Author's Note: Thanks so much to all the support and readers out there and a big shout out to my beta ravingbeauty thank you for your work and dedication for helping me get this story out there. Here's to you.
Man Out of Time
Epilogue - Time After Time
"It's utterly disgusting how adorable they are," Clint commented loudly from his spot at the kitchen table as he watched Tony kiss Steve on the cheek before heading to his lab for the day.
The billionaire flipped him off, "Watch it or I'll clock you again."
Tasha snorted, glancing at the now mulish looking archer; the bruise on his jaw had yet to fade.
It had been a hectic week following Tony's passage through time. Fury seemed to think they would be able to recreate the time machine easily now that the brilliant inventor had returned. Fury hadn't banked on the genius being so unhelpful, though. Tony adamantly refused to share any of his knowledge, and it bugged the Director to no end.
Steve was secretly pleased; he didn't think anyone should hold that kind of power.
The blond watched his boyfriend depart, smiling to himself. After their night together, he had found his things in Tony's suite the next morning with no fuss. And the team had accepted them immediately, no questions asked.
Tony had been right about this time. He was free to be himself, to express his love openly. It had been worth the wait to have what he did now. Grinning rather sappily to himself, he bid Tasha and Clint goodbye before heading to SHIELD.
Down in his lab Tony was gleefully putting the finishing touches on his plan. He looked critically at his latest project.
"If I may say so, sir, it is some of your finest work," JARVIS commented from above him.
The inventor snorted, "Kiss ass. You're right, though. Next to my suit, it's just about my favorite thing." Turning it this way and that, he checked it over one last time. Finally satisfied, Tony moved to the metal footlocker sitting innocently in the center of the table.
Working on a hunch, he had charmed the archivist at SHIELD into seeing if there was anything in the old files that had belonged to an Anthony Starling. Much to his surprise, his footlocker was there amongst all of his father's old gear from Project Rebirth. It had just arrived this morning and he was more than a little curious as to its contents.
It looked much older than when he'd seen it last, his name on the metal faded and worn. When he opened it, the rusty hinges squeaked loudly. Dark eyes eagerly scanned the contents, pleased to see his dress uniform, though he wrinkled his nose at the smell of must. After shaking it out, he set the uniform aside.
The uniform was followed by an old pair of combats, extra boots, and some papers and drawings he had done for Howard. As he shuffled through the stack of papers his fingers paused near the edge of a photo, then curiously tugged the faded black and white picture free. Surprised, he blinked as the image registered. Despite his best efforts to avoid pictures, someone had apparently snapped a candid shot of Steve and him.
The corners of his mouth lifted in a smile. They were both so dirty they must have just returned from a mission. His sleeves were rolled to his elbows as he leaned on his rifle, laughing at something the smirking Captain America had said. Chuckling, he set it aside; he'd dig up a frame for that later.
There wasn't much left now save a letter addressed to Tony Starling. Curious, he turned the yellowing paper over in his hands and opened it carefully. He recognized the distinctive script in an instant – Howard.
It took me some time, and my own not inconsiderable genius, to figure it out. Even then it wasn't until the birth of my son, Anthony Stark, that I truly put it all together.
The moment we met I felt I had found a kindred spirit. I was amazed to meet someone on my level of understanding. My impressions proved true. So few fathers get to see the men their sons become, and while I feel I barely scratched the surface, I was truly privileged to have glimpsed something incredible.
I hope that whatever you do in life, son, you do with the same passion, energy, and dedication you showed me. You have been and always will be my greatest invention.
Knees suddenly unable to support him, Tony Stark slumped onto his stool. He gently held the letter in his trembling hands, ignoring the tears making their way across his cheeks. Shoulders shaking, he wiped at his eyes. "Damn it, dad…" he mumbled as he folded the letter and carefully placed it on his workspace.
Tony was shaken from his thoughts abruptly as a deafening alarm blared, echoing off the concrete walls of the lab. Putting aside his personal troubles, he immediately hurried to suit up; the Avengers were being called. His race to the battle stalled, though, when he saw an incoming call from Natasha.
"I'm on my way," he called as he dashed across the lab.
"No need, Tony. Clint, Steve, and I have it under control. It's not as bad as we thought."
He paused, arching a brow, "You sure?"
She nodded, "Absolutely, we'll have Cap home for dinner."
Nodding in understanding, the man ended the call; at least it would give him time to prepare.
It had been a terrible day.
Exhausted, sweaty, and feeling sorry for himself, Steve dragged his battered body back to the Tower. All he wanted was to shower and find Tony. He was halfway to the stairs when he heard music and paused. Frowning, he strained his enhanced hearing.
The music wasn't Tony's usual taste; it was mellow, soft, and very familiar. He stood straight, blinking when he recognized the tune.
Let's say goodbye with a smile, dear,
Just for a while, dear, we must part.
He hurried towards the lab, chest tight. Gasping he burst through the doors, his heart stuttering at the sight before him.
Don't let this parting upset you,
I'll not forget you, sweetheart.
Tony stood casually in the center of the room wearing his dress uniform, cap tilted jauntily. He looked so heartbreakingly handsome and familiar in the uniform. Then Tony shot him a charming smile, "Care for a dance, soldier?"
We'll meet again,
Don't know where, don't know when.
Steve bit his lip and stepped forward; reaching out, he grasped a callused hand in his. Tony tugged him closer and settled one hand on his hip, while the other clasped his hand. With easy grace, he guided him across the room as Vera Lynn sang on.
But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day.
"Tony," Steve muttered, leaning down to kiss the man softly, sweetly. "What brought this on?" he mumbled against the mouth he loved so much.
Smiling, the smaller man spun him teasingly, "I promised you a dance."
Tears welled up in Steve's blue eyes and they stopped in the center of the room, the soldier holding on tightly.
Keep smiling through,
Just like you always do.
"That night at the pub when I asked you about the future, I was hoping…" he cupped Tony's face and brushed back the dark hair.
Tony smiled at him softly, "Hoping what?"
Steve sighed, "That we could have a future."
'Til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.
Tony trembled with nerves, sure that Steve could hear his heart beating from a mile away. Taking a deep breath, he gripped Steve's hands, dropped to one knee, and looked up into Steve's astonished, uncomprehending blue eyes.
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the ring he'd been working on all week. Tony had never made any sort of jewelry before, but for his first attempt he thought he'd done rather well. "It's a combination of vibranium and my arc reactor."
Steve was frozen in shock.
After a few moments Tony cleared his throat nervously, "Didn't think this would be so hard." He pulled his cap off and fidgeted nervously with the brim for a moment, "Steven Grant Rogers, I know I can be an utter pain, I tend to do my own thing, and I rarely listen. But I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life trying to be the kind of man you think I am. Will you marry me?"
The silence stretched out as Steve continued to stare at him, wide-eyed.
Tony, still on one knee, was getting a little worried, "Do you, umm… maybe need some time to think?" He was terrified now; perhaps he'd jumped the gun a bit.
Steve finally managed to snap out of his shock and fell to his knees in front of Tony, "Yes, yes, a thousand times yes." Steve was kissing him then, Tony relieved and kissing back.
"Scared me there for a minute," Tony mumbled as he slipped the ring onto Steve's finger and admired his handiwork. "Try breaking that, Spangles." Laughing, the other man kissed him again hard before Tony pulled away to speak again, "It took us 70 years, but I think it was worth the wait. I love you, Steve."
Steve admired the band on his finger with a grin, "I love you, too, man out of time."
Tony laughed and pulled him close. They kissed lovingly as the future stretched out before them, a bright promising unknown.