Chapter 1: Roses and Camelias
Tony Stark never fell in love.
Okay maybe a few times when he was younger and then pepper.so let me rephrase that, Tony Stark never fell in love with people who didn't love him back. Sure some were after his money or technology or any of the other perks associated with dating a billionaire-playboy-genius, but most of them always made him believe that they did love him. He's not complaining, he probably doesn't deserve to be loved at all any way.
And so his current dilemma, the one that made him hate flowers for life was named Steven Grant Rogers. The facts were simple; Tony was in love with Steve but Steve wasn't. Why would he, Steve could have anyone in the world, why would he choose Tony with his baggage and poor habits and arrogance and need he go on. So no Steve would never love him back, his friendship was more than enough for now. And thus a disease literally grew inside his lungs.
Coming back to his dilemma, which has an actual medical name. Hanahaki, quite a common knowledge these days. Some said it was magic god he hates magic, some argued that there is some kind of arbitrary science behind it. Tony usually ignored it, why would he waste his precious time thinking about a silly disease, besides he was above unrequited love. Yeah mostly the second reason, well until now. If the bright yellow flowers he just coughed up is any indication, he is in trouble, one big super soldier sized trouble.
"Jarvis scan em "
"They appear to be sunflower petals sir. They are thought to symbolize warmth and adoration" the trusty AI replied.
Hah figures, Tony was in the common room watching the good captain prepare breakfast for the whole team. He couldn't help but stare at the way he was being so soft and gentle with everyone and everything, a complete contrast to the captain in the field. Well you can't blame tony really, who in their right mind would wake up at five in the morning, go for a run, punch some poor bags to oblivion and walk into the kitchen all ruffled and cute and hand tony his cup of coffee with a smile on their face. Oh don't even get him started on that goddamn smile. So yeah he was staring hopelessly at Steve when something pricked at his throat and he had to jump up and run to the workshop before someone noticed him throwing up goddamn sunflower petals.
He knew he couldn't hide it for long. There were two super spies currently living with him for gods sake. Nat is already onto him, it won't be long till she figures it out and confronts him.
He threw all the petals into a trash can no blood so far phew! and busied himself with his latest designs of Clint's arrows for some much needed distraction.
"Sir Ms. Romanoff is requesting entrance"
"Shit!" Did she know? He thought he had more time, well no use in panicking.
"Let her in J"
"I'm assuming you didn't eat flowers for breakfast" she said in a rather clipped tone as she strode in.
Busted! Okay straight to the point. "Would you believe me if I said I did?" well he had to try.
"Tony" she was glaring now. He let out a long sigh and steeled himself.
"Okay I admit I have it and No I'm not going to do anything about it" His voice almost sounded weak, almost.
"What if he likes you back Tony" She sounded soft now.
"No he could never.......wait what? How do you know it's a he?" Was he that obvious? She only winked at that along with a smile
"Fine I'll leave you alone for now but if you don't tell him soon I will" back to the super spy voice again and with that she walked out.
Tony could swear that that woman was scarier than most of the super villains when she wants to be but right now he is simply going to ignore her and do what he does best. And that was hiding inside his workshop and pretending that he is fine. Yup, best plan ever.
After two days of holing himself inside the workshop and turning away everyone who came to check on him including a very worried Steve; sustenance, in his case coffee was due to run out soon. And those little visits by the captain had caused him to go into a coughing fit, leading him to cough up daffodil petals indicative of regard, chivalry and unrequited love, as supplied by J.A.R.V.I.S, fucking great. He had to sneak out and get something for his aching throat and three in the morning seemed to be a very good time. But lo and behold someone just had to be awake at this ungodly hour and of course that someone was freaking Rogers. He was curled up in the couch in a thick, warm blanket with a cup of probably hot chocolate in his hands. The lighting was low, barely enough to see but cast an almost ethereal glow to Steve's face. That image was doing things to Tony's heart or was it his lungs acting out again, he isn't sure anymore. Okay, no turning back now; mentally preparing himself, he walked further in.
