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Go Out & Love Someone.

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The warmth radiated from the sheets as Steve tried to hold on to the idea of someone being close to him again. The bed was recently evacuated by the patron since the smell of his cologne lingered on the pillow and in the linens. It had been eight months since Bucky left him. Only eighteen minutes since the stranger left the bed. Steve hid the pain of the break up, endless brigades of men who take too much and did so little. Sex was his only goal, something to smother the agony of heartbreak and hide his irrational fear of dying alone. Bucky wasn't a lover, he was more than a significant other who was no one before they became something. He was a best friend, a partner, an accomplice if need be, and more than anything, he was the only place Steve found solace.

Bucky was once Steve's home away from home. His arms wrapped tight around the taller man to let him always know that this is where he belonged. Now Steve was lost in the world without him. The photos decorating the wall and providing the idea of false hope and joy. They were broken now, impossible to fix no matter how hard they tried. There was no such thing as Steve and Bucky anymore.

The alarm rang loud, pulling him from the musk of his ninth pity fuck since the break up and forcing him to prepare to go to work. Work wasn't the same without someone to accompany you along the way. They parted ways at the bridge, one stepping into a bus while the other hurried to catch the train. It was routine, it was how they worked, in the beginning.

Steve pulled his boxers off before slipping into the shower. The hot water scalded his skin before he found comfort in the pain. That was his specialty now, taking comfort in pain he caused himself. Bucky claimed that it was Steve’s work schedule that forced him out the door, the twenty-four hour shifts and the hospital talk began to take a toll on him, he said. Once upon a time Bucky supported him, told him that no matter what, he was going to be right by his side, rooting for him every step of the way even if they did mean spending more time at home alone than he intended.

Finally he was fed up.

Bucky left, slamming the door and yelling profanities into the night's air. Steve punched a wall, screaming at the top of his lungs until his face turned blue and he collapsed to his knees. It took a month for them to speak to one another again. Steve regretted making the first move.

The water ran cold, Steve let the water run down his neck before he realized how long he’d been standing there.

Time was ticking by quickly. Before he knew it, it was seven, an hour later than it needed to be and he began to rush to get dressed. Jumping into his scrubs, he packed his pockets with his phone, wallet, granola bar breakfast, and his ring. The gold brassy antique piece was the only real sense of reality that he had. Swiftly he was out the door and on the street. Slipping his ear buds in, he did all he could to wash himself of his torturous thoughts before starting another day at St. Carter General Hospital.

Chapter Text

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Steve tried to wake himself up a bit more. It'd been two hours into his shift and all he wanted to do was rest. Another hour would do me good, he lied to himself. The door slowly slipped open to reveal a large man with blonde hair pulled into a loose ponytail and a smile wide enough to be seen across galaxies was carrying two coffee cups. Theodore, the head heart surgeon, was a friend of Steve's.

"You look like you need it," Theo, or sometimes Thor when the staff felt the need to mock him, stated with enthusiasm that Steve only witnessed in flight attendants and morning people he meticulously avoided for obvious reasons. Steve shook his head and waved his hand aimlessly, turning down the man’s offer. "Take it. I spent eight dollars on these because the girl at the counter rejected my advances," a smile appeared across Steve's lips, a low chuckle to follow thereafter. Taking the drink, he nods slowly as he examined the x-rays before him.

"Tell me what I'm looking at," Steve said plainly. Theo squinted, turning his head from side to side before shrugging his broad shoulders not in ignorance but in knowledge of what he saw.

"It seems to me to be a tumor," he stated before sipping the hot beverage.

"Now how do I tell the mother of the five year old patient that?" Steve asked, doing the same.

Theo stopped drinking, a large gulp to signify his discomfort in the situation. It wasn't easy being a doctor, the bearer of bad news and the one held responsible when the matter wasn’t fixed. Theo never knew what to say, he wasn't the best with expressing himself. "Tell her about their options. Pamphlets save me from using words they won’t understand."

Steve smirked. "Isn't there a heart somewhere that needs transplanting?"

"Go look for me; I'm not on call for another twenty minutes."

The chirping of Steve's beeper disrupts their slow conversation. "And your prayers have been answered."

"Whatever crawled up your ass this morning must have a brother up that baristas. I'll never get over paying full price for these," his smile was wide while his words began to fade as Steve left the room.

"Thanks for the overpriced joe," Steve called back before boarding the elevator.

He wasn't on-call for the ER often, he was often in cardiology or orthopedics but today he got the short end of the stick due to his tardiness. Steve wasn't a surgeon yet but he had to work his way up. Bucky understood that. Steve always dreamt of marrying his best friend, not Bucky in particular, but someone who was a best friend first. Then high school came along, a few months before junior year James ‘Bucky’ Barnes moved into the neighborhood and everything changed. They were best friends, the best of friends. When college entered the picture it was a miracle that they were accepted into the same school, the same dorm hall, too. Then Steve called it a phase, unsure of who he loved and what he loved but there was a girl, a sweet girl with brown hair and naturally bright pink lips that she always painted red. Then they kissed. A night of heavy petting and love bites as those red lips stained his face and Steve, with his hand squeezing her thighs, could think of nothing but James. It wasn't her fault, he enjoyed it, by God did he, but he wanted to be in the arms of someone else. Instead of admitting it, they went all the way. Their relationship didn’t last long because as much as he wanted to love the girl, seap into the ‘norm’ of society and have a family, Bucky was worth the sacrifice.

It took years for him to admit to Bucky how he felt. Scared and unsure of how he’d take it but they shared the same feelings. As much of a shock it was to Steve, they were on same page longer than they realized. They tip-toed around one another until Steve caved, pulling the shaggy haired brunette into a kiss. That was the moment Steve knew he’d be marrying his best friend.

The elevator ding brought the blonde back to reality, his eyes wide and bright as he tucked the ring back into his pocket and walked to the nurse desk to find his new patient file.

"Darcy," he called out to the girl who chewed her gum too hard and listened to her music too loud. "Darcy!" He called louder for her attention as she pulled the headphones out to smile at him.

"Sorry, doc. New Foster The People album came out and -"

"Folder," he interrupted with his eyes shut.

"Room 7," she said as she handed over the manila folder with an apologetic smirk.

Shaking his head, he said his thanks before turning towards the room.

The door was open, a curtain pulled to hide the face of the man who was named:

"Mr. Anthony Stark? I'm Dr. Rogers, I'll be taking care of you. Says here you came in for a wounded arm?" Steve questioned with his face buried into the folder.

"I think it's only a scratch but yeah, been bleeding for a few days now," he answered while holding up the wounded limb. "And you can call me Tony. Anthony is ... not what I liked to be called," his laugh bubbled from within his chest.

Steve tore his eyes from the pages to meet the chocolate brown eyes of the man before him. His face felt hot and flustered, his lips pulled into a wide smile that he didn't know existed until his cheeks began to ache. Tony was handsome. It was weird to even call him handsome because Steve was used to the words 'cute' or 'hot', even 'gorgeous' every once in a while but handsome was a bigger compliment. His face wasn't overly defined with a chiseled chin or a hand crafted jaw line, he was simple, average almost but utterly handsome. There was a goatee to hide most of his chin, a mustache that Steve wish he could grow as perfect.

"Well, Tony, if you don't mind, I'll need to remove the bandage to take a closer look,” Tony nodded reluctantly.

"Good looking and has manners, aren't you a rare specimen? Can I keep you?"

Steve chuckled out of kindness. Washing his hands, he peered over his shoulder at the brunette man. "Sure you don't want to take me to dinner first?"

Tony shrugged slightly, making a noise that mocked some sort of uncertainty. "Meh, life is too short for dinner. I think we can pull off jumping right into marriage or something. I need some sort of excuse to constantly stare at that face. And that butt."

Pulling the paper towel from the dispenser, Steve played shocked all too well. "And if I'm uncomfortable with you staring at my butt?"

Tony snorted. "Part of the terms and conditions."

"Have you been staring this whole time?" Steve asked with a laugh.

"I didn't stare, merely glanced. And it's a new age, doc. If you're not gay, you'd ignore me obviously flirting with you, fix my arm, and charge the insurance company for miscellaneous charges such as paper upcycle management or something. Do you really need five paper towels to dry your hands?"

Steve smiled, pulling the stool with him as he dragged the seat to the table. The gloves snapped loudly, only stinging his wrist for a slight second as he carefully removed the bandage from the bloody wound.

"I like everything to be by fives and there are thousands of paper towels around this place, we recycle here," there was no point in telling the man about his small quirk or the fact that the hospital had upstanding qualities. It wasn't as if Steve was nervous, he dealt with good looking men all the time but it was the forward behavior coming from a man like him that caused him to clear his throat for no good reason and adjust in his seat a time or two. "It may be a new age but I can't divulge personal information like that about myself. There's a chance you could sue me for sexual harassment or something. Not sure what your intentions are. Or, would be."

Tony raised an eyebrow, a smirk crossing his lips as he picked at the man's words. "My intentions, huh? This is new, never actually got this far before. Well, I - ow! Shit!" The wound was no longer bleeding but the gash was split wide open, gaping open wide enough for the muscle to be seen along the bone of his arm.

"You need stitches for your scratch. I need to clean it out before I begin. How did this happen?” Steve questioned while looking through the drawers of the room.

Tony made a face, his lips stretching to the side before speaking. “Uh, it’s been a few days. I fell through the glass door on my shower.”

Steve cocked his head to the side. “Why didn’t you come to the hospital sooner? Do you have other wounds?“

Tony shook his head. "No, just the arm." He rubbed his neck with his viable limb.

“The good news is that it isn’t that bad, it looks bad but I don't need to cut it off, and you can still talk about how nice my ass is but it needs about fourteen stitches.”

 "That's awesome. I was more than sure a few Dora the Explorer band-aids would’ve done me well but stitches work. Not gonna tell you how to do your job," Tony joked as he winced slightly at the wash stinging his wound. "As for my intentions, well, I was intending on wooing you enough to let me take you to dinner, since you insisted I should, and if you didn't then I would sue you for checking my prostate without my consent.”

For once, in what felt like years, Steve bellowed out a deep laugh. “That is not how you woo someone,” Steve coughed out while washing out the wound with a syringe filled with water.

"It seems to work for me all the time," Tony said admittedly, staring at his arm and fleeting glances at the man.

Steve threaded the large curved needle before finally sticking it into the clean skin. "Let's say I am what you think I am; how do you know I don't have someone?"

Tony scrunched his face at the look of his new scar in the making. "If you are and possibly do, then I say that person isn't doing all the right things because you haven't stopped smiling since you stopped looking at my chart."

Steve cleared his throat. “If I wasn’t hospitable, then you'd think I was a bad doctor.”

“I know the difference between flattery and hospitality. Your bedside manners are great, doc, but look. You may have someone or you may not or you may not enjoy the company of those who also stand to take a leak. Either way I’m interested in you, I think you are the best looking man I’ve ever seen and I’d love to take you to dinner.”

Steve bit his lip, teetering on his indecisiveness before he looked over his shoulder for lingering ears and eyes. The last stitch was in. The thick layer of gel covered the fixed wound before Steve jumped to his feet. “And that’s all she wrote.” Steve announced with a wide smile. It was all habit after a while: bandage, papers, prescriptions, signatures and his cell phone number. His eyes were wide as he wrote the digits on the back of his card. This is happening, he told himself. Looking at the man then the card, he wrote at the bottom:

Call me Steve.

“I wrote you a prescription for something to ease the pain since it was a pretty deep wound and the next one is for …” he paused to think. It was difficult for him to hold his professional composure. “It’s my card if you need anything. You can just call the hospital and ask for me but,” Steve smiled, "I figured that you'd need me right away."

Tony caught wind of his hint. Running the tip of his tongue across his top lip, he smiled. "Thank you very much, Dr. Rogers."

*

"You gave him your number?" Natasha, Steve's only other friend, asked with her eyebrows raised and eyes scanning the lunch area. "Can you do that?"

"He was just an ER patient. If he was admitted, then no, but I honestly don’t know,” his voice was flat, more matter-of-fact than he usually was.

"Does this mean you're over Bucky?"

Steve couldn’t find words, so he shrugged. Natasha was an accidental friend. They met at the gym, silently fighting over a machine until she challenged him to a boxing match. He thought it was silly, primarily because he couldn’t bring himself to fight a girl over a exercise bike. Either way, it happened and the two exhausted themselves before one could be declared a victor. The next night it was all a laugh.

Natasha leaned back in her seat, propping her feet upon the table before letting out a soft sigh. "Don't have sex with him. I don't mean like ever but don't make this out to be a sex thing. I know you're not ready to open up or anything but don't just be in this for the sex. Stick to picking up guys at the gym for your sexcapades."

"It just makes me feel better. I like not being the bad guy. At least with one night stands they think I’m perfect."

"You know what makes you the bad guy? Being that stereotypical douche who can’t keep it in his pants after the person he loves leaves him."

Steve shook his head, fighting off the boiling anger. "We were engaged, Nat. It’s not easy to open myself up to people after that."

"Well, it’s been almost a year. He has Sam and you don't even remember the names of the guys you slept with. This guy wants to know you and not just fuck you, so I think you should give him a chance. Maybe this time something could work. You can’t keep waiting for Bucky."

Natasha sipped her drink with a discontent frown on her face. She was right, she was always right. If Steve's conscious could be externalized, he was more than sure that it'd be her. As much as he didn't want to admit it, it was time for him to move on. Bucky had found someone, something Steve learned through social media (all thanks to Natasha who still was friends with him on Facebook). Sam Wilson was tall, handsome, and athletic. It was sickening to think of him with someone else but it was time to move past what they had, what they could've had.

"He texted me but I don’t know what to say to him,” Steve said flatly. He wasn't enthused whatsoever.

"How old is he?" Nat asked.

Steve was clicking through his phone as he blurted out, "Older."

Nat's eyes were wide. "How old? Like 60?“

"No, no, I'd say late 40s by the least,” he quickly clarified.

"Oh. Wow. He must look really good for his age," The two were silent. Steve's phone was buzzing with notifications, though his face twisted into a frown at the last text. Natasha spoke again. "Tell him you two should have breakfast.”

Steve shrugged, his eyes never breaking from the screen. "Bucky wants to come get the last of his stuff tomorrow and I'm sure I'll be exhausted after my shift today. I don't know. Maybe I can tell him to shoot for the weekend.”

"It's Tuesday!" she yelled out. "You're going to let him linger around all week? Rogers. No," she laughed while shaking her head.

Steve shrugged again, his face still expressionless as he set the phone down on the metal table. "What do you want me to do? I don’t know how this works. I’ve only dated two people in my entire life. One was a woman who did all the work and the other broke off an engagement with me via whiteboard."

Natasha glanced at the free device, then the brooding man before snatching it and taking off running. Steve turned red, flying out his seat as the woman dashed over empty seats. The congregation area was practically empty, though the two cared little about bystanders. It was a game to Natasha while it was possible embarrassment for Steve. She texted as she ran, looking over her shoulder at the bigger man who yelled her name.

"Stop trying to fix my love life!" Steve yelled out to get as he jumped over a fallen chair and maneuvered through tables.

"If you don't go on a date now, you never will," she protested.

The phone chimed, a simple whistle notification since preset stuff didn't require much work on Steve's behalf.

Natasha stopped running. Huffing with a smile as she tossed the man his phone. "Someone wants to take you for breakfast."

Steve read the text and felt his stomach flutter.

Steve-
How about breakfast tomorrow?

Tony-
It's a date.

“I don't even like breakfast,” Steve huffed with his free hand on his waist.

Chapter Text

The diner was relatively small. The counter took up majority of the space when you walked inside and the tables were along the wall, one row of six tables and each one with two chairs. Steve always sat at the counter, smiling as wide as he could as he sipped his coffee and listened to his favorite podcast. Steve stepped inside to see a table, third one from the back wall, occupied by a familiar face.

The long haired brunette waitress smiled at Steve. "Morning, Dr. Rogers."

"Good morning, Jane." He responded. They shared a face, excitement and uncertainty, a private conversation that was solely made up with expressions.

Tony smiled, eyes tired as he stood to his feet to greet the blonde. He wore a graphic tee with BLACK SABBATH printed on the front, his jeans were dark washed, and as simple as he looked, he still managed to look amazing. Steve liked Tony’s simple attire, lacking the sign of too much thought or wanting to impress.

"Morning." Tony said.

"Good morning to you." Steve replied as he sat across from the brown eyed man. And what eyes they were. It took willpower not to stare but it was a date. Dates were made for staring and awkward giggles, Steve mused.

"How was work?" Tony inquired, stirring the spoon around in his coffee cup loosely.

Steve watched his every move. It all seemed so careful and fluent. The same way that movies zoomed in too close on eyelashes or arm hair - this was that moment. The sun kissed Tony's skin in a way that made him glow. "It was something. Guy cut his finger off with his own knife just to see if the blood would squirt like it does in movies, fyi: it does. Uh, a woman got a cucumber stuck inside of her and she was so tense that we had to basically drug her to get her to sleep. And I fell asleep in the bathroom because the interns were having sex in the on-call room."

Tony's eyes were wide as he slowly said, "Wow. I was not the highlight of your day at all." They both laughed, Tony's more comical while Steve's was more nervous.

Steve waved for Jane's attention before he stated, "Trust me, you were the highlight of my day."

An eyebrow was raised. "Really? How so?"

Jane poured the coffee and stared a hole into the side of Steve's head. He glanced up at her as she mouthed, "he's so hot."

Steve smiled before drawing his attention back to the other man. "For one, I didn't know if you were honestly interested. I couldn't wrap my mind around that the entire day." He partially lied as sipped the coffee. Black and plain, that was how he always believed it was meant to be enjoyed. "Two, you had a way better personality than my other patients. Lastly," he hesitated, another nervous laugh before he thought about the previous morning, "you have a nice butt."

Tony stared at the blonde, his eyebrows raised and his face blank before the Cheshire smile spread across his face and a deep laugh escaped his lungs. It was hearty, and contagious, leaving Steve to begin chuckling himself.

"At least I'm barking up the right tree." Tony said through slow laughs. " I still find you to be the most attractive man I've ever seen. That's really saying a lot since I look at myself everyday."

Tony smiled widely. It was clear to Steve that though Tony seemed very cocky it was all just an act. Steve took some pride at the hospital in being the one who could sniff out those who were drug fiends and those who needed them to survive. Those who would act sick or in pain were the addicts. As for those who weren't, they hid their pain, covering it with weak smiles and failed attempts to make jokes. That was Tony and Steve could tell; mostly because Steve also was someone who hid his pain. There was so much that he wondered in that moment, too. Would they become something? Why is it that Natasha can talk him into basically running into an erupting volcano and Steve would do it while stomping his feet like a child? Was Tony someone he could see himself with?

"I agree." Steve stated with his hand gripping the coffee cup. It was time for them to change the pace, Steve sipped the warm beverage before speaking. "Why don't you tell me something that isn't on your chart."

Tony made a face, unsure of where to begin and what to cover. "Hm, wow, okay. I'm a professor. I teach a computer engineering course at some fancy college that I’m sure I could never afford. I don't like apples; I think that whole skin thing it’s got going on is disgusting. I can dance really well, I like to dance. I'm divorced. I choreographed our wedding dance. I have a son, Peter. He lives with me from time to time and is the reason why I was at the hospital, he nagged me into going. Something I'm more than sure he got from his mother." Tony ran out of facts. 

"Son?" The word was odd to say. Sure, he met tons of men who'd adopted sons or impregnated their best friends through a surgical turkey baster but an ex-wife and a son was a rarity. More than anything, it wasn’t something that appeared in his dating history.

Tony felt nervous. "His name is Peter. He's 15 going on 45." The name created a face that resembled an image of the man before him but younger. Above all else, Steve was still missing some pieces. An image of a woman, multiple women, came to mind as Steve tried to think up what his heterosexual preference would be. "Pepper is my ex-wife. We split about a year ago. She knew who I was, what I was about, but she needed help, and so did I, and as hard as it is to explain, we loved one another. I could say I didn't love her like the way you normally love someone but I did. She was my best friend who needed a favor and I was there. I needed some support and tending to and she was there. She wanted a child but didn't want to lay that responsibility in someone else's hands and I loved her, love her. I spent some nights with men because like I said, she knew who I was, but I gave her a child because she fixed me. Now she's married to someone who doesn’t sleep with men and she’s happier than ever."

The images stopped in Steve's mind as the words pulled at his heart strings. "What made you two split?" The curiosity was evident, his eyes sincere while his face blank. Tony smiled a bit as he sank into the chair.

"She met her husband. He understood her, and me, which was really important to her. We divorced, I paid for it. Then I paid for her wedding and walked her down the aisle with Peter. I also choreographed that wedding. Peter likes him and he loves Peter, which was very important to me. I like seeing her happy even though her husband is three kinds of stupid in my opinion but all that matters is she thinks the sun shines out his ass. It's been a year now so after months of being nagged, I'm looking for my sunshiny ass to praise."

The silence was needed, though it didn't feel so silent. The two were staring at one another with stupid grins and pink cheeks. Steve didn't want to ruin the moment by talking or adding his needless commentary. This was that small instant in life where he felt secure and confident, where he wasn't concerned about Bucky and Sam, where he finally felt good about something again. Tony felt good to him. Steve didn't trust himself; messing up everything once before, it was this fear deep down inside of him that he'd continue to mess up everything except for this (if this were to be a this). Still, it was good for him.

"My fiance left me because I work too much.” Steve didn’t know where the words spiralled from but he felt lighter after saying it. It didn’t need much explanation. Steve dug his hand into his pocket as he felt the ring float between his fingers. "He helped me study a lot when we were in college, he always said that our careers wouldn't get in the way and ... he lied." Sipping his coffee, Steve looked out the window as the truth settled in.

Tony took a long sip from his coffee before letting out a quick huff. “Well that fucking blows.”

Steve smiled, shaking his head as he thought of the chain of events leading up to the split. “I saw it coming. It’s like knowing when the two trains left the station but not knowing when they’ll collide.”

“Though, you could mathematically figure that out. It’s complicated depending on if the two are leaving trains stations from different time zones though once you calculate the hours that it’d take for each …” Tony caught the look on Steve's face. He smirked at his spout of smarts as he waved his hand, the international sign of carry on, while he did his best to wash away the embarrassment.

Leaning back into his chair, Steve licked his lips. “How old are you?” His voice was playfully curious.

“Forty-four. You?”

“Twenty-seven.” Steve said into his cup.

Tony laughed lowly. “Eek. Would your father approve?”

Steve shrugged. “If he were around? No.”

“And your mother?”

“Heh,” he said as he placed the cup down, leaning back into his chair to ponder upon the thought. “I think she was still having a hard enough time accepting that I was marrying my best friend, not sure how she would’ve taken me dating someone twice my age.”

