Steve knows his life would be easier if he didn’t love Tony Stark. On a good day, Tony is frustratingly self-absorbed. On a bad day, he’s infuriatingly, totally oblivious to everything going on outside his own head. But if he’s learned anything over the years, it’s that easier rarely means better, and for all the times Tony makes him want to walk out and never look back, there are hundreds of other moments that make staying so much more worthwhile.
Like now, with Tony just starting to wake beside him, his lips already curving up in a sleepy smile.
“Stop staring at me,” Tony murmurs, his eyes still closed. “Shouldn’t you be out jogging or doing a crossword or whatever it is you morning people do while everybody else sleeps?”
“You have the Board of Directors meeting today.”
“Can’t I just send Pepper?” Tony whines.
“Pepper’s taking a much-deserved day off.” Steve reminds him.
“Then I get to play hooky too.”
“Nope. She told me I have to make sure you get there, even if I have to throw you over my shoulder and carry you.”
“Is that a promise, Captain?” Tony smirks.
“Go take a shower, Tony.” Steve says, exasperated. “I’ll make breakfast.”
“What, no canoodling first?” Tony pouts, although his eyes are dancing mischievously.
“Maybe if you were more of a morning person, we’d actually have time.” Steve grins. “But you slept in.”
“But what am I going to remember you by in the wasteland of the conference room while all those idiots drone about budgets and ethics and shareholders?”
“You’re a genius, Tony. I’m sure you’ll think of something.”
With that Steve slides out of bed, managing to evade Tony’s grasp since the other man’s reflexes are much slower in the mornings.
Steve makes coffee—although he’s still not sure what half the buttons on Tony’s fancy, shiny, ridiculously expensive coffee maker actually do—because it seems unfair to unleash a grumpy, decaffeinated Tony on Stark Industries’ Board of Directors. Granted, it’s probably not anything they haven’t dealt with before, but Tony’s going to be particularly annoyed when he eventually works out that today is a Saturday.
* * *
In a display of defiance, Tony pulls on jeans and a faded AC/DC t-shirt instead of a suit. Yes, it’s childish, but he’s never claimed to be mature.
“Tony, your coffee is getting cold!” Steve calls from the kitchen, like he couldn’t have just told JARVIS to relay the message. Of course, Steve is still getting used to JARVIS and Tony would never admit it out loud, but domesticity is kind of growing on him and maybe an AI playing go-between would sort of ruin that whole Lucy, I’m home thing. Which, for the record, Tony only said once and Steve just blinked at him, confused; Steve is so thoroughly unfazed by the modern world now that Tony sometimes forgets there’s still a huge chunk of pop culture he doesn’t know.
In the kitchen, Steve leans against the counter eating what looks like oatmeal, and Tony didn’t even know they had oatmeal, let alone that Steve eats it on any kind of regular basis. Apparently these are the sorts of things he misses, not being morning person.
“Want some?” Steve offers and Tony shudders.
“I’ll stick with coffee, thanks.” He says, and frowns slightly at the travel mug Steve hands him.
“Happy’s waiting outside.” Steve explains. “You have twenty minutes to get there.”
“You’re really making me go?”
“Yes. Pepper has threatened harm to certain parts of my anatomy if you don’t show up.”
Tony scoffs at that. The only one Pepper will castrate for missing this meeting is Tony. “Please,” he rolls his eyes. “Pepper loves you.”
“Well, just in case, you’d better get going.”
“Fine,” Tony huffs. “But if I die of boredom, I’m holding you accountable.”
Steve just grins and pulls Tony in for a goodbye kiss. “Have fun.”
“Yeah, right.” Tony grumbles.
The board meeting is, unsurprisingly, anything but fun. There’s a reason he usually avoids these things like the plague. He’s the youngest there by ten years and the smartest by at least twenty IQ points, and he feels like all he does is spend hours dumbing down whatever technology the company is currently working on to justify it to a bunch of stuffed shirts.
