sam_storyteller: (Alternate Universe)
sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2013-05-16 07:40 am

Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do 3/3

Title: Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do
Rating: R
Artist: Lienwyn
Author: Copperbadge
Summary: The year is 1930, Prohibition and the Depression are both in full swing, and Chicago Police Detective Steve Rogers has his hands full. There's a dead body on the banks of Lake Michigan, the entire city's legal system is corrupt, and the king gangster of the North Side, Tony Stark, has taken more than a passing interest in him.

Chapter One | Chapter Two

***

"What are you going to do?" Tony asked, as they pulled into Chicago.

"I'm not sure yet," Steve replied. He'd been listening to Tony all the way back, trying to work out anything from Tony's information that would give him a legal in. "Follow some leads. Do some thinking."

"Thinking," Tony answered, with a derisive snort.

"It's sorta what they pay me for, you know," Steve said, a little injured.

"To think?"

"You don't think I can?"

Tony glanced at him. "No. I think you think exceptionally well. It's just not what I come to expect from cops."

"The guy who trained me -- my old partner in New York, guy by the name'a Phillips," Steve said. "He used to say thinking was the thing we were supposed to do and hardly nobody did. I mean. It doesn't look so good, does it, sittin' at a desk and thinking, pretty much identical to sittin' at a desk and wastin' time. When we had something to chew over, he'd tell the station captain we were going to go beat down some hoods and we'd go to a diner he knew and drink about a gallon of coffee. Usually helped. Or at least kept us warm."

Tony nodded. "I can see that." He stopped at an intersection and glanced at Steve. "I got coffee at my place."

"So do I," Steve answered. "Tony, it ain't time for -- "

"I'm not suggesting that," Tony said, and Steve watched him as he moved the car forward again. Tony was clever and devious and someone Phillips would like. He was someone Steve liked. Whether or not he oughta. "Where do you want me to leave you? I don't think pulling up in a gangster's car in front of the station would be good for you."

"You serious about helping me work this out?"

"We're both in this too deep to part ways now," Tony answered.

"Come to my place. It's a little less conspicuous."

"You got a telephone?"

"Nah. But the grocer cross the street does, he lets us use it for a nickel." Steve tried for levity. "And nobody's tapping that phone."

"Trust me, nobody's tapping mine either. Not successfully, anyway," Tony replied. "I need to make a call or two. Good a place as any."

"Well, you know the way," Steve said, leaning back.

"Tell you what I'd like to do," Tony said, turning west, towards Steve's building. "I'd like to work him over and toss him out on the ice like he did to Yinsen. Don't start on me, I won't," he said, when Steve opened his mouth. "It'll be more productive to eat him alive."

Steve felt that same chill, the one he got when Tony said things he maybe didn't mean and maybe did, but which nobody should. "Eat him alive."

"I'm gonna take his business. I'm gonna take what he has and make it mine. I'd sell it to Danvers for a song. At least I know she'd have me whacked straightforward instead of going after my men. I'm going to break every last man who works for him. I'm going to make his friends outcasts in this town."

"Tony."

"I'm going to burn his outfit to the ground. Wipe him off the map. He won't even be a memory. We're gonna nail him because I don't want him on trial, I want him so doomed he'll plead guilty," Tony continued. "I want him rotting in Joliet, watching me own everything he thought he could have. I want Yinsen avenged, Steve."

Steve put out a hand and rested it on Tony's wrist. His knuckles were white where he gripped the wheel. Tony relaxed, slowly.

"This is me," Steve said quietly, nodding at the brick building down the street. "Come up and have a cup before you make your calls."

"If I get fleas, I'm blaming you," Tony replied, with a hint of a smile.

"Just keep clear of the mice," Steve replied.

"Mice?"

"Kidding," Steve answered, as Tony pulled the car over. He climbed out, stretching, glad to be out of the close, charged atmosphere in the car.

Upstairs, Tony looked around with a level of curiosity that said he'd sent someone else to ascertain the ratbag qualities of Steve's apartment rather than investigating himself. He took in the cheap mattress with the quilt Steve's mother had made before she died, the heating hob, the laundry drying on the line across one end of the room, the empty easel by the window. Steve hadn't yet had the guts to put a canvas on it.

"It's...very clean," he said, as Steve put a pot on the hob and lit the gas.

"You're too kind," Steve answered, amused.

"You still paint?"

"Once in a while. Not here, yet. Blew enough cash on the easel, though, seemed a shame to get rid of it," Steve said. Tony touched the wooden brace on it cautiously. "Have a seat."

Tony looked at the bed, then around; Steve grinned. Tony tipped his chin up and stepped out of his shoes, sitting on the bed and crossing his legs, watching Steve putter around at the narrow table where he cooked.



"So," Steve said, taking two cups off a shelf, peering in them to make sure neither was dusty. "It's Modock. We know it's Modock, and he's braggin' about it. Best way to nail him is to flip the trigger-man, but a'course that puts us back at square one since how do we find him?"

"Well, he's one of Modock's boys. This wasn't a professional job, not a hit job, you know," Tony replied. "That's a place to start. But we can try the reverse, too."

"How do you mean?"

"Nail Modock and get him to give up whoever did it."

"You think I can do that?" Steve asked, raising an eyebrow. "Y'know, the feds can't."

"The feds haven't got me."

"You're not allowed to frame Modock," Steve said.

"Wrong. I'm not allowed to tell you if I do."

"I'll know."

"Yeah, fuck," Tony groaned.

"Look, I know it's temptin' to go after Modock directly, but you're a smart guy," Steve said. "You know sometimes you have to work edgeways to get what you're after. If you don't think we can find the trigger-man, gimme something better to go on."

Tony was uncharacteristically quiet. Steve took the sugar dish down from the shelf and found a clean spoon. By the time the coffee was ready, the silence was almost unnerving. It wasn't entirely quiet -- he lived too near the train tracks for that, and cars rumbled down the street occasionally. Steve poured the coffee carefully and added some sugar to make up for how he had no cream. He offered a cup to Tony, who looked startled.

"Thanks," he said, sipping it.

"It ain't Italian," Steve said with a grin.

"I've had worse," Tony replied. "The way I see it, we could get him sent up for any number of things, but I want him for the murder. What do you call that, conspiracy?"

"Conspiracy homicide," Steve said, nodding. "We could turn him over to the feds, get him on bootlegging. Local cops could probably do something with vice. Is he involved with prostitution at all? Dope? You see an angle there?"

"The problem is, he probably just said it," Tony said. "He said to some guy, off this fella, steal his car, and the guy did."

Steve frowned. "You think this guy's still in Chicago?"

"Sure. Not enough heat to send him running. Chicago boys don't bolt unless they got a damn good reason."

"What would make him bolt?"

Tony glanced at him. "Why?"

"Well, if he thought we were closin' in, he'd run, right? Then we'd know who he was. Can't get him once he's across state lines, but if we knew how he was gonna run -- that's easy enough, we stake out Modock with some local boys and keep an eye on the trains..."

Tony snapped his fingers. "Modock's got a hot rod."

"A what now?"

