The twenty-first century has much to offer, so many things in fact that it would be impossible to mention them all. From technological to social advancements, passing through cultural and artistic developments. Clothes and architecture. History and science. The Earth is a world of endless wonders and the best part of it all is how so many of them are yet to come.
This is not something Steve has always been able to recognize and it is not something he’s always been able to appreciate properly.
It took Steve a really long time to come to terms with his new reality and the benefits of it but he’s learnt not to blame himself for it.
He’s learnt not to blame himself for the part of him that to this day, so many years later, still sometimes clings to parts of the past, embellishing them, probably remembering them in a much more golden and optimistic light than what they truly were.
He’s also learnt not to blame himself for how long he rejected things that he now wouldn’t be able to live without simply based on some made up idea that if he started loving his life in this new present he had been given that would, in some way, be disrespecting the memory of who he was in the past.
He’s learnt not to blame himself for all the weeks, months and years he let pass before he fully embraced all the aspects of his existence and accepted the enveloping happiness that he now has and would never in a million years let go of.
It was difficult -and it is still an on going process- to reconcile himself as both his past and his present, to see himself as who he was before and who he became after. And what has helped him most has been thinking of himself as who he can be in the future, allowing himself the opportunity to daydream and imagine all the possibilities of the man he can become.
Now, he lives a life that while it’s still confusing at times he thinks it’s no more confusing than for any other citizen of the world. Or maybe it’s more confusing but in an understandable way considering he’s a superhero that fights against aliens, murderous robots, giant lizards and mind-controlled ducks the size of a bear on a semi-regular basis.
Now he wakes up every day and prepares coffee in a machine that has seventeen more buttons than necessary. He takes his laptop when he’s bored and browses the Internet in search of the funniest and obscurest memes to send to Sam so that their never-ending meme war will continue. He gets angry when he is watching the news and he sees stories of anti-vaxxers. He tries to visit every new restaurant he can find on New York City, especially the ones from all around the world, and enlists Bucky’s help to make it through the entire list of all of them.
Now he shares communal living spaces in one of the tallest -and definitely the flashiest- building in Manhattan with a team of people so different from anyone else he has ever known in his life.
He spars with them in a gym enhanced by motion-detection technology. He cooks for them in a kitchen that has a device that can heat any kind of food in such a short amount of time (because yes, he will never stop being in awe of microwaves no matter what other technological wonders he encounters). He regularly spends night after night with them watching movies he never would have dreamed of watching before.
And now, he gets to live his life and share his bed with a man. A man he loves. A man that -hopefully, maybe, one day- he will be able to marry.
Because if there is one thing that Steve Rogers will always be grateful for, if there is one thing the twenty-first century has granted him that he kicks himself for not appreciating sooner is Tony Stark. Tony Stark and his way of living and fighting and loving.
Winding up in the twenty-first century allowed him to love Tony and to show him his love and to show the world his love for Tony.
The twenty-first century and Tony are so thoroughly intertwined in Steve’s mind that he can’t think of one without thinking of the other and it has to do in part with how so many of his new memories have Tony at the center of them and how many of the world’s new wonders have been introduced to him by Tony.
Steve will never forget the first time he encountered JARVIS, before he and Tony ever got together, and how he amazed he was at the fact that Tony had been able to create a person from a machine. Because that’s what JARVIS is, no matter how many people would dispute that fact. JARVIS is a person that Tony programmed, made real, gave freedom to learn and evolve and expand.
Steve has lost count of the number of movies and shows Tony has made him watch with him, some good, some bad, some life-changing. Star Wars and Tony’s enthusiasm over Princess Leia. The Lord of the Rings and Steve’s wide-eyed astonishment at its everything. The Powerpuff Girls and their unapologetic love for them despite the team’s constant teasing about it.
When they came out and the world was shook to its core because its two most famous superheroes had announced their love Tony had made sure to constantly remind him of the beauty of the world and the impact of their actions by handing him letters written by inspired teenagers, he had played Youtube videos of come-out stories made possible by their own step forward and had proved to him that he was so lucky to be living in a time were he could take Tony’s hand proudly in the street and more people cheered for them that resented them.
The twenty-first century and Tony, because Tony is truly everything and more for Steve in this day and age, have so much to offer, so many things that it would be difficult to name them all.
But if there’s one thing that Steve would place above all others is the opportunity to capture so easily and so perfectly every moment of it. Photographs are Steve’s favorite thing in the entire universe. Selfies, to be more precise.
It’s such a silly thing to love but it fills Steve with joy to carry around his cellphone in his pocket at all times knowing he could take it out of his pocket at any moment and snap thousands upon thousands of pictures of anything he wanted to commemorate. It warms him up inside to know he could capture himself with a truly breathtaking sunset behind him and send the picture to Tony to remind him he’s always thinking of him.
And that’s what he’s contemplating doing right in this moment, standing in front of the penthouse windows overlooking the city, the sun slowly but surely making its way down, casting the city and its hundreds of buildings in a pink and orange light, a few purple shadows dancing in the horizon.
His right hand is holding his phone up in front of his face, camera pointed at the natural show happening in front of him, and he’s fiddling with the camera settings of his Stark Industries prototype phone trying to find the best exposure and angle to take a picture.
He snaps five or six shots before being completely satisfied with the end result and then he turns so that his back is against the glass windows, pressing the button on his phone that flips the camera to selfie mode.
