It’s only when they’re sitting in the escape pod, staring into the vast depths of the galaxy, does Steve let everything sink in.
It’s one thing to wake up seventy years into the future but another five more? Steve’s starting to wonder if he’s always meant to be propelled forward in time, meant to be a nomad, a traveler. Destined to be a Man Out of Time.
He almost snorts out loud. He can imagine what Tony would say if he knew what’s going on in his mind right now. A drama queen, he’d call him. Or maybe just this once, he’d indulge in Steve’s overdramatic musings. He would.
Then again, Steve supposes five years is better than another seventy. He doubts he can go through all that again, of the possibility of losing his loved ones to time. Not to mention the fact that the reason he even lost those five years is because of Monica Rappaccini. Monica who was once on the Avengers’ side (or he supposes, used them for her own needs), who captured him to harvest his blood, who kept him hidden from the world for five years. Just the thought of her sends him reeling.
He knows there’s more to the story, more he needs to know, should know. Then again, maybe he doesn’t need to know. He’s going to die soon.
“Well,” Tony begins next to him, cutting through Steve’s thoughts, “since we’re gonna die anyway, you have any… I don’t know… Last confessions?”
For a brief second, every fiber of Steve’s body freezes before he’s turning to look, turning to see, turning with a flicker of hope. It dies when he sees Tony’s gaze trained on the constellations around them.
This is the perfect time for Steve to tell Tony, to tell him how his heart skips when he’s near, to tell him how much he adores his boisterous rambling and his sleepy eyes and arresting smile, to tell him how his soul longs for him and only him. Time is running out for the both of them, after all.
But like the coward Steve is, he doesn’t.
“Your jokes,” he settles on instead, airily like it’s nothing. “I just don’t get ‘em.”
That grabs Tony’s attention, turning as Steve speaks. Steve almost wavers at the sight of Tony’s face.
Tony’s as beautiful as the last time Steve saw him. The only sign of aging on his face is the heavier weariness behind his eyes. Despite the front he tends to put up, Tony always seems weary, be it from the all-nighters he pulls or from carrying the weight of the world on his back.
Steve’s pretty sure his supposed death has a hand in it this time. He’s not sure what to make of that. Neither can he comprehend the odd flicker in Tony’s expression before it’s gone.
“I know,” Tony replies, a smirk playing on his lips and a twinkle behind his eyes. “I read your diary.”
An involuntary chuckle tumbles out of his lips as Steve shakes his head and turns away. He knows it’s a joke, meant to distract the both of them from their impending doom, but he couldn’t help but find the irony in it.
He does keep a diary, several even. His current one tucked behind his encyclopedias while the rest are kept in his bedroom back in New York. As curious and nosy Tony can be, Steve doubts he’d go as far as to snoop around his room.
He thinks that should be the end of that, this confessing thing. That this is how it ends between the both of them – together in the confinement of a stranded escape pod, floating in space, surrounded by the second most breathtaking view he has ever laid eyes on.
But then Steve remembers the last five years, five more years of his life wasted, and decides that this is it. He shouldn’t take this to his grave, take this to his grave. Not when Tony’s right here, not when he’s here, older and wearier but as beautiful as the last time bright brown eyes met his.
“I’m in love with you,” he says, easy like breathing.
The speed at Tony whips his head around is absolutely comical, even more when his eyebrows start climbing up his forehead.
Steve straightens in his seat. “You heard me.”
Tony’s eyelids flutter, his expression still in disbelief. “I— I must be going deaf because it sounded like you just told me you’re in love with me. Which can’t be right because—”
“Nope. You heard me right.”
Tony blanches. “No.”
Steve scowls. “Yes.”
Tony shakes his head. “No, no, no, no. Nope. You’ve gone insane. Absolutely insane. Is it the lack of oxygen? Or maybe five years in—”
“You know,” Steve interrupts wryly, “I’m starting to wonder if you even read my diary.”
