Title: In Too Deep, Out of Time: Part 2
Summary: Eventually they'd come to realize that they had a great deal in common with one another. They just didn't want to admit it. || A bottle of Scotch, two broken glasses, a handful of creative monikers and a lot of sensitive topics later, maybe they'd realize they really weren't so different.
Disclaimer: We own nothing but the dialogue. Simply borrowing these characters and this premise to mess around with for a while. The title belongs to the Foo Fighters' song, "Let It Die."
Characters: Steve Rogers/Captain America—FishyIcon
Tony Stark/Iron Man—kkann
Word Count: 7, 049 [Part 2]
Collaboration between FishyIcon & kkann. Written in the form of a story-format roleplay/RP.
A/N: What. Is. This.
Once upon a time, there were two geeks with over-active imaginations, devious minds and chronic insomnia. They read comic books and watch TV Shows and generally geek out about all things Sci-Fi and superheroes. One day, the two geeks go to see the Avengers. This is the result of the madness.
This . . . is possibly the most incredibly entertaining thing I've ever done. Certainly in writing. Yes, it's probably the best story ever written. Because it's Avengers. And this amazing person I like to call kkann, who is the most brilliant person you're ever going to meet in your entire life. You may also call her Jinx. Or Tony. Or the walking night light. If you're particularly cruel like me. I hope you all go read everything she has ever written after this, because you will never spend any time doing anything more productive. She is amazing. And obviously, I never could have done this without all her genius comedic skills.
This was three weeks in the making. 3 hours sleep a night. We laughed. We cried. We fell off all the chairs. We broke things. Someone may have died.
Kkann/Jinx/Drunk Tony, I have no words for you. Wait, yes I do. THANK YOU. Thank you for putting up with the 2:00 a.m. insanity. For making me feel all the feels even when my heart was about to break under all the pressure. For making me fall off ALL THE CHAIRS. For not yelling at me when I'd disappear for days. For actually pretending you didn't mind when I got extremely over-bearing. For going along with it when I panicked about stupid mistakes in the writing and back tracked about half the story—twice. For being there for me all the time. You will forever be the Tony to my Steve, and yes, we can have all sorts of bro hugs. It's very touching stuff.
Without further ado about nothing, kkann and I would like to present you with the second part of our Role Play. Featuring lots of Steve/Peggy mentions, all sorts of feelings, an inebriated Tony Stark, a traumatized Steve Rogers, a potentially murderous mystery character and lots of post-Avengers angst. Thank you.
STOP RIGHT THERE: IF YOU HAVE NOT READ PART 1 OF THIS STORY, DO SO NOW. IT CAN BE FOUND HERE ON KKANN'S PROFILE. OTHERWISE, CARRY ON.
Avengers: Out of Time
"What's her name?"
Steve did not want to answer that question.
He didn't want Stark to pick up on his mood, he didn't want guilt and regret and loss swimming around in his chest, he didn't want to be in this Century. He was overwhelmed with a mixture of the baser feeling of homesickness and thoughts of lost friends. And despite what the entire evening had led to so far, Steve suddenly wanted to be as far from any human being—or Demi-God—as possible. He settled for glaring the tabletop into oblivion.
Tony had already recovered his glass, but Steve was too far gone to really take note of that, much less care. Their joking mood had completely evaporated with a couple unintentional words. And Steve hated it.
"Doesn't matter," he whispered, trying to keep his voice steady as more memories continued to bombard him—gun fights and dancing and fondues and faith and the right partners and Peggy—forcing him to keep his eyes away from Tony. "Gone now. Just like everything else."
Stark didn't overly appreciate the way Steve had withdrawn into himself, apparently avoiding eye contact at all costs and busying himself with trying to bore a hole through the counter.
He stopped toying with the glass, giving Cap a few moments to himself before slamming his palm onto the bar in hopes of getting his attention.
Steve nearly jumped a foot in the air, his eyes reflexively flying up to Tony's in alert before realizing it was a false alarm. He met Tony's intense gaze with his own for a minute before he had to divert it elsewhere, unable to bear the scrutiny. Steve Rogers was an honest man, and Tony Stark was just the kind of person that could get under his skin enough to pull out some truths he wouldn't want to reveal with a few clever words. Or hands smashed on counters.
