Tony leans on him, as they slowly walk out of the hospital. The smaller man is bundled up in a thick wool coat, floofy scarf, and soft hat, covering his stitched scalp. Loki is slowly improving, still hasn’t woken. Bruce is limping, but okay. Clint has discovered the vaulting potential of his crutches. Natasha’s arm is still in a sling. Thor and Steve were fine in the first place, and have been hovering the whole time since. Though Steve not in Tony’s room. All of them except Loki are waiting in the van.
Tony halts, and Coulson stops beside him, “what’s up?”
Tony extends his hand, letting a few small snowflakes fall into his palm. They sit for a moment, then melt to tiny drops on his skin.
“I actually like snow.”
Coulson is silent for a moment, then shifts, tightening his arm linked with Tony’s, and putting his shoulder more snugly against the other man’s, “there’s supposed to be plenty overnight.”
Tony nods, and squeezes Coulson’s arm, ready to start walking again.
“Drive to 890 Fifth Avenue, not the Tower.”
“Your parents’ mansion?”
“The St-stark family home. I g-grew up there–it wasn’t a f-family, or a huh...home. I w-would like to change that. Besides, it’s got a fireplace. Sadly, putting a fireplace in an industry leading green b-building just didn’t seem like a great idea, publicity wise.”
Coulson laughs, a little, checking the street before they step off the sidewalk.
“It also has a hospital room. From wheh...when my Grandfather was dying. I had it updated.”
They are going back soon. They had to wait until Tony was well enough to leave the hospital to modify the portal generator to work with a more traditional power source, but once that’s done, they’re going back. One, maybe two more nights on Earth, and then back to war.
The ride to the mansion is quiet, though not silent. Clint and Natasha are talking at a low volume to not disturb Bruce, fast asleep, head in Thor’s lap. Steve sits, ramrod straight, Tony leaning tiredly against his shoulder.
“I can’t keep waiting. N-not forever. Not without something...some sign that there w-will be an end to the wait.”
“I love you.”
“I know. That isn’t the q-question. The question is if you are going to be able to b-be with m-me. And I don’t think you are.”
“I’m a coward.”
“You value how p-people see you more than your own happiness. You feel that you m-must stay that old fashioned hero that everyone ever can l-look up to. That doesn’t make you a c-coward. Maybe as America changes, some d-day, you will be able to be with a m-man and still be that uncontroversial hero. That day j-just isn’t today.”
Tony looks exhausted, as he and Coulson walk into the large living room. It doesn’t seem like a thing had been changed since the 1950's, including the grand fireplace. Tony, though, pulls him past, out into the dark wood paneled hall on the other side, and to a small door, almost indistinguishable from the hall itself. Enough so that Tony runs his hands along the cool wood to find it, instead of looking.
Coulson reaches, gently touching the side of Tony’s palm with the back of his hand. Tony maintains the contact, as Coulson moves his hand down to the doorknob. Tony turns the knob, and opens the door, walking inside.
This is a much smaller study, with furniture that Coulson is betting has been there since the home was built, at the turn of the last century. The walls are red, and mostly covered in bookcases, the books ranging from engineering periodicals to poetry.
Tony wobbles his way to sit, in front of the fireplace, and starts building a fire, taking kindling and waxed wood shavings from a tin, making a small pile in the center of the hearth. Coulson crouches beside him, helping lean larger firestarters and split wood above the kindling. Tony stops, looking down at a piece of split wood in his hands, picking at the little slivers. He leans sideways against Coulson’s shoulder, a soft indrawn breath audible next to Coulson’s ear.
Coulson lights a match, tosses it onto the kindling, and puts his arm around Tony’s shoulders. Tony turns, shuffles, scoots, until he’s kneeling with his back to the slowly growing fire, his face buried in Coulson’s neck, his hands holding on to Coulson’s shirt at the sides, his front pressed against Coulson’s chest, Coulson’s arms around his back, holding him snug and tight.
It’s physically awkward, and their knees are between them, but Coulson keeps holding him, until well after the small fire has died, and his legs are numb from sitting so still. And if his neck and shirt are a little bit really very wet under Tony’s head, he doesn’t say a word.
Standing at the bay window, Couslon looks out into the falling snow, the streetlights illuminating the flakes, falling stars in the dark. Two floors below, the grass is slowly turning white, and on the street, the hard lined sidewalk softened by the curves of shallow snow on top, the black fence between the two topped with little clumps of white.
Bruce joins him, with two hot mugs, “they settled Loki in alright.”
“Tony shouldn’t come. When we go back. He’ll be a liability.”
Bruce smiles, holding out the steaming cup, “right.”
Coulson sighs, taking the mug, “maybe Fury’s right. I should be reassigned.”
“I think several people would be very sad if that happened. Tony not least of which, for all that he’ll never admit it.”
“He’s not the only one bad at admitting things.”
“Drink your hot chocolate.”
Coulson does, and burns his tongue.
“Is there rum in this?”
Coulson takes another sip, burned tongue or not.
Bruce takes the small bottle of rum from his pocket, and hands it to Coulson, “I have a feeling it’s going to be a long night.”
Coulson is woken from the armchair he dozed off in, by a computerized voice through the speakers, “Agent Coulson, you are needed in medical.”
He sits up, just in time to see Bruce race past the door, followed by Clint vaulting after them. He struggles up, and follows after them. Tony comes out of his room, and Coulson grips his arm, as Natasha comes up behind, “do you know whuh...what happened?”
“No idea,” answers Natasha, knocking on Steve’s door, but getting no answer, “I guess something with Loki.”
She hurries ahead. Tony looks at him, “go on, I can get there.”
He offers his arm.
Tony leans on him, and is able to shuffle a little faster for the support.
“Fuck you. You don’t get to die.” Clint, of all people.
“We spend all our time fighting all these people who just keep dipping their ledger in more and more red. We need to see you bleach yours back to white. We need to see you succeed. So stop dying.” Natasha.
The last two of what were doubtless a long string of pleading speeches. Steve is there already, and it looks like he was actually there before, his shirt is hung on the back of the chair by the bedside. He looks almost panicked.
Coulson lets go of Tony, and pulls Steve to the side, “what did you do?”
“I told him I couldn’t change.”
“Why would you do that?”
“Because I was trying to tell him that he was different, that he actually wanted to try. That that was why he could succeed where I couldn’t. That he was braver than me, than any of us but Tony, to look at the worst parts of himself, face them, and try to change. To spend every day pushing himself and fighting to be better. That I looked up to him.”
For a strange three seconds, Coulson sees, a confused not-even-thirty year old. His worship had long ago faded, he understood that Captain America was also just plain old Steve Rogers, but it hadn’t occurred to him that Steve Rogers still had a lot of living to do before he was really done becoming himself.
Thor pushes into the room, just as the monitor flatlines.
The god takes one look at the room, and pulls Bruce off, where he’s trying to start CPR, “stop. He isn’t dying. His tissues are regenerating themselves, starting with his heart.”
They stand, silent, and watch, as the pale god lays still for ages, what is probably thirty seconds. Then a break in the constant whine of the monitor, a beep, and a convulsion through Loki’s body. Thor holds Bruce’s shoulders, looking slightly sick, as Loki jerks and convulses. Then it’s over. The beeping is steady, and Loki opens his eyes.