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His heart in his throat, Steve sprinted across the foyer of the mansion and took the stairs up two at a time. He slid across the landing and then ran straight down the hall. Tony's door was open at the end of the hallway. Skidding to a halt, he braced himself on the doorframe. He was panting. He tried to draw breath to talk, couldn't quite make it, and just stood there, staring.

It was a bright day and the curtains were open. Tony was in bed, supine, unconscious. Sedated. Save for the nasty bruise on his temple, he looked fine. And Thor, as he had said he would be, was sitting in the chair he'd dragged over to Tony's bedside.

"Captain!" Thor said, rising to his feet. "Thy haste does thee credit, but thou needst not have journeyed hither with such alacrity! As I told thee, Tony is well and no harm will come to him. All will be well. Doctor Blake hath taken note of his vital signs, and he hath sworn so."

And, okay, yeah, Steve could acknowledge that it wasn't as urgent as all that, just like Thor had said -- the main problem was that Thor needed to step out and Steve needed to spell him for a bit, as Steve understood it, not that anything all that bad was actually wrong with Tony.

But Steve's racing heart sure didn't know that.

Steve had been in California, fighting the Ameridroid. Six hours ago, Steve's flight had taken off from LAX, and that was exactly when the message from Thor had come in on his identicard. Tony had been captured, Thor had said, and for some reason that Steve wasn't clear on, Iron Man hadn't rescued him -- Thor had. Iron Man hadn't even been there when Tony had been taken, as far as anyone could tell; for some reason, Thor hadn't even seemed concerned about that. And God knew that Steve had nothing but love for Shellhead, but it worried Steve that Iron Man, Tony's bodyguard, hadn't been there to, well, guard his body. As soon as he figured out where Iron Man had gotten to Steve was going to check on him to make sure he was all right too -- because if he hadn't been there surely he must have had a good reason -- but right now Steve's first priority was Tony.

At any rate, Thor had rescued Tony from... AIM, Steve thought he had said, and he'd brought Tony back home, unconscious. And Steve had had the entire length of the flight, all six hours cross-country, to fret about Tony, because it wasn't like he could do anything about that until they landed at JFK.

And now he was here, and he still couldn't do anything.

"Yeah," Steve said. "I got your messages."

"He will be well," Thor repeated. "I needs must away to deal with matters in Asgard, but soon Tony will awaken. I would that he had a friend at his side to aid him, lest he wake in despair, unknowing of the evil force that hath acted upon him. We should spare him this distress, and instead offer all comfort."

Luckily, after ten years, Steve could translate almost everything Thor said. This one was: Tony had been drugged to the gills on heavy-duty tranquilizers. Tony was going to be pretty out of it for at least a few minutes when he woke up, possibly longer, possibly with some short-term amnesia. He wasn't going to be all that clear-headed. But if he had a familiar face at his bedside when he opened his eyes, to tell him he was going to be okay, he'd calm down that much faster. All Steve had to do was sit here while Tony woke up until Tony figured out where he was and what had happened to him.

That was what Thor had said in the messages too, more or less.

But the thing about the Avengers these days was that there were so few of them that familiar faces would be hard to come by, especially for Tony.

Oh, Jarvis was around, and he surely would have been happy to help. But this was above his pay grade, in the sense that if anything actually went wrong, the Avengers had more first-aid training than he did. So for safety's sake, it had to be an Avenger minding Tony. The team was Tigra, Iron Man, Thor, and Steve. Tigra wasn't someone Tony knew well at all, Iron Man was AWOL, Thor had to leave, and that meant there was only Steve.

Not that Steve minded. He cared for Tony. A lot. He absolutely didn't mind doing anything he could to assist him. He was happy to wait at Tony's side and help him accustom himself to reality. He just wished this hadn't happened at all.

While Steve had certainly sat in vigil for his teammates, Tony -- no matter how much Steve cared for him -- was still a civilian. And while he'd definitely been captured before, Steve didn't think it happened often enough that Tony would take it with as much equanimity as an Avenger would have. And, even though Steve was sure Tony would hate the thought of it, that meant that Steve needed to treat him with as much care as possible.

Steve nodded. "Okay. I can do that."

He headed around the bed to the side Thor had put the chair on; Thor crossed his path coming the other way, and Steve unslung his shield, set it next to the bed, where he suspected Thor had also set his hammer, and he sat down. It was his watch now. He pulled his cowl back and stripped off his gloves.

