It was the night before the big day. The moon had never shone brighter and Tony savored every small second of it. There was a knock at the door, a soft rap that followed Tony yelling out, “Come in!"
Steve stepped inside, slipping past Rhodey's drawn curtain.
"Hey," Tony said, dazed by the other man.
"I know you should be getting some rest, and I know I should, too, but I wanted to see how you were feeling."
Tony didn't look away, his eyes glued to the man before him as he slowly began to slip back into reality. "I'm fine. Glad to see you stopped by."
Steve pulled at the strap of his bag. "Of course."
"Can you sit with me for a bit?"
Steve nodded, walking closer to the chair on the right hand side of his bed. Beginning to sit, Tony stopped him.
"Wanna lay down with me?" The older man asked in a low voice.
Instead of taking a seat, Steve slowly removed his bag. Tracing around to the side of the bed, he pulled the curtain to obtain the same privacy as the other man beside them. Steve was back by the chair slipping out of his work shoes and slipping into the small space Tony made for him by shifting as close to the rail as possible. He was lying on his right side as Tony did the same, wrapping his arms around the younger man's waist.
"Are you nervous?" Tony asked, his voice close to his ear. They both liked this feeling. Steve felt Tony's warm breath on the nape of his neck as well as his fingers tracing lazy circles over the fabric of his pants.
Steve lightly laughed. "A little, I'm more nervous about closing you up than anything else; making sure it's not the ugliest scar in humanity."
Tony pulled him closer. The feeling of their hips shifting closer made it all feel not so bad.
"Are you scared?" Steve wondered, loosely biting on his lips as he waited for an answer.
Tony shrugged. "I'm not looking forward to the recovering bit, but no. It was just last week I wanted to die so, I don't know. I don't feel scared, really, I just feel ... ready."
The two soaked in the bare essences of one another. There were things that could've been said, things that Steve and Tony wanted to hear but right now, they didn't say anything. Tony was curled up close to the taller man, his arms snug around his waist and his nose muzzled to the back of Steve's neck. He loved how he smelled. It was that weird cologne he loved so much, the one that resembled chocolate and fruit. Steve wanted to look Tony in the eyes, to hold his hand and kiss his face raw from the fear he shoved down into the pit of his stomach. He didn't want to lose him, he refused to lose him. The thought alone brought tears to his lids. Shutting them tightly, he laced their fingers together to remind him that he was here now. Right now, even if he were to ascend into the stars at some point in the night, what mattered most was that in this moment, Tony was there with him and alive.
"I want the beach house," Steve declared.
Tony didn't answer, his nose still digging into the skin of his neck. "It's all yours."
"Would you move in with me?"
"Whenever you want me to,"
Steve thought for a second. "Six months."
"How do you know-?"
"The lease on my apartment will be up in six months. That's when we move."
"Under one condition," Tony said roughly, causing Steve to raise a brow.
"Rhodey and I can go jumping over the Grand Canyon whenever we feel like it and you can't talk us out of it."
Steve began to fight back, adding some snark and sarcasm to the mix, but instead all he could utter was a laugh. "Deal, go Evel Knievel whenever you guys want."
Rubbing his thumb over Steve's rough hands, Tony felt a smile growing on his cheeks. "It's far out. You'd have to take the ferry to work, which is still thirty or forty minutes plus the bus ride."
"I know," Steve responded. "I don't mind."
"I'd find other work," Tony mumbled, "it's not as if I'm in love with what I'm doing anyway."
"What do you want to do?" Steve asked.
Tony shrugged. "It's too late for me to fulfill my dreams."
"Don't say that, tell me."
"Well," he started, "I wanted to make my own operating system. I wanted it to be as intricate as Apple but as easily accessible as Windows. Plus, I mean, there's no room for that in today's world. People know what they like, I can't expect for it to be as popular as those two. I'm only a couple years shy of being 50, I've missed my calling.”
Steve pulled Tony's hand to his chin, placing the knuckles on his lips as he began to speak. "That's bullshit. I know you're smart; you have more conviction than I've ever seen in any other human being. You can do it. Nothing is ever too late. We'll, except for some things."
Tony heard the words trail, the sense of wonder leaving the older man with a feeling of curiosity. "What things?"
"Well," Steve began, "I want a kid someday. I mean, you have Peter but I always imagined adopting or finding an amazing surrogate or something. I don't know."
Tony felt his chest tighten. This was a new subject, something they danced around but never fully approached.
"Shit, I didn't mean to spring that up on you," his voice deep with irritation.
"I'll be 62 when she's 20," Tony calculated. "She'll think I'm her grandpa."
Steve coughed a laugh. "She won't."
The moon was still moving in the sky, spinning as the world slowly titled on its axis.
"What else do you want?" Tony inquired.
Steve took in a breath, running through his small goals all the way to his bigger ones. "I'd still like to get married. I’d like to open up my own clinic if I could. Maybe buy a dog one day."
Tony scooted closer, placing his cheek on the side of Steve's neck.
"I know you had all these things already, and I get that. I just... I couldn't let go of them because of your experience. I still want my own. And I know marriage isn't even your forte, so, I don't even mean to throw that in our lap." Steve explained.
