“Even if they are being manipulated by this Rachel woman, I can’t believe the U.S. government would interfere in people’s lives like that. That’s completely against everything they’re supposed to stand for...”
Coulson does not have the energy to point out some choice moments in history to Steve, so he instead goes to start the coffee maker. Clint, Natasha, Thor, and, grudgingly, Steve, are going through to keep fighting the war. Loki and Tony, still too physically shaky to go head to head with the frost giants, are staying behind with Coulson and Bruce.
“What they’re supposed to stand for and what they actually do, are two different things,” says Natasha, with a shrug.
Steve frowns at her. Bruce shakes his head, and interrupts, “regardless, it needs to be stopped. You said SHEILD was going to work on an antidote?”
“Yes. B-but I don’t know how successful they’ll be.”
“So do people know, yet, what’s happened?” asks Clint, as he loads his quiver.
“There are rumors, but they’re being dismissed as crackpot conspiracy theories so far. They’re gaining steam. None of them are really accurate, though.”
“So you have to let them know what’s going on.” Loki, sitting next to Bruce on the sofa.
“Will that not merely cause more panic, people turning against their government?”
“It would be complete chaos. That’s what that woman is counting on, that we can’t tell people what’s happening without causing more harm than good.”
None of them look happy. Steve looks frankly disturbed.
After the dead rose, Tony had started working on crowd suppression, but hadn’t had a chance to give it all the thought it really required. Now they were putting that time in on a rather more compressed basis.
It’s difficult to disperse a sedative, because it would reach people of all different body masses, and affect each one of them differently, that they discarded on the spot. Sonic blasts were a better bet, but could cause serious injury if not calibrated with absolute precision for the distance from target. Something that the suit could do, but nobody else could really have a way to fire.
Coulson sits on a chair, resting his chin on the back, and spinning absently back and forth in quarter arcs, “what about that thing Obadiah used?”
Tony turns to look at him, “we’re not using that.”
“It’s scary as fuck.”
“And sonic blasts or sedative gases aren’t?”
“It was also ruled to be against people’s rights, by the U. S. Military. Which is one hell of a big clue that it isn’t a good thing to use.”
“What else have we got, Tony?” Bruce, looking up from his own project, across the lab, “if we don’t come up with something
Tony frowns, “you’ve never had it done to you, so you wouldn’t understand. It’s... someone in one m-moment t-taking away your v-voice, your ability to d-do anything. You can’t keep yourself s-safe, you can’t...anyone co-culd do anything t-to you, and you couldn’t even say n-no. And in a riot situation, you could get trampled.”
“Not if everyone else is affected too.”
“It’s temporarily take away everyone’s ability to fight or let people keep getting killed. Which is rather permanent.” Loki, sitting on the couch, fiddling with something Bruce handed him.
“Use it on us. Test it on us. If we agree, we won’t use it,” he regrets it the moment he suggests it, but maybe that’s the point.
“Phil’s right,” adds Bruce, “thought I wouldn’t recommend I be the test subject. As much as the other guy likes you...”
Tony looks miserable, but does go to the elevator down to prototype storage. Coulson follows him, slipping in just before the elevator doors close. Tony leans against the wall, absently tracing his fingers over the diamond-pattern etching on the handrail, doubling as decoration and a better surface for gripping.
“Steve would never be okay with this. And that makes me very hesitant to be okay with it, even if you are, after testing it.”
“That’s perfectly fair.”
Tony nods, sighing, and glancing up at the floor numbers. He shakes his head, and looks at Coulson, “damn you.”
“You...” he waves his hands in Coulson’s direction, like that explains something, “why don’t you suck? You suck for not sucking.”
“...sorry?” offers Coulson, shrugging.
Coulson crouches beside Tony, as he digs through a box of prototypes, without much success, “are you okay? You seem distracted.”
Tony is silent, for a moment, then gets to his feet, walking along the shelves, one hand trailing along the metal zig-zag reinforcement to the shelf at his chest height. Coulson sets down the box, and follows him, is just reaching to grip his arm, when he stops.
“I think it might be in this one.”
Coulson looks, “T7O8539J?”
“Doesn’t sound wrong.”
Coulson lifts it down, and they kneel, opening it.
“There, theh...that’s it.”
Tony lifts out case, and holds on to Coulson’s shoulder, as they get to their feet. Coulson looks at him, steps in close, and offers his arm.
Tony shakes his head, “I’m fine.”
Tony hesitates, then wraps his hand around Coulson’s upper arm, walking with him back to the elevator, and leaning into his shoulder a bit, as they ride.
