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A Dungeon as Dark as One's Own Heart

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What other dungeon is so dark as one's own heart! What jailer so inexorable as one's self!
Nathaniel Hawthorne

The first thing Tony noticed when he woke up was that he was lying on the floor of an honest-to-god dungeon, a dank, dark, stone walls and floor and hand-forged iron bars dungeon. Actually, that was the second thing he noticed. The first was that his head hurt like a son of a bitch.

The dungeon thing was pretty striking though. You don’t see many dungeons in this day and age and pretty much none in Manhattan (excepting certain social clubs), so Tony was forced to consider the idea that he wasn’t in Kansas any more. So to speak.

His memory of how he got there left a lot to be desired, so he lay back on the stone floor and tried to reason out his predicament. He was wearing a suit, not armor or jeans, so he probably hadn’t been taken during a fight or from his home. He had nothing in his pockets, no wallet or phone or anything else, and there didn’t seem to be anything at all in the cell from what he could see in the dim light from the torches outside the bars, so whoever had him probably knew enough about him to understood just how important it was to take away anything he could possibly use to break out (fuck McGuyver anyway – the guy was an amateur).

Tony was about to get up and see what he could make out in the hallway beyond the bars when his captor stepped in front of the cell. Loki stood with his hands behind his back and smiled at Tony. “Feeling better, Stark?”

Tony sat up and felt the world tilt and sway around him. He swallowed the bile that rose in his throat and replied, “Feeling great. The accommodations suck, but I’m adaptable.”

“Good. I’m not actually prepared to kill you just yet. I’m looking forward to the day when you kneel before me.” Loki lowered his voice and leaned forward. “ Do you want to do it now? Maybe I will go ahead and kill you if you just get it over with.”

Tony rubbed the back of his head. “I’ll pass, but thanks for the offer, you sick sack of shit.”

Loki smirked and turned to walk away. “Charming as always, Stark. Enjoy your stay.”

Tony lurched toward the bars and instantly regretted it as his stomach flip-flopped. He fell forward, skinning his hands on the stones. “Wait!”

Loki paused and pivoted toward him. “Yes?”

Tony looked up at him. “How about you tell me what you want from me? Why am I here?”

“I already have everything I want from you,” Loki sneered at him. He sneered. The man was a cartoon.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean, Snidely Whiplash?”

Loki frowned a bit, obviously not understanding the reference. He must have dismissed it as unimportant because his face smoothed and he crouched down outside the bars. “You’re nothing, Stark, a diversion. My brother and your friends are expending all their resources looking for you. That gives me what I want.”

“It gives you hugs and ponies and your Daddy’s love?” Tony raised an eyebrow. “How’s that work?”

“Do you really want to discuss desires, Stark?” Loki’s voice was full of scorn. “I know what I want, but I doubt you’ll admit your own wishes.”

Tony ignored the dig. Ignoring was always a good strategy. “You aren’t going to get what you want. They won’t let you.”

Loki didn’t reply at first. He just looked at Tony. Finally, he said, “What if you did get what you want, Stark? What would you do then?”

Tony didn’t have a chance to reply before Loki raised his arm and waved it over Tony. Immediately, there was a wave of pressure bearing down on him and making the nausea so much worse. He lowered his head to the cool stone floor and breathed deep, hoping for it to pass. By the time he could lift his head again Loki was gone.

Tony let his head fall back to the floor, wincing as it hit. Right. Stone is fucking hard. It was also blessedly cold, and Tony lay there letting the cold wash away the nausea and the pain in his head. It did nothing, however, to clear away the fog. He needed to get out of here. He needed to get to the other Avengers. How was he going to do that?

He couldn’t think. All he could do was lie there on the cold stone floor and feel his heart beating in his head. He would have put his foot on the floor to stop the spinning, but his whole body was already there. He knew the others would find him. Hell, Steve would go to the ends of the earth to find him. To be fair, Steve would do that for any of them, but Tony liked to think of him doing it to find him. Steve would tear the world apart, but he needed to get himself out if he could, so they could get ahead of Loki.

