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History Lessons, Part Four

Fic: History Lessons, Part Four

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four


Babylon 5 ended up helping with the Kennedy assassination as well as McCarthyism. Steve shivered just thinking about it, glad to see that people had reacted that strongly at the time, even if since it's become 'history'. He didn't like thinking on it too long though, so he tried to focus on other things. "Commander Ivanova and Ms. Winters, are they..."

"Seriously, you're adorable when you're formal with fictional characters," Tony said, amusement in his tone. "And if you're asking about the epic sexual tension between Talia and Ivanova? That's completely intentional. So yeah."

"And the writers intended for this 'sexual tension' to be there?" Clint had shown him a few comedy shows where there were homosexual characters, but those had all been relatively new. Rent aside, which Bruce and Natasha had told him was still unusual, most characters were still white and straight.

"Yes," Tony said, stilling beside him. "Ivanova was one of the first openly bisexual characters in television, though most of her relationship with Talia was in the subtext. Is that a problem?"

"No," Steve said, falling just a little bit more in love with her. "I just... that's really good."

Tony relaxed next to him, and Steve realized Tony had never been with him to see him react to homosexual characters, aside from Jack Harkness from Doctor Who, who was... blatant. Steve hadn't really liked the character's arrogance, but if Tony had thought Steve objected because of different reasons... There was also Rent, but Tony had been too drunk to remember much of that. Steve doubted Tony saw his unconcerned shrug to Rhodey.

He filed Tony's reaction away to consider later, smiling as Tony started talking animatedly with his hands. "Great, Cap. I like Talia and Ivanova together. Always have. Cause that? That's hot. There's enough fantasies in that to fuel a life time. I'd consider myself a shipper, but really, who has time for fandom other than political science major who follows Dr. Foster around?"

"Shipper?" Steve asked.

Tony blinked at him, and shook his head. "All this time in the future, Steve, and you've never been introduced to fandom? I'm not that into it myself, but you should give it a shot."

* * *

Fandom seemed like a pretty swell thing, but the pairings were slightly terrifying. Steve decided that was a door better left closed.

* * *

"Hey, about this next episode..." Tony started.

"I think JARVIS called it "GROPOS"?" Steve said, wondering why Tony had stopped them.

"Yeah, it's... It's about the infantry setting up to fight a battle with heavy causalities. And the ending isn't graphic or anything, but it's not really pleasant either," Tony explained. Steve watched carefully for any sign of discomfort from Tony, but either the genius was hiding it really well, or it was a genuine warning for Steve. "We can skip it if you want. It's not an arc episode, so you'd be fine without it."

Steve thought about it, and about the preparation for storming the Normandy Landings. He figured he could handle it, even if it brought up some memories. "Is it violent?" Steve asked, which was a bit more of a deal breaker. He'd watch violent movies like 300, but he still didn't enjoy them very much.

"All the violence is off screen. It just shows the results of the battlefield. Nothing above par from the rest of the series," Tony said.

Why would Tony want to warn him about this? Steve didn't think it would be too bad. Couldn't be as bad as some of the movies Thor liked to watch. "Let's start it. We can always stop watching later."

Tony nodded, and the video started playing. The episode itself was entertaining, but Steve really didn't understand why Tony had warned him until the end. It wasn't the violence or the battlefield that was bad, but the emotional punch to the gut of seeing the characters they had just gotten to know lying on the battlefield left Steve blinded for a few seconds. Not flashback inducing, but it hit hard where it hurt the most, and Steve needed a minute or two to get himself under control after that. He hoped the military funerals Tony had warned him about at the start of the series weren't soon, because he needed some time before being able to sit through that. "Thanks for warning me abo-Tony?!"

He'd turned to thank Tony, only to find his friend staring at the screen still, clutching the arm of the couch. Steve didn't have look twice to know this was a panic attack brought on by shell shock. "Tony," Steve said, making his voice as gentle as he could. He stood then, moved until he was kneeling down in front of Tony, but he hesitated to touch him just yet. "Hey, Tony. Look at me."

