Sometimes, the world is ending. Other times, the world is only slightly ending, and others the world just isn't ending at all.
Steve Rogers practically lived for the days the world decided to grant him a break. Sure, he was afraid of not being useful or having any purpose without combat, but it seemed that in the twenty first century, there was always some problem or another that required his assistance.
Today, however, the world was blissfully ignorant about the threatening doom the Infinity Stones were going to place on them, and Steve Rogers was sitting at a mahogany (which Tony Stark had only pointed out about a hundred times) table, drinking expensive coffee and watching Tony Stark ramble on about some science thing or whatever.
Tony turns to Steve with a big finish, grinning maniacally. "So what do you think?"
Steve blinks. "Um," he begins hesitantly, because really he hasn't been paying attention. "The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell."
Tony's face takes on a sort of puzzlement, and he dims a little. "Were you even paying attention?" He asks, wagging a finger at Steve, who shrugs and turns back to his coffee in a display of nonchalance.
Tony puts two fingers to the bridge of his nose. "Really, Steve?"
Steve gives him a lazy grin. "In my defence, what you're talking about is what, college level mathematics?"
Tony quirks an eyebrow. "Your point?"
Steve leans forward, and says with his most serious voice,"I was twenty one when I underwent the serum. My parents were poor Irish Catholic immigrants. I never went to a proper university, or really got a proper education."
Tony pats his back. "So what you're saying is that you have an excuse for not paying attention?"
Steve nods, crossing his arms. "Exactly."
Tony throws a book at him. "There's never an excuse! Go to college or something. It's the twenty first century! Everything changes now. You've got to be ready."
Now it's Steve's turn to raise an eyebrow. "When is the world not ending?"
Tony debates this for a second. "Well, for now, not yet."
Steve groans and puts his head in his hands.
Tony tousles his hair, grinning slightly. "C'mon, no university in the U.S. is going to turn down Captain America," he starts, shuffling his notes. "Eventually you've got to go, or I'm going to sign you in personally."
Steve raises an eyebrow again, but the sigh that he releases is one of consent, and Tony fist bumps the air. "I get to be your tutor," he practically giggles. "You're in for one hell of a ride."
Steve looks up, about to say something smart, but his eyes widen and he leaps to his feet- too slow.
The glass window shatters in slow motion, the crystals like teardrops, and really, all Steve can think about is that Tony doesn't have his suit.
He dives in front of Tony and yanks him down, under the table. Tony screeches, and Steve is sure that he's cut and banged up, but Tony shakes his head. "No- the table- it's fucking mahogany."
Steve fights the urge to knock him out.
Tony's heart is beating way too fast, and it's not because Steve Rogers has just pinned him to the floor underneath the table, (which would be the cause of the palpitations under, well, other circumstances.)
No, this time it's because something just attacked them, and he doesn't have his suit.
He really thought he was getting over the anxiety attacks, but whoops. Guess not.
He tries to breathe normally.
He is conscious of a weight on his shoulders, a hand on the side of his face.
The world is spinning and turning, the colours mashing into different ones, brown into purple, blue into red.
Steve looks at him worriedly, and Tony wonders if his innocent outlook on life bellied what he actually understood.
"Hey, just stay calm, okay," Steve shushes, rolling off him in a swift motion. "Deep breaths. Think of, um, the sea. Something calming."
Tony ponders how Steve can know this, know the signs, and he remembers that Steve was once the weak man, and had so many illnesses to his name. "That's it," Steve says, encouragingly. "You're doing great."
Tony is gasping for breath, fingers clawing at his throat, at the floor. This is great?
"Concentrate on breathing," he hears. "Stay in the present."
There is the sound of splintering, and heavy boots. Tony is beginning to feel lightheaded.
The table flips over, and a hooded man is revealed.
He has black hair and black eyes, and at his right temple, there is the HYDRA skull tattooed onto it.
Tony must have made a sight, sweating and pale-faced, because the person seems momentarily taken aback. It was almost as if the attacker was going, "wait a second, you said these two were formidable, but I've one freaking out down here and the other not doing anything."
Yeah, well, fuck you, we're only human, Tony thinks scathingly, even as Steve leaps into action, getting the attacker with a low undercut to the stomach.
