“They told me that you and I – well, that you and I had a deeper relationship then I do with them. Could you clarify that?”
This is it. This is his chance. He can have Steve again. He can make everything right, can work everything back into place and rehash the formula. It won’t be like before, it will never be like before, because Tony knows now, Tony understands –
“It’s times like these that I wonder what I ever saw in you.”
The words crackle in the back of his mind like an untamed wildfire. He flinches, because it still stings, even now with Steve standing in front of him and never remembering the words he spoke in the midst of battle. It would happen again. How could Tony forget that? How could he force Steve into that corner again, give him no choice? The words stick in Tony’s mouth, trap his tongue and strangle his vocal cords. It would be so easy. But it would all be a lie.
The words he spoke in the hospital were true, even now. He would be better for Steve. He would let him lead a life where Tony wasn’t constantly fucking up their relationship, weighing Steve down and tearing apart his resolve, where Tony was just an acquaintance. He could do that. He could do that for Steve.
He looks up at Steve, at the curious glint in his eye, at the lips he would kiss and the shoulders he would cling to, at the chest he would lean against and the legs he would twine with his. He takes it all, takes the need and want and overwhelming love and presses delete.
Smiling, he says, “They were just pulling your leg, Cap, you and I are just friends, though not as strong as you and Thor. Have to admit I’m jealous at some points, but really, what can you do? Anyway, I have some complex code singing sweet to me, and Dummy, I can see you starting that Battleship game with You, you know he always wins, and really, sorry, Cap. I’ll talk to you later, yeah?”He picks up the wrench, ignores the pull to look at Steve again, to gauge his reaction. He is Iron Man. The suit and him are one. He’s done it before he can do it again. He turns his back on Steve, on what they had, on what Steve will never remember, and looks at the streams of code that have always been a constant. His fingers twinge as he brushes through them, deleting the feel of Steve’s hand curled in his, deleting the touch of Steve’s lips against his temple, delete, delete, delete. He bites his lip and reformats another line of code.
“Oh, all right,” Steve says behind him, and he sounds confused, as if he were expecting a different answer. Delete.
The door opens and closes with a finality that rattles something loose in Tony’s chest. He bites his lip hard enough for it to bleed. Delete. Delete.