Shades of Gold, Red, White, & Blue
Celebrating 10 Years of Super-Husbands Steve Rogers & Tony Stark
By: Vikram Shetty, for Gay Times Magazine
The meeting place for this interview changes four times in the week leading up to the scheduled date. The first email comes from Mr. Stark’s personal assistant, who sends me the address of a stylish dive bar on the Upper West Side and asks if I’ll be available around happy hour. The second email comes from Captain Rogers — not his team, not his agent, but Captain Rogers himself, writing from his personal Gmail address, which has a pretty flagrant typo in the handle.
(He’ll later tell me he just never got around to setting up a new one, but having met him, I suspect he keeps it that way more out of cheek than convenience.)
Captain Rogers suggests we meet at a cutesy pet-friendly café in midtown. Mr. Stark counters with a raunchy nightclub in the village. What follows is a three-day cease in communication altogether, presumably as further negotiations occur outside the public eye, and, finally, thirty-six hours before the agreed-upon time, I’m asked to meet them for a picnic at the Brooklyn Bridge Park. I’m also asked if I have any food allergies or dog allergies, as Captain Rogers will be making lunch and bringing the family greyhound, Ruby. The attached photo they send nearly makes me squeal in the middle of a staff meeting.
I’m more than a little nervous when the day arrives. Despite public interest and dependency on their respective well-beings, the Stark-Rogers household is notoriously private regarding their personal affairs. They never released wedding photos, they’ve never flaunted their wealth at flash events like the met gala, and they keep it largely professional in Avengers-related press appearances, or as professional as someone working alongside Tony Stark can possibly be.
I discover the true difficulty of this circumstance within twenty minutes of meeting Mr. Stark. In that time, he manages to: evade all of my professional questions, find an excuse to touch my hair, make me blush like a schoolboy, and compliment me on how I smell.
“Like masala and flowers,” he says, mouth tipped in a crooked grin. “You should have your own fragrance. Seriously. I’ll have my people call your people.”
He winks, then, and even if I didn’t currently have 6 of his 7 GQ posters hung up in my childhood room, it’d be impossible not to find him devastatingly handsome. He wears an impeccable three-piece and his signature sunglasses, clean-cut and sharp, yet still playful and charming in that way only Tony Stark can be. Thankfully, his husband shows up just when I’m on the verge of waxing poetic about the glint of sunlight against his newly silver-speckled hair.
There are some things in the world that make every enormously crappy thing that’s happened in Steve Rogers’ life pretty damn worth it. When he gets back to the tower after a three-hour briefing on a mission gone wrong, he’s greeted with three of them in quick succession: 1) his dog, Ruby, shoving her wet nose into his palm and running in excited circles around his feet, 2) a loaf of Sam Wilson’s Award Winning Zucchini bread, and 3) the presence of one Tony Stark, sprawled across their bed and staring really hard at a pile of paperwork. Knowing Tony, he’s probably not actually planning to complete any of it, and is actually triple-checking that he can’t magically read and sign everything telepathically.
He’s propped up against the headboard in that red silk robe he sometimes wears — the one that ends high on his thighs and generally impedes Steve’s higher brain functions. And there’s something unassumingly dirty about the way he’s positioned; his legs are parted just enough to be suggestive, and the belt to the robe is knotted so loosely around his waist that miles of his muscled chest are on display.
But perhaps the most striking detail of all is the fact that his hair is more silver than brown; still gorgeously thick and soft, just in a shade that compliments the smile lines on his face, the somewhat sterner set to his expression.
Tony looks up from his book, Gucci glasses slipping down his nose.
“Are you going to come in or are you just going to stand in the doorway all night?”
Steve, still trying to find words, any words really, just blinks. Tony’s mouth twists into an adorable little frown.
“I mean, don’t get me wrong,” he continues, sitting up a little straighter. The movement jostles the robe, somehow revealing yet another tantalizing centimeter of tanned thigh, and Steve’s attempts to be intelligible come to a screeching halt. “I love the idea of having a non-electronic butler, but at the moment I’m far more interested in talking to my husband. Hello? Husband? Are you in there?”
