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Bruised Ribs With A Side Of Flirting

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 “So what brings you here, handsome?”

Steve looked up from where he was carefully observing a crack in the linoleum floor - it was a yellowish off white colour that had surely been white at some point - to find some guy grinning down at him. Wickedly sharp brown eyes held his gaze, and he was handsome, unbelievably so, with a carefully groomed goatee and his dark hair mussed in just the right way that it looked painfully adorable. There was a smear of blood across his cheek, from what looked to be a shallow cut right across his cheekbone, but it didn’t take away from his somewhat stunning good looks. Then there was that smile; caught somewhere between a smirk and something a little more raw and honest. The kind of honest that came with approaching a stranger at two am in a hospital waiting room.

Steve suddenly found that his throat was extremely dry.

“Sprained wrist and bruised ribs, I suspect,” Steve told him, nodding down at where he was cradling his wrist against his chest.

The guy’s smile grew, and he flopped into the empty chair next to Steve. He winced a little as he settled into the seat, one hand briefly fluttering to his side before he composed himself. “Self diagnosing yourself, huh?”

“I’ve had the same injuries enough times that I think I ought to be able to,” Steve said wryly. He was about to shrug, but then remember that such a movement would probably jostle his injuries in a way that would be less than pleasant. Instead, he gave the guy a tired smile. “I tend to end up here a lot.”

“Yeah well, I can’t say the same thing about myself. I wouldn’t be here at all if someone didn’t insist that I come, even though we both know I’m perfectly fine.” As he spoke, he jerked his head in the direction of a man across the room, who was leafing through a magazine and very pointedly not looking at them.

“You get your stupid ass into trouble while you’re on my watch, I drag your stupid ass to the hospital,” the guy said plainly, flipping a page crisply.

“Aw, don’t be like that Rhodey-bear,” the guy said, his voice lilting into a teasing tone. “You know I’ll always defend your honor, honey.”

“Could’ve handled it myself, Tony.” The other guy still didn’t look up. “In a way that didn’t end up with your ass getting handed to you.”

“Excuse me, I’ll have you know that I handled myself extremely well.” Dark haired and handsome - Tony -  turned to him and said very lowly and firmly; “I did,” to which Steve smiled encouragingly and hunched one shoulder carefully. 

“Tell that to your broken ribs,” Rhodey snorted.

“Bruised,” Tony corrected. “Bruised at most. And I got a few good hits in, you know I did.”

“Mhmm.” Rhodey shook his head and kept on reading. Tony scrunched his nose and made a petulant face in his friend’s direction.

“Sorry about him, he’s a complete wet blanket,” Tony told Steve. Rhodey ignored him.

“He sounds like Sam,” Steve admitted. In fact, it was almost the exact same conversation he and Sam had had on the way over to the hospital.

“Sam?” Tony asked.

“My friend who dragged me here,” Steve explained. “Right now I’m pretty sure he’s annoying one of the nurses, discussing my extensive injuries.” His voice dripped with sarcasm. He seemed to have a knack for acquiring overprotective friends. If Peggy or Bucky had been there instead, they’d have done the same. 

“Then you feel my pain,” Tony said. He leaned back in his seat a bit, and peered over at Steve through long, dark lashes. Steve’s heart chose that exact moment to thump heavily against his ribcage. Huh. Interesting. “Out of curiosity, how exactly did you get those injuries?”

Steve grimaced. “Bar fight.”

Tony’s brows rose at that. “A bar fight.” He said flatly.

“Yes,” Steve said, a little hotly, feeling a little defensive. “I know I’m small but I’m not completely useless.”

“Hey now,” Tony chuckled, and raised one hand in acquiesce. “I didn’t say, or even imply that you were. I’m just curious as to what would coerce you into getting into a bar fight.”

Steve had to stop himself from shrugging again. Damn, it was going to be a pain waiting for his ribs to heal, he realized. Not that he regretted it, but it still sucked. “Saw some guy slipping something into a girl’s drink when she turned away,” he told him, a shiver of distaste crawling up his spine at the memory of the guy, quick and feral as a snake, dropping something into the girl’s glass when she turned her head to say something to another guy at their table. “He wasn’t too appreciative when I stepped in.”

“I’d say he wasn’t,” Tony agreed, looking pointedly at Steve’s sore wrist. “Wait, did you confront him alone?”

Steve winced.

Tony laughed at that. “Was he big?”

