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Double Trouble
Chris, Safi, 616 Steve | June 26
Marvel-616 Universe

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#41
Steve smiles at Christian's comforting pat on his arm. His reassurance and presence was nice. Steve knows he has a bad tendency to spiral into negative thoughts and dark places when he stops and thinks about the world and his situation too long. The presence of good company was always the remedy for that and he found Christian's company to be down roght excellent.

From what Christian was saying the wars sounded...less bad, if that was even a thing. All wars were awful to the people who had to fight them. Only the people sitting at home watching the news could look at wars and judge some as being not that bad. The advancement in rights sounded good. His mother had been part of many woman rights movements, and it was good to know that her hard work, and the hard work of so many others, had made a difference. Things were improving, maybe not as fast as they all hoped, but improving all the same.

He gives Christian a smile. "Don't mind me. I'm just an old war horse being too maudlin for my own good."

Steve gives Christian a sympathetic look. He had spent most of his teenage years watching people he was interested in enter happy relationship of their own, and while he wished them all well, he knows how much that stings.

"I'm sorry," Steve says, "but Ma always said the best way of dealing with a broken heart is with pleanty of food, and you're not the only one who can cook here. I don't know if Ma's famous chocolate oatmeal cookies made it into those comic books of yours, but they are the best in all of Brooklyn."
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#42
Christian was happy to give comfort; he knew what it was to need something like that, even something small, like this little pat, and not get it, and Steve? Steve deserved the comfort he needed. Steve was Captain America, and he was good, he was one of the best heroes. And he was easy to be around, too. Christian felt at ease and comfortable with him, and that was very nice.

Less bad was… Yeah, maybe from a global perspective they were less bad. Chris hadn’t meant to indicate that the wars, or war in general, weren’t terrible, because they were, obviously. But Chris wasn’t sure war would ever be entirely gone. And Chris agreed with Steve’s thought that civil rights for everyone was a very, very good advancement. Women, the different races, and LGBTQ+ were in a far better place than they had been when Steve had crashed into the ice, even if things still weren’t perfect.

“Please, don’t do that.” The request is quiet, but there’s a thread of something in it, something gentle but strong, “Don’t say things like that about yourself. You…” Chris shook his head, and smiled almost shyly, “You’re Steve Rogers. Captain America. One of the best,” maybe not THE best, but he was close, “Please don’t be embarrassed, but I read your comics growing up. You are amazing in them.” The pause was barely noticeable, but Christian only used the moment to look down for a moment, “And you’re better in real life.” He blinked, then looked at Steve for a moment, “How is that even possible? How can you be even better in real life than you were in the comics?” That shouldn’t even be a thing, and yet, it was.

Chris wouldn’t call sleeping with Tony Stark being in a happy relationship, but… It was what Safi wanted to do.

A broken heart… His heart wasn’t broken, it was just… It wasn’t broken, though! But he had no argument, not really, and so he just shrugged at Steve’s words, looking up, “Not that I ever read, but it wasn’t possible for me to get my hands on the older issues… The store only had the newer ones and some old ones, but old Captain America issues were worth more than the new ones, so they weren’t really…ah...feasible.” He grinned, “But I wouldn’t mind keeping you company and trying one!”
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#43
Steve blinks in surprise at Christian's quiet request. It wasn't often that he got down on himself in front of people, especially people that he didn't know very well, but Christian was just so easy to open up to. Steve blushes at being called one of the best. That was clearly an overstatement. His teammates consisted of far more remarkable men and women. One of them was a literal god!

The comics. Steve tried not to be embarrassed by them, he's sure they must have done some good and helped some children somewhere, but how can he not be at least a little embarrassed at the thought of kids reading of all 'daring' escapades, when in truth he had spent most of the war watching good men die and wondering if there was more he could have done to save them. He assumes those parts didn't make it into any comics, at least he hopes not.

