Fandom: Marvel movieverse
Characters: Tony/Steve preslash
Word Count: 1,782
Notes: This is going to have a sequel, hopefully in the next few days. I'll mark it as such when it's posted. This can definitely be read as a stand-alone, though. Title from Always by John Gorka.
Summary: Steve doesn't quite fit in here.
Sometimes Steve thinks it might have been easier if he’d stayed trapped in the ice.
It’s not that he hates it here, not exactly; really, it’s not so much here that’s the problem, it’s now. Everything is familiar until it isn’t, everything is the same until it’s different. He’d gone for a walk through his old neighborhood the other day, trying to lay his memories over what his eyes had seen. He’s always had a good memory, and it had been too easy to overlay a car onto the street, a wide-eyed skinny version of himself next to a beautiful woman, I got beat up in that alley once.
Even his new companions startle him. Thor is massive and cheerful and almost frighteningly honest. Natasha moves like she’s more dangerous than anyone he’d known in the Army. Clint alternates between incredibly friendly and startlingly aloof. Bruce – well, Bruce hasn’t been around enough for Steve to get a read on him. Tony is… Tony is the hardest, in his own way, another thing that’s so familiar to Steve but so very different underneath it all. Always Tony, never Stark, because for all Steve is a military man, used to the easy familiarity of last names and the distance they leave between you and the next person, Tony isn’t Stark. Stark is Howard, shorter and thinner and less abrasive than his son, Howard who had made Steve’s suit and his shield, Howard who flew him in to save Bucky, Howard whom Steve had seen a week before going down over the Atlantic, Howard who has been dead for almost twenty years.
Howard isn’t Tony, and Tony isn’t Howard. It’s simple, but it’s different, and there’s so much different that Steve is just longing for a little same.
“Hey,” a voice says, and Steve doesn’t startle only because it’s been trained out of him. He does turn, though, and even Tony’s silhouette is just slightly off from what Steve is half-expecting. “Mind if I sit?”
“It’s your house,” Steve says, shrugging. “I should probably be asking you that.”
Tony grins and eases himself into a chair. He’s wearing a rumpled suit that somehow manages to look like it’s meant to be that way; Steve hasn’t quite gotten the hang of the fashions that are popular today, but he’s betting that this one is all Tony. There’s a decanter and a tumbler on the side table, and Tony pours himself a healthy glass. “Can I get you anything?”
“I don’t drink,” Steve replies. He holds a hand up, wiggling his fingers a bit. “Can’t get drunk, thanks to the serum, and I never did like the taste.”
“That,” Tony says, “is a crying shame. I’m very sorry to hear that, my friend, and if you want, I’ll see if I can come up with a way around it.” His words are interrupted by small sips from the glass, like little points of punctuation in his statement. “Anything, though, really. My hosting abilities extend past offering my guests alcohol, no matter what Fury might have told you.” He flashes a grin, white teeth in his tanned face, and looks nothing but amused.
“He hasn’t,” Steve tries, but he’s never been a good liar, and he can feel the heat rising in his cheeks. Fury had warned him, that’s the thing, had said things like unstable and dangerous and stay away. Fury is a lot less intimidating than Colonel Phillips had been, though, and Steve hadn’t really listened to Phillips, either. “I’m willing to ignore what Fury told me and make up my own mind,” he amends after a slight pause that he hopes wasn’t too awkward.
Tony smiles brilliantly. “A soldier with a mind of his own,” he says appreciatively. “That’s refreshing. Do you know how refreshing that is? Let me tell you,” he continues, gesturing dramatically. “I spent the better part – well, the worse part, actually, but turns of phrase, you know how they go – anyway, most of my life was spent talking to soldiers, selling the government this thing or that. And mostly it was just soldiers nodding back, feeding me propaganda, the same lines again and again-” He cuts himself off with a twist of his lips. “Enough of my demons,” he says after a healthy swallow of the liquid in his tumbler. “What’s new in Captain America’s world?”
“Everything,” Steve says immediately, and Tony laughs again. Steve grins a little, because its true and it’s obvious and it’s not what Tony meant, not at all. “Nothing lately, not really. Clint took my phone away at breakfast and put a game on it, so that’s new, but I haven’t even tried to play it yet.” Phones with games, that’s another thing that’s so different; phones don’t have to be plugged into the wall now, for one, and for another, they have buttons, not rotary dials. Clint had told him that his phone is like a little computer, but the computers Steve thinks about are patterns that Howard had drawn on the back of a napkin once, speaking in a rush about the future and automation and-
“You in there?” Tony interrupts mildly, and Steve shakes his head. Howard’s face fills out slightly, darkens, and that’s Tony sitting in front of him. Steve smiles and rubs the back of his neck. Yeah, he thinks, computers are definitely the future.
