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Write your letters in the sand

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The first night they slept together, Tony was expecting to wake up alone. He had met the blond hunk of a man in a bar the night before and it had been pretty obvious that they’d both just been after a little bit of drunken companionship. So when he did, stretched out in his big bed on his own with a delicious ache between his thighs and the sunlight streaming in through the tiny gap in the heavy curtains, it wasn’t really a shock.

What was a surprise was the folded letter left on his pillow next to his head.  That he really hadn’t been expecting, not in the slightest. He reached for it, curling back into his pillow as he opened it, a wide yawn cracking his jaw.

Upon reading it, Tony realised that it was an apology note, which was just crazy. Tony didn’t even know where the man had found a pen and a clearly non-scrap piece of paper from in his house. But clearly he had, writing a short note and leaving it next to Tony’s head like a proper gent.

Tony,

I’m sorry I have to leave. I forgot I had promised to meet my brother for brunch. He always gets pissy if I’m late – we don’t get to see each other much. I didn’t want to run out on you, I swear. I’m sorry. I’m leaving my number – I really hope you use it, I had a lot of fun with you.

Steve.

Tony couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face at that. How old fashioned of him.



He had gotten a lot of letters since then. There had been something about that first one that had made Tony take Steve up on his offer and use his number. Of course, the memories of their shared night and Steve’s amazing body had helped influence that decision, but that letter had really been something special. Not many of Tony’s partners had ever bothered to make contact after they’d gotten what they wanted and Tony had never felt that warmth bloom in his chest before. He hadn’t even waited the socially-accepted three days before he had picked up his phone and sent off a text, hoping that it really was Steve’s number and not just a long-winded practical joke.

 

It had been the real deal and one thing had led to another very quickly. After their first date, Tony had been left another short note:

Tony,

I had a lot of fun last night. Thank you again for dinner, though it’s definitely my treat next time.

See you tomorrow?

Steve :)



There was one after the next night they spent together:

Tony,

You were even better than I remembered. I wasn’t sure that was possible; I’d sort of convinced myself that I had made up just how amazing in bed you are. Glad to know that isn’t the case.

Steve xxxx

Tony had laughed when he had picked that one up and read it, the sounds of Steve singing in his shower making the perfect accompaniment.

 



Steve had even written a little note for Tony at work one day. It had been a Monday morning, dark and dreary with the threat of a thunderstorm, and Tony had hated the thought of being anywhere but his bed. He had pouted and moaned all morning about having to go into the office until Steve had kissed him sweetly and promised to meet him for lunch. Tony had played his face in the car all the way to work and dragged his feet walking in, knowing that the pile of paperwork on his desk would haven be touching the ceiling. Even the thought of Steve’s bright smile at lunch hadn’t helped to improve his mood.

However, his day had brightened immeasurably when his assistant had handed him a bouquet of lilies and a folded up note.

Sweetheart,

Saw these and couldn’t resist the thought of sending them to brighten up your morning. I really hope they work.

Can’t wait to see you next week and celebrate our anniversary. Five months with you seems like a dream.

Yours,

Steve x


//


“Hey.”

Steve looked up when Tony finally arrived at the restaurant and his face broke into a wide smile. “Hi.”

“Bet you thought I wasn’t coming, didn’t you?”

Steve shook his head, ever the gentleman. “Of course not.”

It was said with such conviction that Tony felt something warm bloom in his chest. “Well,” he said, a little thrown, “good. I was just running a little late.”

Steve gestured for Tony to sit down and reached for the bottle of wine on the table to pour Tony a glass. He handed it over once Tony was settled, their fingers brushing softly. “How was your day?”

“Ugh,” Tony said as he took a sip of his drink, lifting his glass in a small salute. “Busy. How was yours?”

That didn’t get an answer and Tony’s brow furrowed. “Steve?”

Steve sighed and dropped his gaze down to his plate, reaching out to fiddle with the edge of the cloth napkin in front of him. “I got a call today.”

