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Lay down your arms

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The grip under his fingers is just as he remembers. Smooth, cold, just this side of heavy to be reassuring.

He isn't reassured. He thought he'd feel sick, but it's not that either. He's—there's something about having your finger on the trigger, before you press it, something about how easy it is to fire and take someone's life and destroy so much more—

Steve's tied up and blindfolded, and Tony knows that if he doesn't fire now, he'll never see him again.

“Don't play with big boys' toys, drunkard,” Bullseye mocks.

Years ago, Tony would have laughed. He'd ask whose name was on the side of the barrel.

He makes—made weapons. He damn well knows how to use them, sober or not.

Everything is easier with alcohol, he thinks numbly, and shoots.

(It's a lie: he should be prepared, but he stumbles back with the recoil, and his guns don't kick back that hard, but it's the sound of the bullet cutting through the air, hitting the flesh, the blood blossoming on Bullseye's crisp white shirt—and knowing it's Tony's doing.

It's not easy, it'll never be easy, and he said would rather shoot himself than use a gun—

Except to save Steve, he'd do anything and more.)

Bullseye falls, and Tony pulls out the magazine before throwing the gun away. He doesn't let himself think. He runs to Steve's side.

“Tony,” Steve gasps even before Tony pulls the blindfold off his eyes. “Did you—” he starts saying and stops, as if he can't find words.

Tony busies himself with untying Steve. The knots are good, Bullseye knew what he was doing. Tony gives up after a second and reaches into his pocket for a knife. “Stay still,” he warns, before cutting through the rope.

Steve sits up the moment he's freed. He reaches for Tony, and Tony moves back at the last second. Steve shouldn't touch him. No one should. Not—he promised himself he'd never pick up a gun again.

He's not sure what he's going to do, now that Steve is safe.

“I heard a gunshot,” Steve says, because he can't bloody let go, can he?

“It happens quite often,” Tony says wryly.

“You smell like gun powder,” Steve says. He looks worried, and it's just him, isn't it, thinking about Tony when someone just beat him and tied him up.

“Aren't you always telling me to arm myself,” Tony snaps, and Steve shakes his head.

“Thank you,” he says seriously.

“You should be more careful,” Tony mutters. “We knew they'd come for you.”

Steve nods grimly and doesn't offer any explanation for how it happened. He also doesn't say a word as Tony takes out his flask and drinks from it. He doesn't stop until it's empty, and the alcohol burns his throat, but it's not enough.

It'll never be enough.

He should've put the next bullet in his own head. He can still fix that, right, and he looks around, to where he threw the gun—

Steve grabs him by his shoulders.

“You saved my life,” he says, his blue eyes piercing Tony.

“We have to stop meeting like that,” Tony offers, but Steve doesn't laugh.

Tony realises he has to get him home before going off to drink more. There's no telling if Roxxon won't send another thug after Steve—or more probably, after them this time. Tony wouldn't mind if he shifted Roxxon's focus just to himself, but he knows better than to hope.

“We should get away from here,” he says out loud.

Steve looks at Bullseye's body and then back at Tony.

“Don't,” Tony pleads. He can't talk about it now. Or ever. He's tired. Steve already knows everything there is to know.

“Later, then,” Steve says.

They get up. Tony's head swims, but he manages to stay on his feet. Steve keeps close to him. They're not far from Steve's house. No one is out, even though—or maybe because of the shot. Recent days have taught everyone to keep their heads down.

Steve is silent and Tony's grateful for that. He can feel Steve's eyes on him and he hopes he looks steadier than he feels.

He hasn't touched a weapon in years, but now there are already equations in his head, new ideas to get better range out of a hand gun, for smaller and faster bullets, for magazines that'd fit more of them. He can't shut it off. He never could.

Whiskey helps. Steve does—Steve did, but Tony reminds himself he has to leave as soon as Steve's safe. Steve doesn't know why Tony swore off guns in the first place, and Tony thought he could atone for what happened with his weapons, but he can't. He can't. He used it again, and there was a reason Bullseye had Stark guns in the first place.

Tony's good at killing people. He only failed at it with himself.

He stumbles, takes a few unsteady steps to the right and finally falls down. He throws up, and feels Steve's soft touch on his shoulders.

“Told you to cut on drinking,” he says. It has nothing to do with alcohol, but Tony's glad he's pretending it's that.

He heaves again. Steve's hands are rubbing soothing circles on his back.

Why can't he see Tony's no better than Bullseye?

“It's fine,” Steve's saying. “It's all right, Tony.”

He never uses Tony's name in public like that.

Tony takes a few calming breaths before nodding. “I'm good,” he says, and Steve helps him stand up again.

It's all wrong, it's supposed to be Tony taking care of him now, but he lets Steve put Tony's arm around his shoulders and walk them both the last metres to Steve's door.

He pushes Steve away then, but before he can leave, Steve's hand closes around his wrist like a manacle.

“Stay,” he says; his eyes fixed on the door knob.

Tony shouldn't, but he already knows he will. It's to keep Steve safe, he tells himself as he nods.

He's always been too selfish.

Steve's home is as familiar as his own and he knows that he won't find any alcohol here. Even if he left a bottle here at some point, Steve would've poured it away.

Steve wraps his arms around Tony, and it's on instinct that Tony pulls him closer.

“You can't do that to me,” Steve whispers.

“It's not me who almost got himself killed tonight,” Tony answers.

“You know what I mean.” Steve burrows his face in Tony's neck, whispering the words into his skin.

Tony stays silent.