him that feels as though letting Tony walk away from him would be the biggest mistake of his life. They’ve fought before; they’d fought many times before the war, but this is different. This isn’t because of a lie or a difference in opinion or ideology. This is Tony sharing a part of himself Steve doesn’t know how to handle.
This is something Steve doesn’t know how to fix. “Same to you,” he replies and Tony smiles grimly and turns around.
Steve can’t watch him leave. Instead, he turns and heads back up to gather his things.
This bike isn’t Steve’s old faithful but it did the job. A lot more power than he's used to but it felt good rumbling and shaking between his thighs. He takes off that morning and finds himself on the same route they’d used to come here. It starts storming rather forcefully an hour or so in and he should’ve stopped. He should’ve found a place to lay low while it thundered on around him. He can hear a voice that sounds a lot like Tony’s telling him to turn around but he presses on.
In some ways, he started to think he deserved the rain pounding down on his back, the chill that penetrated the thick leather of his trusty, old brown jacket. He keeps seeing that look on Tony’s face, not in the lobby but in their room. When Steve had the chance to say something, anything to keep him there and talk things through but he’d been a coward. So afraid of screwing things up that he’d gone and messed them up with inaction.
What is a soldier that refused to act?
The rain never lets up and he finds himself at the bed and breakfast earlier than he expects. It's quite dark out and he feels a little guilty calling on Meredith and Lucille so late. Especially when they’re not expecting him.
However, when he turns into their winding driveway, they open the door and Lucille comes out in her nightgown. He can see Meredith watching from the front door. He shuffles up and stops in front of her with a sheepish smile.
“Sorry to bother you so late. I was hoping you might have a room I could have for the night?”
“It’s no trouble, darling,” Lucille says. She points to her temple, “I knew you were coming.”
Steve stares at her in shock.
They hand him a towel and he takes it gratefully, running it over his wet hair. Meredith makes him some tea and sits him down on the couch.
“You okay?” she asks concernedly. “You were just getting over a cold and you were out there in the rain on that bike?”
Steve blushes in shame, “About that-“
“He was never sick, dear,” Lucille says, sitting down next to her wife. She inclines her head towards the coffee table. “Drink your tea before you really get sick.” He takes it obediently with a sheepish smile.
“I’m sorry about that, ma’am.”
Lucille holds up a hand, “What’s there to be sorry for? You didn’t lie to me.”
“I know but…” But he felt as though he had to apologize for Tony. Clearly he hadn’t known Lucille was gifted. “You knew the whole time? About everything?”
“I did,” she admits. She sips her own tea, “I considered splitting you two up in punishment but he was so sincere. Asked me so many questions about our wedding and how we met. I felt certain you two were headed there soon.” She pauses, her face falling. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to listen in but sometimes, when your thoughts are so loud I just… I’m terribly sorry.”
Meredith looks from her to Steve in question and Steve sighs heavily. “Tony and I… we weren’t – we’re not a couple.” He covers his face. “Apparently I’m the only person that knew that.”
Meredith touches his hand, “I’m sorry but I don’t know what that means exactly.” At Steve’s questioning look she explains, “You were so… well, possessive isn’t quite the word I’m looking for but the few minutes we saw you with him, you didn’t let him out of your sight. You stayed by his side the entire time and I know the shirt he wore that morning wasn’t his own. Not unless he enjoys buying clothes two sizes too big.”
Steve stares at her in disbelief. She continues, “Maybe you weren’t together but, well, sweetheart, I thought it was clear he was yours.” It makes Steve’s stomach twist and he feels overly warm but she is so sincere, her brown eyes wide and honest, that Steve believes her.
Lucille chimes in, “He was such a nice boy. Fixed my radio when he found out Meredith broke it-“
“I did not. You set it on the edge of the counter and when I bumped into it, it fell. If you’d put it on the counter properly, it would’ve been safe.”
“If you watched where you were going, it would’ve been safe,” she supplies and Steve stares at them as they devolve into a small argument. There's no heat behind it, clearly they were just arguing for the fun of it and for a moment, Steve is reminded of the eight o’clock v seven o’clock debate and his chest aches. “Anyway,” Lucille says with a fond eye roll. “He was over the moon to be on this trip with you.”
There’s a knot in his throat as he asks, “He said that?”
“Didn’t have to,” she says. “I know a rich man when I see one. I love this house and I understand it’s not the prettiest bed and breakfast you could’ve stayed in but I’m proud of it. I know it’s nothing like the places Tony Stark would’ve stayed in before but he didn’t seem to notice the peeling wallpaper or the worn rugs in the hallway. He didn’t have eyes for any of it.”
Steve averts his eyes, unsure if the fluttering in his stomach is upset or fondness. Lucille laughs softly and adds, “When he told me you were ‘sick’, I assumed you two were going upstairs to do something a lot more fun than talking cherry picking with two septuagenarians.” Steve blushes, laughing along with her. He could understand how she’d gotten that idea.