The attacker makes an oomph sound, because when Steve feels like it, he can hit and he can hit hard.
He tries to follow up with a fist to the jaw, but the assailant grabbed his hand before he could make it and sunk a punch into the side of Steve's face.
Tony regains his mind long enough to roll to the edge of the fight and call for backup. He stands up and edges around the back of the man, before sinking a taser (always handy) into the sensitive part of the man's neck.
The man jerks, and Steve manages to land another punch on the man's face.
Whatever it is that drives the guy, he manages to get used to the charges, and quickly smacks it out of Tony's hand and into a wall.
He could do nothing, nothing at all, not without his suit and not while his body kept seizing up, stopping him in his tracks. He really had to work on that.
The attacker swings at him and he flies into the table, pain a white light.
He hears a frustrated yell, and before he knows it can hear Steve beating the guy up. "Not him," he thinks he hears, but eh, how can he be sure?
He hears a grunt of pain, and it's Steve's- and this realisation that he knows what Steve sounds like in pain but he doesn't know what Steve's favourite colour is scares him suddenly.
He can feel the anxiety bubbling like a cauldron in his stomach.
There is a sudden silence, and this silence is so profound that Tony bolts upright, his swollen eye throbbing.
The two were engaged in a headlock. He thinks. He can't really see.
Steve saw him fly into the table, but the mahogany wood remained solidly intact, so Tony got a nasty knock on the face.
Steve watches him go down in slow motion before rage takes control of him and he tackles the guy, not holding back anymore as he pummels the man.
He flicks off the hood in a swift motion, and the face beneath it is old and scarred. Steve heaves a mental sigh of relief that it wasn't Bucky, before carrying on punching the guy.
"Not him," Steve hisses in between punches. "You do not touch him."
The man brought out a knife and sliced it, and Steve was forced to roll off the man before he was gutted like a fish.
He glares at the man. "You know, I was having a perfectly fine day. I was even going to enrol in college, but no, you fuckers cannot stay away!"
He rolls again to avoid the knife as it tumbled over his head.
Tony makes a gurgling sound, and Steve realises that he's laughing. "Whatever happened to language," he says as he painfully stands up. "Seriously."
Steve takes the time to shrug mid-fight, and their assailant seems confused with their banter.
He growls, before abruptly changing Tony. Steve is getting steadily pissed. "Will you stop?" He asks, before using his body weight to lob the man sideways.
The man throws a concrete block at Steve, and he goes down.
The man stumbles over, and Tony pulls out a gun from under the table, (which has still miraculously survived, somehow) and shoots the guy in the leg. There is a roar of pain, and the man advances on Tony like a charging bull, and Tony is the matador without a red cape.
Tony gets a punch in before the man knocks him in the head, and places something on the ground near him. It takes a heartbeat for Steve to realise what it was, but it's a heartbeat too late, and the grenade goes off.
Steve stumbles backward as Tony flies into a wall (fucking hell). The concrete smashes onto the floor on top of him, and the table cracks.
Steve watches all of this in a red haze. No one hurts Tony Stark, not while he's around. Tony Stark was his to hurt, thank you very much.
He pushes the concrete block off him and yells, charging over and taking the gun from Tony's limp fingers, before dodging yet another knife.
He is reminded a lot of Bucky, when he was working for HYDRA, and how he had approximately fifteen knives on him.
He levels the gun and empties the entire round into the man's chest.
His attacker sinks to his knees, but not before grinning a ghastly smile. His teeth were red.
Then he hits the floor, and his dark eyes stare at the ground.
Tony sees the grenade a second too late, and it's already going off.
He hits the wall with a crack, and the pain is immediate, a tidal wave of hurt.
He groans and feels more things crack when a concrete block landed, almost fucking strategically, on the table, cracking it in half.
The concrete then drops through the crack and lands, half tilted, inches away from his face.
He could lick it if he wanted to.
Dust settles around him, and he breathes in- and immediately starts choking. He can feel the dust enter his lungs, and now he definitely can't breathe, both from the knowledge that he could be crushed at any given time, any shake in the building, and the other fact that he was literally breathing in dust.