"Fancy meeting you here Rogers"
Steve literally jumped at that and walked towards the counter when he realized that it was Tony.
"Should ask you the same, thought you wouldn't come out for two more days. Hot cocoa?"
"Yeah sure why not" he settled on the couch Steve was previously curled up in "Ran out of coffee"
"Ah" Steve gave a knowing nod and sat back in beside tony while handing him a cup "couldn't sleep" he whispered as of an answer to Tony's earlier inquiry.
"Does that have anything to do with me?" What's with these people and confrontations these days.
"Steve-" he was cut off by Steve
" you've been avoiding me lately" something like hurt flashed across Steve's blue eyes in that moment and Tony felt really bad for putting that there. No Tony can't reveal the real reason and add more guilt and hurt nope.
"Not everything is about you cap" Tony replied deliberately sounding annoyed, may be that could get Steve to back off.
"Oh" once again hurt flashed across Steve's face but he quickly set his jaws straight; now all captain America, all closed off. Tony felt something like his heart breaking at that. Because the universe hates him he was thrown into a coughing fit and kneeled on the floor. He couldn't control the petals leaking out of his mouth, camellias with a bit of blood around their edges. He knew they meant longing and couldn't help but smile at that. Steve was beside him in an instant, before he could ask anything Tony picked up the petals and tried to dash across the room but Steve got a hold of his arm before he could escape.
"Who is it?........Who wouldn't love you back Tony?" Steve was literally pleading. His baby blue eyes were dark like storm clouds with a mix of emotions Tony couldn't exactly place.
Okay, Oh boy this was bad "None of your business Rogers" yup the last straw. Steve's eyes were glazed over now. Tony had to get out before he had to witness the dreadful sight of Steve crying. His heart is already too fragile, so he bolts out of the room.
The next few weeks were all sorts of torture. Tony made himself scarce from anywhere the other Avengers might be and busied himself with SI and his own projects. Natasha was glaring daggers whenever he happened to cross her path of sight and had to physically shoo her away whenever she suggested surgery. Bruce and Clint tried coaxing him to go out with everyone with various offers ranging from food to science. Pepper and Rhodey were worried and constantly tried to get him to talk. The worst was Steve who would throw worried or sad glances at Tony whenever he resurfaced from his self-allotted exile. In the meantime Tony was coughing up a full-fledged flower assortment in his workshop. Slightly blood stained complete camellias and a new addition of rose petals were all over the floor and breathing was getting difficult by the day. Okay maybe he was dying now.
Tony was in the middle of preparing his will just in case, when someone punched in the override code and walked into his workshop.
"Security breach" Tony stated while throwing his hands in the air.
"We need to talk Tony" Steve's eyes were wandering around the workshop taking in the sight of all the blood stained flowers and finally stopped at the display of the will. Tony quickly closed it but it was too late.
"You're dying" Steve's tone was sharp as if he was stating the obvious.
When Tony didn't reply he continued in a softer voice "You don't want to tell me who it is, fine I get it but you're dying so please get the surgery Tony"
"No and you don't get to say that" Tony tried his usual dismissive tone. Steve should leave now, his throat was at it again.
"Come on Tony I- we can't lose you why can't you see that. Is the love for this person more important?"
Steve was having none of it and his voice remained soft. Dammit Rogers why can't you be an asshole when I want you to be "Look Ste-"and he was thrown into a fit again. No surprise there. Roses, fully bloomed red roses only marred by a bit of his blood. They only meant one thing and judging by Steve's expression he knew it too.
"Have you at least tried asking them, see if they like you back" Steve sounded almost disappointed and sad.
"It doesn't matter he will never, who in their right mind would" Tony laughed one of his self-deprecating laughs that everybody who actually likes him hates to see.
"So it's a he" Steve was staring at him with venom in his eyes now.
"What you got a problem with that?" oh lord please don't tell me the love of my life is a homophobe. Tony understood that the forties were a very different time but Steve never showed any signs of that kind of hatred.
