What no one had expected was that Steve Rogers would be the first to knocked out of commission.
“I'm fine,” Steve said, and it would've been much more reassuring if he wasn't in the act of falling on his face when he said it. Thor caught him without difficulty and wrestled him back into the bed at SHIELD medical. “Guys, it's fine, I'm just a little-”
He rolled towards the other side of the bed, away from Thor, and went out of the bed headfirst. Clint, Tony and Bruce grabbed for him, and with Thor grabbing the back of Steve's shirt, they managed to get him back into bed. “Jesus,” Clint managed, breathing hard, “you are a pain in the ASS, Rogers, just stay still!”
“We need to-” Steve said and Tony threw his hands in the air.
“Stay still,” he snapped. “Steve, you can barely sit up, and you damn well sure can't stand up.” He leaned over the bed, snagging Steve's uniform shirt and wrestling him back down. “And it's really disconcerting to see you staggering around like a drunk with a broken ankle.”
Bruce was checking his chart. “You're really not,” he said. “You will be, but whatever that ray was that Dr. Doom hit you with, it's thrown your inner ears all out of whack. You'll recover, but right now? The vertigo must be so bad that I'm surprised you're not throwing up.”
Tony leaned over Steve's bed, smoothing a hand over the other man's forehead. The skin was clammy and cold to the touch, and he frowned. “Close your eyes,” Tony said, canting his body low over Steve's to study his face. He could hear Steve's breathing, rapid and uneven, a faint hint of panic hidden in it.
“You are not fine, and you just need to relax for a minute. I swear, we won't try to replace you or find a new Super Soldier.” Tony put a hand over Steve's eyes, feeling Steve's lashes flutter like wings against the sensitive skin of his palm. He leaned over and kissed Steve's forehead, letting his lips linger there. “Breathe. Slow and deep.”
“Humor me,” Tony said, and he had to smile at Steve's long suffering sigh. He leaned over, his lips almost against Steve's ear, and took a deep breath of his own, and another. He felt as much as heard Steve match his breathing to Tony's. It was instinctive, and Tony wished he could curl up on the narrow medbay bed beside Steve's solid, familiar form.
Of course, if he did that, there was no way that Steve would miss the fact that Tony was running a fever.
So instead, Tony just let his lips brush against Steve's ear. “I love you,” he whispered. “And I need you to just stay here until you're feeling better.”
“Please,” Tony said, and he lifted his hand. He was reassured by the fact that Steve's eyes, when the fluttered open, were clear and bright, and he'd regained a little of the color in his cheeks. “C'mon, Rogers. You're the worst patient ever.”
“Oh, I am not taking that from YOU,” Steve said, but his lips twitched. He reached up, and Tony took an instinctive step back, catching Steve's palm between both of his. He squeezed the big hand. “If anything happens, I need you to tell me what's going on,” he said, and the anxiety was there in his voice, in the set of his mouth, in the way his free hand clutched at the sheets. Panic just barely leashed, and Tony smiled down at him, warm and affectionate, trying his best to be reassuring.
“It's okay, Cap,” he said. “You're not going to stay here. Look at me, you know that, right? The serum, and your natural stubbornness, will get you through this, and you'll be back out in the field chewing our asses soon enough.”
Steve let out a faint snort of laughter, his eyes closing as he sucked in a long, slow breath. “I could make a very tacky joke here.”
“I wish you would, you know how I like you talking dirty,” Tony said, because the team had long since beat a hasty retreat, Natasha hustling the boys out. Since it was just the two of them... “Is it about my ass? Because that would be nice. I always suspected you were checking out my ass in the field, Steve, that is just-” He shook his head. “That is unbelievably hot. Because let me tell you, your uniform-”
“Stop!” Steve's cheeks were flushed red, and for the first time since he'd gone down on the Manhattan street, his whole body twisting and arching against the shattered concrete, Tony felt himself start to relax. “My GOD, Tony, you are just incorrigible.”
“Is that forties slang for 'dirty pervert?'” Tony asked.
Steve grinned at him, but even the minute movement of his head in Tony's direction seemed to make him unsteady. “I love you. Be careful.” It was an order, and Tony nodded. “If anything happened to you-”
Tony rolled his eyes. “I'm in a suit of armor, and I've still got four people watching my back. You're not that important, Captain Overprotective.”
