Steve is there, at Pepper's funeral. Tony catches sight of him in the back, head turned down, long hair flopping down over his eyes. He sees Natasha talking to him, but Steve never comes any closer, never says a word to Tony.
The day after the funeral, after Rhodey has come and gone, after Natasha has come and gone, after Tony has forcibly sent Happy away, Tony looks out of the front window, Morgan snoozing in the crook of one arm, and sees a dark, heavily-tinted car in the driveway. He can just make out a familiar silhouette, gesturing as if he's talking to someone who isn't there, but the car door doesn't open, and an hour later, it drives away.
The third day that Steve parks in the driveway and doesn't come in, Tony pulls his shoes on. He wraps a blanket around the baby and slips through the front door and down the porch steps. When he gets closer, he can see Steve inside, arms folded over the steering wheel and head tucked down over his arms. Tony knocks on the glass.
Steve startles up so suddenly that he hits the horn and the noise sets Morgan off crying - so much for supersoldier reflexes, though he is out of the car in a heartbeat. "Shit, sorry, Tony. I'm so sorry - I didn't mean to -" He waves generically, and Tony isn't sure if he means wake the baby, be a hella creeper, or breakdown in your driveway, because his eyes are puffy and red-rimmed and Tony knows that look. He settles on the third.
"Whatever. Not the first time my driveway's been cried all over." Tony sets off towards the house. "You coming in, or what?"
Steve hesitates for an agonized moment then shuts the car door and follows Tony up to the porch. Once inside, Tony peels the blanket back from Morgan's face and rocks her gently until she slips off to sleep again.
"I'm so sorry about Pepper," Steve says, after a few minutes of semi-awkward silence.
Tony sniffs sharply, and his eyes flick to the pictures on the mantelpiece without his permission. He snaps them back to the baby. "Yeah, well. She always liked you," he says generously, but Steve laughs.
"No, she didn't."
"No." Tony smiles. It feels sore and rusty to twist his lips up like that. "No, she didn't. But she was grateful for you, if that makes sense."
"Sure." Steve leans against the living room doorway, eyes jumping around the space. "I mean, even if she hated me, I'm terribly sorry for your loss, Tony."
He sounds honest, of course he's honest, it's fucking Steve, and Tony nods. "Thanks. I can't believe -" He pauses, aware of how uncomfortable this all is, but it needs saying and he doesn't have anyone else to say it to, right now. "I can't believe after all we fucking went though that it was cancer that got her, you know? I always figured either I'd go first or I'd get her killed. Turns out she was dying even before Thanos came to Earth and we had no clue. Fuck."
Steve doesn't say anything, but radiates that even, steady, Captain America energy that never fails to calm Tony and rile him up at the same time. Tony wants to sit, but he wants something else more, so he walks over to where Steve is standing and places the baby in his arms. Steve's hands come up automatically to take her - and god she looks tiny next to his enormous biceps - but the look on his face is all panic. "Tony - what - ?"
"I need a shower," Tony explains, almost desperately. "I need ten minutes. Please?"
Steve swallows and nods, and Tony all but runs for the bathroom.
Steve looks down at the tiny bundle in his arms, painfully aware that this is the second time in two years that Tony has dropped his heart in Steve's hands and disappeared.
Her eyes are all Tony, huge and honey-brown and brimming with emotion. She's awake, but not fussing, the turtle-themed binky in her mouth vibrating at intense speeds as she contemplates the man holding her.
"I'm Steve," Steve says awkwardly. She doesn't reply. "Hi, Morgan."
She starts crying. The binky goes flying as she wails, incredibly loudly, and Steve freezes up, all panic. Tony asked for ten minutes, and he desperately wants to give him that, but he doesn't know what to do with a baby.
"Shh, sweetheart," he croons as softly as he can. "You're alright. Daddy will be back soon." He rocks her gently, and then, when that doesn't help, with a little more oomph. She doesn't stop crying, but the wails break to soft whimpers, and Steve starts doing laps around the house, bouncing her in his arms.
When Tony comes down twelve and a half minutes later, hair wet and skin steaming, Steve has her held up to the window, watching the birds flutter down to the feeder then fly away.
