This is my first Oneshot about Tony and Steve! I wanted to write something like this for years, but until now, I never got the chance or the right idea. I hope you like it, please let me know what you think! I've already been thinking of writing a sequel to this since I love writing about Tony and Steve as a couple. Let me know if you're interested.
I don't own the characters or places!
The first time Steve heard of Tony Stark was from Director Fury. It was a few days after he's woken up, right after he'd asked for his friends. Who were all dead. Except for Peggy, who was an old woman now.
"Howard has a son, though. His name's Anthony, but everyone just calls him Tony. He's just as brilliant as his father, most probably even better. However, you could say that he's also more self-obsessed and arrogant as Howard." Fury told him, not looking too happy that he had to talk about Tony Stark.
"Is that even possible?" Steve asked, doubt obvious in his voice.
"Maybe you'll meet him in person one day." Fury said simply, not answering his question.
"Do I even want that?" Steve had to admit that he was curious about Howard's son. He always liked Howard, even if his behaviour often made him feel uneasy. Steve exactly knew why. Howard Stark has been brilliant, handsome and he knew it. When he talked, he could win everyone just with his voice and gestures. Steve has been hopelessly in love with him at first, before he realized that Howard would never feel that way about him. To Howard, he was just a project. A very successful one.
"I think there might be no way to prevent that, Captain." Fury told him right before he left Steve alone with his thoughts.
Steve forgot about that conversation rather quickly, too busy trying to understand this new world which was far too fast and loud. He visited Peggy regularly, but she also couldn't help him. Mostly, they talked about the good old times and her life, even if she didn't tell him very much. Steve suspected that she didn't want to upset him, showing him everything that he missed while he's been asleep.
The next time Fury visited, he came with a mission. "Trying to get me back into the world?" Steve asked.
"Trying to save it." Fury corrected him firmly. Then he told Steve everything about the Avengers Initiative and the other superheroes who would be part of it. Including Tony Stark.
"He calls himself Iron Man?" Steve asked when he looked into the file and raised his eyebrows. "What kind of name is that?"
"You shouldn't underestimate him, Captain." Fury said while Steve frowned at the pictures of the man in the red and gold suit of armour. In one of those pictures, it looked like he could also fly. Steve still remembered that it has always been Howard's dream, flying cars. Just that this was a suit and made for fighting. On the last page was a picture of Tony Stark without his suit. Steve held his breath when he saw his face.
He looked so similar to Howard, and on the other hand nothing like him at all. Dark hair, a beard and brown eyes. He was smiling widely and there were many wrinkles in his face. Steve suspected that most of them came from laughing and not from his age. Because Tony Stark wasn't that young anymore, but who was Steve to judge that? He was much older than Stark, even if his body was still some years younger. Steve had to admit that Tony Stark was a very handsome man. There was something about him that made his heart beat faster, even if he was just looking at a picture. Fury had called him arrogant and self-obsessed, but from this picture, Steve couldn't imagine any of that. Tony looked rather happy.
"I don't." He muttered and breathed in deeply. "You say he's not an active member of the team?" He turned away from the picture and looked at Fury questioningly.
"Consultant status, that's right." Fury nodded. "We thought that his presence in a battle might not be wise. Especially not when we're dealing with someone like Loki."
Steve wondered why Fury thought this, but he didn't ask the question that was already on his lips. Instead, he closed the file again. "When will I leave?"
"Do you have to pack many things?"
He shook his head.
"Then we'll leave in ten minutes." Fury decided.
When he met Tony Stark in person for the first time, Steve knew that Fury has been right.
He was even worse than Howard. More arrogant, cheeky and absolutely annoying. He seemed to think that the whole world was turning around him and he didn't see a reason to tell others about his plans. Like hacking the SHIELD servers to know what Fury was hiding from them. And Tony had a habit of calling people by stupid nicknames.
Steve was so close to hit him, especially when Tony made it clear that he considered himself as more important than anyone else on the Helicarrier. And then there was Bruce Banner, also a brilliant scientist, who could turn into a green monster without any self-control. He defended Tony when Steve accused him of being impossible. Somehow, that made him even more furious. How was it possible that they got along so well, while Tony was driving Steve crazy? Maybe because Steve didn't like that Tony did everything in his own way and in the end, he was right about Fury's secrets.
Then the battle of New York started and they all have to work together as a team. To Steve's surprise, the one in the team he could fight best with was Tony. They didn't need words to interact with each other and Tony even used Steve's shield as a weapon to reflect his own shots. In the end, they won and saved the world. Of course not after Tony Stark proved that he wasn't a self-obsessed asshole and took a nuke that was about to destroy the city to space, risking his own life. The moment Tony opened his eyes and Steve saw that he was alive, his heart skipped a beat, even though he didn't understand why. Maybe it was just happiness that everything was over?
After the battle, the Avengers went to get some strange food Tony suggested. Steve had to admit that it was really good, even if the restaurant was mostly destroyed, just like everything else in New York. It also surprised him that he got along with Tony very well, now that everything was over. They even talked about a few unimportant things during dinner, realizing that they have a few things in common.
When Tony asked the Avengers if they want to stay in the Stark Tower, which was now called Avengers tower, they all agreed immediately. Steve wasn't sure if he just imagined it, but he thought that Tony smiled at him a little longer than at the others.