"Look, Tony . . ." Steve tried. If Tony had been willing to divulge some of his feelings about Howard and heroism, Steve probably owed it to him to do a bit of the same. Stark probably wouldn't even remember some of it tomorrow, anyway. But he was having trouble finding a way to get out what he wanted to and keep the rest locked away. Tony had never been the little guy, Tony had never pined after a girl far beyond his league, Tony had never been in a war. Yes, the man had sacrificed himself for the sake of the human race. But even if Tony hadn't survived, Steve couldn't imagine that death would be worse than his own predicament. Yes, he was alive and he was in his own world. But everything and everyone he had ever cared about was dead. There was no way to do this.
"You wouldn't understand," Steve muttered finally, shaking his head as he risked a glance up at the other man.
And didn't that just get the ball rolling.
Steve laughed once, mirthlessly, harshly, feeling his lungs deflate. "You wouldn't, Tony. There is no way I could make you understand. You've got everything. You shouldn't even care, anyway!" He was shouting directly at Tony, his words rushing out in unrelenting disarray before he knew what to do with himself. "It's none of your business. I've got issues and you've got issues, but the solutions to mine are seventy years away in the middle of a war and there's no way to get that back! So don't pretend you can help. No one can. And I just don't—" His voice broke and he shut up before he said anything else he'd regret, letting his head drop into his hands, not caring how miserable he looked. And here he'd been thinking Tony was the uninhibited one.
Tony had just listened as Steve yelled, each word pounding viciously into his skull as he waited calmly for the lull that came with the end.
"You're right," he said after a pause, trying to enunciate his words clearly through his stupor, withholding the completely inappropriate urge to laugh—although it was solely the alcohol that was telling him to. Tony clenched his jaw in an attempt to focus and let that settle for a moment.
"No, I don't understand what it's like to be the world's first human Popsicle for seventy years and I don't wanna. But I do know a little about what it's like to get cut off from the rest of the world and yeah, it sucks. It sucks big time. What I also understand is that you're scared. I get that. You're scared and you're angry, acting like a kid throwing a tantrum and you're supposed to be. Because if you weren't, I'd be worried. 'N that's sayin' somethin'." They were both tired, that much Tony knew. But he needed Steve to hear this. "You've been defrosted for what—two, three weeks? And then you're pulled outta the freezer and have to save the world from aliens, of all things."
He was surprised he'd managed to say as much as he had without slurring his words too much or falling to the floor again, and as such, he figured he might as well close up his speech with a real kicker. Seal the deal and all that jazz. Still, he couldn't help but let a laugh slip out.
". . . Your life sucks."
Steve felt his mouth pull into a smile of its own volition. Tony might be insensitive, guileless and drunk, but obviously he meant well at heart, not really as completely aloof as he tried to make people think sometimes. He let out a surprisingly hearty laugh into his hands, trying to let out the stress and rein some self-control back in after losing it all a moment ago. His eyes briefly flickered towards the glass in Tony's hands. No. Alcohol would only help with one of those two things. If it could help at all.
Tony was right, of course. Buried underneath the stars and stripes, he was scared—terrified and shocked and clueless, in fact—although he couldn't be allowed to let that show. He was more than angry, at SHIELD, at Hydra, at himself, so much that he found it easy to empathize with Dr. Banner's condition sometimes. Not to mention being completely thrown for a loop with the Chitauri invasion. Maybe 22 days worth of those sentiments was finally too much to contain, resulting in an explosion of tension. But whilst Steve did feel ashamed and childish and just plain tired, he had to admit that getting some of it off his chest had helped.
Maybe he could keep going with that for a while. Just a bit more quietly.
"You have no idea," Steve muttered in a hoarse voice, still recovering from his inexplicable bout of laughter. Besides being Captain America, Steve's life really wasn't much to brag about. Sadly, it wasn't even this current temporal displacement that had made it so dreadful, although that had certainly raised it to a whole new level. His life before the war was . . . well. Thinking about Peggy was hard enough on his psyche (and he'd being lying if he said just the thought of her name didn't make his heart stutter); he didn't need to add to that pain with childhood memories.
He rubbed his hands over his eyes inconspicuously to erase any evidence of tears as he raised his head again, shaking it with some imbedded instinct for denial towards the situation. He cleared his throat thoroughly, finally finding the courage to meet Tony's eyes. "Sorry about that."
Taking Steve's laugh as a cue to release his own, Tony snickered with a shrug, letting himself rock back a bit on his stool. He watched as Captain America seemingly tried to center himself again, reigning himself in and become the Steve Rogers he had grown used to (and liked to annoy to no end) once more.
