Tony loved Steve.
Tony would do anything for Steve.
So when Steve suggests maybe Tony could cut back on drinking because he hated to see him drunk, the engineer quit completely. It made Steve happy and that's all that was needed.
When Steve asked him to get out of the workshop to sleep, he did. And not just because he was bribed with awesome hot sex, also because he loved Steve and wanted to be there for him.
Eat something Tony? Of course.
Don't insult people too harshly Tony? He would try.
And of course there were the things Steve didn't hate but also didn't love. He would sometimes comment on it, but never really asked him to stop it. Talking was one of those things. Steve always commented about how much Tony talked, but it was more fondly than anything else.
And Tony just laughed and kept going. Because Tony loved talking. Always and at any time. During work, during dinner, during movies, and even during sex.
So one night he and Steve were having a good time, Tony was babbling about nonsense between moans and cries of Steve's name, and it was driving the captain insane.
Couldn't he shut up for once!
Oh... He said that last part out loud... And Tony froze. He didn't answer. He didn't say a thing. He just nodded softly and they continued making love.
It felt really wrong to Steve, because Tony barely made a sound. And when they were both finished and suppose to cuddle together as always, Tony left.
He mumbled something brief and soft about a project and almost ran off. Steve realised he had done something stupid. But it would take him a while to realise just how stupid.
The change happened instantly. And it freaked the avengers out.
Tony barely talked anymore.
When asked a question he would answer as brief as possible, and always in a soft voice, like he was afraid someone would hear it. When the answer to a question took longer to answer, he would get uncomfortable and would look around like a frightened animal as he talked softer and softer until he eventually made Jarvis answer.
Bruce was worried the most. He spent hours each day in the lab with the genius, and his chatter had always been the background noise. Now it was... Nothing. Tony barely spoke to order Jarvis around, he had stopped yelling and rambling at his bots for nothing, and when he needed something from Bruce he seemed almost hesitant to interrupt him.
That was nothing like Tony. And dammit he wanted to know what had happened. After another simple mission, and the following meeting, Bruce stopped Steve from leaving so they were alone in the room. "Steve..."
"He followed your orders to the letter. Not once did he object or disobey." Bruce said shocked and worried. "What the hell happened to him Cap?"
"I... It's my fault, but... I got frustrated with his constant talking and asked him if he couldn't shut up for once." Steve said softly and rubbed the back of his neck. "I had hoped... I thought he was just giving me the silence treatment to be annoying, but now... I..."
"This isn't just Tony Stark being who he is, Steve, this is a man afraid to talk. So go talk to him and fix this because it freaks me out and the other guy doesn't like that."
Steve nodded at the hint of green in Bruce's eyes and quickly left to find Tony. Tony had quickly left the meeting and went back to his workshop to fix a few small scratches on the armour. Besides, during the meeting he had to give a rapport of what happened. He had tried to keep it brief and to the point, he really had, but he had talked much longer than he should have. And now he heard Steve was looking for him.
He tried so hard. He wanted to be perfect for Steve. But it wasn't enough... It was never enough.
He swallowed thickly and bit his tongue to stop himself from whining to Jarvis. Normally that helped get him out of that dark place of his mind, but he couldn't take the risk of someone finding out he was talking a lot. "J? Left burner please." He whispered and focussed back on his work.
Oh no... He just gave Jarvis an order. He didn't mean to disturb anyone. Shut up and be quiet. He should have listened to his father sooner. He nodded in greeting to the captain walking in. He wanted to apologise but he also didn't want to talk.
"Tony, we have to talk." Steve said calmly while Tony pretended not to hear his own heart break. He knew that line. It meant shut up and sit there while I break up with you. And he understood. This was nice for how long it lasted. So he nodded softly. Steve sighed and sat down.
"I want to apologise. That what I said a few weeks ago? I didn't really mean it. I was stupid and I shouldn't have said that. Tony... I miss you talking. We all do."
Tony just sat there in shock before shaking his head. No. People didn't like his talking. It was annoying. "You were right." He whispered and flinched automatically, waiting for a slap his memory told him he would get. He spoke out of turn. There was no question and he spoke.
Steve looked shocked when Tony flinched. What had he done? "No Tony. I wasn't. And I certainly didn't want you to stop talking completely." Steve said a little desperate.
Tony swallowed thickly. But he had... He had said that... Tony had been an idiot. He missed all the clues of the man he loved. The hints that showed Tony talked too much. Until Steve understandably snapped. That's when he realised all those comments he had seen as jokes and lovely teasing, were actually true.
"Tony... Please... I love you. Everything about you. Including the talking. It belongs with you. I- please... Tony, tell me how I can fix this." The captain whispered desperately.
"You... Am I..." Tony took a deep breath and looked at Steve carefully. "Permission to speak freely?" He whispered and Steve nodded while his chest ached.
"You don't have to ask permission Tony. You can talk whenever you want." He added softly.
Tony nodded but the look on his face screamed disbelief. "My father warned me. I should have listened to him." He said quickly, softly, and as brief as possible. "And I want to apologise. I was a brat. Never following orders, rambling on the coms. I was a terrible teammate, and boyfriend. But I promise to be better. I can do this, I can keep my mouth shut, and I can listen to you on the field. Anything, but please don't leave me." His voice became softer the longer he spoke, and by the end Steve had to strain to hear him.
That's it. This had to be over. Now. Steve pulled Tony closer, on his lap, in a hug. He held him tight and buried his face in the crook of Tony's neck. "I love you, you idiot. I like it when you talk. And ramble. And we all know you don't always follow orders because you have a better plan. Because you saw something the others missed. Tony, please trust me, believe me, I love you just the way you are."
Tony had frozen when Steve pulled him in his lap, but now he slowly relaxed. "Really?" He asked softly.
"I love you Steve."
"I love you too Tony."
It took a while. Although Steve would have loved if everything just jumped back to the way it was, it didn't.
Slowly but surely, Tony would talk a little more. In the beginning they were only useful addictions to an ongoing conversation. Then slowly it turned into a light joke so now and then. It took a little longer before he would start conversations again. He still had moments where he was busy with a long story about nothing and suddenly he would stop talking and curl in on himself a little.
Then Steve was there.
To hold him and whisper sweet things in his ear and encourage him to continue talking. It wasn't fixed yet. But he wasn't broken. And Steve would keep fighting for the mistake he made. For the man he loved.
After all, he had to make sure Tony would answer when he asked him the question to match the ring in his pocket.
By the way... He said yes.