Okay, so this looks bad. Like, really bad. Tony knows this, he has eyes, and ears, and he’s really very intelligent and all, so he knows just how bad this whole situation is. But—look, it’s not his fault this time. Really. Do not listen to Rhodey, Rhodey is wrong and will try to convince you that Tony is more trouble than he’s worth, but is that really reputable information? Tony thinks not.
“Who is talking?” The gunman is losing patience quickly. His voice shakes, and he screams in a way that betrays his macho, ‘heartless killer’ persona. He’s scared, “Shut up! Whoever’s talking, shut it or I’ll shoot someone!”
Rhodey elbows him in the rubs hard enough that Tony yelps, “Shut up, Tony!”
Yeah, okay, he’s the one talking even though the gunman has made them keep quiet. So what? He rubs his side and gives Rhodey his worst glare, then pushes himself further against the front of the bank teller’s desk.
The phone rings. It’s been doing that on and off all morning, a shrill, ringing noise that is making Tony’s head pound, and if it happens again he is definitely going to say something, gunman or not. It rings two more times before the guy finally picks it up, pacing back and forth between the desks and the wall. He’s tall and dressed in all black, from his dirty hoodie to his cargo pants, and he’s wearing a balaclava that’s actually doing a fairly good job of hiding his features. Tony’s a little impressed on that front, but so far the guy is failing at all other hostile operations.
“Quit fucking calling!” He shouts, holding the bank phone up to the opening of his headgear.
He’s also apparently never heard of negotiations, but Tony can’t fault him for that. He’s sure this is way harder than it looks, probably.
There are six hostages. He and Rhodey are two of them, there’s a lady on his left that’s easily three hundred years old, and there’s a couple across the room from them, hiding under the window ledge, clutching at each other. The girl is shaking, Tony notes from the corner of his eye, and he can’t help but feel bad.
There’s also this guy, tall and built and blonde, blue eyes peeking out from beneath dark lashes. There are a hundred and seven Nazi jokes that Tony wants to make, but they don’t seem appropriate for this particular occasion – maybe later, when he feels like breaking the ice – so he sweeps them under a rug somewhere in a far off corner of his mind. Besides, guy’s cute, and if they make it out of this thing in one piece, then hey. Traumatic events bring people together.
The gunman doesn’t hang up right away like he has been. This time, he stays on the line, and Tony can hear the faint buzzing of voices on the other end that are obviously the police. He can’t tell what they’re saying, but the gunman doesn’t like it, because he makes a strange growling noise in his throat and slams the phone down. Rhodey shifts beside him uncomfortably, and while he doesn’t look scared, Tony hasn’t seen him look this uptight in a long time.
It’s been almost an hour since this whole situation began, and they’re all huddled in on each other with nothing but a ticking clock and that sporadic ringing telephone for company. They’re all shoeless, which Tony had bitched about relentlessly until the gunman had brandished a 9mm in his face and shut him up long enough to get rid of his footwear. The whole thing is a really terrible, sticky situation.
From where he’s sitting, Tony can just see out of one of the floor to ceiling windows of the bank. Out there, out in the sunny afternoon air, is a group of people; some of them are reporters, some police, and the others are bystanders who can’t help but find themselves part of the action.
The phone rings again and Tony shakes his head, eyes rolling up towards the ceiling so hard that Rhodey reaches out and smacks him.
“What?” Tony mouths, eyebrows knitting together, looking woefully offended.
Rhodey glares at him, and his jaw locks, and regardless of the fact that he’s currently someone who’s being held hostage at gunpoint by a man with a load 9mm and an assault rifle tacked on his back, he looks a lot more affronted by Tony’s behaviour.
“Knock it off.”
He’s feeling particularly obstinate today, and this whole situation is frankly rather inconvenient, so Tony picks up his shoe and tosses it at Rhodey, and yes, everyone is staring at them now, thank you for making it uncomfortable, Jim.
“That’s not happening!” The gunman shouts then, suddenly, without warning. Six heads shoot towards him. He’s on the phone with the police again, cradling the receiver against his ear, and his face is red and flushed. Not a good sign, Tony figures, if the voice that’s raising in pitch is any indication, “Unless you’re going to meet my demands, do not call back here! If you call again, I will shoot a hostage!”
That sends a reasonable amount of fear shooting down Tony’s spine. The voice buzzes over the receiver again, and then before he knows it, the gunman is stalking towards the couple under the windowsill with malevolence in his step.
“Get up,” he says to the girl, harsh and rough and quiet, until she doesn’t move and he screams so loudly that she squeaks and jerks to her feet, “Up! Get up!”
The girl is shaking, her hands pale and grasping at herself. The gunman has her by the upper arm, and he squeezes so hard that Tony hears her whine and close her eyes. He drags her over to the window, enough so that she can be seen from the outside, but his body is still protected by the wall.
And then he holds the gun to her head. Tony can hear her whimper and hear her breathing pick up, and she’s white as a ghost and absolutely terrified. He looks around, makes brief, worried eye contact with the blond guy across the room, and then his eyes are back on the girl.
