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Rating: 3-3-3

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Thread Contributor: Steve RogersSome Sort of Nightmare Tag: Tony (Kel)
Marvel-MCU

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#1
“Language!”

After the events within the tower with the soul stone and Tony, Steve had avoided the other man. It was, perhaps, cowardly, even if Steve didn’t like to think himself a coward. But every time he tried to bring himself up to Tony’s penthouse apartment, or worse, down to his workshop, the words they had spoken to each other after they had been pulled from that dream (that perfect dream, that perfect life) echoed in his head and he instead steered himself clear of the engineer.

”We could still have that life.”

“No we can’t!”

Of course Tony had been right. There was no way that either the soldier or the genius would be able to live that life, not without the stone, not without it being a dream they were simply sharing. He wasn’t the Steve that Tony truly wanted, the Steve that Tony loved. Heaving a heavy sigh, Steve lifted his phone up to his eyes, his voice level even as he walked, “Tad, play that footage for me again?” Of course the AI would know what Steve was asking for, that moment he had first woke up, still answering Tony’s proposal in their dream (his dream, maybe, maybe Tony hadn’t shared the same thing, he didn’t know for sure), closing his eyes and hearing himself speak. He knew he should have Tadashi just purge the footage, it wasn’t doing him any good, he wasn’t getting better, it wasn’t cathartic for him, not anymore.

It just made him feel pressure on his chest as though the ice were surrounding him again, it made him feel a sense of longing that he couldn’t deny. ”Stop playback, Tadashi. Thank you.” He was glad the AI had made it out with them. Sure, he had Bucky here again, but the AI had become special to him, important in his own way.

Entering the gym, Steve moved straight toward the heavy bag, reaching for the tape to wrap his hands. One of the beautiful things about Hub was that by the time he’d gone through the heavy bags on hand, the first will have regenerated, meaning he wouldn’t have to stop until he was ready, or until he couldn’t go anymore.

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
@kel
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Marvel-MCU-1

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#2
“Someday Rogers, i’m going to bill you for all those bags.”

Tony looked...well honestly Tony still had grey around his gills, since coming ‘back’ from the Stone’s influance he’d been spending his time between ‘here’ and … ‘home’. Using the physical and metaphysical distance between him and this Steve to try and sort his head. Also you know sort what was left of his home world.

Thankfully for once SHIELD was actually doing its job and he’d had less clean up than he’d assumed.

“Plus didn’t I build you Tadashi specifically to beat on?” His tone was intentionally light, of course the fact that his hands were shoved deep into his suit pants pockets and his tie was still on gave lie to his easy posturing.

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#3
“Language!”

He couldn’t even deny it; Steve jumped just a little bit at Tony’s voice. He had never expected the man to be in here, not now. He gave a betrayed little glance to his phone, silent on the bench, and then toward the ceiling before he sighed and shook his head. Tony didn’t look very good, and truth be told while Steve didn’t show nearly so many signs of unwellness physically, the fact that he was back to cycling through heavy bags was probably said volumes about where his head was at.

Steve Rogers had never been one for affectations. Tony was admittedly amazing at it, but while Steve could respect that ability, he lacked it nearly entirely. Being calm was easier than pretending to be calm. ”If you send me a bill, I’ll send you a check.” He didn’t expect a free ride, no matter how much money Tony had, he had never just expected a free ride. Still… Looking at the line of heavy bags, he gave a half smile, ”But not for the ones here - they fix themselves.”

While Steve had been avoiding Tony, Tony had been avoiding Steve, and there had been a sense of understanding. If they didn’t meet up, they wouldn’t have to talk about what had happened to them. And if they didn’t have to talk about, think about, work through it, then they could just pretend that it was fine. Steve could keep on keeping on, punching his way through heavy bags and ignoring everything he didn’t want to acknowledge.