“And you’re better in real life. How is that even possible? How can you be even better in real life than you were in the comics?”

Steve gives him an embarrassed smile.

"I'm really not that great," he says awkwardly, "I make mistakes all the time, the comics probably don't mention that."

Steve fumbles with the ingredients, trying to stir the dough to just the right consistency. His always came out just a bit flat. Ma never had that problem with hers. He really hopes Christian likes them, and doesn't just eat them to be polite.

"New comics? Like ones written after the war and the ice?" Steve looks up curiously. Everyone has been rather tight lipped about his future, and he couldn't deny that he was curious.
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#44
Mostly, Christian wishes he could show Steve how he saw him; good and sweet, kind, and strong, but not just physically… Ready to stand up for the right thing, no matter how hard the world tried to push him down. Yeah, Christian had idolized Captain America nearly as much as he had Iron Man, and right now, he was trying to focus on Steve as a person rather than as the hero Christian had grown up with him being. Better than Superman or even Batman because he’d been able to see into his life and get to know Steve Rogers as well as Captain America.

Best because Steve wasn’t a god. Because he had his flaws, and so often managed to overcome them, and when he couldn’t, he was strong enough to acknowledge it and let his teammates step up and help him.

Christian blinked at Steve as he insisted that he wasn’t ‘that great’ and shook his head in wonderment, “Seriously. Better than the comics.” Chris grinned at him, “Do you know, one of the reasons I love you and…” he wrinkled his nose, “Don’t tell Mr. Stark, because I’ll lie and deny it forever, Steve, I will, I will call Captain America a dirty liar if you tell him, But you and Iron Man was because you two weren’t perfect, not by a long shot. Not perfect, not gods or titans. Just a soldier - yes with the serum but still just a guy, and one who knew what it was to be small - and a regular man - yes one who was stupid smart, and I swear i will tell him I have no idea what you’re talking about if you tell him any of this - who was a little bit brash and socially awkward, but you save the world over and over again, every month, you saved the world again from whatever was threatening it, and…” Chris took a deep breath, “And I thought, if they can grow up and be special, grow up and be successful and real and someone, then maybe I can. Because we were all orphans, Steve, all of us, and you still made it, so I believed… I believed that I could too, and…”

He pointed at Steve, “You did that. You gave that to me, that belief, that drive. And here I am.” The best PA at Lexcorp (save for Miss Mercy but she was something else entirely) and a quickly learning magician. “So I thank you for your mistakes, Steve. I thank you for being a person, a real person, someone I could relate to. Just like Mr. Stark was. Or well..” Chris sighed, “He turned out to be a lot different than how the comics said… But in the books, he was relatable.”

Chris wasn’t one to sit in a kitchen where someone was cooking and do nothing, so while Steve worked at cookies, Chris washed and dried the dishes and put them away. Least he could do, considering Mr. Stark was letting them all stay for free, and unlike Safi, Chris was giving the man nothing in return. “Oh yeah. After the war, after you.. You know, woke up. And became an Avenger.”
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#45
Steve chuckles at Christian’s insistence that he will tell Mr. Stark he’d a liar for breathing a word of this conversation, but he turns serious as he listens to Christian speak. It’s good, if a bit surprising, to know his comics were able to help someone that much. He wished he had had that type of story to read when he was growing up. It certainly would have helped the self-doubt that wasn’t good enough that plagued him during his adolescence. Still he has to shake his head when Christian says, “You did that. You gave that to me, that belief, that drive. And here I am.”

He puts his hand on Christian’s shoulder, “don’t short sell yourself. You did all the hard work for that yourself.”

Steve had to admit that he was a bit surprised to hear that Mr. Stark was a relatable character. Steve found him to be an eccentric individual, unlike anyone Steve had ever met before. Nobody could match Mr. Stark's brillance or enthusiasm.