He's coughing and choking and all he can think of is help me, God, someone.
Then, suddenly, inexplicably, he relaxes. It's the sudden knowledge that it's not Natasha or Clint out there (though he has no quarrel with them) but it's Steve, and Steve would never let him die. He knew, somehow, that he had no reason to be afraid, because it was Steve out there.
Tony felt laughter bubbling up somewhere in him. This was literally the gayest he had ever been, and he was this close to dying.
He recalled the stories his father used to tell him, and every one of them would be stories about Captain America.
His father loved him, whether platonically or not so platonically (he bet his father would be proud when he learnt that Tony had a crush on him) was a different matter, but he would hear the admiration and the nostalgia in his father's voice every time he spoke about him.
"Captain America," he would say, and Tony would sit up and turn to him.
This was how Tony learnt, somewhat firsthand, the tales of what Steve Rogers had been through. How he mounted a one man journey into the most densely guarded area of Austria to get back his best friend, or how he always put his life before the others in his team because sometimes, he truly believed them to be more worth saving than himself.
His father never gave up searching, and Tony supposed this carried on to how Tony developed his jets- they all had GPS trackers that ran off long-term Stark batteries, and when that failed, solar energy.
There is a gunshot, and Tony tenses, unsure of who was shot. He waits, tensed up and anxious, each breath containing less oxygen than the other.
He hears Steve mumble something, and then the concrete block he was certain was going to fall was practically flung across the room.
He blinks into the blue eyes of Steve Rogers, so like the ocean that Tony has always thought that Steve had taken a bit of the sea back with him when he was pulled out.
His hand reaches up and cups the side of Steve's face. He smiles. "Called it," he says, or he thinks he says because everything is going sideways.
Steve Rogers sits next to Tony Stark, with one eye on the magazine he's holding and the other on the heart monitor.
It makes a steady rise and fall, and his Arc Reactor is still glowing, yet somehow Steve feels that if he takes his eye off it for just one second, the monitor will flatline.
His own injuries have been treated and are somewhat healed, considering his slight healing factor, and sometimes he wishes he could give a little to his friends, enough to get them through.
He recalls holding Pietro's body and saying "I said walk it off, kid, and that's an order," and being so worried that he might never wake up.
Of course, the kid then cracked open an eyelid and slowly, painfully whispered, "you mean, you didn't see that coming?"
Steve had nearly thrown the kid off Sokovia.
But that was besides the point. He wanted all his friends to survive, and he wanted them to live, and it hurt every time they had to spend time unconscious in a hospital.
There is a wheezing sound, and Steve leaps to his feet, just in time to see his eyes blink open.
They immediately close. "Why is it so bright?" Tony mumbles, and Steve cracks a smile.
"You're in a hospital," Steve says, fussing. "Remember?"
Tony blinks open his eyes again and nods slowly, painfully. "Course, who do you think I am?"
Steve grins, relief and an indescribable worry running through his veins. His Tony was a little banged up, a little scraped, but still sound.
"Hey Cap?" Tony asks, blearily. "What's your favourite colour?"
Steve starts. "I'm going to have to be clichéd and go with blue."
Tony nods slowly. "Cool."
Tony was allowed to return home two weeks later, but his arm is still in a sling and he still hobbles places. Basically, he can't really do anything.
He tries for the umpteenth time to turn the gear with his left hand, and sighs with frustration when he realises it seems to be physically impossible.
He throws it across the room and glares angrily at everything.
He's about to throw something else across the room when the door opens with a hiss and Steve Rogers walks into the room.
If Tony was fire, uncontrollable and unpredictable, then Steve was water, fluid and graceful and changing.
He moved like a waltz, his back straight and his feet sweeping, and his way of moving was so unique that Tony just felt like breaking it down and analysing it.
Tony created things. He looked at things critically. How can they be made better? How can they be improved? He didn't go things straight on, he rolled around the bush, mentally ended up in Miami, or somewhere strange like Helsinki, and then went back to what he was trying to do.
But Steve did things. He carried them out worked till they were done, one thing at a time. He didn't dance around a problem, he went at it like a bull and smashed it apart, but then rearranged the pieces into a solution.