He’s become an expert at them now, selfies, and Tony always jokes that if there ever was to be a contest for best selfie-taker Steve would be proclaimed the winner by a landslide and that “not even those Kardashian-Jenners would have any chance at all against you, honey”.
Steve thinks it’s funny and sweet that Tony is always so excited to share Steve’s little hobby with him even if he knows there’s a certain air of ridiculousness to it, as Bucky and Sam always make sure to remind him.
It takes Steve about 5 seconds to find the perfect angle for the picture he’s about to take. The sun looks to be propped on his left shoulder and its glow is soft enough that it doesn't create a glare in the picture but still potent enough to almost cast him in an ethereal light.
He’s not fully smiling but he’s not looking too serious either. The left corner of his lips is slightly turned upwards when he presses down on the camera shutter, once, twice and then a third time.
The three pictures look almost identical so he randomly decides on the second one being the best choice to send to his boyfriend, who’s been holed up most of the day in his workshop and who Steve very much wants to see and have dinner with as soon as possible.
Entering his text conversation with Tony Steve reads the last message displayed on it, where Tony asked him to “pretty please bring me a donut down to the ‘shop, pretty please, my love” at around mid afternoon. Steve chuckles lightly and then goes on uploading his selfie to the conversation.
Once he can see the message confirming that it has sent Steve types a message quickly to send after it.
“This sunset is beautiful but I’d prefer to be seeing your face.”
When he receives confirmation that that text has sent correctly too Steve moves away from the windows and goes to sit on the couch, in front of the television, although he leaves it turned off and he doesn’t tear his eyes away from the device in his hands.
He’s just sitting down, not even a minute having gone by since he sent the selfie, when Tony sends back his response, two texts, one right after the other.
The first one shows two emojis, the angel and the heart-eyed face. Steve, now well-versed in the art of Tony-Text, guesses this is Tony’s way of saying Steve looks like an angel that he’s very much in love with.
It’s not like Steve hasn’t received much more difficult texts from Tony completely made up of emojis that he’s had to decipher. There was one memorable occasion in which Tony sent him a five-line text only composed of emoticons that made absolute sense after Steve was able to decode it. He’s proud to say it only took him a little over 4 minutes.
The second message from Tony says, fortunately with words this time, “Be right there, angel face!”
Steve was absolutely right about the meaning of the first text then. The angel and the heart-eyed face: Steve, an angel that Tony is very much in love with.
Exiting his text conversation with Tony and feeling a lot more content now that he knows he’ll be seeing him soon, Steve lays down on the couch to wait, clicking back to the Photo app of his phone and looking through the pictures he took of the sunset before taking his own selfies.
They look good, the sun gorgeous in its last show of the day and the city magnificent in its vastness, but they’re not the best pictures Steve has taken, nothing compared to the beauty he has been able to capture in some of his favorite pictures he keeps in his phone.
He even has an specific folder in his gallery for those pictures, for the ones closest to his heart, the ones he’s even printed and have framed before, used to decorate the Tower, some of them placed around him in the living room of the penthouse, some downstairs in the Avengers’ common room and some in his and Tony’s room.
He gets in a mood sometimes where he feels compelled to click on the folder and go through some of the pictures, revisiting instances of his life through the still images, letting himself admire them and the memories of feelings they invisibly carry.
He’s feeling in the mood now and because he’s gotten so much better over the years at not denying himself things that will make him truly happy, Steve clicks the few buttons he needs to press to take him to the folder he created where he stores all of his favorite pictures to start going through some of them.
The folder, of course, is simply named “TONY”.
Steve and Tony start dating on a lovely April night, even though they’re not outside to actually enjoy the warm weather.
It’s only Thursday but Steve truly believes this has been one of the longest weeks of his entire life. The Avengers have had to fight three different super-villians in the last four days, Steve’s had to save three people from getting run over by cars during his morning runs and Sam and Bucky have been engaged in the most petty prank war in all of the history of man-kind and Steve’s been stuck in the middle of it, fearful of their combined powers turning against him at any moment.
In summary, he feels exhausted, depleted, frustrated and famished as he makes his way to the communal kitchen after taking a shower where he had to scrub his skin almost raw to get rid of the weird gooey orange substance the Doombots squirted this time around.
At least, he thinks, it smelled kinda good. Peaches.
He exits the elevator on the communal floor and the first thing he hears is the soft hum of the television in the background. He pauses in the hallway and looking up in the direction of the ceiling -although he’s been told time and time again it isn’t necessary- he calls for JARVIS.
“JARVIS, who’s around?”
“Sir is in the living room, Captain Rogers. The rest of the Avengers are in their respective rooms,” JARVIS answers.
Steve’s heart stops for a second and then restarts beating in his chest as it has been doing lately every time Tony is remotely mentioned in any kid of situation. And every time he sees Tony walk into a room. And every time Tony smiles at him. And every time he thinks about Tony.
“You’ve got it bad, Stevie” is Bucky’s diagnosis every time they talk about it.
“You’re whipped, man” is Sam’s similar sentiment about the matter.
I’m in love with him, is what Steve thinks. A simple thought and yet such a complex feeling.
Steve’s still standing frozen still in the hallway right outside the elevator, debating whether or not to move towards the living room to greet Tony, when the aforementioned exists the room and catches sight of Steve.
“Steve,” Tony says, stopping dead in his tracks.
Steve’s palms start to sweat and his breath catches in his chest.
