- Death-Minor Character
- Explicit Sex
- Action Adventure
- Alternate Universe
- Established Relationship
Steve sat propped up against the headboard, his Guide cradled carefully in his lap, his head lolling against Steve’s shoulder in sleep. With careful hands he reached out, brushing a trembling hand against Tony’s cheek, the feeling of his guide’s skin under his fingertips settling something deep inside him.
He never thought he would get to have this. Never thought that he’d live long enough to have a guide to call his own.
He’d lost everything, when he fell into the ice. But now, with Tony here, his soul finally whole, it was more than worth it.
The blue glow of the device in Tony’s chest made him frown. He hadn’t been awake long, hadn’t been out of the ice for much time at all, but even in this new world, he knew that the device in Tony’s chest was unusual.
Shrapnel in his heart, Tony had said. Because his guide had been a prisoner of war.
The growl built up in his throat without thought, vibrating through his chest and into the room at large. While he’d been in the ice, his guide had been growing up alone. Had been throwing himself into danger with a regularity that terrified Steve more than a little.
Bucky would have laughed in his face if he’d heard that. Called him a hypocrite. Would have had just as many stories for Tony as Rhodes no doubt had for him, if not more.
Bucky. God, Bucky.
Losing him still hurt like hurt like losing a part of himself.
The moment Bucky had dropped, the moment he’d lost his heartbeat, Steve had gone into a feral combat drive. His second ever. He’d slaughtered every man on that train. Would have killed Zola too, if he hadn’t had Gabe shouting in his ear. Sentinels didn’t take prisoners. Especially not feral ones. Not even orders could have stopped him in that moment.
Only the promise of finding the Red Skull had been enough to hold him back.
Grieving was different, as a Sentinel. Trauma was different. And Steve’s grief had manifested as rage, with a need to completely obliterate HYDRA, and then every Nazi he could get his hands on.
Bucky might not have been his guide, but he was his Pride, was his brother, and Steve was right at the edge of something dark from the moment he’d dropped.
Loosing Bucky had been like losing a piece of his foundation. But losing Tony?
Losing Tony would destroy him.
So the thought that Tony had almost died while Steve was stuck under the ice was something that had him snarling in rage. Only the steady beat of Tony’s heart in his ears, the warmth of him under his fingers, the smell of him in his nose kept Steve from losing his control and finding whoever it was that responsible and ripping them apart.
Steve knew himself well enough to know how he’d react to this. It was why he hadn’t let himself think about what Tony had told him until after the guide had fallen asleep. Because if there was one thing that had become clear during the bonding, it was how little Tony thought of himself. A lesson he’d learned honestly, from Howard, from Stane, from almost everyone in his life. The only thing Tony was good for, as far as Tony was concerned, was inventing things.
When Tony found his people, he clung to them with everything he had, and would give them all of him without asking for anything in return. Because he didn’t think he deserved anything.
The snarl grew louder, and it was only when Tony shifted in his arms that he forced himself to calm down.
If Tony knew how Steve was feeling, he’d spend all his time trying to take care of him. And that was unacceptable.
“Captain Rogers,” the mechanized voice of JARVIS said, “you appear to be in distress. May I provide assistance?”
Steve was getting ready to tell him that everything was fine before he stopped himself. JARVIS had been there, in those memories. One of the only constants. A confidant, a caretaker. Someone who Tony trusted, who took care of Tony the only way he could whenever he had the chance.
Tony would lie to him. Not to spare his feelings, though that would certainly be part of it once he picked up on the anger bubbling in Steve’s gut about not being there for his guide, but simply because he didn’t think that it would matter. Didn’t think that he mattered.
That was going to stop. That was going to stop right now.
“JARVIS,” Steve said, tightening his grip around Tony, though he was careful (so, so careful) to make sure that he didn’t hurt him, “how many times?”
“I’m sorry, Captain Rogers,” JARVIS said. “I’m afraid I don’t understand the question.”
“How many times did I almost lose him before I had the chance to find him?” Steve asked, his voice a harsh snarl. “How many times did he almost die?”
There was silence, and for all that there was no heartbeat to pick up on, no smell to go off of, none of the usual cues that he counted on, Steve had the distinct impression that he was being judged.
“If you were better able to specify a time frame, I could offer a more accurate response,” JARVIS said snottily, and Jesus Christ that was an answer in and of itself, wasn’t it?