Blessedly, though, the meeting ends a whole half hour early and Tony has somehow managed to avoid insulting and/or offending all of the Board. Just half of them, which—considering his total lack of brain-to-mouth filter—shows a pretty impressive level of restraint on his part.
It happens just as they’re all gathering their things to leave. Tony hears the blast seconds before he registers what’s happening, and by the time he understands it’s too late. There’s smoke everywhere and the fire alarms start wailing and before he can come up with a plan there are hands grabbing him and hauling him away, out of the conference room where most of the Board is shrieking in panic.
He thrashes and struggles and drags his feet, anything to attempt to slow down his captors. He counts four of them, but there could be more.
“Stop that,” one of them snaps and Tony twists harder. It’s completely ineffectual, and not for the first time he wishes for super-strength like Steve or Thor. Even the ability to Hulk out would come in handy here. Something hits him in the back of the head—hard—and everything goes black.
* * *
Steve remembers the first time Pepper came down the stairs into Tony’s workshop to find him sitting at one of the workstations, hunched over his sketchbook while Tony worked on something across the room. The music had been too loud for either of them to actually talk to each other, but Steve had seen on Pepper’s face how significant it was that Tony was tolerating his presence in the workshop at all.
It was the first place Steve truly felt welcome in Tony’s massive Malibu house, and it’s still his favourite place to be, even when Tony isn’t there. The rest of the house feels like a museum sometimes, cold and mostly for show, but the workshop actually feels like Tony. A little bit disorganised, but incredibly brilliant.
He’s sketching aimlessly at the desk Tony moved into the corner of the room for him when JARVIS’ automated voice jars him out of his thoughts.
“Captain Rogers, sir, if you can turn your attention to the news…there’s something you should see.”
Steve’s gotten used to JARVIS, mostly, but this is the first time he’s ever heard the AI sound so…nervous? Would Tony program his AI with a nervous setting?
The TV screen turns on and it takes Steve a minute to understand what he’s looking at. There’s smoke billowing in the background and a building that looks familiar although he can’t place it because his brain doesn’t seem to be working like normal, and a blonde reporter talking at the camera and he hears Stark Industries and bomb and—
“Luckily, all injuries are minor, however Stark Industries CEO Tony Stark is still unaccounted for. Authorities believe he may have been kidnapped, however very little information is available at this time,” the blonde reporter says.
“Just do it. He’s fine. He probably left the meeting early. You know what he’s like.” Steve insists. He can hear the hysteria in his voice and he doesn’t know how to stop it.
The call goes straight to voicemail. He intends to keep calling until Tony answers, but before he can his own phone starts ringing in his pocket. He scrambles for it.
“It’s Natasha.” She corrects him primly, although Steve thinks there’s a slightly apologetic tone to her voice. “We just saw. We’re on our way.”
“All of us.”
“Avengers assemble,” Steve says flatly.
“I don’t know what to do.” Steve admits. He can’t remember the last time he felt this helpless; even when he was trying to rescue Bucky he at least had something resembling a plan. He doesn’t even know where to start today.
“I called Pepper, she’ll be there soon. Wait for us. Also, keep the phone lines open in case the kidnappers try to contact you.”
“Fuck,” Steve swears, which is something he very rarely does. “Fuck, Natasha, I can’t—
“Just hang in there, Cap. We’ll be there soon.” It’s the most sympathetic Steve has ever heard her sound, which is probably the least reassuring thing about this whole conversation.
* * *
Tony wakes with the business end of a gun pressed against the base of his skull. Funny, how he never forgets that feeling. He struggles, trying to reach the arc reactor to make sure it’s still where it should be—which has become his kneejerk reaction to pretty much everything since Obie pulled it out of his chest—only his hands are cuffed behind his back. He has a moment of wholly irrational panic, before forcibly reminding himself that he’s alive, therefore the reactor is fine.
