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Things Learned When Incidentally Shot

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Press conferences were usually mind numbingly boring, so much so that Tony often joked they would be the death of him. He likes them in a way because he can be his old bombastic self and throw around dirty jokes that cause the good Captain to turn so many delicious shades of red it curls Tony’s own toes in delightful desire. He never really thought a press conference would do him in, especially since he’s Iron Man and who would dare such a thing.

Apparently some violent wing of what Coulson calls the Rising Tide. Whatever the hell that is. Once Tony gets back into the comforting arms of his suit and can access JARVIS he is going to find out what the hell is going on and why the hell he should care about something that reminds him at first of a disease and then of a Tom Clancy book.

Right now, though, that is not going to happen. Who would have thought they had the guts, wherewithal, and smarts to pull off kidnapping two, not one, Avengers for their little stunt of the day. Granted, one of the said Avengers (yes, it is him) happens to have been shot pretty thoroughly and it burns like a thousand suns have set fire to his thigh. They hobbled him in the fray and only the walking icicle ended up stopping yet another gun spray from hitting him.

In the end, somehow, Steve had voluntarily – yes voluntarily – surrendered the both of them as he worked to staunch the flow of copious amounts of Tony’s blood as it spread out over his beautiful white suit. Seriously, what a bitch to ruin. It cost more than each one of these punks could ever hope to earn in a year, combined.

They hustle Steve and Tony off into the back of a van which then takes off down the busy streets. Steve rips off his plaid button down and then reaches to pull up his undershirt.

“Um, no, what are you doing?” Tony asks.

Steve only rolls his eyes. “Don’t worry, your virtue – if there’s any left – is safe with me.” He yanks the t-shirt off and pushes it against Tony’s thigh. The white fabric immediately blossoms with red. Tony looks away because regardless of what he’s been through in the past, he still hates the sight of his blood.

“It’s okay,” Steve says and presses firmly without causing further hurt to Tony. “It looks like it didn’t hit bone. I can dig it out.”

“What? No, no digging it out,” Tony says and shifts a bit as Steve motions to the thug sitting in the back bed of the van with them.

“I need something to tie this off with, unless you want him bleeding out.”

“Bleeding out?” Tony says and moves again which only causes sharp pains to lance up his leg.

Steve stares at him pointedly which Tony thinks might be trying to telegraph a strategy, but he’s unsure and his head might be a little fuzzy, because, hello, shot and apparently bleeding out right now.

The thug assigned to guard duty turns to retrieve his phone from his jacket pocket and it is all the distraction Steve needs as he leaps across the divide in the van bed and elbows the guy right in the nose, the crunching sound turns Tony’s stomach. Without missing a beat, Steve swings around kicks open the back of the van, hoists Tony up and they jump from the moving vehicle. Tony goes down in the huff even though Steve cushioned the blow as much as possible with his own body. They tumble a few meters, but Steve scrambles up, ignoring the scrapes and road rash across his chest and shoulder, hauls Tony back to his feet and they lurch into a run that’s more like a three legged race.

The van spins around and Steve veers them toward an old warehouse. How they ended up in the middle of an old industrial district Tony has no idea. Shots crackle through the air and Steve shoves him hard up against a wall as he pitches a few scattered articles he finds along the way at the van. He manages to take out the windshield and puncture a wheel with an old wrench. Then he gathers up Tony to direct him to the innards of a broken down warehouse. All the while shots sing out over their heads.

In seconds, Steve ushers them through one building and across the parking lot toward a smaller crumbling office building that’s boarded up. He settles Tony on the ground, rips off one of the boards, and then hoists Tony into the window as he follows. Steve directs him further into the bowels of the building. It stinks of diesel oil and rust. They end up in a back office in the dark waiting.

“You know I don’t think I’m actually bleeding out,” Tony says as he considers the shadowed room.

“Of course not, you would be dead by now.”

“But you said.”

Steve shakes his head and peers through the door. He closes it and pushes a desk in front of the door. This office has no windows. It is their fortress. Steve kneels down next to Tony – there’s little light and Tony can’t make out any of Steve’s features.

“You don’t happen to have-.”

Steve turns on a penlight at that moment.

“Regular boy scout.”

“Nope, just my keychain.” Steve jingles the keys and then focuses the light on Tony’s leg. How Steve happened to keep his keychain when the thugs took their phones is a mystery. In the brief flash of light, Tony sees that Steve’s chest is a mess from hitting the road and he hisses in sympathy. There are splotches of blood everywhere on Steve. He looks a mess, and Tony briefly considers how much of it is his blood and how much is probably Tony’s blood.