Living together with the other Avengers in the tower was a whole new experience for Steve. Ever since he woke up, he's been alone most of the time. Now there were five others (four when Thor left with Loki after a few days) and it was a rare occasion to be alone. Normally, there was always someone in the kitchen, the living area or the gym. Or in the laboratories, there were two in the tower. Tony's personal lab and the one he set up for Bruce. However, Steve never went to the lab, just like everyone else. Most of the time, Tony worked in there alone, even Bruce rarely joined him. Steve didn't know why he avoided going there, maybe because he still felt uncomfortable around all the technology. And maybe, just maybe because Tony could make him feel uneasy, just like his father so many years ago.
In the time they were living together, Steve got to know Tony better. He wasn't as indifferent towards others as he pretended to be. And he also wasn't that arrogant. Well, maybe a little bit, but Steve couldn't blame him. He liked Tony and his sense of humour. Howard could never make him laugh like Tony did. And Steve felt so free around Tony, like he could finally be himself, and not Captain America, of whom everyone expected something great.
Next to the Avengers, a few of Tony's employees and friends were also living in the tower. Like Pepper Potts, the CEO of Stark Industries and Tony's former assistant. The first time Steve saw her was right after the battle. She'd walked towards Tony with an angry look on her face and when Steve already suspected that she would just hit him, she hugged Tony tightly and kissed him on the cheek. "Don't you dare do something like that again! I'm going to quit if you give me another heart attack! I won't run this company without you, Tony Stark, do you understand?" Her speech was far longer than that and the Avengers have just watched it in silence.
"His girlfriend is angry at him." Thor said with a grin on his face and Steve's heart sank. However, Natasha shook her head.
"They're not together." She corrected. "She's one of his best friends, they're kind of like brother and sister. I met them on a mission a few years ago. They're a family. Tony doesn't like women." While saying the last sentence, Natasha has looked at Steve knowingly. He'd just ignored her stare, but his heart was beating faster after this. Was he attracted to Tony Stark? He's always known that he liked men instead of women, but back then it was nothing you could talk about or act upon. Now things were different. Being gay was accepted. And he had to admit that Tony was really making him feel... flustered. However, Tony Stark would never like someone like him.
And then there was Colonel James Rhodes, normally just called Rhodey. He also owned a suit of armour and Steve found out that it was one of Tony's old suits. No one wanted to tell him how Rhodes got it and why Tony never wanted it back. It wasn't as good as Tony's and apparently, Rhodes was working for the government. Tony always called him 'War Machine' with an amused look on his face. To Steve's relief, Tony always introduced Rhodes as his 'best friend and brother in everything but in blood'. It took Steve some time to talk to Rhodey, but in the end, they got along well. Even if he wouldn't stop calling him Captain at first.
One evening, Steve was sitting in the living area of the tower and read a book when he heard footsteps behind him. He was still doing lots of reading to catch up with all the events he'd missed during his time asleep. Tony has offered him something called a tablet, a small mobile computer, if he understood it right, but he'd declined politely. He still preferred real books made of paper. The next day, he'd found many books about history and other things on the table in his personal quarters.
Now Steve looked over his shoulder to see who was approaching him. To his surprise, it was Tony. He was looking tired with dark rings under his eyes, his hair was a mess and his simple grey shirt was dirty from something that looked like grease. The past days, Tony has locked himself in his lab, working on a project he called top secret. No one knew what it was about, they even tried to make JARVIS tell them something. As if that would work, after all, Tony has programmed him.
"Still reading those books?" Tony asked with a smile and sat down in an armchair opposite Steve.
"Lots of things happened in the past years." Steve put down the book he was currently reading. "Thank you for the books, by the way. I never got a chance to tell you."
Tony shook his head. "You don't have to thank me, it's nothing."
"You always say that. Letting us live here and giving us things is not nothing." Steve argued softly.
The other man ran a hand through his hair. It was a habit of him, Steve has noticed in the past weeks. "Anything interesting in there?" Tony pointed at the books, avoiding his question skilfully.
Steve shook his head and sighed. "Technology is still a riddle to me, wars are even more horrible than before with all those new weapons and the people are destroying the environment. So no, I'd rather not know all this."
"But it's our time. And now it's your time too." Tony said, leaning forward and looking at him seriously. "I won't say it's all really bad, you know well enough with what I earned my money in the past. But I'm doing my part to make the world a better place now. You know, being Iron Man and producing clean energy with SI." He smiled slightly. "From what I've seen so far, you got used to all this very fast, considering the circumstances of your long sleep and the awakening. You always have to remind yourself that not everything is bad, Steve. Or did you skip those parts in the books I gave you intentionally?"
Steve chuckled when Tony made a shocked face. "No, you're right." He hesitated. "It may seem to you that I got used to all this by now, but sometimes, I still feel like I'm drowning." It wasn't easy to admit this, but Steve just had to get it out. And somehow, he had the feeling that his secret would be safe with Tony. "All those new things and how the people have changed... I know what's right and wrong. However, sometimes, it seems like I just don't. People see so many things in different ways now, things that were a no-go are alright now, and the other way around."