“Does Mr. Stark have his own line of comics?” Steve asks. He can imagine Mr. Stark featuring heavily in the Iron Man comics, probably as someone usually needing rescue by the incredible Iron Man, but he has trouble imagining that children would be interested in reading comics about a man who went to a lot of business meetings and didn’t even fight crime. Iron Man comics would be a fun read. He wonders if any of the comics exist in the hub and makes a note to himself to see if he can find any.

Steve finishes with the batter and loads the cookie dough into the oven and joins Christian on clean up duty.

“Yeah, Mr. Stark told me about joining the avengers, but what else?” Steve asks and then admits, “I’m very curious about my future.”
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DC-DCTVU-1

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#46
Christian was serious, too. Tony and Steve had been lifelines in a world that had threatened to smash Chris down. He snorted quietly, shaking his head, “Well sure. Captain America and Iron couldn’t do everything for me. But you both gave me the belief and the strength to work for it, Steve. You and Tony, saving the world month after month. If you could make it, then so could I. And I did. If you could be successful, then so could I. And I was. Am. And I’m not ashamed of who I am, or how I got to where I am.” Not ashamed that he had worked so hard to be like his childhood heroes. Not at all.

Yes, in the comics, Tony had definitely been someone Chris had been able to relate to. An orphan, lonely, someone people thought of as unique, odd, or off. Socially awkward in some ways. Eccentric. Yep. But Tony had been brilliant and kind and generous, too.

Did he have…? Chris blinked, and then he lit up, “Of course he did! Most of the Avengers did! Mostly. He had Iron Man. And the Avengers, of course, but you knew that already.” Blushing, Chris looked down with a shrug and a small smile, “Don’t tell Mr. Stark? He already knows that he was a hero of mine growing up, but… He was my favorite, Steve. Iron Man is just… I could bring in the one issue, he saves a dog, for a little boy, and that… I have a lot of them.” He fidgeted, looking down at the floor as he spoke, “I could bring some in for you, if you’d like? I… I don’t blame you for being curious. I’m not sure how far in the future it goes, really… But…” But this was Captain America, and if anyone deserved trust it was him. Steve Rogers was to be trusted. Listened to. If Steve asked him to bring the comics, Chris would bring as many as he owned for Steve to read. Happily.
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#47
That was odd. Steve can't imagine saving the world with Tony all that often. Iron Man yes, but not Tony Stark.

Then Christian implied that Tony Stark is an avenger and not just the funder and Steve frowns. He truly has nothing against Tony Stark, but everything Christian is saying just doesn't add up with how Tony has been presenting himself to Steve.

"Are you saying that Tony Stark is an avenger, because I can't imagine Iron Man being happy with that. It certainly makes his job harder," Steve says, although as the funder it's not like they can tell the man no if he does want to join the team.

"And yes, any comics you have that are important would be appreciated. If it's not too much trouble of course," Steve says sincerely.
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DC-DCTVU-1

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#48
Christian had read a lot of Iron Man growing up. And sure, somewhere in his mind he had the fact that at one point, Tony had kept his identity a secret even from his fellow Avengers, but that little gem of knowledge was buried under over a decade of material, information, events, and retcons. When he had met Tony, the other man hadn’t seemed all that alarmed that Chris had recognized him and known of his alter ego, and thus why wouldn’t Steve know?

So Steve’s odd question earned him a rather confused look. “Of course, Tony is an Aven--” Chris blinked, then blurted out, “But Tony is Iron--”

And there was that beautiful, shiny gem of knowledge that, at his exclamation, his mind brought out, blew the dust off of, polished, and offered up to Christian silently, and the smaller man’s eyes went wide as the color drained from his face, “Maybe we shouldn’t be talking about this…” the words came out small and rushed as he realized that he might have made problems for Tony that he hadn’t actually meant to make. And as unhappy as he was that Tony didn’t seem to be the person that Christian had thought he was, or that he and Safi were...whatever they were… he hadn’t meant to do maybe actual harm to him, either. Especially not where Steve was concerned. And on top of that concern, there was the worry over Steve’s feelings, too. Because damn, Steve was an absolute sweetheart, and Chris didn’t want to make things difficult for him or upset him in any way.