Steve is dimly aware that Tony is still talking, but these days he finds he really only has to listen to about 54% of whatever Tony is saying. He generally likes listening to all of it, but today there are more pressing matters, matters which begin with brusquely making his way across the room, taking hold of his husband’s ankles, and tugging him unceremoniously to the center of the bed.
“Jesus,” Tony makes a small noise of surprise, though his hand immediately comes to rest at the nape of Steve’s neck. “Not even a hello first? What has gotten into you?”
“Ten years of marriage, and now you need a little romancing?” Steve says, slipping his hand beneath the robe to cup Tony’s hip. “Going soft on me, Stark?”
Tony scowls in a way that is painfully cute, especially with his glasses sitting crooked on his nose. “No. I guess if you want to wordlessly ravish me like the underdeveloped caveman you sometimes become, that would be fine.” Tony spreads his legs to accommodate Steve’s presence between them, hitching them up around Steve’s waist. “It’ll be a great burden, obviously, but luckily you married a deeply benevolent man.”
Tony says things like that sarcastically, like somehow they couldn’t be farther from the truth. The strange irony in the practice really only makes Steve want to ravish him all that more thoroughly.
So that’s exactly what he does. The next couple hours are lost to sighs and heat and the feeling of Tony tangling his fingers in Steve’s hair, pressing fast-fading bruises along his hips, making an absolute mess of the surrounding paperwork in a way Steve will muster up the energy to feel guilty about later. Afterward, when they’re lying on the sheets, still panting, still wrapped up in each other, Tony starts talking again.
“That was really good,” he sighs, voice a sleepy mumble against Steve’s chest. He’s still sprawled out on top of him, their legs slotted together like puzzle pieces. “So good. Go team.”
“Go team,” Steve agrees, idly running his hand through Tony’s hair. It’s as soft as he thought it would be, thick strands slipping through his fingers with glossy ease.
“Seriously, sweetheart,” Tony props himself up on Steve’s chest with what appears to be enormous effort. He looks down at Steve with those perfect dark eyes. “What brought this on? Bad day at work?”
“Not particularly, no, you just looked very handsome.”
Tony rolls his eyes a little, features settling into that half-pleased, half-oh god I married a gigantic dork expression.
“I’m serious,” Steve insists, trailing his hand lightly down the dip of Tony’s spine. “I think it’s— did you change your hair?”
“Oh, well. Kind of. My colorist is out of town and I sort of dropped the ball on asking the new PA to set up a replacement appointment.” Tony fluffs his own hair a little anxiously. “So I suppose I look... older.”
“You color your hair?” Steve frowns. How could he have not known that?
“Yeah, why? Is there some ethical problem with the hair-dye manufacturing process?” Tony asks, in a tone of voice that implies he doesn’t want to make time for Steve’s exhaustingly rigid moral compass, but he probably will anyway.
“No, it’s just—“ Steve pauses, struggles to say exactly what he means. Some things never get easier, even after a lifetime with the man who loves him. “I just think the gray is kind of sexy.”
Tony’s mouth twitches into a smile. “Oh, come on. That can’t possibly be real.”
“Steve. You’re very sweet for trying to assuage some of the pain of aging, but, honestly, I’m a big boy. I can handle it.”
Steve makes a derisive noise in the back of his throat and takes hold of Tony’s chin. Tony blinks at him. “Listen to me. You can color your hair if you really want to and if it makes you feel confident. I’ll find you beautiful either way. But in my genuine, honest opinion,” Steve pauses, brushes a couple of silver strands away from Tony’s forehead, “you look nice like this. And if my entering this room and promptly dropping to my knees at the edge of the bed wasn’t enough to prove that to you, then, frankly, we should revisit this whole ‘genius’ designation you’ve been given. May no longer be applicable.”
“Huh,” Tony’s eyes go all soft, and he rests his thumb on Steve’s lower lip. “You know, you talk real good, Rogers. Especially for a blonde.”