"Never thought of myself as a bird feeder person," Tony says, "but it fits the woodsy, lakeside aesthetic."
Steve hands the baby back, and Tony burrows into her for a moment, breathing in deeply. He doesn't meet Steve's eyes when he pulls back. He's wearing sweatpants and a thin cotton t-shirt, his sweater gone, and Steve can still see the pieces that his time on the Benetar carved away. He hasn't gained much of the weight back and the pockets and dips in his collarbone, the back of his shoulders, are painful and inescapable.
"I like what you have here," Steve tells him. "It's a beautiful home."
Tony's, "Thank you," is cold and wooden. Steve supposes he's worn out his lukewarm welcome.
"Goodbye, Tony." He wants to say if there's ever anything you need, but he's sure it won't be taken well, so he doesn't say anything, just turns and walks out, and Tony doesn't call him back.
It's two weeks before Steve shows up again and Tony's not waiting. He's not. Other people come and go, but Tony won't let them stay, even though they want to help. He knows he's on the edge of something, some lash out or breakdown, or something, and of all the people in his life right now, Steve's the only one he wouldn't mind seeing him like that. Not because he likes him or trusts him more, but because he feels no need to prove to Steve that he can do this. He's pretty sure Steve knows he can't, so if he fails, he won't be disappointing anyone that matters.
He can't fail in front of Rhodey. He can't fail in front of Natasha. He can't fail in front of Happy.
So he's not waiting for Steve, but it still feels like a breath of fresh air when he shows up, sliding up the drive in his sleek black car and looking like a bizarre cross between a 1945 Sears catalogue and a Gap commercial.
Steve holds the baby while Tony cleans, throwing a huge load of laundry in and debating just chucking his dishes and ordering new ones before giving in and getting the dishwasher started.
Steve talks to Morgan, babbles and asks questions and says, "oh, wow," when she blows bubbles back at him, and he's absolutely hopeless with her, holding her awkwardly and looking to Tony with panic every time she cries or hiccoughs or farts.
But it's almost better, because Tony has no idea what he's doing, but he still knows just a little bit more than Steve, and that's something.
Steve isn't sure he's going to go back. It feels too much like barging in on Tony's hospitality - not that Tony's ever been the one to keep it to himself if he's mad at Steve - and Steve's still not sure if he's crossing a line.
Then his phone rings.
It's his new phone, one Natasha got him after the snap, but of course Tony knows the number and when Steve answers, it's him.
"Hey, Steve. Look - weird question, but can you, like, lift a car?"
"What?" Steve rockets to his feet. "Are you okay? Was there a crash? Is Morgan okay?"
Tony is silent for a moment then he barks out a laugh. "Everything's fine, Cap. Morgan's fine. I just busted my jack and I ordered a replacement but it won't be here for a few weeks and one of my cars died and I was thinking I could get it towed, but I usually fix them myself, it's calming or something, and then I thought you could, you know. Get all superhero on it next time you come." Tony pauses for a long time. "If you're coming again."
Steve takes a steadying breath. "Of course, Tony. I mean I can't guarantee I can lift your car, but I can try. When I come next. If I'm welcome," he adds hastily.
Tony coughs. "Right, sure. Whatever. Just thought I'd - check."
"Is next weekend okay?"'
Steve swears he can hear Tony shrug through the phone. "Sure."
"I'll see you next weekend."
On Morgan's first birthday, Tony closes the blinds, locks the door, turns off his phone and hides in the dark with his baby, masking his tears with cheerful cartoon movies and her first bite of chocolate. It's wrong. It's all wrong. Pepper should be here, instead of him. She'd know what to do. She'd have a party and Morgan would probably have tiny baby friends - how did one year olds even make friends? - and there'd be balloons and wrapping paper and laughter.
But Tony can't make it happen.
The next morning, Steve's outside in the driveway in his damn car, and when Tony opens the door he's holding a box with shiny gold paper on it.