“Doesn’t that hurt?”

“Like a son of a bitch,” Steve says and surveys the room with the flashlight. He finds a small desk lamp and brings it over. He plugs it into an outlet close to Tony, and, miraculously it turns on. He frowns, switches it off, searches around the room, and finds an old torn up raincoat which he promptly pushes under the desk and against the bottom of the door to hide any light.

“Let me check it out,” Steve says when he rejoins Tony.

“You lied.”

“Hmm?” Steve efficiently tears open Tony’s pantleg. He cringes a little, because it is an expensive suit.

“You lied. I am not bleeding out.”

“I thought we already covered that,” Steve says and he strips the pants for a bandage.

“I didn’t think you lied.”

“I normally don’t, that doesn’t mean I can’t.” He positions the light right next to Tony’s leg. “We need some water.” He gets up again to go rummaging. He finds an unopened bottle of water.

“It might be contaminated,” Tony says as a way of protest just as Steve cracks the seal.

“Really?” Steve pours it over the wound.

“So you do lie?”

Steve sighs. “Of course, why are we talking about this?”

“I just thought Captain America couldn’t lie.”

“I’m not a Vulcan, Tony,” Steve says as he dabs at the wound.

Tony flinches but then what Steve just stated hits him. “Vulcan, you’ve been watching Star Trek.”

“A little, Clint likes it. Wrath of Khan, said it was the best one of the bunch.” Steve is precise and careful as he examines the wound.

“So I learned that you can and do lie, and you watch Star Trek,” Tony says and blows out a breath as Steve ties off the wound. “You’re not going to dig it out?”

“You want an infection, sure, but let’s leave that to the professionals, shall we?” Steve says and sits back. He’s tentative in his actions because of the smears of red from the road rash.

“How about you?” Tony gestures at the scrape marks up and down Steve’s chest and back. He really took a beating.

“I’ll be okay.” Steve nods and hands what’s left of the water to Tony. “Drink, it might be a while before we’re out of here.”

“They’re going to find us in minutes Steve,” Tony says as he points to the door.

“Probably,” Steve says but doesn’t get up to check out the door or listen for any disturbances.

Tony drinks down the rest of the water, which isn’t much. He both dreads and welcomes the idea of the latest thugs of the week coming in after them.

When they come, and they do, it’s phenomenal to watch the Captain turn just about anything and everything in the room into a weapon. Pencils become daggers, lamps turn into clubs, and extension cords – well, Tony has to close his eyes when the good Captain turns one of those into a choke cord.

Finished with their little scuffle, Steve finds Tony’s phones still on the guy who he just choked into submission. He pulls out the phone and tosses it to Tony. In seconds JARVIS is ringing up the police and the other Avengers.

Tony is almost home free.

The hospital is hardly the place one should first find out that he’s own injury wasn’t the worse that had been endured. After the medical staff stitches up his leg and he bats away the orderly trying to make him sit in a wheelchair, Tony hobbles over to the triage area of the emergency room where he finds Natasha about to kill some innocent looking resident with her laser stare. Bruce has a fine tint of green going and Clint yanks at his own hair.

“Hey, hey,” Tony says as he navigates the crutches into the corridor. “What is going on here? No need to go ape shit, I’m good, I’m fine.”

Natasha rolls her eyes and glowers at him. He’s not sure if this is a good sign or not, since glower seems to be one of her favorite expressions.

“Not you, ass, the Captain,” Clint says and points to the curtained off area.

Tony starts toward the curtain area when Bruce places a hand on his chest to stop him. “No.”

“What?”

“Sorry, sir, you can’t go in there, the doctor is examining the patient.”

“The patient wants to be released,” Natasha says.

“Why is the Captain a patient?” Tony inches toward the curtain, and Bruce unexpectedly releases him. He staggers forward which is all kinds of bad for his wounded thigh, but he falls into the small curtained off area to see the Captain in all his naked glory.

Thor is standing at the head of the gurney with his hands on each of the Captain’s shoulders while the doctor and nurses work. Tony’s not sure at first what he’s seeing, but then it clarifies like a picture in a camera lens coming into focus. The doctor has cleaned away the blood from the abrasions but there a distinct pattern across Steve’s back.

“You got shot? When the fuck did you get shot?” Tony limps into the room as one of the nurses breaks off from her job to try and push him back. He rounds the gurney and glimpses Steve’s face which is hot with perspiration and twisted in a grimace.