"It's the new thing. They come outta California, don't ask me why, they're all crazy out there. It's a souped up car -- not like mine, mine are made to handle, Modock's is built for pure power. It's a big old thing, heavy engine, outrun most of the stuff on the road. He uses it for moving people out of town when they need to get lost in a hurry."

"And you've never done anything like that," Steve said, raising an eyebrow.

"I wouldn't be so unsubtle. If one of my boys needs to go -- well, I got better ways," Tony said. "But if you can put the heat on, I got a car that can catch the hot rod. He does our finding for us and then you flip the bastard."

"And we've got our man," Steve said with a grin. "Heat, I can do. You can help."

"It'd be a pleasure," Tony said. "What've you got in mind?"

***

Twenty minutes later, Tony jogged across the street from Steve's red-brick boardinghouse and ducked into a grocery that announced, in English and Polish, that it had fresh milk, newspapers, and kolaches. The woman behind the counter gave him a suspicious look.

"Steve says you have a phone folks can use," Tony said, hoping the name would trigger a reaction. Boy, did it.

"Oh! Steve!" she said, beaming. "Friend of his?"

"Sure. He's a popular guy."

"Is very sweet man," she said, flipping up the counter. "This way. Five cents per telephone call," she added, and Tony grinned, tossing her two bits.

"There's another in it for you if you make sure nobody bothers me," he said, and she left him alone in the little office, closing the door behind her. His first call was to Pepper.

"Are you going to make your dinner with Fury?" she asked, once he'd said hello. He could hear people talking in her office, and the clack of a typewriter.

"I am. I'll be at the Malibu tonight, too. Now listen, I need you to clear out the Clybourn beer hall. It's getting raided tonight."

"Damn!" she said. He did love when Pepper swore. "How do you know?"

"I'm sacrificing it to the greater good."

"That cop of yours, Tony -- !"

"Yeah, but listen, this is bigger than that, we're flushing out Yinsen's killer. Just make sure none of our people are there. Leave the beer, it was cheap shit anyway. I need you to get someone there to make a loud stink about it and get in our dear Detective's face."

There was silence for a while.

"Please, please, can Natasha do it?" Pepper asked. "She is so good at that kind of thing and she really loves it."

"Sure," Tony said. "As long as she's okay with Steve arresting her. He'll spring her later. All she needs to do is make sure she mentions how everyone knows Modock is the one who rolled Yinsen."

"Modock?"

"Modock. She needs to make sure that is said very, very loudly."

"Loud is rarely a problem when you get her riled."

"You'd know, my darling," Tony said.

"You want to tell me what this is about, oh lord and master?" Pepper asked, laughing.

"Later, sugarplum, I promise Uncle Tony will tell you everything."

"I'll tell Tasha to be there. What time?"

"Eight-thirty."

"Wow."

"Steve has an early bedtime."

He heard Pepper sigh. "Remember, dinner with Fury at seven."

"I'll be there," he said, and clicked the receiver. He had a few other calls to make, though those ought to be more fun.

When he was done, he walked out into the little shop and flipped a second quarter to the woman tending the till. "How much are your kolaches?"

"Two cents or three for five," she replied. He passed over a nickel and accepted the bag she handed him.

"Pleasure doing business with you," he said, and ducked back out.

When he reached Steve's room again -- really, the man should be kept by someone -- Steve was sitting on the bed, sipping coffee, writing in a notebook with a cheap pencil.

"Plotting?" Tony asked, tossing him the bag. Steve caught it handily and opened it, a delighted look crossing his face.

"Planning," he corrected, taking one of the kolaches and throwing the bag back. "Everything go well?"

"Natasha's ready to make a scene tonight. I'll make some calls from the Malibu later."

"The Malibu, huh?" Steve asked, biting into the sweet pastry. "Palm trees and fake beaches?"

"Lots of pictures of Hollywood stars. Tourists like it."

Steve shook his head. "People. It beats me. So there's the Iron, the Tuxedo, the Malibu, the Resilient -- "

"How do you know about the Resilient?"

"I had a dust-up there when I was lookin' for the Tuxedo."

"You're the one who gave my guy that shiner!"

"Guilty," Steve said. "What's the one on Clybourn called?"

"Hasn't got a name. I only got five big ones; the rest are just little dives for working guys."

"What's the last big one?" Steve asked, looking interested.

"Circus Maximus in the loop, but you don't wanna go there. Lots of dancing girls. Very acrobatic. Good times if you like to pay for it."

"Crook," Steve said, but his voice was affectionate. Tony came up to the bed and slid into his lap, pushing the notebook aside.

"Gonna arrest me?" he asked.

"I'd like to," Steve replied in a low voice. "But we haven't got the time. I gotta get a warrant for your dive, and you have a dinner to dress for."

Tony kissed him, but Steve broke it before it could really get going.

"Later," he said hoarsely.

"Tonight?" Tony asked.

"I can't, I'll be up half the night with this raid, and up early tomorrow to get the stakeout on Modock arranged."

"Your cop cars won't ever catch him," Tony said seriously. "Even the feds' cars won't."

"That's why you have to be up early tomorrow too," Steve said. "You and me are gonna be the second stakeout in whatever car you got that you think can get him."

"Be a lot easier to wake up if you were around to wake me," Tony pointed out.

"Get Jarvis to do it," Steve said ruthlessly. "When Modock sees the paper..."

"I know," Tony sighed, but he let Steve gently nudge him off the bed. "Hey -- you'll make sure Natasha gets out fine?"

"Somehow I don't think she'll need my help," Steve replied, climbing off the bed as well. "But yes, I promise."

"She's my people, Steve."

"And you look after your people, I know. I will too. Now, go," Steve said, herding him towards the doorway. "Be ready to go at eight tomorrow."

"Modock won't be."

"So you've said, but I'm hedging my bets. Go. Enjoy your dinner," Steve said, and Tony found himself on the landing, being eyeballed by an elderly man with a broom.

***

Later that night, washing off the scratches on his neck in the bathroom at the precinct, Steve was willing to concede that Natasha Romanoff could sell it.

He'd known a lot of hard dames in his life -- his ma, for one, who put up with a drunk for a husband and, after he died, worked every hour God made to make sure her kid was sheltered and fed. There was Peggy, a Red Cross driver who'd taken him under her wing during the war; she'd once shot a man before he could shoot Steve. And there was Rachel during his Bohemian days, an artist's model who'd sometimes fed him and had offered to be his beard.

But for sheer guts, it was hard to beat going for a policeman's eyes with your fingernails. If not for his reflexes, she'd have got him on the face. As it was, he had four deep gouges in his neck from her theatricality.

The raid had gone well, though, overall. Just like Tony had said, the speakeasy was empty except for a few barrels of beer, and Steve had been given plenty of opportunity to curse about how Joe Yinsen's killer must've got wind of what they were up to. They were just carting the beer out when Natasha showed up, yelling in Russian. She'd jumped into a shouting match with him like she had no fear in the world, and she'd been very loud and very clear about Modock's supposed involvement in the killing. Now all he had to do was fill out some paperwork from the raid, put up with some shouting over how he was supposed to let the federal Prohibition agents handle it, and wait.