Tony is wearing gray sweatpants that drag to the floor a little and a ratty t-shirt from some band Steve doesn’t recognize, a couple of holes showing the wear and tear of the item. He looks soft and cozy and something in Steve is screaming at him to take the steps that are separating him from Tony and run his fingers through his messy dark hair. He stays frozen in place, though, unable to move his eyes away from Tony’s frame.
“I thought you’d already be in bed,” Tony says.
“I was too hungry to sleep,” Steve responds and Tony nods.
“Me too,” Tony agrees. “That’s why I ordered some pizza from Nino’s.”
“Nino’s,” Steve grunts, a deep sound ripped from his throat, almost too lascivious to be made in public.
Tony chuckles and maybe it’s a trick of the light but from his position Steve thinks his cheeks redden slightly.
“You can stay and eat with me if you want,” Tony offers. “I ordered enough even for the company of a super-soldier.”
Tony’s voice sounds soft and hesitant like Steve would ever be able to tell him no, like he would ever pass the opportunity to spend more time with Tony when the man himself is offering it.
“That’d be great,” Steve accepts, nodding his head once.
Steve’s acceptance doesn’t prompt any movement from either of them and two minutes or so go by where they’re both just standing a couple feet apart, looking at the other and then quickly looking away, smiling softly at each other when their eyes lock.
JARVIS’ voice startles them both, making Tony jump slightly in place and Steve thinks, He’s so cute.
“Sir, your pizzas are here.”
“Thanks, J,” Tony says after clearing his throat and this time there is no doubt, he’s blushing. “Send them up.”
Steve points to the kitchen. “You take the pizzas to the living room and I’ll get some drinks and napkins.”
“Perfect plan,” Tony agrees and they both start moving at the same time.
They only take a couple of steps each before they find the other blocking their path. The hallways in the Tower aren’t narrow but it feels like they’re trapping Steve at the moment, so close to Tony their chests are touching.
“Sorry,” Tony murmurs.
Steve takes a step to the right and Tony takes it to the left. Tony then takes a step to his right while Steve takes it to his left. And then again. And then a fourth time.
“Oh my god,” Tony pronounces, throwing his arms up.
Steve starts laughing at Tony’s exasperated eye roll and feels glad that if he has to live through awkward moments like this he can live them with Tony.
Taking action Steve says, “Let me just…”
Slowly, so Tony can refuse him if he wishes, Steve starts moving his hands towards Tony’s hips. Sensing no sign of rejection on Tony’s demeanor and reading no objection on his facial expression Steve places his wide hands on Tony’s slender frame and gingerly picks him up, making Tony place his hands instinctively on Steve’s shoulders.
Steve starts to turn slowly, rotating on his feet, Tony still held in the air, his feet dangling back and forth, his face delighted.
As soon as he’s made a 180º turn Steve stars lowering Tony to the floor and when Tony’s bare feet touch the ground again he giggles.
“Well thanks, Steve,” Tony says. “That was useful.”
They smile to each other again for a second before Tony turns around.
“The drinks and napkins, Cap,” Tony reminds him over his shoulder as the elevator’s door opens, showing a SI security guard with their pizzas in hand.
It takes around 3 minutes for them to be fully settled in the living room, the pizza boxes open on the coffee table, them sitting on the couch, the TV on but going completely ignored.
They eat while they talk about everything and nothing, laughing and chewing and drinking water in between sentences and bites.
Tony’s speech starts getting faster and faster, his words manic and slurred, a telltale sign of how his exhaustion is taking over.
Between the two of them they’ve eaten the entirety of the three pizzas Tony ordered but Steve knows it was mostly his doing.
“No leftovers, I guess,” Steve declares as one of his hands gestures towards the empty boxes.
“You beast,” Tony jokes, stretching his arm to pat Steve’s stomach with his right hand.
It’s only two pats to his stomach through his t-shirt but it’s like something’s been ignited inside of Steve, a fire so blazing it consumes him from the inside.
Tony’s hand stills but he keeps it resting on Steve’s stomach, unmoving, almost weightless and yet completely impossible to ignore.
Both Steve and Tony are slumped down on the sofa, their backs pressed against the back of it and their butts almost hanging in the air. Steve only has to turn his head slightly to the left to observe Tony directly and when he does he finds Tony already looking at him.
In the space of a couple heartbeats Steve makes an almost unconscious decision, more reflex than choice and he starts leaning towards Tony, his back moving away from the couch, his left arm finding placement behind Tony’s head and taking most of Steve’s weight.
Tony, for his part, doesn’t move, still seated in the same position, but his eyes close when Steve is mere inches away from him and that is the last bit of encouragement Steve needs.
He closes his eyes too.
The first thing Steve takes notice of when his lips touch Tony’s is how soft they are. The second is how right the kiss feels.
It starts chaste, only a brush, a caress.
Steve applies more pressure after a few seconds, his lips finally completely in contact with Tony’s. He opens his mouth enough to taste Tony’s lips and he thinks he maybe should be feeling a little more grossed out seeing as how they only finished eating a few minutes ago and he can taste almost perfectly what was the last slice of pizza Tony had.
But he’s not disgusted in the slightest, he’s elated.
Tony’s tongue touches Steve’s bottom lip and he starts tracing it, back and forth and back and forth. His left hand finds the back of Steve’s hands and, tangling his fingers in the short strands of blond hair, he tilts Steve’s head so he can find the perfect angle to slip his tongue inside Steve’s mouth.