”I thought you built Tadashi for sparring and companionship.” Steve looked at the heavy bag, ”I’m not sparring, and pretty sure I’ve been terrible company lately.” Just because he was ignoring his issues didn’t mean he wasn’t aware of them. Tad deserved so much better than what Steve had been giving him lately. Steve turned back to look at Tony, taking in his dress, his posture, focusing on the other man’s eyes. He looked tired. ”How are you, Tony?” Steve’s voice dropped a notch, growing just a touch quieter.

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
@kel
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#4
It wasn’t as thought Tadashi had intentionally blindsided Steve, but in his opinion both men had been avoiding each other long enough.

So when it was Tony of all people who came to STEVE...well yeah he wasn’t going to interfere.

So the phone stayed suspiciously one might say innocently silent.

“Technically I built him to make sure you had-“ Tony snapped his mouth shut, mustache twisting into a tired rueful smile. “Yeah I suppose that counts.” He concluded, bowing to Steve’s simpler explication.

How was he? That was...not an unexpected question but also not one he really wanted to answer either.

“How have you been?”

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#5
“Language!”

Steve and Tadashi were going to have a conversation about this… Oversight…. Later. Maybe much later, depending on how this went with Tony. It wasn’t as though Steve were angry, not really, but he felt… He wasn’t sure. But he sure did wish that Tad had told him Tony was coming down here. But he really wasn’t buying the silent innocence the AI seemed to be trying to project.

Later. He’d deal with it later.

Steve looked down at the phone again as Tony began to try to explain why, exactly, he had made Tadashi, but instead of betrayal or anger, he smiled fondly at the device that housed the AI. ”He’s my friend, Tony.” A friend who would, apparently, remain silent when Tony was coming into the gym for whatever reason. Probably to facilitate this conversation. Maybe. Steve was pretty sure that Tadashi had more faith in him than he probably should. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d hurt Tony Stark. A Tony Stark, maybe not this particular one, but Steve found that the guilt translated quite easily, especially knowing how his counterpart had acted in Tony’s home universe. He really, really didn’t like that Steve Rogers.

Of course, Tony deflected the question. Of course he did. Steve shrugged in response to his own words being parroted back to him, ”I’m working on it.” He raised his eyes to meet Tony’s firmly, ”How are you?” The question came out, again, but this time firmer, with just a hint of stubbornness in it.

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
@kel
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Marvel-MCU-1

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#6
One had to have been thoroughly indoctrinated by Tony Stark to look at a flip phone and read thumb twiddling innocence.

“What’s working?” Tony shifted, frown pulling at his mouth. “Lingering effects?” Pulling his hands from his pockets Tony moved from his dramatically lit staging.

“Also-“ Tony’s eyes flickered spasmodically around the gym taking in any changes or hints of off-ness.

“Side effects?”

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#7
“Language!”

So help him, maybe he had been ‘thoroughly indoctrinated’ by Tony Stark. Honestly? Steve didn’t mind that insinuation, not even a little bit. Tadashi was, as he had said to Tony, his friend, and so what if he could tell what a silence meant? He could do the same with Bucky. Once, he’d been able to do the same with Tony, too. Maybe, it was possible that he still could. Sometimes, anyway.

What was working? Steve was working. On… All of it. On trying to figure out where he was left after the Soul Stone had had its merry way with him. After Tony had nearly died.

Lingering effects. Side effects. Steve laughed humorlessly, the sound more agonized than amused. ”If that’s what you’d like to call it.” There were after effects and little shivers of realization and huge quaking moments of loss and grief and pain after things had calmed down, after Steve had had more time than he knew what to do with to settle down, to think, to dwell on what had happened in his ‘dream’ that he still wasn’t entirely certain had been a shared experience with Tony, or if it had just been something to keep him out of the way, cooked up by the Stone.

Maybe that was what hurt the most. That Steve wasn’t even sure that Tony had shared any of it. He had responded that they couldn’t have that life, but were they speaking of the same thing? Turning around, Steve faced the heavy bag, glaring at it, focusing his anger, his pain on the object before him. The movement was sudden and violent, Steve pulled back and slammed his fist forward all at once, sinking into the canvass, sand spilling out of the bag even as he pulled his fist out of the hole he’d made. Couldn’t say he was sorry, because honestly, he wasn’t. It would regenerate. ”Were you there? Did you see the things I saw?”