The floor felt so good though. You wouldn’t think a stone floor would feel good, but this one did, cool and what the hell would you call that texture? Tony ran his hands over the surface and tried to put a name to it, but he couldn’t. He sighed and rubbed his cheek against the stones. His skin prickled from the contact, like electricity buzzing over his face and hands. There was a scent in the air, not quite familiar, but sort of like some of the incense he used to smell in the dorms at MIT, sweet fruity smoke. Maybe Loki liked the giggle weed – he certainly had that surly teen stoner vibe about him.

He folded his arms and rested his head on them. He needed to order another suit like this one because the fabric was amazing, smooth and silky. He thought some more about Steve. Steve was good. He’d been really nice since Tony had broken up with Pepper. Well, Steve was always nice. That was just Steve, but he was extra nice to Tony. He was always up for a movie or dinner or just hanging out in the workshop. Steve was funny and handsome and… well, just good. He’d probably like this fabric, too. Tony should have a suit made for Steve when he went to get another one. He was so engrossed in rubbing his face against the fabric that he completely missed the fact that someone was in the cell with him until he felt a hand on the back of his neck and whipped his head up to see Steve kneeling next to him, smiling.

After the room stopped spinning from the sudden movement, he looked up and tried to focus. Something was odd. Steve wasn’t in uniform and didn’t have the shield. He was wearing khakis and one of those tight white tees that he always wore around the tower. Not that Tony was complaining, but it wasn’t right. Captain America should be here, but it was Steve.

Tony closed his eyes for a moment and forced himself to put away the questions. However it was happening, he was being rescued and he wasn’t about to look a tall blond heroic gift horse in the mouth.

It didn’t hurt that Steve was rubbing his neck, fingers and thumb moving in small, tight circles. The warmth was spreading all the way down into his shoulders, into his chest. He really didn’t want it to stop, but there were… things they needed to do. Escaping. Yes, that was a priority.

Tony opened his eyes and found his voice. “Why are you smiling at me like that?”

Steve smiled wider. “I’m just glad that I found you.”

Tony found it a little hard to look away from Steve but he managed it for just a second and turned his head toward the open cell door. “We should go.”

He should get up. Steve would help him if he tried, if he would just begin the process of getting on his feet.

Steve shook his head. “We have time. We should make sure you’re ok before we try to go anywhere. Turn over and let me check you out.”

Tony turned over with Steve’s help. He moved slowly, but his stomach still rolled. Steve shushed him and rubbed his temples until the nausea passed.

“When did you get your nursing license?” There was no bite to the words. His head and stomach were already feeling better. Steve was actually better at this than most nurses. He felt heavy and sluggish and good, really good.

Steve paid no attention to the quip anyway. He loosened the knot of Tony’s tie. “You’re breathing a little heavy. I think I should check your chest.”

Tony slapped at his hands, but Steve batted him away, removed his tie, and unbuttoned his shirt. He ran his fingers lightly around the arc reactor, eyes on Tony’s face as he gently prodded at his chest. His hands moved lower, smoothing over Tony’s ribs. “Anything hurt?”

Tony started to answer, only to find his mouth too dry to form words. He swallowed and replied in a rough voice, “No, it doesn’t hurt.”

Steve smiled and whispered, “You’re still breathing heavy.”

Tony shook his head. “It’s nothing. Just happy to see you.”

“Are you?” Steve lowered his head and placed a wet, open-mouthed kiss just below Tony’s sternum, hands still wandering over his torso. Tony’s back arched and then slammed back into the floor, his body trying to press into the contact and shrink away from it all at once.

Steve’s hands moved down to Tony’s hips, pressing him into the floor, as he smiled against his belly and murmured against his skin, “Don’t.” He looked up at Tony. “Stay still or I can’t take care of you.”