“Tell your men to stand down, meet my demands, or I’ll kill the girl,” the gunman says, and while Tony knows he’s scared, there’s an iciness to his voice that doesn’t sound really all that good, “You have an hour.”
The gunman drags the girl back with him as he goes to hang the phone up, and under the balaclava, Tony can see him wince. Just a brief twinge, nothing more, but something inside Tony clicks. His mind races, the same way it does when he’s in his workshop. He twists towards Rhodey and hisses at him.
“Rhodey,” he tries, and at first Jim doesn’t turn to him, “Rhodes!”
“He told us to be quiet, Tony,” Rhodey says, and he gets the words out before he even faces Tony. His face is hard, his lips pressed into a line, and yep, that’s the soldier in him taking action, “If you get me killed, I’m haunting your ass ‘til you die. No reservations, Tone. I’m talking Poltergeist.”
He doesn’t expect that, and it takes Tony a couple seconds to muster up the wit to answer him.
“Great film,” he whispers. The gunman hasn’t heard them yet – he’s occupied with tying the girl to a chair, binding her wrists and ankles. If this goes sour, she’s going out execution style. Tony’s stomach flips, “Look, I know what we’re going to do to get out of here in once piece.”
“Let me take a jab at this one,” Rhodey hisses back, and frankly he sounds very done with Tony’s antics. Tony can’t remember the last time that he made Rhodey’s voice do that. That has to count for something, right? “Mouth off to the man with the assault rifle until he opens fire?”
Tony scoffs, “God no, nothing that rash.”
He doesn’t say anything, but Rhodey breathes a sigh of relief. Tony’s not sure how to take that, “Thank g—”
“We’re gonna take this son of a bitch out, SWAT style.”
Okay. Rhodey lets that one sink in. Tony watches the emotions play across his face and decides that even though they’re in a hostage situation with a man who’s brandishing an AK-47 and a Glock, this is easily his favorite friendship.
“Naturally,” Rhodey says, and either this must be what Stockholm syndrome is like, or he’s been spending too much time with Tony, because that actually makes a sliver of goddamn sense to him, and Rhodey is a smart man, a good man, a man who usually takes Tony’s ideas with a grain of salt, “What’s the plan?”
1 Hour Earlier
“I just feel like this is a waste of time.”
“Well, look, Tony,” Rhodey says, unbuckling his seatbelt and leaning into the seat. Tony is sitting in the passenger’s seat looking remarkably unimpressed in a pair of sweats, a ratty band shirt, and those stupid sunglasses that sometimes Rhodey thinks he wants to smash, “We wouldn’t have to be here if you knew how to do your own banking.”
Tony scoffs at him, because all right, Rhodey, he is a genius, he can probably figure out how to cash his own cheques and make transfers and check stocks without Pepper coddling him (except that would be nice, because Pepper knows everything).
“I know how to do banking, honeybear,” Tony says, mostly because he likes the way that the pet name makes Rhodey roll his eyes, “I am very smart.”
“Look, Tony, I’ve seen you fill out a cheque. It wasn’t pretty. And if you don’t learn now, you’re never going to learn, and Pepper can’t do your work for you forever, you know, because she does a lot for you, Tony. Way more than you give her credit for. She deserves a lot more respect.”
“Rhodey,” Tony says, taking his sunglasses off and holding them delicately between his index finger and thumb. He turns towards Rhodey and flashes him something of a smile, “Jim. James, sourpatch, sugarlips, sweet—”
That last one earns him a smack on the shoulder, and Tony grins, “Listen, Rhodey, why don’t we just turn this car around, pick up a bottle of something at the liquor store, and hang out in the workshop? I’ve got these new schematics I’ve been dying to put into action and I think you’d like to take a look at ‘em too, very air force related stuff. Repulsor technology and airplanes? I think that’s your gig. Let’s forget this banking stuff.”
Rhodey’s face is flat. He opens the car door, “Get.”
Defeated, Tony joins him. The bank is a big, sprawling place. It takes up a good block with its offshoots and offices, teller’s desks and meeting rooms. Tony can’t actually remember the last time he was there, which he thinks says a lot, but the glass windows and high ceilings are admittedly more aesthetically pleasing that he had anticipated.
“At least you picked a nice bank,” he quips, slipping his sun glasses back onto his face.
“You picked this bank,” Rhodey says, incredulous, “Do you not remember the first time you came here? You flirted with the manager for thirty minutes and I had to drag you out by the lapel. Tone, I can’t believe you’re forgetting this.”
Tony frowns as they step inside the bank, “I can’t remember everything, Rhodey. There’s only so much space up here.”
“Right,” Rhodey laughs this time, which is a nice change, “We’ll go with that.”
The bank is rather busy today, with three tellers open and three very lengthy lines meeting them at their desks. Tony doesn’t like waiting, mostly because his patience is lacking in all the wrong places, but he keeps back his groan of discontent for Rhodey’s sake.