“I'll be careful,” Tony said, and leaned over to kiss his forehead. When he straightened back up, he had to fight a momentary feeling of dizziness of his own. He ignored it; there were a couple of benefits to having fought with head injuries before. “I know you hate medical,” he said, his voice quiet. “I know this must bring back a lot of bad memories, but I need you, Rogers. Can you tough it out until you heal?”
Steve's eyes closed. “Yeah,” he said, but his mouth was tight, miserable. “Keep me updated.”
“You need to try to get some sleep.”
“Sedatives won't work, and my team and my lover are going back out in the field without me, the chances of me falling asleep right now is pretty much non-existent,” Steve grumbled, sounding petulant and frustrated. Tony smoothed his sweat-damp hair away from his face. “Keep me updated,” he repeated, and the strain was there in his voice, in the high, tight note, stretched like one of Clint's bowstrings.
“Stay in bed and try to rest, and I'll make sure Coulson keeps you in the loop.” Tony leaned over and kissed Steve's lips, smoothing his palms against Steve's cheeks.
“Thanks. God, I love your hands,” Steve said. “They're so warm.”
Tony flinched, glad Steve's eyes were shut. “Yeah,” he said, smiling. Today, especially.
There was a tap at the door, and Natasha poked her head in, her eyes avoiding the bed. Just in case. “Stark, we've got movement in Brooklyn. We need to go.”
“On my way.” Tony risked one last kiss, and straightened up. He snagged his helmet and gauntlets from the bedside table. “We'll be back before you know it, Cap.”
Steve's lips curled down. “You had better,” and it was stern, and fierce and under different circumstances, Tony would already be stripping off the rest of his armor and tossing it in all directions. As it was, he gave Steve's hair one last stroke and then he was following Natasha out the door.
“Will he stay put?” she asked.
“Yes. Let's go.” Tony pulled the helmet on, snapping the visor down. Safely inside, he said, “Jarvis, what's my temperature?”
“One hundred and one point six,” Jarvis said. “Sir, you should not-”
“It'll be fine,” Tony said, because yes, it would. It would have to be. “Just need a little while longer for the asprin to bring my fever down. It'll be fine. Monitor my vitals, would you please?”
“I know, I know, I KNOW. Just do it, Jarvis.” He took a deep breath. “The best thing we can do is end this mess quickly.”
If anyone had to be turned into a frog, it was probably for the best that it was Thor. He was used to it.
And there was another sentence that Tony Stark had never imagined he's ever have to THINK, let alone deal with the reality. “You okay, buddy?” he asked as SHIELD medical ran in circles behind them, and he wanted to tell them that visual panic did not inspire confidence.
Thor nodded sagely. “The spell will wear off in time,” he said, on a faint sigh. It was so very, very strange to hear the words coming from a frog. A big ol' frog, but still a frog. “It is one of Loki's favorites, but he has never managed to perfect it.”
Tony wondered if this was one of those sibling things where Loki wanted to punish Thor, but not really do him any lasting damage, but he kept his mouth shut. He didn't have any siblings, and he'd say the closest thing he had to one was Pepper, but that would be a little creepy. Because, you know, the sex.
A doctor hovered over Bruce's shoulder, his mouth working. “You're going to catch flies,” Bruce said to him, deadpan about that, and Thor began laughing, a great booming sound coming from such a small creature. He rolled onto his back, his long, flippered legs flailing in mid-air.
“I don't know what to do here,” the doctor admitted, hugging his clipboard with the sort of grip people usually reserved for parachutes and life boats.
“It's cool, we've been through this before,” Clint said, setting down a basin of water. Thor hopped in with a pleased sound, and Natasha put down a bowl of marshmallows.
“Marshmallows?” the doctor said, jumping as Thor's tongue flicked out to snag one of them.
“He likes them,” Natasha said, her voice full of disdain. “The fruit flavored mini ones. Did you even bother to read his file?” She reached down and ran a gentle finger across Thor's damp head.
His eyes went heavy lidded. “Ah, you are ever kind, Natasha.”
“You're new here, aren't you?” Tony said to the doctor, who seemed like he was going to cry. “Just- It's fine. Go away now.”
“I need to-”
“Is there anything, ANYTHING in your life, history or education that prepares you to deal with a Nordic God who's been turned into frog and likes mini-marshmallows? But only the fruity ones?” Tony asked.
“Not at all,” the doctor said.
“Then you should go get a cup of coffee or something,” Tony told him. The doctor stared at him. Tony stared back. Then he pointed at the door. “Go away.”