Tony writhed under him. “What…” His breath hitched as Steve mouthed his belly. “What is this?”

Steve unbuckled Tony’s belt. “What do you want it to be?”

Tony looked away from Steve toward the ceiling. He couldn’t take the view of Steve working on his fly, those hands unbuttoning and unzipping. “We should go. Loki could come back.”

Steve reached into Tony’s pants and squeezed his cock, laughing softly as Tony drummed his fists against the floor. “Loki’s not coming back.” He cocked his head to the side and looked at Tony’s face as he reached lower to cup his balls. “I think that bump on your head may be worse than I thought. You don’t usually worry like this. You aren’t acting like yourself.”

Tony squeezed his thighs around Steve’s hand and screamed his name. He’d meant it as a question, but it came out a lot more like begging.

Steve smiled and yanked Tony’s pants off, dragging socks and shoes with them. He tossed them all to the side and then pulled off his own shirt and threw it on top of the pile. Tony stared open-mouthed at Steve’s bare torso as he leaned over and ran his hands up Tony’s calves. With no warning but a quick smirk, Steve flipped him over and pulled him up on his knees, flipping the jacket and shirt Tony was still wearing out of his way.

Tony felt Steve lean over his back, one hand cupping his ass as the other slid up the side of his face and brought his head back so that Steve could murmur in his ear, “Tell me you want it, Tony. Just tell me.”

Tony didn’t know when Steve had taken off his pants and he definitely didn’t know where the lube had come from, but he could feel Steve’s cock sliding wetly back and forth between his cheeks, rubbing insistently against his hole. He groaned and tore his nails against the stones beneath him as his fingers clenched.

He pushed back against Steve, but the hand on his ass kept him still. He sobbed wordlessly as he felt the head of Steve’s cock nudge forward, so close to pushing inside, but holding against the ring of muscle, not so much thrusting as just pulsing against him. He gulped in air and swallowed, still trying to push back against him.

Steve ran his tongue around his ear and whispered, “You have to say it. You have to ask for what you want.” He nipped hard at Tony’s ear lobe. “Say it, Tony.”

Tony felt something tear inside his chest and he sucked in air and wheezed out. “Please. Please, god, just please, please, fuck me already. Please.”

The hand on his ass snaked around his hip and yanked him back hard and then Steve was inside him and he was coming, coming already like he’d never had sex before and begging for more and harder and don’t stop.

**

Two hours later Tony was vaguely aware that his endurance was pretty remarkable for a guy his age and he would have preened a little over it, but he was too busy kissing Steve. Well, it was sort of kissing because kissing was hard while he was straddling Steve’s lap and riding three of his fingers and humping against his washboard abs, especially with his suit jacket and shirt hanging half off his arms so that he could even get his arms properly around him. None of that stopped him from trying even though he was smearing spit all over both their faces and scraping his lips raw against Steve’s teeth.

He would have kept trying but Steve used the hand that wasn’t in his ass to grab his hair and pull him away. Tony cried out in protest and strained forward, trying to recapture Steve’s mouth. There was a taste there like burnt cherries and Tony wanted it back, but Steve tightened his hold on his hair and looked down between them. “I want to watch when you shoot all over me.”

Tony gasped and arched his back and did just that.

**

Four hours later Tony had totally forgotten to be proud of his endurance. He was on his knees, sucking Steve’s dick and feeling the muscles of his ass flex beneath his fingers as he clung to him. Steve had his hands on Tony’s face, digging his thumbs into the hinge of his jaw every time Tony was less than diligent about his teeth. He was trying to remember, but he was so tired.

He had finally managed to get naked. His jacket was around somewhere. Steve had used the shirt to tie him up and then he’d jerked off in front of him, taunting and urging him on - Do you want me Tony? Don’t you want to touch me? Want to taste me? Come on, Tony. You aren’t even trying. Ohhh, Tony, feels so good - while he ran one hand up and down his cock and the other smoothed over the plane of his belly and his nipples and the ridge of his hip until Tony had torn the damn shirt (and his wrists) to shreds so he could just get his hands on him.