“Surely there is technology that exists for the sole purpose of avoiding these lines,” he says, and if he can’t complain then what sort of life is he living? “I don’t understand why this has to be done face to face.”
“Because I said so,” Rhodey sounds finished, and Tony should back off, but that would be too easy, and he likes this game too much to give up so quickly, “Listen, T, we’re gonna go to up to the teller and do real, in person banking, and you’re going to be better for it. It’s gonna be fine. Come on.”
“Did Pepper put you up to this?” Tony tries one last time, because he honestly wouldn’t put it past her. He doesn’t listen well, and her patience has been wearing thin over the last decade or so.
“Will you be quiet?” Rhodey asks. That’s his exasperation voice. Tony slows it down a little, shoves his hands into his sweatpants pockets, and rocks back on his heels. He’s not a patient man, and he doesn’t like lines. This trip is going to be an overwhelming success.
They move slowly, and five minutes later, when Tony slides his phone out of his pocket to check the time, they’ve only moved ahead by one person. The other lines are having similar luck; people are either taking forever to make their transactions, or they’re there for business that’s above the withdrawal and deposit bracket.
Tony rolls his eyes at Rhodey, hoping he sees it, and turns his attention to the things behind him. There’s desk with a collection of hideous magazines right out of the nineties, with two thankfully more modern looking armchairs bracketing it on either side. The sun is streaming in through the tall windows. The parking lot is full.
The door opens, the chime rings, and the man steps inside. Tony isn’t one to notice people, or behaviour, or anything of that sort. It’s not in his nature, and Pepper and Rhodey like to remind him of that. This guy is different. This guy grabs his attention for two reasons. One, he’s wearing a ski mask, or a balaclava, or something – Tony isn’t exactly up on his knowledge of headgear. The other is fairly obvious: there’s an assault rifle strapped to his body, and his finger sits on the trigger of a pistol.
Okay. This could be a problem, maybe.
He goes unnoticed, just standing in the doorway, surveying his target. Tony’s heart rate picks up. He keeps his eyes on the guy but turns his body towards Rhodey.
“Rhodey,” he whispers, trying to keep his voice down, “Rhodey, hi, we might have a problem here.”
“Tony, can you please quit whining about this? We’re almost at the front of the line. Just hold tight, man.”
Tony reaches out and tugs on Rhodey’s jacket, “Right, okay, but there’s a guy over here with a ski mask and a couple guns, and I think that it might be a problem.”
There is a brief second which in its execution is really almost funny. Tony watches Rhodey spin around, feels him clap an arm across his chest as he pushes Tony behind him, all at the same time the gunman opens fire on the ceiling.
“Get down!” The gunman screams, once the glass stops shattering, the wood stops splintering, and the people stop screaming, “I said get down! All of you, now! Down!”
Every muscle in Rhodey’s body is tense. Tony can tell, because he’s grasping onto his bicep with enough force that he can feel the tendons flex beneath the skin. Rhodey takes a few steps back, and Tony follows him, unsure of what exactly is appropriate behaviour in this particular situation, and then he finds himself slowly sinking to his knees next to Rhodey, never taking his eyes off the gunman.
“I’m being held hostage in sweatpants,” Tony says, and sounds genuinely disappointed about it. The humour is unwarranted and inappropriate, but it’s the only thing he can get his mouth to do.
“Shut up, Tony,” Rhodey hisses, and Tony plans on being offended until he registers the look in Rhodey’s eyes. Fear?
The gunman is seething. His hands are shaking, either in anger or in realization of what he’s done, and based on the sequence of events that has led them to this moment, he’s a bit too trigger happy for Tony’s liking. The thought puts him on edge.
“Stay down, and stay quiet,” the man orders, spitting the words out through the mouth opening of the mask. He points the barrel of the gun at one of the tellers. She’s a pretty lady, mid-thirties and probably someone’s mother, and she flinches at the sight of the fun, “I want everything out of your drawer, and I want the vault open.”
The teller gets to work, hands shaking, and the gunman watches for a minute like he’s in awe of himself, of the control he has. It only lasts for a moment before he spins around to face the group on the floor. Tony is still gripping Rhodey’s arm with all the force in the world, even more so when the guy pockets the pistol in favour of the assault rifle plastered to his back.
Yeah. This could be very bad.
He turns on the group of them, the six of them, waving the gun around madly for what Tony figures is emphasis, and then starts screaming again. Outside, Tony can see the glare of the sun off of the cars outside, the blue of the sky masked by the tint of the tall windows. He thinks about how comfortable his bed would be right now, and wonders why in the name of all that is holy he agreed to this in the first place. Who needs to know how to bank? That’s Pepper’s job.
All right. It shouldn’t be Pepper’s job.
“Shoes, off!” The gunman screams, and no one is stopping to think about it but Tony, because he really doesn’t want to take off his shoes, “All of you! Put them in the centre of the room.”