“Don’t forget married, divorced and has a son.” Tony said into his cup as well.

“I rest my case.”

The two laughed, Steve waved Jane over for more coffee.

*

The sounds of repeated, hard footsteps could be heard throughout the small three bedroom home. It was noon, the sun high in the sky and the news on the television with closed caption for the preoccupied man to read while he ran.

“When’s the real date?”

Tony laughed slighty. The treadmill was his sick obsession, running with the bluetooth attached to his ear as he ran until his legs ached. Pepper was on the other line unloading groceries when she stopped to wait for his answer.

“Tomorrow night, maybe. We hit it off. It was great.” Tony answered. Pepper sighed in relief. Tony knew she was smiling, one of those things he picked up on after many years of marriage.

“I really hope this all works for you, Tony.” Her smile was more evident when she spoke.

"I don't know. I'm more than sure he likes me, and God, I'm in awe by him, but … he's 27 years old."

"Tony, no." Pepper replied, shocked.

"I know, I know. I thought he was at least 30 something. I'm not sure what's in the water these days but even that Stacy girl looks 20 something."

Pepper grunted, still leaning against the counter. "Did you tell him about Peter and I?"

"Of course, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I left that out. He just got out of his own mess." Tony stammered out between heavy breaths.

"Like what?" She asked while resuming her task.

"Ex-fiance left him because he's a doctor. I don't think he's over the guy but he's trying to move on."

"He's the one that treated you at the hospital right?" She gasped.

Slowing down his run, he huffed as he spoke. "Dr. McTight Ass with nice hair."

"Well, you have to let Peter meet him at some point. He's the man in your life who gets the ultimate say so." Her voice was confident.

Suddenly, she was quiet. Tony knew what was coming. "Tony, don't forget to tell him the truth about ... ya'know. Be honest with him, he's a good one from the sounds of it."

The treadmill stopped underneath him. Placing his hands on his hips, he struggled to catch a breath. "Pepper," he sighed, "I will. I promise, just let me get to know him first, okay? I'll be honest with him, trust me. Now let me speak to Peter.”

*

The on-call room was empty, peaceful even, yet Steve struggled to catch a wink of sleep. Perhaps it was because Bucky had been over the previous morning, collecting his belongings as he, and Sam, tip toed around the always-on-edge Steve but it failed, as always. From an exchange of words to a yelling match, Steve found himself alone in the apartment on the floor gasping for air after he screamed himself into an almost hysteria. This was his new normal, being alone at his lowest peak with little to no oxygen left in his tired lungs. Bucky was once one of his strengths, his rock and security, his voice of reason, and the purpose behind all he did. Now it was all different. Bucky was his weakness, the one thing that left him feeling void and torn apart on the inside.

Lying with an arm draped over his eyes, Steve couldn't escape one small detail: during his sexual rampage of desperation and loneliness, Tony was all he could think about. It was easy to imagine him and the older man in a nice fantasy but instead Tony was on his mind for other reasons. Steve thought about him because he had questions so many unanswered questions on his mind. What was he to do with a man like Tony? Steve, at his current state, was weak, fragile really. He had such little to offer to a relationship? Would they date only for the company of one another or because they aspired for something more? Was all of this was because they wanted a change of pace from their normal suitors or partners? Could Steve even see himself with someone like Tony? Without a doubt, he liked the man. There was much about him that Steve felt a pull, an inevitable force of gravity lunging him in Tony's direction. Steve knew he wasn't ready for love again but Tony felt like a safe bet. Perhaps it was the family man trait, the fact that he had more than himself to look out for. Perhaps it was his boyish charm, the arrogance and sarcasm was as much of a turn on and it was a turn off.

In that moment, Steve felt dirty. It was bad enough he felt guilty for having sex the night before with some stranger since he had his mind on Tony since the day they met. Of course he was caught up in Bucky and Sam, the misplaced feelings about his over moving on quicker than he could accept that they were actually over but Tony was a getaway, a safe haven in a way. They spoke in text messages, sharing ridiculous photos of themselves throughout their mundane days, and Steve honestly enjoyed it. It was wrong to sexualize him, to fantasize about the man he barely knew but Steve felt his length growing uncomfortable behind the fabric of his scrubs and his guilt was washing away as quick as his erection was growing. Right now wasn't the time nor the place but the idea of Tony taking care of him. It was a fantasy that Steve shamefully harbored. He was a man that took care of everyone and everything but Tony was older, wiser, and qualified in the field of taking care of someone.

His voice was like velvet as he whispered into Steve's ear. "Don't worry, doc, you're in good hands now." Steve smiled, rubbing at the bulge with his free hand. Steve wanted Tony to kiss his ready lips, pulling him closer as he tried to rid the two of every square inch of space. Tony would then run his hand down Steve's shirt, pulling at the strings of his pants before pulling the knot loose. Steve did just that, his arm still draped over his eyes as the fantasy continued to play itself out. His chest rising and falling with steady breaths of the idea of Tony's hand replacing his own. This is what it felt like to be taken care of, Steve thought. Licking his dry lips as stroked the shaft to the thought of Tony's pink lips leaving warm, wet kisses from Steve's ear, down this neck, around to his muscular chest that was chiseled with pecs and abs. A low moan escaped his partially parted lips. It all felt wrong but Steve wished for it to be the same for him. He hoped, even wished, Tony would catch himself in the shower, slowly stroking his erection to the idea of Steve being there behind him. Kissing his neck softly or whispering sweet nothings as he took control. Steve liked the idea of being wanted in every sense of the term. Maybe it was the brigade of one night stands, his unquenchable sex drive but Steve thrived on the thought of being wanted, desired, and ultimately, loved.  There was no way Tony didn’t want him. Steve remembered the look his eyes, the joy and desire, the dying need to stare at one another until the room felt like it was spinning. In fact, with Steve continuing to stroke the shaft of his erected penis, the room did just that.

The sudden vibration of his phone brought him back to reality. Quickly pulling his hand from his pants, he began to pat around the bed to find the device. Beneath the pillow, he fumbled the phone before clearing his voice to answer.

"Hello?" It came out raspy and harsh.

"Did I wake you?" Tony asked, his voice almost worried.

Steve shook his head, looking down at an erection that wouldn't disappear. "Not at all, what's going on?"

"I am getting ready for my last class and, don't be insulted by this since I spend most of my time around twenty something’s who don’t know anything, but I thought of you." They both were smiling, Steve could tell. "So, I was thinking, it's been some days since our 'date' and I know I laid it on you thick with the son and ex-wife stuff-"

"No, no, I appreciate the honesty. You're ... great, honestly." Steve interjected quickly.

"Great? Really? Great enough for a second date at my place tonight? Dinner, movie, dancing or whatever you kids are into these days."

Steve smiled hesitantly, fighting off the gesture almost instantly. "I have to check my schedule."

Tony sighed. "You know, you’re a tough egg to crack. I’ve been sending you pictures of my disgusting yet incredibly good looking morning face and you still reject my advances. I think I may have to resort to kidnapping.”

Steve couldn't hold in the huff, biting the inside of his lip as he replied faster than he thought up his answer. "Since you're so good with words, I'll … I’ll be there. I get off early tonight so text me the address maybe and I’ll catch a cab over."

"Okay, good stuff.” Tony started, slapping down a stack of papers in a celebratory action. “Well, I guess I'll let you get back to saving lives and charging hundreds for it."

"And I'll let you get back to reading out of a book and charging thousands for it." Steve smiled at his own remark.

".... Touche, Rogers. I’ll see you tonight. Where that little outfit I like." Tony said flatly.

“How about I wear nothing and you dress me like a Ken doll when I get there?” Steve said lightly.

“If you can find a cabby who’s willing to take a six foot naked man, then sure, sounds like a deal.” Tony replied with the humor buzzing in his voice.

“See you tonight.”

The call ended.

His erection was gone, finally. Steve sat up, running his fingers through his mess of hair. The sigh was heavy and deep. There was too much on his mind, on his plate, and even though less than a minute ago he was ready to masturbate to the idea of Tony, everything suddenly felt too fast, too rushed. All of a sudden, with his hand placed under his stubble ridden chin, Steve realized just how afraid of love he was.

“Fuck.”

Chapter Text

The cab driver was brooding, a usual facade for those who risk their lives all too often for drugs addicts, prostitutes, and everyone in between. Steve wanted to talk, oddly enough. He wanted to confide in a stranger, someone who wouldn't judge him but it seemed stupid. Instead, he peered out the window as he watched the neighborhoods change.

Natasha  
have fun tonight xoxo

The scenery flowed from the quaint little apartments to the suburban luxury homes only middle class citizens could afford. Tony was one of them. The townhouses were all identical, differing in only door ornaments and window shutter colors. The cars all looked the same as well: silver or black, tan or white., Sudan or minivan, those were truly the only choises. Each brick red house was labeled with golden numbers by the mailbox on the porch. Steve felt the excitement and fear brush over him when he found the numbers he was looking for.

"This is it." He stated, pointing at the house as if it could be told apart from the last seventeen they saw in that neighborhood. He paid the fare, waving off before stepping out into the cool night air of spring.

"Here we go." Steve mumbled to himself as he tugged at the bottom of his shirt.

Before he could back out and run for the hills, he was up the porch and at the door, knocking three times.

It took only a second before Tony acknowledged the noise. Steve heard the shuffling, the muffled curses before the door swung open to reveal a wide grin. "You didn't stand me up."

"I still can if you want." Steve joked, pointing behind himself as he spoke.

"You’ll miss out on the once in a blue moon occurrence of me actually cooking another human being dinner." The lack of expression tickled Steve in some way. Tony's sense of humor was dry and sarcastic, something that Steve somehow liked more than he expected to.

"You never cook for your son?" The word still left an odd taste in his mouth.

"Pepper told him too many stories of how bad of a cook I was when we were younger so, no, he refuses to eat whatever I make. It’s for his own good really, I’m terrible.”

"Is it too late to stand you up?” Steve’s eyes were slightly squinting, his lips pulled into a small smile that got wider as the seconds ticked.

Tony snorted. "Trust me, doc, it'll be worth it tonight. And if you get sick or something, you’re a doctor. Let me grab my coat and we'll head out." Before Steve could speak, Tony was back down the hall falling over whatever hid behind the wall.

"I thought we were eating here?" Steve yelled out to him.

Tony was peeking around the corner. "I was thinking it’d be nice for us to go to the store and we pick out something and we come back and cook it together. Plus I get to silently judge you for the things you say you don’t like to eat. Because let’s face it, I can’t cook but I can eat and I eat at some really amazing places that you’ll eventually love."

Steve rubbed his neck with the same grin from before. It was hard just not to smile in Tony’s presence. "Good enough for me.”

Tony reappeared, pulling his leather jacket over his broad shoulders while walking towards the door. "Good because that’s all I had in mind. By the way, this date is happening right now so no take backs."

The walk to the store was filled with small talk: work, school, students, patients, funny story, relationship story then they arrived. They both reached for the door, one insisting for the other to go first until finally steve caved and stepped in first. It felt weak of him but he wanted to be courteous. As much as he suppressed the thoughts of his fantasy from earlier today, he wanted to feel secure and taken care of for once. It wasn't as if Bucky never provided that security but Steve was the one who finished college and jumped into a career. Shortly thereafter he was committed to Bucky and doing what he could after the accident.

Oh. The accident.

"Steve?"

Shaking his thoughts away quickly, Steve looked up from the floor. "Hm?"

Tony smirked. "I said what about seafood?"

"Not quite in the mood, no."

Tony runs a finger over the packages of crab meat near the deli. His eyes were dancing over the words. He and Steve were only feet away but with the blonde being so aloof, it felt like miles. "What are you in the mood for?" Tony asked, almost irritated. Steve shrugs sort of. Tony sighed at the gesture and dropped his hands to his sides. "If you want to reschedule maybe then I get it. I don't want to force you into something that you don't want to do but I am very interested in you. I like you, Steve. I want to get to know you but I can't do that when you don't give me a chance. That's all I'm asking for here really. Tonight, give me a fair shot and if not, then we'll let bygones be bygones. Though I'm sure I'll make appearances at the hospital pretty often."

Shoving his fist into his pockets, Steve felt stupid. "I'm sorry. It’s been hard and I," he paused to gather his thoughts, "I like you, too. A lot, really. And I know this is stupid to ask. I know I have no right to ask this, but I just need a little patience? I just need to work myself into this correctly and carefully, so, just work with me??" They were staring one another in the eyes. Steve stepped closer, invading the man’s space in the most intimate way he could. Tony fought a smile. "I promise I won’t let you down." Steve's voice was smoky.

Tony huffed before grabbing for the man’s hand. "I just really want you to pick out something to eat because I'm starving." They both laughed, eyes tracing the curves and arches of their lips. This was the moment, the first kiss that every budding couple dreamed of. Their lips curving from wide smiles to smug grins that came closer with each heavy breath until -

"Stark?"

Tony pulled back, spinning around to see a familiar face. "Banner!” He exclaimed. “How's it been?"

"Great, great." The dark haired man responded. “How about you?”

Steve put his hands back into his pockets as he watched the two friends catch up. It was hard keep up with their conversation. Banner was talking about coming back to work at the college and then something about physics and mechanical engineering. Steve tried not to listen to hard, only catching on to bits about Peter and science and more science on top of science.

"Bruce Banner, this is Steve Rogers. He's a doctor at Saint Carter's. I remember you had your daughter there."

"I did, nice place. Betty wasn't so nice to the nurses but they were sweet to her. Are you a surgeon?"

"I'm a third year resident with my heart set on cardiology, sir."

Bruce smiled, a slow laugh dripping from his lips as he gave Tony a weary look. "Sir? I look that old?”

Tony joined him in a laugh. "Steve was exiting the birth canal when we were settling into our dorms."

"I'm sorry, respect was a big thing in our house." Steve respectively clarified.

"No, no, it's okay. At least you have manners. Tony never dated many with those."

Tony’s face was rather smug. "Banner is jealous because I married Pepper instead of him. He confessed his love for me on many occasions during science experiments but I told him, ‘Look, you’re coming on too strong with the science and walking around in your underwear sometimes and we can do this but some butt stuff will happen.’ Never brought it up again."

Bruce had a sarcastic smirk on his face, nodding repeatedly as Steve laughed at their friendly antics. "Don’t believe a word he says.”

Tony rubbed Bruce's shoulder. "Banner’s here is in denial.”

Steve smiled awkwardly, still feeling like the third wheel to two best friends. “How did you two meet?”

Bruce laughed as he spoke. "We were roommates in college. I was the best man at his wedding, too, since I was his only friend. From what he says, I was the first person that he came out to, which sort of made me an important person.Then he …” He trailed off for only an instant to give Tony a quick glance. Tony shook his head slightly as Steve tried not to notice, “went through some things and next thing I know he’s marrying this beautiful French girl who makes the best pies, just don't tell Betty I said that. Anyway, I had no idea what to think about it but I really didn't have much room to talk after a while. A month after I met my now wife, Betty, I knocked her up so ... what’re you gonna do about it, right?”

Steve gave a small grin, the Bruce and Tony were fleeting stiff glances at one another before Bruce cleared his throat. "I need to get home and finish unpacking, though. Betty’ll rip my head off if I don’t hurry up and bring her some carrots. I’ll be seeing you around, Tony. It was nice meeting you, Steve." Bruce waved as he walked off.

Tony waved, Steve doing the same before they turned towards one another.

"Baked Ziti sound good?" Tony asked. Steve nodded as Tony led the way.

*

The kitchen hummed with the noise of pots and pans, boiling water, bubbling sauce, and low laughter. There was wine and beer, sharing silly glances as one perched lips to a glass while the other stirred the softening pasta. Tony couldn't resist staring at the tall blonde. It was odd, really, a man so tall and beautiful with brains and a heart. It was understandable to think that underneath was a psycho or a stalker, someone mentally deranged or perhaps abused and yet, so far, he wasn't. They'd talked about their thoughts on important matters, seeing how opinions would clash but the two agreed on matters, sharing similar opinions and feeling a bit frustrated about the same subjects and yet no quarrel.

Steve peeked over his shoulder a time or two at a staring Tony. "What?" He questioned with a smile.

"What did that man do to you?" Tony questioned with his head tilted.

Steve didn't want to answer; he didn't even know if he was ready to open up about it but he felt like it was only right to lay it all out and let the cards fall as they may.

Steve talked slowly, collecting every small detail of the story in his head as he prepared himself to share it. "We were best friends since high school, just best friends at the time. Blah blah blah, we dated other people, we talked about how it felt and, well, we at one point or another, we talked about how we felt about each other. College was over and the real world started settling in. I started my internship and he signed up to join the Army. Four years wasted on adegree he never got achance to use. He went to boot camp, graduated, came home, and was told that he was going to be deployed for two years less than a month later. While he was over there he ... lost his arm." Steve stepped away from the stove to face Tony.

Placing his hip against the counter, he continued to talk. "There was therapy after therapy then home therapy, the prosthetic arm fitting, the hospital bills, the VA being everything but helpful." He paused for a second to breathe. A hard breathe as he bit back his residual anger. "I helped him through the episodes, the screaming, the crying, the phantom limb, and after a while I was tired. I was picking up shifts, coming home to be called selfish, working in the clinic for extra cash, and I was constantly trying to show him, to tell him how much I loved him and how I didn't care that he was down an arm but it didn't matter. You learn that with PTSD, no matter what someone says, it doesn't matter. He proposed after graduation. Then, about a year ago, he found someone else. From what I learned, thanks to Facebook, is he’s missing a leg and he does volunteer work at the VA. So, he left me for his counselor or whatever he is." Steve didn't know where the beer bottle came from but he guzzled down the drink faster than he could wash away the memories. It felt like there was more to say, more to justify but he felt a faint smile kiss his lips before he fished for another beer. "Then, when I came home from work,” He started while lowly laughing at the story, “there’s dirty dishes, as always, and we have this white board in the kitchen right next to the fridge where we used to write messages and notes and our grocery list. Well, I’m bringing bags in and I place them all down to erase the list to see on the board that he couldn’t wait until I got home because he never knew when that would be. And that he needed time to reconsider our engagement. That he needed space to figure his life out and something else about how he needed more help than I could give him." There was the silence again. The quiet that wasn't so quiet and much needed at a time like this. Steve remembered the speech word for word. He remembered how the letters were sloppily written, how the h’s looked like n’s and how no matter how hard he wanted to erase it, he kept it up there. Steve wanted to admit that the message was still staining the board to this very day but instead he readjusted his hips on the counter, as so did Tony.

Instead of talking more, and dishing out more memories, Steve asked in a tone above a whisper, "Did you like being married?" Tony's eyebrows shot up. Steve clarified, "I mean, you said you loved her and that she accepted who you were .... are, I mean, and what you did but being married, being able to have that someone to come home to after a rough day, being able to talk to that person without being the enemy, or just knowing that no matter what this person was there for you... how was it? Did you like it?"

Tony smirked, a snort leaving his parted lips as he looked up at Steve's sincere oceanic eyes. "I loved it. When I was younger, I knew I'd never get married. I was the gay who perpetuated the stereotype. Bruce hated it, always nagging to me about how I should keep it in my pants and try to find someone who fits into my future. Then Pepper came and she needed help, as so did I, and we got hitched. I loved her as a person, then a friend, then just altogether. She was there for me; she cleaned me up and helped me out, patched my wounds and still hasn't left my side. So yeah, being married was the best thing that ever happened to me."

"What kind of help?"

Tony was still smiling. "Pepper needed a quick way to become an American. She's from France, we met when she came here to study abroad for a year and while she was here, her parents died in a car wreck. That was all the family she had left. So, she wanted to stay, I was on drugs and drinking all the time, in and out of rehab for about two years straight so we made a deal. She helped me get clean so my family could find a reason to like me again and I help her become a citizen.” Tony pressed his thumb against the side of his lip, looking from under his brows as he spoke. “Sorry it's not as dramatic as your story. Hard to follow that up, really."

Steve laughed softly. Shifting his weight from one hip to another again, he looked up from under his brow and asked, "Isn't that illegal?"

"Yeah if you go around telling police officers and homeland security, but you're a trustworthy guy."

They were both smiling, Steve more than Tony but it was okay. As Steve opened his mouth to ask another question, Tony’s phone rang.

“Hello?” He answered in a rush. Holding up a finger, he paced the floor a bit.  “Ye- yeah, no problem. Yeah he's here.” His voice trailed before he spoke again. “No, I only have spare inhalers and epi-pens, tell him not to forget to bring his medicines.” Steve felt uncomfortable. Turning back to check the pasta, Tony finished up his conversation. “See you in a few.”

Tony huffed stiffly. “Speaking of the devil. That was Pepper. She was called to the office, Phil is on a business trip and Peter has to come and stay with me for a while." Steve felt his eyes go wide as he processed thought. "Look, I know it's soon and an inconvenience but-"

"Tony, no, no it's fine. I just never meet someone's son unless the parent is a patient of mines. It's weird to be in that scenario outside of work is all." Steve felt his cheeks quiver as he smiled.

*

"So." Tony croaked as he bit into his meal. Peter was unusually quiet. It was awkward for the trio, Steve slowly shoveling the food into his mouth. "What did your mom have to go in for?"

"New evidence." Peter mumbled out. Tony sighed as he poked the pasta.

"What grade are you in, Peter?" Steve questioned.

Peter huffed, shaking his head as he faked a smile to answer the stranger. "I'm a freshmen."

"The good days." Steve stated.

"You mean two years ago?" Peter mumbled as he rolled his eyes back down to his chilly meal.

"Peter-" Tony said through gritted teeth.

"Excuse me for a second, I need to use the restroom." Steve slid from under the table to disappear into the hallway.

The house was taller than it was wider. The stairway seemed to be handcrafted for a slender man and his petite brigade of women. The bedrooms were spacious, each room decorated with two windows pointing out onto the street. The bathroom was compact as well, a walk in shower with a curtain to make the space seem even smaller. Steve felt like the bull in the china shop with his excessive muscles taking up space.

Before he could close the door, he hurried to call Nat.

"How's it going?" She answered in a rush.

"His son is here." Steve whispered as he took a seat on the shut toilet lid.

"Oh, what's he like?" Natasha also whispered.

"He fucking hates me." Steve answered flatly, and lowly.

"Stop, no, he doesn't even know you. Wait, why is he there?"

"His mom had to work, whatever, he hates me. He called me a baby."

Natasha snickered. "Well, with that cute little baby face of yours. I'd think you were a high school senior if I didn't know you."

"I'm going home."

"You are not. Stay there and just get to know him. You were 15 a few years ago, you know what it's like to that age."

"Yeah but my dad never brought home his boyfriends."