That was Tony's favourite thing about Steve Rogers.
He loved the way Steve accidentally broke doorknobs or cracked windows when he closed them too hard. He loved the way Steve blunted knives by cutting too hard or goes up to the roof during winter to get the snow and throw them at the Avengers indoors.
"What do you think you're doing?" Steve asks, sitting down next to Tony with a sort of puzzled expression, as if he couldn't understand how anyone could find this intriguing.
"I'm working on the next iron man suit," Tony rolls his eyes. "But I've broken my arm, and I can't do shit with my left hand."
Steve smiles slightly. "I would do it, but I'd have no idea what you're talking about."
Tony flicks his head with his left hand and stares glumly at the pieces on his table. "You know, if HYDRA can have all these cool and random assassins, I want some Avengers assassins."
Steve tilts his head. "Well, technically..."
Tony sighs, turning to Steve with a sort of defeated expression, his mouth turning down at the corners. "I hate this. I hate being scared everywhere I go because I've no idea when HYDRA would attack me."
Steve starts, surprised at the sudden confession. Tony wasn't one for confessions. In fact, Tony was one for the kind of lies that popped confetti and had screaming candles to let you know they were lies but you couldn't do anything about them.
"Same," Steve agrees, enchanted by the blue glow of the Arc Reactor, muffled through Tony's shirt. "It's getting very irritating."
Tony gestures wildly, as much as he could with one hand. "Like, where are they even getting these people? Do they have a whole army of cryogenically frozen elite assassins? Besides, cryogenics isn't that advanced to allow for zero tissue degeneration, and not everyone is a Captain America."
Steve looked on amusedly as Tony continued ranting. "You should go sleep."
Tony's voice falters. "No." Steve crosses his arms over his chest, (and they were very nice arms), and Tony braces himself for a lecture.
"Why not?" Tony cringes, and his left hand plays with the gears aimlessly.
"I don't want to go to sleep."
Steve scoffs. "And why not?"
Tony looks at him straight in the face. "Do you know what my preferred sleep position is? It's lying on my right. But- wait, guess who's right side is compromised? Mine."
Steve fights the urge to laugh at him. "Really? It wouldn't kill you to lie on your left once in a while, you know."
"Actually- I was lying on my left, facing the wall, not the window- and another one of HYDRA's assassins smashed through the window and attempted to murder me. I would say lying on my left did nearly kill me," Tony sticks his tongue out. "So hah."
Steve isn't sure what to believe anymore. "So basically what you're saying is you have a phobia of sleeping on your left now."
Tony doesn't like it when it's put that way. It sounds like a weakness, and he hates being reminded that he does, in fact, have weaknesses. He grinds his teeth slowly. "No- it's more like a I don't want to have to kill someone with a fork and a leftover plate of Thai food again."
Steve definitely does not believe that one. "Right, okay, then you can sleep in my room, the left side of the bed faces the window."
Tony starts. "And what, have you sleep in mine?"
Steve shrugs. "About right."
Tony looks at him suspiciously. "You know- not everyone's nights are as innocent as Jesus'."
Steve is unfazed. "I'll change the sheets then."
Tony stares at the table, defeated. "I'm not tired?" He tries.
JARVIS speaks up. Well, he isn't really JARVIS, he's more JARVIS II, given that JARVIS I was the Vision and all that now. Talk about one hell of an upgrade. "Per my calculations, sir, you have not been to sleep for a total of twenty hours."
Tony glares at the AI, but it's hard to do when said AI is intangible, so he glares at the ceiling instead. "Shut the fuck up."
Steve gives Tony a prod in the back with a finger. "I'm taking you to bed."
Tony sluggishly gets off the chair and hobbles to the door. "You know, if I didn't know better, I'd say you're fussing."
Steve shrugs. "Maybe I am," he says, a hand on Tony's shoulder for him to lean on. "Whatever it is- you're going to bed, and that's final."
Tony rolls his eyes as they stop outside Steve's door. "Sure thing, mommy."
Steve throws him his pyjamas, and helps him to put it on his shirt, (broken arms suck ass balls- but holy shit he can now brag that Captain America has undressed him), but, ever the gentleman, turns away when Tony slipped into the pants.