Steve tapped Tony’s cheek lightly to get his attention, and Tony raised his eyes. “Touch yourself, Tony.” His voice didn’t quaver even as he kept thrusting into Tony’s mouth. “Show me how much you want this.”

Tony groaned around Steve’s cock and took one hand off his ass. He held on a little tighter with the other for fear of falling over. He ran his hand down his side, picking up as much sweat as he could, before grasping his cock. Nowhere near as weary as rest of him, it stood straight against his belly, still hard as a rock.

Steve stroked his hair approvingly, purred like a contented cat, and came in his mouth, murmuring encouragement. “Keep going. Want to see you, Tony. Show me.”

Tony swallowed, the taste of burnt cherries filling his mouth again, and came over his hand.

 **

Tony wasn’t sure how long it had gone on. He was exhausted, covered in scrapes and bruises from the stone floor, his knees, his back, his hands, everywhere. He had fallen forward on his face at some point and his chin was still bleeding sluggishly down his throat.

He was on his back with arms outstretched and his legs over Steve’s shoulders. Steve was fucking him hard, pushing him across the floor. Tony wasn’t participating any more, just lying there like a rag doll on the floor taking it, but his cock was still in the game, twitching and pulsing precome as Steve pounded his prostate. He couldn’t even moan, his mouth and throat were too dry, but he was about to come again. He was close.

There was a sound down the hall. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard anything but Steve’s instructions, his own panting breath, and the slapping of flesh against flesh, but there was something else now. It hovered at the edge of his perception, but his impending orgasm was drowning it out.

Steve paused and glanced behind him and then looked back at Tony. He lowered his legs off his shoulders and leaned over to press a kiss to Tony’s mouth. He smiled, eyes glittering with peculiar pink lights, and whispered in Tony’s ear, “You were great,” before thrusting one last time.

Tony closed his eyes and came. His whole body shuddered with it, jittering and juddering against the cold stone floor. It hurt and felt amazing and went on forever. He kept his eyes shut tight, but tears still ran down his face into his ears. He shouldn’t have been able to cry or to come. Not like this. It should have been dry. It was impossible that he had any moisture left anywhere in his body, but he could feel it splattering his belly and chest.

When he opened his eyes, he was staring at acoustic ceiling tiles. The dungeon was gone. He was lying on dirty carpet in an empty beige room like any of a million offices for rent.

He looked around and realized he was alone on the floor. Steve wasn’t between his spread thighs; he was standing in the door in his uniform and cowl, holding his shield and staring at Tony with something very like horror in his eyes.

Tony saw Cap open his mouth to say something, but he passed out before he heard what it was.


Tony woke up in a room in SHIELD Medical feeling every bruise, abrasion, and pulled muscle. Bruce was sitting in a chair by his bed reading his chart. He always did that. He said that the fact that he wasn’t an MD didn’t mean he didn’t understand what constituted good care. He kept an eye on the SHIELD doctors and everything they did to any of the team. He looked up when Tony reached for the pitcher sitting on the rolling tray parked beside his bed.

“Here, let me.” Quickly overcoming his surprise, Bruce got up and reached over the bed to pour some water into a plastic cup and then helped Tony raise the bed so he could sit up and drink it. As soon as he was sure Tony had a firm grip on it, he reached for the call button.

Tony grabbed his wrist. “Wait.” His voice sounded rough. He took another sip of water and tried again. “I want to talk to you before you bring a doctor in here.”

Bruce looked at him. Tony waited for him to correct him, remind him that technically he was a doctor because that was something they usually did when Tony landed here in Medical (it was so much easier to put stuff over on the docs when Bruce wasn’t around, so he always put up a fight when Bruce stayed), but Bruce didn’t. He finally nodded and sat down. “Okay, but you have to let me bring someone in to check you out eventually. You’ve been out for three days.”