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
@kel
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#8
So funny story; Tony was...well he was probably mentally better well off than he’d been in...well months, maybe in the last year.

Living out the slice of life with Steve, this Steve had been distinctly different enough from the life he’d had with ‘his’ Steve that it had finalized the separation between the two.

Tony had been taking a step closer. “Poor punching bag, massacred before its time.”
He quipped a ghost of his brand of humor infecting the line.

‘Where you there.’

That stopped him in his tracks; “I could ask ‘where’.” He muttered thoughtfully rocking on his heels “But might as well bite the bullet.” Maybe his inner monologue had become outer, wasn’t the weirdest thing that had happened to him.

“But it does depend. Pretty sure we were together though.” In a lot of ways.

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#9
“Language!”

Steve was… Working on getting better. It had been so long since Siberia, and yet nowhere near long enough that he could have said that he had been even near okay when he had found the Hub. He had started to heal here, had begun to find himself again, and had realized that things back home just needed work, needed the sort of stubbornness that meant that he wouldn’t just turn his back and give up.

He had realized well before the incident in the tower that this Tony was so much different than the Tony he had known for years, the Tony he had fought against in Siberia. Two very different men. Steve had returned home, spoken to the Tony he had known, and been sent away. They were… Better, but it would never be the same, that Tony was too angry, too bitter. This Tony, though, he was… Sad, and he could still be an ass, but then, so could Steve. He’d been different than the other Tony.

Steve could say when the Tony he’d known so long had become the ‘other’ to him, and this Tony, here in Hub, had become ‘his’ Tony, but that was what had happened, eventually. ”Punching bag will be alright, Tony, give it an hour or so.” His voice was lighter than it had been since before, perhaps because of Tony’s own humor, or perhaps because Tony was here, he wasn’t sure, but he felt just a little bit better than he had.

Without looking over to Tony, Steve murmured, ”You could, but we both know the answer.” He heard the statement, of course he had; super soldier hearing. When Tony said he was ‘pretty sure’ they had been together, Steve’s lips curled in the ghost of a smile, almost there, but not quite. ”I was answering, when they woke me. Pretty sure I said my answer out loud.” Tadashi had the footage, likely Friday did, too, Steve couldn’t imagine she didn’t. But he didn’t know if Tony had watched or not. Steve hadn’t.

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
@kel
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#10
“That makes it ok?” Tony watched the falling grains sand, “as long as it gets better than it can take the pounding over and over?” Ok so maybe he was getting a little fucking philosophical about a damn punching bag, and probably that meant he wasn’t as ‘mentally’ ok as he thought he was.

‘Answering.’

Well damn that kinda made it clear what he was thinking of didn’t it?

Tony nodded once, briskly acknowledging what he was saying, and what he wasn’t.

“That makes a interesting couple of questions doesn’t it?” Tony’s fingers rubbed together, missing the familiar tap tap on his reactor, “What now?”

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Marvel-MCU

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#11
“Language!”

The look that Steve gave Tony as he asked about the punching bag was filled with concern as well as uncertainty. Steve wasn’t entirely sure that Tony was really speaking about the punching bag anymore. Maybe it was a little bit cheap,a little unfair, maybe it was even cowardly, but Steve defaulted back to the ‘golly gee whiz, aw shucks’ facade of innocence that he wore when people tried to push him too much, back to the roots of the ideal of what a gentleman from the 1940’s should be. He blinked, his voice coming out just a touch confused, ”It’s just a punching bag, Tony.”

That moment, the one between being part of the dream still and waking up, Steve couldn’t help but to dwell on it. It had been, in the dream, a moment of supreme happiness, to answer the question Tony had turned around and asked, in front of everyone watching, both present and at home, watching live. Steve, so personal, always so keen on keeping their private lives private, hadn’t cared a whit that this very private, very intimate moment was broadcasted over the television, nationally and possibly even internationally (you never knew when it came to the Avengers and Tony Stark). It had been a perfect moment, a happy one. Of course Steve was going to say yes. Tony had had to know that, or he wouldn’t have asked.

