He watched the tension drain from Steve’s body, a slow restoration of spirits as Steve moved from piece to piece, sometimes skipping paintings or entire rooms, sometimes lingering at one in particular, circling back to it. He hadn’t told Bucky what they’d discussed in his session, but from the way Steve devoured every color and shift of light, he thought it must have been about Steve himself, who he was and what he wanted from this new life. Stevie still had bad days, but Bucky watched him come back into his own, knowing from experience that it wasn’t easy, and his heart swelled every time a smile curved Steve’s lips, every time he laughed, every time he leaned into Bucky for the sake of touching him, of being close.
Part of him wishes he could have spared Steve from his breakdown, but the other part is silently grateful for it, that he was there to catch him. Ever since Bucky’d come off the ice, Steve’s world revolved around him, on getting him better. Buck would never take that selflessness for granted, but now it was his turn to repay that kindness, to care for Steve the way Steve had cared for him.
Ever since Steve had laid eyes on Tony, his fingers had begun itching for a pencil and paper to capture the image.
Steve hadn’t drawn anyone since being pulled out from the ice- hadn’t even thought about it until Tony’s dark eyes had met with his light ones, and suddenly it all came back- the desperate desire to put the moment down on paper, to capture the confidence and charisma that poured out of Stark like waves. There was just something about him; the way he moved, the way he spoke and flowed and looked, it just… appealed to Steve’s artistic nature.
Then, of course, the helicarrier fight happened.
And despite the fact that Steve was snapping and snarling at Stark as they traded insults and jibes, anger and bitterness pooling in Steve’s stomach as a particular remark hit him a little too close to home- Steve just found himself more and more desperate to get himself a pencil and sketch out every frown line, each clenched fist and raised eyebrow that was thrown at him.
It was an unusual feeling. He was stuck between wanting to say ‘I’m gonna kill you, Stark!’ and ‘I’m gonna draw you, Stark! Sit still, you bastard.’
And once the fight was over- after the Chitauri had popped by to say hello and destroy New York, and Tony had sacrificed himself without a second thought to stop a nuke from turning the entire state crispy- Steve rode away on his bike back to the apartment he was staying at, and sat down to finally quell the itch in his fingertips.
It had been a long time since he had ever drawn someone, though. The lines turned out too harsh and he couldn’t quite get the eyes right, as they failed to capture the life that should lie within them. His smile was bright, but there was no depth to it, and the dimple that Steve had noticed on Tony’s right cheek just didn’t sit right.
Steve sighed, looking down on his work. It was reasonable, at best. And maybe for some, that would be enough.
But Steve was a perfectionist. It would never be enough for him. He needed to do this right. And if he were to do it right, he needed to see Tony again. And he needed to make a list of everything he could tell about the genius, if he were to successfully get his essence down on paper.
It had always been an unusual habit of his- whenever he found his muse, he would begin to list the things he knew about them, about their character and their facial features and the little quirks that were unique to them. He’d done it the moment he set eyes on Peggy- mostly that list had consisted of:
3:She is a girl
But despite his initial inability to function around her, the moment he had got his hands on some rough paper and a sorry excuse for a pencil, he had managed to draw her pretty well.
Better than he’d managed to draw Tony, anyway.
Obviously, this had to mean he just hadn’t gotten a good enough look at the man, and unless he wanted to live in a constant state of frustration until he was pushed into a situation with Stark again, he had to go and find him himself.
Picking up the phone by his bedside, he dialed.
“Hey Rogers, you’re keen. I only saw you a few hours ago- you can’t have got into another world-ending catastrophe in that time, that would… wait, what? Did you just say you wanted a tour of the tower? My, to quote a certain super solider, ‘big ugly building’? What- yeah- well I guess it would probably be a good idea- I can’t have you over now, I have some serious maintenance issues to attend to, but give me three days and I’ll be ready to show you around. Sure, yep, I’ll see you then, Cap.”
“ Bonjour, mi amigo.” Tony said, as Steve stepped out of the elevator and into the penthouse where Tony was stood.
“ You just used two different languages, and neither of them were English.” Steve observed absent-mindedly, stepping tentatively into the corridor and looking around.
The place was huge, and this was just one floor. It had obviously just been done-over, and although it was very modern and shiny, the place had a simplistic style that appealed to Steve’s old-fashioned senses. Over to his left was an open-plan kitchen, with a breakfast bar in the center and counters surrounding it. It was stood on a raised platform, and leading down from it, he could see the couches and coffee table of the living room.
“Non avete ancora visto nulla, ragazzo soldato.” Tony drawled, and Steve could only make out a few of the Italian words, but rolled his eyes anyway, stepping forward further and hanging his coat up on the rails attached to the wall.
(He speaks Italian)
“You got this fixed up pretty quick. Three days ago, there was a Loki-shaped hole in the floor and half of your wall was missing.” Steve observed, glancing toward the place where Loki had been driven into the ground by an irritated Hulk.
“I actually wanted to keep the hole, y’know, as a memento of Loki getting his Asgardian ass kicked. I was gonna set up a little viewing area and everything- but Pepper, my girlfriend, wouldn’t let me. Plus it might make Thor cry, and no one wants that.” Tony explained, flicking buttons on the coffee machine and gesturing to Steve in offering.
(He has a girlfriend)
“Um, do you have any tea?” Steve asked, looking around the stocked-up cupboards and wondering how the hell Tony could find anything at all in the vast supplies he had stored.
“Tea? That’s blasphemous, Rogers. We are a coffee-drinking nation. You are being un-patriotic.” Tony scolded, as he dug into a narrow cupboard and pulled out one the many bags of coffee from its shelves.
“What can I say, I had a British almost-girlfriend who drank tea like her life depended on it. I was converted.” Steve said, chuckling slightly as Tony made a ridiculous face and scuffled around at the back of one of the cupboards to find some tea bags.
“Oh shit, yeah, I forgot you knew Aunt Pegs. She drank the stuff by the damn gallon whenever she came round. Always told me if you wanted to change the world, you do it with a cup of coffee in your hand, and if you-“
“-wanted to take over the world, you did it with a cup of tea.” Steve finished, surprise etched on his face.
(Tony had known Peggy Carter)
Tony grinned, and it was a fond grin, full of memory and love that made Steve feel slightly bitter. He’d barely had time to fall in love with her; it seemed Tony had grown up loving her.