"You know what you need?" Stark asked rhetorically, glass halted mid-twirl as his fingers flexed around it. He didn't even wait for Rogers to speak and carried right on with his offer, shoving said glass across the bar at him. "You need a drink. You need to get completely hammered—smashed, drunk, wasted, whatever. And then you need to . . . do something."
Steve's hands closed around the glass, but that didn't stop him from looking at Tony disparagingly across the counter. "Tony, you are a very smart man. I presume that by now, you've worked out that I can't get drunk they way normal people can."
Suddenly, there was a different table, a different night, with much more debris scattered around him. It was still hard to believe that in only three weeks, seventy years had passed. So even though Bucky had technically been gone for decades, the pain was still fresh. Of course, his memory of that night didn't help him feel any better in that Peggy had showed up in that collapsed club as he downed glass after glass, convincing himself that just one more might do the trick. He didn't understand how his chest could withstand all this emotional pressure without bursting and still have room for all the organs inside. It wasn't enough to lose Bucky . . . now he didn't even have Peggy here to comfort him. Steve wondered how long this torture was going to last before his mind let itself get distracted by the here and now again.
"Believe me, I've tried," he added, mentally wincing at how pathetic his tone was. For everyone's sake, he needed to pull it together.
Tony rubbed his face again and flashed Steve a grin, taking note of the change in his tone but otherwise disregarding it for the time being.
"Yeah, but you've never had me before," he said, hazy mind trying to calculate whether or not he could really get the Captain drunk if he tried hard enough. One of the numerous files he'd read—all right, skimmed, but this information had struck him as noteworthy—had mentioned that Steve's metabolism worked at a much faster rate than that of a normal human man (four times faster, he'd read), but what the hell. Maybe if he could provide him with four times as much liquor, he'd feel normal. Or not as moody. Tony didn't like moody. "We've got all night. And you look like you could use it."
Steve rolled his eyes. If normal Tony was obstinate, intoxicated Tony was downright unmovable. Especially if the topic involved challenges or alcohol. Or both.
Still, it couldn't hurt any more than Steve already did inside just to humor him. And any opportunity to prove Tony Stark unquestionably wrong was one that Steve was keen on, regardless of his emotional state. So, much to Tony's visible amusement, he reached down and pulled out the decanter once more, filling the glass halfway before stowing it out of reach again.
"Just to make you happy, Mr. Stark," Steve deadpanned. He looked down at the golden liquid rippling in the glass as he tipped it side to side, searching for answers.
He sighed. There wasn't going to be any easy or subtle or poetic way to segue into this subject, no way to get everything out without Tony taking note. The man was remarkably perceptive for a drunk person. And since he was obviously adamant in not falling unconscious (by alcohol or sleep, whichever came first) before he got some answers about the man behind the shield, it was probably best not to draw it out too long.
"She was, uh . . . Her name was Peggy," he mumbled, and then took a sip of his drink as though it would erase what he'd just said. His cheeks heated up involuntarily.
Tony Stark was nothing if not blunt (along with obnoxious and rather out of it) tonight, and as such decided that he'd be the one to plow right into it, seeing as Steve didn't appear too eager to mention more than he needed to. Propping his chin up in his hand in an attempt to keep himself from face planting into the bar, he watched in bemusement as Steve poured a glass and he smirked before speaking.
"So. Did you love her?"
It's complicated, Steve automatically wanted to reply. Except he quickly realized how much of a lie that was.
Yes, he had loved Peggy. He still did, even though she wasn't alive anymore (it had been one of the first things he'd demanded Director Fury tell him, although Steve had yet to muster the courage to search for much more). For a while, he was certain it had just been infatuation with one of the first dames to pay any positive attention to him, but as the war had gone on, it had obviously morphed into so much more than that.
Of course Peggy was gorgeous, as he'd once awkwardly told her, especially when she'd gotten all ginned up in that red gown. But she was also intelligent and compassionate and courageous, not to mention strong-willed and ridiculously talented. Steve smiled fondly. Seeing her picture in his compass every day had reminded him what he was fighting for. Because if he hadn't crashed that plane—not that he regretted saving all those lives—there was no doubt in his mind that he would have been at the Stork Club at 8 o'clock on the dot. Would have danced with Peggy and stepped on her toes and kissed her properly and ultimately spent the rest of his life with her, if she let him.
"Yeah, I did." Simple as that.