"You have to keep in mind that you're not alone." Tony was smiling softly now, something Steve has never seen before. Well, except when he's with Pepper, but that's also different. After weeks of living with them, Steve could see that Pepper was like a sister to him. "We're all here with you. We're a team. You don't have to deal with those things by yourself."
"Thank you, Tony." Steve didn't know what else to say in this moment.
"I may not be able to help you with all your problems." Tony started and suddenly, he was looking excited. "I mean, wars will always be like they are now and even Captain America won't be able to save the earth if we keep doing what we're doing, but there's one thing I can help you with. Understanding technology!" He stood up and held out his hand to Steve. "Come on, there's something I need to show you."
Steve looked at him in surprise, but he took Tony's hand and let the older man pull him onto his feet. Tony was stronger than expected and the contact made him shiver. Sadly, Tony let go as soon as Steve was standing.
"Where are we going?" Steve asked curiously and couldn't stop himself from smiling. Somehow, the excitement on Tony's face was infectious.
"My lab." Tony said simply. "I bet you'll be thrilled, Cap." Sometimes, when he wasn't really paying attention, as well as in a battle, Tony used to call him Cap. Steve didn't mind, he was rather glad that he didn't get another nickname. Like Legolas or Point Break. And he liked it when Tony called him Cap.
"I assume you won't tell me what makes you so excited before we arrive there?"
Tony shook his head. "No way. This is a surprise."
When they finally arrived in the lab, Tony grinned at Steve. "Now close your eyes."
Steve raised his eyebrows. "Isn't that a little childish?"
Tony rolled his eyes. "Just do it. And no cheating."
So Steve closed his eyes, not really knowing what to expect now. Until Tony shoved something into his hands. It was light and solid, but Steve couldn't quite tell what it was.
"You can look now." Tony's voice was soft and the first thing he saw when he opened his eyes was the thoughtful look on the other man's face. Slowly, Steve looked at the object in his hands and frowned. "Aren't those gauntlets?"
Tony nodded. "Fitting your suit. Well, not your old one. But the new suit I'm working on right now." Suddenly, he grinned. "Try them on."
Steve stared at him. "You're building me a whole new suit?!"
"Of course, what did you think? That I will just let you walk around in the old thing Fury gave to you? It's not even bulletproof." Tony clapped his hands and in front of them, an image appeared. It seemed to be flying in the air, but Steve knew better. Tony had this new screens he'd invented everywhere in the tower. The first time Steve has seen this, he'd flinched, surprised by the new technology. However, he got used to that very quickly. The image showed a Captain America suit, that was obvious. However, there were small details that set it apart from his current one. "I have to think of the colour again, this blue is too bright." Tony told him in a absent tone, not realizing that Steve was staring at him now. "And the helmet is too heavy, but I think I'll solve that. We don't want to risk that pretty head of yours, Cap. About the gauntlets -"
"Tony, wait a minute." Steve interrupted him loudly. He was still staring at the genius, who turned to him slowly. "This is too much." He looked at the image of the suit again. It was brilliant and he would love to wear something Tony invented, but he couldn't just let him do so much for him. He's already done enough. "You don't have to do all this for me. I can't even give you anything in return."
Tony smiled. "And if I want to?"
Steve was speechless. "Tony..."
"I don't want payback, Steve. I'm doing this for you, because your safety is important to me." He held up his hand when Steve wanted to protest again. "Just try them on already."
While Steve did just that, Tony walked around the lab towards another table. Steve watched the genius silently, thinking of his last words again. Tony was worried about his safety? When he came back, he was holding Steve's shield. Steve didn't even notice that it wasn't in his room anymore.
"I borrowed it." Tony explained and grinned. "New colours, they shouldn't fade that easily in battle. Did you know that Vibranium is the strongest metal in the world? I don't even want to imagine how hard it was to get enough for this shield. But let's not talk about this." He gestured at the gauntlets. "There's a small button inside the glove. It won't stay there, don't worry. It's just the prototype." Tony added hastily when Steve frowned in confusion. "Now press it."
"What's all this about? And what were you doing with my shield except for the colours, which are really nice, by the way?" Steve wasn't sure where this was heading.
"Just do it, Cap." Tony repeated.
Since he was sure that he wouldn't get another explanation, Steve pressed the button.
The shield Tony was holding flew from his hands right towards Steve. He had just enough time to grab it before it could do any damage. For a few seconds, Steve stared first at the gauntlets and then at Tony. "What was that?"
"I fixed your problem of losing the shield." Tony explained with a grin. "And it works."
"You mean that I can do that anytime now?" Slowly, Steve realized what this meant. He felt his lips turn into a wide smile.
"Anytime." Tony affirmed. "I will integrate those into the new suit." He pointed at the gauntlets.
"You're impossible." Steve muttered and shook his head, still smiling. "Thank you, Tony."
"Stop thanking me." Tony muttered. "Otherwise, I'll think of the payback again." Suddenly, his expression changed and his smile was replaced by a curious look. "Now that I think of it again... There was something else I wanted to ask you."
Steve raised his eyebrows, not sure what this meant for him. "Then ask." He requested and started to take off the gauntlets again. He placed them on the table carefully.