The doctor left. He might've been crying. Tony really didn't give a damn. “You guys have this?” he asked Natasha and Clint, who were tossing marshmallows for Thor to catch while Bruce made a notation on Thor's chart.
“Go,” Natasha said, not even bothering to look up. “Is it wrong to say that you're adorable like this?” she asked Thor.
He made a croaking noise, his throat sac enlarging. “Nay. Thank you, sweet lady!”
Shaking his head, Tony headed for Steve's room, pausing only for a moment to snag a glass of water from a pitcher that was on Thor's table. He chugged it in two long gulps and poured another. His skin felt hot, tight, and the water was amazing on his parched throat. Once he was out of sight of the rest of the team, he ducked into an unoccupied bathroom, shoving his head under the sink's tap.
The water was a shock on his dry skin, and he stayed there, letting it soak his dust covered hair and his neck and face. When he fumbled for the tap to turn it off, it took a couple of tries to accomplish the simple task and straightening up sent him stumbling into the wall. Fighting off a wave of dizziness, he grabbed for the paper towels.
It took a dozen of them, but he patted his skin dry and got his hair flattened into damp curls. Snagging his helmet from where he'd dropped it, he pulled it on. “Jarvis?”
“Your temperature has not decreased,” Jarvis said, sounding displeased, and Tony sighed.
“Yeah, I figured that out, Jarvis, but-” He sucked in a breath, and another. “Any movement on the Super Villain Party Cruise?”
“There have been no further attacks, sir.”
“Good. I'm going to talk to Steve.” He wrenched his helmet back off before Jarvis could go back to bitching at him.
He pushed the door of the bathroom open and nearly ran face first into Phil Coulson, who stepped around him without so much as seeming surprised. “There you are, Stark,” he said, as if he'd been expecting Tony to be at that location at that moment.
“Here I am,” Tony agreed. He pointed towards Steve's room. “And here I go.”
“We need to-”
“I need to check on my boyfriend, that's what I need to do,” Tony said, and he was trying to ignore the way every muscle in his body ached, the way his head throbbed and his throat was scratchy and raw. It took far too much effort to keep his voice from giving him away. “In that after a lifetime of medical trauma and not good memories associated with big white places filled with sick and dying people, this is not his idea of fun, and leaving him to deal with it alone is not mine.” He shot Coulson a look. “Okay?”
Coulson nodded. “Okay,” he agreed.
“Okay,” Tony said, because he didn't know what to do when he worked himself up into a fight and no one fought back, it was very disconcerting and kind of annoying, actually. All his pissy snark had no where to go, and he resented the hell out of that. “So. Yeah. I'll be back in a few.”
He stalked off, and he was very, very proud of himself that he didn't stagger or wobble or crash into anything on the short trip up the hall to Steve's private room.
Gripping the doorframe, Tony eased the door open, peeking around the edge.
“I'm awake,” Steve said, but he didn't look over or try to get up. There was a washcloth over his eyes and a blanket spread over him. “How's Thor?”
“Thor is a zen master when it comes to dick moves on the part of his brother,” Tony said. “It's kind of remarkable, the guy can forgive a remarkable amount of dickery. I would've smashed Loki's face into the wall a century ago if I was him.”
Steve's lips curled up as Tony settled into the visitor's chair next to the bed. “I wish you'd take off the armor and stay a while,” he said, one hand fumbling in Tony's direction, and Tony caught it.
“Can't quite yet, babe,” he said, brushing a kiss against Steve's knuckles. “We've still got super villainy to trounce. It's a problem.” He rubbed his thumb against Steve's fingers, loving the strength in Steve's hands, the tightly controlled potential for destruction. Hands that could peel the armor from him, and yet were capable of such delicacy when Steve was touching someone he loved.
Steve sighed. “Wonderful.”
“Did Coulson let you know?” Tony asked, sweeping his free hand over Steve's hair.
“Of course he did, he brought me an earpiece, too, but I can't keep it in for more than a couple of seconds before I'm struggling to keep my stomach where it ought to be,” Steve said, and Tony smoothed his thumb over the tense lines of Steve's forehead until they relaxed. “Sorry.”
“Don't be, I think if anyone has the right to feel bitchy right now, it's you,” Tony said. “How're you feeling?”
“Like I'm going to throw up every time I so much as shift my weight,” Steve said. “Still can't sit up or roll over or do anything.” His fingers tightened on Tony's, just for a second.