"Oooh, are you his boyfriend now?"

Steve was quiet for a second, undecided on which route to direct the answer. "Not if his son hates me."

The two were quiet for a second.

"Are you having fun? Other than his son hating you?"

Rolling his eyes around his head, Steve replied, "Shockingly, yes. I told him everything and he told me … everything, I suppose. He’s cocky but it’s a part of his dry sense of humor and I sort of like that about him.”

"Good. Well, bye. Go finish enjoying it."

The call disconnected. It was new to be in this situation but he had to see the night through. He needed answers to his questions even if it weren't going to happen right away. Tony was a good man and Peter was just a teenager. Steve knew how idiotic it was to be intimidated by a teenage boy but he was Tony's son, his impression meant a lot to his father. Taking a deep breath, Steve looked himself over before pulling the door open.

Peter stood in the shadow of the hall. Steve jumped back as the skinny teenager frightened him for merely a second.

"I don't hate you." Peter said in a dull tone. Steve stood still,, his eyes fixed on the boy as he waited for something else to be said. "It's not even you, man. I mean, I just sort of wanted to come over and eat take out and play some games but now I have to sit and talk with you and I'm just really not in the mood, ya’know? It’s not you, it’s just I have some things going on with my girlfriend Gwen and my mom and step dad, and meeting my dad’s boyfriend was the last thing I wanted to do tonight, ya’know?” Peter sighed as he looked around. “I think you’re a cool guy. I don’t know you but you like my dad, he’s crazy as shit and if you like him, that’s alright by me. I just really need to play some video games to not think about my girlfriend blowing some other dude at a party I couldn’t make it to, alright?”

Steve held back a smile. Holding out his hand to signify his truce, Peter grabbed it and they shook in agreement. "Strong grip." Steve stated.

"Not really, you're hurting me, dude." Peter winced as he grabbed for his aching limb. "Lay off the steroids, shit." He laughed out as he walked into the dark opening of his bedroom. Steve finally smiled. Slipping down the stairs and back into the dining room, Steve discovered a relaxing Tony with his refilled glass of wine.

"I don't know what's gotten into that kid lately." Tony said with a grumpy tone.

Steve slid into the seat beside him. "He's a teenager. I was one of those just some time ago. It's rough stuff. Hormones, school work, nagging parents." Dragging the last of his words, and his eyes, over to the upset parent, Tony caught hold of his insinuation.

"I don't nag, trust me, this is not nagging. Pepper, Pepper nags. I simply tell him how he needs to get his act together if he ever wants to make it anywhere in the world. Every time I turn around that kid has got an attitude. He'd flip a lid over the direction that the wind blew or something. I don’t know what he’s so angry about. He's full of himself, is what it is."

"Sounds familiar." Steve joked under his breath.

Tony cracked a reluctant smile. "Keep talking there, sunshine. I'll send you up to upstairs, too."

And again, Steve laughed. It was hard to accept him feeling good once again, a nostalgic feeling he wasn't too sure he was going to get back. To not be wrapped up in his own pity and loathing was a relief in itself and to be with someone like Tony, well, that was a blessing all on it's own.

Tony sat his glass down on the table. "This isn't what I'd planned at all."

"Nothing goes as planned, I've learned." Steve's voice was low and smoky, his eyes trailing around the room as he wondered where the rest of the night would take the two. "What's next? Ya’know, since you begged me to stay for this spectacular date."

Tony chuckled lowly as he slowly stood to his feet. "I was thinking a movie. Your choice." Tony reached for his hand. Steve felt the warmth arising in his cheeks as he followed behind the other man.

Chapter Text

The sun bounced from the crisp white walls as Steve rolled over to feel the space beside his bed was frigid cold from the absence. For the first night, in almost a year, Steve woke up alone. As sad as it sounded, it was quite a feat for the man.

The previous night consisted of pure heaven, two men intertwined between legs and trapped between the lips of the other and as beautiful, and tantalizing, as it was – Steve detached himself from the embrace with good reason. Tony was comfortable, God was he comfortable, but as comforting and perfect as he was, Steve knew he had to leave. Steve’s shirt was tainted in the smell of sweetness and herbs, something that he was more than sure was from Tony’s cologne. As much as he wanted to get out of bed to begin his day, he couldn’t resist the urge to pull in a deep breath of the residual essence one more time.

The bed creaked as its residence became vacant. Steve followed the hallway to the kitchen, preparing himself a cup of coffee as he mentally recapped the night.

Steve thought about the diner, the sunlight from the window beside them kissing Tony’s skin in such a way that made him glow. All that was on his mind in that moment was touching him; holding his hand, cradling his chin in his palm, kissing each of his fingertips – doing something that resulted in his hands being placed on Tony’s person was all he desired. 

 

Though, last night, Tony made the first move by laying his head on Steve’s lap. “Get comfortable.” He whispered as the movie spoke over him. Steve did just that, leaning back into the couch as Tony burrowed himself in Steve’s thighs.

The movie was foreign, something that Natasha recommended to Steve and as much as the both men wanted to give the film their undivided attention, that just wasn’t the case. Tracing small circles on his arm, Tony looked up at Steve with so much admiration. Steve couldn’t help but to take Tony’s hand and lace their fingers together. It was seamless, each finger fitting perfectly. Tony kissed the blonde’s hand, his lips leaving warm imprints on Steve's palm. Though, the quick peck wasn’t enough for Steve, he craved more. Slowly, he leaned down and pulled the older man into a deep kiss, the taste of desire and admiration lingering on their dancing tongues.

 

The coffee pot beeped. Steve pushed the weight from his waist back to his feet as he tended to the hot pot. Steve didn't know why his phone was buzzing so loudly in his bedroom but he refused to leave the kitchen until he was cup in hand and three sips deep.

 

Tony sat up and spun around to dive back into the moment. Placing his hands on Steve’s waist, he pushed his weight into him until he was on top. Running eager fingers up his chest, Steve memorized the feel of his shirt on his fingertips. The texture of the fabric outlined the definition of his chest. There was something more than desire staining their tongues and lips as they kissed and though Steve wanted to stay for more, to learn about all the things that Tony wanted from, to do to him, to do for him, to do with him - he couldn’t. He was damaged goods and to avoid devouring the man whole with his insatiable sexual appetite, Steve pulled his lips away, hand placed on Tony’s chest.

“I can’t. I mean, we can but we shouldn’t. I’ve been basically fucking my hurt feelings away for the last nine months and as much as I want to, which I do want to, I don’t think we should. Let’s take our time with it.”

Tony smiled as Steve spoke, his body still pressed tight to the young doctor. “That’s fine. Plus Peter has bionic hearing or something and I’m not ready for that talk.”

Steve dove into his lips once more. Softly biting Tony’s bottom lip, he forced himself to pull away again. “I should be heading home before I go against my better judgment.”

 Tony snorted as he leaned back to sit upright. “Well, I don’t want you doing that.” He sarcastically stated.

 

Steve dragged himself back to bed with cup in hand. The phone by his bedside began to vibrate again. His lungs felt constricted - It was Bucky.

“Hello?” Steve said rather breathy.

“Steve, hey, it’s Sam. Uh, I hate to do this to you, man, but Bucky is having an episode and he’s losing it. He keeps yelling for you and I don’t know what to do. He won’t stop yelling and slamming his head against the wall and throwing everything in sight.” His voice was shaky. Steve didn’t know Sam, and didn’t want to, but he knew what it was like to be afraid of the man you love.

“Tell him I’ll be there in a minute. Just tell him on my way.”

There was urgency behind each move. Steve tried to think logically, trying not to sink back into the hands of a man who he spent so long learning how to cope without. It was all a matter of will, logic, and knowing that at the end of the day Sam was sleeping beside Bucky and Steve was alone.

For now.

Slipping into his clothes from last night, Steve slipped out of the door with all that was important in hand.

*

Peter rubbed the inner corners of his eyes with a yawn hidden by his hands.

“Stayed up late?” Tony asked with a newspaper in one hand and a spoon in the other. It wasn’t like him to read the newspaper but since his school had went under investigation and shut down a few months prior for reasons he knew little to nothing about, details wise, it was his new habit.

Peter lets out another yawn. “Gwen got drunk last night.”

“Thank God I’m not a tattle tell.” Tony mumbled as Peter continued with his story.

“Debbie left her uptown with no way home. She was freakin’ out about it so she asked some friends for a few bucks to call a cab. Stayed up talking to her while she was in the cab, crying like a maniac and the guy was trying to keep her calm but she was scared he was going to rape her. Then we talked some when she got home. Calmed her down some more and listened while she puked a few times, that wasn’t my choice though. ”

Tony placed the paper beside his cereal bowl. “You’re a pretty good boyfriend.”

Peter snorted. “Thanks. Phil taught me mostly everything I know...”

“Well excuse the hell out of me.” Tony laughed as he scooped a few Fruit Loops onto his spoon. “Guess I'm just the scum of the Earth, then?”

Peter shrugged. It was true that Tony was quite a fail at boyfriends. Over the years, during him and Pepper’s marriage, Tony still carried out relationships like he normally would. There were men, men who he wanted to latch onto and make something with but it never worked. After a few weeks or months with them, he grew bored and tired. Tony would never admit it but he was a man who was never satisfied, never willing to settle for someone who didn’t meet his standards and, regardless of what he says, he wanted as many men as he could get his hands unto. It wasn’t until his 39th birthday that he decided to spend some times alone with himself.

“I remember the few guys you brought home.” Peter croaked.

“You were like 5.”

“I know for a fact I’ve never seen the same guy twice. You never stayed with one person and you weren’t nice to any of them. You didn’t care about them. Or even loved them. Be honest with yourself, dad, you and I both know you’re a shitty boyfriend.”

“Language, Bambi.” Tony continued to eat as he thought.

“Steve is the only one that stands a chance.”

Tony smirked as he thought about Steve. “I don’t know about him.”

Last night after walking Steve to the curb and kissing one more time for the night, Tony spent the remainder of the night on the couch recounting his story. It was more than evident that Steve wasn’t ready for another long term relationship. After spending however long taking care of Bucky, Steve wanted to come home after a long day and be taken care of himself. For some reason, to Tony, this was unsettling. Not because he didn’t want to do such but because he was old. That night he looked at his skin, staring at the wrinkles around his eyes and mouth, the bags, the sagging muscle on his neck and his skin, the gross blotchy, sun kissed blemishes, wear and tear that was his old, disgusting skin. Tony didn’t want to get old and Steve spent the latter half of their relationship cleaning up after him. It was unsettling, and ultimately unfair.

Peter squinted at his father. “What does that mean? Mom gave me this whole speech about accepting and getting to know this guy and you’re unsure about him? Dad, please stop whatever you’re doing to yourself. I don't have time for speeches if you're not serious about him. I don’t know if you’re afraid to be with someone or what but you’re gonna end up alone like Uncle Jarvis.”

“Jarvis is a pretentious snob who wouldn’t know a good thing even if his anti-virus gave him a pop-up with a gigantic thumbs up flashing at him a million times.” Tony hated talking down about Peter’s beloved uncle but it was true.

“You’re missing the point, dad.”

“Well, my point, Peter, is that I don’t know if someone like Steve wants to deal with someone like me.”

Peter pinched his lips together, a condescending smile reaching over his slim face. “You mean old?”

Tony was hushed, eating the rest of his cereal with the newspaper blocking his blank face.

“You’re old and he’s like 16 and a half but who cares? If you like the way his breath smells in the morning, what does it matter?”

“That’s not how love works.” Tony tried not to get frustrated with his ignorant son. “He’s like that shiny guy in that vampire movie Gwen and your mom love so much and I’m the weird girl. I’m going to get old and die and he’ll basically be forever young. It’s like he’s Anna Nicole and I’m the old, dead husband. I don’t want to be with someone who makes me feel that way, alright? I don't want to force someone to be with me for the few years i have left when he has his whole life ahead of him. Is that good enough for you?” The two were silent. "Jesus, kid. You’re turning into your mother, you know."

Peter stared at his father’s sad eyes. It was obvious how much he was hurting, how much it all meant to him and, shockingly, he had nothing to say. Pouring a bowl of cereal himself, Peter ate his breakfast in peace.

“You’re not sick anymore, you know?” His voice was low, sad and sympathetic. “You can actually let someone in now.”

Tony sighed heavily as he covered some of his face with one hand. “I know.” Tony lied.

Peter was looking away as he nodded. Tony excused himself from the table.

*

Air was trapped inside of Steve’s still constricted lungs as he reached Sam’s door. There was commotion inside, glasses breaking and shattering against walls and floors. Sam was trying to calm Bucky, his voice flat and sympathetic. “James, look at me.” Sam was afraid, scared of the man who was before him and as much as Steve didn’t want to be, so was he.

“Sam! It’s me!” Steve hollered as he knocked. His eyes were scanning the block littered with nosey pedestrians and worried neighbors. Sam rushed to the door, pulling the man inside before shutting and locking it. “What happened?” Steve inquired with his lips pressed tightly together.

Bucky smashed more glasses into the wall.

“We were walking home from the diner and I don’t know, I think a tire blew out and he stopped breathing. I tried to get him to walk home, talking to him but I never seen him get this bad." Steve has. "The waitress saw and called the police and I told her not to and just,” He paused to look back at the crazed man. There were grunts and yells echoing down the hall. “When he came in he kept saying your name. He was talking to himself and kept asking for you. I didn’t know what else to do so I called you.”

Steve tightened his jaw, rolling his shoulders as he headed towards the kitchen.

“Bucky.” His voice cooed. If he hadn’t learned much of anything from the online forums, he learned that tension wasn’t the key. Take away all frustration, they would advise. Be calm, and patient, be sweet and gentle. They are trapped inside their own mind and they need you more than you know. Steve raised his hands, placing them on the counter as he looked at the enraged person Steve once considered his best friend. Bucky’s hair was blocking his face, something that resonated danger.

“You need to get out of my life.” Bucky’s voice was hard, hoarse from yelling and screaming yet still filled with anger Steve’s never seen before. Steve felt his lips twitch.

Sam stepped through the threshold with his hands by his sides. “I thought you wanted him here?”

A hysterical laughter that bellowed from deep within his loins came from Bucky's lungs. “You’re serious? Why would I want him here, Sam? I told you he ruined my life. He’s the reason why I lose my fucking mind when someone pops fucking popcorn.” Another glass smashed into the wall. “He’s the reason why kids laugh at me and call me names. He’s the reason why my own fucking mother won’t answer my phone calls. Why would I want him here, Sam? What makes you think I wanted you here? I got rid of you for a reason. I got rid of you so I can let go of this regret yet you still appear as if the message wasn't clear enough for you.”

Steve wished that they’d been here before. He wished he heard these words before, except, he hadn’t. The words were fresh, leaving new scars over the old ones as he mentally tried to pull himself together.

“Bucky.”

“Why are you still here?" Bucky yelled as his hair drapped over his face.

Steve sighed deeply, his legs weak under his weight. It was easy to walk away, bite his tongue and keep the peace but there was a pain. His heart pounded against his ribcage, his lungs collapsing into the pit of his stomach and as much as he wanted to walk away, his feet were cemented to the ground beneath him. The pain was almost unbearable. His heartbeat was rigid before it became stronger and beat faster. His woe became rage. Redness clouding his sight as sweat seeped from his pores.

Steve had never been here before, and he was glad that he finally arrived.

“Fuck you!” Steve yelled out, the words cutting his tongue. “I’ve done nothing but take care of you. You want to be angry and break shit, blame everyone else for you problems,” Grabbing a glass cup, he threw it against the wall as hard as he could, “let’s go, then!” Steve saw red, his heart racing faster than before, pumping acid as his lungs worked twice as hard to catch up with the rest of him. “You want to blame me for your unit being invaded? For your mother being a close-minded homophobe who will abandon her own son before learning to accept him for who he is? For your Army brothers dying by the hand of Al Queda? You want to blame me for giving up everything to be there for you? I tried walking away from my internship four times, what did you say, Bucky?” Steve wasn’t expecting an answer; all he wanted was to be heard. “I took care of your when your country left you to rot in the desert with one arm and three dead brothers. I was there when the car horns was too much to handle, when the Fourth of July made you sweat and shiver in fear. I was there for you every fucking step of the way and this is what I get?” Another glass, another shatter against the wall. “I’m the enemy, here? I beg to fucking differ.”

Sam placed a hand on Steve’s shoulder. Bucky’s eyes were locked onto Steve’s reddening face. “I think you should go.” Sam stated lowly, Bucky turning his back to the pair as he stared out the window that looked over the yard of the neighbor.

"You said until the end of the line. And you know what? This is it." Steve turned to leave, fast approaching the door until the moment caught up with him. This was it, their finl farewell and goodbye yet even through his rage and anger, steve felt like it was only right to take the high road.

“Do me a favor.” Steve thought about his words, eyes glued to the floor before slightly looking over his shoulder, looking at nothing in particular. The warmth of their glares burning a hole into the side of his face and an even bigger hole into his heart, the tension in his chest grow tighter. “Take care of yourself.”

He slammed the door behind him.

Chapter Text

Steve was leaning forward with his elbows resting on his knees. Natasha watched him as the engagement ring rolled finger to finger, slipping between the knuckles before with a flick of his thumb, the ring was in the air then placed perfectly in the palm of his hand. Clint, who was Nat's stunt man boyfriend who jumped out of buildings and stood to close to explosions- which, consequently resulted in his hearing loss, watched on as well as Steve spoke sparingly and preoccupied himself with clumsy quirks.

“Just like that? You left?”

Steve nodded slowly. "Yep. Blamed me for everything."

Clint nudged Natasha, mouthing out of Steve's sight, and far beyond his comprehension. Natasha looked over to Clint, returning the same look to Steve as she relayed the message. "What's everything?"

"His mother, the conservative homophobe, not wanting a thing to do with her gay son, a bomb that went off thousands of miles away that I had nothing to do with. What else? There was a lot of me ruining his life somehow when I did my damnedest to make it better.” His voice trickled on humor and sadness, Natasha didn’t know which one to fall for.

For once, she was silent. Steve knew that her silence wasn't always necessarily a good thing. "Does this mean now you’re going to give Tony a chance now?"

Steve smirked. It had been a week since their last date, since their last conversation even. In that time, Steve thought over his latest decisions in life. Bucky wasn't the same, and after their encounter, Steve accepted that he would never be that person he fell in love with and there was no going back. With these thoughts festering, he also recounted all that Tony had to offer. Just like week there were a million and one excuses as to what held him back from Tony, Bucky, Peter, work, and just his own scared feelings but now, there was nothing. Steve was free of his inhibitions.

"Sure you don't want to him yourself?"

Clint rolled his eyes. Shaking his head forceful, Clint raised his hand with his thumb and his first two fingers wide open before bringing the fingertips to a close. With his eyebrows raised, Steve looked at Natasha who was slightly laughing.

"That means no."

Steve's phone vibrated on the table. It was all a reflex when he slid the device towards him and unlocked the screen before it was even in his lap.

New message
Tony

The sight of the notification alone made his heart skip a beat. The muscle was in his throat as he opened it.

Hey there stranger.

The corner of his mouth twitched.

Hey there yourself.

Mind if I come over to talk?

Steve looked at his company, the couple bickering through sign language and chopped up sentences.

Not at all. Need the address again?

It was something they shared between dates and just to add to the small talk. Steve was afraid of Tony seeing his house, all the abandoned memories and things that seemed to be more from a life of domestic Steve Rogers rather than bachelor Steve Rogers. Though, the only stale memory was the white board. Steve spent the last few days scrubbing at the words but they were forever stained.

Nope. Be there in a bit.

"I think I'm going to hit the hay early." Steve lied. In this moment it was easier to lie so he could avoid the demands to not sleep with Tony, to give him a chance, and other things of that nature.

The pair stood, stretching out their aches before heading towards the door. "Well, I guess you can give me a call tomorrow if you decide to channel all your anger in the ring." She turned on her toes, throwing a few light, playful punches towards his direction.

He blocked them off with a soft laugh as he spoke. "If I have the energy to deal with your emotional abuse then I'll call."

The moment the door swung open, a newly arriving Tony was stepping to knock.

"Oh. Hi." Tony said with a small grin. Lowering his hand from his knocking pose, he flashed glances at the departing duo.

"Hello …?" Natasha questioned, looking at the man then back at Steve.

Steve felt his skin radiate with heat. “Tony.” He said lowly.

“Tony? Professor Tony Stark?” Natasha asked with her eyes bouncing form the blonde to the middle aged man before her.

A cracked smile slapped Tony’s lip as he wiped the corner of his mouth with his thumb. “Here in the flesh. You must be the almighty Natasha … I didn’t get a last name, sorry.”

“It’s Romanoff. And The Almighty Natasha? Has a nice ring to it. Just call me Nat, though, this is Clint.” Shaking hands, the two shared small awkward smiles and glances. Clint nudged the girl once again before returning the limb back to her side. “We should be getting. Nice to finally have a name to go with the face, Tony. Steve,” she said before turning to her significant other, “make sure you get your rest for our session tomorrow.”

“Goodnight.” He replied as the two walked away down the apartment hall towards the stairs.

Tony leaned on the door frame, watching the couple leave before glancing back at the flustered man. "I just so happened to be in the neighborhood,"

"Says every stalker ever."

Tony chuckled. "I wanted to talk to you." Tony stated, looking around at the various doors that decorated the hallway. The two were silent, almost an awkward one before Tony spoke again. "If you want to let me in."

"Sorry, yeah, come in." Steve stepped aside as Tony entered the small hallway before meeting the living room. It wasn't a small space; the couch was placed against the wall as the recliner occupied the space under the large windows. Tony sat on the couch, fiddling with his thumbs as he quietly examined the space.

"Nice place. Clean."

Steve followed behind Tony, walking to the kitchen, the half wall revealing the cabinets and fridge. "It cost enough, I know that much. Want something?" Steve held up a beer. Tony shook his head as continued to look around and ponder.

"I just wanted to talk was all." His voice was dry and humorless, very unlike him.

Steve felt the chill in his words as they resonated. "About what?"

Tony waved him to come into the room. Without hesitation, Steve did so, his feet leading him to the space beside Tony. They weren't close, Tony in one corner with Steve in the other. The air was filled with pondering minds and racing thoughts as one tried to think for the other.

"Steve, look-"

"Wait, no. Let me say,” he started, placing his drink on the table as he placed his leaned forward to talk, “I know I'm always busy and I know it's been a week since we spoke and you may think that I'm not interested, which is not true. I'm done with Bucky, completely. We got into a fight, kinda, and he said something that really made me realize that I no longer want anything to do with him. I asked for you to give me time and this was it. I like you, Tony. I'm now asking you to give me a chance."

