Six years. That was all.

Tony sat on the edge of the bed, looking down at his still cut up hands. They were healing slowly. And the pain from the arc reactor in his chest wasn't making things better. He would have rather just had the shrapnel cut right though his heart at this point.

He didn't want to feel.


As soon as his plane touched down, he could only think of one thing. Steve. He could see Steve again. After the press conference. That's all he wanted. Steve.

After making his big unveiling of his plans to the news reporters, and everyone seemingly going crazy over the fact he actually wanted to do something good for the world he was on his way home.

All he wanted was Steve.

The painful climb upstairs seemed worth it because he knew Steve would be there. He'd have those arms he could lose himself in.

There was no Steve on the bed when he got there. He was probably hiding.

Tony actually let himself smile while he looked around his room for his white knight. The smile faded. Steve wasn't there. He really wasn't there.

He speed dialed him.

No answer.

He was probably busy.

Tony frowned. He knew he could be a selfish ass sometimes, but if Steve had just gone through that he'd already be sitting on Steve's doorstep. He would have at least called him. Right? That was the logical thing. Wasn't it?

He paced his room a moment before sitting down in front of his computer, going through missed emails from contacts and companies. He had nothing better to do at this point and he wasn't just going to sit there and feel sorry for himself. He replied to a few before heading downstairs for a light dinner and then headed back up for bed.

A day passed. Steve hadn't called. Hadn't emailed. Hadn't anything.

Tony was slowly becoming a wreck. Even Pepper was starting to note the changes. She hadn't seen Tony not shave in a long while. And him not leaving the house wasn't turning out to be a good choice for him.

"Tony, you really should go outside for a bit. If he calls I'll come get you." Pepper rubbed Tony's back gently.

Tony simply shook his head.

She knew it wasn't any of her business, but Tony wasn't just a boss. Tony was a friend, and she'd do the same for him as she'd do for any friend. Pepper started a search for Steve.

Another day passed before she found anything. And when she found what she was looking for, she was rather appalled. A business partner of Steve's said he was vacationing in France that week. Something about getting away from it all. It boiled Peppers blood, but she wouldn't let that show in the semi polite email she sent Steve to let him know of Tony's current condition if he was interested.

Two days passed before Tony got the phone call he'd been waiting for since the moment he'd touched down at LAX.

"Steve, though you'd fallen off the face of the earth." His voice sounded tired, but happy.

"Nah, just took a trip. Knew you'd be alright. How're you holding up?"

"I'm alright." He paused awkwardly before continuing, his voice sounding unsure, "When…when are you coming back?"

"Ah, dunno. Maybe next week, something like that."

This was a bad dream. Had to be a bad dream.

"Next week?! Steve, I need you! I'm...a fucking wreck here!"

He wanted to wake up.

"I just figured you'd want some space when you got back, you know? Not have everyone crowding you."

He wanted to wake up NOW.

"No! Steve, I want you. I want you here with me, I can't even begin to describe how terrible these last few days have been without you."


"Steve? Steve, I love you and I really…" He sighed, "I really really need you right now."

There weren't many times in his past that Tony had cried. He wasn't the crying type, but despite the fact he didn't sound like he was, his cheeks were stained with tears. The thought of Steve not wanting to come back… It was earth shattering to think of.

There was another long silence. And then Steve spoke.

"I'll be back tomorrow."

The call ended. And Tony was, honest to god, scared. That night he couldn't sleep.

Five o'clock rolled around that afternoon. Steve's car showed up fifteen minutes later.

Tony was looking happier then he had in the past few days.

Steve wasn't looking as happy as Tony had hoped.

"Hey." Tony's arm was still in a sling from the break, his hands still a little cut up. The wounds still fresh.

"Hey yourself." Steve flashed a Steve smile before heading inside with him.

"Well you look good despite your little adventure over there." Steve chuckled lightly, a hand reaching up to smooth down a bit of Tony's hair that was sticking up in the front.