"Well..." Tony hesitated again and sat down on one of the tables, not caring that a few small objects fell to the ground. "There's this charity gala in a few days, I've been invited." Tony has told him about those events before. Many rich people with much influence who wanted even more money. Steve knew that Tony hated it, but Pepper forced him to go there regularly.
"And you need an excuse not to go?" He guessed.
The older man shook his head. "No. I mean, maybe, yes." He ran a hand through his hair again. Tony did that very often when he was nervous. But why should he be? "What I wanted to say is that I wanted to ask you if you'd like to go there. With me. Just as friends, of course." He added hastily when he saw the shocked look on Steve's face. "I won't survive this evening alone."
Steve wanted to tell Tony that it was alright, that he'd love to go as his date, but he could just nod and whisper "Alright.", too surprised to do anything else.
The charity events were just as horrible as Tony said. There were far too many people, all clad in the finest, most expensive clothes, and they all wanted to talk to them. And of course there were photographers who followed every move they made with their cameras.
Tony was calm as ever, smiling widely and sometimes, he even waved at people. Next to him, Steve felt even more uncomfortable in his far too expensive suit Tony has bought him just for this occasion. Steve had protested wildly, but he couldn't stop Tony from buying it. "Who knows, maybe you'll need it again someday." Tony just said with a wide smile. "And besides, you look very handsome in this. You should wear something like that more often." And then Tony had winked at him!
Steve tried not to think of that right now, in front of all those people. Because he knew that he would blush furiously, just like last time. Only that last time has been in a nearly empty shop with just Tony and a shop assistant around. And Steve hoped that no one has seen his reaction. However, with Tony he could never be sure.
Tony managed to lead him through the crowd and towards the bar without talking to anyone. Sometimes, he even placed his hand on Steve's back carefully. Steve knew that this was just to make sure that he didn't get lost in the crowd, but it sent shivers down his spine either way. His body always reacted this way when Tony was close or even touched him.
"Do you want to drink something?" Tony asked and raised his eyebrows at Steve. Luckily, he's taken off his sunglasses before they've entered the building. Steve felt better when he could see the other man's eyes.
"You know that alcohol doesn't work on me." Steve replied simply. He knew that Tony liked to have a drink now and then. However, Steve has never seen him completely drunk and he was glad about it. He hated drunk people. Natasha once told him that it happened before, but for some time, Tony didn't drink that much anymore. No one could tell why, though.
"I just wanted to suggest water." Tony said with a slight smile and to Steve's surprise, he ordered water.
Steve raised his eyebrows at him and Tony just shrugged. "Sometimes, I like to have all my senses." He said simply. Steve didn't know exactly what he meant with this statement, so he decided to ask.
"Tonight is one of those occasions? I thought you hate those events."
"I do." Tony agreed. "But today, you're with me. I don't want to forget how you look in that suit." He smiled his most charming smile. "And I have to make sure that no one steals you away from me."
Steve frowned. "What do you mean?"
Tony rolled his eyes. "You can't tell me that you didn't notice how all those women look at you. I bet they would kill to dance with you."
"No one's looking at me. And you know that I can't dance." Steve shot back immediately and forced himself not to look around. He'd noticed that women were staring, but they've always looked at Tony. And what did he mean when he said that he didn't want anyone to steal Steve away from him? This wasn't a date, was it? So most probably, Tony just didn't want to be alone in this room full of sharks, like he called them.
And they were sharks, Steve realized after some time. Because then the first people approached them. Most of the time, they were just talking to Tony and he tried to end the conversation as soon as possible, but sometimes, people also turned to Steve. It was well-known by now that Steve Rogers was Captain America and since the battle of New York, his face has been in the media. Once, a woman really asked him if he wanted to dance. When he declined politely, he could feel Tony's intensive stare on his back.
In the end, the evening wasn't too bad. Well, the moments with Tony weren't bad. The other conversations, of which Steve didn't understand very much, were tiring. Tony talked about his company very much and listened to other inventions as well. He rarely commented something. When Steve asked him about this, he laughed. "I don't want to give anyone new ideas. Tactic in business." Steve still wasn't sure what it meant, but he just nodded. Secretly, he compared this to a battle. He also wouldn't give his opponent an advise how to improve his fighting skills.
"How did you like it?" Tony asked once they were back in the car and Happy was driving towards the tower again.
"It was... nice." Steve said after a few moments of hesitation, not sure how to describe the evening. Right before they left, they'd even posed in front of a few cameras. Steve knew that it wouldn't be difficult for Tony to get that picture. He would ask him about it the next day since he was curious about it. They've been standing on the stairs in front of the building next to each other, smiling widely. And of course Tony made his usual peace sign.
Tony laughed. "You mean exhausting." He corrected him. "I've seen your face during all those conversations. It's surprising that you didn't just leave. Especially when that woman asked if you want to dance."
Steve rolled his eyes. "I was there for you, I couldn't just leave."
"It would have been possible. I didn't force you to do anything." Tony threw in.
"It would have been impolite. Besides, I couldn't leave you alone with those sharks. You said yourself that you wouldn't survive the evening." Steve smiled slightly. "Though I doubt that anyone there would have been a threat to Tony Stark. Not to mention Iron Man."
Tony chuckled. "You really didn't have to stay there for me, Steve. I can deal with that on my own."