Tony waited patiently as Steve took a moment to collect himself. “I’m being called up.”

“What?”

The horror that Tony suddenly felt was audible in his tone and Steve sighed. “I know. My troop is being called back into active service. We’ve been out for a few years, but, I don’t know too much at the moment. Just that we’ve been called up. It’s pretty, well, it’s… it’s bad, Tony.”

Tony swallowed, running his fingers up and down the stem of his wine glass for something to do. “Well. That’s... yeah. When?”

“Two weeks.”

“Wow.” That was bad. Tony worried his bottom lip between his teeth for a moment, trying not to let his panic show on his face, before he spoke again. “Where are you going?”

Steve looked up and held Tony’s apprehensive gaze. “I don’t know yet. I’d tell you if I did, I swear. I don’t know how long I’ll be there or how–”

“Hey, don’t.” Tony smiled, though a little sadly, and reached out across the table. Steve met him in the middle immediately and tangled their fingers together. “I’m going to miss you. So much.”

“I was, um, well – I thought you maybe... I mean only if you want, I...”

Tony laughed kindly, lowly, and squeezed Steve’s fingers. “Just ask what you want, Steve.”

Steve took a deep breath and stared deep into Tony’s eyes. “I wondered if you would write to me when I go.”

Though his words left his mouth in a jumble, Tony heard them clearly. His smile stayed on his face as he slid his fingers up to circle Steve’s wrist.

“Sure, Captain, I’d love to.”

//

 

Tony hated writing. He really hated it. He hated everything about it, from the lack of ability to make mistakes to having to use a pen and paper. It was so awkward, as well, to hold a one-sided conversation and then not to be able to see the recipient’s reaction.

He felt like such an idiot, sitting down on the couch with a pad he’d stolen from Rhodey and a pen he’d dug out of his junk drawer in the kitchen.

How was he meant to start? How much was Steve going to want to hear about? Any anecdotes that Tony had were never going to come across in the same way once they’d been written down and any strong emotions that Tony had would have left him by the time his letter had travelled to where the hell Steve was and he’d be feeling something else. They’d take so long to get there that Tony would have forgotten what he’d even said by the time that Steve’s reply came through.

It was a nightmare and Tony couldn’t think of a single good reason for why he should write to Steve.

 

 

Except that it was Steve.

And letter writing was the only way to communicate with the man that Tony was dangerously close to falling in love with.

 

//

 

 

“What if we don’t have anything to talk about?”

There was a long paused followed by a loud groan. “Tony, it’s 3am.”

Whoops. Tony checked his watch and winced. “Okay, that’s on me. Were you asleep?”

Another groan, this time accompanied by the rustled of bedsheets. “Yes, Tony. I was. Like people usually are at 3am.”

“Again, that’s on me. But I need your help.”

No,” Rhodey’s whine was muffled and Tony tapped his foot impatiently.

“Come on, Rhodes. Please, please, please.”

Okay, okay. I’m up, I’m here,” Rhodey muttered, always one to give into Tony. “What do you want?”

Tony sighed in relief. “What if we have nothing to talk about?”

There was another pause.

You rang me?” Rhodey said in confusion, accusation colouring his tone. “And you’re saying you have nothing to talk about?”

“What? No, you idiot, not you and me. Me and Steve. I get to call him tomorrow. Well, today, I guess by now. It’s our first video call since he’s gone. What if I can’t think of anything to say?”

Tony, I–

“I mean it,” Tony barrelled on, fingers rubbing over his lips nervously. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen him. What if it’s all different? What if he and I were never compatible at all and that just becomes apparent when we actually get to see each other? Letter writing is a different ballgame to having an actually conversation. I don’t know if I can do this, Rhodey. I really don’t.”

Hey, hey, calm down. My brain isn’t awake enough for this level of panic.” Tony listened to a soft click of a light-switch and a small groan. “Things are going to be fine, Tones. You know they are. This is Steve, right? Your Steve. As soon as you see him, it will all come flooding back.

