He was there, sitting on the edge of a leaf with his hands lifted and poised as he rested his ankles one over another. His lush brown hair was combed neatly into a wave up and over his hairline as hazel eyes scanned the crowds. His face was evenly blank and clear, save for a freckle that laid under his right eye. A white toga sewn from the fanciest of silk worms tied over his left shoulder precisely. White creases formed in the crook of his under arm and around the neckline. His olive skin tone contrasted starkly to the pristine color. The crowds beneath his feet cheered and shouted as a wooden crown was placed on his head. Small everlasting water droplets crested the heirloom of their tribe as it shone in the morning light peeking through the Great Woods. Doorways of Light, they were called.
Anthony Stark was the new king of the Leaf Tribe. His beaming smile to the people was even whiter than his clothing, and his eyes were brighter than the FireBall. After the cheers died down, he cleared his throat and delicately hopped off the plant his throne rested on. Golden translucent wings twice his size carried his weight in the air as the crowd erupted again. The wings fluttered rapidly and sparkled in the beams of FireBall as Anthony bowed down. He waved for the people to calm, then he spoke his first words as King.
“Good morning, my subjects. As you all know, the loss of my father was an unfathomable one for us. The trauma my family has faced was great, similar to the ones of your families. But this is what he would have wanted. We are no longer lost to anarchy, and we shall rise again!”
Steve raised his head to watch people jump into the air and twirl around as they yelled their joy. Dresses raised and spun in circles and togas flapped in the air currents.
“As for the future, I must order a new law,” the King continued, “we will no longer be mass producing chloroform.”
Everyone quieted immediately, before one man in the corner booed. Then the entire crowd followed suit and began cursing their King. Steve saw Bucky grimace to his right and he was probably doing the same. No one had respect for Anthony, and they all knew it. They could pretend he’d be a great King to follow Howard, but deep down they were doomed the moment a Dirtsman riding a fire ant trampled over the man. Steve was there to see the downfall of their nation, and he still shuddered at the memory of it. Howard was barely breathing by the time Steve had gotten to his side. He coughed up blue liquid, and Steve had known that second that there was no return for his King. Howard had simply thudded his head back and grinned. He looked to Steve and whispered a phrase that haunted his dreams, even eight months later: “Take care of them.”
Steve had chanted “okay” and “don’t go” over and over through tears as he watched Howard’s chest lower and never rise again.
Now, he was at the coronation of a child dressed as a monarch as he shut down their biggest form of income. He booed along with the crowds and heard Bucky joining him.
“People are dying! I cannot condone cold blood murder,” His Majesty explained in a clipped tone, “the air becomes polluted with it and they cannot breathe! They all fall unconscious and they never wake! This is not a debate. It is law.” Anthony threaded his fingers together in front of him before flying back to his platform. He didn’t glance back to his people as he was ushered back to the Royal Palace. The masses didn’t relent in their shouts of displeasure, even after the King left. Ten minutes had passed before Steve, Bucky, Sam, and Peggy had left. They treaded lightly back the way to their small cottage. Thick silence surrounded them, except for the crunch of pebbles that lined the streets of the kingdom. The Stark Empire had seen centuries pass, had seen generations grow old and die. The production of chloroform was how they had stayed afloat all that time. The gas had strengthened the plants that coiled around them protectively, and the King of the time had figured a way to make super strengthened people out of it. Nowadays, the element was required to be injected into newborns so that everyone was equally capable of being safe from the evergreen war. Anthony was correct about one thing, much to Steve’s annoyance: the victims that experienced undilated, pure chloroform went into comas for eternity. His father had been lost to the gas, and Steve never got to meet him. So Steve went to war to fight against the people who released the overpowered gas: HYDRA. He was a general now, and he didn’t plan on retiring soon. The war was his home, as dangerous as it was.
Peggy was the first to speak as she flew ahead with her scarlet wings. Microscopic particles kicked up a storm of red and the guys waved it away. Women fairies had Dust. It was a type of pheromone that helped with the birthing process, or at least that was what they said in Sex Ed.
“So what does that mean for us?”
“It means you’ll finally be able to stay home,” a voice drawled.
From behind the wooden door to their home, a petite woman with blood red hair stood with her hip cocked against its frame. Peggy smiled as she rolled her eyes as she greeted her mate. They pecked their lips together domestically as the other three trudged in without any kisses. Natasha shut the door behind them and jumped onto the chair that was handcrafted by Steve. The thick rope held him and Sam, and he remembered when it snapped when Bucky jumped on top. He made Bucky repair it and it worked all the same still, but the three of them never sat on it at the same time ever again. It hung from the ceiling, suspended from the ground, as was the couch. Fairies didn’t really care for the ground. In fact, most of the furniture was hanging off of something. The dining table was a shelf that was nailed to the wall; same for any counters and the beds upfloors.