Tony made reassuring sounds, because there wasn't much else he could do. Bruce and the SHIELD medical staff seemed certain that Steve's healing factor would take care of this, the way it did everything else, but none of them were used to having Cap out of commission for more than a few minutes. “We're all far too dependent on you,” Tony told him.
Steve made a face, and Tony laughed. Before he could say anything else, the comm in his armor chirped. He sighed. “Really? I can't get ten minutes to chat up Captain America? Really?” he asked, triggering the earpiece with a sense of resentment.
“He'll be here when you get back,” Fury said, and he didn't sound unsympathetic. Which was rare for the taciturn director. “But we've got problems down in Central Park, so it'll have to wait.”
Tony sighed. “Duty calls, darling,” he said, and he got to his feet. He was glad that Steve still had the washcloth over his eyes because, for a second, his vision went white at the edges and he staggered, heavy metal of his boots scraping the floor. Steve's hand tightened on his, fierce and instinctive.
“Tony?” he asked, his voice full of concern.
“Got tangled up in the chair,” Tony said, glad that his voice didn't sound raw or uneven when he choked out the lie. “I'll be back soon.”
Steve's fingers tightened on his hand. “Tony, what's wrong?”
“Just tired. I'm fine, Natasha, Clint, Bruce and I will be back before you know it, okay?” Leaning down, he kissed the back of Steve's hand, letting his tongue flick against the skin. Steve's hand flexed as he sucked in a sharp breath, and Tony slid his hand free. “I love you. I'll be back as soon as I can.”
And he was really hoping that was very, very soon.
It wasn't unusual (much to Coulson's dismay) for Clint Barton to be shot. It was also not unusual for him to be shot in a way that caused him to plummet from a high perch. Luckily for the whole team, it also wasn't uncommon for Hulk to play 'catch the archer.'
The big green guy seemed pleased with his perfect track record of keeping his teammates from becoming a red splatter on the sidewalk. At times, especially with Tony or Steve, he was downright smug about it.
Clint getting shot with some sort of expanding high density and extremely sticky polymer, that was a little more unusual. And for the Hulk to get stuck to him and then prove unable to get free, that was enough to cause a complete shut down of SHIELD operations on the street level.
When he panicked and went crashing through, well, everything, and ended up with most of stuck to the two of them, that's when Tony had Jarvis check to make sure he hadn't started hallucinating. It had been up to Natasha to plant a fist in Chemistro's face. The boot to his balls hadn't been strictly necessary, but the last person who'd tried to write Natasha up for 'excessive force' had been fully and carefully educated in just what that phrase meant in her world.
As it turns out, getting kicked in the balls did not count. Not by a fucking longshot.
Bruce woke up in SHIELD medical, part of a sticky ball of unshakable goo that also included Clint, part of a phone booth, most of a tree, a very panicked pigeon, one of Phil's shoes, a huge amount of trash and the remains of a SHIELD van. Clint had waited for him to stagger to confused consciousness before he'd started singing the Katamari Damacy song.
Maria Hill had evacuated the medical bay. Bruce had burst out laughing.
As the two of them sang at the top of their lungs, laughing too hard to do much but choke out the occasional “Na nanana na na Katamari Damacy!” Natasha had found Phil a replacement shoe and Tony had slumped in a chair, trying not to pass out, laugh or start sobbing.
“I hate my life,” the doctor said, still holding his clipboard. Tony was pretty sure there was nothing on that clipboard, but he wasn't going to be the one to take the guy's last connection to a normal life.
“Why did you take this job?” Tony asked as a bunch of SHIELD staff swarmed over the ball of goo and Clint tried to kick Bruce in the head for 'skipping a verse' despite the fact that the Katamari theme song was just a whole bunch of 'na' sounds. “I mean, sorry, I know this sounds mean, but you are not suited to this, Doctor Kildare, really. This is normal, this is-” He spotted the movement out of the corner of his eye, and he lunged. “NO, THOR!”
He was a half step too late, and Frog Thor went splat against the side of the ball.
“I'm not sure what you thought you were doing, Thor,” Clint said. “But whatever it was? You fail.”
Tony slumped to the ground. “Kill me now,” he said, as a SHIELD staffer started screaming, his hand stuck firmly to the ball, and being the sharp employee of an international quasi-military organization, he braced his foot on the ball and tried to push himself loose. Which, of course, resulted in his foot getting stuck. Which resulted in an even higher pitch of screaming.
