Dear Tony, the story can resume. The one I had been planning on that evening walk. I can become again the man who once crossed the Brooklyn park at dusk, in my best suit, swaggering on the promise of life. The man who, with the clarity of passion, made love to you in the library. The story can resume. I will return. Find you, love you, marry you and live without shame.
I didn’t expect to fall in love with Tony Stark. I didn’t expect to fall in love at all. I thought I had left my heart in the height of the second World War, in the curve of Peggy’s hands. In Howard’s pockets. In Bucky’s last scream. Apparently, I had brought it with me, frozen, but someone had thawed it out as well.
Falling in love- especially with Tony Stark- felt like crashing back into the ice. I expected the jolt, but I was stunned by the impact nonetheless. And then suddenly, like a tsunami wave, I was swallowed by a plethora of feelings- the delightful agony of being at its mercy, its cold tongue licking every inch of my pale skin until everything else froze into place around me, and it was all Tony, Tony, Tony.
It was difficult to cope with the overwhelming feelings at first. I thought I was ill. I was frightened of all that was taking a hold of me, frightened that it’ll consume me one day. Days went, and the glass between us thinned and thinned until our palms were touching. I felt the roughness of his skin against mine, his pulse, his warmth- and sick or not, I didn’t want to ever let go.
Our lives were a tango of kisses and fights. We’d argue about the smallest of things- Steve, I told you I didn’t like the crusts in my bread!- and then make up at the end of the day, the kiss tasting sweeter than it was the night before. I’d wake up in his arms- or him in mine- and breathe in the day and his scent and thank whoever was kind enough to bless me with him.
It’s been three days of waking up to cold air. Three days of quiet breakfasts, three days of having no arguments. It’s been a painfully quiet three days. I can’t remember feeling anything that measured to what I’m feeling now. There’s a blankness, as though the words on the paper were erased and forgotten. A hollowness, an endless void. I had just begun to adapt to the fast-lane life of the twenty-first century, had just begun to feel alive again. As though the universe were playing a joke on me, it pulls the foundation of this new life from under my feet and feeds it to the fires of death.
I miss you, Tony. I miss your sweat-drenched skin and grease-stained shirts. I miss the light in your chest (and I’m not just talking about the reactor). I miss our arguments and your wit and your coffee-breath and the numbers that slipped from your fingertips. I’d rather die a million times than to lose you even once, but I was never given the option. There are still so many things left unsaid, but I don’t know what they are now. I lost them too, along with you.
Steve watched helplessly as Tony plummeted down from the sky like a lifeless doll carelessly dropped off a skyscraper. For a moment, he was perfectly sure that after a second, Tony would regain his consciousness and land himself safely. He was Tony Stark, after all. He’s been through hell and beyond. But seconds went, and seconds were running out, and Tony showed no signs of any awareness to what was happening to him.
"He’s not slowing down!" Thor boomed as he prepared to take off with his mjolinir. Steve, who couldn’t possibly do anything to slow down the momentum of the fall, felt guilt and sheer uselessness. There was nothing at that moment that he wanted more than to be able to do something. But thankfully, the Hulk was able to catch Tony just before he hit the ground. The two crashed onto a car, and before Steve knew what he was doing, he ran towards them as the Hulk set Tony down onto the asphalt.
Thor threw the faceplate to the side as Steve knelt beside the unconscious man in the iron suit. No, no, no, he thought frantically as his eyes skirted over the expressionless face of Tony. On instinct, he pressed his ear on the solid metal right over Tony’s heart. The suit made it impossible to tell whether or not he was still alive. He must be. He must be alive. It took every fiber of Steve not to cry out Tony’s name, not to speak. He knew if he did, his trembling voice would give him away.
Steve dragged his hand over the smooth surface of Tony’s chest plate. His heart was beating fast, and he thought it was unfair. Why can’t Tony’s do the same? Dammit, Tony, breathe. Tony. You can do this. Tony. Don’t leave me. “Tony…”
The Hulk suddenly let out a growl that sent a jolt through Tony, making him scream his way back into consciousness. Steve let out a breath he didn’t know was holding as he saw Tony’s brown eyes flutter to life again, feeling as though a weight had just been lifted from his shoulders. He had been drastically wrong about Tony. He didn’t know what he would’ve done if Tony had left this world without Steve getting the chance to start over with him.
Tony Stark doesn’t do commitment. So Steve finds it weird – but not impossible – to deal with Tony suddenly bringing home dates that look like him.
Until one of Tony’s one-night-stands, who could be a double for Steve, turns out to be not quite as disposable as the rest of Tony’s conquests – and Steve’s repressed crush on Tony starts to become problematic…
x x x x x x x x
Tony whispers something then, something Steve’s pretty sure he’s not meant to hear, but because his skin’s so much more attuned to everything since the serum, he hears it. “In another world, I would get to keep you.”
He tears his tent apart, his sleeping bag, his backpack. He starts tossing meaningless junk, trying to get to the precious gift within. He cuts his hands on pieces of flint, burns his fingers on fumbled matches. Then rage overtakes him, the cleanest of all the emotions. He starts ripping everything apart. It’s all junk, it’s all worthless, it’s pieces and fragments of things that belonged to another person, a person who isn’t him.
— and he loathes that word because it’s come to mean nothing. There’s no him. There’s no self when there isn’t any thread bridging one moment to the next.
— and he thinks, I could have been anything I wanted.