Tony sucked in a stiff air, his eyes dragging from Steve to the floor as he thought over what he needed to say. Running his hand down his face, wiping at the contour of his face with pressing fingers, Tony finally spoke. "Peter recently brought to my attention that I'm a horrible boyfriend. And that I'm old." He started, a Flickr of a smile appearing before quickly disappearing. "I was informed that I was a terrible boyfriend because I never liked any of them and I wasn't nice to them. But you, according to Peter, stand a chance. And as much as I hate to openly admit to agreeing with a 15 year old, I think so too. I realized that I sabotage myself from having a good thing and, now that I know you're over your ex, I should probably stop. Don't get me wrong, I'm still old and I'm still afraid that if this goes somewhere, if we do the boyfriend-boyfriend relationship thing, that I'll die and you'll be left realizing you wasted your prime years on some old man. There's no way to tell if you'll feel this way or not but ... don't do this with me if you feel like that. Be with me for the long haul, even if it's only a couple more years."

Steve heard the genuine concern in his tone. Tony looked afraid and it was cute, in its way. Steve smiled slowly then a quick pull of the cheeks as he scooted closed to the far away man. "I wouldn't have sat through being insulted by your son if I wasn't ready for this. I don't care that you were in college while I was probably just reaching kindergarten."

"That is not comforting at all." Tony interjected.

"I want to do this thing with you."

Tony sighed, a deep release of his stress and worry being bellowed out in a heavy breath. "Good because you are too fucking good looking to let go. I mean, call me shallow all you want and you're a great guy with personality and all but have you seen you? I might stroke out if you ever take your shirt off."

Steve did just that.

"I was not expecting this. Mind if I die here or should I get on the floor?"

Steve laughed, leaning into Tony for a kiss. It all felt so right, and warm and so damn comforting. Tony drug his hand up to Steve's face, cradling his neck to pull him closer. Their mouths tasted of passion and desire. Steve placed his hand on Tony's side with the other on his chest. This was how he wanted them to forever be, to be locked in an embrace of all that was new and exciting. "Tell Peter thank you." Steve managed to say in the small instance they broke to catch air.

Tony chuckled, imprinting smaller kisses down and around to Steve's collarbone. "Let's not go stroking his Dawson's Creek idea of love. I say that to him and next thing you know, the kid'll be holding it against me forever."

It was hard to listen and respond. Steve closed his eyes and laughed briefly before his entire body was caught up in the actual moment. Tony was now running a hand up Steve's chest, tracing the space between each definition of muscle his wandering digit could find.

"Fuck." Steve groaned out as the erection grew. Tony pressed his body against him, forcing Steve to lie back. There was no space between the two, each man pressed close to one another and still yearning for more to touch and kiss and lick and suck.

"I'm working on it." Tony whispered with lips pressed against Steve's ear. Tony unbuckled Steve's pants, his hand slowly searching for what he quickly found. Steve felt his breathing quicken, his heart racing a mile a minute as Tony pulled out the throbbing erection to gently stroke the shaft. Moving himself closer, he stroked Steve's dick slowly, snaking the thumb over the head as he kissed and breathed into the man's neck. Steve groaned in pleasure, ghosting a hand down the other manse body before releasing his erection as well. "Nuh uh, doc, I got this."

Steve felt his cheeks quiver and twitch. Tony’s hand was stroking him slowly yet steadily growing faster. "God, Tony.” Steve hummed again as he pinched his eyes shut. The pleasure was building, his body tensing as he did his best not to end it all too fast.

Tony continued to trail his kisses down Steve's body. Licking trails between abs and tracking back to bask in the beauty that was his nipples. The jerking slowed again, Tony kissing the man's stomach one more time before easing his mouth around the erection. Steve gasped. Glancing at the ceiling then down at the man who was moving his head slowly then faster with each passing second. The pleasure was building again.

It had been years since sex felt real. The men after Bucky were one night stands who were nothing more than pity screws. Steve took pity on himself, bringing strangers into his bed that only made him cum with no emotional attachment. Bucky was the last person to touch him seductively before sex. There were kisses with those other but nothing that felt like something. Tony revived that something in him. Breathing life back into his beaten and bruised lungs, Steve released himself with the hope that this would be love.

*

Tony couldn't sleep anymore.

It wasn't because he was worried or stressed, it wasn't even because of the almost sex from the night before (they decided to just cuddle after the couch adventure instead of consummating their new relationship thing). It was the fact that Steve was cuddled under his chin like a lovesick puppy and he couldn't stop basking in the joy of it. The sun was bouncing off every corner of the room and as much as he wanted to catch a few more hours, the blinding white surrounding him refused to let him do so.

There he lied, staring down at Steve who didn't snore, didn't drool, and didn't have a flaw as the eye could see. Tony reached for his phone, inching towards the small device without trying to wake the spring doctor. It was cliche, and cheesy, but Tony kissed Steve's forehead as he took a picture. It was easy for him to tell himself that this would be for him to never forget, but it wasn't. Continuing to take pictures of the two cuddled up closely, Tony knew that soon enough these would be for Steve. It was his honor to make memories for him.

Slowly, Tony began to slide from under Steve. Every step and movement was slow and careful, never taking an eye off of Steve as he slipped through the door and shut it behind him.

The kitchen, much like the rest of the home, was clean. Tony felt like the bull in the china shop, often leaving a mess behind wherever he stepped. It was also spacious, an island occupying the middle of the floor with a small two bar stools along the sides of it. From left to right was the fridge, counter, sink, dish washer, microwave, coffee pot and above those two was the rumored white board. Blue words tattooed into the surface as Tony noticed how there was once effort being put into ridding the words.

Instead of thinking too far into Steve's past, Tony decided to prepare the two a cup of coffee.

The click of the door made Steve blink himself awake. There was a usual sadness that washed over him when company left his side, yet this time, he didn't get it. The smell of the other man was still fresh, the warmth still lingering as he reached over to take it all in. Tony was still here. As hard as it was to accept, Tony didn't leave him in the wake of the morning.

Lying in bed was hard to do when the realization of not being alone settled in. He jumped from the bed to the bathroom, washing off his face with cold water to get rid of his tired puffy eyes.

Steve slowly opened the door to one of his favorite aromas. "I never wake up to fresh coffee."

"Well, we will be changing that very soon." Tony said with a wide smile. Pouring Steve a cup, he presented it to the man as he reached the island and pecked his partially wet lips. "Good morning to you."

Steve smirked. "Good morning." Looking around at the untouched space, he asked, "When did you wake up?"

"Way too early, well, I just got out of bed a few minutes ago. I'm pretty sure as soon as the sun touched one of those super white walls of yours, I was up."

"Sorry about that." Steve shook his head with a blooming grin as he thought about it being almost ten in the morning.

"Don't stress, I'm sure there's a mirror facing the window in my room that'll wake you up at some ungodly hour and I'll get all the payback I deserve."

Steve laughed. Fuck, it was so hard for him to get over how good it felt to laugh. The week of them not speaking and the horror of an argument that he and Bucky had still quickly made him forget how refreshing it felt to laugh for once. Nat tried her best, her witty and sassy remarks brought a smirk to his face but a hearty laugh was something he just hadn't realized he missed until now.

"Now I feel like you're going to go out to buy a mirror."

Tony shrugged, his lips pulled into an uncertain frown as he brought his cup to his lips. "I'm more than sure I'm going to be going out and buying a lot of things."

Steve didn't know what it meant but with Tony's fleeting glances and coy smiles, he was sure he'd be figuring it out very soon.

"Do you have class today?"

Tony took another sip of her brew. "At six. Going to go work out with your friend?"

Steve shook his head, sipping from his cup as well. "Nope. I usually run at 6 before we meet up and it's almost ten and I'm off today so I'd rather be at home."

Tony nodded. "Basically, you're saying you want to sit at home with me until I leave for work."

Looking as if he were thinking, Steve slowly began nodding. "Yep. Yeah, those were my intentions."

"Finally, I get to know your intentions. Alright, tell me more." Tony was now resting his chin in his hand.

"Well," Steve started. "I actually didn't have anything in mind past today. I'm sort of a one day at a time, live in the moment sort of guy."

"You are not.”

"Well, I'm trying to be. I don't want to ruin this with overthinking and expectations because one of us could get hurt and I'd rather take all the time we have and make it worth something. I want every day we're together to be great and amazing and if ever something arises, we fix it then and keep it moving. I don't want grudges or animosity; I just intend on making you happy and hoping you’d do the same." More words fell out than he intended.

Tony's face was blank, biting at the bottom lip before speaking. "What did you and Bucky fight about? The last one, the kinda fight that made you realize you were over him."

Steve knew his past frustrations were evident in his words. "I don't-" he almost lied. Steve wanted to say he didn't want to talk about it when the truth was it was constantly skipping through his mind. "Bucky didn't graduate college. He was three years in and said that it just wasn't for him. Well, he said he wanted to join the Army but he was afraid. I thought he was stupid, like, defend your country and get paid well, what’s to be afraid of? At this time I didn't know what was really happening. So he signs up, drops out and works out for almost a year then his recruiter told him when he’d be shipping out. The night before he left he said he didn't want to do it so I told him this is bigger than him. ‘You're doing it for your country, you have to do it.’ So, he told me last week that he blamed me and the sad part is I blamed me too. He said I'm the reason why his family abandoned him and it's true. It's all true but it's not at the same time. I made him a stronger person on my own in five years than his mother ever did his whole life. I gave up a lot for him. And I don't know. I just couldn't hear what I already knew but it's just the fact that I made up for it all. Everything I did for him had a positive outcome right after. I knew in that moment I was done with him the moment he forgot to realize that. I took care of him when no one else could and I helped him find his calling in life. He helps people now with Sam. I just don't deserve to be told that I ruined his life when despite losing an arm, I made it better."

Tony looked at Steve, his eyes apologetic, then to the white board. Pushing away from the stool, he stepped up to it and began to tug at the corners. With a snap and a rip, the board came down. Placing it beside the trash can, Tony sat back at his stool, chin in hand as he stared at Steve. "Good riddance." He said holding up his coffee cup, Steve smiled as he tapped his against Tony's before taking the honorary sip.

"Good riddance."

Chapter Text

Tony rubbed his eyes gently, a yawn departed from his plump pink lips as he tried to clear up his blurry vision. Tony was sitting on a bench on campus as he thought over his lesson plans and the new material he was forced to teach. There was always something when it came to his classes and what he taught, and as much as he wanted to raise hell and give the dean a harder time than he was having, Tony decided against it.

Blinking repeatedly, Tony quickly noticed a familiar figure approaching.

"Hey, Tony, what's going on?" Bruce said rather softly. His voice was soft, delicate on the ears like a yoga instructor or a soothing father. Tony had only ever seen the man angry once and he swears to the day that Bruce was changing colors with every muscle in his neck bulging out.

Tony made a noise of uncertainty. "Got all the way here then was told that I had to cancel since they were upgrading all the machines. Decided to stick around and do my lesson plans. You?"

Bruce sat on the back of the bench, placing his backpack between his knees. "Ah, just waiting for Betty. Hey, so, how's Pepper doing? Felt like I asked about everyone but her."

"Good," Tony started, rubbing his eye once again, another yawn washing over him, "her husband is working a lot, out of town stuff mostly, but he's getting good cases and she's been scoring some good ones herself. Not sure how lawyers make it work but Peter says she's happy."

Bruce couldn't help but notice the exhaustion written all over Tony's being. "You doin’ okay?"

Tony stopped rubbing his eyes, blinking repeatedly, before he began to notice what he was doing. "Yeah, yeah, no, I'm fine. You remember the guy from the store? Steve?"

"The heart doctor, right? He's a looker." Bruce said admittedly.

"Yeah well, I stayed over at his place last night and basically slept all day since I didn't have to be here until 6 and his shift didn't start until tomorrow morning. I think he drugged my coffee so I wouldn't leave."

Bruce laughed softly before twisting his eyebrows and mouth into a rather displeased expression. "Sorry about blabbing your whole life story to him."

"No, no, it's fine. I mean, we did just start dating and no one needs that much on their plate but Pepper keeps riding me about telling him and I know it's not a big deal but it just hasn't come up. I know his past but I don't want him to judge me or something, I don't know. I'm scared I guess. I'm not particularly sure how to say, 'hey Steve, I used to smoke meth and then got cancer, twice, and now I'm old and fat and somewhere there are pictures of me in a wig when I thought I was going to lose my hair. And I officially stopped abusing drugs a year ago but I swear I'm clean forever and won't steal pills from your work.' Doesn’t sound like something I’d want to hear." Tony danced on what he wanted to say. There was so much on his heart and mind that it all made his body ache, particularly his chest.

Bruce snorted, shaking his head slightly. “I’d say just that, honestly.”

"I don’t know. It's been maybe a month and I know almost everything about him when he only knows bits and pieces about me. It's unfair, really, but I just don't know how to bring it up. " Tony's voice was shaky, changing tones from high to low as he thought over the issues. Tony began to cough, air beginning to feel as if it were locked out of his lungs.

Bruce was making a face as he thought over all that was said. "Well, if you're going to get serious with him I think he should know about your past. I’d be different if you were worrying about him judging you, if he’s that kind of person but I doubt if he'll think you're still a junkie. I'm sure doctors learn how to spot those things from a mile away. Plus, you got your life together now and you have something to show for yourself." Tony coughed again, gasping after each small fit. Bruce continued to talk until he noticed his friend turning blue. "Tony? Hey, what’s the matter?"

"I don't know, I can't breathe.” He wheezed.  “I can't catch my breath." It took so much out of him. His body was against him, strangling him from the inside and there was nothing that he could do. He was a fish out of water, feeling the life slip from him with each gasping breath.

Bruce jumped up to see Betty pull up just in time. "Come on, we'll take you to the hospital."

"Call Pepper."

*

The beeping was such an irritating sound. The noise was all that could be heard when Tony slowly regained consciousness. Pepper was beside him, tapping away at her phone with a stack of papers occupying her lap. She had left work to be with him, he thought. There were millions of reasons why he loved her, but the one thing that stood out was moments like these. They were no strangers to hospital rooms, and they were no strangers to Tony being the sick one. These moments, though they’ve had more than they needed or wanted, were the moments when he remembered what made him worthy enough to be her husband.

Tony, playing melodramatic, was groaning to get her attention.

"Good, you're awake." She said, placing the phone in her lap and reaching for his sweaty forehead.

"What the hell happened?" His voice was cracking, dry from what he assumed to be from sucking in too much air. At least he could finally breathe.

"Bruce called me and said you couldn't breathe, you were gasping for air until they got you here and the nurses gave you something and you fell asleep. I came just when the doctor did and said he should be coming back soon." For once she wasn't afraid, or at least that’s what she was putting on. Tony didn't want to panic, though after so long, he didn't know what to expect.

"I'm not going to die, am I?" He was being playful though there was an underlining tone that caused Pepper to pinch her lips into a frown.

"I should be able to answer that for you." The cheerful voice said from the door. The man was tall with blonde hair swept into an upknot on the crown of his head. Tony knew him from pictures at Steve's place but said nothing about it. "Dr. Theodore Odinson, but call me Theo. We ran a few tests and some flags were raised or me so, Mr. Stark, does anyone in your family have a history of heart disease?"

The question was off putting, leaving Tony with an open mouth as he thought it over for a second. "No, not that I know of."

"Well, right now your heart beat sounds sounds as if it's struggling to pump blood properly and that’s what raises a red flag to me saying that it's linked to a heart condition. I would like to run a few tests just to see what it is and then we can consider the possibilities."

Tony shook his head. It was difficult for him to wrap his mind around the words properly and digest all that was being said. Pepper cleared her throat to get his attention.

"What kind of tests?" Pepper asked for Tony.

"Are you Mrs. Stark?" Theo asked almost reluctantly.

"Not anymore, but I'm still his emergency contact and closest of kin."

Theo nodded. "Our first go to test is called an echocardiogram. Basically it shows us sound waves and helps us pick up on any damaged or diseased arteries. If that doesn’t work what I like to do since it gets the best results, is a heart catheterization. We inject a special dye into the heart, a sort of x-ray and we see what the damage is."

Tony still said nothing. Pepper looked over him once again, waiting for a question or a remark but instead, only received his silence.

"Thank you, doctor." She replied. Turing to take his leave, Pepper looked over at the silent man.

Pepper touched his hand as his face grew tired and sad. It was all too much, he thought. His health was always in the red, no matter what he did or how hard he tried, Tony felt like his poor health was the universe giving him a bigger sign. It wouldn't be his first time feeling like God was giving him the middle finger and leaving him on his own. It was no secret that between getting cancer and feeling like he had nothing to show for himself other than his fancy degree, he wasn't exactly the happy about the cards that he was dealt. Cancer takes a toll on your mind and body, they told him, and Tony was no exception. Everyone watched him suffer: his hair thinning, his eyes sunken, his skin slightly yellow, and his body aching all the time. It was still a shock to him that he had the strength to endure it twice. But now, he wasn’t feeling that strong.

"Well, depending on what the test say, we get the surgery and we'll get through this." Pepper wasn't afraid like she was when the stomach cancer was detected. Stage 2 was when they caught it. The cells were multiplying so fast but not as fast as they could've been. Pepper cried for days, hugging Tony as if he were to die the next day and kissing his face over and over again. The next time was lung cancer. It had spread to the organ and since his body didn’t take well to chemo the first time, radiation was his only choice. Pepper was right there, holding his hand and rubbing his back when nothing stayed in his stomach. Still, even had going through it before, she was still afraid for him.

Unlike those times, Tony wasn’t afraid. This time, there was no fear, just the feeling of defeat.

"Pep," Tony started to say, sucking in all the air he could through his nose. "I don't want to do this anymore."

Her eyes were wide, mouth slightly open as she tried to spit out what she needed to say. "What does that mean?"

Tony shook his head, rubbing his face with both hands. "I'm done with fighting. I survived cancer, I got over the drugs, and I stopped drinking and now this? I can't do it anymore. I can't put my body through this again and again. I'm done. I just want this to be it. This is how it goes."

"Tony, you can't. That's why you can't give up like this."

"I'm tired, Pep. I'm so fucking tired. I can't sleep right or eat how I want and now with this I'll have to change more in my life and I don't want to do it. I'm sick of my body working against me. I'm sick of this constant reminder of this person I used to be. First it was my stomach, then my lungs, and now my heart? I don't know how many times God can try to tell me how much of a fuckup I am. I was trying to do him a favor. All the drinking and pill popping I did last year and I couldn’t even kill myself correctly. I can’t go through that again, that depression and sadness and fighting just to end up old with barely any organs to donate."

Pepper felt her jaw ache for clenching her teeth. It was hard to hear, maybe even harder for Tony to say but none of that took away from what he felt, or what she felt. Tony looked away from her, scanning the floor as if more of his feelings were to be found. Pepper held back her tears, swallowing air as she cleared her throat a time or two. Instead of speaking her mind, saying what she felt and not what he wanted to hear at all, she nodded.

"I have to get back to the office." It wasn't true but she could bear another second in that room. Tony reached out for her hand, the digits slipping through his fingers as she tore herself away from his side. "Peter said he wanted to come back over this weekend so I'll call you then."

"Pepper," Tony called out as she stepped towards the door.

"No, you obviously are thinking a lot about you right now and I'll let you until your sense come back. You're in shock, you're tired, and your chest is aching, I can get that but you wanting to die because you can't handle it? You can't deal with this again? What about me? I married you because I loved you. You said you needed me and I was right there, right beside you for nineteen years. I was there all those times, and you know what? I'm tired too. I'm ready to throw in the towel because I'm sick of us spending all of our time together in a hospital room. Peter grew up watching you fight, he watched you crumble and rise again and now you're done?" Pepper didn't fight the tears. She wept as she spoke, yelling as she held nothing back. "You only care about you Tony. Does Steve even know what he's gotten himself into? Have you even had the decency to tell him that he’s only with you for what? Maybe a couple more months until you let yourself die? Do me a favor, tell him to I said to save himself from the train wreck. You’re on a downward spiral and for some reason you wanted to bring him along. You’re a selfish prick, Anthony Stark. I hope you see that."

Chapter Text

"You have got to be shitting me." Tony practically yelled in the almost empty theater.

He and Steve were slouching in chairs in the furthest back row, almost hiding from the other movie goers. There were a few other couples, one tucked in the middle with another bunch in the top row. Steve couldn't help but to shush between bouts of laughter.

"I haven't. It just wasn't something that came up." Steve defended.

Tony shook his head, slightly readjusting in his seat as he readied his hands to motion with his words. "I don't think you heard yourself here. You've never flown a kite? Thats the epitome of childhood, Steven Rogers. Did you also not eat cookies or ride a bike? I am very disappointed in your childhood."

Steve shot Tony a look, one that read 'give me a break' with a mixture of 'maybe'. "I don't particularly care for sweets but if you must know, yes, I rode and owned a bike. Several top of the line bikes too."

"Can't believe I have to take you out to fly a kite." Tony said as he sunk back into his seat. This was their fourth official date over the span of three and a half months. Unlike all the others, this one wasn't planned. After working endless shifts for weeks straight with the addition of overtime from the twenty-two car pile up that happened two weeks back, Steve wanted the pair to see a movie, and after a long days of classes and even longer weeks of lectures that he gave to the class and also received from the dean, Tony just wanted somewhere to sit. Scrolling through a list of events that didn't peak their interest, they stumbled across an old theater that was showing classic movies in their original format.

Steve slowly looked over to the other man, chomping down a mouthful of popcorn. "You have to take me?" The word 'have' carrying so much emphasis that it made his eyes widen when he said it.

Tony just nodded, snatching a handful of the buttery snack. "Who else is going to do it? I dare you to go find another man who's bold enough to run with you on the beach, teaching you the proper ways to fly a kite." He said with so much arrogance that Steve rolled his eyes harder than ever before. "Well, truthfully, there's only one way and it's the Stark way so if you find another man who did have the courage to do such, they'd probably teach you the wrong way. You see why this is my destiny?"

"Is there anything in life that doesn't have to be done the Stark way?"

Tony thought for only a second before shaking his head. "If you want it done right, you'll do it the Stark way."

Steve rolled his eyes again as he felt the laugh bubbling up in his chest. Tony joined him in the chuckle. It was always a pleasure for the two to laugh together, at the same time about the same thing. It was all natural for them, as well as holding hands. Tony gradually moved his hand closer until he seamlessly intertwined the idle digits and unified them. The small action of two hands touching seemed to carry more weight than he ever imagined. Tony was sure it was because of the news of his illness, which he never told Steve about, but reflecting on his wish to let this be what carries him out, everything with Steve was much more heartfelt and beautiful.

"Where do you want to be in five years?"