Tony sucked in a deep breath. "I never wanted to marry because I knew it'd disappoint my parents even more. I gave up on wanting it after a while," he paused, thinking over his next set of words and snickered at himself. "I was always a hopeless romantic. But when someone tells you that you can't love someone, you decide, okay, I won't. So I screwed around. Then, when I got sick I realized how much of my life I wasted on not going after the things I wanted," his voice began to go low. "I wanted to marry a man I loved. I wanted to move off and live happily, get a dog and a cat. Then maybe, after a while, have kids. I wanted these things but knew I'd never have them if I kept trying to please my parents. I was 39 was when I accepted that."
Steve adjusted in his arms.
Tony sighed before he explained himself. "What I'm saying is, is that I'm not going to take those experiences away from you. You deserve them, Steve. You deserve the fucking world and if you want a baby, we'll turkey baste whoever has a worthy enough uterus."
With Tony's hand still pressed against his lips, he began to kiss the knuckles again. Each digit received a small peck before he laid one on the back of Tony’s hand. Steve slowly began to roll over, Tony's hand still in his own as he pulled it closer to his chest.
"What do you think happens when someone dies? Does their soul go up into heaven or is it cold and dark? Just a ruthless ending?"
Steve thought about his mother and her ideology. "I believe in heaven. I think your soul goes to be with those you love the most."
Closing his eyes, Tony accepted the answer. The spirit of the man before him filling his lungs and invading his veins. Steve didn't want to go. He had to leave, get home and rest his mind and body for the coming day, but he just couldn't go.
"I'm not ready to die, Steve."
Steve placed his hand on Tony's cheek, the flesh blistering cold under his palm. "I don't want you to either."
Tony’s mouth moved, speaking to the man before him yet not a sound was coming out. Panic drew inside of Steve’s tummy. His brows were drawing together as Tony seemed to speak as if he could be heard.
“What?” Steve questioned, leaning closer to the man as he seemed to be pulling away slowly.
Tony closed his eyes, looking as if he were falling asleep at last. The dream was slipping from Steve, the memory becoming tainted in what he didn't want to accept as his reality.
"Tony?" Steve called out gently, pulling at the man's hand for his attention. It was limp and lifeless, flooding the memories of Grammy's hands before she …
The silence was too much. Steve was no longer in his daze of the night before. The yelling from behind erupting him from his thoughts as he realized what was happening with his hands enveloped into the open cavity of a chest.
“Dr. Rogers, the patient isn’t responding. The heart won’t start,” a nurse informed.
His head spun to the monitor, line still flat and unresponsive.
Theo ran into the room, nurses assembling him as he flew his arm into sleeves and his hands into latex gloves. "I got it from here, please step aside, Dr. Rogers."
Steve was frozen for only a second until his fight or flight gave him the wrong instructions. "No, I can do this."
Theo narrowed his eyes. "We had an agreement, I properly informed you that I would not fight with you, did I not? Step aside, doctor."
It wasn't smart, it wasn't his best move but Steve didn't budge. Nurses looked at Theo for instructions, awaiting his orders or by the least, a reaction. The monitor was still buzzing with a lifeless tone.
Theo stood behind the man, his jaw clenched and his hands still raised parallel to his shoulders. "If he dies, you're the one who has to live with his son and ex-wife and father holding you, his stupid, stubborn boyfriend, accountable for his death. Step. Aside. Now."
Without anything else being said, Steve stepped back from the table.
Theo rushed over, demanding nurses for a crash cart and 100 CCs of whatever it took to keep him alive. Everyone around Steve was moving in a blur. His eyes were glued unto Tony, who lay there as still as could be with his chest pried open.
The buzzing of the heart defibrillator echoed in the small room.
Steve felt the muscles in his stomach turn as he watched the man's heart jerk. Theo paused to massage the muscle, two fingers on each side going in soft and slow rotations.
Again, and again, and again.
The same reaction, the same fear, the same everything until there was … nothing.
The tension was thick, the pounding of Steve’s heart slowing to nothing as he reached to feel it. It was all over, it had all ended in an instant of a moment yet, no one was moving. Everything had frozen in time to allow him only a split second to feel; to feel the pain, the ache, the horror, the hilarity, the sadness, the immense and intense shock. He was used to be numb, used to feeling nothing when he should’ve felt something but right now, right at this very moment, he felt everything. From the pain, the fear, the guilt, the sadness, the sympathy – he felt everything crashing into him, ripping his organs apart, and tearing at the inside of his throat and swimming through his skull.
A long buzz echoed from the monitor as the whole room stayed … still.
He gagged, choking on the air stuck in his lungs as he tried to think. He tried to think of anything, something to say or something to do but all he managed was to quickly rip the mask from behind his ears and watch his insides involuntarily pour from his lips.
It’d only been a minute, one solid minute before someone finally said anything.
“You did all you could do,” Theo murmured as he stepped back. “Someone call it.”
Steve’s knees that were once buckled beneath him no longer supported the weight of his body as he crashed into the cold tiles of the floor.