Nervous, anxious, scared but mostly lonely. Blue eyes shifting up to stare into curious brown, his fingers fidgeting indignantly and his mouth fell open repeatedly in an effort to speak. The only thing he could hear was his own thundering heart, the wave of emotions washing over him were close to too much and he wanted to run.
But he wouldn’t. It was now or never, Tony was fed up and leaving and if he didn’t say anything, Tony wouldn’t be there anymore.
The words caught in his throat and for a moment he swore he’d pass out. That was when he realized he was holding his breath and had been for a little too long. His legs shook and in a few seconds he found himself slumped on the ground, his face pressed against the warmth of a chest, the hard edge of the arc reactor on his cheek. He closed his eyes and waited there, letting his head spin and calm itself as he gently took in the scent of the man he’d come to know better than anyone. The worried hands shaking him didn’t get him to look up, the muffled voice he heard sounded panicked and scared but he didn’t want to move, if he moved the moment would be over and Tony would leave.
“Steve!” Tony tilted his head up and smacked his cheek, it hurt a little but his eyes wouldn’t open, his head was too dizzy and his chest was starting to ache. Though he doubted it had ever stopped. “What the hell!” Tony’s voice continually knocked at his consciousness and finally he looked up, opening his eyes and letting a ticklish stream loose to run freely down his cheeks. The look on Tony’s face was a strange wash of fear mixing with relief and worry all at once. A smile on those strained lips was a welcome sight, a rough workman’s hand cupping his cheek and a thumb to wipe the tears away.
“I can’t lose you, Tony.” He heard himself saying, wondering where the words had come from. “I need you, please stay? I’m so sorry.” He choked back a sob, shaking hand floundering for Tony’s until fingers locked and he felt the tense muscles in his arm relaxing.
“You held your breath until you almost passed out,” Tony pointedly ignored his captain’s words, astonishment and laughter in his tone. “You couldn’t just say it?”
“I love you.”
Tony’s facade cracked and the shock held him in place, big brown eyes shifting focus between two firm blue ones, looking for some kind of hint that he might have misheard it. “Steve...”
“I love you, Tony.” He insisted and the shaking stopped, he knew what he wanted and he would take what he wanted. His hand gripped the back of Tony’s head and pulled him down, their noses brushing and eyes closing, lips pressing to the others and they seemed to melt together. Heat of two bodies crushed together, moving together, coming apart together. Foreheads touching, mouths gasping for breath and eyes sliding open to see their lover’s. Hearts connected and they knew it was forever.
Steve eyed him carefully, could tell Tony had no idea what his mind was saying. Every fibre in him urged him forward but the fear held him back again. In the last year they’d been dating he hadn’t felt the nervous tensing of his limbs or drying of his mouth. Not once. But now when it was important he could feel them again, the cold tingling of anxiety and he wanted it to stop. If he just let the date go on like normal he had nothing to worry about and the fear would trickle away.
But he couldn’t do that.
A long and slow breath escaped him, this time he made sure to do so. He could see the way his partner watched him, wondering what was up with him, what he was thinking, what he was doing and why he was thinking or doing any of it. Steve offered a reassuring smile, hoping the fact he’d said less and less as the evening went on had gone unnoticed.
Of course, when was he ever that fortunate?
“If you’ve got something to say, Steve, just say it.” Tony’s tone was curt and to the point, anger smouldering on his tongue.
“Tony,” he started though he didn’t know how to approach it. They’d been dating for quite a while and things weren’t the same now as they had been, things were different. Something had changed in them both, he could feel it. He stood and walked around the table, looking down determinedly at the slightly tense playboy who eyed him suspiciously. “You can’t be my boyfriend anymore.” The words were hard to say but he managed them, watching the way Tony’s face went pale and swore he almost heard a heart break. Steve knelt down in front of him and lifted a small box from his pocket, opening it to reveal a modest little ring. “I’d like you to be my husband.”
Arms were around his neck then; wet warmth buried against his shoulder and neck as the body against him shook and sobbed. Steve wrapped strong arms around Tony and ran a hand through his hair and down his back slowly, repeatedly. He waited quietly for the response, knowing now what it would be, hushing the man clinging desperately to him. Tony needed him just as much as he needed Tony, a scared and lonely man needing the other in equivalence, it was comforting to know.
“Of course I will.” Tony breathed softly, lifting his head to kiss the man gently cradling him.
“Thank you,” Steve sighed with relief and returned the gesture, both ignoring the clapping of the restaurant around them because from their vantage point, they were the only ones in the universe.
He was cut off again as Tony decidedly ignored his pleas and whining. Steve looked across the room and felt the anxiety rising again slowly. It was something he’d been working on but had made little progress with.
“You have to, come on.” Tony took his hand firmly and started walking him across the dance floor, all eyes on them, cheering and clapping ringing in their ears.
Their first dance as a married couple, Steve felt his knees weakening as he followed the excited steps of his new husband. “Tony...” He whispered and glanced around nervously, “I can’t dance, you know that.”
“Well you’ll have to learn. Come on, the DJ’s playing something slow, it’ll be fine.” Tony took his hands and adjusted him carefully, “Follow my lead.”
