"Call it," Theo requested, pulling the gloves from his hands. He tore the latex, anger evident throughout his entire being as he backed away.
Steve was staring at him; he was always watching him, learning from him, itching to be just like him … except for now.
"5:19 pm," Steve called out.
Theo shook his head, his eyes closed tight with his hands placed on his waist, letting out rough and ragged breaths.
She was only sixteen.
“The patient, sixteen years of age, Indian descent, came into the ER with complaints of chest pains,” Darcy informed in a hurry.
"What happened?" Steve asked, walking her towards the room with the paramedics.
"Sh-she said her chest hurt. She fell asleep and when she woke up, she looked at her phone and started gasping, like she couldn’t breathe. I thought it was a panic attack but she won’t stop, she said she couldn’t breathe," another girl, her friend, stammered out in a panic.
Looking over the small girl, he pulled out his stethoscope to listen to her chest.
"What did this? Was there something scary on her phone? Does she have a history or asthma?”
"No, no, never, it’s just her boyfriend broke up with her and she freaked out. Crying and yelling, and then she said her chest hurt. We went back to my house because her parents would’ve flipped over her crying over some guy she wasn’t even supposed to be dating, she took a nap, woke up, looked at her phone and just said she couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know what to do after a while.”
Steve excused her, requesting for Darcy to escort her to the waiting room.
The lungs were fine, Steve concluded after running a few tests. Her bloodwork was fine, he concluded after sending it to the lab on two occasions. Her heart was the problem, Theo declared after checking over her x-rays four times. These were times when you’d never see him smile.
"She'll need a temporary pacemaker. The beating is very slow and we think due to maybe stress and anxiety, her heart has begun to damage due to that. For now, we’ll insert a temporary one and in a few months, we’ll see how her heart is doing and hopefully take it out," Theo told her parents, her father in tears while her brother held his mother who hadn't said a word. They looked like good people, Steve thought, they were too good for this.
"She's a baby," her father said to him. “She goes to school, she plays her sports, she comes home, what stress is there?”
“Well, sir, teenagers are statically the most stressed. Pressure in school, from their families, peer pressure, anxiety, hormones – there’s a number of things that can contribute to things of this nature,” Steve said from behind Theo. The blonde man before him gave him an over the shoulder glance, making Steve feel inferior and inane.
"We'll take care of her, she's in good hands, sir," Theo reassured with a comforting smile.
And she was.
She was in the best of hands until it all went wrong, until something went awfully wrong. There was no one to blame, no one was at fault as the beating heart of the girl before them stopped.
Theo stormed down the hall, pushing over blankets and racks that stood in his way. This wasn’t his first loss but it hurt him all the same.
Steve watched his friend self-destruct. Theo was now blaming himself for the death of a sixteen year old girl of Indian descent who simply came in from a broken heart.
The water ran cold, creating goose bumps all over Steve's pale skin, but he didn't mind. With his head wrapped tight around the last few days, it was nice to feel something, even if it were the frozen pings of a cold shower.
Stepping from the stall, Steve wrapped a towel around his waist, subconsciously grabbing for his phone. There were notifications from all over: emails he didn't want to read just yet, invites to social media sites he didn’t have the time for, and then there was a text.
He refused to look, placing the phone back down and pacing the locker room for a bit before looking back over towards the blank device.
He picked up the phone again. Thumbing in the passcode and pulling down the top bar to read the notifications again, it was the name alone that made him fragile. Leaning back onto the sink, he took a deep breath before reading the message. He read it a hundred times, maybe a million more just to be sure he knew what was being said.
Against his better judgment, before he could think it all through and really come to terms with how he felt, he pressed call.
"Guessing you got my text."
"What the fuck is wrong with you?" Steve asked, yelling louder than he realized.
"Wait, what? What do you-"
"You come into my life right after my best friend slash fiancée walks out on me, you make me meet your son, you tell me all the great things about your ex-wife, you come to my house and give me all these reasons to love you, you make me love you, then you tell me you want to die and now, now you say this?! Are you fucking kidding me right now?!" Steve didn’t know if he was angry. There was anger and joy all wrapped into a tight ball of sadness and concern. Right now, he wanted better answers, he wanted for his heart to stop beating erratically and for his entire being to stop feeling so numb.