Tony keeps letting Steve come by whenever he can. It feels tentative and on-edge, but Steve can't stay away. And Morgan is so perfect, so precious, that Steve will endure as many awkward silences as it takes to get to spend time with her. She's the future, in a way that Steve's hard pressed to find elsewhere, and he loves that, needs it almost recklessly.
His relationship with Tony is confusing, at best. They don't talk about what Tony said when he came back down from space, and they don't talk about the picture Tony keeps in the kitchen, the Parker kid, and they don't talk about the battle they both lost.
Until they do.
"I talked to Natasha about the fight in Wakanda," Tony says out of nowhere one night, while Morgan's picking at cartoon-character shaped noodles and both men are a few glasses of wine in.
"Like six months ago. She told me what happened."
"So then I asked Rhodey and he told me the rest. I'd asked him not to tell me, I don't know why. I just wanted to run away and be here with Pepper and not care and not think about it. I was done."
"That's fair, Tony."
"Is it, though?" Tony stands and starts clearing the table, dumping everything in the sink with a clatter. He scoops Morgan up out of her high chair and kisses her on her nose, earning a giggle. He disappears into the living room, and Steve follows, curling up in an armchair while Tony and Morgan read their way through a stack of books. He should leave, it's getting late enough that Morgan will need to be put to bed soon and then he and Tony will have no buffer between them, but he can't seem to pull himself out of the soft, warm haze of the living room.
When Morgan's eyes start drooping, Tony picks her up. "Say goodnight to Uncle Steve," he says, and Steve's heart clenches painfully.
Morgan opens and closes her hand in his direction and Steve waves back. "Night, night, Morgan."
Not wanting to slip out without saying goodbye, Steve goes to the kitchen and starts cleaning up. He wipes down the table then starts on the dishes. He rinses off Morgan's panda plate in the sink then tucks it in the overspilling dish drainer. Realizing most of the dishes there are long dry, he starts tugging them out and putting them away. He's nearly done when Tony's feet creak on the stairs and soft footsteps come up behind him. He turns - and suddenly Tony is so, so close.
"Thanks," Tony breathes, then he melts into Steve's arms, pressing their mouths together in a hot, desperate, gasping kiss.
Steve stumbles backwards against the kitchen counter, wrapping his arms around Tony's waist to hold him close, not let him bounce away.
"I'm just -" Tony pulls back to say, barely a hairsbreadth between their lips "- I'm just lonely. That's all."
It's an excuse and a safety net and an explanation all rolled into one, and Steve needs all of those things too, so he nods and whispers, "Me too," and then they're tripping backwards towards the stairs. They tumble upstairs, Steve's supersoldier strength all that's keeping them from falling to the floor, and Tony backs him into the bedroom, stripping Steve's shirt off as they go.
"Jesus Christ," Tony whispers, as he runs his fingers over Steve's stomach and down to his chest.
Steve lets himself be shoved down onto the edge of the bed and Tony climbs up onto his lap, legs clamping to Steve's sides, and reclaims his mouth. Steve pulls Tony's shirt off too and tosses it aside. God, Tony looks so healthy now. There are scars, most noticeably the one on his torso where Thanos stabbed him, as well as the ports on his chest that the new suit housing attaches to. The one he tried to give to Steve. Steve put it in Tony's bag while he was unconscious at the compound, and when Pepper had taken him home, it had gone too. But Tony has his muscle tone back, a nice layer of soft fat over his stomach, and it's such a profound relief that he's no longer the skeleton he was a year ago.
Tony makes a frustrated little noise and pushes until Steve drops to his back and Tony folds over him, grinding their laps together. It's sloppy and heated and more than a little strange, but Steve craves the soft touch of Tony's fingers up his sides, the hot press of his lips. He's lit up, like a Christmas tree, for the first time in a long time.
A soft, terrified whimper leaks out of the baby monitor, and Tony stills. Steve's hands pause where they'd been petting up and down Tony's sides. The whimper comes again, louder now, and then breaks into a cry. "Daaa," her tiny voice wails, and Steve's heart clenches.
"Nightmares," Tony chokes out. "She gets - she has nightmares, pretty sure. Insomniac - takes after her old man."