“Tony, get out,” Steve says.

“We need to assess the patient and ready him for surgery,” the nurse says and tries to push Tony out of the triage bay.

“You’re not doing surgery on him, he’s not your average patient,” Bruce says and now all the Avengers crowd into the little bay.

“For Pete’s sake, people, I’m naked here,” Steve says. He turns around and reaches but there’s nothing available to cover him up.

“Apparently you were shot multiple times,” Tony says and lifts a brow as he examines the evidence.

“Doctor?”

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” the doctor says as the one nurse is joined by some burly looking orderlies.

Tony huffs and points at Bruce. “Do you even know who he is? Are you people mad?”

“I’m not sure what you’re referring to, but this man needs surgery and -.”

“Wait, wait,” Bruce says. “You do understand he’s Captain America, right?”

“Captain Underpants is more like it,” Clint mumbles.

“Captain No Underpants,” Tony says and notes that one of the stray bullets hit the good captain dead center on his right ass cheek. How did he not notice that the Captain had been shot? And three- no, four times according to the peppered wounds across his back and butt. There had been a lot of blood smeared over Steve, but Tony assumed it had been from his own wounds and the road rash.

“Tony,” Steve says and buries his face in the pillow they have on the gurney.

“Doctor Hampton?” Everyone turns around to see Coulson standing near the entrance to the bay area. He flips open his badge and says, “Doctor, SHIELD. I’m Agent Coulson, this is official Avenger business and we will be evacuating the Captain and Mister Stark immediately.”

“How come he gets Captain and I don’t get Iron Man?” Tony looks around but no one answers. What he does notice is that Coulson’s face is the color of a beet. There is no other way to describe it. Coulson is literally beet red but he cannot take his eyes off of the fine curve of Steve’s ass.

Tony limps over to his side and bumps him with his shoulder. “Looks better than you dreamed doesn’t it?”

“It does-.” Coulson stutters a few words, comes back to himself, and then says, “Excuse me, but where are the Captain’s clothes?”

Later, after the transfer to SHIELD medical, after the long surgery, and the night watching the captain sleep, Tony ends up back in a SHIELD hospital bed because he’s overused the leg and the room decides to do a spin and he topples over into Natasha. Surprisingly she doesn’t kill him. Instead, he’s put in bed and told to rest. He even gets horrible hospital food for his efforts. Bruce takes pity on him at one point and brings him a cheeseburger.

“I don’t get it.”

“Get what?” Bruce stuffs a handful of French fries in his mouth. For a guy who purportedly likes to eat healthy he can sure pack it in.

“Steve never let on that he’d been shot.”

“Never does,” Bruce says and shrugs.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Tony says and bites into the thick and heart attack inducing burger.

“It means, he usually just deals with it,” Bruce says. “I’ve plucked a couple out of him.”

“What?” Tony says. “What the hell?”

Bruce only lifts a shoulder in response. “You remember the Chitauri attack.”

Tony scoffs at him. “Who doesn’t?”

“Steve was hit by one of their weapons, took it right in the flank.”

“I vaguely remember something about that, but he went out to eat with us,” Tony says and chows down on the burger again.

“Sure he did, but you saw him. Barely moved, didn’t eat much at all,” Bruce says as he finishes up his own fries then takes over Tony’s. Tony doesn’t protest. “After, I checked him out and he had some broken ribs and a really ugly burn.”

“So you’re the new Avenger field medic?” Tony shakes his head. “How’s that work with being a big green rage monster at the same time?”

Bruce only rolls his eyes. “The point is the Captain just takes it. Seems like he did it a lot back in the day, now he just goes with the flow now.”

Tony frowns and sets the rest of the burger aside. It feels like a cold lump in his belly and he suddenly wants to vomit it all back up. He settles in the bed while Bruce talks away.

Eventually, both Steve and Tony are released from SHIELD medical and they are transported back to the Tower. Things have gone okay for Tony since the entire Mandarin fiasco – in most ways. He got his shit together as far as dealing with his anxiety, threw himself into his relationship with Pepper, and then moved back to New York – where it all began in more ways than one. The one thing that’s still a sore spot is Pepper, she’s delightful and wonderful and not his anymore.

Because he rejoined the Avengers and had to admit to her that although the armor had been a cocoon, his protection against the world since Afghanistan, it also symbolized his triumph against those who would seek to batter down and subjugation the weak. He couldn’t abandon it. Even if he never flew in a suit again, he would always be in the center of attention, always walk within the crosshairs of being an Avenger. He identified with being an Avenger, with being Iron Man.