Tony gave a tiny smile at that and his shoulders relaxed ever so slightly. “Right. My Steve.”

Exactly.” Rhodey yawned and his next words came out jumbled. “It’s all going to be okay, isn’t it? Tony? Tony, are you there?”

The only answer was a soft bump as Tony’s phone slid from his sleepy grasp and fell to the floor.

“Goodnight, Tones. Good luck.”

 

//



“Christ, you look good.”

The words were out of Tony’s mouth before he really registered anything else. Steve let out a startled laugh, a delicious blush staining his tanned cheeks.

Well, thank you, sweetheart. You look beautiful yourself.”

“No, I mean it.” The words were there now, Tony might as well lean into it. “I haven’t seen you like this before.”

Steve looked down at himself for a second before he lifted his gaze back to the laptop screen. “No, I don’t think you have.”

“I could get used to it.” Tony smiled and leant back in his chair, focusing on the joy at seeing Steve again and not the pain at being so far away from him. “All tanned and in uniform. Just how I like my men.”

Steve’s laugh was louder than Tony had ever heard it and it warmed his heart. It hadn’t even been that funny, which either meant that Steve was desperate for conversation or he just liked to laugh at Tony. Either way, it was a wonderful sound and Tony’s cheeks started to hurt with the strength of his grin.

Though Steve’s face was grainy in the small picture, that was his smile alright. “I miss you,” he said and Tony’s expression dropped a little.

“I miss you too. How are you? Or is that a stupid question?”

Steve’s smile softened and he shook his head. “Of course it isn’t. We’re okay; we’re all doing fine.”

Tony wanted to say more, but he bit his tongue and stayed quiet. If Steve said he was fine, then he was fine. Who was Tony to contradict that?

“Good,” was what he said instead. His eyes raked over Steve’s face, unconsciously looking for anything that was different since Tony had last gotten to look at him. “So, how’s the food?”

Steve burst out laughing again, his head thrown back as his chuckles echoed around his tent. Tony would have been embarrassed at his blurted and insensitive question, but if it made Steve laugh like that, Tony would ask again and again.

The food could be better,” Steve admitted, his eyes twinkling and his teeth on full show, “but I’m surviving. And the thought of a proper meal back home is keeping me going.”

“Oh yeah?” Tony took a sip of his coffee and licked his lips. He was starting to relax a little more, nerves leaving him now that he and Steve had settled back into their usual banter. “What would you have?”

A takeaway pizza.”

“What?” Tony cried indignantly, offended on a lot of levels. “Of all the cuisines, all the restaurants in our city alone, never mind the state, not even the country, Steve, and you’d go for a takeaway pizza! Why?”

Because I can’t eat at a restaurant in bed with you.”

That shut Tony up, his mouth snapping shut as his cheeks flushed darkly. God, but Steve had an effect on him that no other had ever achieved. “Oh. Well. In that case, that’s a good reason. Takeaway it is.”

They lapsed into silence for a moment where they just smiled softly, drinking in the sight of the other eagerly. The clocks in both of their backgrounds ticked ominously, mockingly, reminding them of their short time left with each other.

“How long?”

Steve sighed and Tony felt something twist inside of him. Damn him for ruining such a wonderful moment with his big mouth.

Not long,” Steve promised. “Our tour should end in three or four months, and then we’ll head back to base. I can’t promise a date.”

Tony shook his head and dropped his chin onto his hand. “I know. It was stupid of me to ask.”

No, it wasn’t. I wish I could tell you. I wish I could say ‘tomorrow’ and be on the first flight out.”

Tony smiled even as he felt like crying. “I wish you could too, but it’s okay. I have your letters. And you’re getting mine, yes?”

Steve’s smile made Tony’s heart thump in his chest. It was so fond, his eyes so imploring and his face completely free of frowning wrinkles. “Yes. The war isn’t so bad when you have a letter to look forward to.”


//

 

“Wow.”

Tony turned at Rhodey’s voice.

“What?”