It’s a languid kiss, slow and unhurried. Their tongues tangle together and then retreat back to their own mouths so that, again, only their lips touch. This is almost more electrifying for Steve, more nerve-wrecking, the slight pressure almost maddening.
Tony captures Steve’s bottom lip between his and gives it a sweet tug before letting it go before pecking Steve’s lips once, twice, three times and then separating.
They’re still so close they’re almost breathing into the other’s mouths but Steve doesn’t feel strong enough to separate just yet.
“Finally,” Tony says, breaking the silence that had followed their kisses.
He sounds breathless and Steve feels a jolt of pride at the knowledge that it was his doing.
“Finally,” Steve repeats and dives back into Tony, his right hand cradling Tony’s jaw and his brain only aware of Tony, Tony’s lips, Tony, Tony’s hands and Tony.
(The picture is simple: Steve and Tony pressed shoulder to shoulder, their smiles wide, their cheeks touching, Tony’s eyes crinkling at the corners and Steve’s hair mussed from Tony gripping it tightly as they had kissed.
Steve took it right before they went to bed, separately, for the night, hours after their first kiss had taken place. They had stayed up almost until sunrise, laughing and kissing and defining their relationship and kissing some more.
It’s the first picture they ever took as a couple and they look so happy that, almost three years later, Steve wonders if other people around the world had been capable of feeling joy in that moment or if they had stolen it all away for themselves for a few hours that night.)
Steve loves the world and it’s always been a dream of his to see as much of it as he can, but Steve’s only ever been away from the States in Captain America business.
First it was during the war when he obviously never had time to go sightseeing and even if he’d had it he would have never felt up to it in that situation. All the downtime he had was spent with the Commandos, playing card games and laughing boisterously, or sleeping, catching up on days without proper rest, trying to will the nightmares away.
Since then he’s only been abroad when he was picking up all kinds of SHIELD ops and the same kind of problem arose: no time to enjoy the different countries he’d been stationed in, no desire to walk aimlessly through streets that reminded him he was in a strange world he hadn’t yet grown accustomed to, no people he felt close enough to to ask them to accompany him.
But the desire had still been there through it all: I want to see the world.
He should have known Tony would be the one person to make the dream come true because of course it’d be Tony.
Tony, who always makes sure to make Steve’s every day better in any way he can. Tony, who is so selfless it sometimes terrifies Steve. Tony, who was the first one of the two to say I love you. Tony, who acted surprised when Steve said it back. Tony, because it’s always Tony.
They’d had conversations about it, both back when they were just friends and since they started dating but Steve could have never seen this coming.
Three weeks of just Tony and Europe for their six-month anniversary.
They started off in Paris and celebrated their actual six-month anniversary day there, in the fanciest and most delicious restaurant Steve has ever set foot in. After their dinner and for the following four days they’d done every possible clichéd thing they could have done as tourists.
They’d visited the Louvre, Tony had hired them a tourist guide to walk them through Versailles, they’d walked hand in hand through Paris’ cobbled streets, they’d asked a group of giggling young women who very clearly recognized them to take their picture in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Then, they’d moved to their next destination, Barcelona. And then Madrid followed by Lisbon. They spent a short and sunny day in Monaco before flying to Amsterdam and staying in a quaint boathouse for three days, so in love and full of Dutch pancakes it felt impossible to stop smiling even for just a second. They’d done day trips to Ghent and Brugge and Steve had believed himself to be transported to to a magical place walking through the latter.
And as a finale Steve finds himself standing in the balcony of their booked Roman apartment looking at the Coliseum, lights turned on for the night, the moon high in the sky looking over it and protecting it.
The air is cool and it drizzled throughout the day so a slight dampness hangs in the air but Steve feels perfect in his long-sleeved button down, his elbows resting on the railing of the balcony, his eyes roaming around the streets as far as his eyes can see.
I’ve never been so happy in my life before, he thinks.
And then, as if the universe feels like it owes him something, he feels a pair of familiar arms wrap around his waist and a chest press into his back, seeping warmth into his skin.
“Hey,” Tony greets, pressing a close-mouthed kiss to Steve’s neck.
I was wrong before, Steve thinks. Right now is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.
Their last four days in Rome have probably been Steve’s favorite of their entire tripe even though it’s really difficult to choose because every day felt perfect next to Tony.
But Rome, Rome was something else and Steve find himself missing it before he has even left him.
He will miss its serpentine streets, so beautiful and full of color. He will miss eating gelato at all hours even when it had probably been too cold to be doing so. He will miss its history and its importance seeping into its every pore, every step taken feeling like a mark made in the universe. He will miss its food, so rich in flavor and so deeply fulfilling.
But most of all he will miss the uniqueness of SteveandTony in Rome.
There’s been something about their stay here that has made them more sharp, more in sync, more aware of the other. They’ve grown into each other and themselves, flourishing and thriving. It’s like they’re more Steve and Tony here, both separately and together, like Rome was always the place meant to watch them love each other, like for generations each corner and crevice of the city had been waiting for their presence and both the city and them had finally been made whole.
Steve will miss Tony speaking Italian everywhere they go, his accent flawless, his words awakening such a strong desire in Steve’s body it felt almost paralyzing. He will miss Tony’s smiles coming more easily here than in New York’s streets, where it feels like there’s always someone watching them. He will miss their little apartment and Tony padding barefoot through it in the morning as Steve waits for him in the balcony, ready to hand him his first cup of coffee of the day.