Steve pushes himself up to his elbows which brings their faces close together again. "Go," he murmurs. "S'okay."
"Shit." Tony steps back off Steve's lap and digs around until he finds his shirt. He pulls it on then rubs a hand through his hair. The crying gets louder. "Sorry. Don't - uh. Don't go?"
Steve nods. "I'll be here."
Steve flops back on the bed when Tony disappears. He can hear Tony's footsteps down the hall and then his voice through the baby monitor. "Hey, hey, baby, what are you crying for? You're alright. Come here." A grunt and then the crying cuts off. "I can't sing but I'll tell you a story, alright? You close your eyes."
Tony starts to tell a rambling nonsensical story about a princess and a robot, and Steve closes his eyes too and lets the sound wash over him. It takes about ten minutes, but finally, he can't hear Morgan's troubled sniffles anymore, and a moment later, Tony's feet hit the hallway again.
Back in the bedroom, Tony shuts the door then collapses on his back on the bed next to Steve. Steve rolls his head to the side to look at him, but Tony's looking up at the ceiling. "I don't know how to do this," he admits quietly.
"You're doing great, Tony," Steve says, wanting to reach out and take Tony's hand, but he feels far away, now. Again.
Tony snorts. "I'm barely holding this shit together, Steve. And she's a toddler now, she doesn't get it, but someday she'll be a kid with a brain and words, and I -"
Steve does reach out now, winds their fingers together. "What can I do?"
"I honestly have no freakin idea," Tony admits. "I'm - god I'm so tired. I -" Tony suddenly seems to remember what they'd just been doing. "Fuck, I'm sorry. Didn't mean to cocktease, but I don't - I don't think -"
"It's okay. Honestly, it's fine. I'm not - I'm fine. I'm tired too, Tony." They lie there in silence for a long time.
"What do you want to do?" Tony asks, eventually, and Steve chuckles.
"Sleep. Let's sleep."
"It's only like eight-thirty." Steve can't see his face, but there's laughter in Tony's voice.
"And I'm like a hundred and two. Let's sleep."
"Okay." Tony laughs out loud this time. "Okay, fine."
They strip their clothes off and climb into bed in their boxers. Steve doesn't even ask if he should go to the guest room. Tony presses up close against his side, and Steve folds his arms behind his head and turns until Tony's hair tickles his lips. "Goodnight."
When Tony wakes up, he's alone, but he can hear Morgan screeching with laughter. He's disoriented for a moment, and then he realizes that Steve must have Morgan downstairs, but he took her end of the baby monitor with him so Tony would be able to hear them when he woke up. So Tony wouldn't find the crib empty and panic. The thought is enough to twist Tony's chest up, but then he hears another gurgle of laughter and Steve's soft voice. The monitor is turned all the way down - presumably so it wouldn't wake him - so Tony can't make out the words, but he knows the tone.
The clock tells him he's been sleeping for ten hours, and he feels all shaky and off-kilter. It's twice as much sleep as he's had since Pepper died. He finds Steve and Morgan downstairs, Steve airplaning a spoonful of oatmeal into her mouth while she laughs so hard it's just dribbling right out again. It hurts, because it's almost, but not quite right, and in that moment of flashing anguish, Tony hates Steve.
He doesn't join them until the feeling passes.
Steve drives upstate every Wednesday after his group session, spends a night at the compound with Nat, then drives further north until he reaches Tony. His thumbprint opens Tony's door lock. He's one of Morgan's emergency medical contacts at the pediatrician's office. And her fourth word is "teeb" after "Dada," "boat," and "doos," which Tony assures him means "juice."
On Monday mornings, he drives back into the city and stays at his apartment in Manhattan until his first group session on Monday afternoons.
Tony lives for Thursday nights.
He hates Monday mornings. He thought he'd never hate Monday mornings after he retired, but he hates them now.
Steve is sitting on the floor in the living room, stacking blocks with Morgan when she tips over backwards and smacks her head on the coffee table. Steve and Tony both jerk forward, but neither catches her in time and she bursts into tears. Steve scoops her up in his lap and rocks her back and forth, hushing softly, but her crying only gets louder. He's about to offer her to Tony instead, when Tony stands suddenly and takes a few choppy steps away from them.