"I wanted to be there with you. But let's do something different next time, without so many people." Steve said softly and there was this curious look on Tony's face again he'd seen before. This soft smile that made him look so beautiful.
"No problem, anything you want." Tony whispered and for some time, they just smiled at each other silently. Steve didn't realize that he's been leaning forward until the car suddenly stopped. They heard a door slam and just then Steve knew that they've arrived at the tower.
Tony seemed to have noticed how close they were now too since his eyes widened slightly. Then he cleared his throat. "Maybe we should go upstairs? I bet you're tired. And tomorrow morning, we've got a training session with the team."
Steve nodded and suddenly, his throat was feeling dry. "Good idea. We should both get some sleep."
"Maybe I'll go to the lab for some time. I don't think I can sleep just now." Tony muttered on their way to the elevator.
"Oh no, you're going to bed. You rarely slept the previous nights. Sometimes, even Tony Stark needs rest." Steve crossed his arms while saying that.
Tony sighed. "Alright, you won. But don't let that get to your head."
He grinned. "Too late."
The next weeks passed very quickly. Tony and Steve spent nearly every free minute together and very often, Steve also joined Tony in his lab. They talked about many things and soon, Steve would consider Tony his best friend. Once a week, they even had movie nights with the team. Thor didn't join them again after he vanished with Loki, but once he sent them a message, telling them that he was alright and they should call him if he was needed again. Erik Selvig could tell them how to do it. Loki was locked up and the Tesseract was in a safe place.
Steve's attraction towards Tony grew stronger with time, but he didn't know how to show it towards the other man. He still felt uncomfortable when he thought of admitting that he liked men. Tony didn't make a secret of it, but Steve just couldn't bring himself to say something. So he tried not to flinch when Tony touched him or to stare at the genius for too long. Deep inside, he suspected that Tony already knew about his secret.
Sometimes, Steve wanted to believe that Tony also saw more in him than just a friend. For example when he caught Tony staring at him. Or all the times Tony winked at him. Steve watched Tony carefully and noticed that he didn't behave like this towards others. Steve was the exception. Did that mean something or did he just want to see it? He wasn't sure. Sometimes, it really felt like Tony was flirting with him and Steve went along with it without hesitation.
So their lives continued rather peacefully, except for a few missions they accomplished together. Until one day, Clint had to leave for a mission. He was contacted by SHIELD and left the tower within a few hours, not even saying goodbye to everyone since Tony was on a meeting for SI. No one was surprised that Clint was the first to leave on his own after Thor. Ever since New York, he was quiet and separated himself from the others most of the time (except for the movie nights and training). The only person who could talk to him was Natasha. From the looks on her face, Steve suspected that she knew what was wrong with Clint. He tried to ask her once, but she didn't tell him anything except that Clint lost someone he loved around the time the battle in New York has taken place.
Soon after Clint's departure, Bruce left them as well. He wanted to go back to Kolkata to help the people there. Bruce didn't know what he wanted to do afterwards. Tony told him that he could always come back to the tower and Bruce accepted the offer with a smile.
Somehow, Steve had an uneasy feeling when only Tony, Natasha and himself were left in the tower. After all, Natasha was also a SHIELD agent and he'd offered to help Fury as well. The only one free from SHIELD was Tony and he had his company. He had to return to Malibu soon, there were a few meetings at Stark Industries in Los Angeles. He even asked if Steve wanted to accompany him. He'd agreed immediately and now, they were planning their journey. On their way, Tony wanted to show him different places he liked. It would be like a vacation.
And then the phone call from Director Fury came.
He wanted to put together a special team for difficult missions and Captain America should be the leader of said team. Next to Black Widow as his replacement if something happened. Steve wasn't surprised when Natasha agreed immediately. However, he held back with an answer. He wanted to talk to Tony first.
When he told him about it, there was something strange in Tony's eyes. Only later, when he was already on the plane, Steve realized that it has been disappointment. And hurt. Of course Tony has urged him to go on that mission, knowing that this was important to Steve. After all, it wouldn't take too long. Most probably just a few months. Then, Steve could make a new decision about his future, at least that's what Fury told him. Tony didn't seem too shaken by the news and when Steve asked him about this, he confirmed that he'd also expected it. He even said that it wasn't a problem for him when Steve left for some time.
The moment Steve saw through Tony's lie it was already too late. He was on his way to Africa while Tony was going to California. He wasn't allowed to take a phone with him so there was no way to contact Tony.
Steve felt like an idiot for leaving him like this. He didn't even tell Tony how important he was to him.
The only part of Tony he could take with him was a picture of the two of them on the charity gala a few weeks ago, standing on the steps next to each other and smiling widely.
The news of what happened in Malibu reached him on the day they returned to the United States, nearly eight months after they left for the mission. Fury didn't know very much about the events, but for now, the only thing that mattered to Steve was that Tony was alright. He wanted to go to New York and see him immediately, but Fury refused, telling him that he had another mission for Steve and his team. They had a huge fight that day, but in the end, Fury won. The mission was about national safety and if they didn't act immediately, the lives of thousands of people could be in danger.
Then Steve met the Winter Soldier for the first time, who was also Bucky Barnes, his best friend from a different life. His former best friend, who nearly killed him on several occasions and didn't even recognize him anymore.