Rhodey pointed to the middle shelf on the bookcase that was stuffed full of envelopes. “That is a lot fuller than when I was here last.”

Tony’s cheeks coloured a little and he nodded sheepishly. “Yeah.” He cleared his throat and walked over to join Rhodey, his eyes firmly on the shelf. “We’ve been sending more and more. They take about five weeks to get there from here and even longer from him to me, so we started writing more and more. We write almost every day now. Even if they aren’t going to get there for months, we write anyway.”

When Rhodey didn’t answer, Tony looked over to him. Rhodey was staring back at Tony, his smile so wide and so happy that Tony had to look away.

“What?” he mumbled when he still felt Rhodey’s eyes on the side of his head.

“Nothing,” Rhodey shrugged innocently and finally turned away, though his smile could be heard in his voice.

Tony crossed his arms over his chest defensively. “He’s nice.”

“I didn’t say anything,” Rhodey replied with a smile.

“I like him.”

“Good for you. I’m happy for you, Tones.”

Tony sighed deeply and dropped down onto the couch behind him, rubbing his hand over his face. He didn’t know why he suddenly felt like spilling his guts, but that’s where he was. “I really like him, Rhodey. Like, really like him.”

Rhodey smiled as he sat down next to Tony. He lay a hand on Tony’s arm reassuringly and squeezed lightly. “That’s a good thing, Tones. You’re meant to like the guy you’ve been dating for a year.”

“He hasn’t even been here for that year, though,” Tony cut in, his eyes wandering back over to the bulging bookshelf. There were so many letters; Tony needed to clear out a second shelf. “Most of, well, nearly our entire relationship has been through letters, not face to face conversations. The only time I see him is when he’s allowed to video call – but that’s pretty rare. And grainy, inaudible, and watched closely at that. I don’t even know where he is half the time. Is that actually called dating?”

“It’s okay to be scared, Tony. That’s normal in relationships. Encouraged, actually.”

Tony scoffed. “No, what’s normal is to be scared that you’re going to mess up or that someone else will turn their head. I don’t think it’s normal to be scared that your boyfriend will die before you can kiss him again, or that he could be lying in some desert and you’d never know. It’s not even normal to worry that when you finally get together in person it will be awkward as hell. I just – ugh, I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“You’ve got this,” Rhodey said, ever calm and not giving into Tony’s panic. “When he’s here, you’ll see that everything will be exactly like it was before he went.”

“Yeah? You think I can do this?”

“Of course you can, you idiot. It’s Steve.”

“Right.” Tony sniffed and looked over at Rhodey with a lopsided smile. “Drink?”

 

//

 

A month. It had been one whole month. Tony was doing his level best to keep calm and not allow himself to freak out and think the worst, but with each letter-less day it was getting harder and harder. The rational side of his brain told him that Steve was probably busy. People in the military often were, after all. He probably didn’t have the time to sit down and write letters to Tony, that was all it was.

Steve was probably out on a mission. A harmless, information-gathering mission, of course. Or he was back at base, scribbling away in reply to all of Tony’s letters that had just been held somewhere and then all arrived at once.

Steve was fine. Tony knew that.

Only he didn’t actually know that, though, did he? For all he knew, Steve could be dead. Long dead, at that. And how would Tony ever know? Because in the eyes of the law, he was nothing. They hadn’t been together that long before Steve had gone, not officially anyway. Half of Steve’s team probably didn’t know they were together, so who would ever tell him that Steve wasn’t coming home?

How would Tony ever know?

 

//

 

“You could send them, you know.”

Tony swallowed his mouthful of chicken before he viciously stabbed another piece with his chopstick. He didn’t need to look up from his Thai to know what Rhodey was talking about.

“They’d be there for him when he gets back to base. Give him something to do when he makes it back.”

“Or they’ll be thrown away because they don’t have a–,” Tony cut himself off and shoved another large mouth of food into his face, glaring down at the takeaway pot as though it had offended him.