If Steve thought Tony’s eyes were already as wide as saucers, they get even bigger somehow, his cheeks flushing crimson.
“But— But— You can’t! You can’t—”
Steve cocks an eyebrow in response. “I can’t what?”
Tony’s jaw clamps shut.
It feels like an eternity, both of them staring each other down in silence. Steve should’ve predicted this. Of course, confessing his feelings for Tony wouldn’t be smooth sailing, but he always expected to either have his feelings reciprocated or otherwise. Tony’s reaction doesn’t indicate on which side he falls in. It’s terrifying, not knowing.
Steve’s well-acquainted with the unknown, learnt to stop fearing it over time. But sitting next to his best friend, the man who he loves with all of his heart, waiting for said man to tell him how he feels for Steve, is on a whole other plane.
Finally, Tony breaks the tension, his eyes flickering down as he sighs heavily. “Steve— You… You don’t—”
“You can’t tell me how I feel,” Steve argues. “And I know what I feel about you. I've known for a really long time now.” He pauses, leaning forward to cautiously slip his hands in Tony’s, and lowers his voice into a whisper. “Hey. Look at me.”
Tony does, shy and guarded and nervous. Steve readies himself. He’s waited years for this moment. He needs Tony to know before they lose their breath, before he has to watch Tony die.
God, he’s going to have to watch Tony die.
He clenches his jaw, whiling the sting behind his eyes and that terrible thought away.
He won’t think of that now. Not when he’s so close.
“I’m in love with you,” Steve confesses. “I’ve been in love with you for years. Probably since we first met. I’ve loved you before I knew what I feel for you is love. And even after all these years—”
“Well, you were in a coma—”
Tony nods, looking chastised. “Right shutting up now.”
Steve gulps. He had more to say, to tell Tony, to declare. But after Tony interrupted him, all the words he’s been wanting to say shrivels up.
Something heavy settles in his chest, something Steve knows all too well. Something he has feared all these years of secretly loving Tony from afar.
Steve sighs, dropping his hands in his lap and hanging his head in resignation. “You know, it’s okay if you don’t feel the same for me. I get it. It’s just that you said something about confessions and I just thought—”
“No!” Tony exclaims so loudly that his voice startles the both of them. He clears his throat, bright chestnut eyes shining as they roam Steve’s face. Once again like the delusional optimist he is, Steve lets himself hope.
“No,” Tony repeats, this time quieter, softer, and all too loving. “I do. I do feel the same about you. I’ve been in love with you since we met too.”
Steve doesn’t know who moved first but before he knows it, there are chapped lips pressed against his, arms snaked around Tony’s armored waist, and Tony’s gauntlet-covered hand cupping his cheek.
Steve has envisioned their kiss countless of times before, picturing various scenarios and sensations. But he never expected to be stranded in space half-naked, to have woken up from a five-year coma, to be on the brink of death. Neither did he expect to feel the stirring in his chest, the warmth coursing through his veins, the taste of coffee to be strong on his tongue, to even taste salt at all.
His imagination has nothing on this kiss. Nothing at all.
“Wow,” Tony breathes out when they break apart. “That was…”
“A long time coming,” Tony amends. Steve huffs at that. “But still nice too.”
Steve grins against Tony’s lips. “I’m glad.”
Tony mirrors him but just as quickly, the smile slips off his face. He blinks his glistened eyelids as his grip on Steve’s cheek slackens. “Jesus, Steve. I really missed you. I missed you so much. I was so lost without you. Those five years… Fuck. Steve, if I knew—”
“I know,” Steve replies softly, drawing him closer to press their foreheads together. “You always come for me. No matter what. You would’ve found me eventually.”
Tony snorts. “No offense but you were asleep. You wouldn’t have known even if an asteroid hit the satellite.”
“Still. You found me, Tony,” he counters. “You rescued me from being potentially struck by an asteroid.”
“Five years, Steve.”
“Better late than never.”
“I guess so, yeah.”