Steve nodded and exhaled slowly, paying attention first to the subtle steps, where his feet should go to not step on Tony’s. Then his attention was on the gentle sway of their bodies, of Tony’s body. After a few moments he’d forgotten he was moving at all, eyes stuck on watching the beautiful smile and sparkling brown orbs gazing back at him. A smile of his own pulling at his lips, vision solely focused on the lover in his arms, mind thinking of nothing else. He kissed Tony gently, their mouths moving as casually as their bodies.
This is where he wanted to be, dancing and floating with Tony, a soft melody playing around them. He could only focus on the way Tony’s face lit up and seemed to brighten the room, like a dream, it was just them dancing on air.
A hot cloth in his hand wringing it free of excess water before folding it and placing it on Tony’s forehead, the genius writhing silently in discomfort and moaning soft apologies. Steve smiled and gently shushed the words before they could form and insisted on rest. It was a rotten cold with fever and an aching body, it was no one’s fault and Tony never would have picked their first anniversary for it to happen.
The bundle of Tony was sleeping soon enough, medicine and other things knocking him out fairly quickly. Steve leaned forward and kissed his cheek with a smile, petting the soft brown hair on the top of his head with a loving stroke. He leaned back in the chair next to his husband’s bed and raised the book he’d been reading. It wasn’t more than an hour later that Tony woke with a coughing fit and soft cry from a nightmare. Strong arms were around him moments later and holding him down tightly, easing the pain and discomfort as much as he could.
“Steve?” Tony whimpered softly, delusional and very out of it, frantic eyes darting up to the smiling face peering down at him. Instead of saying anything further Tony buried his face against Steve’s chest and clung tightly to him.
“I’ve got you, Tony. You’re okay.” Steve whispered and kissed the top of his lover’s head, moments later Tony was asleep again. He didn’t move, didn’t dare try and shift to a more comfortable position, he remained that way to make sure his baby could sleep comfortably.
Tony didn’t wake again until later the next morning.
“Tony, it isn’t like that at all, you’re over reacting.” He tried to say calmly though the cold shoulder he was getting was starting to really hurt. Tony didn’t answer him and he could feel his arms tensing as he forced his husband around to look him in the face, “It’s all in your head, Tony. I haven’t ever thought those things, you know me.” The genius tried to pull away though Steve wouldn’t let him move, “Hey, you know me, come on.”
Brown eyes glanced up at him and the tears glistening at their edges betrayed the anger he was trying to portray. “You...” The way Tony’s voice cracked put a lump in Steve’s throat and an ache in his chest; he hated seeing him this way. “You have to have noticed, Steve.”
There was a silence that followed that said more than Steve possibly could. Of course he’d noticed. The years had gone by and though nothing at all had changed with the soldier, it had with Tony. He was older.
“That doesn’t matter to me.” He said firmly and held Tony just a little bit tighter. “I will never run away from you, I vowed to be yours forever, Tony.” He whispered and nuzzled his cheek against the unshaven stubble of his partner, “I will always be yours.”
Tony relaxed and slumped in Steve’s arms, “You promise?”
Slow steps up the stairs, hand in hand they walked. Steve smiled at the paling face he’d gotten used to, the once dark brown hair tinged in grey and white. They shared stories as they made it to their bedroom, the times they fought together on missions before Tony could no longer handle the stress and weight of the Iron Man suit. The strength of their team and the good times they’d had. Steve reminded Tony of the days that nothing happened at all, they would sit together and watch a movie, how Tony had fallen asleep on his lap because he’d stayed up several days in a row.
Tony laughed and added the little tidbit that Steve had been fairly frustrated with how often that had happened. He brought up the time they had gone for dinner and the waiter hadn’t recognized them until the end of their meal, the complete look of shock on his face after and how he was trying to recall every little thing he might have done wrong.
Steve laid Tony down and continued the conversation until the aged eyelids grew heavier and heavier, his voice slowly getting softer until his husband had fallen asleep. He glanced at the clock and noted how long Tony’s nap should last and when he should get started on dinner. Not once did he look back and cry at how things were before, and he refused to look ahead to see how they were going to be. Steve lived in that moment, day by day and taking what he could. Never greedy, never remorseful. He’d never forget a moment to tell Tony he loved him, never wanted to lose that chance, or miss it and regret it for the rest of his life.
“How are you feeling?” A smile on his lips as he brushed the white hair from slowly blinking eyes.
“Feeling fine, Cap.” The returned smile was shaky at best. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“I know, Tony.” Steve whispered and kissed his forehead, “I’ll always be here, until the very end, I promise.”
Tony blinked slowly and nodded, closing his eyes for a moment then looking up again. “I can’t believe it,” he laughed softly and reached up to touch Steve’s hand, the soldier gripping it tightly, “Captain America came to visit me.”
“Of course I did,” Steve smiled again, “How are you feeling?”
“Feeling fine, Cap.”
Holes in heaven’s floor rained tears down on him as he stared at the freshly dug dirt. His heart ached, his face burned, his ears begging to hear those words one more time, to just hear his voice one more time. He knew he never would.
The last thing he’d heard from the terrified little voice in his arms, “Where will you be when I have to go?”
“I’m already there, waiting for you.” Steve had whispered. “Just look around when you arrive, I’ll be there.”
The tears dripped down from his chin and a wrecked sob destroyed him.
“I’ll be with you, wherever you are.” His voice was broken as he fell to his knees, “I love you, Tony.” His whisper barely audible, stolen by the wind as it flew by.