He taped a piece of gauze over the cuts, pulled the collar of his shirt up as high as he could to hide most of it, and walked back out into the precinct.

"Hey, Rogers, whaddaya want done with the Russian?" one of the officers asked.

"Cut her loose," Steve replied.

"She jumped a cop!"

"These immigrants, they get upset easy," he replied, trying not to make a face at the words coming out of his mouth. "She didn't mean nothing by it, she's probably crazy. Shove her out the back and tell her to run home to her baba."

"Whatever you say," the man grumbled. Steve glanced at Natasha as she was walked out to the street, but he didn't dare linger on her, and all she did was spit at him.

Right about now, word would be spreading -- in some cases encouraged and seeded by Tony -- that some cop was breakin' down gin joints to try and get at some bootlegger's killer. Clint Barton was hard at work on a piece about the crusade, and Steve was more than ready to get some sleep.

"Hey, Mr. Popularity," the switchboard operator called. "Rogers!"

"What?" he asked.

"There's a fella on the line for you. Mr. Anthony Maus?"

Steve rubbed his face. "Yeah, put him through."

"Your funeral," she said, but she connected the call, and Steve picked up at the nearest desk.

"Anthony Maus, huh?" he asked.

"No time for flirting," Tony said on the other end. "Modock jumped the gun."

"What?"

"I figured he'd wait until tomorrow's paper came out but I thought I'd put someone on his place anyway. My guy just phoned it in from a drugstore near Modock's place. Two of his mugs dragged a third guy in half an hour ago and Modock kicked out all his guests. Either he's about to murder our triggerman, or we're going to have to spring the trap early."

"You know who they brought in?"

"My guy didn't recognize him, but he didn't get a good look."

"We don't have much time, then."

"I don't think so, no. How fast can you get up there?"

"You got that fancy car'a yours ready?" Steve asked. He was aware that a circle of silence was spreading outwards around him.

"Sure, I'm heading up as soon as I hang up."

"I'll meet you. What's this racing car of his look like?"

"Big black saloon number," Tony said. "Engine's pretty loud when she gets going."

"Got it. Stay there, I'll get a taxi."

"If he gets away -- "

"He won't," Steve said, and hung up. "Boys, I need roadblocks up on the roads out of Chicago on the south, our man may run tonight."

"We ain't got a warrant," the Homicide captain called.

"So call it a traffic stop," Steve called back. Cops began running around like crazy, and the switchboard started lighting up. "Someone get on the horn to Evanston and get them on the northern edge of town. We're looking for a large black saloon car with an engine a lot more powerful than it oughta be. We gotta get these boys alive, so try not to shoot first."

"Where you headed?" the Captain asked, grabbing his arm as Steve pulled his coat on.

"I got a guy with a car who can catch him," Steve said.

"Who's your guy?"

"You really want an answer to that?" Steve asked.

"We shoot first, this whole city's gonna go up like a bomb and my boys are on the front line."

"We won't shoot first," Steve replied. "Now let me go or let him go, your choice."

The captain let go of his arm, and Steve hurried out of the precinct, whistling sharply. A cab, idling at a hotel down the street, pulled up. Steve gave Tony's address and, when the man turned around to look at him like he was nuts, added, "Faster you go, the more I pay."

"You're the boss," the driver replied, and the car jumped into the sparse nighttime traffic at an already breakneck speed.

Tony was in front of the mansion when they pulled up, leaning against a cherry-red car with no back-seat and a sleek, speedy look about her. Steve passed a couple of bills over to the driver, calling for him to keep the change as he jumped out. Tony made a come on, let's go gesture as Steve ran across the street, diving into the front seat.

"I got roadblocks north and south," Steve said, as Tony gunned the engine and overtook the taxi easily, screaming its way north.

"Gee whiz, better hope he doesn't go west," Tony replied. "Hell, by now he could've rolled the triggerman and dumped the body."

"Is that his style?"

"Not when things are this hot, but you never know your luck," Tony said. He glanced at Steve, eyes drifting to the bandage on his neck. "Tasha?"

"She's got claws like a cat."

"Remember that if you ever get on my bad side. Or Pepper's," Tony added thoughtfully. "She get out all right?"

"Yeah, they let her go right before you called. You put someone on the house tonight?"

"The law moves slowly," Tony said. He laid on more speed. Steve gripped the dashboard. "Chicago doesn't."

***

Two blocks from Modock's estate on the southern edge of Evanston, Happy stepped into the road to flag them down. Tony pulled to a stop, then threw the car in reverse and backed up until they were level with him.

"He's still in there," Happy said, leaning in the window.

"Any idea who it is?" Steve asked. Tony shot him a look. Happy looked to Tony, clearly uncertain where the lawman stood in the grand scheme of things.

"We're on the side of the angels tonight," Tony told him. Happy rolled his eyes. "Help the man out, Hap."

"Guy by the name of Duval," Happy said. "Can't really miss him."

"They call him the Gargoyle," Tony told Steve. "He's got a face."

"And a reputation for being mean," Happy said. "You want me to stick around, Mr. Stark?"

"Much as I appreciate the job, Happy, get yourself a hot meal and get home," Tony replied. "We'll take it from here."

Happy gave him a relieved look. "I'll be at the house if you need me."

"Tell Jarvis to keep the rifle handy," Tony said.

Happy nodded and withdrew, and Tony dimmed the headlamps before drifting quietly and slowly down the street, coming to park just before the corner. He had a view of the house from here and, more importantly, of the garage.

"Now we wait," he said quietly. Steve nodded, settling in.

"What do you imagine the odds are of Modock killing him?" he asked.

"Duval's too useful. Modock needs a man like him in his outfit. Even out of town, he could be put to use."

"How d'ya mean? I'd think killers'd be a dime a dozen around a scumbag like Modock."

"The Gargoyle's special. He's not..." Tony considered how to put it into words. "He's cruel, and he doesn't care. He doesn't mind killing but he doesn't mind killing slow, either. There are men who'd have put Yinsen out on the ice and not thought about it, but Duval...he'd enjoy it. He might've watched. Most...most men like me, the men who really run things in this town, they need a man like him."

"Do you have one?"

"No. Closest I get is Thor, and he's a fucking pushover. That's a trade secret, don't share it. They call him the Hammer. He scares the living Christ out of people, most of the time, but he's a kitten. You'd like him. High code of chivalry, Thor."

"How do you get away with that?"

"Charm. Plus I'm smarter than they are," Tony said, still watching the garage. "And I put on a good show."

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Steve pinch the bridge of his nose.

"This can't be news to you," he said.

"It's not that. It's been a long day," Steve replied. "I was hoping to get some shuteye before I had to go chasing the bad guy."

"Knock yourself out. I'll watch the house."

"Nah. Wouldn't be the first time I went all night," Steve replied.

Tony grinned. "Is that so."

"Really? Right now?"

"All the time, sweetheart," Tony replied. "Some night we'll put that to the test. At least, in a way that's more fun than this job."

"Sure," Steve said, but Tony wasn't sure how to read his tone. He shrugged to himself and didn't bother. Tonight, he had more urgent concerns.