Tony didn’t make a sound. Letting out a breathy ‘huh’ and a small short chuckle, he couldn’t exactly think of much to say.
"No, you're dying. You said you were, so I accepted it. I’m still accepting it. And now you can’t live without me. What the fuck? What-” His breath became short, he felt panic building up in his muscles, the hot tears swelling under his lids, “Why are you doing this to me? If you want me to let you go, then I will. I’ll do it but I can’t when you say some sick shit like this. What do you want from me?”
Tony still tried to insert himself into the conversation. "If you just give me a minute to-"
"I want your stupid beach house, okay? I’ll take it. I don’t want to live without you but you didn’t give me a choice in this. I’m scared, I’m so fucking scared and I don’t want to try this again with anyone else. I won’t be this open with anyone else. I don’t want to be this open with anyone else. I want you and your stupid house and to be in your little family. I want to be in Peter’s life, I don’t care that he hates me, I love the little jerk. I don’t know what you-“
"Steve!" Tony finally screamed into the phone. "I want you to do my surgery."
Steve was quiet, his wide eyes with hot tears still spilling as he closed them and pressed on the lids. "What?"
"I want you to do my surgery. I want the bypass or pacemaker or even a new heart as long as you do it.”
Steve’s jaw was hanging open; sounds that lacked vowels were coming out as he tried to think about what was happening. “I-I-I can’t,” he stammered out as reality slowly settled in. “I mean, I can, legally it’s not against any laws but it’s unethical, it’s not the best idea. I mean, what if you die? I’d be at fault for that, at least Peter and Pepper would think so. I mean, I didn’t treat you with your heart condition either. Professionally, I only know of your wounded arm.”
“I’ll just tell you everything. I’ll say I want you, I’ll request you. You can read my papers and charts and do whatever you have to. Steve, I want you to do it,” Tony pleaded. It was a new tone he’d never heard from the older man before.
The half-naked doctor sighed. “I don’t know. I don’t think it’s a good idea. Theo is amazing, even more amazing than me.”
“And I believe you, he has really steady hands, but I want you. I trust you,” the two fell silent again. Tony let out a soft laugh as he spoke again, “I’m willingly putting my life in your hands. I love you, Steve. I can’t live without you and I mean it.”
Finally, pulling himself together, raking all his emotions back into the cubby hole in the pit of his stomach where they came from, Steve took a deep breath and asked, “Can I see you tonight?”
There was a hint of a laugh, too soft and low to tell but Steve knew Tony was smiling. “Of course, yeah.”
“Alright, I’ll see you later.”
“I love you,” Tony crooned.
Steve felt the corners of his mouth twitch. “I love you too.”
The night air was crisp and cool, cold enough for a sweater but still lovely enough to want to take a walk. Walking around the city at night wasn’t something he dared to do but tonight, he was taking that chance. Since speaking with Tony, he had felt the weight lift from his shoulders. There were still a few things on his mind but at least his heart felt light.
With his hand dug deep into the pockets of his jeans he walked from the bus stop to Tony’s place.
As he walked, he thought about Bucky. It felt as if not too long ago Bucky was his biggest worry, the one that riled up his emotions in a positive and negative way, but it was odd to think that now, because of the same man, he was here. He was walking towards Tony’s place with no resentment. It had been two weeks since their big fight, a little over six hours since Steve was ready to burst from the seams over his text message, and now he felt as if it was all dust in the wind. Maybe not something to be forgotten completely, but he didn’t exactly care anymore. He didn’t want to pry into Tony’s past anymore or push him into talking about things that made him uncomfortable. All he wanted was to hold him again. He wanted Tony in his arms, to take in his essence once again and feel something that wasn’t pain.
Standing before the door of his quaint little townhouse, Steve sucked in a deep breath before knocking.
It was like their first date all over again, Tony fumbling towards the door, Steve feeling nervous, but it was still different. He knew what kind of person was waiting for him; he knew how Tony felt about him and just how perfect he was.