“And she always had that ridiculous term of endearment that only sounded right when she said it in her English accent-“
“Poppet.” Steve supplied, when Tony clicked his fingers in search of the word.
“Yes! God, she was full of stuff like that. Possibly the most tenacious woman I’ve ever met- I also saw her incapacitate a person with a stapler and a nail-file, which was pretty much the best moment of my entire childhood.” Tony said, and Steve laughed at that.
Sure did sound like Peggy.
There was a brief moment of sadness at the memories of a person long dead, but Steve found it didn’t hurt quite so much when he was discussing it with someone else. Maybe it was the fact that this was a cheerful memory, not ones of war or loss- but after all that. When it all became…happier, again.
Seeing Tony laugh at memories of her- it softened the blow a little.
Whilst Tony was otherwise occupied, Steve took the time to take in Tony’s face, studied the way his body moved and the finer details that he had missed before, when everything had been a rush of adrenaline and tension.
His hair was vaguely neat, like he had brushed a comb through it before coming to meet Steve, but there was something that looked like motor oil streaked through a few of the strands at the back, which Tony must have missed upon his inspection. His beard was neatly trimmed and sharp, but the first few flecks of stubble were just beginning to show through, giving his jaw a faint shadow. Pink lips moved silently as he muttered to himself, chapped and distressed where Tony had been biting them. There was also a cut running from his temple all the way down to his cheek, and stitches in a spot just above his hairline.
Steve searched for the dimple that he could’ve sworn he’d seen before, but it wasn’t there at the moment. However, now he was able to notice other things, like the slight curling hair at the nape of Tony’s neck, or the freckles that ran along his arms. He had burn marks and scars dotted all about his body, and as he dipped particularly low in order to delve further into the cupboards, Steve noticed he had a double-crown, and a few strands of hair right at the center that stuck up as if they had been electrocuted.
So, to recap;
(4: He worked with engines)
(6: He has curled hair, but it’s too short to see)
(7: Freckles on his arms)
They were little things, parts of Tony that most people wouldn’t glance twice at; but Steve was an artist, and besides, Tony was kind of… beautiful.
Well shit- Steve thought, abruptly snapping his gaze away.
Nope. Nope, he wasn’t going to start going down that route. Tony had a girlfriend. Tony was out of bounds. Bad Steve.
Once they had drunk their coffees and teas, Tony proceeded to drag Steve all around the tower, showing him every floor with a giddy excitement that made Steve chuckle. Even though he had expected it to be awkward (Steve had basically told Tony he didn’t deserve to be a superhero, and Tony had told him in reply that he was nothing more than an experiment. To be honest, Steve had expected to skip straight past awkward and on to heated arguing again), Tony had simply filled any silence with animated talks about the design plans and descriptions of the tower, flailing his arms all over the place as he explained.
(Talked with his hands)
Surprisingly, Steve found himself actually enjoying Tony’s company. At first, the visit had been simply to get a better look at the person his mind seemed so intent on drawing- but now, as he was bent double, laughing over a story Tony was telling him, he realized that this was the first time he had laughed like that since the forties.
And it was Tony doing that to him.
(Tony was funny.)
And when the time came for him to go, a good five hours later- Steve left feeling better than he had in months.
Steve tried again, that night. He filled pages and ages of his book, trying to get it right. Trying to get Tony’s personality down on the paper, trying to make the light in his eye shine in the right way and the curl of his lip look more natural.
It. Still. Wouldn’t. Work.
Groaning in frustration, Steve threw down his sketchpad and stuck a finger up at it, before flopping on to his bed and falling asleep. He would try again tomorrow; maybe then it would turn out a bit better.
But tomorrow swung around, and after three more futile attempts to draw Tony’s hands, he stood up and left his sketchpad behind. He needed a distraction, he needed to punch something. There was too much pent-up energy in him to focus on anything else - a side effect of the serum. But the bags at SHIELD were shitty, and their gym was quite frankly pathetic. He didn’t feel like going on a run, the area he lived in wasn’t exactly scenic and he never liked running on the streets.
There was one other option, however.
“I’ve built a gym a few levels down from my penthouse. It’s brilliant, if I do say so myself. Everything you could want, if you fancy using some of it. I’ve already got Natasha and Clint coming in there to spar and train, when they’re not coming in purely to steal my food, that is. I even think I’ve built a punching bag able to withstand some of your hardest hits. You’re welcome to test that theory, if you want. Door’s always open for you.”
That would be perfect, to be honest. He was tired of spending his money on a punching bag every two days.
And if it meant he got to spend some more time with Tony, then that was just an added bonus.
Somehow, he’d ended up living at the tower.
He honestly had no idea how it happened. One minute, he was crashing on one of the many guest beds situated around Tony’s penthouse after a particularly rigorous training exercise with Natasha- the next, his stuff had mysteriously found its way into said 'guest room', and became 'Steve’s room' instead.
The same was said for Clint, and Bruce and Natasha. Even Thor had a room where he stayed in when he wasn’t between Asgard or New Mexico.
(Tony was ridiculously generous)
“Tony- how did all my things end up in your house?” Steve asked, walking into the kitchen where Tony was sat on the corner of the countertop, sipping at his second coffee of the morning and staring, half-asleep, at the tablet in his fingers. It was obvious he hadn’t been to sleep at all, which meant this was the fourth day in a row where Tony had been awake.
(Tony was an insomniac)
He was working on something for Clint, Steve knew that much- but despite his abundance of caffeine and ridiculous sleeping patterns, he could tell that the four days without rest was taking it’s toll. Tony could barely keep his eyes focused.
“um…you sleepwalk?” Tony tried, smiling weakly and rubbing a palm against his eyes whilst stifling a yawn.
Steve pushed down the part of him that was desperate to just bundle Tony up in his arms and kiss every inch of his body because (Sleepy Tony was the fucking cutest Tony ever)
Tony still has a girlfriend. A very lovely, very terrifying girlfriend named Pepper Potts who was not to be fucked with. Do not be an asshole.
“Tony- you need to get some sleep. Look, you’re making Steve antsy.” Bruce said from behind him.
“Bruce. Brucie-bear. Bruuuuce. No. I need to…these designs… some SI shit…other stuff…Pepper’s gonna be mad.” Tony mumbled, but he did nothing to try and fight when Bruce gently pulled the tablet from his grasp and removed the coffee from his grip as well.