"They were protecting me. And they died. They shouldn't have, not for me, not for-"

"Tony," Steve said, desperate to stop the babbling that kept breaking his heart. Tony looked down at him finally, but he didn't really see. "You're at home, Tony. In New York. Everyone is fine."

"Steve..." Tony closed his eyes, sagging against the couch. Then in a whisper even Steve's enhanced hearing had trouble with, Tony said, "I'm not... I'm not worth that."

Moving slowly, so that Tony had plenty of time to pull away, Steve pulled Tony forward into a hug. It was a bit awkward from his current position, so he moved back to the couch, pleased that he could hug Tony tighter. "It's okay, Tony. You're fine now."

That lasted about a minute before Tony started to push back and move away. He looked flushed and his eyes still held some of the earlier panic. "I'm fine, alright? Jesus, I'm fine and you don't have to-"

"I'm not fine," Steve said stubbornly. It was a chance, but Steve remembered that night with Thor and several times since then. Tony would give comfort, even if he couldn't accept it for himself. The bet paid off. Tony stopped struggling immediately, giving Steve the chance to feel the minute tremors going through Tony's body. "Please, just for a little while."

That, surprisingly enough, worked. Tony's arms came up around him to hug back, and Steve had no intention of letting go until Tony had stopped trembling. Even then, he waited a while longer, until Tony was more relaxed against him. "Sorry," Steve said sheepishly, still not letting go. "You're right. Maybe we should have skipped that one."

Tony gave him a look that made it clear he knew what Steve was up to, but he stayed curled up against Steve's chest. "You're getting better at this," Tony muttered. "I don't know if I like this development. And I... didn't think it would be that bad."

"I don't mind," Steve replied, rubbing Tony's back. "And maybe it's selfish, but I'm glad they were able to protect you, Tony."

"It wasn't worth-"

"Are you saying they died in vain?" Steve asked quietly. "That their deaths were meaningless, because they were protecting you?"

Tony winced, not responding. They sat in silence for a while, as Steve held on. "That's the job of a soldier, Tony," Steve said finally with a small sigh. "We protect. And given all that you've done since their deaths, I don't think you've wasted their bravery."

"Still working on that," Tony said, not meeting Steve's eyes.

Steve just hugged Tony tighter at that. They didn't watch another episode that night, though they stayed on the couch for a while after.

* * *

"I still don't see how you can like Londo after all of that," Steve said at lunch two weeks later.

Clint groaned, putting his head on the counter as he nursed his hangover. He'd only just woken up. "God help us. A lover's squabble over science fiction."

"Clint, you are far too involved in our non-existent love life. Is there something you'd like to tell us?" Tony asked, pouring his coffee. He'd fallen asleep last night during their marathon, but Steve was privately glad no one had witnessed his heartbreak over the episode Divided Loyalties and the end to Ms. Winters and Commander Ivanova's relationship. It meant he couldn't have an outlet for his Londo rage until Tony woke up though. It had been waiting long enough as he watched Londo sit by and do nothing to stop a massacre.

"I am a secret Captain America/Iron Man fangirl," Clint said solemnly, growling Tony turned to face him with the uncovered arc reactor. He shut his eyes against the light source. "Now take your damn nightlight and sleep with him already. Somewhere away from here."

Tony rolled his eyes as Steve chuckled softly. "You are encouraging him," Tony said to Steve before rounding back on Clint. "If you keep this up, I will give you a play-by-play of our first night of hot, steamy sex with all of Cap's sickeningly romantic sweet nothings that he whispered into my ear as he thrust in."

"Wait, what?" Clint shot up, followed by a wince from the pain the movement caused. "God, way too much TMI. I do not want to know. Stark, you are not allowed to talk anymore."

"You should just have JARVIS forward him the security video," Steve said, taking a bite of his sandwich with a perfectly straight face. "I know you kept it. And you call me sentimental."

Clint went white as a sheet, horror on his face. "TMI!" he cried out. "That's it, I'm leaving. Mental scarring for the rest of my life. God, why me?"