“My husband knows a good colorist, so maybe he can set me up later.”
Tony snorts and settles back against Steve’s chest, eyes immediately starting to drift closed. Steve stares down at the crown of his head, breathes in the scent of Tony’s shampoo, and wonders how in the world he got so lucky.
Rogers cuts a heart-clenchingly domestic figure in gray sweats and a Stark Industries t-shirt, cradling a picnic basket in one arm and holding his dog’s lead in the other. He offers me a polite, cursory smile before leaning down to kiss his husband in greeting.
“Hello, my darling,” Stark says, squeezing the back of Rogers’ neck briefly. He then turns to their dog, who is snuffing around his knees curiously. “Hello, my other darling.”
Rogers apologizes profusely for being late and proceeds to unload a truly alarming amount of food from his picnic basket. I count, in total, six sandwiches, three different types of smoothies, half a loaf banana bread, and at least a dozen cookies. He looks a little sheepish when it’s all laid out onto the blanket, but is quickly distracted by his husband, who is making a very offended noise off to his right.
“A kale and chickpea sandwich?”
“I don’t want to hear it, Tony.”
“A kale and chickpea sandwich?”
“Be grateful I brought you anything at all,” Rogers pats his husband’s knee, then turns to me and says it’s a very sensitive time of year for them. Apparently, during their nine-year wedding anniversary, Stark had been under the impression that an appropriate gift was a striptease from one of the LA Dodgers in the middle of a party with eighty of their closest friends. I’m scanning Rogers’ face for any actual resentment regarding the incident — lingering tension between them, the kind we’d all expect given their hugely opposing personalities — but he’s more playful than anything else, and he keeps a hand on Stark through the whole anecdote, thumb moving assuredly along the inside of his wrist.
“You like baseball!” Stark defends, face split into a perfect grin. For all his earlier flirting, he’s staring at Rogers with completely undivided attention, as if there’s something fascinating about the way he’s utterly failing to artfully arrange a tin of homemade sugar cookies on a plastic plate.
I ask if they have any plans for the big ten-year celebration. Rogers tells me, with complete certainty, that all they have arranged is a quiet night in.
“You want to leave.”
Steve’s daydreaming so hard that it takes more than a couple seconds for Tony’s proposition to register. By the time he’s properly formed an answer, his husband is already leaning in for a kiss and tugging Steve forward by the front of his suit jacket. Steve keeps it as chaste as he can manage with the warmth of Tony’s palm splayed against his rib cage, though his self-control has waned over the course of the largely monotonous evening. New Year’s parties hosted by the board were always a special kind of torture, and Steve would usually prefer a couple rounds of bullets with HYDRA to a couple rounds small talk with the ancient chairman.
“You didn’t answer me,” Tony accuses.
“Because you already know what I’m going to say.”
“Steve Rogers, the great communicator.”
Steve wrinkles his nose. “Are you putting me in league with Ronald Reagan ‘cause you’re mad at me or ‘cause you’re trying out some kind of reverse psychology seduction strategy?”
“Well, sue me for trying to keep our bedroom interesting.”
“I just might,” Steve says mildly, palm settling on the small of Tony’s back. “I got a real fancy legal team these days, you know.”
Tony rolls his eyes. “Uh-huh. Barnes in a courtroom wearing a suit and holding a rifle is not permissible representation.”
Steve grins, ‘cause he really can’t put together anything to say to that. Tony’s so quick and so clever that he sometimes catches Steve right off guard, even in the wryest of moods.
“You want to go home,” Tony says again, but this time his voice is soft, open, clearly coming from a position of absolute willingness give in to Steve’s somewhat agoraphobic impulses.
Steve hesitates. “I’m okay. I’m gonna call Clint— check in on Ruby.”
“You’ve checked in on Ruby ten times.”
“I know, but—“
“She’s having a grand old time in the suburbs with the minimal fireworks and the squishy children. Stop fretting.”
“I’m not fretting.”
