Awake My Soul I Keep

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Author's Notes: Thanks to tavella for reading this over for me!

Sometimes, Tony wonders if this life he's living is all a trick, some supervillain's scheme to get Iron Man out of the way. It wouldn't be the first time one of his adversaries tried to trap him in a fantasy he didn't want to escape from.

This life is damn near perfect enough to qualify. The Avengers have reformed, Registration has been defeated, and, most amazing of all, he has Steve. Tony had never dared to hope that the depth of his feelings could be returned. He'd taken Steve aside that night on the roof of Stark Tower to make his confession not because he thought Steve would reciprocate, but because he finally understood how deeply it was possible to regret not speaking, no matter how valid the reasons for keeping silent.

But instead of understanding and regret, Steve's face had brightened with wonder and he'd pulled Tony into his arms and kissed him under a moonlit sky and was it any wonder it seemed unreal sometimes?

Tony knew some of their friends had wondered how long the relationship would last. Even after two years, a handful of them had still been surprised when he and Steve had gotten married. Thank God Sam had eventually calmed down enough to agree to be Steve's best man. Tony had never really gotten along with Sam, but the day just wouldn't have been right for Steve--and therefore for Tony--without his best friend standing up for him.

It still makes Tony grin to think of how startled his own best man had been to be asked. Tony had almost asked Happy, but in the end he hadn't been able to resist having another one of the original Avengers with him for this moment. Privately, sheepishly, Tony has also hoped that maybe some of Hank's good fortune would rub off; he and Jan had just celebrated their tenth anniversary.

Happy had taken Tony's choice with good humor. Clint hadn't been quite as understanding about Steve picking Sam, but they all knew there was no real heat to his grumbling. On the actual day, he was full of smiles and teasing about where was Tony's wedding dress and how he must have gone for a tux instead because there was no way he could wear white.

Tony had been certain that some supervillain would crash the wedding. Pretty much everyone who had ever been an Avenger had shown up, which meant three quarters of the superhero community had been gathered in one place, and that seemed like a target too tempting to pass on. But the ceremony and the reception had both gone off without a hitch, and it remains the single most perfect day in Tony's life.

It was the kind of day that seemed impossibly out of reach that day when he met Steve in the ruins of Avengers Mansion to try, one more time, to find some way out of the confrontation that was bearing down on them. He's still not sure why, halfway through feeding Steve the same load of crap he'd been shoveling for everyone else, he suddenly stopped and explained himself--really explained himself--instead.

But he did, and Steve listened for once, and together they found a third way of handling the whole mess, and Tony thanks God every day that they did. He has nightmares about how it could have turned out. Happy dead. Steve dead. Sal dead. Clint's accusing eyes--though in the dreams he's Ronin, not Hawkeye, which is always confusing. The Avengers split into two camps and both sides hating him, privately or publicly.

He wakes up from those nightmares shouting, crying, and if Steve wasn't there to wrap his arms around Tony and reassure him that it wasn't real, Tony doesn't know what he'd do. But Steve is there, and they're just dreams, they are, and every time he has one it reminds him how lucky he is to have this life.

Sometimes, he's glad he has them, though, because the nightmares stop this life from feeling too perfect.