Now that he saw Tony, his unease was starting to subside. Concern still clouded Steve's mind, but it was like Thor said -- Tony basically looked okay. Steve knew what bad looked like, and it wasn't like this. Tony was going to be fine. Just like Thor had been telling him.

Thor had paused in the doorway. "Captain?"


"I wish to invite no trouble, and thus I mislike even naming this," Thor said, with a grimace, "but should it come to pass that Tony falls ill, more gravely than I have spoken of, Jane Foster has said she will attend to him, if there be need."

"All right," Steve acknowledged. Don must have had things to do as well. But hopefully Tony wouldn't need the help. "Thanks for letting me know. I'll call Jane if anything goes wrong. Have a good time in Asgard."

"I thank thee," Thor said, politely, "and I shall see thee anon."

He closed the door as he went, and then it was just Steve and Tony, and Tony was still out cold.

Tony's chest rose and fell. His eyes were closed, his long, dark lashes still; he wasn't dreaming. The bruise darkening on his face was the only indication that he was anything other than soundly asleep; Thor had tucked him neatly in under the blankets.

Steve felt a little guilty just sitting here looking at Tony, even though that was what he was supposed to be doing. He knew he liked him more than he should -- or, at least, more than Tony would welcome. He'd never dared to look at him as much as he'd wanted, and here, now, there was nothing to do but look at him.

He was beautiful. Steve had always thought so. And he was going to be fine. Thor had said so. Nothing that happened today would be serious, and Steve was grateful for that. Surely it was all right just to sit here, to quietly find Tony handsome in the back of his mind, to be grateful for his friendship. God knew Tony had had so many problems over the years, with his heart and then with his drinking, but he was going to be okay now. Steve could be happy he was doing well. Steve hadn't had a lot of happiness in his life since Bernie had left him. He thought Tony probably hadn't either, since Bethany had left him. God, but they were a pair of sad sacks.

And nothing was wrong with Tony; all Steve had to do was cheer him up a little. He liked the idea that he might be able to do that. Tony had helped him out so many times over the years, and this felt like giving back. It wasn't often he thought he could give something to the man who had everything. But this was something he could do for Tony.

Tony's eyelashes fluttered. He was coming around. He groaned softly, and then his eyes opened. His gaze darted around the room, and there was confusion in his eyes. He obviously didn't know how he'd gotten here, and this wasn't where he'd expected to be. Steve marveled at how calm he was; from a civilian, he would have expected panic with the confusion, but Tony was very calmly taking all this in stride.

"This wasn't where I was." Tony's speech was a little slurred. "I don't-- I don't remember--"

"Hi, there," Steve said, because Tony hadn't really seemed to understand that Steve was here, or maybe even where he himself was. "You're at the mansion, Tony. You were kidnapped by AIM. But you're safe. You might feel a little funny right now, but you're going to be okay."

A wide, wide smile spread slowly across Tony's face. "Steve!"

Steve couldn't help but smile back. "That's my name."

"Steve!" Tony said again, joyfully. "Hey, Steve. Steeeeeve. Steve, Steve, Steve. Buddy. Pal. I'm so happy you're here!" His voice was rapid and delighted -- he clearly felt he had to give Steve this urgent information as quickly as possible. "Steve. Winghead. Did I ever tell you you're my favorite person, Steve? You are! My favorite person in the whole world. You're so great!" He frowned. "Ow. I bit my tongue. You're still great, though. Did you know that? The best. The best ever, Steve. Steve. Steve." He really seemed to like saying Steve's name.

Oh. Huh.

When Thor had told him that Tony would be waking up from sedation, he'd made it sound like the danger would be confusion. Not the sort of mental state where Tony would just blurt out whatever was in his head. Steve might have said it looked a little like inebriation, but he'd seen Tony drunk relatively frequently -- well, before Tony had stopped drinking, anyway -- and whatever he'd been getting out of that experience, it had looked in no way comparable to this unalloyed happiness.

Also, Steve was selfish enough to admit that he liked to know that, deep down, Tony really did like him this much.

"Glad to hear it," Steve told him. "How are you feeling?"

"Really nice," Tony informed him, guilelessly. He smiled again. "Kind of nauseous. Mouth tastes bad. Can't remember... stuff." He sounded supremely unconcerned about this issue, which was a sign that he was feeling way too good, probably. "It's so great that you're here. Did you know I love you, Steve?" He nodded, earnestly. "Really a lot. I really, really love you."