Even while the tower had been burning, Steve had pled with Tony, they could still have that life, they could have that intimacy. But Tony had said no, and Steve was still just a little bit hung up on that.

”What now?”

Steve sighed, shaking his head, ”I’ve been asking myself that question since then, Tony. I don’t have the answer.” Steve fought to keep his voice smooth and calm, but he couldn’t help that it still sounded just a little bit morose. ”I’ve been trying to just… Move forward.” He didn’t sound certain, he didn’t sound happy, but it was all he had, all he knew how to do, just keep breathing, keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep beating on the heavy bags until they gave. Until he gave.

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
@kel
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Kel

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#12
Was it ever just a fucking punching bag?

No it was punching bag in a interdimensional way space, where the fucking soul stone had ripped his metaphorical heart out, both of theirs. So no it wasn’ ‘just a punching bag’ because nothing in his life was simple.

In his darker moments Tony wondered if it was because he would never be able to leave things alone if every thing was ‘simple’.

Which brought him neatly around to what Steve was saying; “What does moving forward look like?” Hey look at him using his therapy words.

“Because...I’d like to know where I am in that ‘forward’.”
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#13
“Language!”

Of course it hadn’t been just a punching bag. But try being Steve Rogers, who had only just really began to truly wrap his head around the internet, google, and how to use a StarkPad, and throw this level of complicated at him while messing with his emotions, and… He really needed the punching bags to just be punching bags. Steve missed simplicity sometimes.

Oh, that wasn’t to say that he didn’t adore the way the modern world had evolved in so many ways. He could carry on for tens of minutes about how much better food tasted. He could discuss the different forms and styles of art, go on about the music. They had gone to the moon less than twenty years after he’d….crashed. Sometimes complicated was good. Looking at Tony Stark, Steve understood in a way he hadn’t before that sometimes complicated was beautiful.

But simple was nice sometimes, too. Especially when you were overwhelmed. And right now, dealing with Tony head on like this, unexpected when he’d been trying to work through his own emotions, Steve was definitely feeling overwhelmed. What did it look like? He wasn’t sure, because he wasn’t certain he was even doing any of this right. If he was making any progress at all. Sometimes, he would be sitting and suddenly feel exactly like he had right after he’d woke up, like he was in a world where he didn’t quite fit, and the kicker to that was that was exactly how he’d felt so many times before; just out of the ice, during Ultron, in Wakanda after Siberia, when he’d first arrived here in Hub… He was tired of feeling like a lost puzzle piece, the only you weren’t even sure which puzzle it went to..

His shoulders slumped as he leaned forward, hands reaching out to hold the heavy bag even as it spilled sand on the floor, ”Wherever you want to be, Tony.” It was part an invitation, and part a forlorn acknowledgement.

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
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#14
The crux of it wasn’t it?

Tony sighed, dress slacks drawing tight over his thighs as he straddled the bench across from Steve. “Steve. I-“ I’m old, I’m not good for you in any respect- “that world. We both know it’s a fantasy for a reason right?” He had to approach this from a place where Steve couldn’t just be noble and ignore Tony’s many flaws.

“Peace like that...it’s just Not in the cards. Least not in my lifetime.”

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#15
“Language!”

Instead of letting the bag go, Steve lifted up, slipping it from the chain hanging it from the ceiling and hefting it over his shoulder, hole side up to spill less sand as he moved it, turning for a fresh bag even as he slid the bag where he left the used ones. There was no way he was done yet, not if they were having this conversation.

Pausing as he turned to bring the new bag over to the chain that awaited it, Steve looked at Tony for a long moment as he spoke. ”It was a dream. One we shared for a few moments. I know that, Tony.” And that was the problem, he did know that. That didn’t mean he didn’t want it. It didn’t mean he hadn’t been the happiest he’d ever been there. Dreams were dreams for a reason.