Tony let his head fall back against the pillow. “Three days? How the hell have I been unconscious for three days?”

Bruce held up his chart and shook his head. “We’re assuming it’s some consequence of the magic. There’s been no discernible medical reason for it. You had a bump on your head, but no fractures, no brain injury. It wasn’t a coma. You were just sleeping and wouldn’t wake up.” He put the chart down and looked at Tony. “How are you feeling? Do you remember what happened?”

Tony rubbed his hand over his face, wincing when he hit the sore spot on his chin. He had a couple of stitches. “Those are two very different questions with basically the same answer: a fucking mess.”

Bruce looked a little uncomfortable but asked, “Do you want to talk about it?”

Tony laughed a little. “Bruce, I love you like I imagine someone would love a brother, but if you try to get me to talk about this I may punch you, and that wouldn’t be good for you, me, or anyone in a ten mile radius.”

Bruce grimaced. “Ten miles is actually pretty optimistic, but I have to ask.” Tony glared at him. “Nick Fury will want to know and he won’t be concerned about you punching him.” Tony glared some more, but Bruce didn’t look away. “The others are worried.”

Tony gave up on the glaring and looked away. “Let’s go with the ‘I don’t remember’ option. That should satisfy everyone.” He picked at the blanket. “Where are the others?”

Bruce sighed. “We’ve been taking turns sitting with you. Clint and Natasha are resting at the Tower – they were here all last night – and Thor and Cap left this morning to take Loki back to Asgard.”

At the mention of Steve, Tony could feel his face burn and his cock jump. He pulled a knee up to tent the blanket and asked, “Cap was here?”

Bruce leaned back in his chair a little. He always seemed to know when people needed space. “He’s been here a lot, more than any of us.”

“Did he tell you about finding me?” Tony’s tone was aggressive, but he still wasn’t looking at Bruce.

“He mostly talked about making Loki pay.” Bruce shook his head. “Thor went after him with Natasha and Clint, while Steve and I went after you, and it’s a good thing Thor got to him before Steve did. He was… I don’t know. I can’t really believe I’m saying it about Steve, but if Thor hadn’t stayed between them, I think he may have killed him.”

Tony let out a bark of surprised laughter. “Cap? A killer? Come on. I mean, he’s a soldier and he’ll do what he has to in battle, but to just kill a man, a prisoner? No. There’s no way.”

Bruce waited until Tony looked at him to reply in a firm voice. “You didn’t see him. I don’t know if he went with Thor to ensure he got delivered or to try to make sure he didn’t.”

Tony couldn’t wrap his head around it so he decided to put the topic aside. Something occurred to him. “Wait, Thor and the others – they found Loki at the same time you found me?”

Bruce frowned a little at the abrupt change of subject, but nodded. “Just about. It seems like he just took you to distract us. I don’t know why he didn’t consider that we could find you and stop him all at the same time. Overconfidence, I suppose. He wanted an alien artifact that SHIELD found a couple of weeks ago, an energy source.” He smiled wryly. “They seem to find a lot of that stuff lately, but this one did seem promising. I’m sorry I didn’t get more time with it, but Thor’s taking that to Asgard, too.”

Tony rolled his hand in an impatient circle. “I don’t care what he wanted as long as he didn’t get it. Just tell me if you can confirm that he wasn’t actually with me the whole time I was there.”

Bruce was a lot of things, but he wasn’t dumb. “Tony, that wasn’t Loki. It wasn’t a real person at all. It was an illusion.”

Tony paled. “What was an illusion?”

Bruce lowered his voice. “Tony, it was pretty obvious what happened to you. They did a rape kit.” He put a hand on Tony’s arm. “The only semen they found was yours.”