Oh, God. Steve was just going to take everything back about wanting to hear that Tony liked him, because he couldn't handle this. Obviously Tony didn't mean it. Not like Steve would have meant it.

Steve forced a smile even as his heart shredded itself into tiny pieces. "I know," he told Tony. "I love you too, okay?"

This sure wasn't how he'd ever pictured telling Tony about his feelings.

It was okay, he told himself. Tony was fine. Nothing had changed, really. Tony would think he just meant friendship. And in a sense, Steve did. Friendship was enough.

Tony had in fact already moved on to a new topic -- or rather, a previous topic, because he hadn't really heard most of what Steve had already said. "Why am I here? How did I get here?" He was staring to look concerned; his face was tensing. "I was in my office, and then I-- I don't remember." Wide-eyed, he stared at Steve, and now he was panicked. "Did I drink? I feel sort of drunk. I don't remember drinking. I don't remember anything. Please tell me I didn't drink."

There was real distress on his face now, and he was reaching out for Steve, flailing at him, practically begging, and, oh, God, Tony.

"You didn't drink," Steve assured him, as quickly as he could. He took Tony's arm, set it back at his side, squeezed his forearm gently before letting him go. Dirt was smeared on the sleeve of Tony's dress shirt. "I promise you, you didn't drink. You were captured by AIM. They drugged you, and that's why you don't remember. They knocked you out. But they didn't do anything else to you. Thor came and rescued you. I don't know where Iron Man was, why he wasn't there." Oddly, Tony stifled a laugh. "But you're not drunk, and you're going to be fine. You just need to stay here until the sedative wears off and you feel less woozy. That's all you have to do right now, okay?"

The smile was back on Tony's face, blindingly bright. Like right now the world was really that simple. "Okay."

Steve had done what Thor had asked him to do. He'd let Tony know what had happened and that he was going to be okay. It would probably be better for Tony if Steve left him alone while he recovered; he imagined Tony might feel a little self-conscious, later, about some of the things he was saying now. It would be for the best, then, if Steve didn't stay here now that Tony was on the mend. If he wasn't here, then there wasn't going to be anything else that Tony would feel bad about having said to him. Steve could spare him that.

So Steve gathered himself and started to stand. "Well, if you're feeling okay, then I should probably let you get--"

Tony grabbed Steve's hand. His eyes were imploring; they were that striking sapphire-blue almost all the way through, his pupils unnatural tiny pinpoints. He was definitely heavily drugged. And he was still holding Steve's hand, clinging to him.

"Don't go!" Tony begged him. "Please stay. Please. I don't want to be by myself. I want to be with you." He had now grabbed Steve's hand with both of his hands, the better to keep him here, and he was running his fingers over the back of Steve's hand. "Also, you're nice and warm," he pronounced, and then he put Steve's hand to his face, oh God, like Steve was his beloved favorite childhood blanket. He was nuzzling him. His mustache tickled Steve's fingers. "So nice, Steve. Nice hands."

What was he supposed to do?

Tony wanted him here. So he ought to stay, oughtn't he? It wasn't as if Tony was saying anything that Steve would ever mock him for. Mostly Tony just seemed to want to tell Steve that he considered him a friend. And maybe Tony was going to think back and remember how unguarded his words were, but he'd also remember that Steve hadn't laughed at him. That Steve wasn't ever going to laugh at him. That Steve had stayed here to make sure that he was still okay.

"Okay, okay." Steve held up his other hand in acquiescence and sat back down. "I'm staying." He tried to tug away the hand that Tony was holding, but Tony firmly held it fast; he was still pressing Steve's hand to his cheek. Tony was smiling. "Can I have my-- okay, no, I guess you're keeping that," Steve concluded. "Enjoy."

Tony nodded, the motion overdone, like he wanted to make sure Steve saw him. "I'm enjoying this," Tony informed him, like he was trusting him with a confidence. "I'm glad I'm not really drunk. I've been trying so hard not to drink. I probably shouldn't be enjoying this as much as I am."

He didn't really know what to say to that either. He hated that this was a world where Tony found his own happiness deeply suspect. Also, the way Steve saw it, it wasn't like Tony had done this on purpose and it wasn't like he was going to go drug himself with this stuff again, whatever it was, and since this was happening whether he wanted it or not he might as well enjoy the experience. There wasn't anything wrong with enjoyment, was there?

Also, a not-very-noble part of Steve really enjoyed Tony holding his hand.