In the end, they were able to stop Project Insight and Steve was glad that he'd accepted the mission. On top of the list of possible threats was a far too familiar name. That day, he'd saved Tony's life, together with Natasha, his new friend Sam and Fury. Even if he lost Bucky in the course of that and Steve woke up in a hospital.
The beeping of the monitor was the only thing he heard when he finally woke up. His whole body was hurting and first, he didn't know where he was. The last thing he remembered were the Helicarriers, his constant fear for Tony's life and Bucky.
When he opened his eyes slowly, the light was blinding him. He blinked a few times until he realized that someone was sitting on a chair next to his bed. Slowly, Steve turned his head to see who it was, already expecting Sam or Natasha. After all, they've been with him those past days. When he recognized the person sitting there, his eyes widened and the beeping sound of the monitor became faster.
Tony had dark rings under his eyes, but he smiled at him. In that short moment, Steve noticed several things. There were new wrinkles in Tony's face which haven't been there before and concern was evident in his eyes. Under his white shirt, Steve couldn't see the usual glow of the arc reactor. And there were about five empty cups of coffee standing on the table next to him.
"Good morning." Tony said softly. "How are you feeling?"
"As if someone has thrown me off a plane." Steve whispered and his voice sounded hoarse. He cleared his throat, but it didn't get better. Tony handed him a glass of water and narrowed his eyes.
"That really happened, you know." He said, his voice strangely quiet. "Just in case you forgot."
"How could I?" Steve handed the glass back to Tony. "Thank you." They looked at each other for a few moments when Steve realized that Tony wouldn't break the silence. "Why are you here?"
Tony laughed without humour and ran a hand through his hair. "Oh come on, Steve. Can't you guess why?"
"Who called you?"
"Natasha." Tony muttered. "And you don't have to say anything, I already know what happened. I saw the files and camera records. Or what's left of it anyway." He looked worried now. "Looks like you've been doing many stupid things in the past months. You should have called me. I could have helped you."
"I didn't want to put you at risk as well. Fury told me what happened in Malibu. At least what he knew, which isn't much." Steve noticed the sadness in his voice. "You were hurt and I wasn't there when you needed me."
"That's not the point right now." Tony interrupted him before he could say anything else. "The point is that you dealt with Hydra and Project Insight all by yourself. And you nearly died in the process." He sounded angry now and Steve couldn't blame him. "And don't tell me that I would have been in danger, Cap. You know well enough that I can deal with it. So what was the real reason behind all this?"
"I already told you, I didn't want to risk your life." Steve repeated, not seeing a reason to lie to Tony.
"Steve..." Tony stared at him and shook his head slowly. "You're impossible. We're a team, remember? You don't have to deal with everything alone. And I'm Iron Man, I can deal with danger. That's my job. And how we met, if I need to remind you." At the last sentence, he smiled slightly.
"I left you alone in Malibu." Steve whispered. "And from what I know, you nearly died there." He couldn't stop himself from repeating this, even if it was obvious that Tony didn't want to talk about it. Just now the realization hit him that he nearly lost Tony without even knowing it. Back when Fury told him about the 'incident', as he called it, Steve barely registered what it meant since Fury just changed the subject to another mission.
"That was a very stupid mistake on my side." Tony muttered. "I'll tell you about it later. The doctors said you shouldn't get upset now. I should call them, by the way. They have to check on you. Even if your body heals fast, those injuries were too much." His smile turned more into a grimace and Steve wondered how bad he was still looking. Tony stood up to walk to the door, but Steve grasped his wrist to make him stop again.
"You know about Bucky." He whispered and Tony sighed.
"JARVIS is on it, trying to find him. So stop worrying." He tried to free himself from Steve's grasp, but he only tightened his hold on him.
"Your chest. Where's the reactor?" Tony always said that he couldn't survive without it. And it was also the energy source for the suit.
"Gone." Tony agreed. "That had to be done for a long time. The events in Malibu opened my eyes about that. It's a long story. For now, you just have to know that I'm fine, it's just a big, ugly scar. And the new suits will contain the reactor. Also solves a few energy problems."
He firmly released Steve's fingers from his wrist. "I'm going to call a doctor now. And after that, I'm sure Sam and Natasha want to see you as well. They are already offended that I blocked the chair next to your bed for days."
"You've been waiting for me to wake up for days?" Steve asked, but Tony had already left the room.
"And you're sure that you don't want to come to New York with us?" Steve asked again.
Sam shook his head. "No way. Someone has to look for Bucky, after all."
Steve resisted the urge to roll his eyes, something he'd copied from Tony. "JARVIS is looking for signs of him, I already explained that to you. So there's no need to leave already."
"I bet I can find him faster than that program." Sam muttered with a grin.
"I don't think so." Steve threw in. "After all, Tony programmed him."
Sam looked at him curiously. "Are you going to tell him? That you like him, I mean." He added when he saw the confused look on Steve's face. Sam chuckled. "Come on, it's obvious when you're together! You're crazy about him. And you should have seen him when he showed up in the hospital for the first time. We already feared that he would yell at the doctors. He's obviously in love with you."
Steve stared at Sam silently.