The question caught Steve off guard. It wasn't something he thought about often since within the last year he was robbed of the role he was sure he'd pursue for the rest of his life. Now, he couldn't even tell himself where he'd be in another years time. "Uh, haven't really considered. Hopefully right up there with Theo. Hopefully out of that fucking  apartment."

Tony looked up at the silver screen. It was no surprise that he was clueless about what was happening but he didn't need to know. The current film was Casablanca, something Tony could only recall as the movie about the plane or the ship and the woman with the dress. He hadn't cared for the film in his past years but he knew this particular part solely from other movies that referenced it, it was the goodbye scene.

"Did I ever tell you I own a house on the beach?" Tony asked, looking at their tired fingers.

"Never came up." Steve responded.

"Well," he started as he used his free hand to rub his wearied eyes, "I was thinking that if you hate your apartment so much, you can have the house. Peter is too grown to spend summers with me there anymore and it's just collecting dust. I mean, I'm not asking you to move in with me but it's a nice place, only about 20 or so miles from here. It's better than that shrine you call a home."

Steve twisted his face, mentally digesting what was just said and what to say back to it. It was all surreal, a dream within reality that Steve couldn't bear to understand just why Tony was being so nice and so overly generous.

"Oh no, I've seen the ID channel. You compliment me and swindle me into a date, then you give me big extravagant gifts and and boom, next thing you know, you're stabbing me 79 times."

Tony's eyes were wide, his mouth dragging across the floor as he stared at the young doctor. "What is with you calling me a stalker?"

It wasn't easy to properly articulate thoughts and feelings into words for Steve. His eyes scanned the theater, his hands rubbing harshly against the fabric of his jeans on his thighs before the right words came to him.

"I'm not trying to offend." Steve said with a slight laugh and such an apologetic tone that Tony felt sorry for even accusing him of such a thing. "I don't think I can accept it. It sounds nice, really nice but it just doesn't feel right. I think you should wait until an anniversary or when my lease is up at least" Steve chuckled.Tony only smirked. "A house is a big deal and I know you're not asking to move in but it just a lot for me to take in. That's not something I can easily hand back.”

“I don’t want it back. I want you to have it forever.”

Shock slapped Steve in the face. “What is all of this about? What’s been going on with you lately?”

Tony looked up at the screen as the words settled in the crevices of his chest. It was called coronary artery disease, an incurable life ruiner that cut off oxygen to his heart slowly. Left untreated, he was going to die soon. There were options, he was told: surgery, pills, change in diet and exercise but he wanted nothing to do with it. For now though, he took the pills, sneaking them in before dinner or after dates when the two were in their designated homes. Lying in the hospital bed, he was more than sure he was ready to welcome the dark angel to bless him with the kiss of eternal peace. Pepper's face was stricken with defeat, mostly from fighting with Tony about ending his life but predominately from spending years in emergency rooms and beside hospital beds. Tony, feeling himself mentally shutting down, was more than sure that in he was done for the both of them. Everyone was tired of living on hospital food, they were sick of hard reclining chairs and lumpy couches, and Tony was definitely fed up small televisions with only nine channels to offer.

But sitting beside Steve, sitting next to a man who carried so much optimism behind his smile and was ignorant to the fact that his newfound lover wanted for his life to end, Tony felt a small reason to try to hold on to something. In a small way, Tony just wanted to stick around and see where life was headed for them, for where they could end up in this screwed up world but he just didn't know if he could. He couldn't waste another year or two of his life in constant pain from some disease that was trying to kill him from the inside. As selfish as he felt, as hard as it was for him to even say it, Tony was going to die and he needed to leave Steve with as many happy stories as he could.

Tony jumped to his feet with Steve's hand in his own and slipped out the exit.

"Where are we going?" Steve asked as he followed.

"Making memories, kid."

*

The bar was loud, every man and women who occupied the establishment was screamung at the top of their lungs as the two drunken men arm wrestled. Tony and Steve watched from the bar, one betting on the opposite of the other and waiting to see who reigned victor.

Steve had a laugh that was simply contagious. Tony watched in awe as his lover grew into someone new after his alcohol intake grew higher.

"You fucking got this!" Steve yelled with the rest of the crowd. Intensity was written all over his face, as well as the flushed red color from his inebriation.

The loud thump and glasses smashing to the floor caused a large majority of the room to holler with glee. Steve was a sore winner, standing before Tony with pointing fingers and antagonizing laughs. He stood inches away spewing out taunts that were very difficult to ignore.

"Pay up, bub." Poking Tony in the chest, Steve laughed as he spoke. Tony rolled his eyes in annoyance and defeat as he fished out three twenty dollar bill.

"Yippee, you took an old man's money. You're paying for the drinks anyway so enjoy spending it all on me." Tony said with a snarky tone as he tossed the money at the drunken man. "Speaking of which, don’t you think you’ve had enough?" He asked as he pulled the beer away from Steve's pink, ready lips.

Laughing was the only way Steve could seem to communicate in his state. "Aw, don't you want me good and sloppy for tonight? I'm not one for whiskey dick."

Tony choked on air. Steve wasn't much for sexy talk and after months of handjobs and unfinished blowjobs, Tony didn't exactly know how to take the statement.

"Does that mean I finally get to score a touchdown?" Tony asked with a twinkle of hope and desperation in his eye.

Another drunk laugh came from Steve as he pressed their lips together. This was a memory worth holding on to. This was something that Tony didn't want Steve to forget, no matter what. Tony pulled away slowly, looking into the other man's eyes with a small smile as he pressed their foreheads together.

"I wish you would take the house." Tony's voice was low, eyes tracing the floor then staring into the other mans.

"I wish you'd give me my beer back." Steve sighed out, words only partially slurring.

Tony leaned back, licking his lips as he grabbed Steve's hand. "What if I arm wrestle you for it?"

Steve stared for a minute, his eyes wide before he scoffed out a deep, hearty laugh. "What?"

"Yeah, if I win you take the house. And I give you this beer."

"Remind me to never go on another unplanned date with you." Steve stated, slowly moving for his unattended drink.

"You can pick out what we do for our next unplanned date." Tony offered, grabbing the searching of the drunk doctor.

Steve smiled mischievously. "If you win, I take your beach house." Tony nodded. "And If I win, we do what I want for the next three dates and you buy me two more beers."

"Fair enough." Tony replied, nodding as he spoke.

Steve smirked, looking around as the idea struck him. "We go dancing."

"Dancing?" Tony inquired with a raised eyebrow.

"You know, like tango or salsa. Something sexy and all up in your space." Steve said with heavy s', his hand placed right at his hip as he moved his toes and waist in the motion of his words. Tony watched with a smirk. It had been a while since he danced. There were times he had to show Peter a few moves, once for homecoming dance and another time just because he felt like bragging, but never tango or salsa. He was the master of the waltz, a classical dancing style that his mother begged for him to perfect in his younger years.

"You know they call tango the dance of love?" Tony asked raising his eyebrow again.

Steve grinned, his face filling with color as he only nudged Tony. "Seems appropriate, right?"

"Alright, pretty boy, put it here." Tony said as he placed out a hand for a confirming shake.

*

It was as if the words were all smashed together, making a bigger word out of each smaller word. Steve wasn't one for a hangover but he sure was something. It had been late when he came home, falling asleep across the bed with half of his shirt off and one shoe completely missing. Tony offered to stay, consistently offering to take care of the drunken man but Steve told him to get home before Peter lost his mind (all against his better judgment).

"What punched you in the face?" Darcy asked as she leaned back against the counter next to Steve, resting on her elbows.

With a finger placed to his lips he let out a soft hush at the naturally loud girl. His head was hanging as he leaned against one bent arm.

"Sorry. You know bread soaks up all the alcohol."

"You know that's been proven to be a myth?" Steve asked with an arched brow.

Darcy stopped chewing her gum, her mouth wide open showing every pearly tooth. "No shit? Learn something new every day. I used to hate when my grandma said that but she had Alzheimer’s so I thought it was only appropriate but I see what she means. I don’t have it but you get it."

Steve slightly laughed as he turned to rest upon his elbows. "Have you ever been salsa dancing?"

Darcy began to laugh. "Whoa there, doc. Are you asking me out? I don't know. I mean, we work together and since I'm the best nurse here and you're so hot-"

"Darcy," Steve tried to interrupt, pinching the bridue of his nose, as the words continued to fall out her mouth.

"... And I'm sure my boyfriend won't like it too much since he's living in my attic for a while but I'll dump him for you, no doubt about it. I mean, it's mostly just for the sex anyway and I'm sure you're way better than him. He has this weird breathing problem-"

"Darcy, I'm not asking you out.” He said louder than he needed to. “I have a date next week and was trying to think up a place to go.”

 Darcy stopped talking, her eyes lowering into a squint. "Are you sure?"

Steve smiled. "Yes. It's next week but I need to find a place ahead of time in case I need to book a spot for a class or something."

The two looked at one another for a second, Darcy looking Steve in his eyes as she tried to declare if he were telling the truth or not. "I'm the worst at dancing."

"Same." He admitted as he reached for his cold coffee. Turning to grab for the cup, a familiar face came into view. Sam sat at the end of a bed possibly waiting for Bucky or who knows what. Steve didn't care, he didn't want to care but the more he didn't care he realized that he did. It took every muscle in his.body to keep from from going to the room. Perhaps it was his curiousity, perhaps it was his.mother's voice in the back of his head that told him to be a good person no matter what. Bucky and Steve had been into fights before, some more serious than others, but they cared about one another. If not as livers, then at least as friends. Steve didn't want to be in Bucky's life when he wasn't wanted there but his heart was bigger than his brain.

"Be back in a second."

Darcy watched him go, calling out after him, "I'll be right here. Waiting or something."

Steve slipped into the room. "Hey, what's going on?" He asked as he leaned against the counter with folded arms.

Sam looked in surprise. "Steve, hey. Uh, just coming to check on my leg. The good one." He chuckled lightly.

Steve looked at the prosthetic before looking over at the man before him. Sam had a black eye. There was a slight scar where his lip was healing from being busted some time ago. Steve knew the signs, he'd been there a time or three himself and he knew better than to ask questions. He knew better but he never listened. "How are things with you and Buck?"

Rubbing his neck, Sam nodded. "Good. He's trying to get better. Therapy is helping, he's considering signing up for the gym or yoga or something."

"Hm. You're not a good enough punching bag?"

Sam huffed, shaking his head as he tongue ghosted over his wounded lip. "It's none of your business. He's not your problem anymore and I don't even know you well enough for you to come at me like that, alright? So take your shit elsewhere before I tell your boss you're reading my charts when you ain't even my doctor."

Steve clenched his jaw, standing upright as he walked towards the door. "You can't help him. You can't do it by yourself and if you don't get him actual help, you'll end up worse than a few broken ribs."

"I can take care of myself."

"I know. But you can't fix him." Steve wanted to kick himself, he wanted to punch out a wall or a door but he couldn't bear the energy. None of it was his business, none of it was even remotely his problem anymore but he couldn't resist it. He missed his best friend, as much as he wished he didn't.

Chapter Text

Perhaps it was the loud music thumping against their chests like someone anxious to get into their home. It may have been the hardwood floors with mirrors lining the walls, reflecting the dancers and their relative skills. Tony, for once in his life Steve assumed, was intimidated. Though, it was farthest from the truth.

Tony was a natural learner, a quick one at that, picking up on every small detail no matter how minuscule. The teacher was beautiful in her movement, her body speaking to him on levels he couldn’t comprehend. It was the curve of her hips, the point in her foot, the turn in her legs and arms that caught his attention and held it. She was teaching him and only him, he felt, and he loved that feeling more than the joys of teaching himself.

Her hair was swept into a small bun at the base of her skull. She detached from her partner and stood beside him with hands to her side.

"My name is Maria and this is Gabriel," her hand waving over her dark haired assistant, "and we will be teaching you the beautiful dance of the tango. First things first, don't feel embarrassed. We're all novice and if you're a bad dancer, well, that's why you're here - to learn and get better. Now, Gabriel will show the men a few important moves when you're leading and I'll show the women the more seductive side to it all; the dips and turns and just how to make the dance work altogether."

Steve and Tony raised eyebrows at one another.

"I'm not a good dancer," Steve admitted in a whisper.

"I'm not seductive enough for what she has going on," Tony admitted in a whisper as well.

"Guess I'll get acquainted with the women," Steve reluctantly said, looking over his shoulder at the small gaggle.

"No matter how much we laugh about this later, I swear I won't think any less of you," Tony smiled, a condescending laugh rumbling from his chest.

Steve's eyes were glued to Tony's. Words were bubbling before he decided to keep his peace before he punched the man he really, really liked in the face.

Maria welcomed Steve with a smile as he walked over. Tony peeked over his shoulder to see the interaction before being manhandled by an anxious Gabriel.

"If you don't mind," he said with a thick British accent that Tony found to be odd yet seemingly attractive.

"Kind of but -" his sentence being cut short.

"Alright, you take your partner by the hand and place your hand on the lower of their back. Now, it's easy to slip a hand on the bum but this is a dance of love and romance and passion, and I for one know there is nothing passionate about bum grabbing. Well, under the right circumstances."

Tony raised his brows at the choice of words, and then there was a sudden rush of him being swept into a dance. It was hard not leading but then again it would have also been no fun if he already knew what to do. Gabriel spoke lowly in his ear, giving subtle directions as Tony followed, barely skipping a beat.

"Wouldn't you like to buy me dinner first?" Tony joked as Gabriel continued to float along the floor. Steve paused his solo dancing, copying Maria as he peered over his shoulder at the dancing pair.

"Looks as if Gabriel is showing a bit of favoritism," Maria's voice was impressed as well annoyed. Steve leaned more towards the annoyance, finding it ring more true to his own feelings than hers. Perhaps it was the fact that Tony was just so good, that he was everything Steve dreamed about being in high school and Steve was standing alongside a couple of women who gawked at what was his dancing with someone that should've been him. The jealousy was abrupt, and a bit out of character for him, but there were underlying problems going on with him, as well as Tony.

Saying nothing, Steve turned back around and forced himself to be a little more joyous.

Tony and Gabriel finished, gaining applauds from the men standing in a broken circle around the duo. Tony laughed, his cheeks forcing his eyes shut as it took Gabriel a second longer to completely detach from the older man. Steve was still watching even though he didn’t want to. He was peeking from the corners of his eyes as the two still touched one another – brushing arms and squeezing shoulders – and it all rubbed him the wrong way.

"Who's next?" Gabriel asked, finally taking his disgusting hands off of Tony's arm.

A tall man stepped forward. He was dressed in all black, nothing brighter than midnight covered his skin. His eyes were even dark, a deep brown that seemed scary from a far and possibly even more terrifying up close.

"And your name is, sir?" Gabriel asked in his most charming of tones. Steve hated his accent.

"Nick." The man replied as he stepped forward again. The smaller man nodded, extending a hand for the man as he bowed.

It felt appropriate to laugh. The taller man, Nick, didn't look like a dancer. His wife, or who Steve assumed to be his wife, stood next to the doctor watching the interaction. Nick sighed, taking in a deep breath before he spun Gabriel.

"I'm leading." He declared, pushing the man back out as gently as his muscular arms allowed. The dancer felt confused, and slightly angry. His body tried to follow the other man’s, his foot moving after Nick's, his hand draped on his shoulder and the other placed in his open palm. Gabriel wasn't good in the other role, his face drenched in confusion and awkwardness while Nick seemed in his zone. His moves were fluid, like watching a bird float through the sky or even a gazelle in a stride.

"He's showing off because I'm mad at him. He thinks I'll forget about it all and ravish him in the car on the way home." The woman standing next to Steve admitted. Steve flashed a small grin. "It's working."

*

The cab pulled up the curb almost as soon as Tony returned his hand to his side.

Pulling open the door, Steve slipped inside, scooting closer to the other door as much as he could.

Tony quickly gave directions then sat back in his seat. In what felt to be like a long time, the two were quiet. The younger man was looking out the window, watching the lights and colors of the city pass him by. Tony did the same before the silence began to gnaw at him.

"What's the matter?" He asked ever so gently.

"I'm fine. Wondering why I picked dancing out of all the other embarrassing things I could've done," Steve stated, never making eye contact.

"You weren’t that bad, honey. You just don't dance enough," Tony stated in his most inspiring and helpful voice.

"I'm too busy telling people to stop shoving things up their rectum to dance," Steve said in a matter of fact tone. "You were too busy with Gabriel to even notice how horrible I was."

Tony scoffed a laugh. He began to notice the annoyance written all over Steve's expressionless face. "You're serious?" he asked, though, he needed no answer.

"Is that your thing? Younger guys? I know you're old and so sure you're going to be dying eventually but you want to go out with some sort of bang? See how many twenty something’s you can get into bed before you kick the bucket?" The anger boiled from a place unknown and as much as Steve wanted to take all the words and shred them into a million pieces, he couldn't. It was too late.

Tony shook his head, scoffing another laugh before he mumbled, "To be fair here, I have yet to get you in bed so."

"I told you why," Steve defended.

"And no one has judged you for that decision. We were having a great time and you attacked me like some sort of battered puppy. I love you, really I do, but I don't know what's gotten into you." Tony laughed at himself, the words leaving his lips before he caught wind of the underlying issue. "Steven Rogers, are you jealous?"

Nothing was said. The cab driver flashed a glanced into the backseat at the bickering couple but still, not a single word or sound was muttered.

"I'm not answering that," Steve finally replied in a tone below a whisper, shaking his head only slightly.

"Steven," one said.

"Anthony," said the other.

Tony stared at his significant other with such a condescending grin. "You're telling me that you were jealous of some stringy hair twink who smelled like peppermint and hair gel?"

"I didn't say anything actually so what you're doing is called assuming." Steve had his arms folded across his wide chest. It was new, this emotion, the rage and annoyance that ran through his veins like tainted blood. "Fine, fuck, I am, was, whatever. I can't dance, I don't have anything to show for myself other than my degree and who knows if I'll even last being a doctor. Seriously, you're established, married, divorced, a father, a very good dancer, and I'm a doctor and someone's ex-fiancee. I wasn't even good enough to marry. Everyone loves everything about you and I'm just your twenty-something boyfriend."

"You're also forgetting you're only twenty-something and you don't want to be someone's ex-husband at thirty-something. Steve, honey, you'll get there. You don't even know the half of the things I've been through to get here and trust me, some of it, I could've done without."

Tony moved closer, wrapping his arm around Steve's waist, pulling him in closer as much as he could. He planted small kisses on the man's neck, then his cheek. "I love you, alright. You're great just the way you are and you don't need to be a great dancer, or a dad, or someone's ex-husband. Plus if you were good, what would I have left to teach you?"

Steve was like a small child, his lip slightly pouty and his eyes darting in another direction. "How to fly a kite the Stark way."

"Well, yeah, that's a pretty big deal. Okay, I see your point."

Tony's laugh was a noise that could be heard miles away and still give Steve butterflies. His smile was a different sensation; his smile was the gates of heaven shining on your face, blessing your entire soul with warmth that could never be found anywhere else on Earth. Steve loved this about the man. He loved how Tony read the paper, his eyes serious while only a small smirk danced upon his lips when he read comic strips. He loved how Tony's hands moved as he spoke, as if the way he spoke wasn't visually moving enough.

Steve pulled himself closer, pushing their lips together as the feelings and his words resonated within him. This was love. Throughout the amount of pain and sorrow the last few years life had given him, there was still something deep down in him that could love and allow him to be loved. There were questions still racing through his mind: what if this wasn't love? How could he even know this was love and it'd only been such a short amount of time? Was three months too short of a time to love someone? What was Tony's middle name? How he could love someone without even knowing his middle name? Would his family like him? Does his family like him?

Pulling apart for only a second, the breath of fresh air washed the worry away.

"You said you loved me," Steve whispered.

Tony shrugged. "It felt right."

"I don't even know your middle name."

"Edward. My favorite color is red, my favorite cereal is fruity pebbles, and I'd only go straight for Velma from Scooby-Doo."

Steve shook his head at his entertaining lover.

"I think you should stay the night." Steve said as he felt the warmth under his skin intensify. Tony was still touching him, a finger tracing each vein in his arm, both men still sitting too close with their hearts beating too loud. Steve yearned to touch him back, to rest a hand on the heart that pounded rhythms much like the syllables of his name. He yearned to stroke his cheek, caress the curvature of his face and neck and shoulders. Steve wanted him. He wanted him more than he wanted anything else in life or even at this moment.

Tony playfully rolled his eyes. "I'm not making you crepes again. You don’t know how to properly appreciate good French food."

"I don't care about breakfast,” he answered with a smoky voice. "Who knows if we'll even leave the bed."

Tony felt his eyes widen. “Oh, Steven.”

*

If there wasn't pushing, then there was pulling; tugging at articles of clothing as each men secretly pleaded to feel the others skin. Trapped in a kiss, Steve and Tony fumbled through the living room into the bedroom before they paused. Steve forced Tony into a wall, pinning him down to bless every inch of his skin with a thoughtful peck.

First his neck, then dragging his tongue to his chest he flicked the tip over both nipples, leaving neither to feel neglected. Instead of a moan, Tony let out a deep breath, leaning his head back as he felt the pleasure shoot all over. Steve tugged at his pants, his single hand unbuttoning the trousers before releasing Tony's erection.

It was beautiful, he thought. Nothing short of his expectations. And with his appreciation for the beautiful piece, he kissed the tip. Another kiss down the shaft. Another under the shaft and again on the tip. There was a pause, a deep breath in before his licked around the base and took the throbbing member into his mouth. His warm, wet mouth covering every single inch of it. Tony sucked in another deep breath, a loud moan as he'd gotten what he so patiently waited for. Steve bobbed his head softly, placing both hands on the other man’s waist to balance himself on his pointed toes. Tony didn't watch, though he wanted to. He peeked ever so often, seeing the man twist his head from left and right, moving slowly back and forth. Steve was humming, sending vibrations along every nerve. This was perfection.

Tony slightly chuckled, a pleasure induced giggle of the sorts as Steve slowed to a stop.

"They teach you that in medical school?" Tony asked rather lowly.

"You can say that. Taught me a few other things too," Steve was facing him, kissing him softly again. In one swift move, Steve tosses Tony to the bed, making him bounce as he tried to find his bearings. Stepping from his jeans, Steve moved in closer to Tony.

Their hips pressed into one another. Tony watched carefully as the younger man kissed his chest once more, dragging the tip if his tongue to his neck, sucking at the skin as he nibbled softly on the muscles. "For instance, we had a course on nerve endings which discussed all the erogenous zones." His voice was soft. Trailing kisses to his chest, Steve hummed lightly. "Such as your thorax has a few." Placing a kiss around his nipples then his rib cage until he finally brushed his soft lips around Tony's navel. "Of course, your penis has a few." Another kiss as Steve effortlessly searched for lube. Coating his fingers, and himself, he smiled as he spoke. "And in here," he said as he entered the other man's entrance, "there's one particular spot that's the most heightened of them all."

