If you're gone - baby it's time to come home
There's an awful lot of breathing room, but I can hardly move
If you're gone - baby you need to come home
Cause there's a little bit of something me, in everything in you
-If You're Gone, Matchbox Twenty
September 9th, 1944
A steady stream of people shuffled into the bar, some needing to drown out their bereavement with gallons of alcohol and others catching up with their friends, lovers, or family over a quiet drink. There was also the occasional shady guy who was mostly likely being pursued by bounty hunters or his crazy ex, but this bar hasn't seen too many those. A finely dressed man sat at the piano, playing a soft tune in the background of all the conversations in the room. The scent in the air consisted of the ladies' sweet perfume, cigarette smoke, and of course liquor. People drank. People laughed. People smoked. People cried.
There was nothing special about tonight; it was just another ordinary night at the bar.
Tony rubbed the inside of a glass with a white towel until it resembled polished crystal and placed it back in the basket, ready to be used again. A deep sigh escaped his lips as he leaned into his palm on the counter, absent-mindedly drumming his fingers against its cool surface. He didn't bother listening in on other people's conversations; almost all were about the war raging in Europe. The other conversations mainly consisted of gibberish spewed out by those who should've stopped buying drinks ages ago. Tony's eyes shifted towards the clock as the hands moved to 10:19; only a little more than a half hour left until his shift was over.
The constant talk of war caused a vivid image of Captain Steve Rodgers to materialize inside his head. Ever since the US had been dragged into the war, he would be gone for months at a time fighting in Europe, only coming home for a couple days to two weeks at a time before being called for duty again. Tony always felt his heart shatter inside his chest whenever Steve left town because he didn't know if that would be the last time he would ever see him; it was a feeling he would never get used to. Although he was as far from religious as you can get, Tony from time to time would find himself praying for Steve's wellbeing and for him to come home safely. He didn't even want to think about the…other outcome.
A figure took a seat on one of the stools in front of him, his features partially hidden by the dim lighting. Tony pulled himself from his thoughts and took a shiny glass from the basket under the bar counter.
"Good evening, what can I get you?" He recited boardly, his voice tired from saying it over a hundred times that evening.
"I'd like just a little company, that's all."
Tony's ears perked up at the customer's voice. The man before was dressed in a simple white-collared shirt and tie underneath a handsome brown jacket adorned with colorful pins. His blonde hair was neatly styled and out of face and Tony could see his familiar azure-colored eyes…the glass slipped from his hands and sparkling shards covered the floor around his feet like sharp dewdrops.
"Steve!" Tony threw his arms around the captain, embracing him tightly.
"Hi Tony, I got here literally less than an hour ago; I wanted to see you before your shift was over." Steve smiled and pat Tony's shoulder.
"My hours got changed and my shift isn't over for another half hour," Tony explained and pulled himself from Steve's strong arms. "mayb-"
Tony cringed at his boss's gruff voice across the bar. Customers looked away from their company and drinks and focused their eyes on the portly man storming towards Tony. Although he was a couple inches shy of matching Tony's height, he was still quite intimidating. Tony wrinkled his nose at the scent of burning tobacco and smoke coming from the massive cigar hanging from the corner of his mouth.
"Clean this shit up right now or you're gonna be staying another hour!" His furious scream made the tables shake.
"Relax, it was only one glass; it's an easy clean-up." Tony's voice was still calm and laid-back even against his boss's rage and Steve merely watched the scene unfold.
"Don't you dare talk back to me! One more smart-ass comment and I'll make you work ANOTHER hour." The strong Whisky on his breath now mingled with the cigar smoke and all Tony could do was try not to gag. "Understand!"
Tony wanted to point out that the bar closed at midnight, but he didn't want to take a chance to see if he really would force him to work an extra two hours. It would be two hours of Steve's limited time back in New York wasted, two hours that they could use to spend time together.
"Yes sir." Tony replied obediently with an undertone of irritation.
