Many, many thanks to dysprositos, who not only named this, but allowed me to steal ideas and a little dialogue from her. She's the best, seriously.
WARNING: cute and sex (I cannot believe I wrote that-time to go hide in the corner).
What Tony had said 'yes' to was an idea borne of Steve's time on the War Bond promotion tour. He had been the only male performer (besides Hitler, but he was really the stage manager, so he didn't count). As a result, he spent a lot of time with the girls.
They made fun of him a whole bunch, but they were a great group of gals and Steve had learned a lot from them. It was like having a whole pack of older sisters to look after him and give him advice.
They did wonders for his confidence, even though he was still tongue-tied in the face of a girl (or guy) he really liked.
One of his favorite things to do with them was to watch them put on their makeup. His artist's eye was intrigued, and they were always real happy to explain things to him (and some of the braver ones even let him help, and boy did that create some disasters).
All the girls were real pretty, and in his opinion none of them needed the artificial enhancement, but the things that the cosmetics could do for them were amazing.
Emma's birthmark on her right cheek was completely hidden. Caroline's freckles (that Steve thought were real cute) were gone, covered up. All of their eyes stood out, lined with what they called 'kohl.'
Anyway, Steve explained all of this to Bruce, who smiled and nodded, not quite sure where Steve was going with it. Then, he told Bruce his idea.
"If makeup could do all that back then, I'm sure it has advanced a ton since. I was wondering...if it would be possible for them to make me up so that I looked close to my real age, so that I could give talks on the Depression. All the excess I see today makes me, frankly, sick. I won't be able to change all of that, I know, but maybe I could do a little, make a small difference. And that would be worth it, I think."
Bruce's face was calm, and he took a minute to think before he told Steve, "I think that could work. I'm not a hundred percent sure, but Tony will know. And, Steve, I'm proud of you. That's an admirable goal."
Steve's smile was radiant, and he pulled his husband into his arms, into a slightly too-tight hug, to express his joy.
Then, they sought out Tony.
Bruce is happy when Steve is happy, and his husband is currently on cloud nine.
Steve is sitting in a makeup chair at the center of a circle of 'makeup technicians,' as they had been told to call them.
The veritable army of techs is fluttering over Bruce's husband, and he looks so thrilled, like Christmas has come early for him.
In a way, Bruce supposes, it has.
Steve's love of life, despite all the...shit he'd been through had been what had drawn Bruce to him in the first place. Their stories are similar, but Steve made the choice to not let the bad things in life get him down, and Bruce thinks that he had made the opposite choice, at least until Steve came along and gave him a new perspective on life.
Admitting to Tony that he liked Steve had been the first step in the right direction for Bruce.
"Tony? Um, do you have a minute?"
"For you, my friend, always." The sincerity on Tony's face was unmistakable.
"I... Well, it's kinda hard to say."
"It's about Steve, isn't it? I know you've been going through his files."
"How...? Wait, I don't want to know. And, yes."
"Well, Bruce, he likes you too. You aren't the only one who's been throwing surreptitious glances across the room."
"Really?" Bruce had been baffled, completely thrown that Steve liked him.
"Sure thing. What I want to know is, what you're gonna do about it?"
"I guess...what is there to do but ask him?"
"Good plan, big guy. Go get 'm."
And Bruce had. That night, at dinner. The first thing Steve said was that he had been planning on asking Bruce out. And then he said 'yes,' almost as an afterthought.
A month after their engagement, when they were snuggling on the couch in their shared apartment, a movie's end credits rolling, Steve had asked Bruce why he had asked Steve out to dinner.
Bruce deadpanned, "You're a near-perfect specimen of masculinity, and I think you look pretty when you're all heroic."
Steve, by then used to Bruce's sense of humor, just raised one eyebrow.
Bruce cracked up.
When he had gotten himself under control, he told Steve that he loved Steve's enjoyment of life, and the way that Steve had made the decision to not let all of the bad shit that had happened to him get him down.
Steve asked, "Seriously? That's really special, Bruce, thank you."
"You're welcome, Steve. I love you."
"I love you, too, Bruce."
"So, since we're on the topic, what drew you to me?"
"I felt like we have a lot in common. We're two sides of the same coin, you know. We've both been small and we've both been big. Identity is a big part of who we are. The problem was, you identified with the wrong person."
"And you like to solve problems, don't you?" Bruce's tone wasn't judgemental, just soft.
"Yeah. But you're far and away the best result I've ever gotten."