Tony’s frowning, looking unconvinced. Steve’s well acquainted with Tony’s issues when it comes to love, be it for himself or letting others love him. Countless times, he’s tried to change this, change his mind. This time, he’s going to make him see.
“Thank you,” Steve murmurs. “Thank you for coming for me. For saving me.”
This time, the smile that spreads across Tony’s lips is soft. Genuine.
“Like you said, I’ll always come for you.”
This time when they kiss, it’s hot and desperate and all so good. Heated hands paw at his body, skimming from his neck and down his shoulders before settling over his bare chest. Steve could barely suppress a shiver as he feels thumbs brush against his nipples, gasping at the touch. Tony takes advantage of that, deepening the kiss to slip his tongue past Steve’s parted lips.
Steve’s about to take the plunge and demand Tony to remove his suit (because fuck, if this is their last moments, he has to know what it feels like to have Tony under his fingers for the first and last time) when he hears someone clear their throat. Someone who is definitely not either of them.
With a jolt, Steve snaps back and opens his eyes, meeting Thor Odinson’s smirk.
“Of course it would take a dire situation for the two of you to act on your feelings,” Thor remarks, amused as he hovers outside the escape pod. He doesn't look like he's even aged a day.
Steve blinks, his lips parting to speak when Tony beats him to the punch.
“Hey, Thor,” he says cheerily, as if he wasn’t just making out with Steve seconds ago. “Fancy seeing you out— Oh hey, we can actually hear you.”
Thor puffs his chest like the arrogant Asgardian he is. “Well, I am a god. It is to be expected.” Steve barely suppresses a snort. “It is good to see you both in good health, especially the good captain.” His grin broadens, trained on Steve. “Though he doesn’t seem to feel the same.”
“I am,” Steve half-lies, trying his best to hide his arousal and annoyance. He shouldn’t be upset. He and Tony are being rescued from their date with death, after all. “It's good to see you.”
Thor's grin widens.
Tony snorts. “Don't mind him. He’s just upset you interrupted us from having life-affirming sex.”
“I see,” Thor says, his gaze darting between the both of them. “I suppose I could leave you both here to indulge—”
“No!” Steve exclaims, almost jumping up to his feet and dropping Tony onto the ground.
“Seconded,” Tony chimes. “I mean, as hot as it would be to fuck in space—”
Steve starts, burying his face in his hands as his cheeks begin to burn. “Tony—”
“—I’d rather we do it somewhere we’re less likely to suffocate.”
Thor chuckles. “Then it’ll be my pleasure to escort you both back to Midgard.” He tilts his head in Steve’s direction, his smile softening. “Welcome back, Captain.”
As Thor begins to push the escape pod back to Earth, Tony settles back into his seat, pinning Steve with a tentative expression. He looks absolutely ravished, his lips pink and wet and god, he has to hold himself back from jumping him again. Steve should’ve done this so long ago, should’ve asked him to remove his helmet so he can mess Tony’s hair with his fingers.
“You meant that right?” Tony begins.
“What you said. About being in love with me. Because you know, we were about to die and—”
Steve raises an eyebrow. “Have I ever said anything I didn’t mean?”
Tony purses his lips. “Well, you do say a lot of shit when you’re mad.”
“Do I look or sound like I’m mad now?”
“No. But then sometimes you joke—”
Steve exhales exasperatedly before reaching over to lace their fingers together. It’s not the first time he wishes Tony would shed his armor, not the first time he wants to know how it feels to have Tony's hand in his.
“Does it look or sound like I’m joking now either?”
“No. But—” Tony pauses, frowning. “Don’t look at me like that.”
Steve leans forward, his lips quirk to the side. “Look at you like what?”
Tony huffs, crossing his arms over his chest as he juts his nose to the ceiling. “Like… Like you’re in love with me.”
Steve rolls his eyes, chasing after Tony’s fingers again. This time, the glove parts, revealing a weathered hand. It’s warm.
“That’s because I am.”
The mock annoyance melts away from Tony’s face, making way for a blinding smile.