It’s only been for days of them staying in Rome but Steve thinks he could make a life of being here with Tony and although he knows it’s a pipe dream at best he also will miss the indulgence of imagining it be true as they head back to the States.
“What are you thinking about?”
Tony’s voice is quiet, nothing more than a soft whisper, like he doesn’t want to disturb Rome and its silence, Rome and its perplexing familiarity.
“I’ll miss this,” Steve confesses, his voice also low following Tony’s lead. “Traveling with you, having all the time in the world… Rome. I will miss us in Rome.”
It doesn’t make much sense and it’s a poor explanation of what he’s feeling but it’s been a very long time since Steve’s had to use many words for Tony to understand him.
“Me too,” Tony agrees, confirming that where they’re concerned a single word is enough and Steve can feel it’s honesty.
Tony will miss SteveandTony in Rome too.
Steve turns around, making Tony dislodge his arms from around Steve’s waist, and gently guides Tony forward with a hand on one of his shoulders. He nudges Tony closer to the railing and then positions himself behind him when Tony is facing the streets and the view of the Coliseum and is gripping the railing with his hands, their positions now reversed as Steve own hands move to grab Tony’s hips through his dress shirt.
He places a gentle kiss on top of Tony’s head, catching a trace of Tony’s natural scent, his cologne mostly gone after hours of walking around and gentle breezes accompanying them during their explorations.
“I wish we could stay here forever,” Steve declares, looking over Tony’s shoulder at the Coliseum and trying to commit everything from this moment to memory: the smell of Tony, the feel of him in his arms, the position of each and every single one of the stars in the night sky, the sounds of cars wheeling by and the soft murmur of voices of the people below them.
“What if…” Tony starts but his sentence trails off.
“What if…?” Steve encourages him to continue.
“I bought this house,” Tony announces unexpectedly.
“What?” Steve asks, confused.
Tony turns and tilts his head so he can meet Steve’s eyes as he talks.
“This place is now ours,” Tony clarifies. “It’s in both our names. I want us to have it for when… For when we get time again, so that we can come back. Make some more perfect memories.”
There’s something stuck in Steve’s throat, his heart most likely, trying to make its way out of Steve’s body and into Tony’s hand where it knows it belongs.
“I also promised to show you Europe and I’ve only shown you some of it,” Tony says, evoking a promise tacitly made, a promise he’s taken to heart just to make Steve as happy as possible. “We’re missing Vienna and Prague. We need to go to Poland and even further north to Norway and Sweden. It’ll be nice to have a home base here and I want it to be this. This right here. This can be home, too.”
Home is you, Steve thinks. You give me a home every time you’re with me.
He doesn’t say it but he pours the feeling into the kiss he places on Tony’s lips. And because it’s Tony, and because they’re SteveandTony in Rome, he knows Tony understands it.
“I love you,” is what he ends up saying when they separate.
“I’m going to show you the whole world,” Tony says.
They’re SteveandTony in Rome and Steve understands the I love you too perfectly fine.
(The Coliseum is behind them in the picture, slightly off-center but unequivocally itself. It’s watching over them, over the people they were back in Rome and the people they brought back to New York.
Neither of them are looking at the camera, both of them turned so they're looking into each other’s eyes instead, the love in their gazes so palpable it makes a tear roll down Steve’s cheek as he looks at his favorite picture from all of their travels together.
Since then they’ve found the time to go back to Rome twice, visiting 6 more European countries during their trips. They’ve also been to India and Egypt, and South Africa. They’re planning a 10 day trip to Japan for next year and Steve is pouring himself into the plans for it.
Tony has been keeping his promise of showing Steve the world and Steve is every day more and more convinced that his world only needs to be Tony.)
Tony’s 48th birthday falls on a Friday and the Avengers, enlisting Pepper’s and Rhodey’s help, have been planning it for the past month. There’s not a single thing that has been left to chance: the venue is booked, the catering services too, the DJ already has their playlist preferences, the invitations have been sent out and Natasha has been helping everyone pick out their presents for Tony because she didn’t trust them by themselves.
There’s less than a week to go for what Thor has dubbed the “bash of the century” and Steve can tell more and more each day how little Tony is looking forward to it, no matter how many times his boyfriend denies it.
“Tony, honey, if you don’t want a party we don’t need to have one.”
It’s the third time in two days they’re having this conversation and, normally, Steve would have dropped the topic by now, giving Tony space and not pushing so vehemently, but he can tell something isn’t quite right in the smiles Tony gives the rest of the team when the topic of his birthday comes up.
“For the millionth time,” Tony says. “I said it was fine. I’m excited! I’m super excited! Yay for my party!”Steve rolls his eyes.
“That sounded very convincing.”
They’re in Tony’s workshop, Steve sitting down in the couch that Tony bought specifically for the times Steve goes down there to sketch or read in Tony’s presence, and Tony is standing by his workbench not actually working anymore, just moving around holograms and zooming in and out of pictures, clearly just trying to avoid talking to Steve.
Steve stands and walks towards Tony.
“I know you. I know you better than anyone in the world,” Steve says as he’s walking.
When he reaches Tony, Steve positions himself behind him, his arms extending to place his hands on the edge of the table, gently trapping Tony between the table and his body.