They sat in silence for a while; Tony wasn't good at sitting or waiting, but he'd learned patience during the war, and neither of them fidgeted. At last, Tony saw lights going out all over the house, and nudged Steve.

"I see," Steve said, voice barely above a whisper.

"And there's the garage," Tony added, as the wide garage gates swung open. A long black saloon car pulled through. "And that is the car."

"We can't let them get to the state line," Steve said. "Soon as we know which way they're going we can box them in at a roadblock. Or if you can catch them before that, outside of town -- "

"They will shoot us," Tony said.

"We can't get into a gunfight in town, I won't have innocent people dying on my watch," Steve answered.

"Oh my God, kid, you are gonna be the end of me," Tony said, watching the saloon pull past, heading east towards the lake. He pulled out behind it, far enough back that they hopefully wouldn't be noticed. "Okay, so what's your play?"

"We follow until we know where he's headed," Steve said. "If he's about to run into a roadblock, no problem. If he slips 'em, that's where we come in."

There was a click, familiar and not entirely comfortable, and Tony risked a sidelong glance at Steve. He was checking his piece, a sweet Colt Police Positive .38 with a black barrel and wood grips. There was a star carved into the left grip and painted white.

"Not a damn word," Steve said, and Tony looked back at the road. Modock's car was turning south. In the moonlight he could see, for just a second, the creases and furrows of the Gargoyle's hard, cruel face.

"If they stay on Ridge, heading southeast, they'll hit Lake Shore," Steve said. "Only way to go from there is south, it don't run far enough north to hit Wisconsin. We'll have a roadblock there, definitely."

"If your boys did as they're told."

"And if they actually stop and hold him, I know," Steve said. He settled the Colt across his knee.

Tony adjusted his grip on the wheel, downshifted, and followed a hair closer.

***

Steve was silent and alert as they trailed Modock's big black car down to Lake Shore Drive and then onto it, the lake glittering and frozen on their left, mansions and apartment buildings dark and quiet on their right. They passed the cold, desolate slope where Yinsen had come in off the ice, and then the bright lights of downtown, curving around the jut of Chicago into the lake. When the lights began to recede behind them, Tony spoke again.

"Where's your roadblock?" he asked.

"I didn't give them a street name. I said the roads going out of town. Might not hit it for a while yet," Steve replied tersely. This was what he'd both loved and hated about the war -- hated the waiting, hated the still silence before the boys went over the wall. But the sharp alertness, the pump of blood in the darkness...there was a terrible passion in it. He hadn't liked the war, he hadn't liked killing, but something deep down in him was a hunter, and there was a thrill in giving chase.

Up ahead, squinting into the darkness, he could see a row of lights and the faint outline of two police cars pulled tight across the road. It narrowed to a single lane, and cars were slowing to pass through it --

"There's the block," he said. "Modock's going to have to slow down for it, there's no side road to pull on. Soon as he does, let me out and I'll pull them both in."

"Be careful," Tony said, but Steve was already reaching for the door handle, half out of his seat. "Steve -- "

"Is he -- is he speeding up?" Steve asked, rolling the window down.

"Steve?"

"Tony, what is it?"

"Hold onto something," Tony said, and Steve barely had time to grab onto the dash before the saloon car leapt forward and swerved, picking up speed as it pulled across the north lanes of the drive and bumped down onto snow-covered earth. There was a sharp jerk and Tony's car followed, narrowly missing a delivery truck as they zipped through traffic.

"Well, there goes our stealth advantage," Tony remarked, but Steve was too busy holding on for dear life to give a coherent reply. The saloon car crashed down onto the ice in front of them, slid sideways, straightened itself out and took off with a roar.

They didn't slide as badly as Modock's car did, but the ride wasn't smooth, and it took Steve a second to pull his wits together and realize they were on the ice.

"Tony, are you insane?" he asked, trying to hold onto the dash with one hand and his gun with the other.

"I am not letting Modock get to Indiana," Tony replied, picking up more speed. They were flying now, arrowing across the frozen lake, the car settling down to a roar as the ice smoothed out this far from shore.

"How exactly are we gonna stop him?" Steve demanded.

"Don't care. Hey, could you jump?" Tony asked.

"Could I what?"

"If I got alongside him, which I'm pretty sure I can do, could you jump over to their car?"

Steve considered it.

"Hell no," he said finally.

"Well, it was a thought -- " Tony began, when a gunshot rang out. One of their headlights winked out. "Aw, fuck."

Steve could see a figure leaning out of the passenger's side of the saloon car. Another shot, and something pinged off the hood.

"Try not to swerve," he said to Tony, and gripped the edge of the door up by the roof of the car, angling his body out though the window. A bullet whistled past, and Steve returned fire, aiming for the wheels. One of his bullets pinged off the rear fender; a second ripped off one of the side mirrors. The Gargoyle ducked, then nearly fell out when the saloon car skidded. Steve took aim and fired again, but their own car hit the same patch the other had, and the shot went wide.

"I only got six bullets, think you can drive in a straight line?" he yelled to Tony through the window. Tony, grimly, dug a second gun out of the glove box and set it on the dash. Steve concentrated on emptying his remaining three into the car, not that it did much good. He grabbed the second gun and angled himself out again, plastering as much as his body against the car as he could.

The lake seemed to stretch out on all sides of them now, glittering under the moon, the stars brighter than could be seen in the city. The wind knifed through his coat, first chilling and then numbing him, and he'd long since lost his hat, but he kept pulling the trigger whenever he could get a good shot. The firing from the other car stopped, briefly, and Steve leaned back in to yell, "I think they're reloading."

"Good. I got ammo in the glovebox but there's a shotgun behind my seat."

"Of course there is!" Steve yelled, exasperated. "Throw it up to me."

"Kinda need both hands here, Captain!"

Steve slithered back inside, and as he fumbled for the shotgun wrapped in felt and crammed between Tony's seat and the chassis, he caught sight of the spedometer. They were doing a hundred and twenty miles an hour, but he was willing to bet they were actually going faster, the wheels gliding over the uneven ice.

"Keep her steady," he said, as he shouldered the shotgun.

"Doing my best," Tony answered grimly.

"For the love of pete," Steve mumbled, but he took what aim he could and fired. Dents peppered the back of Modock's car. It must be armored to hell and back.

The Gargoyle leaned out again, face a mess of pale skin and shadows, and Steve fired the other barrel. The car jerked and swerved, but kept going.

"Think maybe I got a tire," he said, dropping into the seat and reaching for the box of ammunition with fumbling, numb fingers. He risked a glance up as he reloaded his Colt, and suddenly the world came into clear, sharp focus.

"Tony!" he yelled, but Tony saw it as soon as he did; the bluish ice, the cracks and striations and uneven leveling catching shadows in the moonlight. Steve barely had a second to grab the edge of the door and hang on as Tony threw the car into second gear and turned. The wheels skidded wildly, squealing on the slick ice, and Steve jerked against the door as the car turned a full 180 and accelerated again immediately.