“You’re absolutely fretting,” Tony smiles crookedly, rubbing Steve’s bicep soothingly. Steve does his level best not to melt under the touch. “And now you’re scowling! Adorable. Come on, let’s go home.”
Steve consults the watch strapped around his wrist, a ridiculously precise and ridiculously Swiss anniversary present from the man standing next to him. “It’s 10 PM.”
“We can’t go home at 10 PM on New Year’s.”
Tony looks amused, but tilts his head back in mild consideration.
“Fine, then,” he says, curling his fingers around Steve’s wrist. “We won’t go home.”
They gather their coats and leave without saying goodbye to anybody. It’s a little irreverent, and Steve would feel guilty about it on any other evening, but he figures they’ve both saved the universe enough times to be entitled to a measure of rudeness now and again. Tony has the car take them to a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint that’s covered in neon signage and woefully lacking in customers of any kind. Steve and Tony appear to have the place to themselves, though Tony whispers that he thinks the ancient, hunched over old man in the corner might not actually work there.
“But he’s not eating pizza. And he’s wearing a uniform,” Steve whispers, looking back at Tony with skeptical eyes.
“Brooklyn is weird,” Tony says sagely, taking a generous bite of cheesy bread.
They order way too much food, but Steve cleans it up pretty well and they resolve to live on the leftovers for all of the weekend.
“Isn’t this kind of a letdown?” Steve asks, taking a long pull of water in an attempt to appear casual. “You know, spending New Year's Eve like this when we’ve been so... social in the past.”
Tony gives him a funny look. “Is that really what you think? That this is somehow disappointing, for me?”
“You love the parties. People at the parties love you.”
“Well, that’s not their fault, baby. I’m really lovable.”
“Tony,” Steve says, caught between laughing and trying to sound stern. “Seriously. This was a good break, but we can still make it back in time for midnight if you want.”
Tony pauses, wipes his greasy hands on some already greasy napkins, and sits back in his chair, staring pointedly at Steve. “You really are stupid, you know that?”
“Shouldn’t sweet talk in public, it makes the other customers uncomfortable.”
Tony glances around the empty restaurant and appears to be fighting a smile as he leans forward to take hold of Steve’s hand. “Listen to me,” he says, eyes wide and intense enough to make Steve sit up a little straighter in his seat. “I would go anywhere with you. I could be at the playboy mansion on superhero night with several scantily clad models clinging to my armor, and I’d still rather be— I don’t know, what’s the most boring thing we do? Grocery shopping? I’d still rather be grocery shopping with you.”
Steve can’t look at Tony for a second, and he lamely takes another sip of water to avoid saying anything even as his grip on Tony’s hand tightens considerably.
When he finally does open his mouth to speak, he really means to say something serious, to say thank you, but what comes out instead is—
“So I outrank Heff, huh?”
Tony doesn’t miss a beat. “You should be honored,” he says, laughter dancing at the edge of his voice. “I mean, the man is a legend.”
“I’ll tell Pepper to write up a press release in the morning.”
“Shut up,” Tony shakes his head, those perfect, heart twisting smile lines creasing around his eyes. “God, you’re stupid. I love you, Steve Rogers.”
Steve picks up the only clean napkin left on the table and wipes away a little tomato sauce at the corner of Tony’s mouth. He feels buoyant. He feels like anything in the world could happen to them right now, and it wouldn’t matter as long as Tony kept smiling like that.
“I love you, too, Tony Stark.”
They miss midnight entirely, caught up in some petty argument about the merits of pineapple on pizza. When Tony realizes it’s the New Year, he launches himself across the table and kisses Steve so enthusiastically that it makes the old man in the corner of the restaurant finally leave. Steve can only place his hands on either side of Tony’s face and hold on for dear life. They look ridiculous and Steve definitely saw the flash of someone’s camera in the storefront window, but none of that really matters because— well— start as you mean to go on, right?
Steve has a feeling this is going to be a very good year.