“I know you’re not excited for this party and I’ve known it since the topic first came up,” Steve continues making his point. “I just want to know why you’re not saying anything about it to the others.”
“Steve,” Tony sighs, dropping his hands from where they were still moving in the air messing with different holograms.
Tony’s shoulders drop and he brings his hands up to his eyes, rubbing them harshly with his fists. Steve removes his hands from their place on the table’s edge so he can move them towards Tony’s own hands. Steve delicately wraps his bigger hands around Tony’s, moving them away from Tony’s face and intertwining their fingers.
Tony’s body instantly relaxes at Steve’s touch and he lets himself fall backwards slightly so his back is to Steve’s chest. Steve knows Tony loves this position, the feeling of being completely surrounded by Steve, warm and safe and loved.
“I want you to have the best birthday,” Steve declares. “I don’t want you to have to do something you’re not feeling up to.”
A silence follows Steve’s words and the only thing Steve can hear is DUM-E’s soft chirps from where he’s bumping his metal claw lightly into U’s one, the second bot ignoring him for some reason Steve can’t seem to interpret but Tony would probably understand immediately.
Steve’s and Tony’s breathes have synced up in their position. In and out and in again.
“I don’t really want to have a party,” Tony confesses, his voice a whisper. He almost sounds guilty about it.
“I know, baby,” Steve confirms. “But why aren’t you saying anything to anyone? Natasha would drop the plans in a second.”
Tony moves his hands away from where they were still held in Steve’s, lightly nudging him in the abs so Steve moves a couple steps back and leaves room for Tony to turn his body around and leave it facing Steve.
Tony’s hands find leverage in the table’s edge and he bends his elbows at the same time that he does his knees, and with a little jump he hops on to the table.
His legs dangle off the table and with the index finger of his right hand Tony beckons Steve closer.
Steve only has to move a few inches to put his body right in front of Tony’s, his arms coming up to wrap around Tony’s waist as Tony rests his on Steve’s shoulders. Tony’s legs moves his legs and keeps them wrapped around Steve’s waist, his ankles crossed behind Steve’s back.
Tony bites his lips when he’s fully positioned.
“I just,” he starts saying, hesitating. “Everyone’s so excited about it. I don’t want to ruin their fun.”
“It’s your birthday, not theirs. We should be doing what you want for it.”
“I’m a boring old man, Steve. I would just like the team having dinner in the Tower, maybe some wild karaoking…” Tony says.
“That actually sounds like a perfect plan,” Steve agrees making Tony’s face break into a small and soft smile.
“Look, don’t tell the others, okay?” Tony pleads. “I’m honestly fine with having the party. They’ll have fun!”
But as Tony kisses Steve, just a quick peck on the lips, Steve doesn’t promise him a thing because he can’t bear the thought of Tony not having the birthday he wants and deserves, the birthday that will make him the happiest.
He can’t not tell the team because he knows that if they were to find out, even if it wasn’t through him, that this was not what Tony wanted they’d be as upset as Steve is at the idea of not giving Tony what he truly desires.
The week passes, though, and Tony keeps insisting and insisting. This is what the team wants and so it’s what he wants too, he says.
The week passes and Tony keeps believing the party will happen and he’s still all smiles and excited cheers, and then eyes so dull and all sighs once he’s back in their bedroom.
Tony’s 48th birthday starts like the last two have started for him and Steve: in bed together kissing.
There’s something about the passage of time marked by their birthdays that Steve absolutely loves.
Maybe it’s the fact that it’s the perfect reminder that he gets to share his entire life with Tony, maybe it’s the obligatory realization of all the things that have had to happen for them to be celebrating these days together. Maybe it’s simply that every single special day is made even more special when it’s spent with Tony.
Pepper visits them pretty early in the morning and they go to have lunch together, the three of them.
Rhodey visits them in the afternoon and Steve makes himself scarce to give Tony and Rhodey their alone time.
Tony’s 48th birthday keeps passing and by seven o’clock at night Tony keeps believing there’s a party he doesn’t even want to attend happening in his honor.
“You’re sure I look okay like this?” Tony asks, gesturing at his outfit. “I feel a little…. underdressed.”
Steve just hums and kisses Tony on the temple.
“You look perfect.”
They take the elevator from their floor and Steve can see Tony taking a deep breath to his right. He also starts murmuring to himself, low enough that even Steve can’t pick up what he’s saying, but he can guess they’re some sort of words of self-encouragement.
“JARVIS, common floor, please,” Steve indicates as soon as they’re inside the elevator.
Tony frowns at Steve’s indication from his place to Steve’s left.
“Why are we going to to the common floor?”
“I need to take something from there.”
Tony side-eyes him and then looks down at his wrist watch, a newly gifted one from Pepper.
“Fine. But if we’re late you explain it to Natasha and Pepper.”
The elevator ride is short and when they stop in the common floor and the doors open Steve takes Tony’s right hand and drags him gently out of it and starts walking them towards the living room.
“Steve, you’re being weird,” Tony says, tripping over his own feet because of Steve’s hasty steps. “What is goi—“
Thor’s voice is, unsurprisingly, the loudest. It echoes through the whole living room and startles Tony the most. The rest of the voices mix and blend together, more harmonious than strident.