“I’m sure Pepper isn’t going to be upset that you’re getting sleep. It’s been four days, by my count. That’s not healthy- even I couldn’t do that. Come on, Tony.” Steve said, stepping forward so he was eye-to-eye with his exhausted friend.
At this angle, with the sun catching his eyes at just the right angle, Steve noticed
(There were flecks of gold in Tony’s eyes)
Steve had to quickly look away to keep himself from staring, but made sure to remember what he’d seen. It would help with his Tony-drawings, which he was slowly but surely getting better at. It had been almost a month now, so it was about damn time.
“Tony, are you ready yet? The jet’s taking off in half an hour, and you agreed that for once we’d manage to go on a holiday that didn’t end up in you arriving to it three hours late fo- oh.” Pepper said, walking through the doors dressed in what could almost be described as casual (but with Pepper, nothing ever looked casual, really), and looking at the three of them with mild surprise.
“Hello Bruce, Steve. I didn’t know… I didn’t know you’d moved in.” Pepper said quietly, and Steve could see the flash of hurt that crossed her features as she drew nearer.
Instantly, Steve felt guilt coil around him. He supposed that Pepper technically lived here too, despite the fact that she was constantly away for work, and so the fact he had pretty much just invited himself into her home was awful, he should’ve known better-
“No, Steve, don’t give me that look, I didn’t mean it like that. You’re welcome in the tower, you know that very well. It’s just…I was just surprised, that’s all.”
The ‘Tony didn’t tell me’ was left unsaid.
She cast a glance around Steve, toward Tony, who was trying to look alert and smiling as he jumped down from the counter, but fumbling the landing and falling face-first into Bruce’s arms.
“Hey, Pep, I’ll be right there, don’t worry. Just give me a minute, sorry, I don’t know where the time went, honestly one minute I was looking at 6am and the next it’s 9:34 and you look mad and I’m sorry, fuc-“
“Tony. It’s okay. I’m just gonna- I’m gonna wait in the car, okay?” Pepper said quietly, and Steve could see that there was something wrong- she looked so sad for a moment, before turning away and walking back out of the doors she came in through.
Obviously, even a sleep-deprived Tony could tell too, because he was running a hand through his hair agitatedly and stumbling toward the door, muttering under his breath about fucking up and being an idiot, and Bruce cast Steve a concerned look before turning back to Tony and hurrying after him, with Steve following behind.
“Hey, Tony…is everything okay? With you and Pepper?” Steve asked quietly at Tony’s side.
He heard Tony growl, a warning for him to stay back, like a dog snapping at a hand that came too near, and he pushed himself upright, turning away from both Steve and Bruce as he picked up the bag that had already been left packed at the foot of the door.
(Tony grabbed the arc reactor when he was feeling defensive)
“It’s none of your fucking business, Rogers. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go to Venice with my beautiful, wonderful girlfriend. Don’t fuck up the house or blow up New York while I’m gone.” Tony said brusquely, before slamming the door behind him and leaving a bewildered Steve and Bruce behind him.
Steve typed in the emergency code for Tony’s workshop, after waiting for the man to surface for fifteen hours and seeing nothing of him.
Tony and Pepper had been gone for five days. When Tony had got back, he had gone straight for the workshop and hadn’t come out since. Steve had no idea what had happened- but he was betting it wasn’t good.
Walking into the workshop, the smell of alcohol hit him like a wall, and it was obvious the place had been trashed. The only things that remained fully intact were DUM-E and the rest of his helper-bots.
As Steve swept the room for his friend, glass crunched under his feet, and he glanced down to see a broken bottle of what looked to be whisky under his feet. The soles of his boots were wet with the alcohol, and it looked like Tony had thrown the bottle at the wall whilst it was still full.
“Tony?” Steve called out gently, as his gaze stopped upon a body that was hunched over the remains of his desk. It was completely still, and Steve’s blood ran cold at the implications- alcohol poisoning, injury, death-
“Wondered how long it would take for you to use the emergency code.” Tony muttered, his voice utterly flat and blank.
Steve’s heart felt like it started beating again, and he sighed a breath of relief as he slowly advanced forward. At lest Tony wasn’t dead, at least Tony was healthy enough to talk. That was good.
He glanced toward the desk where Tony was sat, noticed the positioning of all his stuff, the direction his coffee-mug handle was facing, and realized
(Tony was left-handed)
But that wasn’t important right now. What was important was the fact that, the closer Steve got, the clearer Tony’s face became. The easier it was to see the slightly heaving shoulders, the hand that was covering a mouth letting out choked off sobs, the eyes that remained opened but had tears falling from them, dripping off his cheek and on to the desk below.
(Tony cried silently)
“Oh, Tony,” Steve said, abandoning caution and hurrying the rest of the way to pull Tony into his arms. He didn’t care that he and Tony might not be friendly enough with each other to do this, or that Tony might shout at him and pull away.
Tony was crying. Steve wasn’t going to sit and do nothing.
Under his arms, he felt Tony stiffen underneath him, and hands went up to try and pull away- but then something broke within him, and he slumped into Steve exhaustedly, his head hidden in Steve’s shoulder.
“I ended it. I left. We weren’t…we weren’t happy any more. Too- too much had changed. But…fuck, I thought she was my, I thought she was the one, you know? And now she’s- she’s gone.” Tony choked out, gripping at Steve’s shirt as he desperately tried to hold himself together.
Steve said nothing. Because nothing would help. Tony had lost Pepper, and Steve could promise him that it would get better, that he would be okay one day, but he knew all-too-well that right now, in the immediate aftermath of loss, all the words just sounded like empty promises. It was only later, when the burning pain died down to a dull ache that other people’s assurances would actually sink in.
“I got drunk. I always get drunk.” Tony admitted quietly into Steve’s shirt, and Steve felt him tensing up in his arms, as if expecting retribution for his admission.
“Why?” Steve asked.
Underneath him, Tony’s entire body went still, as if he were completely thrown by the question. Then, there was a tiny shrug.
“Don’t know. It’s just…always been there. Howard was pushing it in my face when I was six; telling me it’d make me a real man, make me strong. Look what happened instead-“ Tony cut himself off to laugh bitterly, and the last grains of respect Steve had been hanging on to about Howard fell away at that moment.
(Tony was a borderline alcoholic. And it was probably Howard’s fault.)