Bootlegger's turn, his mind supplied. Tony had executed it flawlessly. The tires screamed against the ice, but the car finally came to a stop, the wheels working against their forward momentum. Steve barely had time for a breath before there was a crack like a gunshot -- but louder, much too loud and lingering. He twisted around and through the open window to look, shoving his head out into the cold night air again.

He was in time to see it happen, though later he wished he hadn't. The ice broke a second time, with another loud crack, and he could see shards jump up into the air like they had a life of their own. Modock's car swerved crazily but far too late; it skidded one last time and crashed through the fracturing ice, slamming into a shelf on the other side of the gap. Water washed up over the edges as the shelf gave way too, and the saloon car's engine died with a shriek and a gurgle as water filled it.

It sank too fast, like it was being pulled down by something under the water, or maybe that was the shock of seeing it happen.

Steve twisted again and yanked himself out of the car through the window, slipping and stumbling towards the hole in the ice, already aware it was probably too late. There was a slam from the other side and suddenly Tony was there, colliding with him on the slick surface, arms around his waist to hold him back.

"They're sinking!" Steve cried, trying to get away. Not quite a truth; the water had already closed over the top of the car.

"They're dead already," Tony managed, wrestling him down. "Steve!"

"We can get them out!"

"You'll die, you fool! You go in that water, you aren't coming back out!"

"Tony, I can't..." Steve tried to scramble to his feet and failed, and when he turned he realized Tony was panting, his face pale, eyes wide and panicked as he held on. "Tony!"

"I'm fine, I'm fine," Tony gasped, around short breaths. "Took a fall, knocked my breath out."

Steve looked back at the hole in the ice, which was gaping wider now, striating and cracking in a slow crawl towards them. There was no sign of Modock or his car, or the Gargoyle. The water was black.

"We have to get out of here," he said, using the trunk of their car to pull himself up with one arm, pulling Tony up with the other. "Can you drive?"

"Can probably drive. Walking maybe not," Tony managed, leaning heavily on him. Steve dragged him to the open door, only half-upright himself.

"Are you sure?" he asked. Tony nodded and fell into the seat. Steve watched for a moment, and then made the mistake of looking back.

He vaulted over the hood, catching himself on the runnerboard. "Drive. Now. The cracks are spreading."

"Shit, shit," Tony said, as the wheels spun. "Shit!"

"Do I need to push -- " Steve started, just as the car jumped into motion as the wheels found purchase. They fishtailed badly, but Tony spun the wheel and regained control, pushing the engine as they sped off. Behind them, ice jumped and danced and fell.

"How are we?" Tony managed.

"Don't stop driving," Steve said.

"Get in the damn car!"

"I'm trying!" Steve retorted, slithering in through the window, legs flailing as he fell into Tony and righted himself. "Go fast. One big break and we're damned."

"You're so kind, so reassuring," Tony muttered, bent over the wheel and still wheezing. Steve watched the ice shatter, but the distance between them and the spreading cracks was growing wider as well. When he could barely see where the water was taking back the lake he turned around, slumping down in the seat.

"I think we're safe," he said. Now that it was over, his skin was crawling, hair standing on end, the shock getting to him. He felt hot despite the chilly air, despite the way his fingers were turning back from blue to red. Tony nodded and kept going.

"We gotta get off this ice before we hit another thin patch," he said.

"Can you follow our tracks back to Chicago?" Steve asked.

"Not on this," Tony answered. "But I think I can get us to a bank."

"Will the ice at the edges hold us?"

"One way to find out."

"Do you mind overmuch if I pray?"

"Say a few Hail Marys for me," Tony replied. "Swear to God if we get out of this alive I will build a chapel to whoever is the patron saint of mechanics."

"Eligius," Steve said, lightheaded and almost giddy.

"Come again?"

"Eligius. Patron saint of taxi men and mechanics," Steve managed, as they hit an uneven bump on the ice.

"How the hell do you get to be -- you know what, never mind," Tony said, peering through the windshield. "I think I can get us on ground here."

"Where are we?" Steve asked, staring into the gloom.

"No god damned idea," Tony admitted. "This might get bumpy."

"Because the ride until now's been so smooth," Steve said, hearing his voice rise anxiously. Tony spun the wheel and shifted again, skidding them sideways, drifting and sliding. The gentle slope of a dirt bank, covered in patch snow, suddenly appeared in front of them and with an almighty bump they slammed up onto it, nearly colliding with a tree. Tony cursed again, swerved, and brought them to a stop on a patch of bare ground.

Steve opened the door and staggered out, collapsing on his ass a few feet from the car. He drew up his knees and cradled his head in his hands, feeling out of breath. There were tread marks on the ice, and a fine network of cracks a few feet out.

"Thank you, Aloysius," Tony said, falling down next to him.

"Eligius," Steve replied.

"Him too."

Steve felt the urge to laugh hysterically and the urge to weep fighting it out; he slumped forward and into Tony's shoulder, still gasping for air.

"Hey, hey," Tony said. He sounded alarmed, and one hand clasped the back of Steve's neck. "Easy. Easy. It's 1930. You're in Illinois. Well, maybe Indiana," he added hesitantly.

Steve knew what Tony was doing; he'd done it for himself, waking from nightmares about the war. He reached blindly for Tony's other hand and held onto it tight. It was cold, but not the icy cold of the lake water.

"They went down so fast," he said.

"I know," Tony answered.

"It was so fast. And we couldn't -- "

"No, we couldn't." Tony inhaled slowly. "I wouldn't wish that kinda death on a fella. Not even Modock."

Steve pictured it, the sudden halt and the drop, the confusion, the first rush of cold water. Drowning in the numb darkness, freezing pinpricks as the water caught in the lungs, trapped with no idea of where up even was...

"Oh Christ," he moaned. "Oh, Jesus Christ preserve us."

"Shh," Tony said, pressing his mouth to the crown of his head. "We got out. We couldn't do anything else."

"I know," Steve said. "But I'm the law, I'm not supposed to run a man to death."

Tony hushed him again, and Steve fell silent, pressed up against his warm side. Eventually Tony let go of him and stood up, tugging on his arm to make him rise as well.

"We need to get back to Chicago," Steve said. "I have to file a report, they'll need to drag the lake -- "

"Let's just find a road first," Tony said, getting into the car. "It's going to be a cold drive back. Either I blew out the heater fans or a bullet hit the car somewhere."

"Will the damn thing run?" Steve asked, settling on the seat next to him.

"Long enough to get us home, least I hope," Tony said, guiding the car carefully through the sparse trees and brush. They hit a dirt road pretty quickly, and Steve looked out the window and up.

"North star's over the lake," he said. "We must be in Indiana. Turn right when you find something wider than a cow path."

"Of course you navigate by the stars," Tony said, giving him a fond and only slightly exasperated look.

***

Steve wasn't wrong, Tony thought, when they hit the brand new tarmac of Route 90. In theory, it could take them all the way up to Chicago, but it'd be a hell of a drive and neither he nor Steve were in a good condition for it. They could stop in Gary for the night, probably find a hotel that would put them up and a mechanic to see to the car, but they'd hit the interchange south first, and he had a better idea.

"We won't make Chicago tonight," he said to Steve, swinging the car onto the southbound road.