Meredith stifles a yawn and Steve feels like a real heel. “I’m terribly sorry for bothering you two so late in the night.”
Meredith waves him off, “It’s no trouble at all. By the looks of things, you could use a good night’s sleep.” She stands, “Come along. You can sleep in your old room.”
He goes through his nightly routine, sleeping in only a pair of boxers as the rain soaked all of his clothes in his backpack. Lucille graciously lets him use their washing machine and he stays up long enough to run a cycle and dry his backpack.
Afterwards, he curls up on his side, more than enough space for himself without Tony here.
He doesn’t want it.
He passes the hotel with the aquariums. He smiles as he remembers Tony’s panicked eyes as he struggled to stay upright on the waterbed. Then he remembers the soft puffs of breath on his chest as Tony rested his head there and he speeds up.
He goes past their old haunts. The other hotel, the same rest stops, his stomach aches as he remembers the car chase and the car accident. He’d nearly lost Tony quite a few times on this trip. He’d tried to call it off, send Tony home but he’d refused. Tony never put himself above others, especially when it came to Steve.
Peter’s words come to mind, “How many times did we hear about some crazy stunt he pulled to save your life?”.
Steve remembers his rage at waking up in the hospital after the Red Skull’s nerve gas and finding Tony alongside him in a hospital bed. He remembers hearing Sam tell him about how Tony removed his helmet to give him mouth to mouth and sacrificing himself. He remembers waking up alone in the wreckage when Tony had been taken over and used to attack Captain America. He remembers crawling over to Tony’s still form, his heart in his throat.
He remembers every time Iron Man took a hit meant for him. Every time Tony put his life on the line to save Steve pain. Every time he woke up beside Tony in a hospital room, his hand on Tony’s over the hospital issue blankets. He remembers everything and yet he knows there’s so much he’d never heard about. So many things Tony had kept from him in the interest of protecting him, of protecting the naïve part of him that still believed in people.
Tony made mistakes. Tony had lied to him. Tony drove him crazier than anyone else ever had. Steve had fought against him; he’d fought alongside him. Tony knew him better than anyone else ever had.
And Steve had thought he knew Tony better than anyone else but in the years they’d known each other, Tony continued to surprise him.
Steve goes by the diner and grabs a booth in the back by the windows. It's a nice day out, sunny with a gentle breeze. He pulls his jacket off and sets it on the seat next to him, sipping his coffee. He looks over at the family at Wade’s usual booth and smiles. He remembers Tony’s teasing smile as he watched Steve eat two burgers in record time, the fondness in his eyes.
How did you not know?
He sighs, averting his eyes to the shredded napkins in front of him and taps his fingers on the table. Maybe coming here had been a mistake.
There’s the sound of creaking leather as a flash of red hair sits down in front of him. “Sweetie, what are you doin’?” Betsy asks. Steve looks up her in confusion as she shakes her head in disappointment. She crosses her legs and massages her calves with a sigh. “You’re here alone. That can only mean one thing: you let that beautiful man slip through your fingers.”
“We weren’t – we aren’t a couple.”
She frowns, “So you just hate redheads?”
She smiles, “I’ve been around some attack dogs and none were quite as cute as you.” Steve blushes as she continues, “You were looking at me like I was invading your territory and all I did was a bit of flirtin’. If you two weren’t dating, you should be,” she says. Then she blushes, “Oh… he turn you down?”
Steve glances up at her through his lashes. “Why do you ask that?”
“He said he was taken. I figured he meant you but maybe… well, you’d know better than me.”
Steve laughs, catching her attention. “I really wouldn’t.” She looks to him in confusion and he finds himself telling her everything. Every last detail from the way he and Tony had left things to the voicemail he’d left at the start of it.
At the end of it, it’s the end of Betsy’s shift and she’d ordered herself a milkshake. “So?” Steve asks and she frowns, her brow furrowed adorably.
“It’s a bit of a mess, babe,” she says plainly. Steve nods with a wince, nibbling on the fries he’d ordered them. She grabs one and dips it in her shake, her eyes alit as she points at him. “You know, in all that, the one thing you never told me?”
“You told me you were blindsided, that you were enjoying your time with Blue Eyes again but, you never said you turned him down.”
“He left,” Steve says. “He kissed me and he walked away.”
“Well, you didn’t give him a reason to stay, sweetie,” she says. “You were shocked and I guess I can understand. You were friends for a really long time and then this happens and it takes some getting used to. I get that.” A pause, “But did you want to turn him down? If he’d stayed and heard you out? What would you have said?”
When Tony arrives back at the Tower Friday night, he’s exhausted.