Bruce is brought out of his thoughts abruptly by one of the techs shaking his arm (it's nice to not have people afraid to touch him). "Sir, your husband is all done, and he wants your opinion."
Something in Bruce's chest twinges every time he hears Steve referred to as his husband. "I'm coming, thank you. I must have fallen asleep or something."
"You're welcome, sir."
Bruce walks over to...Steve, who doesn't look much like Steve. He has Steve's eyes, and the cheekbones and jawline are the same, but his skin looks softer and he's fairly wrinkly.
Steve's hair is hidden under a cap that gives him the appearance of partial baldness, and the false scalp has liver spots. The glasses that they had brought along were perched on his nose, the large aviator style frames covering most of the upper half of his face.
"Wow, Steve, you look...great. If I didn't know you so well, I would be fooled."
Steve grins, and oh yeah, that's his smile, for sure.
"Thanks, Bruce. It'll be great for our play, don't you think?" A small note of warning is present in Steve's voice, reminding Bruce of the cover story they had chosen.
Nobody would think that Steve is more attached to his anonymity than Bruce, the Hulk, but it's the truth.
"Oh, yeah. Can I take a picture to show the director?"
"Sure, go ahead," the chief tech answers.
Steve mugs as Bruce pulls out his camera phone and snaps the shot. He sends a copy to Tony and one to Pepper. Tony's response is instantaneous, a smiley face and the letters 'rotfl.' It takes Bruce a minute to remember what that stands for, but when he does, he shakes his head with a fond smile.
Bruce puts his phone back in his pocket as Steve directs the techs to "take it off now, please."
This has just been the test for the cosmetics; the real deal is not scheduled for a week.
Pepper had hired them a PA, despite their protestations. As Tony Stark's wife, she couldn't be directly involved without raising suspicion, but she had been sure to schedule Steve to come speak at Stark Industries about a month after he started giving lectures.
They're supposed to go to NYU first, staying local in case anything goes wrong.
Steve is being promoted as Steve Anderson, who grew up during the Depression. His real birthday is July 4, 1918, but they're moving that to mid-September 1926, which would put him in his late eighties.
If asked, Steve is allowed to say that he fought in the war, but he's not supposed to give anymore details than that.
Bruce is going along as Steve's son, Bruce Anderson. They had both had a good laugh when Tony announced that part of his plan. But this cover story allows them to keep their rings on, since they aren't distinctive (at least not on the outside), and both of them are grateful for that.
They owe so much to Tony, Bruce knows. Normally, he would be uncomfortable with such a large debt, but it's for Steve, and that makes it worth it.
Besides, the way Tony acts about it, they are doing him a favor. He's like a giant child, honestly.
The techs finish removing all of the makeup, and Steve shakes all of their hands, thanking everyone.
Then, he snatches Bruce's hand in his, and waving, propels the two of them out the door, swinging their clasped hands between them. Bruce smiles and follows in Steve's wake.
A week later, Steve has rehearsed his speech approximately five hundred and twelve times, paced a groove two inches deep into the living room floor, made Bruce practice calling him 'Pops' thirty-eight times, and ironed his outfit three times.
They're not due to leave for the makeup place for another two hours, and Steve is driving Bruce crazy. He knows Steve is eager to do this, but he also understands just how much nerves can get to a person. Before his first presentation at a science conference, Bruce had thrown up.
To prevent that from happening to his husband, Bruce decides to...distract Steve.
He stands from the couch where he had been sitting, watching his husband attempt to deepen the ditch in their living room floor. When Bruce obstructs Steve's path, the supersoldier stops short, careful to not knock into the physicist.
Steve is opening his mouth, presumably to apologize for almost running into him, but Bruce gets there first, a hand around the back of Steve's neck, pulling the taller man down to his height.
Steve is compliant under Bruce's hands and mouth, and Bruce soon maneuvers them to the floor, lying on the ridiculously plush carpet that Tony said was a requirement in all of the rooms in the Tower.
Bruce straddles Steve, bending low over the supersoldier's chest to keep their mouths connected. Steve allows this for a few minutes before he wraps an arm around Bruce's back and rolls them, covering Bruce with his body.
This move indicates that Steve wants to lead, probably needs to feel in control of something right now, so Bruce smiles up into the kiss and wriggles just a little to get more comfortable, signaling his acquiescence to Steve.