His next thought is somewhere along the lines of oh fuck not again, followed quickly by what dumbass thought kidnapping Tony Stark was a good idea? Because seriously, this kidnapping thing: been there, done that, definitely in worse living conditions than this…warehouse? Basement? Also, Stark Industries doesn’t pay ransoms—company policy. Plus, he’s Iron Man, part of a team of equally badass superheroes and Captain fucking America is his boyfriend. Barring all that, there’s Pepper, who seemed pretty hell-bent on ripping any future Tony kidnappers limb-from-limb the last time this happened. Oh, yeah, and Rhodey, who could probably assemble the entire United States’ armed forces if he made enough phone calls. So really, anybody who’d think it’s a good idea to kidnap him can’t be firing on all cylinders.
He starts to try to say all of this, only to find that the reason his mouth tastes like a dirty gym sock is because there is, in fact, a dirty gym sock jammed in his mouth. He fights the urge to gag, and is mostly successful.
“He’s awake,” grunts one of the thugs. The one with the gun, Tony thinks.
“Whaddya want me to do about it?” The second is outside of Tony’s line of vision, and his head is throbbing from whatever they hit him with earlier, so he can only vaguely pinpoint Thug Two somewhere behind him, which is pretty useless.
He strains against the handcuffs, which doesn’t do anything but make them bite into his wrists and make Thug One press the gun tighter against Tony’s skull.
“Cool it,” Thug Two says. “He’s not going anywhere. He’s not like the rest of his freak friends. No superpowers without his big shiny suit.”
Tony bristles, but it gets the message across to Thug One, who at least takes the gun away form Tony’s head. He’s not stupid, he knows it’s still trained on him, but at least it’s not actually touching him anymore.
He takes advantage of this to scan the room, but it certainly wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that his chances of escape are slim. No windows, nothing he could try to use as a weapon, and the door must be behind him, since he can’t see one. His only option, it seems, is to wait to be rescued.
* * *
Waiting around for kidnappers to contact Tony’s nearest and dearest with a ransom demand that SI can’t pay is pure torture. If this had been listed in the job description, Pepper never would have applied. Of course, if Pepper were just a normal assistant, instead of Tony Stark’s, she wouldn’t be among the nearest and dearest. Technically, she probably isn’t anymore, considering how spectacularly their relationship crashed and burned, and besides, Tony has Steve now. Steve who is solid, dependable and way too good for Tony; who is currently running himself ragged trying to find something to do; who needs Pepper here, because she knows what it’s like to do this alone, and she’d never wish that on another person, especially one that loves Tony the way Steve does.
“You should eat something.” She suggests.
“Trust me.” She says. “I’ve been here before.”
Steve flinches and Pepper wonders how much Tony’s told him about Afghanistan. Probably more than he’s told her.
She rummages through the mostly empty kitchen cupboards (seriously, what do Steve and Tony actually live on?) and unearths a lonely bag of pretzels. It’s better than nothing, and when she sets the bag out, Steve actually grabs a handful every few times he paces by.
The arrival of the Avengers at least breaks up the monotony of waiting. Pepper (uncharitably, perhaps) is surprised to discover that the entire team has flown in from New York. She’s always gotten the impression that Tony is merely tolerated by the rest of them for his money and his influence and the fact that it’s better to have Tony on the team than to be dealing with a vigilante Iron Man.
But they’re all here, even Fury and Coulson and Dr Banner, although the last seems like more of a liability than an asset at the moment. Pepper doubts Tony’s house could withstand a Hulk-out. Then again, this is Tony; it’s entirely possible he’s fitted out the house to survive everything from the Incredible Hulk to a nuclear holocaust.
Thor claps his hand on Steve’s shoulder, making the super solider wobble unsteadily for a moment.
“Do not worry, Captain. We will find him,” Thor asserts, “even if we must search the length and breadth of Midgard.”
“It won’t come to that,” Fury says quickly.
“Let’s do this thing,” Clint says. “The longer Stark’s gone, the more he’s gonna bitch about how long he had to wait to be rescued.”