“I’m just trying to figure everything out,” he says, a little too late, and Tony nods and takes another sip from his tumbler.
“Culture shock,” Tony says wisely. “I mean, you’ve gotta be doing a lot of same-but-different, right? Walking down the street, expecting to see a bakery on the corner-”
“That was once,” Steve interrupts, face flaming. “And I wouldn’t have read the name of it out loud if I’d realized what it was, Tony.”
“-and instead it’s a strip club,” Tony finishes anyway, a smile playing around his mouth but never quite catching on. “Really, though. How are you handling everything?”
Steve tries to evaluate the question, but he can’t really get over the enormity of it in his head. There’s a lot of parts to everything, and if he’s honest with himself, he’s doing much better with some bits than with others. “I’m okay, I guess,” he says finally.
Tony laughs quietly, and for some reason, Steve doesn’t feel like the joke is on him. It’s the first time he’s felt that way in a while. “You’re not exactly selling me on that, Cap.”
Steve winces. There’s no part of him that’s ashamed of who he is or what he’s done; he just wishes there was more of a line between Captain America and Steve Rogers. He doesn’t know how to ask for that without sounding crass, though, or like he’s ungrateful or demanding or something else that he isn’t, not really. He’s just – he’s exactly what he is, a man out of his time and struggling to find a little bearing, and having someone who knows him as Steve instead of Captain America might make that a little easier.
Tony’s face is soft when Steve glances up. “See, that’s about what I thought,” he says, settling his glass on the table and leaning forward. “It’s like a puzzle, right?”
“I don’t follow,” Steve says when it becomes clear that Tony is waiting for him to agree. Tony bobs his head.
“A jigsaw puzzle, right, like all the pieces are there and together but one, and the one piece you have left looks like it should fit, but you can’t really jam it in where it goes without bending the edges or, or cutting it, or jamming it upside-down.” He leans back, apparently satisfied with his description.
Steve blinks a few times. “It’s a little like that, yeah,” he says slowly, “as long as I’m the wrong piece in that metaphor.”
“Well, it sounds awful when you put it that way,” Tony says, scowling so much that Steve has to grin. There’s an amused glint in Tony’s eyes that says that it might have been Tony’s goal. “I did say one that looks like it fits. It has all of the right – what are those called, the holes in the sides and then the little plug pieces-”
Steve is outright laughing by this point, and Tony only holds onto his scowl for a few lingering seconds before smiling as well. “You might have taken that comparison a little too far,” Steve says when his laughter dies down into a grin.
“I think it illustrates the point quite nicely,” Tony sniffs, mock-affronted, and Steve is suddenly struck by how easy this is, sitting and talking with Tony. Talking to Howard had been easy, too, if entirely different, but Steve clutches at the familiarity, holds it close.
“Okay,” Steve agrees, “I’m feeling a little like a puzzle piece.”
Tony nods and lifts his glass again. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help with that,” he says, taking a sip. “I mean it, too, and in a totally different way than Fury means it. I mean it for things that don’t have to do with a new set of armor or polish for that shield of yours.”
“I was told that you’d be handling any armor issues I had,” Steve says, frowning, but Tony sees it for the bait that it is and rolls his eyes. Steve’s composure slips and he lets the grin through.
“Keep teasing me, I’ll make your next armor yellow and purple,” Tony threatens. “I’ll even add some nice sequin flowers up the sides-”
“Go to dinner with me,” Steve cuts in, which isn’t what he’d meant to say at all. He hurries to explain as Tony falls silent, observing him over the rim of his glass. “I mean, look, you said anything, and I’ve been eating here for a month, and the month before that I spent at SHIELD. I’ve been having a lot of takeout and military food, and while I’m not ungrateful, I’d really like-”
“To get out of here,” Tony finishes, nodding. “I can do dinner. What did you have in mind?”
“Um,” Steve replies. It’s not like he’d thought this out, not really. “Nowhere fancy. I was thinking burgers, or maybe pizza.”
“I know a place where we can get both,” Tony says, setting his glass down again and standing. “Come on, Steve, let’s go eat food that’s bad for us in the name of puzzles everywhere.”
Steve grins and follows Tony from the living room. It’s not until they’re seated at the restaurant that Steve realizes that Tony had used his name.
Maybe he’s fitting in here a little better than he’d thought.