"What? Of course not, I'm bi, I thought you knew" Steve crossed his arms across his chest his expression was unreadable.
Wow this is good news........wait this is worse! Steve did like men but he never showed any interest in him so now there is zero chance no his chances were in the negatives. Steve is never afraid to speak his mind or that's what Tony believes. But why was Steve angry?
Before Tony could say anything Steve interrupted "Any one would be lucky to have you tony" He had one of those heart melting smiles on his face, the ones tony likes to think that was only for him. Fat chance.
His lungs had other plans, coughing and gagging he fell to the floor spewing out roses with more and more blood. Steve had a look of absolute horror on his face as he knelt beside tony frantically grabbing at his shoulders. Tony could feel his vision blur with the lack of oxygen and clung to Steve for support.
"Tony please "Steve was begging now, eyes filled to the brim with tears threatening to fall any moment. If the ground had any intention of swallowing him whole this would be the right time. Maybe he is weak, he can never stand watch the people he love hurt but he is never one for direct communication. Right now is not the moment to hide, right now his heart aches for Steve and he thinks to hell with it and blurts out
Steve is confused for a second and then his expression morphs into something of shock, blinking away the tears.
I'm leaving now cruel world. Breathing was getting harder. Tony was chanting take me before I have to see his rejection over and over in his head. In between long gasps for breath and a blurred vision tony could see Steve smiling. Okay that's a better final image.
"But I do love you Tony" He pressed a gentle chaste kiss on Tony's lips still smiling. It was like breathing new life into him or so that's what it felt like for Tony.
Ah sweet fantastic air but more than that Steve loves him Holy smokes!
"I love you.......I LOVE YOU" He jumped back into Steve's arms where he was held in a tight embrace. He leaned in and kissed Steve again coz that's apparently something he could do now boy oh boy.
"Love you too, always did" Steve was laughing now. Jerk
So maybe, Tony stark did fall in love a lot of times that too with people who never loved him back but not this time. Not this time.
Chapter 2: These flowers you've bled for me
The Steve side of things.
I'm so sorry this took so much time, sleep deprived science researcher here and my PC was giving me a hard time. This chapter is a Steve POV nobody asked for but I'm giving you nonetheless so please enjoy. once again kudos and comments are much appreciated.
Steve Rogers was a hopeless romantic.
When he fell, he fell fast and hard. So the hopeless romantic sap part of him was always intrigued by Hanahaki, he found it tragically romantic but always prayed no one had to suffer too much.
Before the serum; when he was a scrawny kid in Brooklyn, suffering from every disease in the book, he never had the time to fall in love. Besides he actively squished budding crushes because unlike pneumonia or scarlet fever, Hanahaki can be controlled and no one would want a perpetually sick kid back therefore he would most probably die.
According to Bucky, Stubbornness was his twin brother so Steve was not going to stupidly fall in love and burden his Ma with finding money for a Hanahaki surgery. The only person he personally knew that had it was a man from across their apartment who was in love with another man. The world they were living in deemed it unnatural and that man was going to die of unrequited love, and so he did. Steve was Scared then, what if he also fell in love with a man instead of a dame.
Then he met Peggy and love was not exactly unrequited, but everything went to hell when he decided to take a plunge in the Arctic. Everybody knows that story but what no one knows is that since waking up and finding something to live for in the 21st century, Steve Rogers actually managed to fall in love again.
One thing great about the future was that you were free to love whoever you wanted and it would be lying if he said that he wasn’t a little relieved at that news. He never thought he could even be attracted to someone from the future let alone fall in love. So he ignored that slight discomfort in his throat whenever he spoke dismissing it as everything else but the obvious. He knew he couldn’t get sick since the Serum but this particular disease with a penchant for flowers had managed to sneak its way into his lungs. It wasn’t that bad, hell it wasn’t bad at all; he rarely had a coughing fit, only when the object of his affections was close by and doing something insanely adorable. He always managed to slip away without anyone else noticing so he thought all things considered he was doing okay other than a constant soreness to his throat. But what’s not so okay about the whole ordeal was the person he managed to fall in love with.