“I… Um… I can see what I have… Maybe dig something up…” He was suddenly incredibly worried about what damage he might do, to Steve, and to the man’s relationship with Tony, if he brought certain comics here… He’d have to be very, very careful. Very, very, very careful.
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#49
“Of course, Tony is an Aven--Tony is Iron--” Christian stops,looking suspiciously guilty. Steve feels something icy in the pit of his stomach. Tony is Iron Man? No that can't be possible. He would have told him. After all Tony knew he was Captain America...

Steve reflects on all his interactions with Tony since coming to the hub. The way the man didn't want him to know about the future. The way he lied to his face as he told him all about his "bodyguard." Had Tony been laughing at him the whole time behind his back? He probably got quite the kick out of making Steve look like an idiot. A complete and utter fool im front of everyone, because in hindsight it is obvious that everybody else knew the truth.

The sick feeling of shock gives way to anger when Steve remembers hos strongly Tony had argued about changing anything in the future, even if it meant saving Steve's life. While it had hurt to know that Tony had cared so little about his life that he had been willing to just let Steve die, it hurt even more to know that Iron Man, his supposed best friend, was willing to just let him die. They had fought together. Steve had...Steve thought he was beginning to...feel things for Iron Man...but clearly Iron Man hadn't felt the same. Otherwise he wouldn't have felt the need to hide the truth and advocate in favor of letting Steve go to his death.

"Thank you. If you excuse me, I need to talk to Mr. Stark" Steve says shortly, reverting back to the more formal name. First names were for friends. Mr. Stark certainly isn't that.
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#50
Chris knew that Tony was Iron Man, but it was pretty clear that Steve hadn’t known. And for the life of him, Christian couldn’t remember how Steve had reacted in the comics when he’d found out…

Christian realized he was in way, way over his head, and he didn’t have even a log to float on. Shit shit shiiiiit! was playing on repeat in his mind even as he winced at seeing Steve’s face contort. Of course Steve would feel hurt. Of course he would; he was friends with Iron Man, and he was friends with Tony Stark, and he hadn’t known it was the same person. And Steve Rogers was an honest, sensitive person who would feel so damn betrayed…

Reaching out, Christian’s grip was surprisingly firm as he clasped long, lithe fingers around Steve’s wrist. Nothing that Captain America couldn’t easily pull away from, and not with any force to keep him there, but a firm, steady point of contact, and Christian looked at him, brown eyes wide and earnest, “Steve. Please. He had reasons. Even good reasons.”

Mr. Stark.

Yeah, Christian knows what that means - he’d done the same damn thing when he’d found out about Tony and Safi sleeping together. And yep, that still stung a whole damn lot. But he wasn’t about to out Tony and then let Steve go crashing in on the man unawares. He hadn’t meant… Damn it, he couldn’t do anything right, could he?

Except plan a party. Nice to remember where his skills were. Which were with colors and plans, not people.

Definitely not people.

“Steve,” Chris was in motion now, each movement fluid and graceful, as though he were dancing, and maybe he sort of was, as he moved to get around the table and stop Steve from doing something everyone would regret.

Because yeah, Steve Rogers was a good man, one of the best, but he was human, and he sometimes went off half cocked. It was a thing.

It was hot, but maybe not the right sort of reaction to be having right now, Chris. No matter how much Steve looked like Safi, or reminded him of Safi. Because this was Steve, so obviously, this was Steve. “Please hear me out, at least, before you go confront my hero? Please.” Yeah, he was begging, he’d fall to his knees to plead his case with Steve before he just let the guy go and do this. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t talk to Tony, I’m not, but maybe hear me out and calm down a little bit?”