“Really, guy?” Tony says out loud, before he can stop himself. Rhodey’s head spins towards him and the look on his face would be hilarious in any other context. Instead, Tony flashes him one of those vicious grins he’s known for and gets back to complaining, “What am I gonna do, toss a shoe at you? They’re a pair of worn out Nikes. You should get back to robbing.”
He’s fairly certain he hears an ‘oh my god, Tony’ from the general direction of Rhodey, but he can’t be sure because he’s too focused on the gunman now, who has decided that Tony needs to be answered. He steps closer to him, balaclava covering all the important, identifiable parts of his face, and draws the pistol out of his pocket. Tony stares down the barrel.
“Take off,” he starts, in slow, violent sounding tones, “your shoes.”
Tony kicks them off, throws them towards the pile, and pretends that he doesn’t have a lump in his throat. The gunman steps away, shoves the pistol back into his belt, and stands in the middle of them, looking around and taking it in.
“Phones,” he says next, and nobody says a word, nobody moves, “Phones! Turn them off and put them next to the shoes. If I see one of you with a phone, I’ll shoot a hostage.”
Right, that’s a bad sign. He’s calling them hostages. Tony curls his legs up underneath himself and settles in for the long haul. He watches Rhodey toss the phone into the centre of the room, locks eyes with some of the others as they do the same, fragile and shaking and scared.
He’s not giving up his phone.
“Tony,” Rhodey whispers, because the guy has his back to them now, and if there ever were a good time to make noise during a hostage situation, this would probably be it, “Tony, do what the guy says.”
“Rhodes,” Tony answers, hardly lowering his voice because why should he, he’s Tony Stark, “I just designed this phone. I’m not giving it to some lunatic with an AK-47 and a bad attitude just because he wants to hold up possibly the least practical bank in the United States.” Seriously. No ATMs?
Rhodey looks like his head might explode. Pepper had warned Tony that this could be a possible side effect of people spending too much time with him, but Tony had honestly never thought that he would see it happen in the flesh. He squints at Rhodey and inspects him.
“Put your phone on the pile, Tony. I’m not dying because of you, just do it!”
The gunman hears them hissing at each other and spins on his heel, brandishing his weapon. He comes over, seizes Tony’s phone, and tosses it against the hardwood floor with all the strength he can muster. A crack spreads down the display
“Nice one, Jim.” He whines, doing his best to pout like a child. He turns to Rhodey, thoroughly impressed with himself for at least hanging onto his attitude in this particular situation. The feeling disappears when the gunman smashes the butt of the rifle against the side of his head.
Tony sees stars and hisses, clutching the side of his skull, and if anything, that action sets the tone for how this ordeal is going to play out. His bullshit façade and that shit-eating grin won’t fly here. He resolves to use them both as much as he can.
Trigger Happy turns away from them just as the sirens start, and soon the parking lot is full of more police officers than Tony’s ever seen in one place. He can still see through the window, and he watches them pile out of their cars and surround the place. There’s snipers, there’s old guys, veterans with radios, and more guns than probably necessary.
He could make a killing on just this day alone, if he still made weapons.
A crowd is forming outside. They watch in awe as the SWAT guys arrive. The phone rings for the first time, and the gunman picks it up.
Forehead leaking a little bit of blood, Tony leans back next to Rhodey and entertains the beginnings of what could be his best plan ever.
“What’s the plan?”
They’re huddled against the teller’s desk, whispering to each other in hushed tones that sometimes waver in pitch when Rhodey is particularly frustrated with Tony’s antics. The gunman is busy, still brandishing a weapon to the head of the girl tied to the chair, but now he’s on the phone, screaming to the hostage negotiators about demands and guns and shooting.
Tony looks over his shoulder before he says anything, watching the movements and listening to the conversation. The cut on the side of his head is still bleeding a little, and he’s really not ready to have a matching one on any of the other parts of his body, so he proceeds carefully. Tony shifts closer to Rhodey and looks out his periphery. The blond guy is staring at them.
“Are you still packing?” Tony asks, voice nothing but a whisper.
The disbelief that appears on Rhodey’s face is disproportionate to what Tony feels is appropriate for the question.
“What’s that face for?”
“Tony, he took my gun,” Rhodey says, and what do you know? There it is in the pile of shoes and phones, “You were there! You watched it happen!”
Tony considers this for a moment. He’s not sure this actually happened, because he doesn’t remember it, but he’ll write it off as trauma. He looks back to Rhodey.
“Right. Well. That sort of…throws a wrench into the works, but we’ll get through it.”
He thinks Rhodey might hit him, but really, given the situation, he doesn’t think he would be that offended if he did. Tony leans back against the teller’s desk and closes his eyes. Words and numbers and images flash behind his eyelids, his mind a jumbled mess like it usually is. He thinks about the flash of pain on the gunman’s face when he had first grabbed the girl. Think, Tony.
