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“Seriously, you’ve never dated?” Tony says incredulously.
“I’ve been on dates,” Steve says, and his huge shoulders are creeping up around his ears. He sighs and they sink back down. “They just don’t…go well.”
Tony stares. “What in the name of mathematical engineering are you doing on these dates? People who look like you usually have to beat them off with a stick even with the personality of a mud puddle.”
Steve rubs the back of his head. “You know that conversation where I told you I was lying to you and would continue lying to you?”
Tony feels his eyes go wide. “You didn’t. With all of them?”
Steve laughs awkwardly. “Yeah. And, uh—” his eyes skip sideways, “—usually on the first date.”
“Oh my god.”
Steve looks up at Tony and smiles crookedly. “Kept putting it off when it came to you.” He looks down at his fingers, laced together between his knees. “Wasn’t ready to see you go.”
Tony’s heart flutters wildly in his chest. “Well, you’re lucky I’m so lacking in self-preservation instincts.”
“That I am,” Steve says, and Tony feels entirely overwhelmed by the intensity in Steve’s blue, blue eyes.
After a moment, Steve’s expression turns chagrined. “I don’t like to lie. Not to the people I care about, anyway.” That qualifier intrigues Tony. “That’s why I do it. People don’t tend to take it that well though.”
“Yeah,” Steve replies dryly. “Can’t imagine why that doesn’t go over so well.”
“So who do you lie to?” Tony asks, only half-heartedly trying to keep the mischief out of his voice.
Steve flushes red. “Ah. Well. My enlistment forms, for one.”
“No shit!” Tony says gleefully.
“I used to have…medical problems that would have gotten me disqualified, so I bent the truth a little.”
“You lied to the government.” Tony can’t believe it. It’s too good. Steve seems like such a goody-two-shoes.
“The government doesn’t deserve the truth,” Steve says and Tony might just fall a teeny, tiny bit in love with him then. Guilt twists in his gut. The humor and mischief fades out of Steve’s expression. “There are people out there laying down their lives for this country, and I don’t have a right to do any less.”
It strikes Tony that it’s entirely possible that Steve could have been one of the soldiers who had died in the caravan he’d been taken from. If he’d been stationed differently—
Tony has the sudden horrifying thought that it could have been one of his weapons that cost Bucky his arm.
Steve frowns. “Are you okay, Tony?”
“Huh? Sure. Yeah,” Tony replies, but his mind is on the weapons the Ten Rings had had. The weapons that he had made. That had destroyed Gulmira. That could have taken Steve’s best friend’s arm. And his weapons are still out there.
He feels sick.
“I’ve got something I need to do,” Tony says, and pushes abruptly to his feet. He feels awful for the astonishment on Steve’s face, but he can’t sit here and—
“Bye, Tony,” Steve calls after him, bewildered.