The stout man shot him one final death glare and waddled back to his office like a fat penguin, or rather that fat penguin he was. Steve felt a tiny pot of anger bubble in his stomach; Tony didn't deserve to be an under-paid bartender, he should be the one running the bar instead. Being the underdog didn't suit him or his personality well; Tony Stark would be a lot better at running the place then his over-sized boss.
"You don't deserve to have a job like this." Steve spoke his thoughts as Tony cleaned up the shards of glass littering the floor.
Tony sighed heavily. "I know, but it's all I got." He met Steve's gentle blue eyes. "How long are you in town for this time, Cap?"
Steve shrugged. "I don't know, guess we'll have to wait and see."
"Could you spare a night for your favorite bartender?" Tony flashed him his world-famous smile.
Steve paused for a moment and returned the smile. "I think I just might."
Tony immediately left at the stroke of 11:00, the end of his shift. He found Steve patiently waiting in the corner of the bar and the two strolled through the quiet city back to Tony's apartment. It was a small, simple apartment in contrast to his personality, but it was the best place for the two to catch up without being interrupted. Steve took a seat on Tony's threadbare, but still soft, couch as the dark-haired man poured glasses of Champagne for the two of them and sat beside him.
"How long has it been? Two months?" Tony mused to himself and shook his head. "Doesn't matter, how've you been?"
"Good, if I wasn't I wouldn't be here," Steve replied and took a sip of his Champagne. "It wasn't too bad over in Europe, err, where I was at least…"
Tony was silent for a couple moments and Steve continued. "This has been going on for far too long and too many people are dying; the sooner this ends, the better." He set his glass down on the coffee table and sighed deeply.
"I agree," Tony said quietly. "Could we maybe talk…about…" His voice faltered as he caught a flash of white on Steve's wrist beneath his jacket.
Steve only had a second to notice the concerned expression on Tony's features before he yanked his wrist towards him and rolled up the sleeve of his jacket, exposing the white bandages covering his arm. Tony's eyes grew wide as he rolled up his sleeve past his elbow, still seeing nothing but clean white bandages. Steve could feel Tony's fingers trembling ever-so-slightly against his arm as his heart pounded; this is exactly what he feared would happen.
"It's just a minor wound, I'm fine." Steve replied quickly.
"Minor?" Tony's voice escalated. "Your ENTIRE arm is bandaged! How the hell did this happen?"
Even though the solider had the courage to fight in the war halfway across the world, he didn't have enough to look Tony in the eyes. "There was a recon mission and we were surrounded. We managed to fight off most of them but one snuck up on me from behind and burned my arm pretty bad. It's noth-"
"NOTHING? Steve, if it weren't for that serum you probably wouldn't even have your arm right now!" Tony's eyes rested on the captain's bandaged wound. "You should resign; come back home and we can still support the war effort from here and not risk your life constantly."
"Tony, I knew what the risks were when I signed up. This is nothing," He held up his bandaged arm. "I don't like-"
"You don't like bullies, I get it!" Tony's voice rose. "But is it worth gambling with your life to stand up to them? I'm tired of watching you leave and not knowing if that's the last time I'll see you!"
"That isn't the-"
"Steve, there's plenty of other people fighting the bullies out there!"
"I'm fighting for another reason!"
"What, is that other reason because you secretly crave the bloodlust of battle?"
"It doesn't matter! The fighting in Europe has gotten a lot worse recently and it scares me to think that YOU'RE there! For all I know, you coul-"
"The other reason why I'm fighting is for you!" Steve finally said. Tony fell speechless.
"I want to keep you safe and I tell myself that when we win this war we'll both be safe and not have to worry about each other constantly!" Steve's eyes softened. "I hate bullies, I hate the bullies fighting us, and I hate the bullies that target you. I want to make sure both you and America are safe."
For once in his life, Tony was speechless. Almost no one had ever spoken to him like that before but if someone did, it was probably a long time ago. He knew that Steve deeply cared about him, but the words spoken just now showed him how much he really cared. His own mouth wouldn't come even close to expressing his care in return in such a simple, sweet fashion like Steve had just done. Steve's crystal eyes were still locked with Tony's deep brown and the two merely sat there, allowing the dull hum of the outside world to act as background music.