The sad thing was- now Steve thought about it- he couldn't imagine a social event where Tony hadn't had a drink in his hand. Parties and fundraisers and galas; Tony always seemed to be drinking. Everyone else did too, though, so he'd never really questioned it. But Steve had seen the other side too. the late-night binges where Tony could barely stand, and the empty bottles that lay around a room after particularly bad night's sleep.
Steve really should've seen it. He knew well enough what drink could do to a man, his own father being the best example. He never wanted that to happen to Tony.
"Then stop. Don’t let him have that hold over you. You are a hero, Tony. You save the world every two weeks and the city every two days- maybe it’s time to start saving yourself.”
“Because I’m not that strong, Steve.”
“Bullshit. You remember the time in Prague, when I went down, and neither of us was on Avenger-duty, so we didn’t have any weapons or suits? You not only managed to take out the people who had hurt me, but you somehow managed to drag me for half a mile, back to safety. You had two fractured ribs. Don’t tell me you aren’t strong, Tony, because you’re one of the strongest men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.”
“But that wasn’t about me, I was doing that for you!”
“Then do this for me too.” Steve said, his voice even and calm despite the rising panic in Tony’s own.
There was a silence that hung in the air whilst Steve thought, and he didn't really expect an answer after the second minute of quiet. But then there was a tiny, cracked little
and that was it. No other words were spoken for the rest of the night- Steve simply held on to Tony as the man grieved and hoped it would be enough.
The next morning, Steve saw Tony emptying all his alcohol into the sink in the kitchen. Wordlessly, Tony handed Steve a bottle of incredibly expensive scotch, and together, they watched the contents spill down the drain.
“Draw me,” Tony said suddenly, startling Steve from the book he had been reading and causing him to give his friend a quizzical look.
They were both sat in companionable silence in the ‘den’ as Tony and Nat called it. Everyone else called it a living room. Steve had been peacefully reading his book (he was so fucking glad he had woken up in the same era as Harry Potter) whilst Tony fussed over his tablet, but now Tony had jumped from his place on the floor to draped all over Steve like an overly clingy cat.
“You draw everyone else. I see them all in your book, and they all look great. But you never draw me.” Tony complained, pouting slightly into Steve’s arm where his face was smushed.
(Tony was a nosy bastard)
“You’re a nosy bastard”
“Would you like a medal for your excellent observation?”
“Well I’m definitely not drawing you now, you’ve hurt my feelings.”
“I’m sorry, Steve, you are the pinnacle of intelligence and wit, I am honored to breathe the same air as your royal lungs- now can I please have a drawing?”
Steve wanted to say that he already had about thirty thousand drawings of Tony in a different sketchbook hidden safely under his bed- but that would lead to all sorts of questions that Steve was definitely not ready to answer. Because the truth was, after the fifth time at drawing Tony- it had finally turned out perfect. The eyes had held just the right amount of light in them, and his smile had the perfect depth. He’d even got the glow of the arc reactor down to a T, which Steve was very proud of.
But even though he had managed to perfect it, Steve didn’t stop.
The drawings kept coming, and the Tony-List that was hidden safely in his notebook was still getting longer.
It wasn’t even conscious, a lot of the time. Steve would start out drawing something he had seen on the street or in the park- and would end up with Tony’s hands or Tony’s eyes or the glow in his chest.
The hard truth was that Steve was simply captivated by him. His presence lit up a room the moment he walked in, and you could feel his presence from a mile away. Tony never stopped- he could hold two different conversations whilst fixing up the suit and his mind worked faster than anyone else Steve had ever known, including his father.
Tony was amazing. And Steve had somehow managed to fall in love without realizing until it was far, far too late.
“If you think you can sit still for half an hour, yeah. In fact, if you can sit still for half an hour, I will make you look like the most attractive drawing ever.” Steve said, shrugging and trying not to blush when Tony squealed like an excited child and wound his arms around Steve’s waist to hug him.
(Tony had no concept of personal space)
(His hair smelt like apples mixed with metal, which really shouldn’t smell as nice as Steve though it did)
(The Arc reactor made a noise- but it was so quiet even Steve’s enhanced hearing could only just pick it up when Tony was this close to him)
“Obviously, whatever I do I’m going to come out of this looking like the best drawing ever.”
“Jesus, just go sit over there and let me get started then before your ego explodes out through your head,”
“Great! You know, you’re my favorite Steve.”
“Of course I am. In the same way Thor was your favorite when he showed you that fancy piece of Asgardian tech a few days ago, or when Nat was your favorite after she threatened castration on Justin Hammer.” Steve said dryly, but unable to hide his smile as Tony shook his head vigorously.
“No no Steve, I just say that to keep them happy. You are my favorite-est. No word of lie.”
“Favorite-est is not a word, Tony.”
“yes it is.”
“No it’s- look, I’m not going to get into a debate with you about whether a word you made up is valid or not, just watch TV or something while I draw your stupid face and be quiet.” Steve said, pushing tony away so he could flip on to a blank page and begin drawing.
Of course, you tell Tony to act natural and the first thing he does is strike the most ostentatious pose he can think of.
“Paint me like one of your French girls, Steve,” Tony whispered, his voice husky and his eyebrows wiggling flirtatiously as he sprawled all over the couch.
Steve blushed again, trying to brush it off with a roll of his eyes and ignore the way his skin tingled at the sound of Tony’s voice.
“Sit like a normal person, Tony. This is not Titanic.”
“You’re no fun.”
“And yet somehow, I'm still your favorite-est.”
“Yeah. You are.” Tony said, and this time there was an underlying note of honesty in his voice, and Steve looked up to see Tony smiling softly up at him, before turning back to the TV and telling JARVIS to put something on that he liked whilst Steve got on with his sketch.
Half an hour, Steve had just about finished, and he had found out that
(Tony could not. Sit. Still)
He had managed to remain motionless for all of thirty-seven seconds, before beginning to tap a staccato rhythm against his thigh. He was also shuffling about every few minutes, to crack his back or roll his neck or just move his arm about, it seemed he was incapable of remaining stationary.
Brushing the pencil across the page and finishing the last touches, he nudged Tony with his foot and threw the book through the air, where Tony deftly caught it between his hands and looked down expectantly.