"Thanks." It was half hearted.

"You sound kinda… I don't know. Angry?"

Tony released a dry laugh that was sitting there in his throat, "Yeah, a little put off is all."

"Oh come on, you're Tony fucking Stark. You're a man of iron and steel. You don't break. I knew you'd come out of this fine. You got a little dinged up on the way but you're fine Tony. Damn lucky too. Don't be all torn up because I wasn't here when you got back. Knowing you, you probably went right back to work."

Tony stood in silence for a moment. Reality had started to hit him pretty damn hard in the face. At this point he wanted to choose his words carefully, "Steve, I really thought you'd be here for me. I mean, when someone really cares for and loves someone else that person is generally there in a time of crisis." Tony's voice went up an octave as he spoke, frustration getting to him.

It got worse when Steve didn't say anything. Instead, he just stood there looking awkward, eyes averting from Tony's.

He felt like that arc reactor exploded in his chest.

"Steve…do you love me?" Tony's voice wavered a fraction.

Steve opened his mouth, looking like he was going to say something but nothing was coming out.

Tony took a step forward, the last six years were slowly crumbling down around him.


Steve laughed nervously, "Tony, relax."

Tony was getting a little angry, "Damnit, Steve, answer the question."

The other man mouthed his words for a moment, "Tony, you've been one of my closest friends for a long time…"

"Friends? I…"

"And we've had a really good time together, but…"

"A…a good time!? That's all this was to you? A good fucking time?" Tony was so floored he couldn't say anything else.

Steve interjected, "But I'm just not the kind of guy that…settles down. I don't like being tied down. It's the same thing with any of the lovers I have."

Tony felt like his internal organs were combusting. He felt sick to his stomach.

Steve took a step toward him, and Tony took one back. His eyes were blazing but he couldn't bring himself to look at Steve.

"Tony, just relax, baby. I'm here now, I'll stay as long as you need me to."

Tony had to hold his breath as not to laugh darkly. Instead he mumbled something faintly, as though he wasn't sure if he wanted to say it aloud.

Steve took another step forward, cupping Tony's rough cheek, a thumb stroking over his cheekbone. "What's that, Tony?"

The cold, hard eyes looked up at Steve finally, and there wasn't anything loving coming from his lips, "I said. Get. Out."

"Tony," Steve laughed lightly, "I think you're a little stressed right now and…"

He didn't let Steve finish. Instead, he knocked Steve's hand away from his face and opened the front door. "You can leave now, or I can have someone escort you out. And I can promise you, it won't be said with a please." Tony's jaw had hardened as steely as his eyes had. Though his insides felt broken, he made sure his shell looked as hard as a diamond as he watched Steve step back with that doe eyed look of his.

The man didn't say a word. He just walked out the door. Not a bit of fight in him as he headed back into his car.

Tony didn't take the time to watch him get in or drive away. He was already back to work.

Thirty minutes into a new blueprint, Tony couldn't hold back the tears anymore.

Tony hated that there wasn't going to be any way to stop them either. He wasn't one for making a show so he'd made his way upstairs to his room.

Closing the door behind him, he leaned against the cool dark wood. And the tears finally came.

Tony sobbed.

He'd never sobbed in his life. Never really, truly cried over anything before. He'd never hurt like this. No person had ever hurt him like this.

He figured this must be what it feels like to a racecar when the engine blows. The valves and hoses explode, the coolant spills everywhere. Gears grind. Fire.

Tony felt consumed in fire.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, he looked down at his cut up hands. They were healing slowly. His chest had tightened a bit. Partially from being so worked up and partially from having a fucking arc reactor in his chest. He would have rather just had the shrapnel cut right though his heart at this point.

He didn't want to feel. Not for a long long time.

Finally pulling himself together, Tony wiped his eyes clean.

His phone beeped.

He didn't bother reading Steve's message before deleting it.