"She wants her damn mother, Steve. There's nothing you can do. You can't - you can't replace her!"
Steve goes very, very still. Tony's outburst is so unexpected, it shocks Morgan into silence and she buries her damp face into Steve's shirt and sniffles. Tony looks horrified, and about ten seconds from a complete panic attack.
"Do you want me to go?" Steve asks, as steadily as he can. He's already planning how quickly Rhodey can be here. He's not leaving Tony alone like this.
"I -" Tony clears his throat and runs his fingers through his hair. "I need a minute. I - just - please?"
Steve stands and lifts Morgan up onto his hip. "We're going to go outside and take a walk by the lake, alright sweetie?" Morgan nods, thumb in her mouth, so Steve shoots Tony another careful look then slips outside.
Tony's at his desk, in his study, staring pointlessly at a book on grassland wildlife when Steve appears. Out of the corner of his eye, he watches him cross his arms and lean in the doorway. "Where's Morgan?" Tony asks. Whatever conversation they're about to have doesn't seem like one her tiny ears should be around for.
"Bed. She started crying again so I figured it was naptime."
Tony glances at the clock. It's close enough. "Thanks."
"I'm not trying to replace Pepper," Steve says quietly.
"I know," Tony grits out. "I'm sorry." He really is, but it's not something he can make unsaid.
Steve sighs. "I'm - I'm not trying to do anything."
"What does that mean?"
"I don't come here to try and comfort you, or to try and push myself into Morgan's life. I'm not trying to replace anyone, or repair our friendship, or even get almost-laid again."
Tony snorts. He can't help it.
"There's no mission, no goal. I'm here because I have nowhere else to go, Tony. I have nothing. I have group, and I have you, and I have Natasha. And by the grace of god, I have some tiny piece of Morgan too. I'm here because I need this - and if you think I'm here trying to add something to your life, push in where I'm not welcome? Well, maybe it's best for both of us, then, because all I'm being is selfish."
Tony sits for a long time, staring at his hands and thinking nothing but blank static. Then he rises up and pushes himself up against Steve's chest, tucking his head under Steve's chin and only breathes out when Steve's arms come up around his waist.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm grieving her wrong," Tony says into Steve's neck. "There's so much loss, with the snap, so much pain and loss, and I feel like it all gets wrapped up into that. But she deserves her own grief. I don't know how to separate those things."
"There's no wrong way to grieve, Tony." Tony swears he feels a kiss on the top of his head. "You're doing the best you can. We all are."
"I think - sometimes I think I should be grateful, cause I got a year more than most people, I got Morgan. I was lucky."
"You lost your wife to cancer. God, Tony, no one has to be grateful for that. You're allowed to be angry at the world for taking her."
Tony waits a few more heartbeats before spilling his darkest secret. "Sometimes... I wish we hadn't had Morgan because I don't know how to do this alone - I never planned to do this alone." Hot tears spill over his cheeks, and Tony just burrows deeper into Steve.
"Don't be mad at yourself for thinking that." Steve holds him tighter. "I get it. I know you love that little girl more than anything. But I get why you'd think that - it's fine. It doesn't mean anything." Steve leans back and waits until Tony forces himself to look up. "And you're not alone," Steve adds quietly.
They kiss again, slowly this time, and even though it's been months since they last touched like this, it feels like yesterday. Steve's lips are soft and gentle against Tony's, and there's no urgency no destination, just touch. Steve's hands slip up under Tony's shirt and caress his back, drawing lazy circles over his skin. They stay like that, wound around each other, until they hear the crib rattle of Morgan waking up, and Tony leans back, still holding two handfuls of Steve's shirt. Steve's wearing a flannel over a fitted t-shirt and it crosses Tony's mind that he didn't used to dress like this.
Tony gets Morgan up, trying not to freak her out but needing to hold her close and kiss her forehead and tell her he loves her. They play outside until the sun disappears then Steve makes dinner. Neither of them is any good at cooking, but Morgan will happily eat mac and cheese every day.