"We sure won't if you head south," Steve said, giving him a skeptical look.

"I got a pal owns a farm not far from here," Tony said. "He'll put us up for the night, give me somewhere to park the car and get under the hood."

"Tony, I have to make a report to my precinct."

"And I have to stop and catch my breath at some point. The dead aren't getting any deader. I'm tired, and you're gonna go to pieces if you don't get your head down."

"Might anyway," Steve said, a sardonic tilt to his lips.

"So we'll get somewhere safe and rest. It's not far. Trust me," Tony urged.

"More than I should," Steve replied, rubbing his forehead. But, after a moment, he seemed to pull himself together, re-wrapped the shotgun in felt, and began reloading both his Colt and Tony's handy little .38 Remington. Tony ignored the tremors he could see in Steve's hands as he worked.

They pulled into the farmhouse yard at what Tony's pocket-watch said was just past midnight. A light went on inside, however, and when he climbed out there was a figure in the doorway carrying a shotgun.

"Y'all are on private land," a voice called. "You got a count of ten to get off it."

"Can you count that high?" Tony called back, while Steve raised his arms in a show of innocence.

"Tony?" the voice called.

"I sure could use not to get shot at anymore tonight," Tony said loudly. He could see the shotgun lower, and then Bruce Banner was setting the gun aside and coming down the porch steps, laughing.

"The hell are you doing?" he asked, embracing Tony tightly. He smelled like hops and smoke. "I didn't know you were coming down, I'd have made up a crate for you."

"We didn't know either," Tony said, letting him go. Bruce's eyes flicked to Steve, still standing warily by the car. "It's been a hell of a night, Bruce."

"Come on inside, you'll freeze out here," Bruce said, gesturing at them both.

"This is Captain," Tony said, and Steve shot him a narrow look as Bruce pushed the door open, backing through to offer his hand. "Captain, Bruce Banner, one of my premiere brewmasters."

"Tony's being kind," Bruce said, leading them into a warm kitchen, full of the smell of good food. "Pleasure, Captain."

"Bruce," Steve said, shedding his coat and taking Tony's, hanging them over the back of a chair near the door. Tony settled in on a stool at the big kitchen table, and Bruce put a bowl of stew, still warm from the stove, in front of him. A second one appeared next to it, and Steve took it with a mumbled Thank you.

"Should I ask what brings you here at this time of night?" Bruce asked, taking in their damp clothes. Steve still looked pale and shaken, too, but Bruce wasn't the kind of man to mention it. "Or is this one of those things I'm better-off not knowing?"

"It's a long story," Tony said, at the same time Steve said, "This stew is amazing."

Bruce smiled. "Anything would be right now, I'm guessin'. It's cooked in dark ale," he added, taking down a couple of glasses and uncorking a jug sitting on a windowsill. "Tenderizes the meat."

"There's beer in this?" Steve asked.

"There's beer in anything worth eating," Bruce replied. "Pour you some?"

"No, thank you," Steve said around another spoonful. Tony smiled at him.

"I'll take a glass," he said, and Bruce nodded and poured. "We ran into some trouble out on the lake."

"On the ice?"

"You hear about Yinsen?"

Bruce nodded.

"Well, that problem's been taken care of," Tony replied. He glanced sidelong at Steve, but the man was busy inhaling as much stew as he could, as fast as he could. "It got a little messy. Faster to come here than to Chicago."

Bruce took them both in, seeing more than most other folks would.

"Well, I got a spare room with a bed," he said. "You're welcome to it, and any tools you need for the car come morning."

"Much obliged," Tony said. "How's business?"

"Got a nice pale going, I think," Bruce said. "Might upgrade the still next year too, if the money's good."

"Subtle hint?" Tony asked.

"Better quality's better for everyone, but I ain't interested in full-time whiskey-making," Bruce replied. "Got all I need, which in these days isn't anything to complain about. I do all right, ain't looking to hike my prices."

"Is it just you out here?" Steve asked, slowing down on the food a little.

"Couple of boys help with the brewing, they sleep out in the barn. Got some hands come through for the harvest, but otherwise just me," Bruce said. "I don't grow much. Cash crop, don't have to."

Steve nodded, but Tony wasn't sure if it was agreement or exhaustion. His eyelids were drooping, but at least his hands were steady.

"Come on," Tony said, finishing his beer and sliding off the stool. "Time to sleep. Bruce, wake us after you milk the pigs or whatever it is you do at four in the morning."

Bruce laughed. "No pigs or cows, Tony. I'll get you up when breakfast is on."

Bruce's spare room was cold, and even with the beer warming him Tony was shivering by the time he'd stripped down to his smalls. The bed had plenty of blankets, though, and when Steve got into the bed on the other side he was like a furnace. Tony curled into him, pressing his face to Steve's shoulder.

"Banner don't care?" Steve asked.

"Banner wouldn't care even if he didn't know," Tony answered. "Folks share beds out here."

"S'cause it's freezing."

"You sure are sharp," Tony said with a grin, pressing his cold hands up beneath Steve's undershirt. Steve wrapped an arm around him, fingers digging into the small of his back.

"I can't stop thinkin' about it," Steve said. "Going down in the ice. How cold that water must'a been in their lungs."

"Stop thinking," Tony said, pulling the blankets higher.

"I can't. They died, Tony. We nearly did. I can see it go down so clear..."

"Think of something else," Tony murmured. "You used to paint."

"So?"

"Tell me what you used to paint."

"Oh, anything," Steve said, voice thickening with fatigue. "Buildings. Whatever I could see out my window. People I saw. I'd draw 'em in the book, paint 'em later."

"You ever think of going into ad work?" Tony asked around a yawn.

"Thought about it. Seemed an awful lot like lying, though," Steve said sleepily. "Made some dough paintin' portraits. Not enough."

"What did you want to paint?"

"Never figured that out," Steve said. His breath was slowing, words slurring. "Never really figured out what I wanted."

Tony didn't know how to reply to that, but Steve didn't apparently need one. His arm went lax, head tilting to one side, and he inhaled a deep, even breath.

"I could get used to you," Tony said softly, before closing his eyes to sleep.

***

When Steve woke the following morning, it was to the sensation of warmth, but more -- the knowledge that outside of the warm nest where he found himself, it would be cold and unpleasant. He shifted, felt another body against him, and looked down. Tony was tucked under his arm, face buried in his shirt, legs heavy against his. He could smell bread baking, and sunlight was beginning to pierce the heavy drapes on the windows.

"Tony," he mumbled, dislodging the limp form half on top of him.

"Can't make me get up," Tony mumbled, shoving his head under a pillow.

"I could lift you out of this bed," Steve pointed out.

"Romance me, Romeo," Tony replied, but he rolled over and emerged, hair sticking up crazily. "So, I guess last night actually happened."

"Guess so," Steve said, bracing himself as he slid out from the warm nest of blankets into the chilly air. "This place have running water?"

"Cold only," a voice said, and Steve turned. Bruce was standing in the doorway. "Was just coming to get you. There's hot water for shaving in the kitchen, and breakfast laid on."