Sam laughed. "Just talk to him, Steve! It's about time." He placed a hand on his shoulder. "And call me. I want to know everything."
Steve smiled at him and relaxed slowly. "And I want to know how your search goes." He added. "Who knows, maybe the Avengers could need the Falcon someday."
"Don't get my hopes up!" Sam grinned in excitement at the idea. "I might come back to that."
"So I'll see you." Sam waved one last time before he went to his new motorbike. He has refused to use a car on his search for Bucky.
"Seems like it's just the two of us for now." A voice behind Steve said and he didn't have to turn around to know that it was Tony. The older man stopped next to him and together, they watched Sam get ready for his trip. "I told him where to start his search." Tony said thoughtfully. "JARVIS was able to identify Bucky on a record of a museum. You might know that place."
"The Captain America exhibition?" Steve guessed.
Tony grinned. "You old guys have a habit of going there."
He frowned. "How did you know I was there?"
"You stole the suit." Tony chuckled. "Good idea, by the way. Even if there would have been a far easier way to get a new suit."
"We already talked about that." Steve said sternly. "I didn't want to risk your life."
"Your friend wouldn't have hurt me." Tony muttered. Then he was silent for a few moments and Steve would have loved to see Tony's eyes behind the sunglasses. "Do you miss him? Bucky?" His voice was thoughtful.
"Yes, I do." Steve said slowly. "He was my best friend, after all. The only friend I had back then, to be exact."
"And now he doesn't even recognize you anymore." Tony remarked.
"He did. In the end, I think."
"He nearly killed you." Tony threw in.
"Because Hydra can control him. He wouldn't do it otherwise." Steve just knew that Bucky would never hurt him intentionally. The Winter Soldier wasn't Bucky.
"Can you be sure?" Tony hesitated. "Steve... if we find him, he might not be the same as before." When he took off the sunglasses, Steve could see the concern in Tony's eyes. "We might not be able to help him."
"I know that." He admitted quietly. "Sam and Natasha said the same right before we went to deal with Hydra." The sadness that always appeared when he thought of Bucky and his fate returned.
"I don't like all this." Tony didn't look at him while saying this. "But I'll help you to look for him either way. Because I see how important this is to you."
"Thank you, Tony." Steve smiled at him, but Tony still didn't look at him.
"Doesn't mean I like it. Or him." He repeated and before Steve realized what was happening, Tony was walking away from him, towards his car.
He followed him quickly. "Tony, what's wrong?" He blocked his way and looked at him questioningly.
"Nothing, I'm just having a bad day, I guess." Tony tried to avoid the question and Steve knew that the smile on his lips was forced.
"You having a bad day looks different." He crossed his arms. "Now tell me what's on your mind." Ever since Steve woke up four days ago, Tony was acting strange sometimes. While Steve was in the hospital, they talked very much. Mostly about what happened to Steve, Sam and Natasha in the past weeks and months. Tony wanted to hear their version of the story because the files he read weren't complete. Even if he knew that Fury survived and was still alive.
In all this time, Tony didn't say a single word about what happened to himself. He only mentioned someone called the Mandarin and Aldrich Killian once. And that Pepper has been quite ill. When Steve thought about it again, he noticed that he never gave Tony the chance to tell his story. They've always been talking about him or Bucky. Because finding Bucky has also been a big theme in the past days. Tony and Natasha were against it, while Steve insisted that it was important to find him. Sam agreed with him, though he didn't know why. Sam also didn't like Bucky.
"This is about Bucky, isn't it?" Steve guessed now and when Tony's face became an indifferent mask, he knew that he was right. And again, Steve felt like an idiot for not realizing this earlier. How must his behaviour look to Tony? Always talking about Bucky and not asking once what happened to him?
"Doesn't matter." Tony muttered. "We'll find Bucky and then you have your best friend back. Problem solved." He was about to put on his sunglasses again, but Steve stopped him.
"I'm sorry." His words made Tony freeze and the other man stared at him. "I was so worked up on everything that happened, I just forgot about everything else. Including you. I know that it's a poor excuse. It's just... Bucky's return... He's the only one left from my old life." Tony opened his mouth to say something, but Steve kept going quickly. He couldn't stand the hurt in Tony's eyes. "That doesn't mean that he's the most important thing to me anymore. I've got a new life, with you. And the other Avengers. I've got a new family and new friends now. I shouldn't let my thoughts stay in the past that much."
"You say that now, but what if Bucky returns?" Tony asked weakly. "I bet you'll forget us then." Tony said us, but it was obvious that he meant something different. You'll forget me then.
"Not going to happen." Steve said sternly. "You're far too important to me, Tony. When Fury told me that you've been hurt, I nearly hit him just to get to you. But then Fury came with this new mission and said that your life could be in danger as well, if we didn't deal with it, so I accepted, of course. Because what else could I do? I could never risk your life." He smiled sadly. "I would have loved to return to you right away, but I didn't have a choice."
"Did you love Bucky? Back then?" Tony's question caught Steve off guard and he stared at him in surprise.
"What?" It was all he could manage right now.
"I know that you like men. Always did." Tony muttered. "And ever since Bucky's back, you've been so excited..." He shrugged and ran a hand through his hair. "Just forget that I said anything." He wanted to take a step back, but Steve stopped him.