Once Morgan is in bed, Tony and Steve collapse on the couch and put an old movie on. They skip the news; it's never good. Steve is a warm, solid weight around and under him and Tony had forgotten how good it feels to be held.
They don't kiss again, but Steve sleeps in Tony's bed every night that he's at the lake house, and he doesn't mention how often he wakes up with Tony sprawled across his chest.
On Morgan's second birthday, Steve, Natasha, Rhodey, and Happy all come to the house and they play a few board games and everyone brings presents. When she laughs and smiles, Tony can feel it, warm and real, deep in his chest.
Steve used to think he'd get antsy at the lake house, isolated and quiet, but it's the city that makes him feel antsy now. He tells his groups they need to find a way to move on, but he doesn't tell them about Tony, about Morgan. He listens to their stories of family and loss and friendship and nods and smiles encouragingly and keeps himself locked in a box. Sam always told him that part of running therapy was having a piece of yourself to give, but if Steve has any spare pieces left, he hoards them selfishly for a man he thought he lost years ago and his perfect daughter.
At the compound, Natasha is still working, all the time. He's never seen her look so tired, but he's also not sure he's ever seen her look so human and he's stabbed with a shock of guilt as soon as he thinks that.
He always offers to bring Natasha to the lake house with him. She always declines with a smile. Once in a while, she'll show up later, on the Saturday, or for dinner Friday night, but she never stays long.
The trip from the compound to the lake house feels like unwinding, like every foot Steve drives untwists another coil from around his neck and leaves it behind in a long trail on the highway. Driving back winds it up again.
When Morgan gets big enough to run across the lawn to meet Steve's car when he pulls in, shouting his name, and Steve can step out and scoop her right up and smile over at Tony where he's leaning against a porch pillar with a mug, that's when Steve thinks for the first time that maybe he's almost okay.
Tony wakes to crying from the other room, great sobbing wails that echo down the hall instead of only through the monitor. He stumbles out of bed, briefly disoriented that he's alone, until he remembers it's Tuesday and Steve's in the city. It's still pitch black out and the clock on Steve's side of the bed says it's two in the morning.
Tony shuffles down to Morgan's room and slips inside. "Hey, peanut, why are we screaming in the middle of the night, huh?"
Morgan turns wet, red eyes on him. Her cheeks are stained with tear tracks and her hair is stuck to her forehead in a sweaty mess. Tony sits on the edge of her bed and brushes her hair out of her face. Her skin feels like it's on fire.
"Oh, sweetheart, are you sick?"
She sobs, "Yeah," even though she has next to no concept of what it means to be sick, and Tony pulls her up into his lap.
His first instinct is to call Steve. It's a strange first instinct since Steve definitely has no clue what to do with a sick child, but it sounds comforting to have another adult to bounce ideas off of. But Steve's in the city for group and that's a line they don't cross. Tony never asks him to stay, never asks him to come back early, because he knows if he did, Steve would. And that's a guilt neither of them could handle right now.
Tony pulls out his phone and asks FRIDAY what's safe to give a three-year-old. FRIDAY runs him down a list of concerning symptoms, takes Morgan's temperature, then orders supplies to be delivered to the house. He takes Morgan down to the living room and turns on her favourite show, wraps her up in a blanket in his lap while they wait for the delivery.
An hour later, there's a knock, and when Tony goes to the door, there's a box on the mat and a van backing out of the driveway.
The medicine is bubblegum flavoured and smells like a unicorn collided with a cough drop factory, but Morgan doesn't actually mind it - if she can taste anything at all with the way her nose is streaming. There's less crying on the medicine, and she even eats a few plain baby cookies, and by the time the sun is creeping up over the horizon, she's fallen asleep.
Tony takes her up to his bed, tucks her in on Steve's side, and falls asleep too. When he wakes up, the sun is streaming in through a gap in the curtains and pooling on the dark blue duvet. Morgan's tiny mouth is open, eyelashes fanned across her cheeks, and her chest rises and falls with her breathing. There's a little divet between her brows, furrowed like she's concentrating really hard on dreaming, and it reminds Tony so much of Pepper that it aches.