Natasha clubbed him on the back of the head.
“I really should have something to say about that,” Coulson said, as the man slumped back, unconscious.
“Yeah, you should,” Clint said, his head tipping so he could stare at his lover from an upside down position. “I think it's 'Good job, Romanov, remind me about that at your annual review.'”
“Not quite,” Phil said, his lips twitching.
“I'll remind you,” Natasha said, sweeping her hair back with a flick of her wrist.
The doctor was sobbing silently as the ball shifted, and a tray of instruments was added to the outside. Tony desperately wanted to join him. “Thor? Buddy?” he said instead. “Can you breathe?”
“Yes,” the frog said on a croak. “This is most odd.”
“You're telling me,” Bruce said. “This may be the weirdest place I've ever woken up.”
“Naked, in a ball of glue, with me and a pigeon?” Clint cracked. “Nothing weird about that.”
“Is one of my feet sticking out?” Bruce asked. “It feels cold.”
“No,” Maria Hill said.
“Well, that's worrying,” Bruce said. “How did we get here?”
“There's a forklift stuck to the back of your new home-ball,” Tony said. “And a chunk of Seventh Ave. on the bottom. The city's going to bill us for that. You know they are. Dicks.” There was not much rancor in the word, it was more force of habit by now than anything else.
“Can we do something about this?” Hill was asking the head of their science division, who may or may not have a flask held behind his back.
“I'm going to go check with Steve,” Tony said, and it took him so much effort to get his ass off of the floor, it wasn't even funny. He staggered once, and Coulson grabbed his elbow, steadying him. “Thanks, boss man.” He snagged his helmet with one hand, gripping the metal with more force than was strictly necessary.
“Are you all right?” Coulson said, giving Tony a narrow-eyed look.
“Yeah, just tired. Can you do me a favor and ask those who traffic in illegal activities to cut this shit out? I'm really, really tired and I want to crawl into bed with Steve.”
Coulson chuckled. “I'll make that known.” He glanced at Hill. “What's the status with Chemistro's gun?”
Tony should probably stay and try to help with that, but his nose was itching and his throat ached. His eyes were watering, and lugging the armor around was becoming more and more difficult. The smart thing to do would be to find an empty room, curl into a ball and catch as much sleep as he could manage.
Instead, he staggered for Steve's room like a homing pigeon heading for its roost.
He didn't even get a chance to knock this time. “Tony?” Steve's voice called. Smiling, he opened the door.
The room was dark. Tony was glad. He stumbled forward and sank into the visitor's chair. “I do not want to be an Avenger any more,” he said. “I am quitting. I'm just going to be your kept man, okay?”
“Okay,” Steve said, easily enough. “I've got seventy years of back pay. And I can always get a job, I don't need much sleep.”
Tony pulled off his gauntlets and set them aside. “You're not supposed to agree to that, Rogers. You should be horrified by such a tawdry concept.”
“Yes, the idea of you, safe and sound and perpetually naked in my bed-” Steve's lips quirked up. “That's just terrible. What was I thinking?”
“I know, clearly you weren't in your right mind when you agreed.” Tony paused. “But if you'd ever like that full-time job, I've got some openings in the art department at StarkIndustries.”
“That is a horrible idea.” Steve fumbled at the side of the bed, and Tony took his hand.
“I just want to be able to sexually harass someone and not get sued,” Tony said, grinning “C'mon, you always say you don't know what to get me for my birthday.”
“You're seriously trying to add me to your staff just so you can come and grope me during work hours?” Steve was trying so hard to be stern, but he wasn't quite pulling it off. “That's pathetic, Tony. Even for you.”
“Hey, I've got class. There wouldn't be groping. Just some hovering and dirty jokes and the occasional implication that guy with a mouth like yours could go places if he felt like putting himself out there every once in a while.” Tony checked the wash cloth, and stroked Steve's forehead. “Close your eyes, I'm going to soak this again.”
“Don't, I want you to stay here,” Steve said, his fingers tightening on Tony's. “And that's awful tacky, Tony.”
“I'll be right back.” Tony managed to get to his feet and kissed Steve's brow, his nose, his lips. He snagged the washcloth. “And I'm awful tacky, Steve. I thought you'd figured that out.”