Chris was banking on Steve being a rational person, hearing reason and at least be willing to hear him out. “He didn’t tell anyone, Steve, it was a secret… And I only knew because I read the books, I swear. Please, Steve… Please don’t let me be the thing that breaks you because i’m not sure I could handle that… Because Steve Rogers and Tony Stark is… It’s important.”
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#51
Steve is walking before he even processes the urge to get out of the room. Before he even makes it to the door however, there is a firm hand on his wrist. It's grounding and it allows Steve to take a few moments to just breath. He could break out of Christian's grip, but for now at least, he won't.

“Steve. Please. He had reasons. Even good reasons.”

Steve scoffs at that. Of course. He's sure there are just so many reason's to lie to Steve. And they all circle back to either Mr. Stark didn't trust him or he thought it was funny watching Steve flounder and make a fool of himself. There were so many embarrassing things he said to Mr. Stark, mostly gushing about how great Iron Man is. He's sure Mr. Stark got quite the ego boost out of that. And if he wasn't doing for his own amusement, he was doing it because he didn't trust him. Well that would explain why he was so determined that Steve didn't change his own death. Can't have someone you don't trust running around. It was cold, but Steve couldn't deny it was logical and To- Mr. Stark did love his logic.

“Please hear me out, at least, before you go confront my hero? Please.”

There was a definite note of begging in his voice and Steve feels a bit bad. Poor kid didn't deserve to be caught up in all of this. Christian continues to try to explain things away and set things right, but as his mother always said, you can't put the cat back in the bag once he's out. Right now the cat is so far out of the bag he isn't even in the same room anymore.

"Sorry kid," Steve says gently pulling away, "this isn't your fault. I have to go."

He walks out the door so he doesn't need to see Christian's expression.
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#52
Damn it!!! Christian had to try, he had to fix this. He wasn’t thrilled with Tony, no, but damn it, the man was still his childhood hero, and didn’t deserve the wrath that was likely coming his way. He really, really didn’t.

The scoff, the obvious dismissal of his words, earned a wince from Christian, but he kept going. Steve and Tony were… Steve and Tony. They were people, real people, whom Chris felt close to because he’d held them, the ideals of them, so close, had struggled to try to emulate the parts of them that he felt made them so good, so heroic, while also abiding by his own morals and principles. To destroy what they had, what they would be in the future, it filled Chris with equal amounts of dread and guilt.

Not his fault? Like hell it wasn’t his fault! “Oh yes it is. I should have kept my stupid mouth shut! Now you’re all angry and he doesn’t deserve it, Steve!” Chris followed Steve doggedly, “He’s afraid, Steve,” the words came out low, quiet, but he knew Steve and his enhanced hearing would pick it up, “You remember what it’s like to be the little guy. To be the weakest in the room. When Tony’s Tony? That’s what he is. You, Thor, Hulk… Even Hawkeye has his training… And on top of that? He’s Tony Stark, and that means people think of him a certain way. Not how people think of Iron Man. People respect Iron Man, he has a clean reputation, no one judging him because of his past, no one expecting the worst of him, or thinking less of him, and yeah,” Chris was speaking quickly, quietly, but rapid fire, “He cares what you think of him. How you see him. Which is why he wanted to keep Tony and Iron Man separate, because Tony’s just some smart rich guy with a mouth who finances the Avengers, right? But Iron Man? Iron Man’s your teammate, your equal. And that… Maybe that’s all he wants, Steve, to have even a few moments of just being your fellow Avenger and hero? To not be the guy you feel like you have to protect?” Or maybe that was just him, but he was pretty sure that Tony felt that way too, at least sometimes.