It was an effort not to start laughing until Clint's hasty exit from the room, but Steve managed better than Tony did. "That," Tony said with pride once he'd calmed down, "was troll-worthy. I did not expect that level of evil from you. I'll not underestimate you again."

"Our first time and you’re the catcher?" Steve said with a mock pout. "Did I get to try it out our second time? Just to set our stories straight."

Tony just laughed, patting Steve on the back as he walked by and took a seat opposite him at the table. "You may fool everyone else with your all-American goodness, but you can't fool me. I remember the cow incident."

Steve just smiled innocently, which only made Tony laugh harder. He still had pictures of that night watching Rent. He wondered briefly what Tony would say if he found out Steve was still a virgin, before pushing that thought aside. He'd gotten enough ribbing from Bucky on that, and Tony was bound to be worse.

Then he remembered his earlier question. "You still haven't answered me about Londo," Steve said with a scowl.

"You also couldn't believe me when I told you you'd be a G'kar fan, and I saw you wibbling at the 'My people will be free!’ speech. Don't think I missed you having to wipe a star-spangled tear from your eye. You even cry red, white, and blue."

Steve flushed. "I thought you were asleep."

"I was dozing," Tony said with a smirk. "Didn't get a lot of sleep the night before, but I wouldn't miss that part. And as for Londo.... He was trying his best."

"He's working with the bad guys! If he were trying his best, he wouldn't have gotten mixed up with the Shadows and letting millions of innocent people die just so he could have some power," Steve said indignantly.

Tony's smile was a little painful to see. It was the one he gave the press, not the Avengers, and Steve was startled to find himself on the receiving end of it for the first time since he'd moved into the Tower. "And he's a racist son of a bitch too, though he comes around eventually. But everything he does, he does it for his people. He's a patriot who makes a lot of really bad choices, but he's only ever wanted the best for the Centauri people. It's not an excuse for what he's done, but I guess... I can understand. I know what it's like to screw up like that."

"Tony..." Steve said, guilt-stricken. "Your life before... I never meant-"

"Yeah, it was that bad," Tony said, sipping his coffee. It was a false calm that Steve had learned the hard way to see through to the hurt underneath without snapping at Tony. "And it was just as inexcusable. But hey, that's what the rest of my life is for."

"That's not-"

"So what's this I hear about the two of you making passionate love to each other?" Bruce asked absently as he walked in, the glasses on his nose slipping slightly as he didn't even look up from the science magazine he was reading.

"Cupid's hangover is making him hallucinate," Tony replied, the previous conversation seemingly forgotten. "Though if you want to tell him we were in the throes of passion when you walked in, you'll feed the troll."

"Just as long as it's not in the kitchen," Bruce said, obviously only paying attention to half of what was being said.

"Tony, don't change the subject," Steve pleaded. "You-"

"It's okay, Cap," Tony said. Steve flinched at the reminder that he'd slipped into his Captain America voice. "Steve," Tony said gentler this time. "It's alright, really. I know you weren't judging me. Mentally, at any rate. Just give me a little time to get that through to the rest of me."

Steve nodded, not liking the wait, but knowing he had to give Tony some space.

Bruce looked up from the paper when he couldn't find his tea mug in the usual spot, seeing the two of them for the first time, including the tension. "Did I interrupt something?" Bruce asked, pushing his glasses up.

"Yes," Tony said, grinning maniacally. "Steve was just going to bend me over the table and take me hard. But since you're here now, I'll have to settle for science. Come on, Cookie. Science waits for no man."

Bruce sighed, ruffling a scowling Tony's hair. "Don't tease Clint while he's hungover."

"But where's the fun in that?"

* * *

Marcus, Steve discovered, was becoming one of his favorite characters in Babylon 5. It probably helped that Marcus had a thing for Ivanova and she was way out of his league. Story of Steve's life, really. No wonder he had a soft spot for those sorts of characters.

"It figures you'd be a Marcus/Ivanova fan," Tony said, rolling his eyes. Steve just smiled a little, drawing Ivanova in his notebook.

No matter how much Steve could relate to Marcus's crush, it still came as a surprise that they had even more in common. "People still wait for the right partner to have sex?" Steve asked.

