Steve watched the exchange between Tony and Strange as he attempted to catch his breath. He had no idea what Strange had meant when he finger-gesture ‘one’ to Tony with a saddened face but Steve trusted his gut instinct and he found himself running.
It broke him when his brain caught up with what it truly meant, it was Tony Stark’s turn to make the sacrifice play. Hadn’t he done that enough? Steve thought bitterly as he watched Tony pay off one final surprise in the most Tony way and somehow made the infinity stones mount his gauntlett. Steve didn’t understand the tech behind it, but it didn’t stop his gasp of wonder,tony never failed to blow his mind. From figuring out actual time travel to pulling off tricks like this. Steve had caught up to him now but Tony had his eyes on the Mad Titan.
“And.” breath in. “I am.” breath out, Tony’s breath was shaky, he didn’t want to go and Steve wasn’t about to let him.
All the pain and anguish they’ve been through Steve knew deep down that they had more life to live.
“STOP.” Steve screamed.
He couldn’t stand there and watch the man he loved give up his life single handedly for the entire universe. Call him old fashioned, but if Strange was right, and there was only one way to finish this, Steve would have to give his life up before Tony could even think about giving his.
Tony turned around, bewildered but a little relieved, so obvious he wasn’t ready to go.
“I’m sorry Steve but i have to do this.”
“You don’t have to do anything.” Steve was close enough to place a hand on Tony’s shoulder. It was clear now what truly had to happen. There was no way in saving Tony, there was no way in which Steve could give his own life. They had to lose, together.
“I promised you, that no matter what we’d do this together. I’m not about to let you down, not again.” he looked Tony in eye full of that Captain America stubborn determination.
“No Steve, this is my dut-” Tony tried to argue but Steve was done arguing, they had done enough of that for a lifetime. Besides, it was now or never and the clock was ticking, they couldn’t risk losing to Thanos again.
“Shut up Tony.” and the fight left him as they embraced, Steve’s hug giving Tony the strength to make the final snap.
They continued to hold each other, equally taking in the power of each stones. Sharing the pain. It hurt like nothing you could ever imagine, yet gifted you so much power. Steve couldn’t tell if it was from the stones or having Tony in his arms again that made him feel this invincible. He knew they were dying but he was glad he could take some of the blow. His one wish would have been to have Natasha here to witness, he’d of love to tell her they won.
They couldn’t stand now, collapsing in on eachother, the gauntlet falling to their feet as their embrace simply reduced to hand holding because it was the only energy they could muster. He felt as though he should say something, it was a bit late to exchange i love yous, besides the others were rushing over to them now.
First to reach them was, Peter and Pepper, who looked at Tony with so much pride. They spoke softly to him, Pepper kissing his cheek, whispering a small,
“Will that be all Mr. Stark?” as she made room for Peter to hug him, she then turned to Steve and smiled sadly,
“Look after him Captain.”
Next to arrive was Thor, Rhodey and Clint. Rhodey looked at Tony and Steve's intertwined hands and steve’s super-hearing picked up on how his breath hitched,
“I wish you got more time.”
Steve nor Tony could give a response, wishing desperately to tell their friends that in the end at least they found each other. To Steve’s amusement Clint was angry at them,
“What kind of Romeo Juliet bullshit is this?” but they understood he cared really. Thor remained silent taking clint into a hug, his large tears hitting the ground like rain in a bad storm.
Steve grunted in pain as he mustered his last bit of energy to turn to Tony and he watched the light dim on the reactor. Despite the situation, there was a real peaceful and more importantly happy smile on Tony’s face.Happy that they had won and at peace going out around his most cherished loved ones. Steve could finally allow himself to let go, and so he did.
Steve had hardened over the years but faith is something he kept believing in. Even if he went through hot and cold patches, especially after finding out about Bucky, and the civil war. He was pleasantly surprised to find himself waking up. He didn't hurt, it was almost like he had been asleep for a really long time on one of Tony’s ridiculously expensive but soothingly soft mattress’.
His eyes shot open. He found himself clearly in a place beyond the realm of the living. His inner artist itching to draw this beautiful place. It was full of rich vibrant colours, that had a calming effect to you. He never had felt so peaceful, tension that had been in his shoulders since the depression bled out and he was free from being Captain America. He savoured this boneless feeling for a moment or too when his stomach swooped in disbelief when he heard it.
The sound of bickering, murmuring and friendly laughing of two familiar voices.
Was that who he thought it was?
Steve’s heart beat increased when he remembered the circumstances that led him to the afterlife, if this is what you can call it. His heart jumped into his throat when he realised who was talking and he felt nothing but pure glee when he turned around to see them.
Tony and Natasha. Looking as alive and ever and so at peace, he let out a soft gasp that caught their attention.
“Finally awake Captain?” Tony smirked tone full of teasing amusement yet eyes so full of the same glee.
“Took you long enough.” Natasha grinned, and Steve found himself mirroring her expression of utter joy. He had Tony and he had Natasha, it wasn’t his whole family but it was enough for now at least the others where living.
He ran up and embraced them both into his large arms. Cheering gleefully,
“Natasha, We won!” He got his wish after all.
They pulled away from each other, Steve and Tony staying closer than usual, yet still not addressing their feeling’s causing Natasha to roll her eyes.
“You two are officially banned from this pining bullshit in the after life, i already died once don’t make me do it again!” she joked, but left the two boys alone to have the long awaited talk.
It was Tony who turned to Steve this time.
“I’m still so mad at you, Steve. For lying, for the war, for all the year we wasted when i could have had my hands on that ass of yours.” He laughed openly when Steve rolled his eyes, yet turned his tone into a more serious one as he looked Steve in the eyes and spoke softly, mirroring steve’s early stubborn-determination.
“But i forgive you and i’ll always forgive you.”
They embraced again, Steve whispering a thank you into Tony’s neck. A few moments going by when they let eachother go.
“You didn’t have to die with me.” Tony spoke softly into the open air, tone full of sombre.
“But i did.” Steve said simply.
Tony shook his head, putting both hands on Steve's face,
“You Shouldn’t have Steve! You could have took the stones back, used the Pym particles to visit Peggy! Have that dance.” he rambled on, but Steve shook his head, leaning down so their lips where nearly connecting.
“Tony Stark, when will you learn that, you gave me a home and a world without you in it, isn’t one i could see myself living in. i love you.”
They found themselves intertwined in a loving embrace, kissing as though it was their last and putting so much of their love into it.
Natasha’s wolf whistling could be heard in the distance and when they pulled apart Tony, finally finding solace in life looked up at Steve and said,
“I love you too.”