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What Time Can't Drive Out

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A hush fell over the throne room. The lords and ladies of the court who had previously been milling around the edges of the room were suddenly silent except for the few shocked gasps that escaped from the gaggle. The King turned away from his captain of the guard, James Rhodes, to look at the man approaching him. The minute his eyes landed on the white star in the center of the silver armor, he tensed.

It took more willpower than the King dared to admit for his eyes to move up from the breast plate to his face. The sky blue eyes he found there bore into his even from across the expanse of the throne room. To anyone else those eyes would only show determination and fierceness, but the King has seen those eyes filled will more emotion than anyone else. He knew what those eyes looked like above him and filled with passion, he knew what they looked like when brimming with love and the joy of fatherhood, and he knew what they looked like when consumed by hurt and anguish. He could see that now. The same hurt and anguish they had shown when the man had betrayed him, but now there was a heaviness to them that the King was unfamiliar with. A weight that had settled on the man’s soul.

When the man reached the steps below the throne, he knelt, those blue eyes breaking away from the King’s gaze for the first time as the man bowed his head. The King gripped the arms of his seat so tightly he thought they might break as the feelings of hurt, betrayal, and sorrow attempted to consume him.

The caller stepped forward and began to speak, but the king could not hear him. He knew the lines the man spoke, “… King Anthony first of his name…”, but the roar of emotion defend him. It wasn’t until the caller ended his speech by announcing “Sir Steven Rogers, the Shielding Star” that the King became aware of the room again.

Tony cleared his throat abruptly. “Rise and speak.”

Steve rose, armor clanking slightly as he moved.

“Your Majesty, I have come to humbly request I be allowed to return to your guard. I have wronged your Majesty, but I wish to make amends and pay for my sins in any way you deem necessary.”

Tony was silent for a long time. He stared down at the face of the man he had once loved above all others. He didn’t know if he could do this.

Rhodey stepped closer to him and coughed pointedly. Clearly Tony had take too long to think it over. Fine. Steve was still a night of the realm. It’s not like there was a real reason that the public was aware of for him to not be a member of Tony’s guard. And technically Steve was still his consort. Tony hadn’t taken anyone else to his bed since their wedding night and their marriage still held. Tony hadn’t been able to bear asking Bruce to annul it. After all, Tony had thought the memory of their vows and the ring on his finger to be the last parts of Steve left to him beyond their children. But after what had happened… Tony wasn’t sure if he would ever see Steve again. He supposed this was his chance to have the man in his sights again, even if it wasn’t what he really wanted.

Tony took a deep breath before speaking. “Very well. Lord Commander Rhodes will assign you your post. Now I think I will retire.”

Tony stood, not looking at Steve, and walked quickly from the throne room.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tony finally got back to the Tower of the King late in the evening. He took off the crown and threw it haphazardly on the dresser. He made a point of not looking in the mirror as he started to undo the ties on his formal doublet. Just as he had gotten the top few ties undone there was a knock on the door.

“Yes?” Tony called.

Jarvis, Tony’s personal manservant, opened the door slightly as he spoke. “I’m sorry to disturb you, your Majesty. The prince was asking for you.”

Tony sighed. “I’ll be right there.”

“Very well, your Majesty. If there is anything else this evening please ring for me, I shall retire for the evening.” Jarvis said with a polite bow.

“Thank you, Jarvis. Please give Ana my best.” Tony replied, pushing past Jarvis and into the main living space.

“I shall. Sleep well, my King.” Jarvis murmured.

Tony made his way down the stairs to the floor dedicated to the royal children. Tony’s hand drifted self consciously to his belly when confronted with the nearly empty hall. There were half a dozen chambers on this floor, but only one was filled. He and Steve had only just had their son Peter when war broke out and then… well then there was no possibility of more children.

Tony pushed open the door and quickly dropped his hand. There standing just inside the entrance to the floor stood Steve Rogers.

“What do you think you’re doing here?” Tony snapped.
Steve winced. “Lord Commander Rhodes thought I was best placed here. After all, I would never let anyone past me if I was guarding the two of you.” Steve looked down at his feet and bit his lip.

Tony felt his spine stiffed as a derisive laugh slipped past his lips.

“Really?” Tony shook his head and raised his hand to silence Steve’s pitiful attempts at protest. “You and I can discuss this latter because clearly I won’t be getting any sleep until we do, but right now OUR son needs me.”

Tony shot Steve a sharp glare before moving down the hall and knocking gently on the door of the only other occupied room in the tower. Tony could feel the ghosts of the other children he and Steve had dreamed of having dancing at the corners of his mind. He had wanted so much more than this. More for his son. More for his kingdom.

Tony heard a soft voice call from the other side of the door and he pushed it open. Tony felt all the pain of dreams unfulfilled fall away as his eyes locked on his son’s curly dark head half burrowed under the covers.

“Hello Pete-y pie.” Tony closed the door behind him and made his way over to his son’s bed. “How was your day, my shining light?”