Tony threw his arms around the solider and rested his head against his broad shoulder. Steve gently rubbed his back as he returned the gesture, as if reminding Tony that he was still there for the time being.
"I promise I'll be more careful, for you Tony. The last thing I want is for you to make yourself sick with worrying about me." Steve pulled away and gave him a small smile. "Just think about all the good things that will happen when this whole damn war is over."
Tony nodded, smiling back. "I'll be right there when you return home not just as America's hero, but also my hero."
Steve took a small sip of his champagne. "Even if we lose the war will I still be your hero?"
That tiny spark in Tony's eyes said it for him: Always.
May 11th, 1945
"About h-how long will you be? This place is going to be mighty crowded tonight…" The young teen ran a hand through his messy auburn curls.
"A couple of hours at the very least; even though I'm just picking up a friend from the station it could take a while because EVERYONE is coming home." Tony stepped out of his office and walked to the front of his bar with Hayden behind him. "Just make sure we have enough ice, the glasses and counters are clean…all that jazz. And quit stammering around me, I'm not that old grumpy bastard that used to run this place; I don't bite."
"Sorry Mr. Stark, I'm still not used to not seeing him around here. I'm HAPPY you're in charge here now but it takes a while adjusting to a new boss, especially your last one was a complete jerk," Tony smiled a little at the kid's anxiety: something he had even when Tony was just another bartender there instead of the boss.
"I'll tell the others to start cleaning when our break is over." Hayden turned to go to the employee's lunge but stopped. "What time do you want us to open the doors?"
"Six o' clock on the dot, but no later than six-thirty if you're still cleaning up; I should be back by then. Just make sure the place doesn't burn down in the meantime." He replied quickly. "I'll see you tonight, Hayden."
Tony drew in a breath and stepped outside, running a hand through his perfectly styled hair. His bar was quiet for now, but it would be filled with cries and shouts of happiness. News of Germany's surrender had reached America yesterday and every single ounce of sadness had been sucked out of the country since. People were dancing and hollering in the streets and crowded the train stations eagerly awaiting their loved ones' return. Tony felt his heart pick up speed at the thought of seeing Steve again for the first time since December.
He followed the mob of people through Grand Central Station, cursing at the crowd's roughness as they repeatedly bumped into him. The benches were all taken by the tracks so he settled for leaning against a large marble column a little ways back from the tracks. His heart picked up even more at the sound of the train's wheels against the tracks and people began hollering even though the train wasn't in sight yet.
The train slowly pulled into the station and people clawed at the doors until they opened, revealing the smiling faces of the soldiers greeting their families. Tony's eyes frantically searched through the mob, trying to catch a glimpse of Steve's tall frame, but had no luck. A couple minutes went by and soldiers were still coming off, but none of them were Steve. Did he…no, he couldn't have. Tony pushed the horrid thought of Steve not returning from his head. It was defiantly a possibility but there's no way he could-
"Sorry, I got stuck in the back of the train and couldn't get out until now."
Tony looked up and his hero was standing before him, dressed in the same handsome suit he wore when he last saw him. Steve dropped his suitcase and threw his around Tony, who immediately hugged him back. Tony wasn't known to cry, but there was a tear or two of happiness shed at the moment. Tony tightened his hold on Steve and rested his head against his broad shoulder. The war was over. No more bullies. No more nightmares. No more constant worrying.
I love you, I have loved you all along
And I forgive you, for being away for far too long
So keep breathing cause I'm not leaving you anymore
Believe it, hold onto me never let me go
-Far Away, Nickelback
This was a request on Tumblr and I liked how it turned out so I decided to post it here!
Inspired by this post here - post/29993723876/mymjolnirisbigger-how-long-you-in-town-for
School's been crazy and I have about 9 million and 6 friend problems to sort out, so updates to Family Moments may come later rather than sooner. But I will try to get a chapter up soon!