Tony sits on the bed (white sheets) and stares at Steve pointedly.
Steve was right when he said that the bed's left was on the side of the window, but that didn't make Tony feel any better. He was sleeping in Steve's bed, for crying out loud, how did it end up to this? "You know, you really don't need to mother hen me. I've been poisoned by palladium. Much worse than a broken arm, trust me."
Steve shrugs, the shirt he's wearing shifting delightfully. "You're going to sleep, and you don't want to sleep in yours, so you're sleeping in mine."
Tony stares at him with a quirked eyebrow. "There's a couch in the lab and guest rooms. " Steve makes a sound of choked laughter. "And you're definitely going to go to sleep if I leave you in the lab, and guest rooms which you can totally build your own lab or something, I don't know."
"You have a point there," Tony concedes, and makes a big show about lying down and pulling the covers over himself with one hand.
"Happy now?" Steve laughs slightly, and Tony feels absurdly like a child.
"Goodnight, Tony," he smiles softly. "Go to bed."
"I'm already in bed, you shit," Tony calls after him, grumpily. The light turns off and he stares at the ceiling. "Now what?"
He rolls onto his left and surveys the skyline, a gun beneath the bed and a knife under the pillow.
He breathes in, and the smell of Steve Rogers is everywhere. And by God, this pillow smells excellent.
Steve smells of...Tony's not actually sure, but he smells of all the things Tony likes. He smells of coffee and books and paint, he smells of pencils and blueprints and metal.
It's almost healing.
Tony sits up, suddenly realising that he had the entire room to explore and snoop. To hell with going to sleep.
"Sir," the voice of JARVIS II seeps over the intercom. Steve stops the process of changing the bedsheets, and straightens.
"What's happening, JARVIS?"
JARVIS continues. "You asked me to keep tabs on Stark, sir, and he has just left his bed."
Steve growls slightly. "Show me the security feed."
JARVIS opens up the security feed in a hologram, one of the perks of being in Tony Stark's room, and Tony is indeed out of bed...and rummaging through his closet?
Steve's mouth drops open. "Is he searching through my closet?"
"It appears so, sir." "
What the heck is he doing with my closet?" Steve continues to watch, the astonishment growing. Tony picks out a t-shirt, a grey one that Steve likes very much, and throws it on the bed.
Then he moves to the desk, and pulls out Steve's sketchbook. Horror floods Steve's stomach, and he resists the urge to scream and run there.
Tony flips through the sketchbook, slowly, and his mouth opens.
Suddenly, he starts speaking, and JARVIS turns on audio for Steve without prompting.
"JARVIS?" Tony asks, still flipping through the sketchbook. "Can you show me the security feed from wherever Steve is?"
The hologram pops up, and Tony puts down the sketchbook to analyse the hologram. "JARVIS, is he watching me?"
"He's watching me?!"
"Yes, sir. He asked me to keep tabs on you."
"And you didn't tell me?"
"You didn't ask, sir." Tony's mouth moves up and down, and he hastily puts the sketchbook back inside the drawer.
"How long has he been watching me?"
"About five minutes, sir."
"JARVIS- from now on, you tell me if anyone opens up the security feed to where I am. Override any command."
Tony turns to look at the security camera and gives it the middle finger, and Steve laughs, his chest a funny warm feeling.
Tony climbs back into bed, and that's when Steve notices that his grey shirt is still on the bed.
"Cut the feed from Rogers, and don't let him reopen it."
"Yes, sir." The hologram abruptly cuts off, and Steve blinks, a nervous pit still in his stomach. His sketchbook-
Steve loved to draw. He liked drawing things, people, skylines. And recently, his favourite thing to draw had been Tony. The most recent drawing of Tony was one where he was alone in his lab, the arc reactor glowing blue in the darkness. Holograms radiated different colours onto his skin, and his expression was thoughtful.
Steve's skin crawled when he realised that Tony could have seen it. What would be think?
"JARVIS- reopen the security feed from my room."
"Stark told me not to, sir."
"Yeah, well screw Tony. I just want to see if he's looking at my sketchbook."