"Not a lot of them," Tony replied. "But some. See? Some old fashioned values are still there."

The beat of silence was long enough for Tony to pick up on. "Then are you..?"

"Yeah. I'm the same," Steve admitted. It was easier to say after seeing Tony's lack of scorn in the light teasing.

A strange look crossed Tony's face, then he smiled. "I know I'm trying to update you, Steve, but don't let anyone change that."

"Your first time wasn't good?" Steve asked, touching Tony's shoulder.

Tony shrugged, dislodging Steve's hand in the same motion. "Don't even remember it, honestly. I was pretty drunk."

"That's..." Steve said, feeling a twinge of sorrow at that.

"I don't regret it, Steve. But I think you'll be happier sticking to unicorns until you find the right girl. When you do find her though, I'm more than willing to give you tips on how to-Steve!"

Steve didn't look up from his cuddle attack. Instead, he tugged Tony closer. "We really need to work on this whole cuddle-issue you have," Tony said, though there was a barely suppressed note of amusement in his voice.

"Only you and Clint really mind," Steve said smugly.

"Wait... Does that mean you tried this on Natasha and she let you live?" Tony asked incredulously. "That's not fair. She'd kill me before I got within five feet of her!"

"That's 'cause she likes you better," Steve stage whispered, as if imparting a great secret.

"Now I know that's a lie. Who's feeding you this? Is it Clint? You should know better than to listen to Legolas." Tony huffed expectantly, and Steve let him go if only so they could keep watching.

But this time, it was Steve that was Smiling Knowingly. Tony might not believe it, but there was no question about Natasha's favoritism.

* * *

Steve didn't say anything after the episode "Endgame," staring stonily at the TV screen. Tony tried to make a few weak jokes, but Steve just asked JARVIS to play the next one.

"All love is unrequited, Steven. All of it," Ivanova said at the end of the next scene. She might as well have been talking to Steve. That nearly destroyed him.

He had to leave.

Steve stood up, ignoring Tony calling his name as he left the room. All he could see was Peggy. Peggy, who had moved on after his death. Just like the character Ivanova would after Marcus, because Steve was sure she'd be okay in the end. But in that moment after, when Steve had crashed the plane, had Peggy reacted like that?

God. Had he done that to someone he loved so dearly?

He heard the banging on his door, only then realizing that he'd made his way down to his own floor and was sitting on his bed. "Come in," he heard himself say automatically, immediately regretting it. He didn't want to see anyone right now. At least not anyone from this time period.

Tony opened the door, not giving Steve a chance to change his reply. "Hey," Tony said, looking at Steve like he was a frightened animal. "Are you alright?"


Tony's eyes were flat-out disbelieving, but he didn't contradict Steve. "Okay, that's... that's great. So. You want to talk about it?"


He saw the panic on Tony's face, but didn't move as Tony tapped his arc reactor nervously. "If it helps, he isn't actually dead," Tony blurted out. "He's just in cryogenic freezing until they can find a way to save him."

"Does he see Ivanova again?" Steve asked.

"No," Tony said, shaking his head. "Not in the series. He still hadn't woken up by the end."

"That doesn't help." That actually made things ten times worse. Marcus was... God, he might wake up someday, without a soul in the world who knew him. Without Ivanova. Without Peggy.

"This isn't about the show," Tony said, sitting down on the bed beside him tentatively.

Steve didn't answer.

"Steve..." Tony's hand covered his, but Steve didn't actually feel it. He felt too cold to feel anything. "Come on, Steve, give me something to go on. Don't close up on me now. I know it's hypocritical for me to say it, but you can't..."

"Why?" Steve asked finally, something inside him breaking. "What's the point of waking up when everyone else you know is dead? When dying like that leaves someone behind?"

The realization hit Tony, plain as day on his face. "Shit," Tony said, his voice wavering. "I didn't... Damn it! I'm supposed to be a genius, so how did I not make that connection and-Steve! You're shaking..."