Steve waited, shuffling awkwardly whilst Tony stared at his work. He thought he had done a good job, but tony hadn’t said anything for quite a while and there was obviously a chance he didn’t-
“This is mine forever.” Tony said suddenly, lifting it up and cradling it against his chest protectively, a look on his face that Steve couldn’t quite put his finger on. It was something like- shock?
“And by the way, I feel kinda cheated. You said you were gonna make me look good, but you drew… you drew the reactor.” Tony said, his voice going for joking and cheery but ending up just sounding flat. His thumb was tracing over the soft glow Steve had captured on the paper.
Steve stopped, confused. Of course he’d drawn it, it was a part of Tony. In fact, he loved drawing the reactor. It was fascinating, with it’s soft blue glow; a halo around Tony’s chest that was a daily reminder of everything he had managed to overcome in his past.
Steve loved it.
But then he caught the tiny grimace that flashed over Tony’s face as he glanced down at the real thing in his chest, and it clicked as Steve realized
(Tony hated the Arc Reactor)
(Tony was an idiot. It was beautiful)
“Of course I drew the reactor, Tony. It’s… it’s brilliant.” Steve spluttered, wondering what to say. He could tell him that the reactor was one of his favorite things about Tony- that the very idea of Tony managing to create something of that complexity whilst in a cave in the middle of nowhere just blew him away.
“Oh come on, Steve, it’s… I see the way people look at it. Saw the way Pepper looked at it. You don’t have to pretend.” Tony said, again going for light and airy, but only ending up with something that Steve knew was false.
“What can I say? I’m an artist. I see things in a different light. And I don’t know what Pepper or anyone else was looking at- but all I’m seeing is a…work of art.” Steve said, feeling the heat on his cheeks as he turned to fiddle with the pencil in his hands.
Tony froze for a few seconds, before chuckling a little. But it wasn’t the good kind of chuckle. It was filled with more sadness than any laughter ever should be.
“It’s a reminder of the weapons I used to make, Steve. Of the pain they caused so many people. I would hardly call the product of my own mass-destruction a work of art. This,” Tony said, tapping his middle on the glass in his chest and apparently getting angrier with every word, “this is my karmic retribution. And I’m fucking lucky I got off this lightly, with a hole in my chest and scars that made my own fucking girlfriend wince when she saw me. With the amount of death and destruction I’m responsible for, the lies and the cruelty and selfishness that I’ve shown for most of my ridiculous life, I should be dead a hundred times over. I’d deserve it.”
(Tony hated himself)
There was silence, and then Tony ran an agitated hand through the strands of his hair, standing up quickly and plastering a fake smile over his face and stepping right out of Steve’s space before he could say anything.
“Sorry, Steve. Getting way too deep there, but thank you for the drawing. It’s great, even if it does show the… less appealing parts of me.” Tony said, hurriedly walking away and into the direction of his workshop.
“Tony, say what you want about it- I still think it’s brilliant. To you, maybe it is a reminder of who you were. But for me, all I can see is the inspiration that led you to become the man you are now. The hero. Just- remember that. Please.” Steve said, hearing Tony’s speedy footsteps pause to listen to his words.
There was silence, an intake of breath, and then Tony was gone.
But when Steve went down to the workshop a few days later, his sketch was pinned up on the wall- and Steve’s grin was powerful enough to keep the tower running for a month, because (Tony actually cared about Steve's work.)
Not that Tony seemed to notice his constant state of happiness that day, because for some reason
(Tony had no idea quite how much Steve loved him)
It was eight am, and Steve of course, was already up and awake, having gone on a run and taken a shower, all before the sun had risen.
Outside, it was a crisp and chilly November, and the sun was just beginning to peek through the low-hanging clouds. No one else was awake, so Steve was left to appreciate the sunrise in New York alone.
That was, until their resident genius stumbled in, half asleep and shivering in his boxers and a thin tank top.
Steve rarely saw Tony without caffeine in his system. It seemed there was a cup of the stuff permanently attached to his hand, keeping his mind alert and buzzing constantly, bordering on manic once Tony was deprived of enough sleep.
But Steve could tell instantly, that this was morning-Tony. And morning-Tony was like a rare animal; everyone was constantly looking out for it, but barely ever actually saw it.
“Good morning, Tony.” Steve said, unable to stop the grin curling around his lips.
(Tony somehow always ended up bringing out a smile in him.)
Tony groaned, and shut his eyes, swaying slightly on his feet before moving toward the countertops and crawling on top of it sluggishly, crossing his legs and leaning his head against the cupboard as he shut his eyes.
(it didn’t matter if there were free chairs- if they were in the kitchen, Tony would always sit in his spot on the corner of the countertops, with his legs crossed and his head leant against the cupboard. Without fail.)
“Coffee.” Was all Tony said, and Steve rolled his eyes, but began preparing it all the same. He was an absolute sucker for morning-Tony. Although, in all fairness it wasn’t just Steve who fell under his spell. He had even seen Natasha let Tony fall back to sleep on her shoulder once before. And that was saying something, considering she had been sharpening her knife collection at the time.
He was just so cute, okay? Steve looked over his messy hair, falling over his eyes and sticking up at odd angles all over the place, or the bottom lip that was always stuck out in a pout. There was a crease in his face from where he had been leaning on the pillow, and his eyes were watching Steve lazily as he prepared Tony’s coffee exactly the way he liked it.
(Black, with three sugars. It tasted like bitter dirt, but Tony seemed to enjoy his coffee like that)
If Clint were here, the word ‘whipped’ would have been used. Frequently. And Steve wouldn’t even have been able to disagree with him.
As Steve shuffled about finding the special Iron Man mug Tony always drank his coffee from, he noticed Tony was shivering- dressed in only a loose fitting tank top and his underwear was bound to be chilly in November. Of course, Tony hadn’t thought about that as he had traipsed downstairs, and was now paying the price for it.
Rolling his eyes again, Steve shucked off his own jumper and wandered over to Tony, slotting himself between the man’s crossed legs as he wrapped his over-sized hoodie around Tony’s shoulders, trying to persuade him to put his arms through so Steve could zip him up.
Instead, Tony groaned and slumped into Steve’s chest, and Steve had to stifle a sigh of contentment as he begrudgingly held Tony’s arms aloft and pulled them through the sleeves.
It didn’t mean anything. Tony was a very touchy-feely person. Steve needed to tell his heartbeat to pipe the fuck down before it gave something away. But the thoughts still lingered, despite his best efforts.