Steve slowly watched Tony melt into the sheets. His moans were louder, and deep. His were closed, his hand gripping the sheets as the young, sexually experienced doctor finger him with such delicacy and passion. There was something to be said about it all, about how Steve wasn't even himself in this moment and how without even realizing it, Tony was putty in his hands even though he worked so hard for it to be the other way around.

What it all boiled down to was, Tony didn't win. He had gotten Steve into bed but he couldn't proudly say that he was the victor in this unknown contest of who could lay who first.

Though, in this exact moment with Steve leaning forward to insert his erection into Tony with that beautiful stupid smile splattered over his boyishly cute face, winners didn't matter.

Steve trusted his hips forward, both men moaning in unison as Tony grabbed hold of Steve's waist. Slowly, he stroked. Back and forth, easy and steady, gently and softly like a man embracing his lover for the first time. Tony couldn't restrain his pleas of pleasure. He felt teased, he felt denied of all that was supposed to be given to him and he was. Steve laughed as he stroked slowly. Only so much entered, just the tip and a bit of the base. The strokes were growing in number, minutes passing as the hunger for more was coming over both men until neither could take it anymore.

The man on top pushed all of himself inside, pushing down on Tony's stomach as he did such. Faster he went, never missing a beat. Tony moaned louder, his mouth wider, his eyes pinched shut. He couldn't watched, he couldn't stop enjoying it enough to even peek a glance.

"Harder," he begged at a point.

"Faster," he pleaded at another.

Stroking his own erection they were in sync. The minutes were ticking away, an hour and a half coming to pass until they were close, close to the grand finale. Steve grunted and groaned, Tony doing all the same. The man on bottom was first. His body jerking slightly as the pleasure washed over his body in one gigantic wave. Steve was next, stroking faster and harder, as fast and hard as he could, their hips clapping in celebration as the wave of pleasure reached over him, washing him entirely before he collapsed in exhaustion.

They panted as they tried to catch their breaths, soft chuckles escaping their tired lungs.

"So," Tony finally said, his voice scratchy and in a tone that resembled nothing more than rumbles, "wanna teach me more about nerve endings in the shower?"

Steve coughed out a tired laugh.

*

The sheets smelled of lilacs and fruits, an unintentional matter that Steve sworn was due to him buying whatever he grabbed first. Tony didn't mind. With his arm wrapped around the shoulder of the man he loved, he cared so little about matters of the world around them. They were together, and alone. They were happy, something neither man had felt in a long time. What happened outside that building, or even that front door, was nothing. Tonight they declared their love, something that was a long time coming but still seemed so unreal, so impossible after all that life had given them.

"We should go to your beach house soon. I think I'm ready to learn how to fly a kite." Steve declared.

"Wow, sex then you plan a vacation for us. Should've professed my love sooner."

Steve playfully nudged at the older man. The silence settled as Steve sighed happily. Tony took a deep breath, sleep washing over him as he nuzzled his chin on top of Steve's head. The man scooted a bit, trying to find comfort on his lover’s bare chest before he settled an ear to his heart, the rhythmic beat soothing him. Steve knew it was his mother's heart that gave him the passion for his current line of work. She'd always claim it was because only those with good hearts could heal those with bad ones. Steve took it metaphorically for a while, thinking back to his relationship with Bucky. Until, he really listened, not only to his mother's words but to Tony. The muscle was struggling, the beats almost echoing and pounding slower than what one in his field of expertise would consider normal. Steve felt his own beat, tapping to match the sounds. They didn't line up.

The worry began to settle in.

"Do you feel okay?" Steve asked as he did his best to hide the fear.

Tony slightly frowned as he began to lie. "I feel great."

Steve wanted to say more but he was unsure of where to even begin. He didn't know what the prognosis could be. He barely knew Tony's medical history and now wasn't the time ti get into it.

Settling back into slumber, Tony grabbed at his vibrating phone. It was a text. The screen illuminated their faces as Tony read the small words before locking it back and tossing it away.

"You get text messages? Thought all your friends were too old for that?" Steve joked as he closed his eyes.

"Hardy har, it was Pepper. Telling me her mom would be in town Monday."

Steve's eyes shot open, the chill of the words leaving a tingle all over his being. There was an ache in his stomach, a pain in his chest as he thought back to their first official date after their official unofficial one. Tony claimed Pepper's parents had died, one of the reasons behind their “arranged” marriage. Steve wanted to speak, to say something or anything that would force it all to make sense. Perhaps there was something more important to support the lie, maybe a mother with no actual relation. It was easy to make excuses, but either way, Steve knew Tony was harboring a few secrets.

Chapter Text

Theodore could walk into a room and simply turn heads with his smile. Though, Steve was slumped over a desk with his face swimming in latin terms of diseases from congestive heart failure to the seemingly simple to detect heart murmur. He needed to know what was wrong, why Tony's heart thumped like how an old engine spat. Perhaps it was because he was old, the muscle growing tired of life and ready to call it quits but Tony was just too young, too lively, too ... beautiful to let go. The thoughts raced until a simple nudge to the back of the skull pulled him from his work, and worries.

"Rogers, I seriously just carried out an entire conversation with the side of your face," he waited for some sort of snarky response and yet, he got nothing. Snapping his big sausage like fingers beside Steve's ear, the preoccupied man came from his daze once again. "Aye, where is your head at today?" Theo asked with his normal wide smile. His face was made for smiling. Steve sworn he'd seen him angry plenty of times and still he carried that dopey smile that made him feel so at ease and still very afraid.

"I'm," Steve quickly searched for a lie, "studying. Looking into some things, seeing what's new in the phenomenal world of medicine."

"You really should really get out more if that's how you preoccupy your mornings," Theo said with a slight chuckle.

"Is that what you were talking about while I was trying raise my IQ? Telling me what to do with my mornings?" Steve asked, lacing his fingers behind his neck as he leaned back in his chair.

"No, asshole, I asked you kissing booth or dunking booth?"

"Theo, man, we've had this conversation. You're a very good looking guy, I mean very good looking, but I just can't be seen with someone as, what's the word I'm looking for..." Steve jokingly paused, gazing around and snapping his fingers as he thought.

Theo's smile was less sincere and more unenthused. "Haha, we get it, you're gay with bad taste, write a book about it. It's for the hospitals fundraiser numb nuts. You remember last year how I told you next year you could participate in things instead of sitting in a hot box selling tickets?"

"Oh, right, geez, it's already time for it?" Steve had been so busy with so many other matters that even work had managed to take a seat on the back burner. "I guess I'll go with dunking booth."

"Good because I'd already called kissing booth for obvious reasons." Theo said as he popped a handful of chocolate covered raisins into his mouth.

Steve raised an eyebrow. "You do remember Lawrence talking about all the men that stood in line, too, don't you? Trust me when I say, you're good looking in all the playgirl kind of ways. Blonde hair and blue eyes, I should write an e-mail to all the queens I know and tell them to come out this year."

Theo's eyes were wide, appalled at the words that provided him with an unsettling imagery. "You are officially getting your own coffee in the mornings."

Storming out of the room, Steve taunted him with a bellowing laugh. "Aw, don't be that way, Theo. I prefer brunettes anyway!"

The man was gone, his disgusted grunts echoing the corridor. Steve was back to his books again, digging and searching for an answer. He shouldn't have cared so much. There was still a few issues that they needed to address before he freaked out too much about the older man's heart. Thoughts of last night filled him with joy as well as sadness. Tony lied, flat out, plain faced lied to him about something that, in a way of speaking, meant nothing to him. His stories weren't matching up and Steve deserved to know the truth, but it just felt so stupid to ask.

The two were married for whatever reason but if Tony wanted to share that reason, why would he lie about it. Perhaps it was shame, him not wanting to admit about marrying out of love before learning that he didn't love her just the same. Perhaps it was miney, Pepper's family could've been wealthy and willing to help Tony out of whatever trouble he was having. Maybe it was on a dare. Steve didn't want to make excuses but there was something in him that just wouldn't stop doing it.

He took a deep breath.

Snatching his phone from the desk, he declared that right now he'd get those answers.

"Hello, there," Tony answered.

Steve choked on his pride, his anger diminishing as something told him it all seemed so unimportant. "Hey, you," He replied, releasing a stiff breath as he leaned back into his chair. "Whats going on?"

"Ah, getting ready to head off to class. Making copies in the library since the teachers lounge makes me uncomfortable," Tony said lowly but still not as quiet as he should've been. "What's up?"

"Nothing on this end. Reading a few books, studying up on some things. Theo reminded me about the hospitals fundraiser next weekend and I wanted to invite you and Peter. I know he's basically a senior citizen with his grown up life and all but I figured he'd bring Gwen or something and have a pretty decent time winning prizes and giving money for a good cause."

Tony's eyebrows scaled up his forehead. "That sounds pretty fun actually. I think him and Stacey are having some problems but I'll tell him. He acts grown but he's still a sucker for stuffed animals. He basically had a temper tantrum just a few months ago because I didn't win him one of those big tigers from Six Flags."

Steve chuckled. "Well, I can't wait to see you guys. I'm working the dunking booth so that'll be fun or something."

"Oh yeah, seeing you all wet ... again. This time you'll have clothes on so that'll be a nice change," A few students shot a few glares in his direction, one guy giving a thumbs up. Tony returned the sign and packed his next set of papers into the machine.

"Now you have to come."

"You got it, sunshine. I gotta get getting. Librarian is making eyes with me and I dont think its the good kind."

Steve felt the words bubbling up, his questions, his need for the truth, his anger and annoyance but instead of voicing those feelings he simply called out: "Tony?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm really glad I have you in my life. I am grateful for you, really. I love you."

Tony was digesting it all, every last tooth decaying, disgustingly beautiful word of it before he replied. "I know."

The line went dead and Steve pushed the phone back to it's previous location. It wasn't like him to give someone a guilt trip but he hope it worked. He hoped that some time before they saw one another again or spoke once more, Tony would bare his soul and make right of all of his wrings so far. As for now, until he was granted that wish, Steve continued to search for the reasoning of his slowly beating heart.

*

Peter frowned as they walked. It felt like a mile, maybe more, since they decided to park their car as far away as humanly possible and hike back towards the crowded festivities. It was the end of summer, autumn ready to bounce into the air as the day was cool without being too cold or too hot. Humidity was no longer a thing and despite the long walk to some stupid event that he had no say so in attending along with his kinda new girlfriend he was aiming to consistently impress despite his dad’s constant need to embarrass him every single second, it was a pretty good day.

Gwen smiled as she spoke, waving her hands and placing emphasis on every other word.

"I think it's really cool you're dating a doctor. I mean, you get sick, no need to go see someone and pay him fifteen hundred dollars to look in your throat or give you stitches, you have someone right there."

Peter nudged her slightly. "Saying you want me to become a doctor?"

"Well, as long as I get to play nurse," she said lowly in a seductive voice.

"Children," Tony barked before twisting his face. "Ew, shut up. You're like 13 and a half." The two continued a hush conversation behind Tony, filled with giggles and jokes that Tony only found even more disgusting.

They approached the festival shortly thereafter. It was a booming event with small yet fun activities. There was the kissing booth, a few games of hitting the bottles, shooting ducks, and another with basketball. On the far left side there was a dunking booth, Steve swinging his feet from the diving board beneath him. Tony headed straight towards him, anxious and excited.

"Ah, look at you. Did I miss anything?" Tony asked, standing on the small steps as he leaned in for a kiss.

Steve shook his hand, kissing the other man quickly. "Nope. Not a single person."

"Can I try?" Gwen asked with such excitement in her voice.

Steve slightly chuckled. "Sure. It's five dollars for three balls. But if you dunk me you get a dollar back."

"Oooh, I have to try this."

Tony stepped away as quickly as he could. Gwen received the balls from a man in a blue shirt standing next to the tank. She slowly paced herself, aligning her body with the big red button the taunted her with HIT ME. She closed one eye, pulling her right arm back as far as she could before throwing it at the red and white mat behind the button.

"I don't know you Gwen but you throw like a little girl and I love it."

"Strike one," the man in the blue shirt stated.

Gwen perked her lips to the side. She got another ball, stretching her arm back as far as he could, twisting her hips and only one of her legs as she threw the ball into the mat once again.

"Strike two. Last try."

Gwen stomped her foot. Accepting the final ball she huffed before the defeat completely washed over here. "I'm gonna dunk your pretty little boyfriend, Stark. Then you're buying me cotton candy."

Steves eyebrows jumped, a small laughing leaving his lips. Tony did the same, only nodding as he threw her the OK sign with his fingers.

She took a deep breath, eyeing the target before stepping to the left then to the right. Quickly, she threw the ball into the button, sending Steve underwater with a big splash.he floated up, standing to his feet to wipe his face.

Peter smirked, pulling the girl into a hug after she happily received her dollar. "She's good, huh?"

"I hate to say this but good job Stacey," Tony said in shock of himself more than Gwen's actions.

Steve gave the girl a lazy thumbs up. "Thanks Gwen."

Tony walked over to the tank, leaning to wipe Steve's face with his hand. "At least you're doing it for a good cause."

Steve splashed at the man. Tony backing up before the water had a chance to touch him.

"Dad, wanna see who can shoot the most hoops?" Peter asked with his arm still draped over Gwen's shoulder.

Tony looked back at Steve who was using the most of his upper body strength to sit back on the now propped up board. Steve looked at Tony as he began to speak but spoke for him. "Go, I'll be here. I'll catch up when I go on break."

Tony smiled. "I'll be back to take a picture anyway. I need it for my 'private collection'," he said with air quotations.

"Children," Peter called out. "Ew. You're like 50."

The two chuckled as the trio walked away. Steve watched and felt completely at ease. Today was a beautiful day and he'd be damned if it could be ruined. There was so much going on in his head the past weeks that he'd forgotten how to enjoy the moment. Right now, with his eyes glued to his amazing lover and his son enjoying a friendly challenge, he felt completely at ease. There were no worries, there wasn't anything that could bring him down.

A couple had walked up to the dunking booth but Steve was still preoccupied in his pleasant thoughts. The thuds of balls hitting the mat was background noise. He'd looked at the couple for only a second, the husband doing the throwing as he gave it his all while the wife gawked at Steve. It was habit to smile, even when he felt uncomfortable.

Steve looked back over to the father and son to only see Tony grab at his chest. He was leaning forward, trying to find something to hold as he tried to gain some sort of bearance. Steve felt his heart drop, his eyes wide as the other man had fallen to the ground.  Steve opened his mouth to scream, sucking in all his body would allow to yell as loud as he could. In the moment, his mouth open, his heart still, and his body tense, the board from underneath him dropped into the water, and so did he.

There was panic, bubbles forming from under the water as his mind raced and his lungs contracted. Steve was drowning. It was only a five foot pool but with the panic, the fear, the unknown of what was happening to Tony, and even to himself, darkness slowly began to come over him. The air was all gone as hand touched his back and arms before he decided that right now, he just needed to go to sleep.

Chapter Text

Mmph.

Mmph.

Mmph.

Koff, koff, koff.

Steve gasped, hard and deep as the water poured from his nose and dripped out his mouth, urging him to cry. He fought the feeling, coughing out all he could before his mind race to what exactly was taking place.

Steve Rogers, he mentally recalled.

August 12th, 2014, he slowly remembered.

"What happened?" It was the only detail he was missing.

"The kid said you got dunked and drowned," Jane, the waitress from his favorite coffee shop informed him. She was his savior, wearing a more than confident smile as she patted Steve on the shoulder. "Are you okay?"

Steve smiled, gripping her hand on his shoulder in a weak attempt at showing his deep appreciation and gratitude. "I'm fine," he said lowly as he coughed a few more times. "Where's Tony?" His voice was shaky, frantically looking over his shoulder at the growing crowd. Jane stood to help him to his feet.

The rush of blood made all of her words fade into a hum. It was as if he was trapped inside a bubble, noise surounding him but only vibrations and no real words being said.

He had to see him, he had to be there. Whether it was holding his hand or looking at charts, he had to be there, he had to fix this.

"Excuse me," he stated repeatedly as he staggered and squeezed through the tight knit bodies of bystanders.

Theo was there, already in action as he pulled the man unto a stretcher as fast as he could. Steve was frozen, watching as if he was watching a film, it all feeling just too surreal to be his own life.

Peter was crying while Gwen stood close with tears in her own eyea. They walked with the doctors and nurses into the entrance.

Steve still hadn't moved. His mouth ajar, his eyes wide yet narrowed, and his feet were glued to the ground as he realized just how much of a failure he was.

*

Tony peeled open his eyes slowly, the beeping of machines causing him to groan.

"Can we turn this damn monitor off?" He asked with a croak, his voice raspy and words slurring.

"Afraid not, Mr. Stark. You, sir, just suffered a heart attack. Probably won't be your first if we don't schedule that bypass soon."

Tony shook his head. There was still a pain in his chest, his heart struggling to breath but something in him still said no. He didn't want to get better but, truth be told, after feeling like his heart was ready to explode, that's not exactly what he thought would be the thing to take him out.

Pepper was squeezing his hand, Peter tucked into the corner as far away as he could be, looking out of a window.

"Tony, is this really what you want? You almost died in front of your son. Look at him. Do you really think he wants to live life knowing his father gave up on him?"

Tony was ready with a rebuttal but Peter interrupted the thought.

"You knew you were sick?" Peter asked, his voice shaky and cracking.

"Pete, you wouldn't understand."

"You always say that. You always say its hard to explain or you wouldn't understand when you just don't have a reason. You wanted to die? Really? You get sick one more time in your life and you just say hey, fuck seeing my possible grandchildren or my own son graduating, I'll just call it a day."

Tony said nothing. Pinching his lips, he looked away. Peter was closer but still keeping his distance.

"You selfish son of a bitch. You fucking selfish prick, fuck you."

The tears were burning in his eyes, in everyone's. Pepper quietly begged for Peter to tone down the language but he was saying what they both were thinking and, honestly, this was an exception.

"Mom put her life on hold for you. She turned down cases, and job offers for you. For years. And this is what she gets in the end? How dare you!" Everyone was still, quiet. Peter was in tears, his eyes red and his face even redder. "If you let this be it, then consider these my last words: Eat shit. And Phil has taught me more in the few years I've known him than you have ever taught me."

The door slammed shut after Peter walked out. Theo stood in the corner, watching carefully before slipping out the door himself. Pepper still held on tight, her tears taking up more of her cheeks than her cheeks. Tony hated it when she cried, he hated when everyone cried, but it was only him to blame for it.

"Pep," Tony cooed as he reached his other hand for her.

She pulled away, standing up to her feet and quickly wiping at her tears. "I'm going to get some coffee."

*

Steve stood outside the door. Tony was asleep, slightly turned on his side with a single pillow under his head. There was something keeping him from going inside. He knew it was because he knew, he heard the slow pace in his heart and instead of saying something, voicing his concern and urging him to see someone, he tried to figure it out himself. That alone went against all he prided himself on being.

Pulling himself away from the window, he sat back down in the chair beside the door. His mind drifted about for a few minutes until a voice interrupted him.

"Can I help you with something?" Someone beside him asked.

Steve looked up, a woman older than himself with strawberry blonde hair, a pencil shirt, and a very stern face stood only feet from him.

Steve jumped to his feet, slowly walking towards her, and said, "I'm Dr. Steve Rogers, I treated Mr. Stark some time ago. I came to check up on him."

The woman sighed lightly, her face growing soft as her shoulders relaxex. "You're Steve. Hi, I'm Pepper Potes, Peter's mother."

Steve sighed himself, finally matching a face to a name. They shook hands, never breaking eye contact as Steve spoke. "I'm glad to meet you. Tony never stops talking about you or sharing some story," he smiled as he spoke until he asked: "How is he doing?"

Pepper sighed again, leaning forward to see Tony still fast asleep. "I could say he's seen better days but I'm not sure that'd be true," they both peeked inside the window. "The cancer was easier to deal, honestly. I think it's just his attitude towards all of this that drives me insane."

"Wait, I'm sorry, cancer?" The words felt odd to say, the new knowledge stabbing him in the stomach and chest.

The woman let out a groan, shaking her head as she let out a low mumble. "Oh, Tony." She sighed yet again, taking a seat when Steve previously sat. "Tony said he was going to tell you but I knew better than to believe that. He was afraid and I," she shook her head, rubbing at her temples. "When we got married, Tony was on meth. I got him to stop, thankfully, but a few years after smoking it for however long, he got stomach cancer. We went to every kind of therapy, tried every kind of treatment before we realized that chemo wasn't the answer. So, radiation was it. A year and a half later, he was cured. But, three years later, it came back in his lungs. More radiation, more time in the hospital, and he was cured again. Then this," she seemed to drift off after she spoke. "Theo says it was more than likely the radiation, Tony says he just doesn't want to deal with it again."

Steve had so many questions, there were so many things that he had to know and needed to know since he felt as if he knew nothing.

"He wanted this to be it," she stated lowly.

It felt like a dagger to the heart, acid to the face, and someone ripping out his intestines. "He ... he wanted this to be it? He knew this was going to happen?" His voice balanced between anger and sadness.

Pepper's closed her eyes, the tears streaming. "I'm so sorry you had to deal with him. I told him to tell you everything. He didn't tell you a thing. Steve, I'm so-"

"No, no, no, it's not your fault," he said in a sort of whisper.

The woman stood with her hands at her chest, her eyes full of sorrow. "I told him to tell you, I really did. I told him that he couldn't build something with you if he wasn't honest."

Rubbing his face, Steve sucked up his a pain. "Are your parents alive?"

"Excuse me?"

"Tony and I went on a date and he said you two got married because you wanted to stay here after your parents died," he was hoping to hear something ring truth from within all of Tony's lies.

Pepper nodded. "They did."

Steve was still in disbelief but more than anything, he began to feel rude and invasive. "I'm sorry it's just Tony said your mother was in town."

"I was adopted. My birth mother and I started talking a few years ago."

There was a sigh of relief, a slight weight off his shoulders before he thought over why they were all here. Tony had secrets, deep dark ones that began to make Steve question just who exactly was he in love with.

Pepper stepped closer to Steve, slowly grabbing for his head as she began to speak. "Tony isn't all bad. When I first met him he was funny and sweet and even now, he cares so much about you that I want to punch him for all of this," she laughed through her tears. "But, you need to know about the things he's been through, the things he's done for me and himself to make it over the years. You deserve to hear them from him. You deserve to see how much of a great person he really is."

Buying back the anger and frustration, nodding as he thought over the words, Steve smiled. "It was nice meeting you," he said as he left. He was out of words, out of things to say, and right now, he just needed some time alone.