Tony nodded into his palm and his impression of Steve wavered for a moment. Between board meetings, inventions, time with his wife and whiskey, Howard Stark had made it a point to turn Captain America into the living legend through the bedtime stories Tony grew up with. But never once had his father mentioned how little information Steve cared to divulge about anything, and how much was missing from the story consequently. As a result, he decided that he needed the self-conscious Captain himself to fill in the blanks, even if it took all night.
"What's she like?" he mumbled, focusing on the spot between Steve's eyebrows.
"She was . . . just grand. The most . . . remarkable woman I ever knew," Steve answered with quiet awe, mind and eyes elsewhere, flickering between memories both good and bad. There were so many things he could say about Peggy; those words didn't even begin to describe her.
Then Steve frowned. "She's also gone. So what does it matter? With all due respect, Mr. Stark, why do you care?" He tried to keep his tone genuinely curious, because he wasn't trying to block Tony out, provoke him or even put him on the defensive. All these thoughts of Peggy were stirring up a lot of longing and heartbreak in his chest, and he didn't want one of his teammates to see him vulnerable. Moreover, there was a quite sizeable part of him that wanted to keep Peggy for himself, even if she only existed in his head.
Tony's head bobbed for a moment, elbow digging into the counter as his mind churn through a series of questions that he wanted to ask (not all coherent or appropriate).
And then Steve's inquiry registered and he frowned. "Wha'd'ya mean, why do I care?" The free hand rose to smack his chest just beside the arc reactor. "Geez, man, I thought we had something. That hurts," he muttered, half-sarcastically.
Steve ran a hand through his hair in mild frustration, his idle fingers looking to occupy themselves. He couldn't think up a good reason why someone who'd been busting his chops since day one would suddenly have the patience and consideration to listen to his problems. Certainly he'd had the occasional conversation like this with Bucky back in the day, but Bucky had cared. They had bonded, stuck up for each other (at least, Bucky had stood up for Steve until he took the serum), been real friends.
He and Tony were . . . teammates at most. Friendship required some mutual understanding. Which they couldn't build if they were both being stubborn, introverted jerks. Tony had already gotten some of his demons into the air—as well as Tony could, at least. Maybe it was Steve's turn to confide in him, now.
"That's not what I meant, Tony," he impressed, trying to smile. He shook his head, trying to get back on track. "Anyway. Peggy. Right." He tried and failed not to stumble on her name. "She was . . . what can I say? Amazing, I guess. Probably one of the only reasons I'm where I am today. Captain America for one and, well, alive for another." Then again, she did spend a fair time shooting at me, Steve recalled. He smiled to himself as he remembered the look on her face the time she'd resolutely picked up her sidearm and briskly fired several shots directly at him (thank God for his shield) after catching him with Pvt. Lorraine.
Tony nodded slowly and idly swayed in his seat, trying to keep himself from falling to the floor, face-first. He could do without bashing his head in on the counter top and leaving Steve to gawk at the bloody mess for the night. As it stood, he was having a bit of trouble focusing on what the man opposite him was saying, his inebriated mind suddenly and unhelpfully deciding to debate quantum physics and something to do with giraffes.
All the same, Stark paused for a moment to pick through his brain, attempting to recall the Captain America bedtimes stories his father had told him, trying to remember whether or not the name 'Peggy' had been mentioned. Probably, but the first image that came to mind was that of a man holding a phone saying 'my name is Peggy' and talking about credit cards. Eh, she was probably in one of the pictures good ol' Dad had had in his office and then left to him. He'd check later.
"She sounds, uh . . ." Tony said after a beat, stopping just for a second to find the right word that wouldn't result in Captain America's rendition of the Hulk or have the man storming off on him. When he found it, he had to smirk in spite of himself. ". . . swell."
Steve smiled at Tony's choice of words. Words couldn't really do Peggy justice, and his mind was still swimming with adjectives and feelings that could compensate. As long as they were generalizing, though, this would have to do. "Yeah, she is."
It took him a minute to realize he'd just referred to her in the present tense. Steve blinked. Maybe talking to Tony was helping. He doubted he'd ever recover fully from all his losses, but if he could talk about his old life without breaking down . . . that was good enough for him.
"Smart as a fox, too," he added, encouraged now. It was still hard to smile genuinely at these words, mainly because of the tears he was trying to blink back. "Very talented, of course. She had to be, to be a woman of that rank. Of course, fitting in wasn't the problem. She had a right hook to rival mine, and no problem with a firearm." Steve winced involuntarily. "Especially when I was at the end of it."