If only he could have this every morning. If only he could have Tony.
Once his arms had successfully been pulled through, Steve gently pushed Tony back from his chest, despite the soft noise of displeasure that came from Tony’s mouth as he did so, and began to zip the jumper together, stepping back to admire his work as he did so.
(Tony became about 30x cuter in Steve’s clothes.)
Tony wasn’t exactly little, but Steve was kind of a giant- and so anything of his that Tony was wearing was going to be too big on him.
The sleeves spilled over Tony’s hands, and the wideness of Steve’s shoulders and arms meant that they were far too big for Tony’s. The entire thing hung loosely around him, and fell right down past his waist. He was completely shrouded in the cotton, and dear God, Steve really needed to say something, or at least stopfucking staring-
He should have stepped away, really. Out of Tony’s space, back into safer territory where he wouldn’t be tempted to press kisses along Tony’s jaw and on his temples and any available section of skin his could get his mouth on.
But Tony pulled him in again, and returned his head back to where it had been using Steve’s chest as a pillow- and all Steve’s resolve crumbled away instantly, replaced with a beautiful sense of satisfaction at Tony’s attention.
“ ‘s too early. You’ve got makeshift-pillow duty” Tony mumbled into Steve’s body, and he felt the genius sigh as Steve brought his hands up and curled them around Tony’s body, rocking him back and forth gently.
“I don’t appreciate all this ordering about, you know. I’m an important member of the community who has better things do than be your personal pillow. I’m not your slave,” Steve teased lightly, letting his chin rest on Tony’s soft hair and trying to pretend that he didn’t want this- that he didn’t want Tony. Because Tony was his friend. His almost-certainly-straight friend, who probably burst out laughing at the idea of ‘them’ being a thing.
“Not callin’ you a slave. You’re Steve. You’re my person.” Tony said, absent-mindedly tapping another rhythm on his knee.
“I’m your person?”
“What- what does that even mean, Tony?” Steve asked in amusement.
(God, he loved morning-Tony.)
“Well, Rhodey is my person. And Pep is. Or was. Working on that. And you, which I didn’t really expect. Never had this many before. S’weird,” Tony muttered, his arms coming in to tuck against Steve’s stomach as he mumbled quietly to himself.
“So, you mean like a best friend?” Steve asked,
“No. Clint is a best friend. And Nat, and Bruce and Thor. You’re my person.” Tony explained, waving his hands around as if that would somehow clear things up. It probably did, in Tony’s head.
“So… family?” Steve tried, but Tony shook his head underneath him.
“No, you’re just… my person. I don’t know what it means- what is this, a SHIELD interrogation?” Tony murmured huffily, picking at the seams of Steve’s jumper.
“Okay. I’m your person, then.” Steve said, and Tony looked up at him and gave him such a warm smile that Steve almost gave up entirely; desperate to just let temptation get the better of him so he could finally kiss that gorgeous smile, bite at that pout, run his hands through those messy strands of hair that fell over those warm-chocolate eyes.
Stumbling back and breaking away suddenly, Steve turned toward the coffee, refusing to look at Tony’s confused face- because the man’s mind worked at a thousand miles a minute and so Confused-Tony was quite possibly even more endearing than morning-Tony.
However, even as he gave Tony his cup of coffee and watched as the energy slowly seeped back in, as his friend turned back to the normal caffeinated person he knew- his mind still wandered back to the words spoken earlier, and Steve couldn’t stop the happy smile at the thought that
(He, Steve Rogers, had managed to become one of Tony’s ‘people’)
“You still wont talk, Captain Rogers?” The man said, smiling dangerously as he leaned back on his chair.
Steve had been woken up half an hour ago by a punch to the face, and since then, discovered that somehow HYDRA had managed to grab him somewhere between The Tower and the Café he’d gone out to meet Tony at. Everything from the last hour was a hazy, drug-induced blur- but at least now he was conscious.
Conscious and pissed off, too.
He stared blankly at the man in front of him, wondering when the hell they were going to get the message that Steve was not going to open his mouth. Period. They could put him through a meat-grinder before he uttered a word to the Nazi fuckers.
“Okay. Fine. I shall have to resort to desperate measures. Bring it in,” The man said, gesturing to the guards behind him, who turned and marched off at the signal. Steve heard shouts from behind the door, and he sat there looking as bored as he could, waiting for their inevitable ‘death machine’ or whatever the fuck they had that they thought would somehow break Steve.
Then he watched as they brought in Tony, dragged in by his hair and tossed on the ground, spitting blood out of his mouth and barely able to sit up.
He quickly re-evaluated his situation, yanking at the bonds as hard as he could and jolting away from his chair in a desperate attempt to reach Tony, snarling as he was pulled back by the ridiculously strong cuffs.
“And here we have it. The ace of my sleeve, Captain.” His captor smiled again as he watched Steve strain against the chair.
“Up. The ace up your- your sleeve…if you’re gonna say it, you might as well…say it correctly, moron.” Tony wheezed from the floor, struggling up to his hands and wiping at the blood falling into his eyes. He was absolutely battered, and yet still managed to look condescendingly upward at their kidnapper. It was quite an art.
Wordlessly, the man turned around and kicked downward at Tony’s stomach, eliciting another outraged growl from Steve and a groan from Tony.
“Listen to me, whatever the fuck your name is, I’ll-“
“Bauer. My name is Bauer.”
“Okay, Bauer- here’s the deal. The more you hurt him, the more I hurt you later. And there will be a later, I can assure you, because my team, The Avengers, you heard of them? Yeah, well they’re on their way right now. So I strongly suggest you stay the fuck away from him, do you understand?” Steve explained calmly, despite the intense urge he was getting to rip every single person who put a bruise on Tony’s body apart, slowly, painfully.
The man- Bauer, simply laughed, bending down to Tony’s level and yanking him up by his hair again.
(Steve was going to kill him twice. He would kill him and then use Cho’s Cradle to bring him back to life so he could rip him apart all over again.)
“He’s a handsome one, isn’t he Captain? I can see why you like him. Got a bit of a mouth on him, though.” He paused, and then caught Tony on the jaw with a left hook that would’ve made Steve wince.
There was no need. He was just doing it for the fun. The amusement of watching someone curl up around themselves and hold their eyes shut to try and bite back a scream of pain.
God, Steve was so angry right now. Whoever had hurt Tony was going to pay for it- Bauer first. He was going to make sure of that.