"I'm sure it's rough sometimes, huh?" Steve agreed, softly. "When you're trying not to drink, all you can see is the world surrounding you with it. The people around you still drinking. Offering you drinks." And since most people didn't know Tony was sober now, he was betting that a hell of a lot of people had offered Tony drinks over the past year.

Tony nodded again, fervently. "Yeah."

Steve gave Tony his gentlest smile. "And now there's this, and you didn't even ask for it." He glanced down at their hands. "I think it's okay to enjoy this. There's nothing wrong with happiness. You work so hard. It's okay to relax a little." He swallowed hard. "I-- I'm enjoying this too," he admitted, quietly. He let himself smile again. "You're my friend, Tony. I like seeing you happy."

Tony beamed at him. "I'm enjoying you."

Okay. Well. Steve hadn't seen that coming either.

In a different tone of voice, it could have been a come-on. In any other circumstances, it would certainly have been innuendo. But this was Tony just saying what he liked. He didn't mean anything else by it.

Tony had lifted Steve's hand away from his cheek; he was now clasping it, once again, with both his hands, like he felt that if he didn't demonstrate how much he liked holding Steve's hand, Steve would take it away again.

Tony sighed almost dreamily. "The day we found you was the best day of my life," he informed Steve. "Couldn't tell who you were in that damn iceberg at first, but then I saw you. God, Steve. We all thought you were dead, you know? To us it was a long-ago tragedy. Sad. Poignant." Steve was honestly impressed that Tony could remember the word poignant right now. "We thought it was nice to be able to close that chapter of the history book." He lifted a hand away to sketch out a line in an imaginary book. "Captain America, missing in action for decades, was finally found by the Avengers and laid to rest. And then you opened your eyes and... well, it turned out there was another chapter in that book. Maybe a whole other book, huh?" He smiled. "Never been as happy as that in my whole life, Cap. It's all you."

That was all very sweet but -- Tony hadn't been there. Tony definitely hadn't been there. Iron Man had probably called him and told him all about it, sure, when the team had found Steve, but the way Tony was talking, it sounded like he thought he'd seen it, and that just... wasn't right.

Amnesia, Thor had said. Well, this was the opposite of amnesia. This was Tony thinking he remembered something he didn't. Maybe the drug was doing this to him. Did they need to call Jane?

Calm down, Steve told himself. He took a breath. The first thing he should do was try to tell Tony about the way reality was, right? Jog his memory. See if that worked.

"Tony?" Steve ventured. "You, uh. You weren't there. You do remember that you weren't there, right?"

Tony's mouth rounded and his eyes were almost comically wide in surprise; he'd brought his other hand halfway to his face and then gone still. "Ohhhh," he said, slowly, like he'd only just realized something very important. "Right. That was Iron Man. I remember now."

That was an odd way for Tony to put it, because there had definitely been people there other than Iron Man. "Yes?" Steve agreed cautiously. "Iron Man was there. And Thor, and Jan, and Hank. All the Avengers."

"Right." Tony nodded, a decisive jerk of his head. "Them too."

Iron Man must have told Tony about what had happened, and then, well, finding Steve had meant enough to Tony that he had just imagined what it had been like. He was, Steve had to concede, on a lot of drugs. Of course he was feeling fanciful.

Steve knew that Iron Man and Tony talked to each other about the Avengers all the time. They were clearly friends -- Iron Man had been Tony's bodyguard for a whole decade, after all -- and it was common enough that when Steve said something to one of them, the other one might know it. It didn't really bother Steve; it wasn't as if he had secrets from either of them. Except for the part where he had feelings for Tony, but it wasn't as if Steve was going to tell his pal Iron Man that, and at any rate, that wasn't the point.

They obviously chatted a lot. They had talked, clearly, about finding him. Of course they had. It was just that Tony's memory was a little off right now.

And speaking of not being there -- Iron Man wasn't here.

He hadn't responded to any of the calls for help with Tony. Steve had no idea where he was. He sure hoped Shellhead was okay. But he should have been here, because it was his job to keep Tony safe. Steve definitely didn't mind helping out with that, but he found he really didn't like the thought that Iron Man wasn't here because he couldn't be.

"Iron Man hasn't talked to you lately, has he?" Steve asked.

Tony finally let Steve's hand go, and Steve realized with horror that Tony was actually giggling. Like he thought his bodyguard being missing was funny.

"Ha," Tony said. "No." His smile was crooked. "As much as ever," he added, and Steve had no idea what that was supposed to signify.