"Whatever Tony pays you isn't enough," Steve replied. Bruce smiled and disappeared into the hallway.

Out in the kitchen, dressed and freshly shaved, Steve felt more human. But he was also ready to be on the road. It wasn't so much that he was eager to get back, but the sooner he did, the sooner he could file one heck of an unorthodox report and find out what the damage might be. There might be an investigation; hell of a way to start his career in Chicago. But, looking across the table at Tony, who was chewing on fresh bread and joking with Bruce, he thought it might be worth it.

"Settle down," Bruce said, noticing Steve fidgeting. "Car's ready to go, you can be on the road as soon as you're done. You'll make Chicago in plenty'a time."

"You touched my baby?" Tony asked, looking offended.

"I had a look under the hood, tightened up your belts and fixed the fans. Don't know what you did to that headlamp, and you'll need new glass, but other than that it wasn't anything you need a genius for," Bruce said. "I was fixing tractors while you were still in short pants, Tony."

"No you weren't, 'cause you were in short pants too."

"I was fixing 'em in my short pants," Bruce replied. "Now go on. Captain's itching to get back to Chicago, and I left you a gift in the back seat."

"Hot damn," Tony said, laughing. "All right then. But I'm giving her a once-over myself when we get back to make sure you didn't leave me any gifts in the engine, too."

"Only good sense," Bruce agreed gravely. "Nice to meet you, Captain."

"You too, Bruce," Steve said, shaking the outstretched hand.

They were on the road not long after, heading north towards the interchange and home. A few miles out of the farmhouse, Steve saw Tony move out of the corner of his eye, and felt a hand come to rest on his leg, thumb sweeping little strokes over the outer seam of his trousers. He reached for it, and he could tell by Tony's flinch he thought it was about to be removed, but instead he picked up Tony's hand and twined their fingers together. He squeezed briefly, then said, "You're gonna need this back to shift gears."

"I will invent an automatic gearshift purely for the pleasure of not needing that hand back," Tony replied. Steve let it go, but he shot a smile at Tony that the other man received with evident pleasure.

"So what happens now?" Tony asked, when the haze of Chicago was in view.

"Well, if you drop me at a train station, I'll catch the elevated to the precinct," Steve said. "Gotta file my report, set up for them to drag the lake once it's warm enough. Might be an investigation, but I don't think so. I was in pursuit of a suspect, and it's not like they'll find him with a bullet in his head. I won't bring you into it, if you're worried. Far as the Chicago PD is concerned, you're an informant without a name."

Tony smiled. "Thank you, but that wasn't what I meant."

Steve looked at him.

"You asked if we could pretend we didn't have to call it quits. If there is an investigation...well. I imagine you don't want to be the bent cop screwing the gangster."

"That's not what we are."

"It's what the world will see."

"We don't have to decide yet," Steve said.

"Will you come back to the Tuxedo? Now that you don't need to."

"I don't know," Steve admitted.

"You all right? After last night?"

Steve looked down. "Don't know," he repeated. "Guess I will be. You?"

"About the same, I think."

Steve nodded, and they rode in silence until they reached the south loop. Tony pulled the car off at the train station, and Steve climbed out, then leaned back in.

"I'll let you know when the report is filed," he said.

"All right then," Tony agreed, with a grin that Steve could tell was fake. "Look after yourself, Captain."

"You too, boss," Steve answered. Tony's smile curved up a little more, turning genuine. Steve closed the door and tapped the roof; the car pulled off in a splash of melting snow. The hard freeze that had made the lake passable was fading, Steve thought, climbing the stairs to the station. Winter wasn't close to over, but it wouldn't be as bitter as it had been.

He caught the train in and walked into the precinct to a flurry of surprise; the homicide captain leaned out of his office and whistled sharply, gesturing for Steve to join him.

"Where the hell'a you been?" he asked, when Steve had closed the door. "We saw that black saloon you mentioned go out on the ice, and some other crazy fool followin' it, but our cars weren't made for speed like that. Then you just plain don't show up till now, and I don't see you got anyone with you in handcuffs. You want to explain why you come waltzin' in here without a damn thing?"

"Modock was driving the saloon car. Tried to get to Indiana over the ice," Steve said. "He had someone with him, name of Duval. I think he was the one who did Joe Yinsen."

"And the second car? You were there, weren't you?"

"Yeah. Told you I had a guy with a car who could catch him."

"But you didn't."

Steve looked down at his hands. "They hit a thin patch. Car went down with Modock and Duval inside it."

Silence.

"Nothing I could do," he added, lifting his face, a little defiant. "Nearly went down myself."

The captain gave him a long, hard look. "Whereabouts?"

"Not sure exactly, but I know where we came off the ice."

The captain rubbed his face. "He's dead? Fleeing pursuit?"

"That's about the size of it, sir."

"They'll give you a goddamn medal for this, rookie."

Steve shook his head. "I'd just like to file my report and get home."

"You may not have a choice. Go. Write everything up and run it to the DA's office for a look-see. After that you're off for the day, I don't wanna see your mug around here spilling details until we've sewn it up."

Steve nodded and stood. "I didn't mean to run him to death, sir."

"I know you didn't, kid, but it might not be a bad thing. Go on."

The report took a long time to write, conscious as he was that it was probably going to leak to the press at some point, and that everything had to be clean and accounted for if he wanted to keep Tony's identity secret. Then he took it to the DA's office, where he sat in the hallway all afternoon like a kid being punished while they went over it in detail, asked him four times who his informant was, and gave him the stinkeye when he refused to answer.

By the time it was filed and over with, he was practically off-shift anyway, but Barton collared him in the entryway of the precinct.

"Man, this is a hell of a story. Is it true you killed Modock?" he asked.

"Depends on your philosophy," Steve answered. "I didn't shoot him. You picked that up fast."

"I told you, I know everyone. Smile," Barton added, and then a flashbulb popped in his face. He'd admit Barton was a quick learner; as soon as he reached for it, Barton danced away, keeping the camera out of his grasp. "Gimme a scoop, you owe me."

"For what?" Steve asked, outraged.

"Information on Stark."

"That was your barter in return for not spending some time in the tank," Steve answered. "Plus I gave you that story about the raid. You owe me."

"Well, whaddaya want to know?"

"Nothing right now. I'm holding onto it," Steve replied. "Run that photo and you'll owe me double."

"Aw, nuts. Come on. One juicy detail and I'll keep the photo to myself."

Steve sighed. He was tired and hungry, and he'd been in the same clothes for two days. "Modock died fleeing pursuit, trying to make it to Indiana to avoid an arrest."

"Very political, Rogers. You'll go far in this town. Seeya," Barton said, and tried to go into the precinct. Steve grabbed his shoulder, turned him around, and shoo'd him down the steps.

By the time he got off the train at his stop, all he wanted was to get out of his clothes, maybe cook himself some tinned soup on the hob, and get some sleep. He waved hello to his landlord on his way up, called a greeting to some kids shooting marbles in the hall on the second floor, and stopped when he found a slip of paper tucked in the edge of his door on the third. He took it down and unfolded it.