It had been a long day and he just wanted to come home and lie down and commiserate. Pepper had asked because she's Pepper and apparently she could hear his brooding over the phone. He hadn’t told her the truth but she’d discerned it. She sent Rhodey over with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s and Tony cut his workday short for the first time in months and just binged on Cherry Garcia with his best friend. It had been nice but part of him just wanted to be alone and lick his wounds in private.
When he gets to his floor, he finds a suitcase at his door. He freezes, looking around for some sign as to how his missing suitcase had found its way home. He walks through to the living room where there's a screen playing A Fistful of Dollars and another playing Goldfinger. There’s a note on the TV in Steve’s handwriting that reads, “It was eight” with the number underlined. Tony smiles despite the pounding in his chest.
He goes through to the kitchen, passing the hall table covered in a mountain of candy. On the counter sits a boxed Apple Pie and a card with a lipstick mark on it. He goes through to the bedroom.
The bedside lamp is on and Steve sits on the bed, looking up nervously when the door opens. He looks tired and Tony feels that familiar sympathy return. He steps forward and Steve brightens considerably, even as he smiles hesitantly. “Hi,” he greets.
“Hi,” Tony replies quietly.
Steve opens and closes his mouth a few times before saying, “I was going to go symbolic and wear the shirt you borrowed but you still have it so…” he trails off, giving a weak laugh. “I, uh… I had a great trip,” he offers with a wry grin. “Lots of quiet and lots of time to think about things. I spent a lot of time thinking about you.”
Tony moves in closer, setting his bag down on the floor as Steve goes on, his eyes clear and focused. “I’ve done life with Iron Man. I’ve done life with Iron Man and Tony Stark. I’ve done life without you,” his voice cracks. “I don’t want to do that anymore.”
He doesn’t know what his face must be giving away but Tony moves in closer with a concerned look. “Steve, you’re not going to lose me. You’ll never lose me.”
“Please let me finish. All the way before you say anything. Okay?” he asks and Tony nods. “You said you always need me, well I need you, too.” He takes a deep breath, “You’re my rudder. Without you… I can make do but I lose the part of me that remembers what it’s like to be a person. You gave me a home. You gave me a place to belong. Everything that I am, everything I made myself into… I know with every fiber of my being that I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.
“You brought me back, Tony. I was here but I wasn’t really a part of the world until you became my friend. Those nights with you when we just talked for hours about everything and nothing at all… those were some of the happiest times of my life. I keep trying to get back there. I keep trying to bottle lightning and get that feeling back but I can’t because you’re not there. You’re not by my side helping me steer through the storm. I need you,” he feels his eyes warm and sucks in a deep breath.
“You asked me why nothing worked out with Bernie or Miranda or Sharon. Some of it was timing and the others… I was waiting. I was waiting for it to feel natural and - and easy. I think that’s the way it has to be.” He takes in a deep breath and adds, “For some people.”
He holds Tony’s gaze, his eyes firm and fierce as though he's going to war. “Things between us have never been easy. We started out based on a lie and I knew you only as Iron Man and that hurt. You've lied to me several times over the years and hid things from me. Some for reasons I understand and some for reasons I can’t but I forgave you. I forgive you. Things between us will probably never be easy.” Tony averts his eyes, hugging himself.
“I told you, I’ve been your teammate and then your friend…” he reaches out and takes Tony’s wrist, pulling him closer. He gazes up at Tony, his voice low but sure. “This past week, I was yours and it was the happiest I’d been in years.” Tony’s eyes widen and Steve hurries to continue, “I thought I was getting our friendship back on track and maybe it started out that way but, the way you looked at me, the way you spoke to me… I didn’t know it at the time but you’d made me yours and I didn’t know what to do with the attention. I coveted it.”
He swallows, “I don’t have the time you have. I don’t have the years of understanding this. Not like you do. So, if it’s okay with you, if you can make do with me being one step behind you, could you maybe be mine again for a little while longer?” he asks and Tony’s breath hitches.
Steve’s heart pounds as he gazes up at Tony, his eyes open and honest. He hides nothing as Tony stares down at him in disbelief. Steve waits, taking in the way Tony’s eyes widen, soften and then the corner of his mouth turns up. He moves in closer, reaching out slowly, telegraphing everything. He takes hold of Steve’s face as he asks, “A little while longer?”
Steve swallows, “As long as you’ll have me.”
Tony stifles a laugh and Steve can’t resist wrapping his arms around Tony’s waist. “That could last a long a time, soldier,” he murmurs. He leans in, his warmth seeping into Steve as his eyes fall closed and he softly presses their lips together. Steve sighs, welcoming him in, his arms around Tony’s waist. Tony smiles, pulling back to whisper, “We’ve lasted this long and I haven’t grown tired of you yet.”
Steve reaches up, tracing the soft smile on Tony’s face. He breathes Tony in, enveloped in his scent once more as he finally closes the space between them.