Where everyone is born with either no birthmark, or a birthmark that grows with them, forming the name of their soulmate over time. Some people say that this happens because the future is unpredictable; the name may change, but the soul does not.
Steve Rogers is a Nameless, born without a mark on his frail little body. Part of what he fights for is for equality… to remove the stigma from all people, including the Nameless like himself. He can fight all he wants.
No one will be waiting for him if he doesn’t come home.
Bucky tries to convince him that that isn’t exactly how it works, but it is hard to believe someone with a name on the inside of their arm. In fact, despite all of his fighting, he constantly is made insecure about the fact that he has no known soulmate. Until he meets Peggy.
Peggy believes in him even when everyone else has given up. Even though Steve doesn’t know whether or not she has a name on her body, he is drawn to her. He starts to feel like maybe, just maybe… Bucky was right. Maybe he could still have a chance at a happy, love filled future like everyone else.
This doesn’t stop him from going through with everything with the same level of determination as before, however. After the serum, as Captain America, he continues to give his all to the war. He still winds up in the ice.
He doesn’t come home, even though there’s someone waiting for him now.
Tony Stark, however, is born with a very distinctive mark on his back. Already, there’s a distinguished “S” in the spot. It starts out as a mark of pride for his parents, but it quickly turns sour. Howard thinks he’s seeing things when the letters spread and form, starting to spell out “Steven”. Jarvis tells him to give it time because the odds of what he is thinking are too out there to bet on just yet.
Howard’s drinking gets even worse when he’s given false hope that Steve might be alive. He begins searching for him with a new vigor… burning himself out and making his feelings of resentment – maybe even jealousy – towards Tony more and more obvious.
Little Tony doesn’t understand why, despite all of the amazing things he has heard about Captain America, this is a bad thing. Did he do something wrong by being born with Steve’s name on his back? When he looks at all of the memorabilia/listens to Howard’s old stories, he can’t help but be hopeful.
Maybe he will be found.
By the time Tony is a teen, however, he has already started to follow in Howard’s footsteps. He’s completely given up on everything related to Steven Grant Rogers. Maybe he still has a few items stashed away in secret, but, for the most part… every trace has been washed away. He even tries to remove the name from his back after his parents die. Repeatedly.
Eventually, Tony settles on just covering up the name the hard way, hiding it from view. None of his one night stands gets to see it, and Obie never does. Tony can’t risk being hated again by a father figure again, even if it just leads him into being manipulated.
Even Rhodey has never seen it. He knows what name is on Tony’s back, but he’s never seen it unobscured. Rhodey keeps it a secret for Tony, letting Tony go along with the lie that he’s a Nameless. This fucking soulmate crap is the biggest load of shit Tony has ever heard of.
Because Tony Stark would rather be Nameless than cursed.
Pepper sees it. Once. Just once, but that’s all it takes to put their relationship on the rocks. Especially once Steve is found.
So, there’s Tony, floundering to save his relationship with Pepper… and desperately trying to figure out what to do about the Avengers Initiative. What does he do about how horribly their first impressions went? Was the great Captain America really like that… or… had Tony just rubbed him the wrong way like he does everyone?
Then there’s the shocker that the propaganda had covered up. Steve was Nameless. Steve didn’t have some name from his time that he had to leave behind. He had nothing.
The man out of time wasn’t meant to make it to this time originally.
Steve, though, would be floored to find out one day that someone has his name on their body. Holy shit. Bucky was right. Not only was he right, but… Steve felt drawn to someone again, but, this time, he knew whether or not they had a name on their body. He knew so much more than he could ever hope to have known about Peggy.