You have a mouse, it read. Steve frowned. He might joke, but this was a nice, clean building and vermin were pretty rare.

He opened the door cautiously, one hand on his holster, and then relaxed.

Curled up under his mother's quilt, a narrow lump on the narrow bed, Tony lay with his back to him. He was wearing what looked like silk pajamas.

"I'm gonna have to get a cat," Steve said, closing the door behind him.

"Better get a big one," Tony answered without moving. Steve pulled off his tie and coat, tugging his shirt over his head.

"Well, I could always move in with my pal Stark," he continued, unbuckling his belt and stepping out of his shoes. "He's got a nice place."

"You don't think he'd mind?"

"Pretty sure he wouldn't. On the other hand, I like payin' honest rent," Steve said, discarding his undershirt. Tony rolled over, watching him. "Think I'll stay. One mouse don't eat much. How'd you get in?"

"You think I never picked a lock," Tony said. "That's sweet."

"I try not to think about all the things I wish you'd never done," Steve answered, sliding into the bed. They lay there on their sides, faces a few inches apart, until Tony reached up to trace the edge of the bandage still on his neck.

"Been thinking about what we oughta do," Tony said, and Steve kissed him.

"I haven't. Tell me," he ordered.

"I think we oughta improvise."

"Well, you are good at that," Steve said, mock-thoughtful. He kissed him again. "I don't want to call it quits, Tony."

"Thank god, 'cause if you kicked me outta here in this, we'd both be in trouble," Tony replied.

"I see what your plan was there."

Tony's face was still so serious. "I told you we could be magnificent. I know you don't want to belong to me, but I figure we might try belonging to each other."

"Won't be easy," Steve said.

"I never really aimed for easy," Tony replied. "Try. As a personal favor to me."

Steve smiled. "Sure. I can do that."

***

EPILOGUE

Tony straightened his bow-tie and stepped up to the railing of the balcony over the Iron, Jarvis joining him with a bottle of champagne in one hand and a bottle-saber in the other.

The Iron was not her former glory, not anymore; nearly all the decoration was gone, including the big gold chandelier, and most of the furniture as well. Still, the turnout was good; a big slice of Chicago society, plus the politicians and a couple of newspaper men. He glanced down at Steve, standing among the crowd, and winked.

"Your attention please, ladies and gents and the rest of you," he called. "Attention!"

The chatter died down and the music stopped. Every face turned up towards him, expectantly.

"We are about two minutes to midnight," he said, grinning at the crowd. "So I thought it was time for a very brief speech."

There was a bit of applause for that, and Tony acknowledged it with a wave.

"Every year, Pepper tells me that she thinks this will be our year," he said, gesturing to Pepper, who was seated on the bar with Natasha, arm over her shoulders. Pepper was wearing the glitziest dress he'd ever seen; Natasha looked swell in her tuxedo. "I never quite believe it, but I think when she said 1933 would be our year, she might have been telling the truth."

Most everyone laughed. Steve grinned up at him and mouthed showboat.

"But now that we are almost a month out of Prohibition, and one minute from 1934, I hope you will join me in a legal toast," Tony said, as waiters began delivering glasses of wine and champagne among the crowd. "I'd like you to toast to the repeal -- " he paused as people shouted approval, " -- the repeal, the new year, and myself," he added, to more laughter, "in my new incarnation as Anthony Stark, restaurateur. You are all invited to the opening of the new Iron tomorrow for dinner -- above ground, within the law, and well-stocked with new Banner Farms beer and very old scotch. Come and eat -- and have a cocktail on me. Now!" he added, as Jarvis lifted the saber. "To friends, fortune, and continuing good luck."

Jarvis whipped the saber around, slicing neatly through the neck of the bottle, and Tony caught the first pour in the flute in his hand.

"Happy new year!" he said, and the Iron echoed with the crowd's answer.

As the cheers went on and everyone kissed everyone else, Tony descended the stairs from the balcony. Steve was waiting for him at the bottom.

"Happy New Year," Tony said, sipping from his champagne flute. He offered it to Steve, who sipped as well. "It's a new world, I feel."

"No, it's the old world," Steve said, turning to smile as Barton's flashbulb popped, then turning back to him after Clint wandered off. "You just got a new place in it."

"Is that so bad, Captain?"

"No, Boss," Steve said, leaning in enough to kiss him behind the ear. "Not so bad at all. But I'm still not quitting the force."

"No reason to, now. Hell, you could be Commissioner in a few years. But if you did -- if, say, your scandalous affair with a former rum-runner came out -- "

"Nothing scandalous about a deep bond of friendship," Steve murmured.

"Oh, certainly, as long as you're the one in the bonds," Tony answered, and Steve hummed noncommittally, but his eyes darkened. "If you did quit, I feel certain someone would step forward to look after you."

"Maybe he would. Maybe I will, someday. For now," Steve said, "How about a dance, Mr. Stark?"

"1934," Tony said, as Steve tugged him through the crowd towards the dance floor, "is going to be a very good year."

[personal profile] beege 2013-05-16 05:44 pm (UTC)(link)
As always, it's the little details that make it, like Steve knowing who the patron saint of mechanics is and young Peter Parker snacking on a chick-o-stick (although I would have thought a moon pie would be a better use of his dime).
azurelunatic: A glittery black pin badge with a blue holographic star in the middle. (Default)

[personal profile] azurelunatic 2013-05-27 09:00 pm (UTC)(link)
Moon pies don't wave so well, do they?
vickita: Vicki the Biker Chick (Default)

[personal profile] vickita 2013-05-16 07:22 pm (UTC)(link)
Heh, stuck at work, can't read until I get home, but now I've got this stuck in my head. *g*
tucker620: dance dance Pokemon (checkyourboots icon--Scraggly and Victin)

*clapping and cheering*

[personal profile] tucker620 2013-05-17 03:38 am (UTC)(link)
Bravo and brava to both of you!<3

(Anonymous) 2013-05-20 08:18 pm (UTC)(link)
this was really, really good. I don't normally like AUs. I liked this one a lot. You managed to keep everyone themselves and yet still fit the time frame.

wonderful job!
azurelunatic: A glittery black pin badge with a blue holographic star in the middle. (Default)

[personal profile] azurelunatic 2013-05-27 09:01 pm (UTC)(link)
This is very sweet! I particularly enjoyed Steve's objections to being kept. And Bruce, always with the not quite so legal agriculture.

[personal profile] beege 2013-08-17 06:52 am (UTC)(link)
I was re-reading and I happened to spot this little typo:

>Steve slithered back inside, and as he fumbled for the shotgun wrapped in felt and crammed between Tony's seat and the chassis, he caught sight of the odometer. They were doing a hundred and twenty miles an hour, but he was willing to bet they were actually going faster, the wheels gliding over the uneven ice.

It should be speedomometer, not odometer (which measures total distance travelled). And is Tony's ride a Duesenberg? Because in 1930 nothing else that was built in America could hit 120 mph.
jonaht: (Default)

[personal profile] jonaht 2014-06-04 05:27 pm (UTC)(link)
I love this! Mysteries are my all-time favorites. You even added Peter in, my other all-time favorite! A new fave for me.