The Pollyanna List

by Jane Davitt

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 Pollyanna?"

"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 them.

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 juice?"

"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 flavors?"

"Mostly you don't. You just give 'em fancier names." Steve shrugs. "And I'm a fan of vanilla."

"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 something. 

"There has to be something you like about today. Something that's changed for the better."

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 flutter down. 

"I'll tell you one change I like. I can do this and you're too darn liberal to punch me for it." 

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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