Steve leaned forward as Tony pulled him into a hug. His chest felt tight, like he was having an asthma attack, but he could breathe just fine. The serum fixed all of that. So why...

"You told me it was okay to miss Pepper once," Tony said, hugging Steve tightly. "You should take your own advice. It's okay for you to grieve. It's... It's okay. Crap, what do people usually say in these situations? They, uh, wouldn't want you to hurt this much? Actually, that's a crappy thing to say. I suck at this. Steve. Look, I should get someone else to-"

"Tony, just shut up," Steve barely held back a sob to grit out the words. This was his room, but it wasn't his old apartment, his home. Tony wasn't Bucky, or Howard, and Peggy... God, Peggy. The future was a terrible place and...

Suddenly, the sobs refused to be held back any longer.

Peggy. Bucky. Howard. The Howling Commandos. Colonel Philips. All gone. He'd left all of them behind, and even his old life... He couldn't even live the same way anymore. It all built up until it couldn't hold anymore, tearing through him worse than any bullet ever had. It all came rushing out now that he'd buckled under the strain.

It was a long time before he felt the hand rubbing warmth into his back, or the one carding through his hair. Steve realized he was clinging to Tony and was terrified that he was holding on too hard, though he couldn't bring himself to let go. "No, you're fine," he heard Tony say. He must have said something aloud. "You're not hurting me. Are you al-Yeah, you aren't, obviously. Steve? You with me now?"

Steve nodded against Tony's shoulder, which he now noticed was very wet. He also had an odd ache to his shoulders from bending over for a long time to bury his face against Tony's shoulder, but that was nothing compared to the bone-weary cold that settled over him. Tony's hands were the only thing keeping the cold at bay. Letting the fabric of Tony's shirts fall from his hands, Steve pressed forward into the warmth, and just let Tony hold him. He tried not to resent his one anchor to this time that refused to let him slip back.

* * *

Steve woke up a little while later, still curled up in Tony's arms with the hum of the arc reactor in his ear. Tony. He'd stayed. Stayed to watch over Steve, even when he'd wanted the others more. Held him through the self-pity and the grief, a constant reminder of the present no matter how much Steve resented it. Steve couldn't bring himself to resent it now.

And oh, Tony looked like a wreck, half-way to shell-shocked and with a barely contained panicked energy about his eyes. "Are you alright?" Steve croaked out, his voice shockingly hoarse.

"Am I alright?" Tony asked incredulously. His laugh held a slightly hysterical note that calmed when Steve reached out to touch his face. "No, I'm terrible. I'm covered in super-soldier snot and have no idea what I'm doing, but hey, I'm not the one who's been-damn it, your eyes aren't even the slightest bit red. You still look perfect after crying, and that's not fair."

It startled a laugh out of Steve, and there was no doubt that his was on the verge of hysteria. "Sorry," Steve said, swallowing around the knot in his throat as he pulled himself up to return the hug properly.

Tony went willingly, still tense, but relaxing slowly. "I really suck at this," Tony whined and Steve could hear the guilt in his tone. "You'd be better off with someone who knows how to handle it."

"You're doing fine," Steve assured, hugging Tony a little tighter out of guilt. Now that he was thinking clearer... Please, Lord, let him not have said what he'd been thinking earlier out loud. Tony didn't deserve that on top of everything else he'd put the man though. What he had said aloud had been bad enough. "You stayed. And I think I needed that," he admitted quietly. "Probably have for a while."

He could feel the arc reactor pressed against his chest, the warmth of it flooding through Steve. "What I said earlier-"

"Steve, you don't have to explain. I should have realized the connection and given you some warning, because, Jesus, that was... I'm sorry," Tony said, his hands making an aborted movement before Tony must have realized he was still supposed to be hugging Steve back.

"Not your fault. Just let me..." Steve pulled back to rub away the tear trails, but Tony beat him to it. The engineer's warm hands wiped at his cheeks, and Steve's eyes fluttered shut for a moment as he just let himself feel. He took a deep breath that was a little more shaky than not, but without hindrance from being clogged up. The serum really was a God-send.