“I’ll distract him,” Tony starts, “I’ll do my thing, you know what I’m talking about, the hand-waving fast-talking stuff I’m good at, and you overpower him. There’s something wrong with his back, or his spine or something. When he grabbed that girl, you could see it on his face. Something’s up. So you just have to take him down, military style. Try to make it super cool, though, because this is going to end up on the news and I at least want to be able to treasure—”
“You are the worst at planning, Tony.”
Tony frowns at him, “Let’s see you come up with something better, then.”
“Listen, we’ll have to go for the covert angle here, Tone,” Rhodey starts, his whispering intense and his words pointed, “I’ll have to go around the back of this desk and take him out when he turns back towards the window. I don’t want you jumping up or acting stupid, Tony. You hear me? I don’t want you getting killed for running your mouth.”
“Well look at you, huh? Where are all these emotions coming from?”
Rhodey glares, “Shut up, Tony.”
They’re still staring at each other when the whisper behind them makes them jump. Tony’s heart jumps into his throat, and that little lump in his throat gets big enough that he has trouble swallowing for a minute. He and Rhodey both spin around. Big and blond is behind them, all pale skin over stupid huge muscles, and Tony would be a terrible, horrible liar if he said he did not stop to admire the goods for just a minute.
“The covert angle is good, but I think you’ll need the distraction after all. You guys planning a daring escape?”
No one says anything, and no one moves. Tony hadn’t been expecting this – the gunman is still ranting and raving into the receiver of the phone, still poised just off centre of the window so that the cops can see him holding the gun against the poor girl’s head, but not well enough to take a shot. He looks between the blond and Rhodey, and finally settles on the first smartass remark his mouth can spit out.
“Listen, big guy, we’re working on a plan to get us out of here. Why don’t you go back to your spot and hang tight? No one else needs to get hurt here.”
He’s chalking the attitude up to stress. Really, he’s not normally this bad. Regardless, the guy doesn’t even flinch. He smiles a little, and anyone in their right mind would have hit Tony by now – hell, he’s surprised that the gunman isn’t back to pistol whip him – but not this guy. He just looks between Tony and Rhodey and finally settles on the latter.
“This guy’s unpredictable. He moves erratically, see? Back and forth, left and right. He’s new to this, he doesn’t know what to do. If you go without the distraction, no way he’s not going to notice you moving in – you won’t be able to tell how long he’s going to keep his back turned. You won’t take him down without a distraction.”
A smile spreads across Rhodey’s face, “Military?”
“Captain Steven G. Rogers,” the guy says, matching the grin with one of his own. He holds out a hand. Tony’s eyes head skyward, and he focuses his eye line onto the gunman. Military. Whatever, “Steve. 107th.”
“Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes,” Rhodey offers, taking Steve’s hands, “Air Force.”
Steve's smile starts to fade, but finds refuge at the corners of his mouth. Tony can't help but watch the way it plays across his face.
“I'd salute, but, uh, I'm not sure it's appropriate for the situation.” Goddammit, Tony thinks. He's cute and funny. He doesn't need this right now. Later. “It's great to meet you. What route were you planning on takin—”
“Tony Stark. In case you were wondering.” Tony says, because he is an adult, but he can't help himself. He doesn't like being left out.
Steve looks a question at him and Tony can't not answer him. It would be plain rude to keep his mouth shut.
“You know. Genius, billionaire, p—”
“The weapons manufacturer?” Steve interrupts, looking at him strangely. Tony opens and closes his mouth again, looking for his snark. It doesn't come to him.
“Clean energy, now, thank you, but yes, that would be me, in the flesh. Hello, hi there, how can I be of service?”
Rhodey ignores him, and Tony lets it slide because he can’t blame him. The two get back to talking, speaking in military terms that aren’t part of his basic vernacular, so he turns his ears off and closes his eyes. He’s not scared. He’s not. Really. But even Tony can’t deny that there’s something particularly damaging about being held hostage. He entertains a thought that’s been niggling at the back of his mind all morning.
Is he going to get out of this alive?
Tony has heard horror stories, seen news reports and late night crime shows that all show the ways that this might end. He’s seen the cops come to the rescue with tear gas and sniper rifles – ideal, but unlikely. There’s the other thing, too. The CSI team picking through dead hostages, looking for ID kind of thing. He forces the images down and forces his eyes open. He’s not going out in sweatpants, for Christ’s sake.
“I’m hearing a surprising lack of me in your plan, sourpatch,” Tony says, and if anyone says that he uses the pet name just to see the look of surprise on Steve’s face, well, who is he to deny them that freedom? “Where do I come in?”
The look Rhodey gives him is so guilty that Tony can’t even be bothered to be offended by its implications. For a minute, at least, then it kicks in.
“I don’t like that face, I do not like that face at all, Jim, what is that face?”