“Setting all the silly stuff aside for a moment, I think, maybe—I think anniversaries with Tony have a special kind of meaning, for me. Before I met him and the rest of the Avengers I was in a bad sort of way. Getting to know them, finding a family again... falling in love…” He punctuates this final revelation with a quick, almost shy glance at his husband. “In the ice, it was—you know, years and years and years of nothing. It’s not like I remember it, exactly, but I kind of feel it, in my heart and in my body, if that makes any sense.”
I find myself at a loss for words. And I can't really describe the way Stark is looking at him as he talks. Every gaze they exchange makes me feel like I’m intruding on something private and intimate, but at this moment, the notion is especially salient.
“The people who came into my life, who filled it with warmth and joy… I wouldn’t have met any of them without Tony. And they’ve made the passage of time mean something again, I suppose.”
There’s a pause, and the moment stretches long between the three of us.
“Am I talking too much?” Rogers mutters, smoothing his hands along his sweatpants. Stark places a hand in the crook of his elbow. “I feel like I’m talking too much.”
The Last Will and Testament of Anthony Edward Stark
The label is printed in neat black letters. The sight sparks a disorienting mix of emotions at the center of Steve’s chest, and he's—off balance, somehow. Like this thin, unassuming file folder has somehow come to life and dispensed a physical blow.
He's vaguely cognizant that, lingering at the edge of the sudden black hole in his chest, is annoyance at the fact he’s been begging Tony to order a fancy label-maker for the house and it turns out he already has one , and has been concealing it from Steve through the cover of his office. The second is surprise, a sort of passing, wondering thought at how loosely he relates the name Anthony with his husband Tony.
The annoyance is surmountable. The fear— the fear is paralyzing; he can’t even turn past the cover page, he can't even breathe, really.
“Honey. What have I told you about going through my things?”
Looking up at Tony is a Herculean effort, but Steve manages it anyway. He’s standing in the doorway of the study in his pajamas, glasses slipping down his nose, a kind of gentleness in his voice and eyes that belies his teasing words.
Steve is furious. Furious like he used to get before the serum – furious at some unknowable, unreachable thing, furious at the sudden immovability of the situation. He tamps it down the best he can, but it’s unreasonably hard not to give into the urge to throw something, especially when the paperweight Elon Musk gave Tony for Christmas is right there .
“I need you to say something.” Tony pushes off the doorframe, slowly makes his way around the desk and comes to crouch at Steve’s feet. Steve grips for his hand a little brashly. “I need you to tell me where you’re at with this.”
“I don’t know.”
“That’s alright. You’ve never thought about it before?”
“A little, I guess.” Steve tries desperately not to squeeze Tony’s fingers tighter, feels a shaky breath rattle in his chest. “I never let myself think for too long. This just feels more—“
“Real?” Tony suggests, mouth curving in a sad, knowing smile.
“Why didn’t you tell me you’d started writing it?”
“Because there never felt like a good time.” Tony places his hands on Steve’s knees, sturdy, reassuring. “Because I didn’t really want to think about leaving you alone either.”
“You have years. Decades, even.”
“You’re right, I do.”
Tony doesn’t say it, but Steve hears it in the silence between them anyways: but I am going to die eventually. And I don’t know how to prepare either of us for that reality.
Steve reaches out, ghosts the tips of his fingers over the crow’s feet at the corners of Tony’s eyes, then presses down with a firmer touch. It dimly registers that he knows this man completely. He will never know anyone else like this, for however long he lives.
“You have to try,” Steve says, suddenly, voice sounding small and childish to his own ears. Something stubborn sets his jaw.
Tony gets his meaning instantly and his expression starts to crumple, grip tightening on Steve in a way that’s meant to be reassuring. “Baby, I don’t know if—“
“You’re a futurist, right?” Steve asks, and he tugs Tony closer, so his chest is pressed up right against Steve’s chins. Tony keeps looking at him, lovely dark eyes swirling with sadness and interest in equal measure. “I know what that means now, because you’ve spent at least a hundred breakfasts explaining it to me.” Tony chokes out a wet laugh. “You don’t just predict what’s to come. You shape it. You decide it. So I need you to do that, here, for our lives."