Opening his eyes, he saw Tony staring up at him with a combination of guilt, concern, and panic. "What I said earlier, asking about what there was to wake up to?" Steve said, focusing on the warmth surrounding him instead of the cold of the memories for the first time since he could remember. It was easier now, a fact that surprised Steve greatly. Especially so soon after that... "I... There's a lot here I have to wake up to as well. It's just taken this long for it to sink in."

"Steve..." Tony said, his eyes downcast. "You've been trying."

"Not hard enough," Steve said, shaking his head. "Peggy would..." Steve swallowed hard, but pushed forward. "Peggy would've knocked me flat if she'd seen how I was carrying on. The other Avengers, Pepper, Rhodey, Coulson, and... and you. You're all worth waking up to." And wasn't that the revelation of the century. Steve felt his chest tighten again, only to be soothed by the low hum of the arc reactor.

"Me?" Tony asked, a half-formed joke on his lips. "I'm-"

"You," Steve said, cutting him off. "Tony. Just plain old Tony. Not Howard or Bucky, but you, Tony. I was an idiot for not trying hard enough after all you've done."

It surprised Steve just as much as Tony, because it was true. After the nightmare he'd just put himself through, he didn't want Howard right now, or even Peggy or Bucky. He wanted this broken man who sat beside him, who held him through all of that, spreading warmth where the memories chilled. The man who had never given up on Steve Rogers, no matter how deeply encased in the ice he was. "Thank you," Steve said simply, meaning more than he could ever put into words.

"I-no problem," Tony said, looking a little stunned. It didn't take long for his mouth to start running away with him. "I guess we should call it a night with... Oh, bad topic to-Fuck. I wouldn't blame you if you never wanted to watch Babylon 5 again."

"No, it's alright." Steve's throat felt tight for a moment, but it passed. "I'd like to continue it, if you don't mind. To... To see how she moves on."

"Yeah," Tony said, leaning against Steve again. "Besides, there's always fix-it fics, if you like that sort of thing. The head writer of the show even wrote a fix-it fanfic for them."

"Fix-it fanfics?"

* * *

Fix-it fanfiction was amazing. The world was a better place for it.

* * *

"You never said what your favorite Disney move was," Steve said one day, curled up on his couch in Tony's workshop. He was drawing Tony without permission, which added a small amount of thrill to the endeavor. He knew none of the Avengers actually minded, but it was fun to pretend.

"Sure I did," Tony replied absently, crumpling up a bit of the design he was working on and tossing it over his shoulder. He got five hundred points for the automatic pre-programmed bulls-eye. "The Great Mouse Detective, remember? What isn't brilliant about Sherlock Holmes with mice?"

"That's what you said was your favorite," Steve said with a touch of reproach. "But you weren't telling the truth."

That got a shocked look from Tony, as Steve smiled up at him smugly. "How did you... Who told you that? Not even Pepper knows that!"

"You can't lie to Captain America. I always know when people lie," Steve said in his best Cap voice. Which was a complete lie. Rhodey had told him. But Tony didn't know Steve had started talking with Rhodey after the whole "GROPOS" incident to see if there was anything else in the series Tony might not take well. They were becoming fast friends.

"I like Oliver & Company, Natasha likes Sleeping Beauty, Thor agrees with Natasha while also liking Lilo and Stitch, Clint loves Robin Hood and Aladdin, and Bruce likes The Fox and the Hound and Beauty and the Beast, supposedly before he had the Hulk, but what about you? Which movie does the great Tony Stark like the best?" Steve asked, shading Tony's shoulders. He really liked Tony's shoulders, especially when they were bare, like now.

"The Great Mouse Detective is perfectly acceptable. It's-"

"Exactly," Steve interrupted. "It's acceptable. So what's your unacceptable favorite?"

The silence went on for long enough that Steve looked up from the drawing in concern. "Tony?"

"The Rescuers," Tony admitted, and was that..? Yes, it was a certified Tony Stark Blush.