“Can't have a tacky kept man. I've got a reputation to uphold.” Steve let Tony go, but there was reluctance in the way his hand slipped out of Tony's. “As a fella who doesn't sleep with tacky gold-diggers.”
“Did someone teach you that, or was that a thing in the forties?” Tony asked, laughing. “Gold-digger? Really? Please.” He made the long, staggeringly painful trip to the bathroom on legs that weren't quite steady. “Did anyone tell you about Bruce and Clint?”
“Yes, Natasha gave me a quick update when she came by with Coulson's shoe. She promised to take pictures. Lots of pictures.”
“That sounds like our girl.” Tony stared at himself in the mirror. His skin was pale and pasty. Taking a deep breath, he swiped the washcloth over his skin, and wet it down again. “They're working on Chemistro's gun, so it shouldn't be-” His comm unit beeped and he swore, loud and long and dark. “Are you kidding me?” he snarled, stalking out and it was fine because the armor was a pretty damn good support system. “Are you fucking kidding me right now.”
“I'm afraid not,” Coulson said. “We're wheels up in five, there's a mechanical dragon-”
“Stop,” Tony said, already feeling dizzy and unsteady.
“On the Jersey Shore,” Coulson finished.
“Fuck those guys,” Tony said. “Seriously. Those guys? Fuck them. This is divine retribution. This is an act of a vengeful God! This is the collective good taste of humanity rising up and-”
“Tony,” Steve said, stern.
“Really, I do not need this right now,” Tony mumbled. He folded the washcloth over, and leaned over to kiss Steve's forehead. “I love you. Please try to get some sleep.”
Steve grabbed for his arm. “Tony. It's you and Natasha?”
“It's a mechanical dragon. In Jersey. Coulson could handle this alone if he wasn't being such a bitch,” Tony grumbled. He smoothed the damp cloth over Steve's eyes. “I repeat, I love you. That is when you're supposed to-”
“I love you, too. Be careful.”
“I will.” Tony wondered how much longer this day could possibly go on.
Phil Coulson got shot.
No one was particularly happy about this, but the consensus in the SHIELD ranks was, A. It happens, B. Phil was more worried about his suit than his shoulder, so it wasn't that serious, and C. Thank fucking God Barton wasn't there.
Phil, for his part, was more annoyed than anything else.
“Only you,” Tony gritted out, wrestling the handler onto his back, pushing him down as junior agents came swarming out from where ever the hell Coulson put junior agents when they were in danger of getting shot. Phil preferred not having junior agents get shot, it was hard on his nerves and the paperwork, he'd made clear to the entire team, was just not worth the trouble.
So the junior agents stayed where Phil put them, until Phil hit the ground, a splatter of red splashing across the pavement.
It only added insult to injury that he'd been shot in the back.
“Only you, Phil,” Tony gritted, “could go out to fight a giant steam powered mechanical dragon in New Jersey and get shot in the back by a trigger-happy cop.”
“Natasha,” Phil said, shoving hard at Tony's hand, trying to sit up.
“No, I'm the one with the beard,” Tony explained. “Stark. Taser? Supernanny? Drooling in the carpet? On second thought, why do I care about your health and well-being, you were MEAN to me, Coulson, you have always been mean to me.” But he'd worked Phil's beautifully tailored jacket off his shoulder, and it was clear that the shot had grazed the upper part of his shoulder, ripping the webbing of his kevlar vest, but not doing much more than cosmetic damage. Of course, the wound was bleeding freely, and Tony turned. “I want a medic here TEN MINUTES AGO!” he yelled, and Phil's hand caught him by the neck of the armor, wrenching him back around.
“Where is Natasha?” he said, his voice strained, and Tony's heart stopped. “Find her, Stark, NOW.”
“Fuck,” Tony said, and he was on his feet and running. “Jarvis, find her.”
Stupid. Stupid, stupid, STUPID. Stupid fever fogged brain. The dragon thing was down, it was in pieces in the street, and he'd thought the threat was neutralized, he hadn't been thinking, he hadn't been thinking clearly, because that was getting harder and harder. He blinked as the HUD changed angles on him, he stumbled, nearly , and realized the futility of staying on the ground.
A second later, he was in the air, swooping through the agents and the damaged remains of the monster's steam engine, heading for the police presence. Because Natasha's target wasn't the dragon, not any more, her target was the kid barely out of the academy who'd panicked and put a bullet in Phil's back.