*

Tony picked at the food before him. The chicken was dry, the soda was flat, and the roll was as hard as the table he was eating on.

"You need to eat something," Theo informed him as he checked his vitals.

Tony snorted. "You're around this food all the time, I'm quite sure you know why I physically cannot and will not put this in my mouth."

Theo smiled, his eyes squinting as he released a low, deep chuckle. "It's the worst. I would get you a burger myself but heart attack and greasy food don't mix. So, I'll do you a solid: I'll grab you a nice healthy sandwich with lite mayo if you tell me why you don't want the surgery."

Tony sighed. "Don't think that's fair if I'm forced to eat lite mayo. Have you ever eaten lite anything? Disgusting stuff, let me tell you."

Theo folded his arms. Tony sighed again, this one dragging as he pushed the tray away.

"Have you ever just been fed up? I mean, completely and utterly defeated?" Theo nodded slowly, a kind of shrug accompanying the action. "I've watched everyone suffer with me. My ex wife literally put her entire career on pause so she could be with me. She's married again and still putting everything on hold for me. And I don't want that. I don't want to be the legless soldier on her back that she has to carry six hundred yards. And bless the guy I'm with now. Jesus, that kid has been through the ringer and I'm being some sick asshole by dragging him through it just for kicks."

Theo perched his lips to the side. "Have they ever told you that you were a burden?"

"Of course not, no, but -" he caught on to what was being thrown out.

"I'm not the best at this but I saw what happened in there with you and your son. I see how Pepper walks on eggshells to not cut your throat open and I wouldn't be able to sleep tonight if I didn't find away to say this so bear with me. Fact: Illnesses alters the mind. Not fact: what you think these people in your life feel about you. You're projecting what you feel, Tony. Now, I'm not saying you should do this, I'm your doctor, I can only help you the way that you want, but I can only advise you to make your final decision with a clear mind. Think it over, either get the bypass or die and let everyone you love be miserable because they think they failed you."

*

The tightness in Tony's chest caused him to cough, a hacking, gasping, nasty cough that pulled him from his light slumber. Steve watched, his eyes sad and wide as he thought about doing something. He wasn't his doctor, he couldn't read his file or administer something without knowing the full history.

Actually, he could.

He could break the oath he'd sworn to live his life by to aleviate a little bit of pain for the man he loved but Tony caught his breath, slowly sipping the water beside his bed. Thank God.

"That's no fun," Tony croaked.

Steve couldn't help but smile. "How are you?"

"Don't exactly know if I can say I've been better but I'm damn glad to see you."

The questions were burning his tongue. "I finally met Pepper," he said. "I can see why you married her."

"She's quite the angel," Tony added reluctantly.

"She was telling me how sad she was. How seeing you like this really tore her up inside," Tony felt the sweat forming on his brow, "and how she couldn't understand why you wanted this to be it," Steve folded his arms as he leaned back in the chair. "I was feeling like shit because some nights ago when I had my head on your chest, I heard something that sounded a bit off. And all I could think about and do was look up why your heart sounded so slow and painful. Then you had the heart attack and I was horrified to even see you because I let you down. I failed you as a doctor and your boyfriend. The least I could do was tell you to get it checked out since I couldn't do it myself. But, to my surprise, you not only saw someone about this but knew the condition and refused to do something about it. I think what's worse is you didn't even tell me."

"I didn't know then," Tony replied quickly though his voice was deep and shameful.

"So," Steve dragged, "we were together and you got sick and didn't tell me?"

Tony sucked in a breath. "It's complicated."

"Astrophysics is complicated. Explaining death to a four year old is complicated. You telling me that once upon a time you used to be a junkie and got cancer from it, twice, isn't that complicated."

"To be honest here, when we went out you did tell me to tell you something that's not in my chart. My medical history was therefore booted from the conversation," Tony said rather matter-of-fact like.

Steve laughed to himself, shaking his head as he looked at the floor. "You're full of shit. What did you think I would do? Tell you that you're too sick for me to date? Kick you out once you said hey my heart isn't doing too well? I care about your past because some people just like to know the baggage. Some people, well doctors, like to know that if their boyfriend gets sick that I should watch him and his prescriptions since he has a history of addiction. It's safety, it's care, it's called being a decent fucking human being."

"I didn't want you taking care of me to be our relationship. I've been taken care of my whole life so far and I'm sick of it. I didn't want you to be with someone again who needs you to take care of them."

"You don't get to decide those things."

"I get to decide if I don't want to live in and out of hospitals. I don't want that for us, for you."

"I already live in this place. I love taking care of people, I signed over my life to this place so I can forever take care of people. I love you, Tony, I'd take care of you and never complain."

"You took care of Bucky and look how that turned out for you," he said with his head turned to the window.

"You don't get to do that. You don't get to point out my fucked up past when you don't even have the decency to be honest about yours. I don't even know who you are and you get the audacity to point out what I've done? At least I cared enough about you to tell you who I am, who I was before you came along. I poured my heart out to you and all I got back was half stories and fucking fabrications of why you come out as fast to your college roommate and marry a woman!"

They were yelling but now they both were silent.

"You know," Steve slowly began to say, "I wasn't mad about you not telling me you were sick. I wasn't even mad that this heart attack was going to be your last moment and you weren't even going to allow me to prepare myself for it. I'm mad because you had this suicide wish and wasted my time. You wasted four months of my life so in the end you can die from some lousy heart condition and I don't even know who you are," Steve laughed. "You wanted to die from this because you were tired of being sick. How pathetic can you be, but I'll never know because I don't even know you."

Tony was red in the face, the color spreading from his forehead and cheeks to down his neck. Steve crossed a line somewhere, a trigger was pulled and the anger inside the older man was festering. "You don't need to know everything. Some things are better left in the past and quite frankly it makes you the asshole  to get mad at me for things I didn't tell you about in my fucking past. I did meth, I snorted coke, I got cancer, I got painkillers and then I liked them so much I did them all the fucking time so I wouldn't have to think about my shitty little life. Also, I tried killing myself but it just so happened to be at the time Pepper got pregnant. So I did more pills, then I got more cancer. Now I'm here with a shitty heart and you."

Steve nodded, digesting the words as he readied for the door. "Now you just have a shitty heart."

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Steve clenched his fist inside the gloves as he pounded them against the punching bag hanging before him. It was late, around three in the morning, as he pounded his heart away on the dangling sand bag. He needed to be alone, to blow steam before he self-destructed, before his mind and his body combusted from anger and envy. The gym was his safe haven and at times like these, he was glad to be friends with the owner.

Tony was dying, sooner rather than later, and there was nothing Steve could do about it. There was nothing he wanted to do, at least that's what he told himself. It was hard to believe that four months were gone, circling down the drain right before his eyes.

He punched harder, heavy pants turning into deep grunts.

Mornings that Tony stayed over, Steve would wake up to quotes on the whiteboard. Some were cheesy, quote from Shakespeare or Jane Austen, others were deeper and more meaningful, leaving him to ponder on them during various parts of his day. Every single morning that he wasn't at Steve's place, there were text messages or voice messages that always started off with "Hey there sunshine." Steve always smiled when he heard his voice or even read the text with his voice echoing in his mind.

He'd miss that the most.

Their first official date, the real date after the morning date that was lately called the official unofficial first date, Tony bought Steve flowers. There were only four, but they weren't roses. They weren't lilacs, violets, carnations, or any other traditional date flower - they were sunflowers, big floppy, larger than his hand and head, sunflowers. The golden flowers weren't exactly beautiful but they made him smile, they made him laugh as hard as he ever laughed before because that's what Tony bought them for.

"Glad you love 'em, sunshine."

Sunshine.

Sunshine wasn't a new nickname, it was actually a name that Steve hated for a long time when he was growing up. It wasn't until now, when he felt like the black cloud above his own head, he took a liking to the nickname. Tony made him feel like the radiant beam of light.

Steve yelled as he punched harder.

Pepper was right, Tony wasn't all bad, he wasn't the worst guy in the world and neither was Steve. And as selfish as he felt, Steve wanted to save him. He wanted more memories and laughs, he wanted more official unofficial dates, he wanted to move into his beach house with him, he wanted to be called sunshine for the rest of his life. He didn't just want memories of the last four months, he wanted memories of forever. He didn't want to love anyone else, he didn't want to learn anyone else, he wanted Tony. He wanted him alive and well and here to stop him from driving himself off the edge. They needed each other; or at least Steve knew that he needed Tony. He needed him to remind him that he was doing something good in his life, to take care of him, to love him. He needed Tony to stay alive.

He stopped punching the bag, sweat trickling down every crevices of his body until he was leaving his forehead onto the bag.

Steve thought about his grandmother, smiling with her hand on his cheek, stroking his face as she spoke so softly. His mother was in shambles, crying loudly as she stood close to the beeping machine. She was beautiful, his mother, has as gold as the sun, skin as soft as silk and her big blue eyes mocked that of sapphire. Sarah, his mother, was beautiful, except for when she cried. Her golden hair was stringy, oily and wrapped up in a tight bun on her scalp. Her skin was red from rashes (stress the doctors would say) and her eyes were barely blue but black and red with sadness.

His grandmother spoke lowly, looking at the four year old Steve then his mother with such a smile, a heartwarming grin. Steve was confused, holding her hand tight as she never looked away. Sarah was a wreck while Grammy, the aged version of his beautiful mother with long silver hair, never stopped smiling. Grammy always kept herself together, and that's what made Steve so afraid.

"Remember what Grammy taught you, Stevie. Promise me that one day you'll teach your children the things I've taught you, okay?"

He was afraid, so shocked with horror and uncertainty but he nodded, slowly and reluctantly.

"I love you," his mother whispered. Grammy continued to smile, nodding Steve's small hands before returning her own to her side.

The machine went from a slow beeping to a flat buzz. Grammy didn't move anymore, her hand limp as she fell asleep for the last time. His mother fell to her knees, screaming as the nurses floated around her in a small circle. Steve felt smaller than he already was. It all happened so fast yet still unfolded so slowly.

It'd been hours before Sarah finally was able to compose herself. While she floated about the hospital, filling out forms and talking to men in lab coats and suits, Steve played with his cars in a waiting room, chaperoned by a doctor who studied while watching the young boy. This wasn't when the young man's longing for medicine came into play but he watched the busy doctor with such curiosity and wonder.

Finally, they were in the car with the radio off, the engine humming, and his mother still sniffling as she drove with her hands at 12 and 3. There was a stiffening silence, words forming in his mind while his mother's was a vacant as the road.

"Are we going back tomorrow after grammy wakes up?" Small Steve asked from the back seat.

His mother shook her head. "I'm afraid not, honey."

"Why not? She not wanna see us anymore?" She was crying again. "I didn't mean to make you sad."

"It's not you honey, no, no," she took a deep breath. "Remember what mommy told you about people going away to heaven?"

Steve was sad, very sad. "You mean like when they die?"

She nodded. "Exactly, baby. Grammy isn't sleeping, she went to heaven."

"But she was touching me. She was smiling then she fell asleep."

"Well, mommy had to do something for Grammy. Mommy had to help her get to heaven because Grammy said she was ready to go see daddy and granddaddy."

Young Steve was confused, his heart hurting with sadness and his face stricken with grief. He missed daddy, he surely did miss granddaddy, and now he really, really missed Grammy. "You killed Grammy?"

His mother tried not to cry any louder, she slouched her shoulders and wiped the tears with her sleeve. Steve hated seeing her cry, she'd done it too much, he thought. "Grammy was sick and very, very tired. You know the little mask that she let you play with?" He nodded. "Well, she needed that to breathe and she didn't want to wear it all the time. So, Grammy told her doctor that she wanted me to help her get to heaven."

"Did Grammy not love us? Why would she want to die if she loved us?" Young Steve was crying even though he didn't know why. The tears were streaming and he wiped them away because he wasn't a baby anymore, he was a young man and men don't cry in front of women, daddy always said. "I didn't get to tell her I loved her."

"Grammy loved us so, so much. And she knew how much you loved her, Stevie baby. Sometimes, people are tired of suffering and being in pain so they let go, and they need help letting go. And sometimes you have to let go no matter how much it hurts," the young boy didn't understand why he was crying so hard and so much but he couldn't stop, and neither could his mother. "Remember what Grammy taught you about love? Do you remember all the words?"

The small boy in the backseat sniffed, nodding his head and wiping the tears before he spoke. "Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, love does not boast," his mother joined in with him, "love is not proud. Love does not dishonor others, love is not self seeking..."

Steve remembered what his grandmother taught him, every last word of every single bit. Dropping to the floor with his head in his hands, Steve felt the ache in his heart as he finally cried. The lump in his throat grew as he wept into the gloves before throwing them in a fit. He screamed, a deep haunting howl from the pit of his stomach before he collapsed. Curled into a right ball on his side, Steve wept from everything.

No matter how much it hurt, no matter how hard he cried, he still had to let the man he loved die.

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pepper smiled as she spoke on the phone. She was standing in front of the window, whispering lowly to not disturb a sleeping Tony, though, he couldn't sleep at a time like this. The rain painted the windows with colors from the lights on the street and some from the other building close by.

"Peter is staying at Miles' house for a while. He's a wreck, he said some pretty harsh things that I'll address with him later on. I hate that you came home to an empty house .... No, we're not getting that gigantic dog for me to get tackled by when you're away... no, he's not getting the surgery so I'll be coming home tomorrow ... I'm fine, really, I'm just really scared for Tony. I don't know if he means this or if he's just upset about being sick again and I'm just really worried. Peter lost it so I'm scared how he's taking it all."

Tony watched with eyes barely opened.

Pepper wrapped up her call with kissing noises and a tag of endless and nauseating ‘I love you’s. That was never Tony and her, they weren't that couple but they did love each other. They loved what they grew up to be and how much they did for one another while never forgetting to take care of themselves. Tony was glad she had someone now who completed that other physical half of love she needed from someone, despite Phil being a complete idiot in his eyes.

Turning to return to the chair beside him, Tony decided to speak. "He's coming home from seeing his second family, I suppose."

Pepper grabbed her chest when his voice erupted from the silence. "You're supposed to be asleep," she reminded, "and he doesn't have a second family. Trust me, he can't afford for me to leave," she said with more sass and attitude. Tony laughed as he saw the bit of him that rubbed off on her.

"Go home, Pep. Be with your husband who hasn't seen you since the honeymoon."

"You know that's not true," she said slipping into the seat. "Plus, I want to be here with you as much as I can."

"I'm not dying tonight," he assured her. "Soon, but not tonight."

"I don't want you to do this. I don't have to agree, I won't ever agree with it, but you want it and who am I to tell you no? I was angry, I'm still angry but it's your life, it's your body, it's your health, and I want you here forever but I can't. So, if this is it, the actual factual final moments I have with you, I want as many as I can get."

Tony took a deep breath, breathing out as he leaned his head back unto his pillow. "I wish Pete did. I hate how much he hates me but I guess him and Steve can find a reason to like each other now."

"What about Steve?" She asked, leaning her head back into the head rest of the recliner.

"The talk you two had sparked up a lot of problems we overlooked, I guess. He hates me too which seems to be a thing now. I'm not new to people I love hating me though, so, joke's on him," he wished he was joking.

Pepper looked around. "I wish you would've told him. He cares so much about you, Tony."

"And I care about him but it never came up and I didn't know how to tell him all of that. If it weren't for you being there during it all, I highly doubt I would've ever told you."

"He feels like he doesn't even know you. Did you even tell him about your parents?"

Tony groaned at the thought of them. "They cut all ties with me, so basically that means they're dead, right?"

She sighed. "If I were you and I planned on dying sometime soon, I'd tell him whatever he wanted to know. I'm not saying you owe it to him, but he's been through enough, hasn't he? The man he just met plans on dying, can't you at least give him that?"

Tony turned his head, looking out into nothing as he thought about it all. "I hate it when you're right."

"On your death bed? That's when you realize that I'm always right?"

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

Natasha rapped her knuckles on the door as she waited to see her friend. Running her fingers through her hair, she waited. Another knock, another minute.

"Rogers?" She called out as she twisted the knob. It was open.

Stepping inside she found a mess lying before her. There were clothes, shirts and scrubs on the couch, plates and bags on the table, papers all scattered about on the floor. This was new; this wasn't something that Steve would ever let happen.

"Steve?" She silently called as she slowly walked around the messy space.

The bedroom door was cracked, the television off, the blind closed, and a large lump of a figure on the bed. Natasha went for the switch to only see a hand fly up.

"Please don't," Steve said through the darkness almost softly.

Nat did as told, returning her hand to her side as she stepped in and closed the door. "It's been over a week since I've last seen you, Steve. I've called, I've been to the hospital, I've come by, and I couldn't find you."

"I've been here."

"You've been something. Ricky at the gym told me he saw you weeks ago at three in the morning and that was the last time. Talk to me, what's going on?"

Steve didn't want to talk anymore, he didn't want to think or breathe or even be awake but he had to tell someone.

"Tony wants to die. His heart is going to give out soon and now he wants to die. It was from the radiation from his cancer, damage to the arteries and eventual death without surgery. And I... I can't do anything about it," his voice, shaky and low. Steve wanted to be stronger, to be the bigger person and pull himself together, but he couldn't. Grammy taught him a lot but he’d learned more from his mother than he realized. "Bucky wanted the same thing. He begged me to let him go too, at least he had the decency to ask me," he said annoyed. "Tony, on the other hand, has his mind all made up. I don't get to fight for him."

Natasha, for the second time in the years Steve had known her, was completely speechless. Steve knew no good could come from it but today, in this moment, instead of being the voice of reason and truth, instead of figuring out a plan or helping Steve figure out who he needed to be, she crawled into the bed behind him. The man lying on his side, curled into a small ball, and Natasha saying nothing while only pulling him into her arms. His back to her chest, her head on his, her arms wrapped tightly around his wide physique, they just stayed there.

He felt all out of tears, all out of hurt and pain. He was numb. It had been months since the last time he felt the nothingness, but in his heart and soul, it felt like it was just yesterday.

Natasha moved her arm to brush back his hair from his ear, trying to soothe the man.

"Bucky isn't like Tony. You barely looked the same when you were with Bucky," She was speaking so softly but yet so strongly. "What I'm getting at here is, Tony looks out for you, and he’s always had your best interest at heart. Bucky only cared about himself."

"Right, because Tony basically wanting to die is him looking out for me."

Natasha sighed. "Everyone has their reasons. No one does it to be selfish or seen as a coward; they just want to feel better. Tony wants you to feel better and maybe for him to feel better and maybe his ex-wife and son. Maybe he feels like he's too much for all of you and wants to make it better. Maybe he's tired of being in pain. Maybe," she thought of her own reasons, "maybe he's tired of feeling like a failure or a burden."

Steve closed his eyes. "Have you ever felt like a burden?"

"More like a failure than anything," she chuckled though she wasn't amused. "Clint and I had a son. He didn't make it, and neither did his sister who came a year later. I can't have kids. It's a letdown for the both of us, his parents and my family, and me. Mostly me," Nat was quiet. They both were tucked into the silence before she pushed her own hurt feelings back to where they came from. "So yeah, I know, I think you should see where he's coming from and talk to him about it."

Instead of speaking, saying something he was sure would only make the moment worse, he rolled over and hugged his friend. With her head on his chest and his arm wrapped around her tight, he didn't let her go.

"You're not a failure to me."

 

Chapter Text

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.

Dear Steve,    

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.

Sincerely,

James

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.'

Chapter Text

"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.

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.

"Steve-"

"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.

 

Chapter Text

Theodore subconsciously squeezed the small rubber animal in his hand as he walked. It was supposedly linked to some hippy dippy therapeutic method to ease tension and stress, something his mother gave him as a Christmas present years ago that he never quite found use for until now.

There had been many times before where he'd lost patients on the table, but this last case struck home with him. He'd been where Steve was, watching his mentor attempt to save a life of a mere child before it went all wrong. Instead of taking it personally, the man he then looked up to, Dr. Schultz, sighed before walking away. He was detached from it all: the child, the surgery, the prognosis, the result. Instead of breaking down and bursting at the seams, he carried himself with such composure. Informing the family of their lost, Theo watched on as he wondered where Schultz' compassion lied. The man rubbed backs, hugging the mother and sisters, patting shoulders and backs but not a single emotion displayed on his plain face. It was true he'd only seen Schultz smile when there were successes but Theo always questioned why he seemed so apathetic after the deaths.

Theodore Odinson promised to never be the same, to always treat each and every life the same ... until a few days ago.

What happened on that day was Theo learning the he was becoming his mentor. Holding on so tight to the answers, so anxious for results, Theo had forgotten that there was a life lying before him, not a trophy. Theo simply wanted to be the best. He loved the feeling of knowing that others considered him the very best. But that day, the day he felt not his best, he'd forgotten exactly what he was here for.

Walking past the surgery board, Theo choked as he saw two names that didn't seem to belong together. Marching towards the elevator, he demanded answers.

Steve and Pepper stood bedside, laughing lightly as the three spoke amongst themselves. Theo watched on, his arms folded and his eyes squinted. Pepper dismissed herself, walking towards the door to leave.

"Oh, I didn’t see you there. How are you doing today?" Pepper asked, pulling her purse back onto her shoulder.

Theo smiled, releasing his right grip on the squeeze toy. "Could be better, but your beauty made me forget my troubles. How are you?"

Pepper smiled. "You'd talk your way out of a murder trial, I bet," she laughed softly as he stammered out a hesitant chuckle. "Anyway, I'm just checking in with Tony before his surgery, wanted to see if he needed anything.”

Theo nodded. “Sounds good,” he said while still nodding. “Well, I have to check in with Dr. Rogers there and see if he needs another set of hands on the big day. When is it?”

“Day after tomorrow,” Pepper affirmed.

Theo nodded, extending his arm for a handshake. She caught wind of the salutation, shook his hand in return, and clacked down the bending corridor to the elevator. Theo watched her leave, waiting until her sounds were no more before peeking into the room at the squabbling pair.

They appeared happy, sharing laughs and smiles during their lengthy conversation. It was odd, honestly, seeing Steve with such great bedside manner. Theo felt the anger boil under his skin as he wondered what was said for him to be chosen. Steve was still fairly new to surgeries, only performing a nice handful as an assistant to Theo. He couldn't pinpoint why he was being betrayed, though, a couple of ideas began to brew. The anger was building up, his eyes blinking with a white rage.

Theo burst into the room, angrily at first then calmly to lessen any suspicion. Steve stepped away from Tony, his eyes wide and his hands folded together.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Stark," Theo said with a smile as big as his face. "I see you've decided to take the high road and go for that bypass."

Tony nodded, exaggerated nods that were followed by, "Yep. I realized I had one last fight in me, so I'm using it."

Steve said nothing, tucked into the small corner of the room as he looked at the two men.