Steve was willing to admit he found it just a little adorable, though he didn't tease Tony about it for fear of not seeing it again. "I liked that one," Steve said, thinking back to the little girl searching for the diamond. The sequel wasn't bad either. Tony had been awfully quiet during the first movie, come to think of it. "Why don't you like talking about that one?"

"I liked it as a kid," Tony said, waving it off. "It didn't have any machines or any other reason for me to like it, but... sometimes, I wondered if Bernard or Miss Bianca would come and talk to me, if I sent out a letter. They helped out lonely kids, right?"

It wasn't hard to read between the lines, to see where his father had disapproved of the movie. Steve got to his feet, putting the drawing pad aside. "Tony..."

"Oh, no, you don't," Tony said, holding his hands up in a clear halting motion. "I know your game, Cuddle Monster. I'm fine. My childhood sucked, but it wasn't that bad."

Privately, Steve disagreed. Maybe it wasn't the worst childhood to be had, but it still wasn't something any child should have to go through. "Don't try the puppy dog eyes on me," Tony said, interrupting Steve's thoughts as he crossed his arms over the arc reactor. "Just because Captain America can pout does not mea-Dummy, no! Why is everyone against me?

Steve just laughed as Dummy pushed Tony closer to him. Finally, Tony threw his hands up in surrender and accepted the hug. "Fine. But this is not the end of it, understand? Right, you've had your cuddle now, so go terrorize someone else. No, You, that's not where you put-Dummy! Back to your charging station!"

Steve couldn't help the smug smile as he let go of Tony so that he could chase after his bots. When he got back to his drawing, he added the bots as mice, lined up and vying for Tony's attention.

* * *

The bars wouldn't bend.

Under Steve's super human strength, the metal still wouldn't budge. He even tried the trick Howard had showed him that didn't need brute force, but they still didn't move. The other Avengers were being tortured in front of him, but he couldn't do a damned thing.

"Stop it!" he screamed as the Hydra soldier broke another of Natasha's ribs. They'd found some way to keep Bruce from Hulking-out, and Thor was powerless and broken. Clint... Good gracious God above, Steve couldn't think about Clint. Even Pepper and Rhodey were in this hell somewhere. He'd heard their screams from time to time. Steve's mind kept wandering back to G'kar breaking those impossible chains to save his people, but Steve couldn't even do that!

Then they brought out Tony. Brave, stupid Tony, who kept baiting their captors like Clint had. "Don't! Tony, don't..." Steve begged.

But Tony didn't listen. The bars were merciless.

Then they started taking the arc reactor out and Tony screamed. Suddenly, all Steve could see were the bars keeping him from his team. The screams kept continuing as he pushed with all his might, until even they tapered off into the distance.

The bars still wouldn't move.

"You know, we don't need all of them alive," he heard one of the guards say over the roaring of his heart in his ears.

"Just leave the reactor out this time. See how long it takes for billionaires to die."

No. None of his team... his friends were going to die. He couldn't allow that to happen. Steve pushed at the bars desperately as he searched for some hidden center of strength. The bars held, but he could feel it... Just a little more. Lord, please, just a little more.

The bars started to give.

His team. Tortured and broken. Tony. The first person who managed to get through the layer of ice surrounding Steve Rogers. His team that had never given up on him, even when he was just a stranger living in the same place as them. He was--Not--Letting--Them--Die! "Tony, hang on!" he shouted as he pushed. The guards were yelling, but Steve could no longer make out the words.

The bar bent. It was enough for him to squeeze through.

Steve honestly didn't remember what happened to the guards, though there were several bodies on the ground and he had a gunshot wound in his thigh. None of that mattered as he fumbled with the arc reactor, pressing it into Tony's chest. "Tony, come on," Steve begged. He was still breathing, he was...

Steve saw Tony's eyes. Tony was always animated and lively, never sitting still. Never quiet, even in sleep, thanks to the soft hum of the reactor. But now his eyes... they were dead. Tony was still physically alive, but he wasn't there anymore. Steve was too late.

"Tony!" Steve begged, wanting to shake him, but too scared of hurting Tony more. "Please, don't. Tony..."