Steve at least cracks a small smile at that, and Pepper has a feeling that was Clint’s objective anyway. Regardless of how the team feels about Tony, they all love Steve.
Pepper retreats into Tony’s workshop to do what she does best: field calls, handle the media and keep Stark Industries running. It’s actually comforting in its familiarity, and she can tell herself it’s just like any other time Tony fucks off to who knows where with no warning. Of course it isn’t and that’s the problem, but for now the thought keeps the worry at bay, somewhat.
* * *
As far as kidnappings go, this one is certainly less…eventful than his first. Which is definitely a good thing, but Tony’s so incredibly bored that he’s almost hoping for somebody to come in and bully him into assembling some kind of bomb. Of course he wouldn’t actually agree to do that, which would probably lead to getting waterboarded again, or something equally as awful, and really, Tony’s had enough PTSD to last him a lifetime.
He’s managed to spit the gym sock out of his mouth, at least; Thug One and Thug Two don’t seem to care. Still, they aren’t very chatty, and he hardly wants them to get annoyed and shoot him, so the past several hours are the longest Tony has voluntarily gone without speaking. Ever.
But he needs a piss and he’s thirsty and he lost the feeling in his hands a few hours ago, so if something doesn’t happen soon, he’s prepared to start whining. He doubts his guards are the brains of the operation; surely a head honcho will show up eventually. Or the Avengers. Even Justin Hammer would be a welcome break from staring at a blank stretch of wall.
As if on cue, he can hear a door creaking open and footsteps thundering down the stairs (basement, then, not warehouse—good to know, although hardly useful to him at the moment). He can hear Thugs One and Two snap to attention, so this is definitely Head Honcho making his appearance.
He’s not quite the kidnapper Tony was expecting. He has that All-American-aw-shucks-boy-next-door look, except for the scar running down the side of his face and neck and disappearing into the collar of his army fatigues.
“You know, you’re shorter in person.”
“I get that a lot. It’s the armour.”
"Ah yes. Iron Man.”
“Good. You know who I am. I imagine that means you realise what’s going to happen now you’ve kidnapped me.”
“Kidnapped is such a dirty word.”
“What do you prefer to call taking me against my will and handcuffing me to a chair, then?”
“You aren’t going to get any money from this.”
“I don’t want money.”
“What do you want, then? If this is about the government wanting the Iron Man armour, I already won that lawsuit.”
“I can see why you might jump to that conclusion,” Scarface grins, glancing down at his uniform, “but you’re wrong again, Mr Stark. Aren’t you supposed to be a genius?”
Tony has at least fifteen snappy retorts ready, but he knows from experience that being mouthy while kidnapped (sorry, being used as leverage) is always a poor choice.
Scarface laughs. “Get comfortable Mr Stark. We’ll be here awhile.”
* * *
“This is too easy.” Natasha says suspiciously. “Nobody leaves a paper trail like this unless it’s intentional.”
“Misdirect, then?” Clint guesses.
“Trap,” Steve says, and Natasha nods. “For me specifically.” Steve adds, sighing heavily.
“How do you figure that one?” Clint frowns. “They could be trying to lure in as many of us as possible.”
“They’d do something bigger if they wanted all of us. Civilians, school kids, something like that. They took Tony because he’s my boyfriend, not because he’s Iron Man.” Admitting it makes Steve’s stomach twist, but he pushes the feeling away. They don’t have time for him to worry, he just needs to find Tony and bring him home in one piece.
“We have no way of knowing that, Cap.” Fury reasons.
“Yes we do. If this were about money or weapons, they would’ve contacted SI with demands. If this were about Iron Man, SHIELD would be hearing from them. Neither of those things has happened. This is a message for me.”
“I think he’s right,” Bruce says, making them all startle. It’s easy to forget Bruce is in the room sometimes now that he’s all about staying as calm as possible.