"Bucky has always been like a brother to me." He said softly and looked at Tony seriously. "To me, he was what Rhodey is to you now. In all the ways that count, he's my brother. Nothing else."
He saw that Tony relaxed slowly. "That's good." He muttered and smiled. "Look, I'm sorry for acting this way, but you always talking about Bucky... It hurts."
"Tony..." Steve knew that this was his chance to tell Tony about his feelings. "I want to -"
The sound of an engine interrupted him. They both turned around quickly, just to see Natasha smiling at them out of her sports car. "Hey guys, I just wanted to say goodbye. I have to deal with some things before I return to the tower. I bet the Avengers will be needed again soon, now that Hydra's back. I think Clint will join me on my way back to New York. And I got a call from Bruce. He will be at the tower next week. See you soon!" With one last smile, she drove away.
"Maybe we should also get going?" Tony suggested quietly. "It will take a few hours to arrive in New York. And I think Pepper's already waiting for us. I told her we'd return today."
Steve nodded, knowing that the moment to tell Tony about his feelings was over for now.
"So he destroyed your house, captured Pepper and experimented on her with this new substance you helped him create by accident?" Steve summarized Tony's story. "And then you fought him, together with Rhodey and without a completely functional suit?"
Tony nodded. "Yes, that's it. And it's called Extremis. I was able to get it out of Pep's system. I still have the substance, though. Who knows, maybe I could really make it work? I think I already know how."
Steve stared at him. "You want to keep that thing? But it's dangerous!"
"I said that I can solve that problem." Tony corrected him.
He sighed. "Tell me again why I agreed to be part of Fury's new team? I shouldn't have left you alone."
"I'm fine, Steve."
"Barely." He muttered darkly. "From what you just told me, it didn't look good. On many occasions! I can't believe that you told him your address! And that you kept risking your life over and over again!"
"I didn't have a choice. It's not like I could have called anyone." Tony's words sent a wave of guilt through Steve. Suddenly, all his anger was gone again. Instead, he just felt sick.
"I'm so sorry, Tony. I shouldn't have left you." He whispered and when Tony heard the sad tone of his voice, his expression softened.
"This mission was important to you. Captain America was needed and I didn't want to hold you back." He explained. "That's not who you are. Sitting around and ignoring trouble."
"You wouldn't have held me back. We're a team, remember?" Steve repeated the words Tony once said to him.
"Maybe we should just stay together next time. Would make dealing with everything easier." Tony suggested.
Steve smiled. "I'd like that."
"Yeah, me too." Tony agreed. "Then I also don't have to worry about you anymore."
"You were worried about me?" He asked in surprise.
Tony nodded. "I even tried to find out more about your mission, but Fury hid the details very well. I didn't get into their system." He sounded annoyed now. "I think it was very exhausting for Pepper and Rhodey, always having to listen to me worrying about you." He ran a hand through his hair. "I was miserable without you."
"Me too." Steve admitted. "You remember that picture of the charity gala you got me?"
Instead of an answer, Tony nodded in surprise. "Of course."
"Right before my departure, I printed it and took it with me." Steve admitted and felt himself blush. "I looked at it over and over again during this mission. I missed you."
"I missed you too, Steve." Tony whispered. They were silent for some time, until Tony looked at him curiously. "Have you ever been in love?"
"Huh?" Steve raised his eyebrows at the sudden question. "Why do you ask?"
"Just answer the question." Tony muttered.
"Only once." He admitted.
"So if it's not Bucky, who is it then?" Tony sounded curious now.
"You're the genius here. I bet you already know who it is." Steve whispered.
"You said is, not was. So it's no one from the past." Did he just imagine it or did Tony sound relieved?
"That's true." He agreed. "And you? Ever been in love?"
"Once." Tony answered with a smile on his lips.
"Just once?" Steve was surprised.
"Yeah, unbelievable, isn't it? That Tony Stark has never been in love before." Tony smiled ironically. "I've met many men in my life, but never the right one." He breathed in deeply. "Until I met you. Even if I have to admit that I didn't like you at first. Far too rule-obsessed for my liking."
Steve had to swallow after this confession. "What changed?" He asked, voice hoarse.
"I got to know you." Tony moved closer to him now. "And you? Don't tell me you liked me right from the start, I know it's not true."
"It isn't. But I realized very quickly that you're not as arrogant and self-obsessed as you pretended to be."
"Surprised to see that Tony Stark also has a heart?" Tony chuckled. "I don't want to know how many bad stories they've told you about me after you woke up."
"They're all not true." Carefully, Steve touched Tony's cheek.
"I bet some of them are." Tony muttered and moved even closer. Now their lips were just inches apart.
"I don't care. Didn't stop me from falling in love with you." It was the first time Steve said those words aloud.
When Tony smiled, his eyes were shining. "Come here, Cap." He whispered and pulled him closer.
Later, they couldn't say anymore how long they just sat there and kissed each other.
They got a few days of peace together before the other Avengers arrived at the tower. The others noticed that something changed immediately and they were all very happy for them. It turned out that they all have already suspected that Tony and Steve would get together at some point.
During their fight against Hydra, Iron Man and Captain America were leading the team together.
And in public, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers were a couple now.