The only thing that fully registered in Tony's mind was the last bit Steve had said about Peggy and her finesse with a gun.
"Wait, your girlfriend punched you? And shot you?" He failed miserably at stifling his chuckle, letting it loose with a wide grin. "What'd you do—play Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots with each other every night? Sounds dangerous. I'd advise against it 'cause it can result in bodily harm."
Steve's eyebrows knitted together in inquiry, and he muttered under his breath, "What's "Rockin' Socks"?—forget it." He doubted there would ever come a time that he wasn't confused by pop-culture references. He could read history books, listen to music, watch movies and even just speak to people as much as he liked, but it wasn't going to be enough to compensate for seventy lost years.
"But, uh, she . . ." Steve cleared his throat uncomfortably. He didn't want to have to say the next words—mostly because he wished they weren't a lie—but knew that he would have to in order to avoid potentially humiliating conversations later on. His cheeks began to heat up a bit, a bit of the old, shy Steve Rogers returning.
"Peggy wasn't my girlfriend." The words rushed out, and he again held the glass up to his lips to earn him time to pull himself together.
Tony halted his examination of Steve's hairline, his smirk faltering at the way his expression faltered at his last statement.
"Wait a minute. Back up," he said, wagging a finger in front of Captain America's face in a 'tut-tut my dear boy' sort of fashion. Stark couldn't help his next question; it was just his nature and damn if he wasn't curious. "You mean you never . . . ? You 'n' Peggy . . . ?"
In his rather not-so-humble opinion, those words were beating around the bush too much. And so Tony propped his chin on his hand, broad grin cropping up again as an eyebrow rose. "Are you a virgin, Steve?"
Steve's eyes widened and he proceeded to splutter any alcohol that had just been in his mouth all over the countertop. He began to cough vehemently in an attempt to clear his throat and allow him to breathe again. Any blood that had been otherwise in use in his body quickly rushed up to his cheeks, and even though Steve couldn't exactly see with his eyes watering from so much coughing, he still caught Tony beaming at him for a second.
As he attempted to regain his thoroughly-shattered composure, Steve's mind frantically tried to rationalize with itself. It wasn't that he'd never . . . okay, maybe it was, but there was a good excuse. Like the fact that it had been wartime. Or that he could barely look a broad in the eye. And that none had even looked at him twice—well, maybe, but not like that. And of course, with Peggy, he'd had more respect for her than to allow himself to think about . . . all right, maybe he had allowed himself to think about . . . But it was Peggy Carter. And they had never even danced. And Steve hadn't . . . yes, he had, he really had, but . . .
It suddenly occurred to him that he hadn't replied. And a generous amount of time had gone by. His voice came out as an undignified squeak. "Um . . ."
Tony's eyebrow just spiked a bit higher on his forehead at Steve's incoherency and inability to answer the question.
"It's a simple yes or no answer, buddy boy," he muttered. "Not like I'm askin' you to rattle off the first hundred digits of Pi or whatever. The first ten are three point one four one five nine two six five three five, by the way." Stark rubbed at the stubble along his jaw as regarded Steve through his haze. "I'm not gonna mock you, Cub Scout—Scout's honour. This is just between you and me."
Steve knew more digits of Pi than that, but it wasn't as if he could remember them at the moment. His mind was still trying to coordinate the fine motor skills of speaking after that last blow Tony had delivered to it.
He wasn't sure if he could even nod an answer at this point. But he certainly felt like he needed to say something. His instinct took over and he hoped that Tony would be able to infer something from the uninterrupted train of thought that came out of his mouth.
"Sorry about the counter, I'll get something for that . . . She was the first girl to ever notice me. And we were together—that is to say, we worked together—for about two years, and even then I never . . . well, she didn't really seem to . . ."
He tried to sound nonchalant, but he was fairly sure the raising pitch to his voice was betraying him. "And then there was the war and Hydra . . . Of course, we had a date but then I had to get a rain check when I crashed the plane, and, well. We never danced. But not like that!" Steve quickly corrected, his ears heating up. "I mean, we didn't dance at all. And I never, uh . . ."
The dauntless Captain America searched for a word, letting out one choked laugh when one finally came to mind. "Never did fondue, let's say."
Tony gave the liquid splattered across the countertop a glance and almost considered running his fingers through it as something to occupy his time and body before he realized it was probably full of super soldier spit as well. Extracting a hand from against his jaw to reach over and grab another glass to play with, he swiped at one of the towels below the bar, completely missing it.