Loud, obnoxious, arrogant, jerk….……….…secretly kind, compassionate, genius, beautiful and wonderful man that is Tony Stark. His best friend from the future.
So yeah Steve was screwed ten ways to Sunday cause Tony stark could have anyone he wants, why would he choose Steve; stubborn, boring, antique Steve. Therefore he was going to suffer in silence until he gets over it or so he thought.
It was a morning like always, no one else was up yet except Steve. After his usual morning exercises he jumped right into his self-proclaimed breakfast duty and one by one the others started walking or rather dragging themselves into the common kitchen. The last one to arrive was Tony, still half asleep, hair in a mess and clothes all rumpled. Steve couldn’t help but stare, happy that the man actually listened to him and slept for the night.
He held out the coffee, which tony accepted gratefully looking at Steve like he was his sun, moon and stars. His throat was burning with that familiar itch and he willed himself not to cough in front of everyone.
Steve continued with making pancakes all the while stealing little glances at Tony, who was on the couch graciously sipping his coffee. Their eyes met once and all Steve could do was smile, the next thing he knew Tony jumped up from the couch and all but ran away right into the elevator. Steve was staring with his mouth open and barely saw Natasha following.
Steve had no idea what happened. To say that he was shocked and confused would be an understatement.
Did Tony see him staring?
Did Tony know that he was hopelessly in love with him? No that can’t be, he was hiding everything surprisingly well and his symptoms were pretty mild all thanks to the serum. He would still cough up petals but it was rare and dispersed.
He was anxiously waiting for Nat to come back so he could ask her and get a sense of what happened or go down and talk to tony, himself. When she finally came back after an eternity or a few minutes; whatever, he jumped up and cornered her.
“What happened to Tony?”
“Nothing to worry about Steve” she replied calmly but Steve could sense an undercurrent of worry in her voice.
“I think I’ll ask him myself” that was not the answer he was looking for, looks like he has to pry it out of Tony himself after all.
“That wouldn’t be a good idea right now. He needs some space. Do ask him but another time” she touched his arm and gave a slight nod.
As much as he was worried he trusted Nat’s judgment so he was going to let it go for now besides, Steve Rogers was a gentleman, he would always respect other people’s choices as long as they were not super villains.
“Fine” he sighed.
“Trust me on this one Rogers when its time you’d be the first one tony would come to” with that she turned around and walked away.
Steve was sure he could see the ghost of a smile on her face. He was even more confused now.
Nobody came for no one after that. Tony was nowhere to be seen, he was avoiding Steve like the plague. It’s been two days since he stepped out of the work shop only sneaking out when no one especially Steve was not around. He would never let Steve inside always dismissing him via J.A.R.V.I.S with one bullshit excuse or another. Steve was growing more and more worried by the second and all he could do was keep destroying the punching bags in the gym.
A part of him was convinced that Tony’s whole disappearance act had something to do with him. That paranoid part wouldn’t let him eat or sleep. By the second day or third as it was three in the morning, after much tossing and turning in the bed he decided, to hell with it and get something from the kitchen. He hoped that no one would be awake at this time as most of the Avengers had awful sleep schedules. Can’t blame them either, nightmares were not something in short supply in their line of work.
He made himself a cup of hot chocolate and decided to curl up on the couch with a book. He couldn’t focus on the book at all and his mind started to wander off thinking about what he did wrong. He was so out of it, didn’t even hear the elevator come up and was startled by a voice.
“Fancy meeting you here Rogers”
Shame on his super soldier reflexes, he jumped, actually jumped off the couch turned around and saw that it was tony. His heart ached a little at the sight. It was clear that tony didn’t sleep these past two days. There were bags under his eyes and if Steve was ever to point that out Tony would sass about it with something along the line of them being Gucci or custom or some other ridiculously expensive brand and that’s one of the reasons why Steve loves the man.