She agreed, and loved him for it. But he saw how it was eating away at her. He ended it, not without tears and a lot of alcohol. She loved him and supported him, but he hated to put her in harm’s way. He promised once a long time ago in a phone booth in the middle of Tennessee he would never do that again. So, he released her.

While that was not a good thing, it was the proper and right thing to do. Tony does few good things in his life, so while he still mourns the loss of her in his everyday life (because she’s still there, still taking care of him) he knows he did good.

Once in the Tower both Steve and Tony are ensconced on their own floors. Tony hobbles around the penthouse and feels at loose ends until Bruce manages to haul a shit load of his laboratory supplies up from the workshop. Tony spends hours on his new intelligent designs, working with JARVIS in some kind of religious communion. On day three after the release, Bruce sidles into the apartment with that look on his face that Tony knows is only going to get someone in trouble, and he thinks he’s the candidate. Bruce sometimes – well, sometimes he cannot do subtle.

“What?” Tony says.

“You’re keeping busy.”

“Usually.” Tony says as he scratches at his beard. He might need to shave a little; he might be looking a little more Captain Jack Sparrow than he wants to look.

“Maybe, I thought, you could, I don’t know.”

“Spit it out,” Tony says.

“Rescue, I thought maybe you could rescue Steve,” Bruce says, but points at the load of equipment strewn over the table. “He’s – but I see you’re busy.”

He drops the circuit board he’s currently playing with and says, “What the hell? Just tell me, what’s up with our favorite popsicle?”

“He’s being bored to tears with a marathon of Star Trek movies and shows,” Bruce says and folds his arms across his chest as if in challenge.

While Tony will take that challenge, mean green fighting machine and all. “So, why is this my problem? He likes Star Trek.”

“But he needs his rest. It’s been three days and he should be much farther along in his recovery but Clint won’t let him sleep.”

“That doesn’t sound right,” Tony says and stands with the help of his crutches.

“Well, Clint thinks the Captain wants him there, and the Captain doesn’t want to throw Clint out,” Bruce says. “Well meaning-.”

“Idiots.” Tony starts to thump his way over to the elevator. Bruce presses a hand on his chest – right where the arc reactor used to sit. “You know, sometimes I get the idea you’re just feeling me up to find out how I did the whole remove the huge magnet from my chest and regrow bone and tissue and lungs and stuff thing.”

Bruce only cocks half a smile and says, “Maybe. But I think I can get Steve up here.”

“Ya think?”

“I think,” Bruce says and waves him off. “Go into your bedroom and pretend to watch TV or something.”

“Or something,” Tony murmurs and turns to the bedroom.

Bruce does get the good Captain up into the penthouse without much delay. It’s only about thirty five minutes later when the Captain appears at his bedroom door. He has no canes or crutches, but he’s dragging his one leg. He looks exhausted. “Bruce said you were having a tough time sleeping or something. Said you needed encouragement.”

Tony pats the bed. “Take a load off.”

In a testament to how very tired Steve is, he doesn’t protest just falls into the space next to Tony. His eyes begin to droop almost immediately, but he doesn’t forget his duty. “How can I help out, Tony?”

“Just lay there; maybe with someone here I can get to sleep.”

“Okay.”

The Captain falls asleep instantly. For the next two days Steve sleeps on and off throughout the day and night in Tony’s bed. He only wakes to use the bathroom, drink water, and scarf down a bunch of food before he literally falls asleep again, almost in his dessert. When he finally wakes on the third day he’s brighter, more awake.

Tony’s leaning against the doorframe and watching him. “What gives, Captain ShotintheAss.”

Steve rubs at his right hip and frowns at Tony. “What do you mean?”

“So you get shot multiple times, get road rash, and then have surgery to dig out the bullets and then stitch you up.”

Steve reaches for the glass of water from the nightstand. He downs it. “That’s about it.”

“And then you sleep like the dead only waking to eat and piss? What’s up with that?”

Steve shrugs. “It’s how I heal. My body goes into overdrive. I need excessive amounts of sleep in order to fuel the healing, I suppose.”

“You don’t know?” Tony says and skips over to the bed to sit down.

“Kind of-.” Steve stands up and is able to walk without so much as a twitch to his step. “I didn’t get injured that much during the war. Gotten injured more now, Bruce and I figured out I needed to sleep I think my third time out with the Avengers.” He disappears into the bathroom for a minute. When he returns his hair is wet as if he’s run his wet hands through it. He’s drying his hands and face as he re-enters the bedroom. “Sorry I took over your bedroom.”