“I guess we find out tomorrow, Peggs,” Bucky shrugged as he gathered sap from the walls. He filled a cup with it and snapped the lid shut to store it under a floorboard with the rest. One day, the apocalypse would happen and they would live off the tree sap. Or at least, that’s what they said they’d do, even though the sap tasted like the frogs they rode in training.
Steve swiped off more Dust off the couch as he sat down, grumbling about how Nat never cleaned up after herself. She simply grinned as she closed her eyes and leaned back against the chair. Sam sat cross legged on the floor, joined by Bucky. They were freaks like that. No one ever sat on the floor, except those two fuckwads. They all sat around one another in companionable quiet, speaking sporadically for the rest of the day. By the time the FireBall had left for the day, they were all asleep soundly.
Steve shook his head petulantly at his officer, Nick Fury, with his hands behind back. He was dressed in his uniform, green with black splotches to camouflage into the forests and black gloves and boots in front of the colonial.
“This wasn’t an offer. You are to guard King Anthony until further notice. His decree yesterday has tensions running high and it would be… unfortunate to lose two Highnesses within a year. You will be provided a room in the Royal Mansion for at least six months, but it can and will be extended if need be. You have your orders, now follow them.”
Fury clicked his heels as his turned and walked sharply to his corners. Steve stood shellshocked in the hallway as other agents passed him by with confused looks. He groaned in frustration and pulled out his communicator - another contribution from the Stark family - and texted his friends the news. They all replied with the same message of “good luck”.
He whined to himself and stomped his feet just a little as he threw his head back. His military trained brain instantly began a list for all the things he would need for the palace. Steve found peace in the routine of checking his items briefly before remembering this was the same kid who climbed the highest Woods naked while drunk off of sap. Howard had sent death stares to anyone who even mentioned his son and made everyone who asked him about it do a million reps of everything. Steve sighed and marched off to his issued room and packed all of his work things like his charger and frog clickers. He also grabbed his journal he kept, then he left as quickly as he came. He flew home promptly and swimped clothing, shoes, and his sketchbook. He left a goodbye note for Natasha and met Fury at the closest metro station.
They stood shoulder to shoulder in quiet as people flew and fluttered about, some leaving Dust, which reminded Steve of Nat and how he had seen an entire mountain of the particles swept into a corner of the kitchen as he packed. He whipped his communicator and sent a short message threatening her, to which she just replied with a winky face. Steve rolled his eyes and puffed a small laugh. One day she’d clean that shit up.
The train eventually screeched to a stop in front of them and they got clearance to enter. For special ops or off the book missions, the military used the station to keep matters hush-hush, even though most would rather fly than sit for any amount of time. Fury led the way, and Steve followed. Fury had a wing missing, leaving one pitch black transparent wing all lonely. He said he had lost it to a giant beast of the Other World, but Carol consistently shot that down, saying that he got it caught in a doorway once. As badass as the former sounds, the second is much more funny to imagine such an illustrious man like Fury to be an idiot like the rest of them. Steve wondered which way he’d rather lose a wing when a blonde woman got her Dust all over another passenger as she sat in a hurry. The man stood and yelled at her.
“You Goddamn DustBunnies get your shit everywhere! You don’t even think about it!”
Steve rose too and held his hand out in front of the man. He glared down to the offender and asserted himself between the two.
“Sir, I ask you to calm down,” he stated firmly. The man threw his hands in the air.
“This Bunny Dusted me all over! She should be in trouble, not me!”
The woman quickly sputtered out an apology to both the men and made to leave. Steve pinned her with a look also, and she froze with a squeak.
“I ask that you quit using that language here, sir,” Steve didn’t ask, “Dust is harmless, and you know it. It is also natural. It was not her fault, she doesn’t make it just to spread it everywhere. So either apologize and sit quietly or apologize and find another seat.”
“He doesn’t have to-” the lady began, but Steve glanced to her. She clutched her wallet closer.
“You can’t be serious, man! She got her shit on me!”
“And you keep saying ‘shit’ in public. That seems to be a much bigger problem.”
The man spat as he angrily tried to leave, but Steve had him held tightly. He eventually muttered an apology and Steve watched him brusquely walk to another cabin. Before Steve could sit, the woman thanked him profusely.