The initial shock wore off immediately and he offered Tony a cup. He was glad when Tony accepted, happy to get some kind of food in the genius. His mind was still in a haze, plagued by confusion and doubts and he had to get it out, he had to know.
“Does it have anything to do with me” He blurted out.
Tony looked shocked for a moment and before he could say something Steve interrupted
“You’ve been avoiding me lately” Steve could swear something close to sorrow flicked across Tony’s face before he schooled it to stoic, his expressive eyes clouding over with something dark.
“Not everything is about you cap” it sounded bitter to Steve’s ears, deliberately hostile. He couldn’t help but be a little hurt at that.
The next thing that happened was something that Steve wouldn’t even dream of, never in a million years. Camellias, Tony was coughing out petals upon petals of beautiful camellias. He froze in horror when he saw the blood spotting the edges of the petals, realization hit a second later, Tony was in love but whoever that lucky little shit was, didn’t love him back. Steve’s momentary distraction allowed tony to pick up all the petals and turn, but before he could, Steve caught him. He had to know. What if it was him?
So he asked. His voice sounded weak even for him but he had to know, it didn’t matter that the great Captain America was reduced to pleading. He needed to know.
“None of your business Rogers” Tony sounded angry now and he just stomped off without even looking back. No it wasn’t him Steve promised himself that he would not cry. Some promises are meant to be broken anyway.
Captain America doesn’t mope, nope no he doesn’t no matter what Natasha says, he doesn’t at all but Steve Rogers certainly does ugly cry. Whenever he happens to get a glimpse of Tony ignoring him; not even sparing him a passing glance, he cries, he cries because he is heartbroken.
It’s been three weeks two days and six hours since their last conversation, no he didn’t count he just has an eidetic memory okay, everyone in the tower can sense the tension this time and everyone were trying their best to get tony out and about. Even though Steve was heartbroken, he was worried about the genius. He was the one who recruited Rhodey and pepper to get tony out of his lab and may be tell them who he’s fallen for, that would be a very useful information so Steve could maybe punch some sense into them or something or maybe have a civil conversation or both. He didn’t tell them about Tony’s condition though, that was not his secret to tell, he wouldn’t even have known about it if it weren’t for Steve not sleeping through that fateful night.
He was trying really hard but miserably failing to focus on a sketch he was working on when Natasha walked into his room.
“You should talk to him” ahh Nat, never one for pleasantries. She sounded urgent and a bit worried though.
“why? He doesn’t want to” okaayyyy he might’ve sounded like a petulant child right about there. Natasha just raised an eyebrow at that.
“Besides you said he would come to me” That was reasonable-ish.
“yeah bout dat, that little shit is proving to be even more stubborn than you so” She stopped as if expecting Steve to finish the sentence and her lips quirked up in a small smile.
“Look Nat I know, I’ve seen the flowers and ……..i don’t think I can do anything about it” the last part was almost a whisper and he doubted if she had heard.
“Steve, remember what I said” She stopped as if she wasn’t supposed to say it out loud and continued after a sigh.
“I promised him I wouldn’t interfere but it’s getting out of his hands now” her voice had lost that playful essence and sounded so grave, her expression was nothing different. Steve just nodded and sat there staring at the sketch pad in his hands.
“Now Steve” that was almost a shout and he jumped up from the bed and bolted out the door.
He could vaguely hear an “Idiots” being mumbled from her direction but no point in returning now, its bad luck to get the Black Widow angry.
He hesitated in front of the workshop doors up until he heard what sounded like someone dying from a coughing fit. That’s strange the work shop was supposed to be soundproof, unless.
“Captain, I am under strict orders not to alert anyone of sir’s condition, but I can switch on the speakers”
“Can you let me in?”
“I’m afraid not captain, but I can’t stop you If you use the override” Steve couldn’t help but smile a little at that, so it was Jarvis’s way of saving the life of his creator, Steve felt proud, even Tony’s AI is protective of him and would do anything for him just like everyone else in his life but he had to go and fall in love with someone who wouldn’t love him back. Wow that escalated quickly.