Tony whipped open the door, his lips curved into a wide smile as he leaned on the doorframe.
"Can I help you?" He asked, jokingly.
"I'm here to clean your pool, sir," Steve replied in his most professional voice.
Tony looked over his shoulder. "I don't own one."
"I'll build it then clean it."
Tony dropped his shoulders. "I don't know how to make this sexy, I didn't know where to go from there,” he informed Steve as he stepped aside to let him in.
Steve laughed, dropping his bag by the door and ridding of his coat in shoes at the same time. "Just us tonight?"
"Yeah, Peter said he was too busy to watch Dancing With The Stars with me and I really didn't want to listen to him text all night so, hey, why not," Tony swung his arms as he spoke, looking over his shoulder to Steve as he walked and talked. Spinning around to look into the face of the man behind him, he was quickly pinned to the wall.
Steve rushed to his lips; his tongue slowly slipping into the other man’s warm, welcoming mouth. Tony didn't think before accepting it, doing the same as he wrapped his hands around the back of Steve's neck.
This was the familiarity that they missed. There was a comfort in their kisses that neither had gotten anyplace else before.
Steve slid his hands around Tony's waist, sliding up his shirt to touch the soft skin of his abdomen underneath. Tony lightly moaned, softly chuckling between gasps of kisses and moments when Steve took complete possession of Tony's bottom lip.
"Missed me that much, huh?" The man pinned against the wall managed to ask.
Steve kissed him once again, his mouth taking in every taste of the other man. "I'd rather show than tell, if that's fine with you."
With his eyebrows scaling his forehead, Tony simply nodded. Steve grabbed the man’s waist, lifting him up as he held him closer, continuing to kiss his soft lips.
They quickly fell onto the couch, Steve straddling on top as he pushed the weight of his hips into the other mans. They both groaned lowly, continuing the action over and over again until they could simply take no more.
Pulling at the hems of Steve's shirt, he pushed the fabric away and quickly ran his fingers over the small nipples of his robust chest. Running a single digit down the man's perfect physique, Tony tugged and pulled at the belt and buckle.
The desire was boiling under their skins, making them both hotter and hungrier for one another.
Pinning one of Tony's arms down to the sofa, leaving the other to roam his body freely, Steve followed his lead, pulling at the other man's pants as he revealed the waiting erection.
They both ran their clasped hands up and down the shafts of the other's penis. Groaning roughly into each other’s open mouths while still lazily sharing a sweet embrace, they rotated their hips towards one another. Their thrusts equally hard and fulfilling.
This is where they wanted to be, this is where they needed to be. Steve thought of nothing more than this moment, feeling what he couldn't be without, having what he couldn't go another day without having and that was Tony. Anyway he could get him, as long as he was alive was how he wanted him.
Their thrusts were faster, Tony's more than Steve's as he reached his peak, grunting and panting, moaning and gasping as he released passionately but still waiting for his lover. Steve took his time, kissing the man more, teasing him more, biting on his neck and cheek as he finally began to feel the build-up. Within minutes, he was like Tony, exasperated and tired, lacking life as he collapsed on the other man rather suddenly.
Each man slowly panted, soft laughs escaping as they regained their composure.
"You stink," Tony admittedly laughed as he pushed at the bigger man.
"Bathe me," Steve replied in the same tone.
Tony looked down at the tired man who was struggling to keep his head lifted. Dropping it back on the couch, Tony nodded. "Let's go."
Lying on the floor in front of the couch where they’d taken comfort, both men dressed in nothing more than boxers and blankets, Tony's arms wrapped tight around Steve's waist, the two fought sleep while also battling on a discussion. Steve had something to say.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
Tony sighed; knowing what context the question was in. "I thought you'd feel overwhelmed. You had Bucky to deal with, his condition to deal with on a daily basis and I didn't want that for us. I didn't tell you about the cancer because I thought it was over. It was something I’d survived and I didn't want you praising me like I'm some sort of soldier. It was rough, I cried and puked and I wanted to end it all then, but it got better. Peter kept saying how proud he was and I couldn't let him down. I couldn't leave him yet."