That was definitely the end of the conversation as far as Tony was concerned. He pushed the rolling tray away from the side of the bed hard enough that it crashed into the wall. He flung himself out of bed and almost immediately his legs folded beneath him, rubbery from disuse. He managed to hit the floor on his chin and he felt one of the stitches pop, felt blood ooze from the wound. He pushed himself up and staggered into the bathroom where he slammed the door and then found that he couldn’t lock it. Fucking hospital bathrooms. He slid down to the floor, leaning against it. If they wanted in, they’d have to come over him.

He heard footsteps approach outside. “Tony, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean… I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Tony took a deep breath. And another. He closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the door.

Bruce didn’t try the door. “I’m going to leave, Tony. I’m going to make some calls and let everyone know you’re awake. Please, let the doctor check you out, ok?”

Tony concentrated on breathing. In and out. Steady deep breaths. He heard Bruce walk away and the door to the room open and close. He stayed on the floor and breathed.

 **

Bruce must have told the staff to give him some time because it was about half an hour before someone tapped on the bathroom door. Tony agreed to an exam as long as he didn’t have to answer any questions beyond “How’s that feel?” and he got the good pain drugs when they were done.

Three days just wasn’t enough sleep.

 **

Tony should have asked for something to suppress dreams. He was back in the dungeon, lying on the floor. Steve was straddling his chest, holding his arms down, and fucking into his mouth. God, it was torture. His hips kept lifting, thrusting into the air, but there was nothing, no friction and no relief. Tony moaned his frustration around Steve’s cock and Steve gasped at the sensation and chuckled. “Be a good boy, Tony. Show me you want me. Want you to come just from this. Come on, Tony, I know you can do it.” Steve thrust deeper into his throat and…

Tony woke up choking in the dark room in Medical. He sat up, coughing and flailing, pushing at a body that wasn’t there. His dick throbbed, and he clenched his fists and teeth, refusing to touch the damn thing.

“Do you want some water, Anthony?”

Tony whipped his head around to see Thor sitting on the chair beside his bed. “Jesus, don’t you people ever get tired of watching me sleep?”

Thor got up and took the water pitcher off the rolling tray into the bathroom. “You shouldn’t be alone, my friend.” Tony saw the light in the bathroom come on, a wedge of light in the indigo darkness of the room and heard the tap running.

The light clicked off and Thor came back into the room and poured a cup of water out of the pitcher for Tony. Tony grasped it and took a long swallow. He could still taste Steve’s cock. He drained the cup.

Thor filled it again and sat back down. “There’s no way to make right what my brother did to you. I am sorry.”

Tony sighed. “Thor, I don’t want to talk about it, but I don’t blame you. You can’t take responsibility here. For one thing, you didn’t do anything and for another, I don’t have it in me to comfort you right now.”

Thor nodded. “You are right. I don’t wish to add to your burden and I will not do so, but there is something I must say.”

Tony drained the cup again and waved his hand. “Not like I can stop you, but all I really want to hear is that you guys put Loki somewhere he can’t escape this time.”

Thor looked down. In the light filtering in from the small window, Tony couldn’t make out his features, just a bulky silhouette with a fall of blonde hair. He slumped in the chair, shame or fatigue or sorrow or maybe all three bending his usual regal posture. “I truly believe that I may never see my brother again. He has been cast into a prison that even Odin may not be able to open again.”

 Tony reached over and patted him on the arm. “Hey, you don’t have to give me any details. I trust you.” He gripped his arm and gave it a little shake before letting go and sitting back up. “I’m sorry. You know, that you lost your brother.”

Thor shook his head. “He deserved his fate. The Captain was right to argue for a harsh sentence.”

“The Captain did what?” Tony asked before he could stop himself. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

Thor sat up a little straighter, more like himself. “He stood before Odin and demanded that Loki be held accountable for his crimes. He was most eloquent.”

Tony swallowed. “He came back with you, right? Is he here?”

“I asked him to let me stay tonight, so I could talk to you. Bruce also told him to wait. He said you would need time.” Thor inclined his head toward Tony. “He does not wish to cause more hurt for you, but it is most difficult for him to stay away.”