“Thank you Jarvis”
The sight that welcomed him wasn’t something he expected. He was used to a cluttered work shop or as Tony calls it organized chaos but this, this was horrifying. The floors were covered in bloody petals and when his eyes finally rested on something on the screen; something else, something entirely new broke in Steve’s heart, a will, Tony was preparing his will.
Anger flared up in Steve’s chest, Tony was throwing his life away for someone who didn’t deserve it but Steve wasn’t an unreasonable man, he was going to give Tony a chance to make this better so instead of yelling he just deadpanned and stated the obvious, which was the fact of Tony dying. When he saw Tony’s eyes flash with a sudden sadness he continued in a softer tone
“You don’t want to tell me who it is, fine I get it but you’re dying so please get the surgery Tony”
Steve knew he wasn’t at a place where he could make such a demand but he was desperate enough not to let the love of his life die. Tony seemed to think in a similar sense as evidenced by his reply. Tony’s body language was telling Steve to back off but he wasn’t backing down without a fight or just more pleading this time.
He would’ve let it slip when he admitted that Tony was very much needed but caught his tongue at the last minute. Tony was about to say something when he was thrown into a coughing fit, he spat out roses True love huh…….but not for you a voice somewhere in the back off his mind supplied. Steve knew the brunette was not afraid to get what he wants but when it comes to actual feelings the man was literally hopeless so he asked Tony if he tried telling the person about his predicament.
Tony’s reply was actually a surprise, it was a man. Steve knew, from the S.H.I.E.L.D files and the countless news reports that Tony dated both men and women but what surprised him was that this person who was probably going to be permanent if Tony gets his head out of his ass, was a man and not some beautiful woman as he pictured in his mind.
“So it’s a he” that sounded more like a sneer even to his ears and he winced before Tony’s eyes flicked up to meet him.
Tony definitely took it in the wrong sense and Steve had to explain the 'he-is-bi thing' again because apparently the last time he told everyone Tony was actually drunk out of his mind, didn’t hear anything and simply nodded along just like Steve suspected. That was about the time the self-deprecating statement from Tony’s earlier reply registered in the blonds mind.
“Any one would be lucky to have you Tony” he let an affectionate smile slip and then Tony was on the floor spitting out more roses with more blood than before. He could see Tony struggling to get air into his lungs as he leaned heavily on Steve, it felt as if the last of his life was leaving his body. Steve felt so helpless, hot tears sprung up in his eyes.
As a last ditch effort he begged Tony to do something, anything. The “it’s you” blurted out from a dying man’s lips didn’t register at first. It took Steve a few seconds to make the connection and when he finally did he didn’t know what to say. Tony stark, the Tony stark was in love with him. It was him all along. Of all the times he imagined how their conversation or his eventual revelation would go down; this was not what he imagined.
“But I do love you Tony” he was probably grinning like an idiot. He leaned forward and pressed a sweet kiss on Tony. He pulled back and wondered if he was able to pour all his love on that simple press of their lips.
Tony looked like a deer caught in headlights for a few moments, when he shook out of it his eyes were alight with new life and he lunged on to Steve, kissing him and muttering “I love yous” with an ever increasing fervor. Had to be true, he couldn’t feel that ever-present soreness in his throat anymore.
This would be the happiest day of his life since he woke up from the ice and the next thing he knew, he was laughing. Tony looked scandalized for a second and the next he was smiling one of those real smiles where the sides of eyes would crinkle, not that Steve noticed often, no okay maybe all the time.
Tony curled up on his lap on the workshop floor exchanging lazy kisses was not how Steve imagined this day would go and he had Nat to thank for that or maybe not, he should be yelling at her for not telling him sooner but then again its Natasha, irking her would be like signing your own death sentence so he decided he would just let it go for now. Besides they had so much to talk about, not right now but soon. Now he is just going to enjoy this moment and also think about the fact that they were both huge idiots.
So yeah Steve Rogers was a hopeless romantic so what? it was okay to be this time. This time he wasn't hopeless, he was loved right back.