He couldn't have been being mean. That just... wasn't who he was, as a person. But he was on drugs right now. Maybe he just couldn't understand how serious this problem was.

"I'm worried about him," Steve said. Clearly he needed to be more plain. "He ought to have been here. He hasn't talked to me, and you say he hasn't talked to you, so...?"

Tony was smirking. His lips were quivering. "No."

Steve had no idea what was so goddamn funny about this. "Let me know when you're feeling better," he said, carefully, and he wasn't going to raise his voice. It wasn't Tony's fault he was drugged. Tony just wasn't having the right reactions about things: he was all over Steve, but he was indifferent to Iron Man's plight. He'd be back to normal when the drugs wore off. "Because as soon as you're okay, I need to make sure he's okay too, all right? I need to talk to him."

Now Tony was actually laughing. There were tears in his eyes. "Oh, God, Steve," he murmured. "Have I got some great news for you, buddy!"

"What?" Steve asked, more than a little annoyed.

Tony gave him a big, big smile. He was grinning ear-to-ear. "You already are."

That made no sense. Steve didn't understand anything about this. "I'm already... what?"

"You're already talking to him." Tony's gaze was steady and, despite the drugs, perfectly lucid. He reached out and laid his hand on Steve's arm. "I'm Iron Man."

That made no sense either. Oh, the words made sense, but that couldn't be right. Iron Man was Tony's bodyguard. Tony wasn't Iron Man. No one knew who Iron Man was, except presumably Tony. But he had to know who Iron Man was, because-- because-- oh.

Steve stared at him, stunned. Tony just smiled back, a flicker of nervousness in his eyes, in his shaking touch.

It explained so much, didn't it? The reason Iron Man wasn't here. The reason Tony remembered something only Iron Man would have known. It had been him all along.

"You're Iron Man," Steve echoed, incredulously.

Tony nodded again. "At your service, Cap," he murmured, with a wry smile. "Usually I get captured as Iron Man. Or Iron Man conveniently manages to, um, appear at some point during the captivity, if you get what I mean. But I guess they knocked me out fast, and I didn't have the armor." He looked at something beyond Steve. "It's in that briefcase on the floor over there."

Steve glanced over. There was Tony's briefcase, all right. The one he'd never, ever seen Tony open.

Tony was Iron Man. Tony was his teammate. God. He'd loved Tony for so long, and now, learning that Tony had always been an Avenger, that he'd been at his side for so many years, that he was brave and strong and everything Iron Man was. They'd saved each other's lives for so many years, and he'd thought he'd never know who was under the armor. But he'd known. He'd woken up in the future, and that had been Tony at his side. Just like he'd said.

"Oh my God," Steve said, softly. He could feel himself smiling.

"Yeah?" Tony said, just as softly. "You like?"

"I like," Steve repeated. He just- it was Tony. He couldn't stop smiling.

He couldn't stop looking at Tony, either. Tony's bright eyes were the same as Iron Man's. Because he was Iron Man.

Tony smiled right back. He looked like he was about to cry from sheer happiness. Steve understood exactly how he felt.

"Shellhead," he breathed because that was-- that was who Tony was, wasn't it? His Shellhead. Always. "That's you?"

Tony gave a tiny quivering nod.

Steve reached out for him, just wanting to touch him, to hold him, to show him with everything in him how happy he'd made him. He stroked Tony's face. His hands slid into Tony's hair. Tony was warm and soft and still smiling.

"Oh, wow," Tony said, his voice full of wonder. And heavy-duty sedatives, but mostly wonder. "I must have done something right, huh? Oh, that feels so nice."

It was only after Steve's hands were cupping Tony's head, his fingers threading through Tony's hair, that he realized this was definitely not a way straight men touched each other unless you were on the battlefield and one of you was actively dying.

"I'm sorry," Steve said, too late. "I-- I shouldn't--"

Ashamed, he went to pull away -- and then Tony's hand was on his wrist. Tony wasn't pressing his hand down like he was forcing him to stay there -- Tony knew he wasn't strong enough for that, and anyway Tony wasn't that sort of man -- but merely to express his appreciation.

"Please don't stop," Tony said, softly. "Please, Steve. It feels so good when you touch me. I like when you touch me."

Steve sucked in a breath. God, he wanted this. And from the way Tony was looking at him, he thought maybe Tony knew that.

Tony licked his lips. "I want to kiss you. Do you want that too, Steve?"