He was hooking the bag to the chain when Tony continued, back turned to the engineer for a moment, letting the words hang in the air as he contemplated what Tony had said. Slowly, Steve turned around, sharp blue eyes catching Tony’s, his posture that of Captain America, his voice careful but firm, ”Are you saying that because you really believe that peace like that just isn’t possible, or because you don’t feel that you deserve it?” It was a pointed question, but one that Steve wanted to hear the answer to. One that he wondered if Tony knew the honest answer for.

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
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#16
Tony looked up, watching Steve with tired wary eyes; “My goal is for the world to be safe, from threats from with out-“ he wondered if this Steve had this same conversation with his Tony during the week of Ultron. “I failed to get us there before Thanos because I let myself- my priorities shift. The rest of my damn life is planned on making it so that the next time Thanos comes or who ever it is bigger than that they can’t even find us.”

He was answering and not; “Twenty years. Thirty. Solar system level industry, infrastructure, starships and freighters. Getting us out, off earth, splitting our egg baskets up.” Tony looked tired but determined, it was something he’d been missing the last months. Focus, beyond the next few weeks.

“That’s my lifetime Steve. Not going to be time much for anything beyond that.”

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#17
“Language!”

”You’re not the only one with that goal, Tony.” Steve had had many similar conversations with Tony. He remembered all of them. Ultron, yes. Sokovia. The Accords. In that office with the… He’d made so many damn mistakes, and he was tired of making them. So many times, he could have reassured Tony, worked with him instead of against him, and yet he’d never taken any of the opportunities offered, never even realized they were there until they weren't. Until it was too late and things had broken between them so badly they could barely even look at each other.

Not this time. Never again, if he could help it. ”It’s not all on your shoulders.” Steve took a breath and moved to where Tony sat, settling on the bench next to him, shoulders haunched forward as he studied his hands, wrapped in white tape that had grown smudged with dirt and oil from his hands and the bags. ”You say ‘I failed’ but what you need to be saying is ‘we failed’ because Tony, that’s what being part of a team is. Ultron wasn’t just on you any more than Loki’s attack on New York was just on Clint. You were part of a team that was meant to protect the world, Tony, and when something happened, that responsibility can’t rest on just one of you.”

Tony wanted to hide his home from those who would invade or destroy it, and Steve could respect that. Sometimes hiding was the best chance you had to survive. But Steve’s home world wasn’t Tony’s home world, as much as Tony had become home to Steve. He didn’t mention how splitting up the eggs might help with a lot of their problems, but that in the end, Thanos hadn’t needed to travel to every planet in the universe to wipe out half the population. Because while it might not have helped with Thanos, it was a good idea for so many other problems.

Still. Steve frowned, ”That’s a cop out and we both know it, Tony.” Steve’s voice was firm, frustrated but even and calm, telling Tony how he felt without being upset. ”There’s time for what you feel is important. You make time for what’s important.” Steve sat up straight, shoulders back, eyes boring into the wall ahead of him, ”And if that’s not me, if that’s not Hub, then I understand that. But don’t pretend it’s not a choice you’re making, Tony. Don’t belittle your decisions that way. Your decisions affect other people, Tony, and there are always choices. Always.” ‘I didn’t have a choice’ was the worst sort of lie, because everyone always had a choice, even if they didn’t like the one they had. Even if it wasn’t easy.

Steve moved to stand, shaking his head as he did so, ”And I’m pretty sure,” the words didn’t come out as biting as they might have, ”If you reach out for help, you’ll find it.”

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
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#18
As usual their thoughts were running on parallel yet divergent tracks; “No it was. It is.” Tony’s face was set into serious lines, trying to make Steve hear him for once, “The reason the Avengers weren’t there when Thanos came calling? Was because I let someone i trusted, I let his actions dictate my behavior. I felt betrayed and let him split the team because i couldn’t control myself.” Maybe it had gone different in Steve’s world, but Tony remembered those days vividly, the arguments, the yelling matches crouched around the Accords that had nothing to do with them.