“It was good. Jarvis was teaching me about how they built the palace today. Did you know there are secret tunnels hidden in the walls.”

Tony chuckled. “Yes, your Uncle Rhodey and I used to run around the tunnels all day scaring the maids when we were just a few years older than you.”
Peter’s eyes lit up and he opened his mouth to say something, but Tony cut him off before he could start.

“No, I am not going to tell you where they are. I’m sure you and ned will be running around them far sooner than I’m ready for, but promise me that you will always tell Jarvis, Uncle Rhodey, or me when you do. For my sake?”

Peter nodded slightly. “I promise, daddy.”

“That's my boy. Now,” Tony turned to the bedside table and picked up the book they had been reading before bed. Tony shifted on the bed so he could curl an arm around his son and still support the book. “lets pick up where we left off last night, shall we? What could The Men of the X get up to next?”

Tony read the next chapter of the story trying his best to soak in the moment. Peter would be turning 9 in a matter of months. Soon he would be too old to tolerate his dad reading him stories every night before bed.

When the chapter was done Tony surreptitiously checked to see how close to sleep Peter was. He took in the slowing rise and fall of his son’s little chest and carefully slid off the bed. He placed the book on the night stand and was just turning to leave when a little voice stopped him in his tracts.

“Daddy?”

“Yes, my little light?” Tony replied, bending down to kneel beside the bed.

“I heard the maids whispering that Papa was back. Is that true?”

Tony cursed internally. He hesitated a moment before answering his son’s question.

“Yes, your Papa is back.” He said almost regretfully.

“Oh”. Peter’s eyes drifted from Tony’s face to the canopy of his bed. “Is he going to stay here again.”

Tony’s hand reached over to soothingly run his fingers through his son’s curly locks. “I don’t know. I’m sorry, Peter. I wish I had a better answer for you, but I promise your Papa loves you so much. I will tell you anything I hear from him, but for now just know that we both love you more than anything.” Tony bent down and kissed his son's head.

“If you need me pull your rope ok. I’ll be right down here faster than you can blink.”

He kissed his son’s head again before getting up and heading towards the door.

Tony turned just as he pulled open the door and called out “Goodnight, Peter. I love you.”

“Goodnight, Daddy. Love you too.”

Tony smiled as he stepped out into the hall and gently closed the door behind him. The smile quickly fell when his eyes landed on Steve again.

Steve shuffled his feet awkwardly, his eyes flitting from the floor to Tony and back again.

Tony sighed and crossed his arms. “We need to talk.”

Steve only nodded and followed Tony up to what used to be their chambers. Tony checked over his shoulder as why went up the stairs and noted the reassuring shadow of two guards standing outside the door at the bottom of the stairs. It had become something of a habit after the war started to always check the guards were still there after putting Peter to bed. Tony couldn’t help the feeling that there was another enemy lurking out there and something told him that when they came Peter would be in the line of fire. It ate at his stomach in a way even having Steve back in their space couldn’t hold a candle to.

The two of them made their way back into the bedchamber, Tony heading over to his dresser once more to finish undoing the ties of his doublet and Steve once again standing awkwardly nest to a doorway.

Tony finished undoing the ties and pulled off the stiff fabric. He laid it on the dresser next to his discarded crown and quickly pulled off his belt, pulling out his danger as he did so. He threw the belt next to the doublet and moved to sit on his side of the bed, placing the danger on the bedside table.

“Are you going to say anything or is it just going to come down to me doing all the talking as always?” Tony said, his face kept carefully neutral.

Steve opened and closed his mouth several times. “I- I honestly don’t even know where to start.”

“How about you start with why you’re back here after two years.” Tony snapped, his head turning to stare at Steve even though his face remained completely passive.

Steve looked like he was on the verge of crying.
“I missed you.” Steve breathed, the sound almost too quiet for Tony to hear.

Silence almost seemed to echo in the space between them. Tony looked away. In truth he had missed Steve like a lost limb, but he was still furious with the man for keeping the truth from him. From fighting him to let Barnes get away. Tony knew the moment the fight was over that the man couldn’t be held accountable for something he was forced to do, but the shock and pain had blinded him to that. If only Steve had told him sooner than it never would have happened, but his husband hadn’t trusted him. And then he had fought him, hurt him physically as well as emotionally. There was so much pain and mistrust and hurt between them that Tony wondered how they would ever get past it.

“I missed you to.” Tony whispered. “But,” He cleared his throat. “There are so many things we need to talk about before we can move forward.”

Steve made a tentative move closer to where Tony sat on the bed. “I know and I am so sorry for everything I’ve done, all the pain I’ve caused you and our son. I am so sorry.”

Tony nodded. “I don’t forgive you yet,” He looked up at Steve. “but I’m willing to give you another chance.”

Steve beamed. “I love you.”

Tony reached his arms out towards the blonde and a moment later his husband was curled against him sobbing into his chest.

“I love you too.”