“He looked like one of those guys who drinks egg yolks for breakfast.”

“Blech.” Tony made a disgusted face. He sobered quickly though, and tilted his head to one side. “You must be brave.”

For a moment, Steve could’ve sworn there was something akin to admiration in his voice. He brushed the thought away quickly; he had to have imagined it. Tony probably thought he was dumb and careless and was just being polite.

“Not at all,” Steve countered. “Just trying to do the right thing.”

“Sometimes that’s the bravest thing in the world.” Tony’s voice grew a little soft at that, his smile gentling around the edges. He was looking at Steve with something Steve couldn’t quite identify; something warm and kind that Steve felt curl with warmth in his chest.

For a long moment Tony just looked at him like that, and Steve found himself staring right back. He got caught in that intent gaze, losing himself for a few brief moments. Steve thought that maybe he was blushing a bit. Or maybe that was the effect of the pain shooting through his wrist.

Just then, someone coughed and Steve was thrust back into the present moment, remembering where he was and what he was doing there. Hospital. Bar fight. Gorgeous man with dangerous eyes and the faint scent of metal and cologne clinging to his skin. Right.

Steve shook himself out of whatever that had been, and swiftly changed the subject. “Well, what about you? How’d you end up in here?”

“Bar fight too,” he replied, seeming to recover from the strange moment almost instantly. “Someone said something I didn’t appreciate.”

“So you decked him?”

Tony smiled wolfishly. “I poured my bourbon over his head. A shame, really. Wasting top shelf liquor on scum like him.”

Steve blinked. “What on earth did he say?”

“Something I’d rather not repeat,” Tony said grimly. “Let’s just say I didn’t realize that I brought Rhodey to a bar in the deep south, circa 1960.”

“Ah,” Steve said quietly, understanding.

“Yeah,” Tony said plainly. “So he punched me a bit, the Rhodey yelled at me a lot, and now I’m here, talking to the cutest, bravest blond I’ve ever met.”

Tony’s eyes flashed brightly at that, and Steve’s heart stuttered again. Maybe he needed to get that checked out while he was here. It’d been doing that an awful lot since Tony sat down.

Just as Steve opened his mouth to say… well he had no idea what he was going to say, a voice cut in through their conversation.

“Steve Rogers?” the voice said, female and a bit monotone. Steve looked up and nodded at her, not quite sure raising a hand would have been the best course of action.

“That’s me,” Steve said and began struggling to his feet. He saw Tony reach out to grab his elbow, most likely an instinctive movement, but thankfully he returned his hand to his side before he actually did it. While he knew it would’ve been well intentioned, Steve hated pity. It was bad enough that he was in here for these menial injuries in the first place. “I guess I’ll see you around.”

“Wait,” Tony said. “Rhodey, you got a pen?”

“Get a pen yourself.”

“Looks like someone’s getting grumpy, shouldn’t be out past your bed time, huh?”

Rhodey glared, but found a pen sitting next to him on a little table and tossed it to Tony. He caught it with one hand, emitting a little grunt of pain.

“Thanks, honey bear,” Tony shot at him, and Rhodey grinned.

“He loves me,” Tony explained to Steve. He then gestured to Steve’s uninjured arm. “May I?”

Not really sure what he was asking but trusting him anyways - who knew why, Steve just knew that he did - Steve held out his arm. Tony took his wrist in his hand carefully and twisted his arm upwards - the warmth of his fingers shouldn’t have made Steve shiver but somehow it did - and uncapped the pen with a flick of his thumb. It clattered to the floor somewhere, but Steve only half registered it because he was too focused on the feeling of Tony’s hand clasped around his wrist.

“In case you ever want an accomplice for bar fighting,” Tony told him as he started writing a number on the inside of his arm. “Or someone to complain about our mother henning best friends.”

Steve met his eyes, smiling, when Tony finished and dropped his arm, stepping back. He really was unfairly handsome, and Steve found himself wishing he could soak up his face and his voice for his a little bit longer.

“I will,” Steve promised, and already in his mind he was calculating how long it would be acceptable to wait before calling. “I’ll uh. See you around.”

“I hope so,” Tony said firmly.

“Steve Rogers,” the nurse called out again, and Steve reluctantly turned away. He glanced over his shoulder once more as he walked away, only to find Tony still staring after him.

He thought if he was lucky, he’d manage to wait until tomorrow night before calling him. Even waiting that long would be an accomplishment.