Tony waves it off. “No problem. You can grace my bed anytime you please, Captain.”

Steve only smiles and laughs it off. “Thanks again, Tony.”

The next time they are both injured and, of course, there is a next time, it isn’t a good thing – at all. Tony’s been shot – again – seems to be a thing these days. But it is minor scrape on his arm, and Steve’s been blasted with some kind of goo. Clint had called them jelly guns because hell if they didn’t look like something out of a cartoon. The jelly guns were a distraction to the actual bomb in a building. When they ended up finding out about that, both Steve and Tony rushed in.

Tony cannot explain why he went. He wasn’t even in his armor. None of them were prepared because the call to assemble hadn’t happened. They had been at an event for the city, and now both Steve and Tony were stuck under the rubble of the bomb blast.

Steve ignores the jelly stuck to his side and immediately goes to work to open up an exit for them. By the time he works up a good sweat – well, both of them did – Steve is huffing worse than Tony. He is breathing in short, shallow pants, and when Tony looks at him; his lips are a decided color of blue in the low lamp light of their prison.

“Steve?”

Steve braces his forearm against the crumbled wall of the building they're currently trapped in. He leans his forehead against the brick and says, “Hmm?”

“Are you, are you okay?”

“I think.” Steve looks at him, and Tony can see it – he’s not focusing at all. His eyes are bleary looking and watering. “Might be poison, or something.”

“What?” Tony says and reaches forward to touch the goo still stuck to Steve’s shirt and arm.

He jerks away. “Don’t touch, poison.”

“Shouldn’t your body deal with it?”

“Should, I don’t know-.” Steve tumbles to the cracked floor of the room. “I think I need to sit down right now.”

“If I’m right, and I usually am, your body works at about four times the metabolism of a normal person.”

“Aren’t we all normal?” Steve says and blinks several times.

“Typical, typical person.” Tony bends down over Steve. “So your body will absorb this shit four times faster.”

“That sounds logical, is that logical?”

“You are spacey when you’re poisoned, did you know that?” Tony says and yanks off his suit jacket. He turns it around and puts his hands back into the sleeves. Using the sleeves as gloves he starts to peel away the goo from Steve’s arm and shirt. The skin underneath is an angry red and blistered.

“Rising tide of fuckery,” Tony mumbles.

“What’s that?” Steve says and smiles at Tony. “You have a weird beard.”

“Oh I do, do I?” Steve reaches up and slaps Tony’s face – Tony thinks he means to be gentle but it still stings. “Ow.”

“Oh, sorry,” Steve says. “You’re cute with your weird beard.”

“Was this crap truth serum.”

“Crap serum? What does that even mean?”

Tony rolls his eyes and manages to get all the jelly goo from Steve’s side and tosses the jacket. He’ll miss the jacket, that’s the last of that suit. Steve turns over and curls up, then begins to shake violently.

“Captain? Steve?” Tony grabs his face and tries to get him to concentrate on him. “Come on, don’t – don’t.”

“Cold, Tony, I’m really cold.”

“Okay, okay,” Tony says and looks around. There’s nothing to be used as a blanket or any article of clothing in the small area of the bombed out building. “Here.” He snuggles up to Steve and he lays his head on Tony’s non-wounded shoulder.

“You smell good,” Steve whispers as he falls into slumber. Tony only hopes it will be somewhat restorative.

They are rescued, and Tony spends the next three days flying around the hospital in his newest version of his suit. He refuses to let anyone near SHIELD medical without proper identification. He has Happy on that detail.

“Rising Tide of shit,” Tony murmurs as he guards the place.

Steve sleeps for four days. On the fourth day, he wakes up and Tony is there with his tablet perched on his lap as if he never left. Steve looks around and says, “Are you okay?”

“Just a scratch, how are you?”

“Tired.”

“Not a surprise, you were poisoned with enough of the jelly goo to take down an elephant. If Clint, Natasha, or I had been hit by that stuff we would have been dead.”

“Any leads?” Steve says and shifts to sit up. His shoulder is pristine; Tony cannot even see the burn marks anymore.

“Coulson’s new team is looking into it. We’re officially on stand-down,” Tony says.

“We should-.”

“Nope.”

“We could-.”

“Not going to happen.”

“So, we’re on stand down?” Steve says.

“Yep,” Tony says. “You can rest; I can get more work done on my new suit design. All is good.”