“Tony, listen to me, I don’t want you to get hurt, okay?” Rhodey starts, and he’s talking fast because he’s known Tony for the better part of twenty five years and this is the only way he’s going to get a word in edgewise, “I’m not going to put you out there as a distraction, you’ll say something stupid and get shot, and I’m not going to lose my best friend, okay? Come on man, hear me out, Steve has military training and he’s a good guy, T, and he—”
Tony’s been spending this time planning his argument, organizing his thoughts, because he is nearly forty two years old now and far more capable of taking care of himself than most people think. He’s irresponsible, not stupid, and frankly, the exclusion is less of a hit to his ego and more of a dig to something else that he can’t quite place. He frowns and fixes Rhodey with a blank stare.
“What, so I’m gonna sit around here and watch you risk getting shot at because you don’t trust me to be able to—”
“You’re not hearing me, Tony, it’s not that I don’t trust you, of course I trust you, Jesus,” Rhodey argues, whispering in harsh tones, “This isn’t about that, this is about having an obligation to keep innocent people safe, and that includes you! Jesus, Tony!
They stare at each other. Tony isn’t very good at processing, even he can admit this, so he keeps his mouth shut and nods his head. It’s the only thing he can get himself to do.
“Fine.” He says, eventually, but he’s not happy about it. He leans back against the teller’s desk and watches the two of them. Tony hates the pity that plays across Steve’s face, hates it, “Fine, do whatever you want.”
The two soldiers turn and look at each other, nodding, and they start to go over their plan again. Tony watches the way Rhodey’s hands move, imagines how that will translate into their movements towards the gunman. He won’t lie – it seems pretty infallible, and Tony doesn’t believe in perfection. It seems so easy.
Right. The gunman.
He marches over to the three of them and glares down at him, phone dangling from his hand. The other one is busy with his weapon. Steve and Rhodey both look up, faces blank and steely. Tony wonders if Steve is scared. If he is, he’s got a great poker face. Rhodey, he’s known too long. He knows what’s behind the mask.
“I told you to shut up,” the gunman says, enunciating each word to the point that they’re barely syllables, staccato in sound, “I told you to shut up, or I’ll kill one of you. Do you want me to kill one of you?”
There are so many responses that Tony has to offer to that one. He can feel them swirling around his tongue, but he doesn’t say anything. The cut on his forehead still burns.
The gunman picks Steve up by the forearm, which, okay, Steve definitely has to be playing along with that one – there’s no way the guy can lift someone like Steve all by himself – and drags him back across the room. Steve sits willingly, looking across at Tony and Rhodey with a blank expression on his face. The gunman puts the phone back up to his head, and Jesus Christ, he’s been on the phone with the cops forever, are they exchanging recipes or something? Tony shakes his head.
No one moves for a long time. They listen to the gunman rattle off at the police over the phone, watch the way he walks back and forth until he’s finally back in front of the window. How helpful would it be if the glass just shattered and cut this bastard’s throat? Tony makes a mental note to invest in something like that when he gets out of this. Who cares about ‘viable’ security options when you have shattering death glass?
Hostage situation. God, he keeps forgetting, how does he keep forgetting?
Suddenly, there’s a tapping noise coming from across the room, and he can’t help but look over. Rhodey’s eyes are hot on his trail. Steve is across the room, hands on the floor, tapping with his fingers. Tony puts his head back and nearly lets out a groan, because of course he’d be attracted to the funny soldier with the fantastic muscles and apparently now either a nervous tic or neurological disorder. Of course. Makes sense. He tilts his head to the side and considers his best friend.
“He’s crazy. You picked the crazy one to help in our op.”
“My op,” Rhodey corrects, “He’s not crazy, it’s Morse code.”
There’s a rhythm in that tapping that appears as soon as Rhodey says that, and Tony kicks himself for not having figured that out first. Tony taps his own fingers in time with Steve’s, catalogues the dots and dashes and makes them letters in his head, like he does with binary code when he’s working on robotics.
The three of them exchange knowing glances, and Steve’s fingers quit their tapping. This is the most high strung Tony swears he has ever been – he’s gone without sleep for days before, he’s been threatened by terrorist cells and organizations and everyone in between – and somehow, this tops the list. He scoots back up against the desk, and trains his eyes on the police outside.
Gunman shouts an expletive into the phone. The police seem to disperse into groups, and before Tony knows it, the phone is being hung up and the gunman has his forearm linked tightly around the throat of the girl in the chair. She makes panicked, breathy noises.
“I’m done negotiating,” the gunman says to no one in particular, and shouldn’t he be telling this to the cops? He really isn’t very good at this. When Tony looks back to Rhodey, he’s gone, his feet the only things visible as he scoots around the back of the teller’s desk.
“You know,” comes Steve’s voice, and he’s getting to his feet, taking huge strides across the bank floor with those long, long legs, “You’re acting like a real big man for someone who’s too cowardly to show his face. You should pick on someone your own size.”
A walking, talking cliché. He’s a cliché wrapped in blond hair and blue eyes, and when they get out of this, Tony is going seduce him with his charms and his wiles and blow his All-American mind. Literally. The gunman turns, and something about Steve is getting under his skin, because that look is back on his face, all unsure and panicked and intimidated. He backs up.