Rhodey sighed as he took his own bite, a much smaller one. “You don’t know he’s gone, Tones. You’d have heard by now.”

“From who? How? Tell me how, Rhodes, please tell me. Because I’m going out of my fucking mind.”

“I know. I know you are.” The compassion in Rhodey’s tone was almost too much for Tony to bear. At least it wasn’t pity, because Tony really might have lost it. “But they’d have told you. Someone would know who Steve wrote to – they’d have to.” Rhodey took a deep breath and looked over to Tony. “Just like they did when it was me.”

Tony shuddered and threw down his takeaway container. He had been doing so well at keeping himself together and that memory out of his head. It was quite frankly the last thing he needed and it pushed him very near to the edge of freaking out. He didn’t want to think about the time he’d nearly lost Rhodey, because that was dangerously close to admitting that he could lose Steve now as well.

“I can’t,” Tony swallowed harshly and twisted his fingers together, skin going white as he bent them. “Rhodes, I can’t. I did it once and I can’t. I can’t get that call again. I just can’t.

“I know.” Rhodey set down his own food and shuffled closer, his hand going to rest on Tony’s back. “And you won’t have to. Send the letters, Tones. He’ll love them. When he gets back to base, he’ll love them.”

Tony sniffed and reached for his food again, grabbing a piece of chicken with his fingers and biting it in half, offering the other piece up to his friend. “Of course he would. I’m a fucking comic.”

“That you are.” Rhodey laughed ever so slightly. “So send them to him.”

 

//

 

There were a lot of letters stacked up. For all that Tony hated the form of communication, he’d managed to write a lot in the month since he’d last heard from Steve. He had gotten into the habit of writing and sending a letter every couple of days. Though it was hard to keep track of questions and conversations as they often arrived out of order, it meant that they each received a letter every four or five days.

It kept Tony going, made the time apart seem easier. Whenever they had the rare chance to video call, they caught each other up on which order the letters should have been in or go over gaping holes missed in conversations.

He couldn’t send these ones, though. Even without getting answers, Tony had stuck to his routine of writing letters every few days. He’d ended up with a pile of over twenty letters now. He dreaded to think what half of them said; too many of them had been written when Tony had been half-asleep or far too emotional, but now all of his thoughts were transcribed on a page in black and white.

He could throw them all away. It would be so easy to just bin them and never have his deepest thoughts seen again, but Tony couldn’t bring himself to do that.

Those letters were Steve’s. Every single one of them, just like the feelings behind them and the heart of their author, belonged to Steve. Whether or not Steve would ever return to read them, they were his.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

/////

 

 

 

The doorbell ringing at twenty to one in the morning never meant anything good. In fact, it usually meant something terrible. That thought settled itself in Tony’s stomach as he padded to the door. He was resigned to it by now.

Someone was coming to tell him something dreadful, whether Tony was ready to hear it or not.

However, what Tony was definitely not expecting when he opened the door was Steve. His Steve. A bruised version of Steve leaning heavily on a man that Tony dimly recognised from photos, but it was his Steve nonetheless.

There was a long beat of silence as Tony blinked in shock, eyes fixed on Steve’s face. He didn’t dare to believe what he could see in front of him.

That was until Steve’s face split into a soft smile.

“Hey, sweetheart,” he said in a hoarse voice, “I’m home.”

 

//

 

Steve,

It’s been seven months since I’ve seen you. It’s been, I don’t even know, about seven weeks since I heard from you, I guess.

I miss you. I really fucking do. It’s stupid, but I wish you were here. Selfishly, I hope you wish you were here too. Does that make sense? I think I’m losing my mind here. I haven’t slept in a while.

Fuck, but I hope you’re safe, Steve. Even if this silence is just that you’ve grown tired of our writing, tired of me. Please tell me you’re okay, that all of you are okay. I know you can’t tell me where you are or what you’re doing, but please send me something.

 I’ve never felt this way before. It’s unnerving and if you were here I’d smack you for doing this to me.