Steve pauses, glances briefly at the open folder on the desk next to them. Panic flares in his chest, quick and overwhelming, like ice water rising through his lungs. He looks back at his husband. “Because, this, Tony, I don’t—I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if this is what I signed up for. I need you to try to fix it, okay? For me, for your husband, you have to try.”
Tony doesn’t hesitate. He rises up off his knees and draws Steve close by his neck, gathering him against the warmth of his body. Steve presses his face into the silky fabric of Tony’s pajamas, wraps his arms around Tony’s lower back, and holds tight.
Somewhere above him, Tony is saying ‘okay, Steve. Okay. I’ll try.’
At many different intervals, I try my best to ask about the secret to long term commitment. Stark’s responses include (but are not limited to): frequent ass-grabbing, a strong WiFi signal, chicken wings, and the occasional discussion about converting to supervillainy.
Rogers only answers once, arm slung loosely around his husband’s waist, gaze fixed on his temple.
“Patience,” he says, and squeezes Stark’s hip.
It’s far from unusual for Steve to walk into his apartment and find Peter Parker pacing in his living room, but most days his expression is slightly less anguished and he isn’t wearing a Tom Ford suit that looks a size and a half too big for him.
Tony doesn’t seem all too concerned with the situation. He’s seated on a squishy armchair in the corner of the room and currently eating ice cream straight out of the tub with what looks like a fork. He seems far more intent on getting the ice cream to stay on the fork than actually paying attention to whatever crisis Peter’s currently in the middle of. Ruby is spread out at his feet and looking up at him with judgmental eyes.
“Hey, Pete,” Steve says mildly, crossing through the living room and studiously staying out of Peter’s warpath. “Hey, you,” Steve comes up alongside the armchair and leans down to kiss Tony in greeting, but Tony only tolerates it for a second and a half before returning to his ice cream. Go figure. “Thought we said no eating outside the kitchen.”
Tony holds up his fork meaningfully. “We need to do dishes.”
“And you need to stop eating like a college student,” Steve carefully extracts the ice cream from Tony’s grip, one eyebrow raising at the absolutely decimated contents of the carton. “Is this all you’ve had for dinner?”
Tony scowls and makes a vague gesture towards Peter. “It’s for him. He’s having a romantic meltdown.”
“And yet you seem to be the only one eating it.”
“Well, I’m having a romantic meltdown, too. My husband’s an asshole who won’t let me eat an entire carton of ice cream in peace.”
“Very unfortunate,” Steve nods in faux-sympathy, ruffling Tony’s hair. He glances at Peter, whose pacing seems to have picked up in speed. Steve wonders if he should intervene, or just scoop Tony up in his arms and head upstairs. Peter could have this floor, really. Wasn’t like they used the kitchen anyway.
“Peter,” Tony says abruptly, slapping the rest of the armchair with his open palm. Peter looks up from where he’s wringing his hands, wide, twitchy eyes momentarily focusing on Tony. “Explain to Steve what’s going on before he sprains something trying to figure it out.”
Peter blinks several times, then looks back down at his hands and starts pacing again. His voice is somewhat rough and shaky when, thirty seconds later, he finally says, “I proposed to MJ.”
Steve makes a truly terrible face on instinct, but Tony quickly elbows him in the side and Steve tries to arrange his features into something much more neutral. From the way Tony keeps prodding his leg, it doesn’t really seem to be working.
“Oh,” Steve says, and runs a hand through his hair. He sits down on the floor next to Ruby and she dutifully crawls into his lap, relying her not insubstantial weight on his thighs. He scratches her behind the ears and looks back up at Peter. “And what did she say?”
Peter abruptly stops pacing and stands at the center of the room, hands pressed over his mouth.
“He left,” Tony says. He has somehow, without getting up or moving substantially, found a bag of potato chips. Steve looks at him, equally fascinated and annoyed. “He left before she could say anything.”