Tony is facing the room and he must be seeing every one of their friends there, including Pepper, Rhodey, Peter and Happy, but Steve is not looking in the same direction Tony is. Steve only has eyes for Tony. He only has eyes for him and his amazed face, mouth opened in surprise, his cheeks a little rosy-colored from the exhilaration of it all.
“What…?” Tony asks, not yet capable of uttering an entire sentence.
He turns his head towards Steve and Steve still can’t look away from him. There’s a glint in Tony’s eyes and Steve thinks it might be tears.
“This is the party you wanted so this is the party you get.”
They spend hours there, the party in full motion, and Steve feels so happy his heart could actually burst. His whole family is here, not a single person missing but most importantly, Tony’s whole family is here with him, showering him in love and laughter.
They get separated a few times but their eyes always meet each other no matter where they’re are.
Like now, Tony in front of the TV waiting for the song that he and Bucky have picked on the karaoke for a duet to start loading, Steve making his way to the kitchen to get Clint, Rhodey and Scott more beers. Their gazes lock and it’s like everything around them slows down, not quite stopping but definitely moving in slow motion. It’s like they’re inside an invisible bubble that only includes them, where their air is different from any one else’s air, where only they are experiencing the world in the same wavelength.
The spell breaks when Bucky elbows Tony and he has to turn away and get his attention back to the TV in front of them, singing horribly, his voice and Bucky’s definitely not made for good entertainment except for maybe laughing at them, as the people around them seem to be doing now.
Steve continues on his path to the kitchen and lets the happiness fill his lungs up completely as he takes his next breath.
(It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Steve has more than five hundred pictures from that night alone saved on his phone. But there’s one, a special one, that he favors above all others.
It’s a family picture, more than ten people trying to fit inside the frame of the selfie Steve is taking, his arm extended completely so he can get everyone correctly in the frame. Natasha, Thor, Clint, Bruce, Sam, Scott, Pepper, Peter, Bucky, Rhodey, Happy, Wanda, Vision. Their family.
Tony is sitting on Steve’s lap, his arms around Steve’s neck, his cheeks flushed, his hair rumpled, a silly children’s tiara proclaiming him the “birthday girl” askew on his head. And his smile…
Watching the picture closely Steve knows he will never stop trying to get Tony to smile like that every day of his life.)
The most mundane and trivial things become exciting and life-changing when you’re in love, and this is something Steve has learnt in the past three years thanks to his relationship with Tony.
If asked about his favorite moments with his boyfriend, his most precious memories of their time together, his answer would change depending on who asked.
For people not that close to him he’d try to find a flashy reply: one of their trips abroad, the first MET Gala they ever attended together, maybe. But if the person asking knew him well, he’d be completely and utterly honest: the time they cooked together for all of the Avengers for Thanksgiving and they ended up having to order take-out, the naps they take together on the roof on the Tower when it’s nice outside, or perhaps their late night marathons of Property Brothers.
Steve’s true favorite moments are the ones that he gets to have most often, the ones that don’t take his breath away but, on the contrary, remind him of all the reasons he has to breathe. His favorite moments happen in the most normal days because he gets to see Tony as he truly is, no inhibitions or masks, and he gets to be just as natural back.
(He has thousands of pictures of these moments and they truly are his favorite ones, above all others.
The selfie they took where they’re both wearing make-up after Natasha spent an afternoon practicing on them, Tony’s eyelids a deep purple and Steve’s own ones showing a shimmery baby blue.
One that Tony took in one of their walks through Central Park of them with a gorgeous puppy they encountered, a small Shiba Inu that responded to the name of Stark and Tony fell deeply in love with.
Also the picture where Tony is reclining on Steve’s chest and water and bubbles surround them both in their position in the bathtub.
A slightly blurry shot of Tony kissing Steve’s cheek in the back of one of their cars taken when they were being driven back to the Tower by Happy after having gone to a Broadway show together.
The best thing about all of these pictures is knowing that he has all of the time in the world with Tony for more of those perfect, inane moments and they will lead to more of those perfect shots to remember them by.)
It’s easy for Steve to get lost in his memories, it always has been.
When he got out of the ice he would spend days trapped in his own mind, unable to escape the feelings of misery and guilt as face after face of all of the loved ones he had lost got stuck in the back of his eyelids. He never normally sought old photographs or videos but sometimes they would still find themselves in his hands. Watching his friends’ still faces looking back at him from their places in the paper would be worse than just imagining them in his mind, as if in his head he could pretend they’d always been fragments of his imagination but the photos corroborated their existence and Steve’s loss.
Getting lost in his memories while looking at photographs now-a-days is the opposite of that.
Now when he looks at pictures -both the ones from his past and the ones of the present that’s paving his future- the first thing he feels is relieved. Relieved that he can remember the people he once lost in a positive light as they deserve. Relieved that he’s been able to create new memories that he will one day feel nostalgic about too, but that will mean he has spent a life well-lived.
From his place laying down on the sofa, his phone between his hands as he swipes through his entire gallery of pictures, Steve feels grateful and happy, so happy.
It’s a testament to how engrossed he is in his musings that he doesn’t hear the elevator’s door opening and Tony’s steps as he enters the living room and gets closer to the couch.
It’s Tony’s voice that truly breaks Steve from his reverie.
Steve’s startled by the greeting and Tony chuckles when his phone slips from his grip.
“Oh, hey,” Steve greets back, picking up his phone where it had fallen face-down on his chest.
“What were you doing that had you so focused?” Tony asks, bending down at the waist to place a soft kiss on Steve’s forehead.