“There are certain groups who have a problem with Captain America belonging solely to SHEILD.” Coulson points out. “We have the technology, theoretically anyway, to create more super soldiers and we’re not taking advantage of it.”
“When you say certain groups, you mean the military.” Natasha rolls her eyes. “Like the Iron Man situation.”
“Yes. Which luckily, we managed to smooth over with War Machine. Somehow I don’t think we’ll be able to find the same compromise with Captain America, as we don’t have any spare super soldiers lying around.” Coulson pinches the bridge of his nose like he’s trying to fend off a headache.
“Let’s backtrack. Are we accusing the United States military of kidnapping Stark?” Clint grins, “Because I love a batshit crazy conspiracy theory.”
“We aren’t accusing anyone.” Coulson snaps. “We aren’t a big enough division to take on the armed forces, and we can’t prove any of this.”
“How is that different than any of our other missions?” Natasha shrugs. “Technically, we can’t even prove Thor exists, and he’s sitting right there. Not to mention his brother—
“I do not understand.” Thor interrupts Natasha’s inevitable snide comment about Loki. “We know where Tony is. We are strong enough to defeat his captors. We must rescue him.”
“Sorry to interrupt.” Pepper appears in the room, Bluetooth headset in, carrying a tablet and a phone and looking harried. “But we have a situation. I have a friend at CNN who just emailed me something. It’s going to air in ten minutes. JARVIS, play the video please.”
The screen on the wall opposite them flicks to life, and Steve finds himself looking at Tony handcuffed to a chair. He’s surrounded by guns and if it weren’t for the AC/DC t-shirt, Steve would wonder if he was looking at old Afghanistan footage.
“Now.” A voice off camera prompts.
“No.” Tony says through his teeth. His lip is split and bleeding and there’s a bruise blossoming beneath his eye.
A hand reaches out and grabs the arc reactor beneath Tony’s t-shirt, twisting it slightly. Tony’s eyes widen in panic, although his expression remains defiant.
“Do it. I dare you. Without me, what happens to your leverage?” Tony taunts.
Steve jumps when the butt of one of the guns connects with the back of Tony’s head with a hollow thud. Tony slumps and Pepper whimpers.
“You have until midnight, Captain America.” The same off-camera voice warns, before the screen goes black.
“Well, I think we can all agree that was a pretty clear message.” Natasha says dryly. “And did anyone else notice the guns and uniforms? Standard army issue.”
“We are not jumping to conclusions.” Coulson grinds his teeth together. “Let’s just get Stark out of this fucking mess first. Oh, Jesus, somebody catch him.”
It’s not until Thor, Clint and Fury grab him that Steve realises he’s started running for the door.
“Calm down, Cap,” Clint says, surprisingly soothingly. “We’re gonna get him. It’s gonna be okay.”
Steve shakes his head. “If they take the reactor—
“I know. They won’t. We know where he is. We’ll get there.”
“I think it would be better if Captain America remained here.” Fury says, not meeting Steve’s eyes.
“You know as well as I do that that’s not going to happen.” Steve scowls.
“We don’t have time to argue about this, sir.” Clint says. “And he’ll just follow us anyway.”
* * *
It doesn’t take Tony long to figure out that Scarface is just a little bit unstable. He definitely used to be military, but Tony would guess he’s probably been dishonourably discharged. Tony makes the mistake of asking for water and gets punched in the face, and then profusely apologised to, but never actually gets his water.
When Thug Three shows up with a camera, Tony’s pretty sure he knows this drill.
“You’re going to beg your pretty boy Captain America to come rescue you.” Scarface instructs, leaning close, his gun tracing a line from Tony’s cheekbone down to his jaw menacingly.
“No.” Tony doesn’t intend to do anything of the sort. Pain explodes below his eye and his head snaps to the side, his brain scrambling. The camera is on now, the red recording light staring him down.
“Now.” Scarface says.
Tony’s vision is slightly out of focus and his head throbs. He grits his teeth. “No.”
