The sun bounced off from every small corner of the bedroom walls. It was bright, blinding Steve as he slowly peeled his eyelids back to glance at the clock. It was early, too early for him to start the day, but he decided to prepare against his will.
First, there was the coffee to start, the pot bubbling with life as he collected his belongings in a small pile on the counter next to the hallway.
Next, there was the shower, hot to relax his aching and tired muscles from a rough night of tossing, then cold to wake him up like an electroshock to the muscles.
Lastly, it was his clothes, boxers and a white tee shirt before he slipped into the scrubs he wouldn't be slipping out of for God knows how long.
As he pulled the fabric over his head, he heard shuffling at the door. It was easy to think it was a neighbor, someone who had dropped whatever but instead of falling silent, the noise grew louder, followed by mumbled curses and negative name calling. Steve opened the door to find Bucky standing before him. There was a partially crinkled envelope in his hands, hand written words over its front, with nervousness written all over his being.
It was unlike him, to be nervous since most of the time Steve saw him he was either angry or afraid, either way, it was refreshing.
"What're you doing here?" Steve asked with more concern than confusion.
"I, uh," he was searching for words or a reason, "I was leaving this here for you."
"Is it the lease?" Steve wondered as he stared at the envelope. "I know that renewal time is around the corner."
Bucky shook his head. "No, no, it's from me. I... started seeing this counselor and she said to make amends with those I've wronged, it helps with coping with my anger and frustration and Sam was supposed to bring it but he said it'd be better if I did, so," he held out the letter with his head held down. Steve was unsure, his eyebrows pushed together as he tried to figure out what to do, or even say.
Taking the papers, he leaned on the door frame with his arms folded.
"So, you're seeing someone now?" Steve asked, his voice peppered with a hint of joy.
Bucky nodded, his head held down as he glanced at the other man. "Sam and I have been fighting, for a long time, but it's for the both of us. He deals better, but my episodes caused him to... relapse, I guess. I don't know. I broke his rib, he broke my nose and we needed to figure it out."
Steve slowly nodded, his eyes to the ground then back up.to the man before him. "I'm proud of you. And Sam. I'm proud of you two,” his face was expressionless but his voice hinted towards sincerity. "Well, I should get going. Work in an hour."
"Oh, yeah, no problem. That’s all I wanted you to have," he began to walk away. "I'll tell you if the lease needs renewing." He called out as he continued. Steve waved, a partial smile before he backed into his apartment and shut the door.
The letter burned his fingertips, his curiosity getting the best of him as he tried not to shred the envelope to get to it.
You may not read this, and if you don’t then I don’t blame you. If you are reading this, if you decided to read this, then thank you.
I’ve been taking advantage of how kind you’ve been to me for years. I completely disregarded your feelings and I’m an asshole for doing so. I left you because I thought I could be with someone who understood where I was coming from, emotionally and physically. I was a fucking idiot for doing it and I’m a fucking idiot for blaming you for everything I’ve done.
You’ve been there for me on my best of days and on my worst of days. I’m sorry for all the pain I caused. I’m sorry for punching you in the face, choking you in my sleep, for blaming you for never being there, and for leaving you when you needed me the most. I’ve let you down, I’ve called you names and blamed you for all of my fuck ups because not until this very day have I learned to take responsibility for myself.
Sarah did a great job with you. I remember her teaching us about forgiveness that one time after church. I remember she said ‘A life lived without forgiving is like a prison.’ I’m trapped in here, man. I’ve been angry at you, Sam, my family and my friends, when I’m actually mad at myself. I’ve been so angry with myself for so long and the only way to forgive myself is if you forgive me. I’ve fucked up, I know that, I can’t just ask you to accept my apology but I mean it. I mean it from the bottom of my heart.
I love you Steve Rogers, I’ll forever love you and I’m sorry for making you think or feel otherwise. I thank you for everything. Thanks.