“You didn’t have to, he was right… I should be more careful. I was just late and I have to pick up my kids from academy and-”
“It’s alright, ma’am,” Steve assured, “my own friends have their days. It honestly isn’t something you can control. He was polluting the air much more than you could ever hope to.”
The woman stuttered a bit before sitting down and rummaging through her waller to pull out currency.
“At least have this, to pay for your ride,” she demanded. Steve licked his lips and smiled.
“No thank you.”
“It isn’t an offer,” she disclosed - wow, déjà vu much? - and shoved the money in his hand. She then plugged two music buds into her ears, ignoring any protests he could have said. Next to him, Steve heard a low chuckle and turned to see Fury hiding behind his hand. His shoulders bounced with each laugh and Steve glared as he tucked the money into his pocket.
“What a gentleman,” Fury commented and Steve grumbled.
The rest of the ride was peaceful after the scuffle, and soon Steve stood in front of an immaculate building that radiated “I’M BETTER THAN YOU”.
The agents were greeted by an old man, whose wings were frail and barely tinted with orange. His tailored suit was worn, but still expensive looking and nicer than anything Steve had even seen .
“You all must be here for Master Stark. I am Jarvis and I will be here for you! Small world,” the man grinned warmly and Steve suddenly felt like he was just talking to his neighbor, and not the butler to the king of the nation he serves.
“Jarvis, I told you to stop calling me ‘master’ at least three thousand times, why can’t you just- oh. Hello.”
A man, not much younger than Steve, came out of the gigantic stone doors in a loose tunic. Steve still saw the intricate sewing patterns that made the outfit up, however. The man stopped in front of the other three men and it took a second for Steve to recognize the golden wings. They flapped slowly back and forth as Anthony stood, glancing between everyone. He swiftly stood rimrod straight and bent his hands in the same position they were in when he was on the throne. The wooden crown was - unfortunately - resting on his head still, although crooked, and him trying to be elegant while in a commoner outfit and an offset crown just triggered something off in Steve. He muffled laughter into his elbow and coughed it off, following with a handshake to Jarvis.
“I’m General Rogers,” he greeted. Jarvis smiled again.
“Thank you for your service.”
“Much to my mother’s despair, it’s all I’ve ever known. The honor is mine.”
Jarvis remained pleasant, even as he waved a manic king over to them. Anthony hesitantly held his hand out, but not without getting a nod from Jarvis.
“I’m uh… Anthony… King uh, Anthony.”
“Are you sure?”
Steve shot a look to Fury, who didn’t take his question back, but shook hands anyway. However, Anthony laughed - actual laughter - and bit his bottom lip.
“Sorry, I just uh… I usually go by Tony. This whole King thing is new to me…”
“But he’s had training with how to lead a country,” Jarvis added, flickering his gaze to An-Tony.
“Yes, yes, of course,” Tony agreed.
“Your crown is on crooked,” Steve mentioned, unable to help himself. Tony’s eyes widened and his wings fluttered anxiously as his hands snapped to his head. The blush on his cheeks spread quickly to the neckline of his shirt, and Steve tried to follow it down. He did note, however, that Tony’s ears burned as well, which was very humbling. Jarvis cleared his throat and offered to take them inside. Fury answered for them both, even though Steve was fine outside.
In the mansion, the walls were smooth and tall. Stone pillars opened space for other rooms, and Steve felt very small for the first time in a while. Steve curiously mentioned to himself that none of the furniture was hanging. Not even the beds! How did these people live? Didn’t they get bored of sitting? Everything was close together and they had fabrics on the floor! The floor! Did they wash them? Did they think the floor needed clothing? They even had stairs, for sky’s sake! Did they have an animal? Steve had never known fairies outside of the barracks to have an animal inside. Even then, they were in cages and on the bottom levels. The next realization that came to Steve was pure terror: he was expected to sit like that too. A shudder ran through his spine as he cringed at the inevitable.
“These will be you quarters, General,” Jarvis gestured to an entire penthouse that made Steve feel like the size of a crushed pebble. The house was insanely large, and Steve was going to get lost for at least a week. The internal sigh of resignation at that made him want to draw a map of the place. In all honesty though, if he saw one more sculpture of a deceased Stark, he was going to rip his own wings off.