Okay, Tony definitely knew Steve wanted this.

"Tony," Steve said, helplessly. It was so hard to resist when Tony kept telling him yes, but he knew this wasn't right. "I shouldn't. We shouldn't."

Tony was drugged. He was saying things he didn't mean. That was how drugs worked, right? When he came down, when he sobered up, he wasn't going to mean this. This would be taking advantage of him.

Tony met his gaze, unflinching. It was the way Iron Man stared him down, when he knew he had a plan that would save the world.

"I've wanted to kiss you for forever," Tony breathed, which was when Steve realized that Tony was sounding a lot more like himself, and Steve didn't know what to do with that fact. "Well, okay, not forever, I haven't been alive for forever and neither have you, but-- a long time," he amended. He could almost catch himself now, before he went off on a tangent. "You look like you'd be nice to kiss. I like the way you smile at me. You're-- you're so big and warm and kind and your hands feel really really nice right now and you have such pretty eyes. Anybody ever tell you you have beautiful eyes? I'm sorry; you deserve a better speech than this one, but I'm too fucking high for this." He chuckled. "I love when you make stupid jokes and I love fighting at your side and I love your battle cry and, Steve, I'm not saying a single thing I don't mean with all my heart so please stop looking at me like you think I don't know what I'm saying, because I do. And I know I've been drugged. I know that. But do you really think I'm lying to you? Really?"

"You told me you loved me," Steve said, uncertainly.

It was practically the first thing Tony had said to him, when he'd woken up. Steve wanted to believe it. God, did he ever. What if Tony had meant it? What if he'd meant it the same way Steve had?

Tony's eyes glinted, a challenge. "Yeah." Tony's voice was cool, calm, collected. Rational. "I did. And you said it back, Steve."

He had a point.

The drugs were wearing off, and Tony was still telling him he loved him.

Steve supposed this was something Tony wasn't going to regret.

"So what was that, then?" Tony asked. "Were you just saying it to make me feel better? A little white lie? That doesn't sound like you."

Because Tony knew him. There weren't a whole lot of people who knew him like Iron Man did. And Tony was Iron Man.

Tony wanted him to say it. For real.

Steve could do this. He cleared his throat. He lifted his head. "It was real. It is real. I love you."

Tony's grin was fierce. "That's more like it."

Tony was very unsubtly trying to kiss him, and he definitely wasn't ready to even be sitting up. He pushed himself up, leaned forward, immediately wobbled with vertigo, grabbed his head, yelped, and toppled to the side.

Holding out his hands, Steve reached him before he hit the mattress. Not that it would have been a big deal if he'd hit it, because it was a mattress, but, well -- they both liked when Steve held him, it seemed.

Tony was laughing. "That was the most suave I have ever been in my life," he said. "Oh, geez. Look, Steve, can you do me a favor? When you tell people how we got together, just, maybe, could you make me sound a little cooler? Thanks."

"Sure," Steve said, obliging him. Maybe he was the one who'd say anything. "Just tell me what you want me to omit."

"Probably everything about the drugs," Tony said, taking his request at face value. He was a little more literal than usual, but at least now his pupils were normally dilating. He was very much himself. "And the part where I'm secretly Iron Man. Definitely the part where I just fell over."

"Okay," Steve said, gamely. "So what elements of the truth are left, exactly?"

Tony smiled up at him, wrapped his hands around Steve's neck, and drew him down. "Hmm. How about the part where I told you I loved you and you said it back? And then the part where you held me just like this and then passionately kissed me?"

"One of those things hasn't happened yet," Steve said. He could feel himself smile.

"No?" Tony asked, his voice infused with mock-disappointment. "That's a terrible shame. And I'd hate to ask you to misrepresent the truth."

Steve leaned in. "I think I might have the answer to that," he confessed. "I think maybe I could make that last part happen right now."

"Oh?" Tony said, and he laughed against Steve's mouth as Steve kissed him. "You're a genius. Mmm. That's lovely."

Steve tipped his forehead against Tony's. "I think you're the genius, Shellhead."

Tony kissed him back, lazily. His mouth did taste a little funny. Steve definitely didn't care.

"Hey!" Tony said, brightly, like something else extremely important had just occurred to him. "Did I tell you I love you, Steve?" He was grinning. He knew how many times he'd already said it.

"You might have mentioned it," Steve said. "A couple of times. I wouldn't mind hearing it again."

"I'll keep that in mind," Tony said, kissing him again.