“Sit down!” He yells, reaching for the rifle, “Sit down, I told you to sit down!”
Steve advances on him, smiling the same smile and looking about as harmless as a mouse. Tony catches the tail end of the grin, and something about it is malicious and dangerous, and he wants to see it again, just to be sure he isn’t making it up by sheer force of will. The gunman backs up, closer to the window and still with the girl under his arm.
“I will shoot you!” He’s screaming now, voice wavering uncertainly, “I’ll kill you, back the fuck up!”
And Steve, he grins. All teeth and no lips, a wide smile that he follows up with a shrug, “You could. You could shoot me right now and I wouldn’t even know what hit me. It would be that easy,” he stops, stands still feet away from the gunman and just in front of the window. The police stare at him through the glass, thoroughly confused, “But I don’t think you will. That would require a certain kind of bravery that I just don’t think you have.”
Tony might be in love with this man, but he’s not sure. The gunman’s features – what they can see of them, at least – twist angrily. He goes to say something, but Steve interrupts him.
“Do it,” he taunts, tilting his head to the side, “Do it, big man. Shoot me.”
There’s no red light to catch Tony’s attention like on television, but he’s a very observant man, and there are three snipers across the street on top of the other building. The police have gathered themselves in front of the bank in a crowd, all conversing and shouting orders that Tony can’t make out.
Tony knows police. Well, theoretically at least, he doesn’t actually know any of them personally and he’s never been involved with the process of becoming a police officer, but – listen, the point is, they are not at the top of the list of the people he trusts. They’re getting ready to move in. He can tell, they’ve got that antsy vibe, the haze of uncertainty that means that someone might get a little trigger happy. They will not even slow down. And Steve is there, right in the middle of it.
That’s a problem.
Tony looks behind himself, around the corner of the teller’s desk, while the gunman is focused on Steve, and sees Rhodey crouched, hidden by the wood panelling, which works wonders despite its hideousness. He’s perfectly positioned to take the guy down, barring that he doesn’t move and inch any time soon.
His stomach starts to sink. He knows where this is going. Tony chances a quick look out the window again and hopes that the group of cops had magically disappeared, and, surprise – they haven’t. Like his luck doesn’t run shitty enough, right?
“For fuck’s sake,” Tony whispers to himself, before he gets up and rocks back and forth on the balls of his feet. Two heads turn his way; one is wearing a balaclava that Tony is going to destroy when this is over, and the other is Steve’s questioning faced, trained on his with a ‘what the fuck are you doing’ look that he’s too polite to verbalize, “Hey, guy! You new at this or something?”
“What, you want me to shoot you, too?” Tony is a little offended by the lack of emotion in the guy’s voice, because he can be scary, too, thank you very much.
“Well, I mean, it’s not something that I’m actively dreaming about, if that’s what you’re asking,” Tony carries on, and this is what he’s good at, the fast-talking, snarky way of doing things, “But you’re clearly trying very hard, so I’ll give you an answer: no, I do not want you to shoot me.”
Tony steps a little closer, and the gunman reaches for the rifle. Something about this tells him he should be scared, but instead he takes another step, and holy shit, he’s going to use this as leverage against Rhodey during every disagreement they have from now on.
“Come on, dude,” Tony says eventually, and he’s only feet away from Steve now, who’s looking at him like he’s grown another head, “This is just gonna end badly. Literally, there is no way this is going to work for you, it’s either gonna be jail, or dead, and if we’re being honest, I really didn’t want to have to see brain matter all over the floor today.”
One more step. One more step and he can pull Steve out of the way and let Rhodey do his thing. He takes it, and Tony hears the click of the gunman’s finger as it comes to rest on the trigger.
“Tony, get down,” Steve says, watching the gunman carefully, “Do it.”
“No, actually, I think I want to stay here and experience this. Could you take half a step to your right?”
Steve doesn’t do anything but look confused, so Tony sighs and reaches for him. He grabs him by the wrist and tugs.
Three things happen. Steve, firstly, comes willingly, letting Tony pull him along like he’s a ragdoll, which, hey, it’s nice for his ego. The glass window shatters shortly after, blasted out of existence by three separate shots. They all miss, Tony notes pleasantly, and makes himself a little mental memo to congratulate himself for saving Steve’s life. And to make this particular victory even sweeter, Rhodey leaps up from behind the teller’s desk and puts the gunman in a headlock, until the gun clatters to the floor, the girl falls from his grasp, and Rhodey drops him on the hardwood, unconscious.
Adrenaline bubbles in Tony’s stomach, and suddenly it’s pure energy, and he can’t help but look between Steve, who he’s still grabbing by the wrist, and Rhodey, who’s breathing hard and staring down the guy.
“Nice!” He says, voice high and tinny and the complete opposite of what it was just minutes ago, “Nice, oh man, you took him down, Jim! Did you see that?”
Someone is crying. It’s probably the girl, but it might be the ancient lady over in the corner, Tony isn’t sure. When he looks up, Steve is smiling. Tony returns it.