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” Steve admitted as he dipped his body into a bow. He felt the safety of his water blue wings cave around him. He rose to see two brown eyes aching with… something in his King’s facial expression. He almost suggested to have lunch with them before Nick snapped his heels together and straightened his spine. Fury saluted the three, and left with a swift goodbye. He studiously marched down the stairs and then left. After a few moments, Jarvis went to accompany him. Tony and Steve were in an awkward quiet as they stood outside of Steve’s new home.
“Listen, I know this isn’t really ideal for either of us,” Tony started, “so we’ll pay you whatever Jarv agreed on and you stay in this ridiculously pricey apartment for a while and we’ll call it quits.”
Steve snapped his eyes down to Tony’s, and the fear that appeared was refreshing. He had missed striking terror, frankly.
“Your Highness, your life is in danger and you don’t have any offspring. Unless I’d like to return to the everyday chaos of anarchy, I’ll do my job correctly and I’ll assume you do the same. I will meet you in the kitchen in an hour, from there I will guard you and stay out of the way.”
Tony was no longer scared by the time Steve finished, in fact he looked livid, but Steve curtly walked into his bedroom and shut the door behind him. He needed to unpack for the torturously long time he’d be there, and Tony was not going to stop him.
They ate at the dining hall in tense silence.
A long table stretched between them, and Steve didn’t even care. His wings were stabbing pains all along his spine. He couldn’t eat; he would throw up. No other part of his body mattered, not with the unworldly anguish he was dealing with underneath a black unitard. They had spent half of the evening carefully folding his wings in on themselves so that he could fit inside of the tight fabric. He felt frail and his eyes were hot as spikes of pain stabbed deeper and deeper. His arms shook and his legs quaked. His fingers trembled where they rested in his lap. Bile was threatening his airways and he’d broken out into a sweat well over fifteen minutes ago.
Meanwhile, Anthony was peacefully eating his fill of a variety of foods, plate after plate and he thanked each waitstaff with a smile. Tony muttered under his breath, things that Steve couldn’t focus on. His feet were supposed to be folded; he knew he was being impolite, but he couldn’t help it. Everything hurt and he was ready to keel over.
At some point, the world had left him in a void. He felt numb everywhere and all he saw was black and blue. He also felt a pain, but it wasn’t his to feel. He was sinking into a dark liquid he didn’t know, and it stuck to him like a spider webbing. His waist and below had disappeared into the wet, and he didn’t feel them at all.
Steve opened his eyes screaming and clawing at his neck.
White light dug into his vision before it was blocked out. Heat enveloped his wrists and gently tugged them away from his throat.
“Hey, hey, shh, shh.”
A soothing sound washed over him, and he felt his eyes water. Relief flooded him and he wept openly. A strong presence wrapped all around him as he shook and hiccupped.
Eventually, he slipped away again, unaware of it until he startled up again. This time, he had slightly better bearings, and he didn’t feel an encompassing pain. It had dulled significantly, to his surprise.
He tried to sit up, only for a steady hand to push him back down. Steve protested weakly with a whine, but relaxed nonetheless. A rumbling giggle bubbled in front of him.
“Yeah, big guy, just lay down. You’ve had a rough evening, huh?”
“You gonna open your eyes for me?”
Steve momentarily considered turning over in retaliation, but then he was opening his eyes curiously.
Anthony was in a cloth chair filled with beads by his bedside wringing his hands. When their eyes met, Anthony grinned and let go of his breath.
“Well, nothing is irreparable, so that’s always nice,” he announced.
“What happened to me?”
Anthony kissed his teeth.
“Apparently your wings were not happy about being confined. Usually people end up trying to fly, but you completely blacked out… how are you feeling now, though?”
Steve rolled his shoulders out, testing the sore muscles in his back. They grumbled at the disturbance, but their screams of agony had silenced.
“Better, actually. What did they give me?”
“Uh… nothing worked, so they had me test some things out and um… yeah. You’re all better, so…. Yay.”
With that, Anthony swayed in a circle, before recomposing himself. He blinked slowly and smiled lazily.
“Hey, can I j...join you?”
Anthony collapsed next to Steve on the bed, and snored lightly. The sudden movement made Steve yelp in concern, before poking at his King’s side. When he didn’t wake, Steve called in nurses and they batted around the two and eventually concluded he’d be fine. The medicine they had tried on him simply slowed down his body, thus causing the limp form next to Steve.
When the two were alone, Steve couldn’t help but wonder why the fuck Anthony did that.