"What about now? What makes this different?" Steve was looking at nothing in particular, only thinking about Tony’s face and what expression he’d be making.
"He's older now. He has another father, one who obviously is way better than me, and I just wanted to be done. I just wanted to not be in pain, not be weak and helpless again. I'm too old to be helpless," Tony shook his head as he thought about those past feelings.
Steve didn't know if he wanted to ask more, to push them man out of his comfort zone but not looking him in the eyes or seeing the tired expression of apathy and annoyance, he felt a smidgen of courage. "What made you do drugs?"
There were so many other things that the older man wished he could talk about but Pepper's words of encouragement rang through his ears like the church bell of first Sundays.
"When I was in middle school, I kissed a boy. First time ever. I thought holy shit, this is cool, I like this," the two chuckled at their unspoken shared experience," Then I kissed a girl. I didn't feel the same way, at all. I was uncomfortable and just not feeling anything anywhere. So, I go up to my old man and I'm like, 'hey, dad, I uh kissed this girl and it wasn't that good.' He's like, 'eh, maybe she's just a bad kisser.' I think it over and I remember the boy, the kid in math club with me. So I say, 'well, I kissed Billy and he wasn't that bad.' And I don't know what kind of experience you had, but my old man flipped his shit like I told him all these years I'd been stealing all his coffee beans.
"Suddenly, I'm getting yelled at, he's screaming and cursing and saying how I'm too good for math club and I don't need to be exposed to fags. So I retreat, I make like a turtle and tuck back in my shell like, ‘okay, I was just kidding dad, geez take a joke.’ He fumed for days about it. Well, fast forward to sophomore year. Same thing, except this time I'm older and there’s hand jobs involved. Now, this girl gave me one and meh, couldn't complain, a hand is a hand. But Billy does it and it's like explosions and fireworks and all this other noise. If you can't tell, Billy here was my first everything. Anyway, fast forward a little bit, mom catches us in my room. We were studying and pretty much jacking each other off. Mom walks in and I'm embarrassed, my face red and I'm crying hysterically, she's crying and it was a mess.
"That night we talk. A long, long, long talk. Dad worked late sometimes and he didn't come home until 12am or 2am, whatever. She sits me down and she tells me that I can't love Billy. I can't bring him over or hold his hand, call or see him outside of school, I have to only be his friend and that's it. And I'm confused, I didn't get it because we're a Christian family, we're raised to love and all that jazz and she says ‘no, no you can't’. She says that you have to marry a woman and make a family to stay in this family. I couldn't tell my dad and I couldn't tell anyone else about that talk. So I didn't. I graduated, went to college, started doing drugs and sneaking around with guys whose names I swore not to learn and then Pepper appeared. She wanted to stay in the country and I wanted them to be proud of me so we got hitched. I stayed on the drugs, doing whatever but after a while she got tired of it, and I started losing my damn mind but she wanted me to get better. I started getting into some really bad shit, trouble with the police and all, she bailed me out a few times, helped keep my record clean of felonies so I could get work after graduation and when she was ready, we had Pete. I'd just gotten over my first spout of cancer, she was pregnant and crying and beating me.
"After Pepper and I got divorced my mother died. I wasn't invited to the funeral because my father was sure I was still covering up being a flamer, and he was right, but I went, stayed outside, and went to see her grave afterwards. I was mad at her for a long time but she was looking out for me. I didn't realize it until a few months ago but that's why I'm here now."
It was quiet, the room was still aside from the ice moving around in the freezer and the generator running on the fridge. Steve rolled over, Tony's arms still wrapped tight around him as he stared the man into his eyes. Staring deep into his hazel brown windows, Steve moved into his warmth even more.
"I make my own decisions. You mean well, and I get it, but I want to be there for you when you need it. I want to have that choice and if you make it for me, I want to at least know about it all beforehand," Steve slowly began to caress his face. "I'll do the surgery. We’ll schedule it and I’ll figure out a way to tell Theo."
Tony smiled, a slow reluctant grin that soon took over his entire face. Pulling Steve in closer, he kissed the man once again.