“Excuse me, I shall be back shortly. I just need some…supplies. I have quite a good little plan for you, Mr. Stark.” Bauer mused, releasing his hold and letting Tony fall back to the floor with a crack, before standing up and leaving the room with his coat trailing behind him dramatically.
Instantly, Steve was straining against the metal again, desperate to try and get to Tony, who was already half-dead on the floor in front of him. He was panicking; he could feel it as his hands shook under the ties and his breath hitched unevenly.
“Tony, fuck, try not to move, you’re really hurt. Holy… fuck, I’m gonna kill them- Tony, no, that is the exact opposite of what I just told you to do-“
“Shut up, Spangles, I’m concentrating.” Tony muttered, as he began crawling along the floor and toward Steve.
“On what, not dying before you reach me?”
“Yeah…pretty much,” Tony said, and he smiled a little, then winced as if it caused him pain (it probably did).
As he moved, he left a trail of smeared blood on the floor. Steve shuddered- images of Bucky on the experimenting table in HYDRA flashing before his eyes, melding into Tony’s form as he dragged himself across the floor using every last scrap of energy he had.
(Tony was ridiculously strong, And not just in physical strength. He was the type of person who would fight to death, even if they had nothing left to give.)
After ten painfully long seconds, Tony pretty much fell into Steve’s knees, closing his eyes and breathing heavily, the action of simply moving taking all the energy out of him. Steve took this opportunity to look Tony over and evaluate his injuries.
He’d been stabbed. In the side. And his ankle looked broken. His face was pretty much just one purple bruise, and there were cuts pretty much everywhere, some of the ones on his head bleeding heavily. Steve didn’t even want to know what horrors he would find underneath Tony’s clothes, where Steve couldn’t see.
“Think you can get these bonds undone?” Steve asked, wishing that his hands were free so he could just give Tony some form of contact- so he could clutch him against his chest and not let go, or maybe just run a hand through Tony’s hair and tell him it was going to be alright.
Even if it was a lie.
Tony was resting his head against Steve’s thigh, a weak hand gripping at the material around Steve’s waist. It was clear to see that he was at breaking point, and the amount of blood loss was terrifying- it was pooling around Steve’s feet already.
“I can give it a shot.” Tony said, his voice hoarse and broken, but determined as his shaking hands pulled themselves on to the table where Steve’s hands were tied down to and began fiddling with the re-enforced…whatever it was they were using to hold Steve down.
It was useless. Even if Tony had been at full capacity, the ties appeared to have been melded together, and they weren’t coming apart any time soon.
Gently using the little dexterity he still had in his fingers, he curled them around Tony’s hand, stopping their useless pawing.
“There’s no use, Tony. Listen, the others are coming soon, I could’ve sworn I pressed the emergency card before they managed to subdue me- we’re gonna be okay. You’re gonna be okay. Just…please, Tony, just hold on.” Steve begged, his own voice breaking at the end.
Tony looked up at him, black eyes and bloody mouth, his hair crusty with his own blood, and he nodded his head, before resting it back on Steve’s leg.
(Tony was beautiful. Like, really fucking beautiful. Possibly the prettiest person Steve had ever set eyes on. And he’d met Peggy Carter.)
This was so unfair. Steve was sat here, barely bruised, whilst Tony lay at his feet, half-dead from stab-wounds and broken bones.
That should be Steve. Steve was the supersoldier. Steve wouldn’t die from those injuries.
But Tony... Tony was only human. His skin didn’t heal from cuts like Steve’s did. He bled, he broke.
The door was opened with a loud slam, and he heard Tony sigh underneath him. Again, Steve struggled helplessly against the chains, wishing that he could revert back to his pre-serum self, just for a second, so that his skinny wrist would fit through the gaps.
“Okay, now the fun can begin!” Bauer said, clapping his hands excitedly as the two guards flanking him advanced forward- and Steve hoped to god they were taking him, please, him, just leave Tony alone-
Of course, no such luck.
Each guard grabbed an arm, and together they hauled Tony upwards and out of Steve’s reach, despite Steve doing his very best to hold on to the fingers his hand was gripping.
He was pretty sure a rib broke from him struggling to get himself free- but if it did, he didn’t notice.
“You see, Captain, one thing I have always found curious is that sometimes, emotional pain can be far, far worse than physical pain. People don’t seem to understand that, in order to make someone talk- you don’t necessarily have to hurt them- just the person they love.” Bauer explained, walking to the side of the room and pressing on a button at the side of the wall that caused the whole right side of the room to open up, revealing the water that surrounded them.
They were on a boat, right in the middle of a river- the Hudson, maybe. Steve couldn’t see very well from his place, but he could feel the cold wind hit him, and could imagine the temperatures of the water below.
His blood turned icy too, when he realized what those HYDRA bastards were about to do.
"No. Don't you fucking dare, I swear I will end every last one of you if y-"
“So, here is the deal. Tell me the your SHIELD security code. That is al I need. Tell me this, and I will let Mr. Stark go. If you do not- well, we all know how much he enjoys swimming, do we not?” Bauer leered, as the guards shackled Tony’s hands and feet together.
Of course he did. Steve knew all-too-well of Tony’s fear of water. Tony had never said it explicitly, but he could hear him sometimes, seeing as their bedrooms were opposite each other. He could hear the blood-curdling screams that were ripped from Tony’s throat, the choking sounds that reminded Steve of a person drowning. The shouted screams, begging ‘them’ to stop, to let him go, to let him breathe.
“Tell us the code, Captain. Or say goodbye.” Bauer said, his eyes hardening as he grabbed Tony with a hand to his throat and dragged him to the edge.
“NO, WAIT!” Steve screamed in terror, holding back a choked off sob as he watched Tony widen his eyes and shake his head at Steve- despite the fact he was too hurt to even say the words out loud.
Don’t do it, Tony mouthed pleadingly, as his toes scuffled uselessly for grip on the floor.
Steve kept his eyes locked on Tony, and opened his mouth.
People always assumed he was the hero. The man who would do the right thing, when it needed to be done. Who could put his personal issues aside and focus on the mission at hand.
But sometimes, a bit too much Steve Rogers showed through. Sometimes, Steve was just human.
(Tony, however, he was never just human. He was a hero all hours of the day, in the suit and out.)