Steve rears up to pull off his t-shirt, so Bruce fumbles with the buttons on his. He doesn't get them undone fast enough for Steve, because the supersoldier is soon batting his hands away and doing it himself.
Their pants are the next to go, and while he is on his feet to remove his, Steve leaves the room for a minute and comes back with a condom and lube.
Bruce settles himself back down comfortably on the carpet, and gives Steve his best come hither look, internally snickering a little at the hilarity of the situation, that he would be the temptress. Or temptor, as the case may be. But, it seems an effective distraction, as the lines have cleared from Steve's forehead.
Steve tips the bottle over his hand, using far too much lube as is his custom, and kneels down, reaching for Bruce.
Spreading his legs, Bruce leans up a little for a kiss. Steve obliges.
After a few minutes, Bruce breaks away, reaching for the condom, sliding it onto Steve, whose hand is too slick to do it himself.
Steve pushes in, and Bruce moans.
It's not gentle, but Bruce doesn't really mind. It's what Steve needs, and that's a fundamental part of being in a relationship, knowing when to let go, to give your partner what he (or she) needs.
Steve comes first, and pulls out, carefully tying off the condom before wrapping his slick hand around Bruce's cock.
Shortly after, Bruce is crying out Steve's name.
They snuggle for a minute before getting up and heading to the bathroom.
Cleaning up turns into showering, which becomes round two. But they're not complaining.
Steve is nervous, but Bruce has helped cut the anxiety.
Now, the supersoldier carefully carries the garment bag with his outfit out to the van, which had been specially equipped with a wheelchair ramp. Tony paid (with a false account that also donated enough for five other families in need to get ramps).
The chair itself has already been stowed inside.
Steve is worried, but Bruce is straightening his clothes and attempting to run a brush through his hair, and he's distracting Steve.
Tired of watching his husband battle his cowlick, Steve grabs the brush away and does it himself.
They leave a few minutes later, Bruce driving one-handed, his other linked with Steve's on the console.
The lecture went off well. The kids (well, really they're about Steve's age, but they're still kids to him) had all been attentive.
A few had even asked well-thought-out questions at the end, and one young lady had managed to stump Steve so badly that Bruce had begun to step in, explaining something about 'Pops's memory loss,' when Steve had come up with the answer unexpectedly, blurting it out.
The kids had laughed, but they had apparently enjoyed it.
About fifteen or so came up afterwards to thank Steve. Bruce wouldn't let any of them shake his hand, explaining about 'Pops's brittle bones' but the real reason was that Steve's strength was inherent in his handshake, and while that was acceptable for a young twenty-something, the way he looked most of the time, it was decidedly not okay for an older gentleman.
When all the kids leave, Bruce wheeled Steve back out to their van, rolling him up the ramp and following the proper procedures for getting him in a seat and buckled in.
Once they pulled out of the parking lot, Steve whooped, waving his arms around in the air, nearly hitting Bruce in his excitement.
Bruce just smiled, tolerant. Steve suspects that his husband likes when Steve lets loose, and wishes he could do it himself more often.
His talks are successful, and he's soon in demand, traveling as much as an old man could realistically handle. Washington State, Texas, Indiana, Pennsylvania, the list goes on and on.
After about a month, Tony had told them that they can't keep using the same makeup technicians, as they might start getting suspicious.
So, Clint and Natasha come along for a few sessions, pretending to be techs-in-training. They learn the ropes for Steve, preparing to take their 'show on the road.'
Steve and Bruce are really grateful to them, and Clint and Natasha seem to be glad to help.
SHIELD gives the assassins time off whenever they need it. Fury's never come out and said it, but Steve suspects that he approves of what Steve's doing.
It feels like a fitting tribute to Coulson's memory, after all.
National emergencies are few and far between, and their PA can always reschedule with the 'Steve's in the hospital' excuse if something unavoidable comes up.
Everything goes well, and months soon stretch on into three years.
The day comes when Tony sits them down and tells them that Steve needs to be wrapping things up, that his cover story is beginning to stretch the limits of plausibility.
He says it in the nicest way possible, but it still hurts Steve. He can't help but agree, but that doesn't mean that he has to like it.
Sensing his sadness, that evening Bruce has a suggestion. "I've seen videos that Holocaust survivors have done, knowing that they won't be around forever, but wanting their story to live on. I bet we can do something like that for you."
It makes Steve happy, and Tony says 'yes' to that idea in the morning.
Their PA sets it up, and Steve makes the recording on a Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn, Bruce, Clint, and Natasha watching from the other side of the camera.