Disregarding that, Stark turned his attention back to Steve, taking in what he was inclined to file under an uneasy 'yes' to his initial question, with his interest piqued at the last comment about food.
"Hey, I like fondue. You like fondue? Pepper and I were thinking of having fondue some night soon. You wanna join in? Good stuff."
Steve felt the blush rising to his cheeks again, but managed to reign in his automatic reaction a bit this time. Tony wouldn't know the significance of that word, and he probably wasn't coherent enough to extrapolate what it probably meant. So he would have to let it slide and pretend he hadn't heard the comment. But just to clarify . . .
"And you mean the food, right? Cheese and bread? Nothing, uh . . . else?"
While he left Tony to ponder that, he reached for the cloth that the inventor had missed by a mile a minute ago and swiped it over the Scotch spills on the counter. He didn't hesitate to put his nearly-empty glass under the bar as well, lest he have the reflex to grab for it again.
Tony promptly squinted at Steve as if trying to decipher a new batch of blueprints that had cropped up during some late night session with his AI and let his study continue from there.
"Uh, yeah. Bread 'n' cheese," he managed, his eyebrows drawing together as he watched Steve mop up the mess between them. "What else? I mean . . . what'd'ya think fondue is, Capsicle?"
Steve let out a strained laugh, doing his best to avoid catching Tony's glare. He was not going to have this conversation with him. Talking about Peggy had been painful enough, and he'd already promised himself not to bring Howard back into the mix. Certainly, Tony had been quite nice about the whole . . . 'dancing' issue, but he didn't want to get into more depth than that. Nor did he want to even give Tony an inkling that someone might have been going on between his father and the girl Steve had been stuck on.
"It's hard to explain. I mean—" He mentally kicked himself for that slip. "It's nothing. Just cheese and bread, my friend."
"Yeah, bread 'n' cheese. Good stuff. You in?" Initially, Tony frowned just a bit more at the response, but simply shrugged it off as nothing more than a quick misunderstanding. With that in mind he brought the glass he'd been playing with to his lips and was about to take a hearty swig when he abruptly found it full of nothing more than air.
"What the . . . ?" he returned the glass to the countertop, giving it a good glare and that glancing back up to Steve.
For his part, Steve gave Stark a sympathetic expression. "Oh, Tony. What are we going to do with you?" The mumbled question was more rhetorical, because the answer was that he would just let Director Fury handle him next time. He wasn't heartless enough to give up on him at this point, especially after Tony had remained reasonably kind on the sensitive topic of Peggy. He plucked the glass from the other man's hands and held it up, tipping it upside down to illustrate his words. "This doesn't have anything in it, Tony. It hasn't all night."
"What are you, a wizard, Boy Wonder?" Tony glowered and pawed at the glass, snatching it back to place it upside down on the bar.
Steve narrowed his eyes at him. "Were you even listening to what we were talking about a minute ago?"
Tony's stool wobbled beneath him briefly. "Yeah, 'm not an idiot. We were talkin' 'bout . . . how you're a fondue virgin in more ways than one, and your almost-kinda-sorta-not-really-pretty-much lady friend."
Stark tipped his head in order to lower his gaze a bit. "Now the question is . . . were you payin' attention?"
Well, Steve had definitely been paying attention enough to catch the fondue comment in passing, as he swallowed uncomfortably again and looked down.
He'd been paying attention, of course. He just wasn't sure he understood. Why Tony would be so interested by his past life when he, himself, had Ms. Potts and a sentient household and a tower with his name—or what was left of its letters—on it and real friends he'd known for more than just three weeks. Steve's personal life had to seem dull in comparison. And how Tony had the patience to sit through this at all, never mind the fact that he was drunk, puzzled him just a little bit. "Yes, I was listening. However, if there was any actual intent to your words, please enlighten me. All I deduced was that you're keen on scaring me away."
Tony relinquished his hold on the glass and used his freed hand to rub at his forehead, all the while trying to keep his head straight and gaze level with Steve's head.
"I'm scaring you?" He frowned at the blond locks before him. "Do you wanna leave? I see how it is."
Steve shrugged. The only thing he was scared of was that Tony would say something else about fondues or that he'd fall over and leave Steve to deal with it. "I'm scared of Dr. Banner when he gets angry. Tony Stark when he's drunk? Not so much, pal." He smirked, but the expression quickly faded back into his typical serious countenance.