“That was on me.” because he hadn’t been able to seperate what NEEDED to be done with what he FELT. It had started with his relationship, and the buck ended at his desk, noone not Clint or even super scary Nat had the vision or the intelligence to not just plan for the long term but execute those plans. To manage, Fury, the UN, the multinational corporations...all of it was on HIS shoulders because no one else had his brain, his contacts, his mind.

Ego? No. He was Tony fucking Stark.

“Hub might be part of the answer, but I can’t spend all my time here, a satellite office sure, but there's too many fires at home, too much to do. Too many people that need to see Tony Stark or Ironman in person to continue to play hookie.” his home not Steves.

But-

“There’s an opening for a Captain America.” Tony reached out his hand, “It’ll be tough, and you’d be leaving your team behind. So-” Tony just looked at Steve. “What does your future look like?”

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#19
“Language!”

”Tony.” Steve’s voice was sure and strong this time, there was no question in it. ”You built Ultron, and maybe things didn’t go down exactly how they did in my world, but you didn’t do it alone. Bruce was right there with you.” So had been Jarvis, but Steve wasn’t going to mention that, that was a wound that didn’t deserve to be poked at. ”You didn’t let the team be split, Tony. They made their decisions, just like you made yours. And no, I’m not saying you made all the right ones, but his decisions are on him, not you. He split the team, too, he’s just as responsible for that as anyone else. I’m not saying you’re blameless in any of it, Tony. I’m saying that it’s not all on you.” For a genius, Tony didn’t always think rationally.

Steve would have chuckled if Tony had declared that it wasn’t ego talking. He knew it wasn’t just ego (it was at least a little bit ego, though, Tony, it was.) that made Tony feel like everything came back to him, rested on his shoulders. Tony Stark was a very large part of making things work, and Steve knew it. ”Your lack of objectivity is on you.” Steve agreed, because Tony had a point there, ”But his is on him, too. It’s the same way in my universe.” His universe. How long had t been since he’d gone back? It wasn’t like he wasn’t in touch anymore, his phone reached back home, he could talk to Sam and Natasha and Clint. Bucky was here in Hub with him.

Tony reached for him, and Steve couldn’t help but to respond, moving back to the engineer. ”I’ve already left my team behind, Tony.” His voice was soft, ”They faced Thanos too.” And they’d won. Without Steve. It made him think, knowing that. Maybe he wasn’t really needed there. And that… That was strangely okay. Steve looked at Tony for a long moment, ”I’d need to be able to come and go, too. To Hub, and maybe sometimes back over. The portal in Coney Island is stable, and it’s protected on the other side.” That he didn’t feel that would be a pressing concern was in his tone, his focus was here, and on making things right wherever he could, even if that was in a different universe. It wasn’t as though he had ever fit in anywhere else, so how different could a new universe really be?

”I’m not sure. I’ve never been the futurist.” Steve’s lips curled up just slightly at the statement, ”But I’d like it if it looked a whole lot like you.”

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
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Marvel-MCU-1

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Kel

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#20
“He’s not here is he?” Tony met that knowledge evenly; there were laying it out, this Steve wasn’t the man he’d lived with for a year, the man who’d he’d watched fly to his death with out a goodbye, and he wasn’t the man who’d survived to deal with the aftermath. “And now it’s on me.” Even Steve- this Steve- had to agree with that. “Should I let Bruce take this on?” He raised an eyebrow eloquently stating that maybe that stress wouldn’t be good...for anyone.

The past was the past; was he still responsible for it? Yes. But at the end of the day his focus HAD to be for what was coming, for the future.

‘They faced Thanos.’

It was like a gut punch. “How did they do?” How did his world compare, did they lose more...or less? Could you stack up the thousands dead against each other?

Tony nearly flinched at Steve’s statement; they needed to be on the same page. “What-” his fingers tapped against each other, “What-” wow twice trying that sentence? Tony cleared his throat. “I don’t want to disappoint-” Right like he couldn’t already hear Steve saying- ‘you could never-’ “I don’t know if I can be the man you want or need to be...more than a team mate.” he finished with lamely.

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