Tony put the cup down on the bedside table and layback down, turning away from Thor. “I think I’m going to get some more sleep. You should go. That chair can’t be comfortable to sleep in.”

Thor waited until Tony got settled under the blankets. “Loki is a liar, but that’s not the worst of his crimes. He mixes lies with truth and spits them all back in your face. He finds what you value and does his best to spoil it. Do not let him do that, Anthony. Do not let him take what you and the good Captain have.”

Tony didn’t turn over, but answered, “What do we have?”

He heard Thor lean back in the chair. It creaked a bit under his mass. “It is not for me to put a name to it, my friend. You should talk to Steven.”

Tony lay there and thought about that for a few minutes. Eventually, he heard Thor start snoring. It was actually kind of soothing. He fell back to sleep listening to it.

 **

The next morning Tony asked Thor to go out to get them something for breakfast, arguing that hospital food was inedible. Thor, being the agreeable fellow he was, set out in search of sweet rolls and bacon, leaving behind the Stark phone Tony had gifted to him so Tony could call Pepper and Rhodey and let them know he was okay.

Tony called Happy to come get him and snuck out of the room to a hall closet he knew held scrubs. He taped some gauze over the arc reactor to hide its glow and traded his gown for a set of dark green surgical scrubs, then walked out of the building to the waiting car.

Happy obviously didn’t have much detail about what had happened, and it was a relief to listen to his chatter on the way back to the tower. They went through a drive-through and got breakfast burritos and listened to some inane wacky morning crew. It felt normal and right, like Tony was on his way to a meeting or an appointment, like nothing had changed.

Happy drove into Tony’s private garage at the Tower and let him out next to his personal elevator. Tony asked him to wait. He needed to go to the airport. Just needed to grab some stuff first and wash the hospital smell off his skin.

Happy gave a little salute. “Sure thing, boss.” Tony left him leaning back in the front seat, listening to the radio and singing along.

Tony pushed the button and stepped into the elevator as the doors opened. “Honey? I’m home.”

JARVIS answered immediately, “Sir, it’s good to have you back. I was not informed that SHIELD was releasing you today.”

Tony leaned back against the rail and smiled. “Workshop level. Do you believe that I waited for anyone to release me? Listen, I’m going to the Malibu house for a week or so.” He thought of Pepper, no-nonsense, take no bullshit Pepper, still living in Malibu. “Or maybe Vegas. I haven’t been to Vegas in ages. Just cancel everything for a week, okay? Book Vegas if there’s a flight in the next three hours. Pick anywhere else if there isn’t.”

“Sir, don’t you think you should stay here and recover a little?” JARVIS stopped the elevator.

“No, Mom, I really don’t but thanks for the concern.” Tony stepped out of the elevator and started walking down the hall to the workshop. “Have someone in housekeeping go up to my suite and pack a bag and –”

Tony stopped short outside the workshop. On the other side of the glass walls, Steve Rogers sat at a workbench with a sketchbook open in front of him. When he saw Tony, he stood up. He swayed a little, back and forth, as though he couldn’t decide whether to move forward or not.

“JARVIS, you rat bastard. I swear to god I’ll rewrite your software and sell you to a second-rate fast food chain to take burger orders through a clown face.” Tony couldn’t move, couldn’t look away from Steve. He looked so worried and so… hopeful.

“You didn’t ask about Captain Rogers’ whereabouts, Sir, but he’s been in there since last night. He’s been very concerned about you.”

Tony looked at Steve. His face was haggard. It was hard to make a Super Soldier look haggard. He thought about Thor and what he had said. He thought about Steve coming to get him and taking Loki to Asgard. He thought about Steve watching movies with him and making him go for runs on cold mornings and hanging out in his workshop, talking for hours.

Tony stepped forward and punched his code into the keypad, watched the door slide open, and walked inside.