The side of the letter where Steve was holding it was wrinkled. Leaning against the door behind him, Steve felt an ease in his muscles. Feeling like a breath of fresh air, a tight hug from an old friend or a comforting pat on the back, Steve felt happy.
Tony was on bed rest, self-permitted and on no one's orders but his own. Bed rest. It was a lazy Sunday. The rain trickled down the windows, a dark grey settling into the room as he only permitted the outside light to shine in.
It had been almost two weeks since his heart attack. He grabbed at his chest to check for a pulse and was always taken aback by the slow pace.
The days after the incident were filled with pleading, wishes for him to stick around, and awkward smiles when someone started off sentences with ‘maybe one day’. It was mostly Bruce, it was always Bruce. His half smile, half frown that always made Tony feel the need to hug him even if he was just debating on what to have for breakfast. Bruce had come to see him when he returned home, bearing gifts and cards, flowers with generic get well soon messages printed inside. Tony knew Bruce was too afraid to write a message of his own, uncertain if he'd say too little or say too much and run out of space (though more than anything, it would've been the latter).
Peter had come to the small gathering, quickly apologizing for his outburst and hugging his father tighter and longer than he's ever had before. They spent the next few days together, watching television and talking about whatever topic arose. Tony had reluctantly avoided the elephant in the room.
"I'm surprised Steve couldn't make it to the party," Peter said with his mouth full.
"Well, if I had any say in the matter, there wouldn't have been a party in the first place," Tony informed his son.
"Still though, thought he'd be the rebellious kind, the kind to skip work for his man."
Tony shrugged, popping a few pieces of popcorn into his mouth like his younger counterpart. "He's been busy, really busy."
"You broke up, didn't you?"
Tony chewed slowly, looking ahead and never making eye contact. "It's-"
"Complicated, I know," Peter finished. Rolling his eyes and shaking his head, he couldn't quite wrap his mind around what was really happening these days. "Well, if you two don't get back together, I'm really glad you found someone before you... left. He was a great guy."
Tony peeked over at his son, chewing like a camel and focused on the television harder than before, and he smiled. "Yeah," Tony said before settling back into his chair, "he was."
Now, lying on his back in his bed with his hands folded on his stomach, Tony thought about the other man. It was no secret that both were guilty of making mistakes. Tony may have been angry but he knew, for the most part, he was wrong. He wanted to believe that he didn't owe Steve anything but, then again, he did. They were building something, working on making something beautiful despite Tony’s sickness or otherwise and without seeing both sides of the coin, he had left his lover in the dark. Steve, with his poor choice of words, didn't even try to understand. They were both wrong but with the inevitable end hanging over him, Tony wanted to make amends. He wanted Steve to know all there was to know about him. It was farfetched to believe that Steve would even care now, but it was worth a shot.
Tony snatched his phone from the side table and began composing drafts.
'I think we should talk' was his first, before he realized that he needed to say more.
Another came to mind almost instantly, reading: 'I know you hate me and I kinda hate you too but I'd love to talk to you before I overdose on my aspirin.' Quickly deleting everything, he groaned in irritation and annoyance.
'You left your Fifth Element DVD over here'
'I miss your weird cologne'
'When I die, I'm gonna haunt you so hard'
'Remember when I said all I had was a shitty heart and you? Then you left saying that I now just had a shitty heart? Okay, well that's true, but wouldn't it be great if I could have them both?'
'Anyone ever tell you that you would look great in a Captain America uniform?'
'You should be Thor for Halloween'
'Theo should be Thor!'
Tony let out another frustrated groan as he erased every single letter, once again. He wanted to say something sweet, something honest and truthful without saying too much or saying too little. He didn't want to be cliché or come off as an asshole by ignoring his feelings at all. Sucking in a deep breath, he began to type. Slowly he watched the sentence form and everything felt right. As simple it was, and as stupid as Tony felt, he’d found the right thing to say:
'I don't know if I can live without you. I miss you.'