Maybe that was why, using the very last morsels of strength left in his arms, Tony wound his shackles around Bauer’s neck and pulled- tipping them both off the edge before Steve could give anything away.
“TONY!” Steve screamed, struggling against his bonds in a wild panic as he watched the man he loved silently tumble off the edge of the boat and into the icy waters below, with Bauer screaming in terror beside him.
Steve kept screaming, tears dripping down his cheeks as he kicked over the table and broke another finger trying to get himself free. The guards were in a panic- that much he could tell. They were shouting and yelling, gunshots were firing from outside the room- but Steve didn’t care, he didn’t care because Tony was in the water by now, and he was drowning again, just like he had in Afghanistan, and he was going to die like that, reliving his worst nightmare unless Steve could just get himself free-
“Steve! Listen, it’s me, Black Widow. You need to sit still and let me get these damn things off you, if you want to go anywhere.” Came a distant, familiar voice to his left.
His head snapped up violently, vision blurred by the tears- but yes- that was a definite head of red hair, curled at the ends just as Natasha’s was.
“Tony- get…Tony’s in the water.” Steve gasped, feeling the heat on his wrists as Natasha pulled a blowtorch out of nowhere and began burning into the shackles.
“Thor’s on it.” She replied curtly, but Steve could hear the distressed edge to her voice as she said it, and Steve knew that inwardly, she was panicking. She and Tony were surprisingly close, and it seemed she held a soft spot for the energetic genius.
“I don’t…Nat, he was so… I don’t know if he’s- oh, God, Natasha I can’t lose him, I jus-“
“Steve, you’re panicking. Don’t. Thor’s diving after him as we speak, and we’ve got a Quinjet due any minute. He’s going to be okay.” Natasha said, speaking more to herself than she was to Steve, looking directly at him as the bonds finally snapped and his hands flew free.
Clint was firing arrows at the threshold of the room, his face set in a grim line as he took out guard after guard with brutal accuracy. Unfortunately, Bruce was away in Oklahoma for some sort of science conference, but they were just as lethal without the Big Green Giant.
Steve tore out of his seat, rushing toward the gap in the room and looking out into the murky water below. He couldn’t see any sign of movement in the waters, and he was getting ready to jump in the water and go grab Tony himself- but Natasha grabbed his arms and used his own body weight to flip him around so she was stood between him and the river.
“Stop it, Steve. Thor’s got a better chance of getting him out, and we’re all gonna be too occupied saving Tony to haul you out too. Just stay here; be there when we get him out.” Natasha ordered, and sure enough, just as Natasha uttered the words, Thor burst through the surface of the water, clutching Mjolnir in one hand and Tony’s unresponsive body in the other.
Steve felt his knees try and give out on him, but he gripped at Natasha and steadied himself before he could fall.
He wasn’t going to break, not when Tony still needed him.
Thor flew into the room just as Clint finished his work at the door, and then the whole group was there, in the room, surrounding Tony’s broken body.
Blood mixed with water, tingeing it pink as it gathered under his frame. Pulling off Tony’s soaking clothes, Steve wrapped his thick leather jacket around him instead, to try and raise his temperature just a little bit.
Clint was working on the stab-wound, pulling out bandages from his first-aid kit and wrapping the injury in gauze. Natasha had to tear herself away and deal with the last line of defense that had come barreling down the corridor, and Thor was simply cradling Tony’s head between his legs, running hands through the sopping wet hair.
Steve bent down. His cheek ghosting just above Tony’s mouth, checking for something he knew wasn’t there.
Tony wasn’t breathing. And until he began again on his own, Steve was just going to have to do it for him.
“Come on, Tony, you are not dying on me. Not today. Not ever, you fucking asshole.” Steve muttered, before bringing his mouth down on Tony’s and pushing oxygen through.
(Tony tasted like metal. And something fruity. Maybe strawberry.)
Not the time for your fucking list- Steve thought to himself as he pulled away and sucked in another breath and transferred it through Tony’s mouth again.
“Come ON, TONY! DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE DO THIS TO ME, JESUS CHRIST!” Steve screamed, crashing his mouth into Tony’s for the fuck-teenth time, holding his nose as he pushed air into Tony’s useless lungs.
A soft hand lay down on his shoulder, gently tugging him back away- but Steve couldn’t let him go, he couldn’t give up, not on Tony.
Tony, who hissed at sunlight in the morning and always ended up falling asleep on one of the team’s shoulders during movie night.
Who lived off coffee and breathed out sarcasm and was loyal to a fault.
With freckles on his arms and hair that was slightly curled at the ends, who laughed with his nose all scrunched up and talked with his hands.
Tony- who Steve loved, unconditionally.
He was sobbing now, deep shuddering gasps for air with his face pressed into Tony’s neck as tears fell down his face.
This couldn’t be happening. He had lost everyone. Bucky, Peggy, the Commandos.
Not Tony too.
Something moved under his face- a deep convulsion of muscles seizing up, and Steve’s head jerked upward as Tony rolled to the side and choked up half a pint of filthy river-water on to the floor and breathed for the first time in minutes.
Steve rolled Tony’s body sideways, letting the water from his lungs trickle out through his mouth whilst rubbing comforting circles into Tony’s shoulder and trying to hold back a fresh wave of tears, happiness and relief washing over him so strongly he couldn’t even hold it in.
“Jesus, Tony, I fucking hate you so much, you absolute asshole” Steve choked out, unable to resist laughing as he saw Tony crack a tiny smile upward, recognizing Steve’s voice despite his state of semi-consciousness.
“Captain- we’ve gotta get a move on. He’s breathing for now, but his injuries are still bad, and we have to move him to the Quinjet as fast as possible,” Clint said, stringing his bow up behind his back and swapping places with Natasha as he stooped low to curl an arm around Tony’s shoulder, waiting for Steve to catch on and do the same.
There was a hiss of pain and a low groan as they did their best to gently haul Tony up, his weak body unable to even stand without aid from one of them.
“Did someone- someone just call me an…asshole?” Tony rasped, blinking through the wet strands of his hair as they fell over his eyes.
“Yeah. They did. You’re an asshole,” Steve said, grinning madly as he brushed the hair out of Tony’s face and pressed a kiss to his cut temple before he could stop himself.
But Tony simply looked oddly pleased, before passing out completely on to Steve’s shoulder with a soft release of air that sounded suspiciously like a contented sigh