He was three weeks into babysitting the King, and Steve was going crazy. He kept getting offered sap and high priced water droplets and his shoes were meticulously shined and his hair was combed every time they had to leave the premises. He kept his friends at home updated, and none of them were helpful, unless sending pictures of drills that looked fun as fuck counted. He wanted to go home. He was homesick, alright? It also didn’t help that he could only fly in the privacy of his own floor. His wings got filled to the edges with tension and they screamed to move, but Steve had been ordered to lay low. Literally. Apparently the upper class never heard of being comfortable, so they walked everywhere. Steve hadn’t walked that much in ever and he tripped more often than not. And every time he almost died Stark managed to always see it, and his lips would tug up as he tried not to laugh at Steve. He was a general in the military, for the love of Dust! He felt like a child here.
Lots of meetings for nonsense Steve didn’t care for later, Tony collapsed onto the couch of the main recreational room with a huff. Steve simply crossed his hands in front of him and stood linear to the wall, as usual.
“Hey hot stuff, you not feeling so good?”
Steve steadfastly ignored looking anywhere near where Tony would be unabashedly leering at him. Listen, Steve knew he was attractive, okay? If the fairyfolk in the streets and barracks had anything to say about it, that would be an understatement, but Steve was just trying to do his job. The same job that was getting ridiculously boring and Tony being gorgeous and flirting with him was appearing more and more appealing.
“Mr Rooooogerrrsss,” Tony purred, “don’t be like that.”
“You have an appointment with Colonial Rhodes in forty-six minutes,” Steve sighed.
Steve tried - he really did - not to smile, but something must’ve not transmitted between his brain and mouth, because he heard Tony chuckle.
“Yeah, I know this place is suuuper lame, I don’t blame you… hey, you ever get tired of standing all the time? I’ve never seen a normie stand still as long as you.”
Steve winced at the reminder, and Tony grinned.
“It’s nice to know that you have weaknesses, too. You just stand there all the time, looking so pretty, just for me. Most of the time I think you just exist to be seen.”
“Forty-five minutes,” Steve announced.
“When I got kingified, they all jumped and were flying in circles and were so vibrant,” Tony’s face soured, “everything here is dull.”
“That’s a very modest way of putting it,” Steve muttered. Tony barked out a laugh.
“Ah! He has a sense of humor too! What an anomaly.”
Tony’s eyes unfocused for a moment as he dozed into thought; a habit that he exercised a lot. Steve resumed his stoic silence while Tony pondered to himself. More Doorways of Light beamed through the windows, and small swirls danced in the light. He hadn’t realized he’d been staring at the wall until Tony tapped his shoulder. He almost put the other in a chokehold, but fought the instinct. However, Tony saw him flinch and he winced.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you,” Tony whispered, “but I know you’re tired of being fancy. You wanna come babysit me somewhere where they won’t know?”
“No, what you need to worry about is letting those pretty blues have some fresh air.”
“I’m not sleeping with you, Your Majesty.”
Despite being turned down, Tony’s eyes darkened and he let his head fall to the left.
“Obviously not, Sir.”
Steve snickered and shook his head.
“Can we please not do that? It’s so weird.”
“Now, now. Let’s not kink shame, alright?”
Their noses brushed when Tony lifted his head, and his two brown eyes blurred into one. He looked like a cyclops.
“This isn’t why I’m here.”
Tony smacked his tongue lightly.
“Would it be a stretch to say you’d be keeping me safe from blue balls?”
Steve hit his head on the wall as he threw it back in laughter. His shoulders loosened from stress he didn’t know he was feeling. When he settled with just a smile, Steve spoke again.
“Yes; very much a stretch. You’re never allowed to repeat that to me.”
Tony grinned, and Steve mirrored it.
Maybe the job wasn’t completely awful.
Steve woke with a start when he heard knocking on his door.
His first thought was that someone was breaking in.
His second thought was that knocking was a very polite way to begin a burglary.
He decided it wasn’t an intruder.
Steve inhaled deeply while standing into the cold. A shiver worked its way through his spine without his covers and he whined at the lost. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he stumbled for the door. When he opened it, he saw Tony standing - no, not that - buzzing at his door.
“hiStevesoIhadthisideabutIcouldn’tlike,figureitoutinmyheadsoIthoughththatI’dtakeabreakandIthoughtyou’dwanttojoinmeonmybreak,” Tony whispered excitedly.
However, when Steve simply groaned and wiped his hand over his face, Tony recoiled into himself.
“Is it a bad time?”
Steve held up one finger to shush the erratic king, who was now staring intently at the one finger with crossed eyes and puffed out cheeks.
