Steve holds his pen poised over the blank piece of paper in front of him. Tony's told him to make a list of things he can be grateful for.
"Like some darn
"Who? What? Never mind.
Just do it. Focus on the positive, eliminate the negative.
Works for everything but circuit boards."
Steve sets the pen down
and closes his eyes. Go past everyone he's ever known being
dead and find something to smile about... Wait. Everyone who
ever punched him in an alley is dead. Every girl who giggled
and rolled her eyes at him when he asked them out is -- no,
that feels mean. All of it. Like he's thumbing his nose at
It occurs to him that even
if Buck had survived that fatal mission, he'd still be dead
now, but that doesn't help heal a wound that's still fresh.
That doesn't help at all.
"Want some help?"
Steve opens his eyes and
hopes they don't look watery. Tony's perched on the table
looking at the unused, empty paper with a quizzical air about
him. It's all in the eyebrows. "Or did you write it in lemon
"I used to do that when I
was a kid." Steve leans forward, willing to share a memory and
jolt himself out of his melancholy mood. "You too, huh?"
"No, I actually invented
real invisible ink that would only show up if the paper was
exposed to a very specific substance."
"What was it?"
Tony grins. "Let's just
say the teacher wouldn't let me turn my homework visible when
he found out what it was."
Steve works through some
possibilities in his head until he's feeling rollercoaster
queasy and decides he doesn't want to know. Ever.
"So, nothing on the list
yet. Hmm. How about the way the future has more ice cream
"Mostly you don't. You
just give 'em fancier names." Steve shrugs. "And I'm a fan of
"Give me and a pair of
handcuffs ten minutes of your time and you'll be singing the
praises of Cherry Garcia."
Steve endures a familiar,
never fun, feeling of hitting a rubber wall and bouncing off
it. Not painful, but frustrating. So much he doesn't
know...It's like the time he missed a month of school with
measles and never really got the hang of long division, ever.
He'll never catch up.
And he missed men landing
on the moon. He missed it. Years picturing himself as
Kimball Kinnison and he slept through the space age.
He's never mentioned that
to Tony. He doesn't want a rocket to appear in the basement or
"There has to be something
you like about today. Something that's changed for the
Abruptly, he's tired of
this game. It feels like being teased and bullied and he's
never dealt with that well. He stands and rips the paper in
half, not caring that he's being wasteful, and lets the pieces
"I'll tell you one change
I like. I can do this and you're too darn liberal to punch me
The kiss he plants on
Tony's lips, parted because Tony's always talking, or it feels
that way, is quick and hard. He's never kissed anyone that
roughly before and he feels a stab of shame at the position
he's put Tony in.
Because Tony won't punch
him, of course he won't, but he probably wants to and--
"I'm going to give you so
many reasons to be glad you're alive, right here, right now,"
Tony says and his eyes are lit up like Fourth of July
fireworks are going off behind them. "Grab that pen, get more
paper, and come with me."
Steve never does more with the pen than draw a
lopsided heart on Tony's backside when Tony finally falls
asleep, but he figures Pollyanna would approve of his list
because he's sure as heck feeling glad when he falls asleep
and when he wakes up too.
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