“Ah. So he left and he came—“
“Here. To our house. ‘Cause his Aunt would kick his ass, his best friend would kick his ass, and we have better snacks.”
“I see,” Steve says, still thoughtfully rubbing the ears of the dog in his lap. “And, sorry, sweetheart, I’m a little slow tonight, why are we not kicking his ass?”
“Because when I proposed to you for the first time, you snorted at me and didn’t even realize it was happening, so this is a no judgment zone.”
Steve guesses that’s fair.
He still stealthily calls Aunt May, using Ruby and Tony’s single-minded focus on potato chips for cover. He leaves Peter and Tony alone and takes Ruby for a walk around the block, and when he comes back they’re seated at the table, talking about something in low, heated voices. Steve watches from the doorway as Tony claps a hand on Peter’s shoulder, gives it a firm, reassuring squeeze. Peter returns the look with a watery smile.
The moment is broken up by the arrival of Aunt May. Peter doesn’t even pretend to be upset about that she’s there, just launches himself into her arms and whimpers a little as she pats his back consolingly. Steve sends them home with the rest of the ice cream and the potato chips, but by the time he’s returned to the kitchen Tony is somewhat violently going through the contents of the freezer. Ruby is attempting to stick her very long nose into the opening.
“You’re both killing me,” Steve sighs, stepping around the island and rubbing at his eyes. He wraps one arm around his husband’s waist and loops the other around his dog, semi-successfully dragging them both out of the kitchen.
Tony makes a vague grumbling noise, which Steve elects to ignore.
“You are a middle-aged man,” Steve sighs, brushing a quick kiss against Tony’s head before releasing him into the living room. “The cardiologist said—“
Tony blows a very loud raspberry to cut Steve off, and promptly stumbles over to the couch. Ruby hops up next to him and rests her head on his thigh.
Steve puts his hands on his hips and wonders if, for once in his life, he should pick his battles.
“What’d you say to Peter?”
Tony makes a vague ‘hmm?’ noise, which just means he’s being evasive.
“What’d you say to Peter?” Steve repeats, sitting down on the couch, too. Ruby curls up against his leg. “You gave him advice. It got him to finally calm down a little.”
“I told him I have a private jet on standby and a fake passport with his name on it.”
“No,” Steve shakes his head, reaching over to slide his fingers into Tony’s hair. Tony leans into the touch, seemingly on instinct. “No, I think you told him something very sweet and romantic.”
“Did I?” Tony asks, head lolling to the side to look at Steve. Steve touches the smile lines around his mouth and eyes. He has a spot of dried chocolate ice cream on his face and he is so beautiful that it still makes yearning twist in the center of Steve's chest.
“You did,” Steve decides. “And I know you’ll tell me what it was eventually, so it’s fine if you want to pretend otherwise now. I can wait.”
“Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out.”
Steve pulls Tony up against him, gently massaging his lower back and pressing a quick kiss to the square of his jaw. Ruby moves around until she’s somehow draped across both of them, and knocks every pillow off the couch in the process.
“I do alright for myself,” Steve smiles, laughing a little when Tony sticks his tongue out in response.
When it comes to this particular couple, it’s hard to pick one controversy to drill them on. There’s about twenty different elephants in the room, and we’re all crammed in there together, and their dog starts whimpering if I stop petting her, and my interviewees keep flirting like they met ten days ago rather than ten years ago.
“You’re both from completely different worlds,” I start, proceeding with the approximate grace of a bull in a china shop, “but you’re clearly so in love. How do you—I don’t know, reconcile or close that distance? How did you build such a long-lasting relationship out of it?”
“That’s a lovely question,” Rogers says, sincerity animating that painfully earnest all-American face.
“Is it?” Stark counters, “Like, how am I supposed to answer that without sounding like a really crappy Hallmark card?”
Rogers elbows his husband in the stomach.
They both ponder for a couple seconds, and I chew anxiously on my cheese and pickle sandwich, wondering if I’ve just alienated two of the most powerful people this century has to offer.