At Steve’s pleased hum Tony moves to peck Steve’s nose and at Steve’s light giggle Tony smiles.
“Reminiscing,” Steve answers before moving his right hand to the back of Tony’s head and guiding him to fully kiss him on the mouth.
When they separate Tony is the one to let out a croon that warms Steve up from the tip of his toes to the top of his head.
Tony doesn’t move for a few minutes, even if the position has to be killing his back, until his stomach rumbles.
“Oops,” Tony says as Steve laughs.
Standing straight again Tony’s back cracks and he groans pleasurably at the feeling while using his own hands to rub the knots and kinks away.
“I’m going to order some Thai,” Tony says as he’s still stretching. “That sound okay?”
Steve nods. “Yeah, perfect.”
In the blink of an eye Tony grabs Steve’s phone from where he was still holding it with only one of his hands. Steve pronounces a weak and not very believable protest as Tony’s hand that’s not holding Steve’s phone goes towards the back pocket of his faded blue jeans.
Tony takes out his own cellphone and gently drops it on Steve’s chest while already unlocking Steve’s screen.
“Pepper’s supposed to call me soon,” Tony clarifies. “Let me know if she does.”
With that explanation he turns around and starts heading towards the kitchen most likely in search of the menu for their favorite Thai restaurant, even though it’s an useless act because they always end up ordering the same six dishes.
It only takes a minute for Tony’s phone to let out a soft chime but it’s not signaling a call, just a text.
“I think Pepper texted you!” Steve yells in the direction of the kitchen, where he can hear Tony’s voice as he talks to someone on the phone.
The conversation in the kitchen pauses and Tony shouts back, “Can you check what it says?”
As Steve presses the button to the right of the phone its screen lights up, showing indeed the notification of a recent text from Pepper.
But that’s not what catches Steve’s attention.
Sliding the notification from the text away from the screen Steve finds himself staring at Tony’s lock-screen.
The last time Steve had seen Tony’s phone his lock-screen had shown a picture Steve himself had taken. It had been a photo of Tony and Peter holding up Peter’s first place trophy from a state-wide science competition the teenager had participate in and that Steve and Tony had gone to to support him.
It had been a sweet and fun picture with Peter and Tony holding the trophy upside down, big smiles on both their faces and a look of utter pride coloring Tony’s expression.
That picture is not what Steve’s looking at right now.
Tony’s screen shows both of them -Steve and Tony- laying down against the white sheets on their bed. Steve’s got his eyes closed and based on how he has no recollection of the picture ever being taken he guesses he was truly asleep in that moment.
His head is resting on the center of Tony’s chest, right where the arc-reactor is. One of Tony’s arms is wrapped around Steve’s shoulders while the other is stretched over them as he takes the picture. Tony’s head is turned so that half his face is hidden by Steve’s head and his lips can press against the crown of his head. His eyes are half closed, his expression so blissful it makes Steve’s heart skip a beat.
Steve has to press the right button again to illuminate the screen when it turns off so he can continue to stare at the picture.
It’s beautiful and soft and Steve can understand why Tony chose it but what really strikes him about it is the simplicity of it. Steve and Tony have a million gorgeous pictures together but Tony chose this one, the one that shows them disheveled and relaxed, Steve not even aware of the camera.
They’re not putting on a show for anyone, they’re not posing in front of the world, it’s a photo just for their eyes. Actually, it’s a picture just for Tony’s eyes and that’s what makes Steve fall in love with it.
Steve has his favorite pictures of Tony - all saved up in his “TONY” folder- and Tony obviously has his favorite pictures of Steve -probably all collected in a folder named “STEVE-BABE” or maybe “CAPTAIN OF MY HEART”-, and it’s so absolutely wonderful that the pictures they both carry closest to their hearts are the ones that show them doing nothing but loving each other.
Tony’s voice brings Steve back to reality once again.
He’s standing next to the couch, Steve’s phone having been deposited on the coffee-table Tony obviously done with his call.
Steve moves from his position laid-down and starts to incorporate himself, ending up seated in the middle of the couch.
“So?” Tony asks, his eyebrows raised in inquiry.
Steve’s confused about the incomplete question.
“Did you read what Pepper’s text says?”
“Oh,” Steve murmurs. “No, sorry, I… I didn’t”
Tony frowns slightly at Steve’s breathlessness.
“Everything okay?” Tony wonders as he rests his hands on Steve’s shoulders, walking forward a bit so he can place himself between Steve’s thighs. The position makes it so Steve has to look up at him as he thinks back to the picture adorning Tony’s phone screen.
“Everything’s perfect,” Steve assures him, bringing his hands to the back of Tony’s thighs and tugging softly so the man has to place himself over Steve’s lap, straddling him.
One hand on Tony’s leg and one hand tangled on Tony’s smooth hair, Steve brings Tony’s face closer to his to capture his lips in a perfect kiss. Perfect like their first kiss. Perfect like every kiss they've shared since then. Perfect like the ones that are yet to come.
I’m sure we paint a pretty picture, Steve thinks, imagining how they would both look on camera as they lose themselves on this embrace where only they exist and the rest of the world fades away.
Soon enough, though, Steve stops thinking about cameras and pictures and trying to capture the moment and it’s all for the best, anyway, because there are certain things only meant for Steve’s and Tony’s eyes.
There are some moments that don’t need to be captured on camera.