Tony’s skin looked like some sort of needle had dug itself a home and sucked all the color out of him. His hair was a mess of knots and… was that oil? Steve felt himself soften and he smiled softly to Tony.
“Sure, where d’you wanna go, Your Majesty?”
“Just like that?”
“I can take it back, if you want.”
“No, no, it’s just that it usually takes Pepper at least twenty minutes before she agrees to anything I suggest,” Tony explained.
“I’m regretting my decision.”
Tony waved his hands in the air.
“No! No, that isn’t be necessary, my Knight-”
“-tonight will be ours!”
Tony then turned and rushed off out of sight, leaving Steve feeling exhausted in an entirely new way. He eventually caught up, to which he was met with more jarble. As his King practically yelled plans of combining oats and leaves with the help of the kingdom’s ants, he bounced and flit around. However, Steve noticed that even with his wings freed, Tony didn’t use them.
They were in the corridor that led to the kitchen when a sharp voice pierced the air.
“Anthony! You had specific directions to stay in your quarters!”
They both whipped their heads around to see an irritated Jarvis stomping after them.
“We gotta go,” Tony whispered, tugging Steve away.
“You could’ve told me you were a fugitive,” Steve mentioned as he let Tony pull him around the corner.
“Anthony! Don’t be such a child!”
Tony then ran to a door that led outside, with a laughing Steve behind him. Tony shut the door quietly before turning to the edge of the flower the mansion was built on. The ground wasn’t even visible from the height, and Steve remembered learning about this exact plant. It was the tallest in the land, and only the most exquisite were permitted on it. He then decided he had ultimate bragging rights for eternity when he got back home.
Steve blinked out of his thoughts to see Tony looking out and about, seemingly conflicted about their situation. The wind rustled his hair, and the Lights of the Night twinkled down on him. His sleepwear was wrinkled from a restless night doing who-knows-what, and Steve was struck with a heavy feelings that sobered him quickly.
If he went home, he wouldn’t have this.
And if he had this, then he wouldn’t have home.
The revelation struck his heart like ice, and he felt himself freeze, despite the warm night. He tried to see a life where he chose one and then the other, but both were unsatisfactory. All his friends were there, with the ranks and Fury and sap under the floorboards. But his King - his friend - was here with manic smiles and kind eyes and late escapades of not-quite-royal-behavior activities.
“Steve, I need a piggyback.”
Steve snapped his attention to his King, who was looking up at him with big eyes and lifted shoulders.
“He’s gonna be out here any second and we gotta go.”
“Then we’ll just fly.”
Tony averted his gaze and paused.
“I… not an option.”
Tony sighed and, without warning, jumped on Steve’s back. His legs snaked around Steve’s waist as his arms hung loosely across Steve’s chest. His body tingled and lit up with energy everywhere they touched, and Steve found himself a little dazed by the feeling. Goosebumps raised on his neck down to his collarbone when Tony tucked his head under his ear and whispered, “Let’s go, Steve.”
Not entirely thinking straight, Steve held Tony’s legs closer to him and jumped off the edge without a moment’s pause.
Tony’s delight filled screams were all he heard as they plummeted to the ground, right before Steve slid his wings out from under Tony and worked them as hard as he could. Tony’s arms tightened around his shoulders and he felt the other man’s grin pressed into his neck as they flew above the royal grounds. Cold air whistled around his ears and through his hair as they rose into the Night. One of the limbs around him let go and he looked back to see Tony reaching out to the Night Lights, fingers stretched. His smile was gorgeous as his eyes reflected the Skies and his cheeks dimpled. In the icy air of flying high, Steve’s insides burned like a fire. It was the hottest underneath his chest, and his heart pounded in his ears. The heat in him lit his cheeks aflame and he didn’t even realize he was beaming up of his King.
When Steve went nose diving towards the ground, Tony shrieked and wailed and shouted relentlessly with a death vice around his waist and shoulders. Steve let his eyes close as his wings went flat, creating drag against the fall. They slowed down, gliding instead of plummeting, and Tony had silenced as he huffed breaths in and out.
“You fucking asshole,” he giggled out, “I’m never asking you to kidnap me ever again.”
“How mad is Jarvis gonna be when we get back?”
“I’ll never leave the mansion again.”
Tony had been in his workshop down deep inside the ground for five hours and twenty-four minutes when he screamed.
Steve was on his feet in a blink with his weapon drawn, only for Tony to jump back and scream again.
“Steven, oh my shit, put it down, put it down, put it down!”