“All is good.”

Until it isn’t of course.

They try again. Not right away, but with enough time that everyone has eased up their guard. Even Tony. Even Captain America. The bullet lodges close to his heart and he’s on the pavement in the middle of Manhattan, bleeding out. Steve kneels over him, striped of his shirt again, with it pressed into Tony’s chest.

“Don’t,” Steve is saying but Tony can barely hear the words anymore. There are crashes around him and he sees people scrambling and flashes of light. “Stay with me, Tony. Stay.”

He can taste the metal of the bullet and briefly considers if it is in his mouth. He knows it isn’t, he knows he can taste it because of the blood pooling in the back of his throat. Steve is screaming out orders. No it isn’t Steve, it’s Captain America. He’s commanding people to do his bidding and get an ambulance, call the police. Steve never leaves his side. He only pushes against Tony’s chest enough to make him flinch and cry out.

“Don’t you leave me, Tony, don’t.”

He can’t speak, there are no words. All he sees is how very young Captain America looks. How there are tears on his face that he’s not embarrassed to shed, how he murmurs words of encouragement that Tony cannot hear. He tries to stay, tries to follow the Captain’s orders but there is no space, there is not time. He fades away.

He doesn’t expect to wake up but he does and it hurts like hell. They dose him up again and he sleeps for ages. When he finally does surface he finds Steve sitting with his head in his hands and looking like the walking dead.

“What?” His voice sounds like he has no air in his lungs.

“Shh-.” Steve’s up on his feet, offering Tony ice chips. “It’s okay. You’re going to be okay.”

“Really?”

Steve nods, and Tony believes him because he’s Captain America and he doesn’t lie. He never lies, unless he has to, unless he must. He eyes the good captain and sees a certain relief and honesty in the man’s features.

“Okay.”

Steve reaches up and tentatively strokes a hand down Tony’s face. “Sleep.”

It is not a day or a week or even a month later when Tony feels better. Having a bullet next to your heart is just about as bad as getting shrapnel, but he’s older now with lots of issues. It takes his body months to heal properly. All the Avengers, and Pepper, and Happy, even Fury and Coulson are there for him. Fury gives him the stink eye most of the time. Coulson reports they’ve hunted down the responsible parties for the attacks on the Avengers. Tony doesn’t give a shit.

He feels like shit. He’s given over everything to save people and this is what he gets in return. He’s down in his workshop, the first time in weeks and he picks up a repulsor. Slipping it on his hand, he aims it at the work he had been doing. He fires, repeatedly, decidedly.

Flames crackle and burst along the walls. Dummy circles around trying to put out the fires but it’s impossible. Steve rushes in during Tony’s third pass and grabs Tony’s arm to stop him.

“Tony.”

“Steve.” Tony’s voice sounds more broken now than it did when he was first shot.

“Don’t,” Steve says and slowly disengages the repulsor gauntlet.

Tony wants to say something short and brilliant and snappy, but he has nothing, because his world isn’t living up to his standards. He’s learned a lot of things lately and one is that the world will never live up to what he thinks it should and has to be.

People are cruel fucks. They will shoot a girl because she wants to learn in a school. They will use ideology and power to get their way and ignore the little guy. Use poisoned gas, and beat animals. They will continue to believe in the unjustifiable.

“I know,” Steve says and Tony wonders how much he said out loud.

“I can’t do this, if there’s nothing to believe in, Steve.”

“I know, but you also know there is enough to believe in, even if it is only one little boy or girl,” Steve says. He hasn’t taken his hands away from holding onto Tony.

Tony sinks against Steve and realizes this steady presence is one of the few last things he believes in. He believes in Steve.

“Steve?”

“Hmm?”

“You were there,” Tony says and knows it is stupid to say. Of course, Steve was there when it happened, but he’s also here now.

“Yes.” Steve doesn’t say anything else, allows Tony this moment as they stand together in each other’s arms.

“I believe in you, Steve?” Tony says. He’s learned things – learned all kinds of things over the course of being incidentally shot or even purposefully shot.

“Yes, Tony?”

“Is this okay?” Tony says as he wraps his arms around Steve and nuzzles into his throat.

Steve leans down and brushes his lips lightly like the grace of an angel’s wings against Tony’s mouth. He pulls back, looks down at Tony with wide open eyes and then closes his eyes to kiss him more fully, showing him there’s reasons to try, to be there, to continue on the good fight.

Tony’s learned a lot of truths about the world and about Steve, but he thinks this is the best truth yet.

THE END