Morgan is beautiful and smart and perfect, there's snot crusted under her nose, and her skin has a sheen of fever-sweat, and Tony has never, ever loved anything so much. It's a good thing, he thinks, that he took out the arc reactor because otherwise there wouldn't room for her in there.
By the time Steve comes up on Thursday, Morgan is one hundred percent better, careening around the house like breaking things is her job, and Tony is wrapped in a blanket, sipping broth, sneezing, and trying not to throw up again.
It almost feels like it was a test, and despite the way his throat aches and his skin crawls, Tony feels like maybe he passed.
"Unca Teeb! Unca Teeb!" The door slams open, and Steve startles awake with a grunt. Tony's still passed out next to him, and Steve rolls over towards the little girl to press his finger to his lips.
"Shh, Morgan. Daddy's sleeping."
Two tiny hands grab a solid hold of Steve's leg, and Morgan hauls herself up onto the bed. Steve adjusts Tony so Morgan has room to settle on the other side. She places one sticky palm on either side of his face. "Can we have eggies for brefas?" she stage-whispers.
"Of course we can," Steve promises.
"Daddy is sleepy," she adds, all seriousness.
"Bye!" She slips down off the bed again, tiny feet pattering across the floor as she beelines down the hall, and Steve rolls Tony off him and shoots himself out of bed after her.
"Hold up, racecar!" He calls, catching her before she flings herself down the stairs. "You know the rules."
She taps his nose and giggles.
"Monster." He starts down the stairs, Morgan under his arm like a football, feet wiggling and howling with laughter. He sets her down at the bottom to blast around the house in wild circles while he pulls out a frying pan and eggs.
"What do you put as your main address?" comes Tony's light, teasing voice from behind him. Steve turns around, and Tony's there in nothing but a pair of sweatpants, hair an absolute mess, glasses on. He doesn't bother putting in his contacts very often these days.
"Like, what's the address on your driver's license?"
"I - I don't have a driver's license," Steve says with a laugh. "Are you asking me if I live here?"
Tony shrugs. "Sure. I mean. Just wondering." Tony pulls a stack off plates out of the cupboard then pauses. "Wait. You drive all the time. What do you mean you don't have a license?"
Steve smiles and turns back to the eggs. "I'm Captain America, Tony."
"Wow, playing the Cap card. I don't think I've ever seen you do that when we weren't in the middle of a life or death battle." Tony sets the plates down on the table and sidles up next to Steve. They're this close all the time, but there's something in Tony's eyes that's rarely seen, a bright spark. It pulls him in and Steve tips close, pressing his lips lightly against Tony's, just once.
Tony tips his head with a surprised smirk when they separate. "That. Is not an answer."
"Isn't it?" Steve leans in again and steals another kiss, deeper this time, and Tony gives to it, not removing his hands from the counter he's leaning back against, but letting Steve tease his lips apart with his tongue.
"Kiiiissssinnggggg," a tiny voice sing-songs from down around their knees, and they part to look down at Morgan who drapes herself against Tony's legs and grins up at him.
"Come here, you." Tony hauls her up in his arms, and Steve turns back to the eggs. "Who taught you about kissing anyway?"
"Auntie Tasha," Morgan says solemnly.
"Of course she did."
They go for a walk after breakfast, Tony bending down so Morgan can hold his hand as they wander along the edge of the lake. It's crisp and cool, and Steve shoves his hands in his jeans' pockets and trails along behind them. It's Sunday.
Tony's in Steve's orbit all day, stealing little bumps and touches, and when Morgan is tucked up into bed, they don't bother cleaning the kitchen, leaving the dishes in a haphazard stack as they stumble to Tony's bedroom, wrapped around each other.
It's rushed and over too soon, eager hands too desperate and neediness hot and palpable between them, but Steve finds he almost prefers the part where they lie together, naked, sweaty and sated, and pet gentle fingers over every inch of skin they can find.
"I don't know what this means," Tony admits into the dark, trailing his hand up Steve's chest. "I don't know what I'm capable of giving."