The following Wednesday, Steve makes his final presentation at NYU, as it seems fitting that they should end where they started.
About a month and a half later, an article runs quietly in the papers, announcing the death of Steve Anderson, WWII vet and recent lecturer.
His memorial service is held in New York, and Steve attends from the sidelines, carefully hidden away with Pepper as his companion.
Bruce, Clint, and Natasha are mourners, and Tony shows up partway through, standing in the back, respectful.
When he's asked about his presence there, Tony tells reporters, "Mr. Anderson was a great man, and I appreciate what he did for his country and for the youth of today. I came out of respect for his memory. Now, if you'll excuse me..."
Hearing enhanced by the serum, Steve hears what Tony says and relates it to Pepper, who smiles at her husband, despite the fact that the billionaire cannot see her. Tony really has matured in the past few years, and Steve's proud to call him his friend.
Among the mourners, Steve recognizes several of the kids who had attended his talks, not all of them local, and that makes him feel warm inside, knowing that he had made enough of an impact on them that they would attend his funeral, some even traveling to do it.
Afterwards, Bruce shucks his black suit for one of Steve's t-shirts and a pair of sweatpants. They eat dinner with Tony and Pepper, who bring up ideas for Steve's next project.
They suggest things like working with Houses for Habitat, MIFA, even the Peace Corps, but volunteer work, while interesting to Steve, is not what he wants to do full time.
Tony offers to hire Steve full-time, saying that they can find a position suited to Steve's abilities, but that's not really appealing to Steve either. Bruce already works for Tony, and Steve doesn't like feeling as if the billionaire completely supports them.
Bruce, who has been quiet, letting Pepper and Tony talk, speaks up. "Steve, how about going back to school for a while? I know you wanted to before the war..."
"That's a good idea, Bruce."
"Hey, it is! I get all the credit, it was totally my idea!" Tony interjects. Pepper swats his arm, and the billionaire shuts his mouth.
"What would you like to study? Do you have an idea, or would you need to look at a catalogue?" she asks, the wheels in her brain visibly turning.
"I wanted to go to art school back then, and I think I still would. But is that impractical?"
"No, not at all," Pepper reassures. "You could get your degree, and then maybe teach kids? Sell some of your work on the side?"
"I think I'd like to work with children. That's a good suggestion, Pepper, thank you!"
The discussion continues in that vein, and after dinner Steve retreats to the corner of the couch with his laptop, intensely looking at colleges in New York.
Tony, Bruce, and Pepper quietly discuss logistics on the other side of the room.
"He'll need a GED, you know," Pepper tells them.
"I don't think it will be much of a problem for him to get one, if he studies," Bruce says.
"And I can take care of making it look like he's had a job, and been saving up to go to school," Tony contributes.
"Thanks, Tony. You aren't going to offer to pay for this, are you?" Bruce tries to be quiet, hoping Steve is so absorbed in his research that he wouldn't overhear. Luckily, he doesn't.
"Yeah, I was. Why?"
"Because I don't think Steve likes to let you pay for everything. Some notion about the 'man as the provider' or something."
"Ha, that would make you the woman. But can I at least offer? He can always say no, I'm sure between the two of you, you can afford tuition."
"Okay, but be prepared for him to say 'no.'"
Pepper and Tony go to bed shortly after.
The next morning, Bruce wakes up to an empty bed, as is the usual.
When he walks into the kitchen for tea and breakfast, he finds Steve, sitting with his feet curled over the bottom of a stool, pensive.
"Good morning, Steve."
"Huh? Oh, morning, Bruce."
"Um, yeah. Tony came down and asked if he could pay for my school."
"Tony was awake at," Bruce checks the clock, "seven-thirty in the morning? Wow, he must really want to do this. What did you say?"
"I said 'yes.' It seemed like he really wanted to do it, and he was offering. Did I do the wrong thing?"
"No, Steve. You did what you thought was right. I'm glad that you were able to accept help." Bruce pulls Steve in for a kiss, all closed mouths and early-morning sloppy.
When they part, Steve's smile is relieved, and they eat breakfast together in silence.
Three and a half years later, Steve opens up his own studio. His first piece done there goes on the wall in Tony's office, and the second in Pepper's.
He settles into a life of commissions and teaching, and all of the kids love 'Mr. Rogers.'
Bruce is happy for Steve, and Steve is happy.
This is the end for these boys; they're in a good place now. What did y'all think?