Come home, Steve. Please. Just come home. You need to be safe. We were going to do so much. You’ve survived so much already; I know you have. Some of your letters have given me nightmares, so I know what you’ve survived. You have to come home. You just do. You don’t get a choice, okay?

Because I – fuck it. I love you. I really, really fucking love you. I want you to read this and roll your eyes like you pretend you never do. I want you to moan about my bad language and then swear just as much back at me when we talk on the phone.

I love you, Steve, and I really hope you’re safe.

Yours,

Tony.

 

//

 

 

“I see you found them, then.”

Steve startled and Tony couldn’t help his small smile. As he entered the living room and dropped down onto the floor next to Steve, he stifled a yawn behind his hand.

“Sorry,” Steve rushed out. “I hadn’t meant to snoop, but I saw my name on the top of the pile and then on another and… you wrote me all of these?”

Tony nodded, an arm curling around one bent knee as he leant back against the couch leg. “Yeah. Thought about sending them, but I wasn’t sure where they’d end up. I didn’t want anyone else to read them.”

Steve shuddered next to him and Tony closed his eyes when an arm curled around his shoulders.

“I’m sorry.”

“For leaving me alone in bed?” Tony sniffed and leant further into Steve’s side. “You should be.”

There was a wet chuckle before Tony felt a kiss dropped to his head.

“Of course. But for the rest of it, as well. I wanted you to know, wanted to tell you everything. I was writing to you when we got the command.”

“Don’t.” Tony turned his head enough to press his lips to Steve’s clothed shoulder. “You don’t have to.”

“I want to. I need to.”

Tony squeezed his eyes shut and willed himself to breathe. He had to be calm for Steve, but he really wasn’t sure he could listen to Steve’s story. Tony wasn’t naïve and he wasn’t under any illusions about what Steve had been doing, but seeing his boyfriend covered in bandages and bruises was telling enough. He didn’t want to have to hear about it first-hand.

That being said, it was so much worse for Steve and Tony had to be the bigger person, to put Steve’s needs in front of his own wants.  

“I knew we were going somewhere,” Steve said after a moment, his fingers tracing absent-minded patterns on Tony’s arm, “but none of us knew where exactly, or when. It started late in the evening. Everyone had gone off for the night, winding down. I was writing to you and I was just about to sign off with a warning that I would be heading off soon-ish when the call came. We had, I had to go immediately. Your letter, I just left it. I left it and I went.”

Tony lifted his hand to squeeze Steve’s knee, blindly mindful of his bad leg and bandages. “It’s okay, Steve, It’s all okay. You’re not there now. You’re here with me, here at home.”

Steve’s arm tightened even more around his shoulder, fingers biting in almost enough to hurt. Grounding, that’s what it was. A reminder for both of them. A promise.

“Must have been weeks. I can’t tell you,” not that Tony wanted to hear it anyway, “but it all began to blur. And then…” Steve broke off and Tony shut his eyes even tighter, knowing what was coming.

“Steve–”

“They knew. Maybe they’d always known, but they were suddenly there. An ambush, I guess. I don’t know. Don’t know how it happened or what happened, really. I went into autopilot mode. Fight for survival. I can’t remember much after that. It’s spotty, you know? Flashes of memories. Hospitals, faces. I remember helicopters and shouting, gunfire and pain. And then I was back on American soil.”

Steve took a breath and Tony pressed another kiss to soft, worn fabric. He breathed in deeply, loving that he was finally smelling Steve after so long. After everything, his scent hadn’t changed.

“Buck filled me in on most of what happened. Hospital-wise, that is. Surgeries and–”

“Oh, God, Steve.” Tony hadn’t really realised that he’d spoken until he felt a shaking hand at the back of his head and a soft kiss fall on his hair.

“I’m sorry. I never meant to abandon you.”

Tony huffed a weak laugh, but didn’t move away. “Only you could apologise for being hurt in the line of duty. I’m not mad, you idiot. I’m grateful. Relieved. Thankful. I’m not really sure what I am the moment, except tired and so fucking happy that I have you.”