Steve manically swept his eyes over the room, and groaned in frustration when he saw no threats.
“Goddamnit, Tony,” he sighed.
“No, no, this is not my fault. You were the crazy shitdick who came in guns ablazing!”
“Because I’m bored!”
“How the fuck was I supposed to know that?”
“Because we’ve been in here forever!”
“We’re always in here forever!”
“That isn’t the point! You threatened to shoot me because I got bored!”
“Why are you bored? No one is forcing you to be here!”
“I can’t explain my brain!”
“That’s a shitty excuse!”
They were both laughing by that point, and any serious anger dissipated. Tony was doubled over against his work station and his shoulders jerked up and down with his small chuckles. He huffed out a breath and screamed again. Steve screamed back, which made Tony laugh harder. Thus began the battle of who could yell the loudest.
“Fuckin’ stop,” Tony wheezed out. Steve cackled and wiped at his eyes before counting his breaths to calm down. When they stopped laughing hysterically, Tony rubbed his temples while he grinned ear to ear.
“Before my life flashed before my eyes-”
“-I wasn’t going to shoot you-”
“-I was wondering if I could show you something.”
Steve raised one brow and cocked his head in interest.
“It won’t kill us in any shape or form,” Tony promised.
“I’m kinda upset that that is the premise of your argument.”
“You wanna come or not?”
Steve nodded, and barely had time to take his next breath before Tony shrugs off the top of his toga to release his giant, golden wings. They didn’t sparkle in the dense lighting of the underground, but Steve was enraptured nonetheless. They tittered about, seemingly excited to be out and about. Tony caught Steve’s gaze when he tore it away from his wings.
“See something you like?”
Tony winked and bat his wings. Steve only smiled, not confirming nor denying anything. He knew that Tony knew what that meant, but neither of them said anything. Steve then shucked his suit top, and gasped at the relief it brought him. He had been too tired the night before to stretch about, and he’d been paying the price for it. Thin pricks of pain spiked across his aching wings, and he rolled his shoulders to make them stop. When he opened his eyes, he saw Tony staring at his wings, too, and he felt them wrap around him protectively. Tony wet his lips, Steve tracked the move, and Tony hit a button on the wall.
Suddenly, the green walls opened in the back of the workspace. Wind rushed in excitedly, and it bounced around like toad, rustling Steve’s hair. The smell of fresh air energized Steve, and birds could be heard singing their wordless songs.
“Follow me,” Tony commanded.
The two walked out the lab onto a wooden ledge that was built like a tumor that the palace had. They were closer to the ground than when they flew off into the night, but high up nonetheless. Steve looked out in confusion when he noticed he couldn’t recognize anything. He turned to Tony, and the man was grinning maniacally.
“Welcome to the Other Side, Steve.”
“Other Side of what?”
“This is outside of our kingdom; of our being.”
The bright blue Sky surrounded them. Total silence surrounded them, and Steve didn’t know if it was because they were so high or that there wasn’t anything to make noise on the Other Side.
“I don’t know how to fly.”
Steve snapped his gaze to Tony and felt his jaw drop.
“You’ve seen twenty winters!”
Tony smiled and closed his eyes.
“Jarvis is the only one who knows. He couldn’t teach me with Howard around, and then my life just… passed, I guess. One second I was learning how to sit properly and the next I was at his funeral.”
Steve remembered that day. He had an honorary seat, since he and the late King were close. He had Bucky and Sam at his sides, and he knew Peggy and Nat were deep in the crowds. The entire village was there to say their farewells. All the children were mute, and all the adults had tears rolling down their faces. Tony had worn a lace black veil over his face and black robes. After the ceremony, Steve and his friends had all trudged home, and then sat in quiet mulling the day’s events over.
“You never learned?”
Tony shook his head.
“Do you want to?”
Tony stepped back and his eyes widened at Steve.
“More than anything,” he whispered.
“Then lemme see ‘em”
Hours passed as the two struggled to get the King in the air longer than three seconds. At one point, Tony fell over the balcony and Steve rushed to get him. His vision narrowed on Tony, and he could only think not today. Not now.
When they returned to the balcony, Tony cackled maniacally. Steve joined and they fell to their asses, processing the near death Tony had.
“Come home with me,” Steve blurted.
Tony didn’t reply.