“Okay,” Stark begins, leaning forward and bracing his forearms on his knees, “it’s like this—when the Avengers first came together in– fuck, baby, what year was that? 2012? After group missions, I’d come back into the jet and take off the suit. And the jets they’re—not really built for comfort. So I’d be cold a lot of the time, right? SHIELD had these blankets but they were scratchy and terrible and they felt like burlap. I’d complain about them every single time we went out.”
Stark pauses and looks at his husband with the most absurdly intense moony eyes I have ever seen. I swear, even the dog is thinking god. Get a room. He takes his Rogers' hand, and Rogers returns his smile, seemingly equally enthralled.
“So after one or two missions of me whining—Steve packed my favorite fleece, from home, in his go-bag. And the next time I complained about the blankets, he just whipped it out and wrapped it around my shoulders. I was never cold a day after. It seems like such a small thing, but that’s really what being with him is like. All the time. He pays such close, careful attention to me, and he just… becomes what I need. He’s exactly what I need.”
Rogers doesn’t say anything, just moves his thumb along the back of his husband’s palm. Stark finally looks back at me, and shrugs a little. It’s a ‘you know how it is’ kind of shrug, as if he thinks any of the rest of us have a shot in hell at a love like that.
“So, fuck everything, else, right? We can get past all of it. Because being without him just… you know, it’s not an option. Not for me, at least.”
“He totally would’ve slept with us.”
“Tony, that is not a very respectful thing to say.”
“I’m sorry, have you seen this article?” Tony waves about the advance copy of the magazine as if Steve has never seen it, as if his husband has not been nonstop reading excerpts from it all through breakfast. “Obviously it’s not like we would’ve done it or asked for it or anything, I just think that if we had …”
Steve pauses, thoughtfully stirring his oatmeal. “He was very handsome.”
“That’s all I’m saying!”
“Be quiet and drink your smoothie.”
“Stop oppressing me,” Tony grumbles, eyeing the green concoction in front of him with no small amount of distaste. Steve personally thinks he’s being a bit of a baby about it. He tried the kale. It wasn’t that bad.
“You know if you finish that, there just might be a prize at the bottom.”
Tony gives him a wry look. “I’ve seen all your prizes, Steve Rogers. They’re no longer impressive to me.”
Steve pinches his thigh under the table and Tony squirms a little, laughing and batting his hand away. He nearly knocks over his smoothie in the process, but Steve doesn’t presently have the brain power to wonder if that was really an accident.
He’s about to say something enticing about a Twinkie when he notices his husband is staring very intently at his forehead.
Tony blinks a couple times. “Lean closer.”
“Come on, Steve, you took direction remarkably well a mere six hours ago. I have the very vivid memories to back it up. Lean closer.”
Steve rolls his eyes but leans across the breakfast table anyways, patiently allows Tony to rifle through the hair at his forehead. There is, however, a sharp, sudden pain that makes Steve break into a light frown, drawing away from his husband just slightly.
“Was that supposed to be revenge?” Steve asks, reaching up to rub the now slightly sore spot on his scalp. “For the smoothie?”
But Tony’s not even listening to him. Tony’s grinning like an idiot. Steve is starting to think he might actually be having some sort of allergic reaction to vegetables – how would they know, it’s not like he’s ever had them before.
“Steve,” Tony says, capturing Steve’s wrist in an impatient grip. His eyes are bright and laughing and he’s grinning that grin Steve loves, the one that makes him look just a little bit crazy. “Steve, look.”
The strand of hair pinched between Tony’s fingers is white.
Steve is smiling, too, now, and hopefulness breaks across his skin in an uneven flush. He stares at the hair, which is simultaneously the simplest thing in the world and entirely impossible altogether.
He looks back at Tony, who, funnily enough, represents the same kind of thing.
“Well,” Tony starts, voice brimming with laughter as he takes Steve’s hand, tugs it forward to press a kiss to his knuckles. “I told you I’d fix it.”