“Me too, sweetheart. I missed you so much.” Without putting down the letter still in his hand, Steve wrapped his other arm around Tony, embracing him fully. “Whenever I let myself take a break, it was you that I imagined. Wondered what you’d be doing, whether or not you’d given up on me, written me off.”

Tony snorted into Steve’s armpit. “Pun intended?”

Steve joined his laughter, but when he spoke again his voice was choked. “I’m not leaving again, I promise. My contract is definitely finished this time. Especially since my stint in hospital, there’s no way they can call me back up. I’m home.” He exhaled shakily into Tony’s hair and Tony’s fingers clenched in anticipation. “If you’ll have me, then I’m home.”

“If I’ll–? You’re never going anywhere again; you hear me?” Tony finally moved his other arm, curling it around Steve’s waist. He let out a long breath as he felt his body relax again, more than ready to fall back to sleep.

 

 

 

Tony yawned as he drifted back awake. A quick squint through bleary eyes showed him that Steve was still methodically reading through each of his letters. Before he could ask how far through they were, Tony gave a wince; his bum had definitely fallen asleep after sitting on the hard floor for so long.

Despite the numbness of his legs and arse, Tony had no intention of moving ever again, stupidly content curled up against Steve. Watching Steve read the letters, keeping his eyes on Steve’s face instead of the words scrawled on the pages, was a great entertainment and Tony had never felt his heart so full before.

Sheets of paper littered the floor, but Steve had kept them all perfectly in order. He had been treating each one like a precious, historical artefact instead of the ramblings of a lonely man.

“Fuck,” Tony breathed when Steve laughed out loud at something Tony couldn’t remember writing, “but I missed you.”

“And I you,” Steve said before he let out a loud hiss and doubled over.

“Shit!” Tony wrenched himself away from Steve and stared down in horror. “Steve, what – are you okay? Steve?”

Steve’s face was still screwed up in pain but he reached for Tony’s wrist. “I’m okay, I’m okay. I just, oh ouch, I just–”

“Bed,” Tony cut in, a firmness to his tone that he rarely heard himself use. “You need to get into bed and I’ll bring you your meds. Come here, babe, take my arm. That’s it, that’s right. You’ve got it, Steve, you’re okay.”

When they were stood up, Steve leaning heaving on Tony for support, Steve lifted a hand – trying valiantly to hide another deep wince – and cupped Tony’s cheek.

“Thank you, sweetheart. You shouldn’t have to–”

“Shush,” Tony said, wrapping his arm more securely around Steve’s waist. “Now that you’re finally home, I’m going to glue you to my side.”

Steve pressed a kiss to Tony’s cheek. “Sounds perfect.”

 

 

 

 

///////

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tony groaned as he woke up slowly. He reached out automatically, frowning and opening his eyes when his arm fell flat onto the bed instead of onto Steve. Without getting up, Tony felt around to see how cold the empty space was to try and work out whether Steve had been gone for a while. Before he got his answer, his fingers made contact with a single sheet of paper and his brow furrowed even further.

A laugh bubbled up in Tony’s throat when he realised what it was and he propped himself up onto his pillow to focus on reading whatever it was that Steve had left him that morning.

The old sap hadn’t gotten over his love of note-writing, no matter how long he’d been back at home.

 

Morning, gorgeous,

I nearly didn’t get up this morning because you were so beautiful that it was physically painful to drag myself away.

You might wonder why I’m writing this note. It was just to tell you that these past few months have been the best of my life. I have never felt this way before and I know that I never want to be away from you again.

Now that I’m home, I am never leaving you, not for a single minute.

Other than getting up a little early to make you breakfast, of course.

So, when you wake up and see this, please come and join me downstairs. There’s an everything-bagel waiting for you and a ring.

Because, Tony Stark, I want to marry you. I want to be yours forever and never have to resort to letter writing ever again.

Be mine, my darling. Marry me?