“Christ, we should do this more often, Rhodey!”
“You’re an idiot, you know that, right?”
Tony is scandalized, and the face he makes is an accurate representation of this, he feels. Rhodey rolls his eyes at him as they wade through the crowds of people.
“I’m sorry, did you forget the part where I’m the idiot that saves the day?” Tony asks, and he’s practically bouncing with each step he takes, “With my own plan, by the way, which you said was stupid until some blond with a muscle mass of like nine thousand pounds showed up and said that I was right. Which I was. Right.”
Journalists and news vans are lined up and down the road outside the bank. Tony recognizes most of the channels, knows all the reporters by name and a few of them from the bedroom. They all crowd around, held back by the wooden barriers put up by the police. Questions fly around them, shouts and screams in his and Rhodey’s direction. They ignore them.
“I’m serious, T,” Rhodey says. They walk next to each other, shoulders touching and taking long, slow steps. Tony’s head aches, “You could’ve died. Why’d you do it?”
“Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind.”
Rhodey rolls his eyes and shakes his head, and Tony feels like maybe he should answer his question, because they’ve both had a long day. Tony doesn’t say anything for a while, but eventually gives up and lifts his hands up in a sort of half shrug. He lets them clap back against his thighs.
“What did you want me to do, honeybear, let blondie get shot by the far too proactive police department? Come on. What kind of hero lets that happen?”
They stop in the middle of the parking lot because Rhodey makes them. Tony looks at him, confused.
“You think you’re a hero, don’t you?”
“Think? Did you see the way that I stood up to that guy?” Tony argues, trying to get the smile he can feel coming on to go back where it came from.
“Yeah, he was terrified,” Rhodey shoots back. The banter is nice. He and Rhodey are the best when they’re like this, relaxed and at home and together. Tony misses it. He resolves to spend less time working and more time with his best friend, “Look. I’m glad you did it, but it was stupid. You know that, right?”
Tony shrugs, “I do a lot of stupid things, Rhodey. This is just another one to add to the list. Think we’ll get some good news coverage out of this?”
“You might,” Rhodey stares at Tony with a strange look on his face. He doesn’t quite know what it is, but he’s not sure how he feels about it, “Not sure about me. You know you’re my best friend, right?”
Cops are shouting in their direction now, looking for statements and asking them to head back towards the ambulances so they can be checked out. Tony reaches out and pulls Rhodey into a hug, squeezing him tight.
Rhodey leaves after that, waving goodbye to Tony and following a bulky, mean looking officer towards a car to give his statement. Tony would love to stick around for that, really, he would, he loves wasting time talking to men in suits, but right now he could go for a glass of scotch and a really long nap. He spins around and heads for the car, rolling his neck along his shoulders, enjoying the cracks and pops that follow.
He knows that voice. Tony spins around, maybe a little overenthusiastically, but Steve doesn’t seem to notice, so that’s all right. He flashes him his brightest smile, puts a little bit more into it than he usually does for effect, and walks up to him.
“You snuck away from the cops then, huh?” Tony offers as greeting. Steve laughs and looks down, dark lashes hiding the blue of his eyes.
“Yeah, well, they weren’t easy to get away from. You leaving without giving your statement?”
Tony blinks, crosses his arms over his chest, “I can’t image what use they’ll have for my statement. There’s only so much you can do with ‘I orchestrated a daring getaway aided by my fearless compatriot Lieutenant Colonel James Rupert Rhodes and a dashing stranger.’”
Steve blushes, and Tony basks in the glory of seeing that red flush creep up those pale cheeks. That would be fun to repeat.
“Dashing. I’ll keep that in mind,” Steve says, and he looks back up at Tony and grins, “You were real brave in there, you know. I’m impressed.”
“As you should be, really.”
A laugh fights its way out of Steve’s chest, “Right, well. I wanted to thank you.”
“Good god, this day is turning into the end of a rom-com. Listen, let’s skip to the end credits – you, me, a table in the darkest corner of my favorite Italian place. Little bit of touching, shoulders, legs, maybe a little something back at my place?”
He thinks about it, which, hey – Tony will take it.
“I think we can work something out. Monday night?”
“8 PM,” Tony agrees, and he takes a step towards Steve. They’re close now, in each other’s space. Tony leans up, and oh, God, he’s just now noticing the height difference. It sends an interesting wave of something south, “Pick me up.”
Steve tilts his head. His lips brush against the shell of Tony’s ear, and he shivers, “It’s a date, Mr. Stark.”
“Tony,” he corrects, “God, where do you think we are, a bank or something?”
After Steve leaves, laughing and the perfect shade of flushed pink, Tony thinks about heading back to the bank. If the gunman is still there, he kind of wants to thank him. The sun is dropping in the sky, the reporters are calling his name, and he has a date with a man who looks like he belongs on the cover of one of those risqué men’s magazines in run down, side-of-the-road gas stations.
And god damn, he did not die in sweatpants.