Scarface grabs the arc reactor glowing faintly beneath Tony’s t-shirt, and twists just enough that Tony can feel it lifting out. He’s not even sure of the words tumbling out of his mouth, he might be begging Steve to come find him, he might be telling Scarface to fuck off, all he knows is it can’t be right, because something hits him in the back of the head (again). He doesn’t lose consciousness immediately this time, it slips away from him slowly, and the sounds around him becoming garbled like he’s underwater before his eyelids droop closed.
He wakes to Thugs One through Three and Scarface bickering.
“He’s still got half an hour.”
“He’ll show, he’s Captain fucking America.”
“Let’s kill ‘im anyway. Fucking hate Stark.”
“No.” Scarface snaps. “Killing him gets us nowhere. It’s Captain America’s blood we want, not Stark’s.”
Tony’s feeling pretty hazy from the number of times he’s been whacked in the head today, but that sets off alarm bells. This has never been about Tony, it’s about Steve. Or, more accurately, Captain America. Frustratingly, there’s nothing he can actually do with that information.
Thor’s hammer busts the door open, Tony can tell because some of the splinters are blasted far enough into the room to land in his lap. The room explodes with the sound of gunfire, but Tony can still pick out the unmistakeable clang of bullets ricocheting off of Captain America’s shield. He hears the thud of a body hitting the ground and hopes it’s one of the thugs, but with bullets rebounding everywhere it could literally be anyone.
Tony’s not prepared for someone to slam into the back of his chair and send it flying forward but whoever it is manages to catch him before he lands on his face. Giant green arms wrap around him, which at least answers that question. Tony guesses Hulk is the designated Tony-shield today.
It’s over quickly. Not surprising, really. It wasn’t even a fair fight. Not that Tony minds. Hulk lumbers away from him when Natasha appears. She pats him on the shoulder in an almost-friendly way.
“Hey Nat.” He tries to smile, but it feels like more of a grimace.
“Call me that again and I won’t pick the lock on your handcuffs.”
“My apologies, Agent Romanoff. Won’t happen again.”
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” she says with a wry twist of her lips that could be considered a smile. She kneels behind his chair and has the cuffs unlocked in about ten seconds flat.
He wiggles his fingers and rotates his wrists, the return of normal blood flow painful after however long he’s been stuck here. He doesn’t quite feel up to standing yet, but he drags the chair in a circle so he can at least see the rest of the room. Thug Two is sprawled on the ground, either dead or very incapacitated. Thor looks like he’s enjoying dragging Thugs One and Three across the room by their ankles a little too much.
“Where’s Scarface?” Tony rasps, and Fury and Natasha swivel to look at him.
“Scarface?” Natasha arches one eyebrow.
“The guy in charge. Has a big scar on his face.”
“He ran. Captain America and Hawkeye are following.” Fury says.
Tony leaps to his feet, gets immediately dizzy and has to sit back down. “But that’s exactly what he wants,” Tony protests weakly. “This was all about getting some of Steve’s DNA.”
“That is what Captain America believed as well.” Thor nods.
“Then why is he chasing him?”
“Do you really think any of us were going to be able to stop Cap from chasing the man who kidnapped you?” Natasha asks, looking at him like he has negative three brain cells.
“You should be nicer to me. I’ve had a very traumatic day. And I’m probably concussed.”
Tony’s getting hysterical; he can feel it. It’s like he’s mainlined eight espressos or shocked himself with a dangerous amount of voltage. His heart is racing and his hands are sweating and his whole body feels both twitchy and strangely floaty. He slaps a hand over the arc reactor because it’s his touchstone, the only thing that reassures him when he feels like this.
“He looks like shit.” The voice sounds far away, and it takes Tony a second to place it. It’s Hawkeye, which means Steve can’t be far behind. He can’t look, though, because Natasha grabs the back of his neck and forces his head down between his knees.
“Don’t pass out. Nobody wants to lug you up these stairs.” She says, although there’s no heat behind her words and he can’t help huffing a laugh. Steve’s feet come into his line of vision.