"We're doing fine, Tony." Steve lets his eyes fall shut, focuses on the way Tony's hands feel. "It doesn't have to mean anything. We don't have to give anything we can't give freely. All I know is that I'm happy here. I feel like we've carved out some kind of peace or safety or real life or something here, and that's all I can ask for." He turns to face Tony and opens his eyes, finds his bright gaze. "I love you and Morgan. I'm not asking for anything in return."
Tony looks terrified at the thought, but he settles back down into Steve's arms with a soft nod, and his breathing starts to slow.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there when you needed me," Steve's able to choke out.
Tony's fingers tighten around him. "You're always there when I need you."
"I'm moving Monday groups to Tuesday," Steve says. "I need another day here each week."
Tony takes his coffee outside, wondering where Morgan blasted off to after her breakfast, and sees the little playhouse Steve had brought for her moving suspiciously. "Gosh, I wonder what's in there," he says, sitting on the tiny, unsteady chair next to it, entertaining a brief, horrifying vision of tipping backwards into the lake. "Maybe a lion?"
The playhouse giggles.
"Or an elephant?"
The playhouse says, "Noooo!" and laughs again.
"I guess it must be an octopus," Tony decides.
Morgan's head pops out, grinning. "It's me!"
"Oh, even better!" Tony opens his arms and Morgan flows into them. He kisses the side of her face and stands, groaning at the way his old bones protest the move. "Uncle Steve is coming today, you know that, right?"
"Thursday," she says carefully. She's got his schedule pretty well down, and preschool three times a week makes it easier to keep track. She's a quiet kid, but she's starting to make friends, and that feels like something done right. Even if Tony nearly has a panic attack in the parking lot every time he drops her off.
"Yup, it's Thursday, kiddo. Steve day." He wonders if she can tell how badly he looks forward to Steve days himself. It's been four years of dancing around this weird thing between then, never defined, never committed to, but Steve is there five days a week, without fail, they sleep in the same bed, they kiss, they touch, they make love. Steve's seen him cry, seen him yell. He's seen Steve break things, held him while he sobbed. Tony still doesn't know what it means - or if he does, he can't say it - but he knows he can't live without it.
When the gravel crunches, he and Morgan both run around the house to greet Steve's car, but he stops and grabs his daughter, lifts her up in his arms, when Steve's door isn't the only one that opens. Natasha is here. Bruce. And Scott Lang, of all people.
Tony's heart drops down into his stomach.
After Scott makes his pitch, and Natasha and Bruce are playing with Morgan and sipping lemonade, Tony pulls Steve away to the sun porch and backs him up against the wall. "Is it worth the risk?" he asks, breathless.
Steve knows what he means. "I don't know, Tony. Probably - I don't know. Probably not for us." Steve grabs Tony by one belt loop and reels him in until their foreheads touch. "But we got lucky. Other people, not so much."
Tony kisses him. "I love you."
Steve can feel his eyes going wide. He rears back a bit, finding Tony's gaze. He's said it plenty himself, never heard Tony say it back.
"Scott's crazy, definitely, absolutely, but I think I can solve it." Tony runs a hand back through his hair. "Shit. I'm sure I can solve it. He's - he's not wrong about the - oh god, yup. I need to -" he waves his hand towards his study "- model things."
"Right. Of course. I'll make sure Morgan doesn't bother you this afternoon." It feels like there's an elephant on his chest. "Wow. I can't believe there's a chance we could bring them all back." Tony goes very still, and Steve's heart plummets. "Shit - I'm - I'm sorry, Tony - I -"
"No, it's - It's good. We can put so many families back together again. It's a good thing, Steve. It's worth it."
"I'm sorry it won't bring her back."
"Me too." Tony wraps his arms around Steve's neck and pulls him close. Steve captures Tony's waist and can't resist slipping the pads of his fingers up under the hem of his shirt. "But it's okay, Steve. I will always love her, and I will always miss her, but I have a family, one I think we built the hard way. It's a good one."
Steve thinks it should feel like a consolation prize, but it doesn't. All he hears is we. "I love you, too."
"Good." Tony beams. "Let's go save the world. Together."