"I'm not going to scram, Tony. I've got nowhere else to go. Do I want to go back to my time? Certainly. Do I see your father when I look at you, just because I want a familiar face around? Some of the time. Do I want to see Peggy again? More than anything." Refusing to let himself dwell on that, he straightened in his seat. "But those aren't options. And I'm not going to sit here and whine about it for the rest of my days when people need us out there in the world right now."
To be perfectly honest, Tony didn't know how to respond to that. The most he could do was sit up himself and try not to let the alcohol in his system inhibit him from giving his comrade a decent response. There was a slight spark of resentment—not at Steve, but at a whole plethora of other people and things—when the remark about Bruce cropped up. But he shoved it aside at the mention of his father and Peggy and at the overall sound of Steve's voice. The tone itself wasn't desperate, but what he was saying . . .
"I'm sorry," the words were out of Tony's mouth before he truly had a chance to think about them. It wasn't that he didn't mean them; it was just that he didn't say them enough to familiarize himself. As a result, he took a breath and said them again, strained as they were while he reached forward and clapped his hand on the other man's shoulder. "Steve, I'm . . . sorry."
For the first time since mentioning Peggy, Steve found it in himself to look up and meet Stark's eyes. Was he serious? Despite the haze in Tony's eyes, Steve could perceive sincerity directed at him through the words. He was unsure of how to reply. Like Tony had said earlier, he didn't want pity or sympathy from anyone right now. He just wanted things to go back to normal. And whilst that wasn't going to happen, Tony was probably doing the best job of it since he woke up, treating him like a human being—even like a friend—instead of some exhibit in a museum. So, as usual, he kept to being honest.
"Thanks," he said, hoping Tony knew what that all encompassed. "I mean it."
Steve then pulled back and retrieved his glass from under the counter. In a spur-of-the-moment decision, he grabbed the decanter and poured a small splash of Scotch into Tony's glass, pushing it towards him. Couldn't hurt . . . too much.
"You know what, Tony? You're not half bad," he said in lieu of 'Cheers' as he lifted his glass towards the man.
In response, Tony smirked at both the sentiment and the fact that Steve had given him Scotch (not a whole lot, but enough to keep him going without pouting again) before returning the gesture in kind. The smile grew a bit as he reached forward to clink his glass against his comrade's.
"Well would you look at us," he chuckled. "And I thought we didn't really like each other." Stark paused to level his gaze with the good Captain and tried to muster as much honesty as he could, given his still inebriated system. "You're not so bad yourself, Rogers."
Steve's trademark shy smile appeared on his face. He was fairly certain that getting a quasi-compliment from Tony Stark was one of the more notable things he'd already accomplished in three weeks in the Twenty-First Century. He was hopelessly lost, confused, and felt like there was a gaping hole where his heart ought to be most of the time (he smirked ironically as he glanced at the glowing thing in the center of Tony's chest). But if there would be the occasional moment like this, maybe he could make his way here after all.
He smiled and downed the rest of his drink, setting the glass aside. "Well, I may not be your biggest fan in the morning when all that alcohol decides to take its revenge on you."
Stark promptly followed suit and knocked back his own Scotch with a heavy chug, letting his glass clink against the bar. He gave Steve one last long, careful study and smirked at the jab, drumming his fingers beside his now empty glass.
After everything—and maybe this was just the alcohol talking, he didn't know—maybe Steve wasn't so bad. Sure, they hadn't seen eye-to-eye and there had been those few moments where the memory of Howard had made the Super Soldier stick his nose into something that wasn't his business, but still. Tony smacked his lips, almost content to leave the conversation where it was and let it come to a close, but then . . .
"You know what, Rogers? I don't really want to say this, but I think I feel a hug coming on." He snickered, holding up his arms. "I think we need to hug."
Steve blinked, automatically leaning away from the counter. His eyebrows furrowed in confusion at Tony's statement. Certainly, it was quite the progression in their friendship, considering the way they'd been shoving each other away on the Helicarrier a week ago, but this was perhaps taking it a bit too far.
"Uh . . . no, thanks." He cleared his throat. "Tony, that's nice and all, but I think you're just a tad drunk right now."
"Oh come on, Steve," Tony half-whined, half-slurred. "I think we've earned it, man. Get over here."