It’s Tony who activates the device, Coulson already lying down on the couch, head in Tony’s lap. Bruce and Loki stand to the side–or, really, Bruce stands, and Loki leans on him, wearing what is pretty clearly Bruce’s shirt, unless someone else has invested in purple button-downs. Granted, Coulson could see Clint doing that, but probably not then lending them to Loki.
Tony looks just plain upset, putting in the ear plugs, and readying the device next to Coulson’s ear. He presses the button, and Coulson’s whole body freezes. He feels like he can’t breathe, and blood is running from his nose, and ears, and he can barely swallow, he can’t speak, his jaw is spasmed shut so hard his teeth creak.
It’s terrifying. But it doesn’t hurt, and if he’s calm, it’s okay. That he’s on a couch, with Tony gently wiping the blood off his upper lip and out of his hair, definitely helps that. But it’s not...the end of the world. It is, though, pretty scary. But he can imagine the other options being much worse.
He’ll have to wait to tell Tony that, though.
As he lays there, though, it starts to get worse. He starts to panic. It’s taking too long to wear off. Tony is stuttering badly, as he talks over Coulson’s unmoving body to Loki and Bruce. An alarm goes off, Tony looks down, tries to calm him, with stuttered words and a hand rubbing his chest, but it doesn’t help, he can’t breathe.
Tony leans down over him, face inches from his, and now he looks scared too, and that just makes everything ten times worse, and he’s trying to tell Coulson it’s okay, but he can barely speak, he’s so upset.
Bruce steps in, taking his wrist, and counting against his watch, “he’s alright, he’s just panicking. It’ll be over in half an hour, maybe forty-five minutes.”
That doesn’t help. He’s crying. He’s dying.
Tony smiles, gently rubs a thumb over his collarbone, “hi.”
Coulson struggles onto his side, burying his face in Tony’s belly.
“We, uh...sedated you. I’m sorry if that wasn’t what you wanted... you just...didn’t seem okay.”
“No. I couldn’t have...it was too much. Thank you.” his voice might be muffled and kind of not understandable, in Tony’s shirt, but he’s not moving.
Tony stands with him in the bathroom, helping him get the last of the blood out of his hair. He’s still shaken, leaning against the counter, and mostly letting Tony fuss while he focuses on remaining upright. Which, if he thinks about it, Tony Stark is fussing over him, and he really can’t fathom how normal that bizarre sentence seems.
Tony pulls his shirt collar out of the way, wiping at the blood on his skin, the washcloth hot and rough against his neck and jaw, but so very welcome. Tony steps back, surveying him up and down, “you look like shit.”
Coulson shrugs, “feel like shit.”
Tony steps back in, close, and he’s like three inches shorter than Coulson, but that doesn’t really help, because when he puts his hands on Coulson’s chest to brace himself while he stands on his tiptoes, looking to see that he got all the blood from inside Coulson’s ears, it puts his body so close against Coulson’s that it’s impossible to stand.
Tony isn’t a blushing virgin. Coulson can’t imagine the Tony doesn’t know what that’s doing. The question is why. It’s a question he’s really not prepared to ask.
“Take off your shirt.”
“What?” he comes out of it, looking at the slightly smaller man.
“You’re sweaty, bloody, and your shirt is stained. We’ve got a meeting with Fury in twenty minutes. Take off your shirt.”
Coulson does, slowly, hesitantly. Tony sighs, “I’m sorry. That wasn’t...nice, of me. Earlier. But seriously, take it off.”
Tony unbuttons it, and untucks it, now working efficiently and without comment.
Coulson stands, watching the top of Tony’s head, lowered, as he tries to wash the blood from Coulson’s shirt.
“Forget it, I’ll get it out later.”
Tony obediently drops the shirt in the sink, wets his washcloth again, and goes for the rest of Coulson’s back, cleaning away the blood he couldn’t get at before. He puts a hand on Coulson’s stomach, to brace him, as he scrubs, palm warm and firm against Coulson’s skin. He isn’t doing it on purpose now, he’s just helping Coulson get presentable, but that knowledge doesn’t help the reaction.
Tony rinses the washcloth, and this time runs cold water over it, as he wipes away the heavy layer of acrid-smelling sweat. The point at which the washcloth brushes over his left nipple, rough and cold and wet, is the point at which he loses it.
Tony stops, and looks up at his face, and then down at his cock, and gets a funny expression on his face. It’s one part amusement, one part embarrassment, and one part just plain smug.
Coulson has the double urge to kiss him and punch him, and instead he walks away to get in the shower. If, while he’s in there, he imagines Tony joining him, that will just stay between him and his self.