Steve woke up with a gasp, adrenaline pumping through his body as he started to shake uncontrollably. "The Enchantress... What..?" The Enchantress had hit him with something, he remembered that much. Then he'd woken up captured by Hydra with the rest of the team and...

"Hey, easier there, soldier. Whatever she made you see wasn't real."


Steve's head snapped up. He was at the Tower in the den, lying on the couch with all the other Avengers in civilian clothing loosely gathered around him with worried expressions. Bruce's arm wasn't mangled at odd angles, Natasha was breathing normally, Thor wasn't bleeding out at a terrifying rate, Clint was... Clint was whole, his eye still... And Tony. Tony was babbling, tapping at the arc reactor and still very much living.

"-said it was some sort of spell, to make you dream of people closest to you. She disappeared before we could catch her, but the spell should be broken now, right, Thor? Thor?"

"Amora will pay dearly if it is not," Thor replied darkly.

"Was it Bucky and Peggy? Or Howard? Or..."

"Idiot, don't ask about what he saw!"

"Everyone give him some space!" Natasha ordered.

Except that meant everyone was moving away, and that wasn't-

Steve reached out, tugging Tony to him. Tony yelped, but didn't fight him as Steve pulled him right into his lap and clamped down around him.

"Thor!" Clint shouted. "The spell, is it-"

"I'm fine," Steve said, breathing out. He wanted to bury his face against Tony's neck, but didn't want to let the other Avengers out of his sight. He settled for hugging Tony tighter as the engineer started fidgeting and twisting. "I'm fine, really. I just... Just a 'twinge of cosmic angst'." He couldn't help the hysterical giggle at that quote.

"Steve?" Tony asked, his brown eyes filled with concern, worry, and just a little bit of panic. They were so very alive. Steve could have kissed him and... He was far too keyed up for that sort of revelation, so Steve filed it away for later. But he was definitely coming back to that later. "Steve, what did you see?"

Steve shook his head, shuddering as he curled around Tony. He wasn't going to be able to talk about that for a while yet. The people closest to him...

To save those most important to him.

Steve hadn't seen Peggy, Bucky, Col. Philips, or anyone else from the past. They were all still important, no doubt about that, but they weren't part of his life anymore. Right now, those most important to him were...

His friends. He'd never known that he needed them so much.

And Tony sitting in his lap and trying not to fidget as he let Steve just hold him. One of his dearest friends since waking up: brilliant, crazy, broken Tony, who could maybe become something more, if Steve played his cards right. Tony was still alive.

Bruce placed a gentle hand on his forehead. "How are you feeling, Steve? It was a while before we could wake you."

"Good," Steve said, leaning his head against Tony's. Despite the fact the dream still haunted him, he felt so very warm. It was wonderful.

"If you're good, can you let go of me now?" Tony asked with a scowl, but he didn't try to move away.

"No," Steve replied, taking a few more deep breaths. "I... We're home, right? All of us, we're home?"

"Indeed, my friend," Thor answered. "You were the only one of us to be felled by the Enchantress."

Home. It wasn't Steve's apartment in the past, or one of the many camps set up with the Howling Commandos. All those were gone now, but he had something else that was... It was good, this place. This tower where he could tease Clint over his ridiculous love affair with his bow, or have Natasha beat some sense into him when he needed it, or watch Sesame Street with Bruce after he'd Hulked-out, or explore this crazy new world with Thor. And when all else was lost to the ice and he couldn't claw his way out again, there was always Tony, to thaw him out and force him through endless marathons of Doctor Who and other TV shows.

Sometimes the best references were the old ones, the ones that Steve had known from his time. Because Dorothy was right. Even if it was a new time period and his family was far different than he'd ever imagined, there's no place like home.


Neither of them said anything during the final episode of Babylon 5. Tony did not comment on Steve having to wipe his eyes, and Steve didn't say anything about how glossy Tony's had looked.

After though, "That was..."

"It was a good ending," Tony said simply.

"Yeah," Steve said. "It was."

It was as one of the characters had said, after all. An ending of one story is the beginning of a new story, and Steve was finally ready to start the next one.