The sun had set behind the castle, and Steve couldn’t help but think that it set on his chance, too
On Steve’s last day of his mission, neither he nor Tony spoke. They sat in a dark abandoned room petting each other, connected to the point where Steve didn’t know where he ended and Tony began. The sheer warmth Tony always carried around with him seeped into Steve. Their hands matched in temperature where they were held at their sides. Steve didn’t think he could forget the way the two fit together perfectly. Like the strings of their fates were twisted together.
Time warped around them, and it was like a little pocket where nothing existed but them. The way they felt and breathed and smelled. Steve wouldn’t be leaving at dawn the next day, and Tony didn’t have to stay.
Steve didn’t think he was supposed to hear that, with Tony nestling closer. His breath on his neck sent chills all around. Steve could feel his eyelashes blinking, and he exhaled, high on Tony.
“Don’t stay,” he replied softly.
At home, Steve felt freezing. Everywhere he went, he had to have another layer with him. Around home he had at least two blankets wrapped around him. He knew his housemates knew something was wrong. He was grateful that no one asked. Sam got close, though. Steve was outside, sitting down, watching the sun rise when he heard pebbles rustling. He didn’t turn around. Shifting and a few huffs of breath settled after a few seconds, and the two watched the sky go from black and purple to reds, oranges, and pinks. Silhouettes of their neighbors’ houses lined the horizon, and stars desperately tried to stay visible.
“You’ve been cold these past few weeks,” Sam commented.
“He hasn’t been here to keep me warm.”
No one tried to talk to him since. Steve went to work, prepping new recruits for a fight that never really ended. They learned quickly, and new waves of them came in every couple of months. Some came back to thank him, like Wanda and Pietro. Those two would be the death of him; he knew. Without the Chloroform, they had to find new ways to win the battles. Mostly bows with arrows, which a newbie named Clint was very excited about. Nat said he was a good guy, in her weird “I-Know-More-But-I’m-Not-Gonna-Tell-You” kind of way.
Eventually, Steve dropped the blankets, though the chill never left the tips of his fingers and toes. Peggy said he needed to eat better to fix that, but he wasn’t so sure that that was the issue. However, Bucky instilled a chores chart, but the only chore there was for Nat to “fucking stop with the Dust”. The fight that ensued was hell raising, but it worked itself out. Now, Natasha and Bucky alternated with the sweep. It was nice to get a break from constantly itching his nose all the time. The Parkers moved in across the street. A nice woman named May had two little boys, Miles and Peter, running around like heathens. They went to Academy four of the seven days, sometimes sharing what they learned. Mostly, they drove Buck up a wall.
“Those two fuckers are bad news,” he grumbled after they stole one shoe from all his pairs.
Steve laughed, “No they’re not.”
“No, they’re not,” Bucky agreed.
Life went on. Months passed, and Steve found himself missing the castle less and less. They were invited to Miles and Peter’s graduation from primary. The two insisted that they were all grown up.
“I’d like some sap, please,” Miles requested.
“You and me both, kid,” Bucky grumbled.
“Sir, with all do respect, your customer service sucks.”
“Good thing I don’t have a boss.”
“What does a citizen have to do to get some sap around here?” Peter shouted.
“See sixteen winters.”
Miles and Peter each stuck their chins out and pouted. Later, Steve saw Natasha slipping them each a cup when she thought no one was looking. The two high fived each other and held their fists up as they downed the entire thing within moments. Nat rolled her eyes and met Steve’s gaze. He shrugged and she heaved her chest dramatically.
She and Peggy got married. Their gowns were white with tiny details in blue. Steve cried, as did Sam and Bucky.
“That’s my bartender!” Miles shouted out. Peter hit his arm and shushed him.
The night was closing when everything stilled. A brown tuft of hair bounced up and down to the music, and Steve found himself marching over. The man faced Steve angrily, but immediately beamed. His arms instantly wrapped around Steve’s neck as he surged up to kiss him.
Steve never quit missing this. The castle, sure. The top notch food, perhaps. Tony, never.
They were both smiling way too much for it to even be considered kissing, but no one stopped them.
“How’re you here?” Steve whispered. Tony licked his smile.
“Doesn’t matter,” he mumbled, “I’m gonna be here a while.”
Steve paused and backed away from the onslaught of kisses to stare incredulously.
Tony huffed in frustration when Steve kept dodging him, “I missed you and left Pepper in charge.”
“You can do that?”
“For the sake of a happy ending? Of course.”
Steve rested his forehead to Tony’s and grinned harder than he had in months.
“Thank you for coming, Your Majesty.”
“Oh, I haven’t yet, but I don’t think that’ll be the case anymore.”
Steve rolled his eyes, but let Tony pull him back down.