"Mind if I steal Dr. Rogers for a quick bit?"

"Go right ahead," Tony insisted as he directed them to the door.

Steve followed the slightly bigger man. He looked back at Tony with a dying twinkle of confidence in his fearful eyes. They were out the door and only slightly down the hallway before Theo swept around, pinning the other physician to the wall with his forearm pressing into his neck. Steve clawed at the limb, fighting to get away as he realized he'd met his physical match in fitness.

"Are you fucking stupid?" Theo questioned as he slammed Steve into the wall again by pulling himself away from the man and the wall to only forcefully push him back into it. Steve was red, bouncing from various emotions as he fought back. There were people watching, nurses gawking in confusion and some passing patients doing what they could to stay out the way and others stopping to stare. "You fucking go and undermine me? You go behind my back and steal my fucking surgery? We're supposed to be friends, you're supposed to have my back - not fucking stab it."

Steve continued to gasp, clawing and pushing away until he finally coughed out, "Give me a second to explain."

Dropping to the floor, he gasped deep and full.

"Let's talk over coffee," Theo declared as he stepped over Steve towards the elevator.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

Steve rubbed his neck, tapping the side of his coffee cup as he finished telling the other doctor about Tony and their relationship.

"Shit, so you're the guy he was talking about?"

Steve nodded.

"He talked about you. I mean, not you but about the guy he was dating and I didn't think it to be you," Theo's voice was low. His eyes glued to the inside of his cup. "Don't you remember what the board said last year about performing surgery on spouses and family? You're not breaking laws here but hospital rules, man."

It had crossed his mind. Actually, it had ran through his mind like a marathon runner. "Which is why I wanted to talk to you," his voice was apologetic. "I wanted you to do it, initially, but I wouldn't feel right taking the credit and he feeling like it's a debt he owes me or something."

Theo sucked his teeth, leaning back into his chair as he looked out the window, his left arm draped over the chair next to him, then back at his friend. "It’s still not really sitting well with me."

"I don't want to make you do something you don’t agree with, but this would mean a lot to me. I got your back, I'll always have your back, and all I ask is that you have mine. It only feels right if I do this. I just … I really want this and I want your support, and help.”

With his thumb and index finger knuckle pinching under his nose, Theo finally came to a decision. Tossing his hands, he exhaled deeply and leaned back in his chair. "I'll talk you through it. I don't like the idea of you being this emotionally compromised but he needs this and one of us needs to do it. And if this is what he wants, fine. You do the surgery and I’ll be there. But listen to me when I say this: if anything goes wrong, I'm taking over."

Steve opened his mouth and Theo raised his hand to silence him.

"Non-negotiable, I step in to do what I have to do."

This time, instead of finding something to say and digging himself into a deeper hole, Steve nodded. "Alright, okay. That's fine with me."

The two didn't speak, sipping their coffees as they stared off into space.

"Can I at least know why I got choked out?" Steve asked with an arched brow.

The other doctor sighed, untying his hair and running a free hand through the long locks. "You ever think you know who you are until something basically shows you the truth?" Steve didn't respond, only looked his friend in the eyes. "I lost my way, man. I watched her die because I was thinking she's 16, I'll put that pacemaker in, her family would be proud because I saved her. And when she died man, I knew I fucked up when the first thing I thought about was wow, her parents are not going to recommend me," Theo mockingly laughed at himself. "I lost myself and I thought you saw it - that I wasn't caring anymore. I was trying to get the fame rather than do my job right."

Taking a sip of the warm Joe, Steve looked out of the window.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

Tony flicked through the basic cable channels a million and one times. He was bored of the room, bored of the nonsense the television was providing him with, and really sick and tired of the disgusting food the hospital personnel were trying to shove down his throat. It was his last meal before his surgery tomorrow and he refused for it to be cold beans and lumpy mashed potatoes.

There was someone in the room with him. He’d been asleep since he arrived but Tony did his best not to disturb the man. Leaning back on his bed, he let out a low sigh.

“Nothing good on, huh?” The man asked with his eyes still closed.

Tony looked over at him, an exasperated look on his face from the lack of entertainment the place provided. “You can say that again. I’m Tony, by the way.”

“James, but call me Rhodey.”

The two awkwardly reached over the gap to shake hands. Tony sat back and gave up on television, cutting the box off before taking a deep breath of relief. “What’re you in for?”

Rhodey exhaled deeply, rolling his eyes as he ran a hand over his torso. “Kidney transplant, you?”

Tony did the same gesture, running a hand over his chest instead. “Bypass. Had a heart attack earlier this month from this coronary something, something disease,” he replied with his eyes wide before looking off into nowhere. There was so much more to the story, so much he didn’t even have the energy to tell but told anyway. “I was gonna let it kill me but you start looking at the little thing in life, like … if I die right now, I’ll never have an orgasm again,” Rhodey coughed out a hard laugh before nodding into an agreement, “If I die right now, I’ll never get to pet another puppy.”

The other man pulled his lips into a smile. “I felt the same way too. Well, I was just gonna drink myself to death, really. I figured after I came back from Iraq, I didn’t have any kids, I left my wife while I was away, I might as well just ride it out until it takes me out,” the man looked around the room at nothing in particular as well. Finally sitting up from his previous laying position, he asked, “Do you have any kids?”

Tony’s eyes were wide as his attention was drawn back to his temporary roommate's question. “Uh, yeah, a son. He’s 15 with an attitude like his mother and I’m so thankful because I don’t need two of me.”

Rhodey laughed. “Married?"

Tony shook his head. "Divorced."

"Same. Not by choice but still."

"Is getting married in the first place ever really a choice?"

The two men shared a laugh as Steve came into the room.

"Sounds like you two are getting along," Steve stated as he walks towards Tony's bed.

The two older men nodded, still smiling as Tony began to speak. "He's pretty okay. What's up?"

Steve pulled his lips into a very satisfied grin. "Tomorrow, I am going to be fixing your heart."

"Seriously?" Tony exclaimed.

Pulling Steve into a hug, they embraced for longer than they should have. It's not as if they didn't hug or that they never had a reason to hug but the gesture was rare, and very warm. Steve slowly pulled away, looking Tony into the eyes as he began to nod.

"Seriously," he replied.

Tony slowly began to look over at Rhodey who was awkwardly trying to focus on something else.

Clearing his throat, Steve stepped away. "So no foods for the next 12 hours, no drinking, and get some sleep," nodding without knowing, he felt the awkward grow thick in the atmosphere. "I'll be on my way, nice to meet you..."

"Rhodey," the other man called out.

"Steve Rogers," he said as he backed towards the door.

Within seconds he was gone, leaving Rhodey and Tony to stare at the door. Rhodey was quiet for a bit, biting his lip as he continued to look around the room.

"Okay, I'm not into guys but he was ridiculously good looking. All my doctors look like Roseanne Barr."

Tony sat with his eyes wide for a second before cackling out a deep and hearty laugh.

Chapter Text

The congregation area was bare, the cold air forcing the patrons to the inside cafeteria. Steve and Natasha were the only ones outside, pressing aimlessly on their phones as they spoke lowly about whatever came to mind.

Peter stood by the opening door, his hands shoved into his pants pockets as he walked towards the duo.

"Hey, uh, Steve?" He said as he approached them.

Natasha looked up first, slightly smiling before Steve turned to look. "Oh, hey. Peter this is my friend Natasha, Natasha this is Tony's son Peter."

The two waved, quick salutations before Peter opened her mouth but Natasha quickly interjected. "I should be leaving, heading home," she insisted, "practice tonight." She began to gather her belongings, which consisted mostly of a gym bag and a drink. "Steve," she said with her hand placed on his leg. He reluctantly looked up at her. "Don't freak out, you got this. Nice meeting you, Peter."

"Nice meeting you, too," Peter called out as she walked away. Taking her seat, Peter looked back at her leaving then back to Steve. "She is hot, dude. If I were you, I'd legit go straight for her. Maybe a little bisexual."

Steve couldn't help but to laugh as he shook his head. "If only you knew her."

"What is she going to practice for?" Peter asked, eyes struggling to look away from the direction she disappeared in.

"Roller Derby. She's pretty good at it." He replied, still tapping away on his phone. Looking up, he caught Peter with his mouth open, still looking. "How are you and Gwen?"

"Who?" He asked, whipping his head back around. "Oh, Gwen, yeah, Gwendolyn. She's fine. We're good. I'm good."

Steve laughed.

"Hey, shouldn't you be getting ready for my dad's surgery?"

Steve looked up at the young man, his brown hair kept together by hair products. "I am. I mean, it's this afternoon so I'll be doing actual prep work a little later but on big days I distract myself kinda. I read articles, watch videos, call my aunt. Since it's your dad. I didn't want … stress myself. Psych myself out, ya’ know?”

Peter slowly nodded. “Sort of, I guess. Like before a big test?”

“Exactly,” Steve said with a proud nod. “But what’s up?”

Peter coughed, clearing his throat as he readjusted in the chair. “I wanted to say that I’m glad you’re doing this. I doubt you convinced him since he’s stubborn as hell but thanks. I don’t know what I would’ve done without him, ya’ know? I just, I really am glad you two met. He’s been through a lot and you get it which is what matters.”

Steve put down his phone, and thumbs at each corner of his mouth slowly rubbing his bottom lip. “It’s not a problem, Pete. I think if the tables were turned, he’d do the same for me.”

“Yeah, he’s like that,” Peter admitted absently. “Mom says if dad pulls through this then she’s getting you something nice. Knowing her, it’s gonna be fancy and expensive.”

Shaking his head, Steve didn’t know exactly what to say. “Tell her it’s not a big deal,” he managed to slip out.

“Guess I should go tell my dad good luck and hope he doesn’t die,” Peter jumped up to his feet.

Steve stared off as Peter left. His eyes were filled with confidence and hope. He was mortified, petrified down to his very bone but he was hopeful. It was a big thing, rearranging arteries to clear blood flow to his weakening heart, but he had to do it, something deep down inside of him told him that he had to do it.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

“Hey, I’m going to walk around for a bit,” Rhodey informed Tony as he peeled himself from the bed.

Tony nodded, absentmindedly flicking his thumb nail from his index finger.

The door opened and closed as Rhodey left. Moments passed before the door opened again. Tony blinked out of his daze to comment to his newfound friend.

“Left without your pants again?” He said before looking over to the person at the door.

The man was short, shorter than Tony who stood five feet tall with a little over ten inches to spare. The man had dark brown eyes; his hair was a lighting gray and a thin, curved mustache to match. He was dressed in black slacks, a plain blue shirt tucked into the waist band as he has pockets were filled with his fists.

“What’re you doing here, Howard?” Tony asked as he readjusted on the lumpy bed.

Howard walked towards the man. “I just got back from a cruise. Saved my whole life for it and when we get back I hear that you’re sick again.”

“Right, that's when I get to see you, when I'm dying. Or close to dying. Well, third time's the charm, might be the end for me this time around so soak it up."

There was a flicker of a smile on Howard’s lip, a twitch of humor as he took a seat across from his son.

“You’ve always been bitter, you know? I mean, ever since you were a boy, you used to stay so angry at teachers for mispronouncing someone else's name or accidentally giving you a bad grade,” Howard scoffed a laugh. “I’m here because I’d like to see your face one last time before you go, if you go.”

“I’m sorry but I’m failing to understanding why you care to see me? I’m a fag, Howard. I’m a butt pirate, I’m a fairy, a twink, and I have a little sugar in my tank. I don’t know why you want to be seen talking to your sick faggot son.”

“Because you’re my son, Tony. You’re my son, I watched you come into this world so the least I could get in return is to watch you go out,” his voice carried louder over Tony’s.

Tony snickered. “The least I could get is for my father, who’s basically knocking on death’s door himself, to understand me. I’m not changing. I’m not going to be ashamed of who I am. I was gay when I had cancer, I was gay when I told you Chester was a great kisser, I was gay when you made me, old man.”

Howard looked away, his brows laced together as he flicked the tip of his tongue over his chapped lips. “You think I didn’t know that? I didn’t agree then and I don’t agree now but do you think I don’t love you?”

“Telling me not to come to my mother’s funeral-“

“You were invited, Anthony. You were invited just like the rest of your family and you were too stubborn to come. Don’t you ever sit here and tell me I forbid you to see her,” Howard barked.

Tony said nothing; reverting back to the scared child he was many, many years ago by sinking deeper into the bed.

“I wanted so much more for you. I knew you and Pepper were some cover up and I knew that Peter was her choice. I love him all the same but he wasn’t what you wanted, any fool could see that."

"Well then, Howard, you must be. I wanted my son. I wanted marriage, I wanted a family but to please you, I got what you wanted."

Howard ran a hand over his face. "When you got cancer the first time, I was more than sure it was AIDS. I was horrified to think that you’d go out like that. Imagine how that feels for a parent," Tony folded his arms. "Your mother told me about all the men and drugs, how none of them stuck around and how careless you got with your life, dragging Pepper along. I expected so much more for you, Tony. I wanted you to be an engineer or a scientist. Now, you teach the things you should be discovering and inventing and instead you’re out doing drugs, going to rehabs, getting high, and I don’t know what to expect from you," he said with his eyes glued to the man before him. "I didn't come here for this; I came to say that you'd be an idiot to think I wouldn't be here for you."

The man in the bed was looking away. Howard continued to stare at his son.

“I found someone,” Tony announced. “He’s a doctor, he’s nice, he’s kind, he’s dealt with me for this long and usually they all disappear after the first week or so.”

Howard looked away a deep sigh coming from his lips as he tried to gain a bit of decency inside of himself. “Are you happy?”

Tony never heard such a profound statement from his father. His father was a man to question wealth or status, occupation and upbringing, but happiness? Tony failed to compute until his mind ran over every small event between him and Steve that took place.

“Yes,” he said, “I’m very happy with him. I’m happy to be with him and to have him and, you may not agree, but I hope one day when you feel like you can get over me going outside of your plan for me, you can meet him.”

Howard still looked away, his jaw rotating side to side before he mumbled a response. “Alright, one day I will. As long as you promise not to die between then and now.”

“You’re the one who’s ringing heaven’s doorbell, old man.”

The door opened as Tony spoke. Pepper and Peter stepped inside with weak smiles. Peter was afraid still, as was Pepper, but they stood side by side. Peter was holding his mother’s hand as she tried not to fall apart right before the entire room.

“Theo is on his way, we passed him in the hall. They’re ready.”

Tony nodded, Howard stood to his feet to stand beside the small family beside Tony’s bed, Peter hugging his grandfather.

“Well, no time like the present.”

Theo knocked on the open door. “We’re ready for you.”

Peter held his father’s hand. “You’ll do great, dad. Tell your heart to get its shit together.”

Pepper nudged her foul mouth son as Tony kissed his small hand. They’d never be as small as they were when he was a boy, Tony would remember that. Pepper bent to kiss Tony’s forehead, once, twice, three times, five times, six times until she felt the tear stream. Tony hated seeing her cry; he hated watching her smile quiver as the tears streamed with no end. He didn’t want to remember that, he wanted to remember her kind words, her sweet voice, her contagious laugh, and her infectious smile. He wanted to remember the good about these people, the ones he loved all his life and all the way until… now.

Theo reclined his bed to a flat position. Hovering above him, wheeling him out the room and down the hall to the elevator, Theo wouldn’t stop smiling. Tony felt his chest pounding, screaming to be released and wanting him to run for the hills. He couldn’t, he didn’t. Instead, he smiled at Theo who couldn’t stop smiling himself.

“I’m in good hands, right?”

“In the absolute best, Mr. Stark.”

“The best,” he whispered to himself, almost reciting.

The elevator dinged and he continued to be wheeled to his location. The lights on the ceiling blinked above him as he moved until the room was blue, a deep oceanic blue that made him feel at ease just a bit. Sliding over to the perfect location, he was still, frozen to the bed as he refused to look anywhere else but up.

Then, there he was, hovering above him with his lips painted into a wide grin that made his eyes glisten with the small bit of light they had.

“Hey there, sunshine,” Tony cooed as he thought about everything he wanted to remember.

“Hey,” Steve replied. “We’ve been over the procedure, yes?” Tony nodded. “We’ve discussed all that needs to be discussed, correct?” Tony nodded again. “Alright, we’re going to put you under, and when you wake up, you’ll be all better.”

“Will I see you?”

Steve’s eyes were locked onto Tony’s, his jaw clenched as he tried not to hesitate or too long. “I hope to God you do.”

His face was gone, the ceiling coming back into full view before the gas mask floated over to his mouth. The anesthesiologist began to talk, asking him to count back from ten. Tony counted, images of his family flashing before his yes.

Peter as a baby with red chubby cheeks and his fat belly. Over there was Pepper with her hair sprayed in that 80’s up-do that he hated, yet loved so much. Down there was Bruce with his kind eyes and always genuine smile. Here there was Rhodey, his new friend who he really wanted to know. Then, right before him, Steve with his morning eyes, barely open barely closed, but his face made for his smile, the small ray of sunshine held between his cheeks. Lastly, there was Tony’s mother Maria, sitting off to the far corner of his mind with her arms wide as she embraced the young boy.

Tony wanted to remember these people as they were.

Chapter Text

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.

"What's that?"

"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.

"Clear!"

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.

"Clear!"

Again, and again, and again.

“Clear!”

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.

Chapter Text

Steve ruffled his hair. The air was warm, the sun kissing his skin as he buried his feet deeper into the sand. This wasn't paradise but, to the new homeowner, it was hard to tell him that. With emotions bubbling under his skin, rolling around in his belly, he watched the ocean dance before him, settling his ill feelings. Waves ran along the shore, brushing up to tickle his feet then quickly rolling back into the vast blue body of water to repeat the process all over again. It was all just how he imagined it would be. Summer was anew, laughters of children and their family echoing down to his small slice of the land. This was all his to enjoy every single day of his life.

He promised to cherish it, he promised to keep it all near to his heart.

There was box on the ground between his bent knees. It was dark brown with gold trimmings along the top edges, an outline of a crest embossed into the center of the lid.

Steve sucked in another breath, standing up to his feet as he dusted off the sand from the rear of his khaki shorts. With box in hand, he softly kissed the lid. There was another running wave coming to tickle him again, but instead he stepped into the rush of water coming towards him. It was warm around his legs, soothing him like a long lost friend he'd never met.

The box between his hands called for his attention.

"I miss you every single day," he kissed the lid once more. "It's beautiful here. I didn't want this at first. I didn't think I deserved it, really. Wasn't until someone told me I deserved the world that I finally found some good in myself," the tears were swelling but they weren’t of sadness, they were joy. "I'm worth something, I deserve for good things to happen to me. I was low, really low, and now, here I am. I know I was loved, am loved. You showed you who to be in the world and I’m forever grateful. I met someone, someone amazing, and he’s no you by a long shot, but it’s the closest to heaven I’ll-,” he laughed, “I love you more every day. I love you more than the day before and a day without you may not be a day worth living but I know you’re in my heart. Thank you for all you’ve done for me.”

Opening the box, the black ashes disappeared into the wind and ocean. Steve watched, a smile swept across his cheeks as he emptied out every small bit. Wiping his tears, shot a glance down to the echoed laughter’s of the children playing in the water.

Running his fingers through his hair one last time, Steve readied himself to retire inside. The warm sand between his toes welcomed him to his new home.

It was a beautiful two story Victorian-esque home that brought a smile to his face every time he realized it was all his now. There was a balcony wrapping around the top floor, both the doors to the balcony and to the beach were white French style. The walls were all wooden, pine that still smelled as fresh as the day it was cut.

The kitchen was to the left of the back doors, wide and spacious with an open floor plan spanning across to the living room that was lower than the rest of the floor with one small step wrapping around the space. The stairs were behind couch, a slimmer hallway leading up to the second floor.

It was a dream home, something that wives on HGTV cried about wanting but never being able to afford. The shocker about it all was that it was his, all his. Steve sighed happily as he began to slowly unpack a box. His phone vibrated on the table, reminding him of all the calls he missed when he was outside enjoying the view. He tapped at the screen, putting his voicemail on speakerphone.

"You have two new messages. First new message:

"Rogers, how's the house? Is it everything you dreamed of? Call me back, Rogers... Oh yeah, I saw Pepper today she said to give her a call soon. She looks happy, Steve.

"Next new message:

"Hey, Steve, uh, just wanted to say congrats on the house. I really am happy for you, man. Thanks for inviting me to the housewarming party, we’ll be sure to drop in. Call me if you think up anything you need. It's, uh, Bucky. Bye.

"End of messages."

Steve looked around the room before snatching the device from the table and heading up the stairs.

To the right of the stairs was the master bedroom; more wooden walls, and a large bay window that looked out onto the beach. There were sheets jumping out from the box beside the bed and one singular sheet spread out over the mattress. There was a shape under it, the rising and falling bringing a pleased grin to his face.

"Boxes are here," Steve called out as he slipped into the sheet. The man in bed was exhausted, his brunette hair a mess on the top of his head as he let out a lazy groan, scratching at his scalp. He was lying on his stomach, face away from Steve as he continued to protest in tired whimpers.

"I don't wanna," the tired man groaned. Steve pulled him to his back, straddling the man who conveniently moved his arm over his face.

"You do and you will. Get up and help," Steve demanded.

The man's arm fell, revealing his tired face and the scruffy mess that wasn't his usual kept goatee. His brown eyes shined hazel undertones from the sun breaking into the room as Steve smiled down at him. He was wearing an olive shirt, the kind that had buttons down to the breast bone and were sown with the sleeves rolled to the elbows. His chest revealed a scar, one that Steve had to touch to realize was an actual event in his life where the man he loved died for two minutes too long.

"Hey there, sunshine," Steve said as he kissed the man beneath him.

Tony placed his hands on Steve's hips, letting Steve fall into him. "Hey there."

"Pepper wants us to call her," Steve said as he detached from the man, standing to his feet to go to the boxes next to the window.

Tony groaned as he rolled from the bed. "She bought us something we already have and wants to know if we need a new version of that thing, I’ll say no and she’ll yell at me telling me how we can’t live off of things I used to use in college."

Standing in front of the window, Steve smiled. Tony joined him, standing behind the man with his arms wrapped around his waist.

"Did you say your goodbyes to your mom?" Tony asked, kissing the man's neck with soft pecks around the nape.

"I did,” he answered, wrapping his own arms around Tony's, "she's happy for me.”

Tony rested his cheek on Steve's back, taking in the essence of the man he loved more and more with each passing day. Placing a hand on his chest, he thought about how ready he was to let go of this. It felt good to finally be at a point in his life where he felt proud of himself, proud of his life, and his choices. Things had gotten better for him. Tony pulled Steve closer as he realized that he was finally happy.

"Me too, sunshine. Me too."