"Very well sir, only for a minute." The feed reopens, and Tony is indeed in bed, but the grey shirt is gone from its earlier position.
He looks harder, and he realises that Tony's holding it, his body curled around his shirt. Steve's heart stutters painfully, and the feed cuts off.
"Steve, I am fully capable of feeding myself, thank you."
"No, you aren't. Look at this!" Steve says, gesturing to the mess of spilt Thai. "You're hopeless."
"Shut up," Tony chides. "Making fun of someone with a disability is a big no no."
Steve sighs, and looks at him out of the corner of his eyes. "Where's my grey shirt?"
There is no noticeable shift in posture or weight. Tony takes a bite of Thai and looks at him with a raised eyebrow. "What grey shirt?" He asks, through mouthfuls of food.
Steve stares, never getting used to how fluidly lies roll of Tony's tongue. "I can't find my grey shirt. It was my favourite." Tony shrugs, and the movement causes his hand to wobble, and Thai food spills everywhere. He sighs.
Said grey shirt is currently in his bedroom drawer, but Tony decided not to disclose this information.
"Also, where's my blue jumper, and my sketchbook?" Steve asks, slightly frustrated. "Why are all my clothes going missing?"
Said blue jumper was in his other bedroom drawer and the sketchbook was under his pillow, but Tony decided not to disclose this information.
Steve grabs a cloth and starts to clean up the noodles that are now strewn over the table, and eyes Tony suspiciously, before taking the spoon from Tony. "Okay- now you're just wasting food." Tony shrugs again.
"What're you going to do, feed me?" Steve seems to take that consideration seriously, and Tony panics. "No- wait, don't do it."
Steve sighs as he puts down the spoon. "If I could, I would."
Tony heaves an exaggerated sigh of relief. "I'm a forty year old man, I don't need your help."
Steve sits down next to him, fingers tapping out a beat on the granite table. "Oh yeah? Then why is my grey shirt in your bedroom drawer?"
Tony freezes and starts to choke on his noodles. "What?"
Steve folds his arms over his chest and stares at Tony with a smirk plastered all over his damn face. "You were sleeping with it the other night."
Tony looks as if he's going to throw up. "Was not."
"Was not, right JARVIS?" "Contrary to your opinion sir, on the fifth of September, two thirteen and twenty three seconds, you picked up the Captain's shirt and went to sleep in his bed. Should I replay you the security feed for you to make sure?"
Tony gapes and swears viciously. "I am not upgrading you for a month."
Steve stands opposite him, that self-satisfied smirk still on his face. "So?"
Tony shrugs, the cat out of the bag. "Smelt nice," he says, and eats a spoonful of noodles.
Steve nods slowly. "Sure, that's all there is, isn't there?"
Tony nods. "Indeed."
Steve leans in, and Tony's pupils dilate, his mouth inches away from Tony's. "Are you sure?"
Tony swallows visibly. "Yup."
"So- you wouldn't mind if I just- you know, kissed you or anything?"
"Yes. Wait-" he freezes. "I would mind, yes."
Steve chuckles softly, and his hand reaches up to cup the side of Tony's face. "Are you really sure?"
Tony's gaze flicks back from his eyes to his lips, and the moment when he throws all caution to the wind is obvious.
His eyes glitter, like sunlight through whiskey, and his mouth curls into a smile.
His good hand grips the front of Steve's shirt, and gives it a sharp yank, and leans in to meet Steve's lips.
Tony tastes like Thai food and coffee, and his mouth is soft slightly chapped.
When they pull apart, grinning and flushed, Tony sits back down and turns back to his Thai food. "I'm keeping the shirt," he says matter-of-factly. "I'm also keeping the sketchbook. And the jumper."
Steve laughs, a deep sound that reverberates in Tony's soul. "I knew you had it," he laughs slightly, just in time for Tony to spill yet another spoonful of Thai food.
"Jesus, Tony," Steve says, tapping his foot and looking at him with exasperation. "That's it. I'm doing it."
"Hey- you totally can't do that without my consent," Tony sticks his tongue out, and realises that in doing so he dropped his spoon on the floor, and that it is hard to bend with a swollen ankle.
"Right," Steve says, deadpan. "I'm not getting you that spoon back."