“Just… Maybe think about it. Sometimes people have a motivation that isn’t obvious right away… And a lot of time? That motivation is fear.” He was quiet a moment, “That’s why I haven’t told Safi how I feel… Because I’m afraid. Because I’m pretty sure I know that how I feel about him? Isn’t how he feels about me, you know? And even though I know that I should tell him, should talk to him, take the chance, I don’t, because keeping it secret, hiding it, hiding that part of who I am is a heck of a lot safer than putting it out there. Because if Safi doesn’t know, then he’s not going to change how he treats me.”
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#53
"you don't have a stupid mouth, " Steve says, "you were being honest and you obviously didn't even realize that I didn't know."

Steve keeps walking and Christian keeps following. The stream of defenses of Mr. Stark hurt a little. It hurts that Mr. Stark thinks so little of Steve that he thinks Steve will judge him off of media reports about his past. Does he really think Steve is that shallow? Steve thought Mr. Stark said they were friends for decades, but clearly he doesn't know Steve as well as he thinks. And the idea that Steve wouldn't see him as his equal out of his suit...why would he think that? He had never treated any of his teammates, on any team he's ever been a part of, differently even though they all had vastly different powers and skills. During the war Bucky had been just a hotheaded teen, but Steve was always careful to make sure his opinion was valued just as much as Namor's opinion. Did Mr. Stark doubt Steve's team skills? And if Mr. Stark apparently thought so poorly of Steve, why even bother pretending that they were friends? Also did nobody care about how Steve feels about being lied to? Or does he matter so little that his feelings are just an afterthought? Sometimes he really misses the forties. The war was hell, but at least he had friends he could count on that trusted him in return.

Then the conversation moves towards Christians feelings for Safi and Steve feels guilty. Christian has enough on his plate. He doesn't need to deal with Steve and his problems as well.

"I still think you should talk to him. Even if it doesn't go how you want... it's better for both of you to be honest." Steve says.

"I think I'm going to go to bed." Steve says. It was too much. Ever since coming out of the ice it had been one shock after another and he was exhausted. Mr. Stark would still be here in the morning. They can deal with everything then.
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#54
“Oh, I beg to differ.” Yeah, see… Sometimes honesty was overrated. Christian understood the value of keeping feathers smoothed and unruffled, especially seeing that it hadn’t even required him to lie, just to keep his stupid mouth shut. “No, I didn’t, but that doesn’t make it okay to… To do this!”

Chris doesn’t, and won’t, believe that Tony thinks ‘so little’ of Steve. If nothing else, the guy puts Captain America AND Steve Rogers up on this pedestal and… And like certain other people that Christian is really trying not to acknowledge is more like Tony Stark than they’d like to be, once someone is up on that pedestal, it’s really important to live up to their expectations of you. And really, really hard to do that at the same time. Because part of the reason he -Tony- puts Sa- Steve on that pedestal is because of how much better than him he thinks Steve is.

It was a lot easier to try to explain this from his situation. Because at least then Steve wouldn’t get that look on his face. The confused, hurt one that he was wearing right now, and that Chris hated being the person to put it there. Yes, Tony had lied about being Iron Man, but for valid reasons. To keep Iron Man’s reputation clean.

Talking about Safi was infinitely harder, but only for Christian, not for Steve. “I know you’re right… But what you’re asking… It’s basically only going to turn out one way, Steve. He’ll leave, and I’ll lose him entirely, and… I’m not ready for that. Not ready for the risk of it, let alone the reality of it, not yet.” Chris sighed, “I’ll do anything, whatever he needs me to do, to keep him happy to be around me. To be his friend.” Chris looked at him, brown eyes sad, “I learned about doing that from comic books, too.”

Steve’s announcement that he was going to sleep earned a nod, and Chris reached out to pat Steve on the arm, then abruptly stopped, unsure if that would be okay, and then dropped, “I hope you sleep well, Steve.” Chris let him go, speaking one last time before he did, “Thank you. For being real. For being better than they showed you in the comics. It… Helps. To know you were out there, or are out there, or will be… To know that it was real.” That his belief, his hope, had been based on something solid and not just a wisp of a dream, an idea.
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