He closed his eyes and fought against the rage pounding in his veins, the horror over what he could have lost without even knowing what he was missing.
“God, Tony,” Steve said, burying his face in Tony’s hair, not caring about the smell of hospital shampoo, taking a deep breath until he got to those smells that were a part of Tony. “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice breaking. “I’m so sorry.”
His eyes burned, his grief at what could have been tangling with everything he’d lost, the idea of being unmoored in this new, terrifying place enough to break his tenuous control.
And then, clumsily, there was a wave of calm, of reassurance being pushed at him through their bond. Tony comforting him as best he could, even in his sleep.
Steve reached out to the bond, to that sense of Tony deep within himself and wrapped it as tightly as he dared, sending his own soothing reassurance there.
“I promise you, Tony,” Steve whispered, brushing Tony’s hair back from his sleeping face with a trembling hand. “I promise you, I’m here. I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere. You wont’ be alone any more. And anyone who tries to get at you is going to have to go through me.”
He did his best to pour that determination, that fierce protectiveness, the earth-shaking gratitude that he’d found Tony back into the bond.
He’d lost Bucky. Lost Peggy, the commandos, lost his entire world.
He wasn’t going to lose Tony too.
Taking a deep breath, Steve squared his shoulders. Now wasn’t the time to beat himself over things he couldn’t change. That would come later, during the sleepless nights that were a reality rather than a possibility at this point.
Now was the time to become informed, to gather intelligence so that he could plan. So that he could figure out exactly how to protect Tony. Including from himself.
“JARVIS?” Steve said.
“Yes, Captain?” the AI answered, and his voice was gentler this time, the reproach that had been there before gone.
“Thank you for taking care of him for me,” Steve said simply. “For doing what you could when I couldn’t.”
Silence again. That same feeling of being judged. Only this time, he apparently wasn’t found wanting.
“Sir is my creator,” JARVIS said simply, “it is my task to look after him. One that I undertake gladly, and to the best of my ability.”
“Thank you,” Steve said again. “We both know that you’re done more to take care of him than anyone else has.”
Steve frowned at that. Tony’s life was empty. So terribly empty. Even without the pain that their unfulfilled bond had no doubt caused him.
That would change too. Tony wouldn’t be lonely again. Steve would make sure of it.
“If I may, Captain Rogers,” JARVIS said, “but where have you been? Sir has been waiting for you. Waiting for you for quite some time.”
Steve gave a humorless grin.
“You got access to the internet, JARVIS?” Steve asked.
“I do,” the AI answered stiffly.
“And the Stark Industries server?” he asked again.
“Yes,” Jarvis answered.
“Are you familiar with Project Rebirth?” Steve asked.
Silence was his only answer, and Steve allowed himself a brief humorless smirk. It wasn’t many people who could shock a computer speechless, he thought.
“Well,” Jarvis said at long last, his accent somehow all the more prim and proper than it had been only a moment before. “I suppose, as excuses go, it is an acceptable one.”
Steve let out a laugh, cold and humorless. More broken than anything else.
“I don’t think there’s any excuse for this,” Steve said, pressing his nose against Tony’s temple.
JARVIS didn’t disagree with him, a fact for which Steve was grateful. There might not have been anything either of them could do to change it, but there was no denying that his absence had changed Tony, and not necessarily for the better. After all, there was a reason that most Sentinels and Guides didn’t come into their powers until they were older.
But JARVIS didn’t agree with him either. And that, at least, was some progress.
“I missed a lot, JARVIS,” Steve confessed. “When I put that plane down…I put it down not expecting to come back. Everything’s gone. Everything. If it wasn’t for Tony…”
If it wasn’t for Tony, Steve wasn’t sure he’d be able handle it.
“I missed a lot,” Steve said simply. “I’ve lost a lot. But this?” he said, gesturing down at the man in his arms with his chin. “This makes it all worth it.”
There was a pause, and then JARVIS spoke again.
“I can offer you a condensed summary of major events of the last fifty years, if you would like, Captain.”
Steve recognized it for the olive branch it was, and he smiled. JARVIS would no doubt be one of his staunchest allies when it came to taking care of Tony. It was good that they were on the same page.
“Yeah, JARVIS,” Steve said, staring down at Tony. “That’d be swell.”