In response to Steve shifting away, Stark extended his reach across the bar, waving his arms at the opposite him. With one fell swoop, he sent yet another glass tumbling to its untimely demise, all the while demanding that the other man just hug him already.
Steve started a little at the sound of the glass shattering on the stone floor beside the bar, looking at the scattered pieces blankly for a minute before his eyes shot back up to Tony's. Apparently, Stark was still adamant in his request for a hug, but Steve wasn't buying into it.
"How many glasses do you have to break or throw off your balcony before you learn to stop waving your arms about?" Steve exclaimed, his voice coming out perhaps a bit louder and harsher than intended. He hung his shoulders in disproval and exhaustion, looking at Tony disparagingly. The mood had been broken at the same moment as the glass. "I'm amazed you even have any left on these shelves."
That said, Tony wasn't too used to be told 'no' and he wanted his hug, damn it. A hug from Tony Stark was a rare bird (unless one's name was Pepper), and Steve was just wounding his ego.
"Technically, that's on you, buzz kill," Tony replied coolly, not even bothering to glance at the broken remnants by their feet. He'd acknowledge them when Pepper yelled at him later for breaking things again. "Now stop farting around and hug me, damn you!"
Steve had just opened his mouth to reply when his amplified hearing detected footsteps from down the hall. He whirled around just in time to see Agent Romanoff peeking out of the hallway, looking tired and inquisitive and alert for danger and more than a little irritated. Steve knew she didn't sleep much (as opposed to Agent Barton, who was practically narcoleptic), preferring to spend her nights wandering, but he'd presumed she would be too immersed in her own world to be listening for broken glass.
Then again, this was the provisional household of some of the most sought-after people in New York at the moment. Steve probably would have grabbed his shield and come running at the sound of shattering glass as well if he hadn't known it was the fault of a drunken Tony Stark. Which, honestly, wasn't an unlikely explanation.
"What the hell are you two idiots up to?" Natasha asked in a slow, cutting voice, with a glare that probably would have indicated imminent death to anyone who wasn't an Avenger.
Steve looked between the Russian and Tony on his other side, thankfully still separated from the latter by the bar counter. He was again tempted to laugh at the preposterous situation, but thought better of it considering Natasha's presence. He thought of calmly explaining, but didn't trust himself to be capable of that at this point.
So, in a very Tony Stark manner of thinking, he spouted out the first thing that came to mind.
"It's Tony's fault," Steve answered lamely.
Tony shot Steve a sullen pout, his arms still held out before him and waiting for that hug he was obviously never going to get.
"Hey!" Tony exclaimed loudly before turning his attention to their guest, jabbing a finger in Captain America's general direction. "Steve did it! He's just being a bully even though we already agreed that he was going to take the heat for this one. Have at him, Anastasia."
Natasha muttered something harshly about her name not being Anastasia, but Steve had already reacted to Tony's other words.
"Oh, now I'm the bully?" Steve exclaimed as he returned his focus to Tony, eyebrows rising in challenge. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he had to remark that some things would just never change, no matter how strong a friendship he and Tony developed. "If you would just act your age and think straight for once, you wouldn't be so drunk that you keep knocking glasses all over the place." He smirked. "Or is your mind leaving you with old age?"
"That's a mean swing coming from you, Gramps," Tony retorted, levelling Steve with a glare of his own.
"Enough!" Agent Romanoff yelled, making both men jump and spin around to look at her. "I'm not dealing with this. Stark, just . . . pipe down. You're going to wake up all of New York if you keep this up, and you won't want to deal with the headlines for that in the morning. Take your brainless testosterone fight somewhere else and leave the rest of us in peace." With that, Natasha turned and walked back down the hall. Steve caught her mumbled "Men," as well as some things in Russian he was glad he couldn't translate.
With that, he awkwardly turned his glance back to Stark.
Tony folded his formerly outstretched arms in annoyance, grumbling something about being singled out by angry Russians and how he wasn't that old. (That was not a grey hair on his head-the light just didn't reflect off it right) He waited a few beats before looking up to meet Steve's gaze and smirking at the expression his face.
It wasn't until they could no longer hear Natasha's footsteps that Stark finally spoke.
"So, on a scale of one to ten, how mad do you think she's gonna be when she finds out that her wrist-things are full of silly string?"
Steve slumped back down into his seat and let his head drop down on the counter with a thud. Yep, some things would never change.
And that's it. I'm crying because it's over.
[In case you missed it, Part 1 of this story can be found on kkann's profile. This part's kind of pointless without it.]
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