“I got it from here.” Steve sounds only marginally better than Tony feels. He sits on the ground in front of Tony and reaches out, his hands landing on Tony’s shoulders.
“Did you catch him?” Tony asks, his voice wavering.
“Yeah. We did.” Steve says, one of his hands sliding over to Tony’s neck, his fingers rubbing in soothing circles and Tony feels a little bit of the tension drain out of his body.
Tony manages to lift his head a few minutes later. There’s a pretty deep gash on Steve’s forehead and blood all over his face, but it’s already healing.
“Let’s go home.” Tony says.
“Okay.” Steve agrees, getting to his feet and helping Tony up so they can stumble over to where the rest of the team is waiting.
* * *
They find Pepper asleep on their couch when they get home. Steve doesn’t blame her; it’s been an exhausting day.
“D’you wanna talk to her?” Steve asks. “I’m sure she wouldn’t mind being woken up.”
Tony shakes his head. He’s been eerily quiet for the whole ride home. Probably he should be in a hospital right now getting all his injuries checked out, but Steve knows how Tony feels about hospitals and honestly he’s not sure he would have been able to handle leaving Tony’s side tonight anyway.
“Let’s get you cleaned up.” Steve suggests and Tony nods mutely, letting Steve steer him into the master bedroom and towards the bathroom.
“JARVIS, shower just the way Tony likes it, please,” Steve says and Tony’s lips twitch into an almost-smile as the water surges on.
“Only you would be so polite to a computer.” Tony says, although his voice is lacking its usual mirth.
Steve grabs the hem of Tony’s t-shirt, peeling it off his sweaty skin and dropping it on the floor. There are the beginnings of bruises blossoming on Tony’s chest and around his wrists. He can’t help taking Tony’s face in his hands, pressing a few feather light kisses to his lips. Tony leans against him, close enough that Steve can feel the hum of the arc reactor against his chest.
“I know it’s sort of an impossible thing to ask in our line of work, but if you could avoid scaring me like that in the future, I’d appreciate it.” Steve murmurs, and that actually does get a small laugh out of Tony.
“I’ll do my best, babe.”
They shower together, although shower is a pretty generous term. They’re really just clinging to one another under the spray, Tony’s face tucked tight against Steve’s neck. Steve’s done a pretty good job of keeping his emotions in check for most of the day, but they’re all clawing their way to the surface now, the panic and fear and frustration he’s been carrying around all day warring with the relief he feels now, mingling with the overwhelming knowledge of what he could have lost today. Tony is his entire world, and it could have just disappeared in the blink of an eye. Steve’s already lost his whole world once; he doesn’t think he could survive it a second time.
Like he knows what Steve is thinking, Tony rises up on his tiptoes, his mouth finding Steve’s in a fierce kiss, more teeth and tongues than finesse, desperation and reassurance all at once. Tony whimpers though and pulls back and Steve remembers his split lip and his swollen nose and his black eye.
Steve’s tempted to stay in the shower until the water runs cold, but Tony already looks dead on his feet. He’s also shivering despite the scalding temperature, and Steve guesses he’s probably in shock. They towel off and collapse into bed, and Tony, who normally has a few mocking comments per night about cuddling, doesn’t complain about Steve curling around him protectively.
Tony falls asleep almost instantly, one of his hands pressed against the arc reactor. Steve fights sleep for as long as he can, his eyes drinking in the straight line of Tony’s nose and the curve of his shoulder and the reassuring blue glow of the reactor, dimmed beneath Tony’s hand.
This morning already feels like a lifetime ago, and tomorrow will be full of uncertainties—why this happened, how it happened, who’s really responsible, how to keep it from happening again—but for now, there’s just this. Just Steve and Tony and the life they’ve created for themselves. Steve kisses the sensitive skin behind Tony’s ear and lets himself drift asleep to the sound of Tony’s steady breathing.