“Always the best pair of eyes a super hero could have, Jarvis.” Tony twisted and came in hard, a little too hard, nearly overbalancing and face-planting. He kept his feet through a force of will and some quick and dirty application of repulsors. “He's going to be fine,” he said, and Natasha didn't even glance in his direction, perched on the edge of the roof, a knife flicking up in a glittering arc. She caught it and tossed it again, never looking at it, never looking at Tony, her focus held by the police car down below, the slumped form of the young officer visible in the rear seat.
The car's red and blue lights bathed the landscape in quick, sharp flashes, and Tony watched Natasha's face go hot and cold without moving a muscle. “Coulson's fine,” he repeated.
“I am aware of that,” she said, and he hadn't heard that tone from her, not in a long time. “And I'm making sure that the man that put him on the ground isn't going to wander off before he can be charged for it.”
“Fury'll take care of it,” Tony said, because he was tired and everything hurt, everything from his head to his throat down to his goddamn bones. “Phil wants you back on the reservation.” She didn't move away from the edge, didn't look at him, didn't speak. She just tossed the knife, smooth and polished, metal and flesh moving as one sleek weapon.
Tony sighed, pulled his helmet off. “Barton's fine. Coulson's fine. I know, it's been a bad day, here, but if you don't stay in range right now, they are both going to flip their shit, and that is not what I need right now. I need a drink, a hamburger the size of my torso and about twelve hours of sleep.”
“Is everything about you, Stark?” she asked.
He took a breath and took a chance and snagged the knife from midair, his gauntlet-clad hand closing on the grip with a click of metal against metal. She did not immediately stab him with another knife that she'd had hidden somewhere, so he pressed his luck, hard. “It is today, because there's not much of our team left.” He flipped the knife around and offered her the hilt. “Come down and let Coulson see you.”
For a long moment, she didn't move. Then her hand flicked out to take the knife and tuck it away somewhere that he was best off not thinking about.
“I will call Barton. Do not make me call Barton and tell him that his boyfriend's been shot and his ex-girlfriend is doing the rooftop stalking thing.” Tony paused. “Do you ever consider that we are a very incestuous little group? In all seriousness, we need to date someone outside of our little social pack.”
“You should get on that, Stark.”
“Fuck, no. I somehow managed to get CAPTAIN AMERICA doing the horizontal mambo. Fuck you all, I win. I win everything.”
Natasha's lips curled up, just the tiniest bit, and whatta you know, her cheeks didn't crack. “What, exactly, does Rogers see in you, Stark?”
“Damned if I know.” He grinned back. “Let's get Phil back to medical.”
For an instant, he didn't know if she was going to come, if she was going to tell him to fuck off, if she was going to just pull a gun from God knows where and end the stalemate by shooting the cop or Tony or both of them. He was too tired and too achy to even consider putting up a fight. So when she rolled to her feet and turned away from the edge without a backward glance, he found himself almost collapsing under the weight of his relief.
“Thank you,” he said, stepping up behind her and pulling his helmet on. “Shortcut?”
She laid a hand on his shoulder, and he gripped her waist, taking off. It was a little rockier than usual, and she gave him a sideways glance. “What's wrong?” she asked, and he couldn't claim to be moving too fast to hear her.
“Just tired. I'd like this day to be over,” he said. They reached the ground and he lowered her to the pavement before landing himself next to her. “Food, booze, Steve. In that order. I will also accept Steve, food, Steve, booze, Steve, sleep, or Steve, Steve, sleep, food, Steve, booze, Steve, or-”
“Shut up before I hurt you,” Natasha said, but she wasn't quite fast enough to hide her smile as she turned away, her feet carrying her swiftly to the location where Phil was being prepped for transport.
“I love you, too!” Tony yelled after her, and waited until she was some distance away before he let himself slump, hard, against a semi-intact brick wall. “Jarvis?”
“One hundred and one point eight degrees, sir,” Jarvis said, and Tony sighed. “You are having trouble maintaining consciousness, are you not?”
“I'm fine. I'm still awake,” Tony said, and if his words were slurring, just a tiny bit on the edges now that Natasha was safely out of range and only Jarvis was around to hear him, well, that was his business. “I'll be fine, Jarvis, we've gotta be reaching the end of this hellatious day, right?”
“I would say so, but you have an incoming call from SHIELD,” Jarvis said, and Tony swore, loud and long. “Shall I block it, sir?”
“They'll just call back.” The armor was feeling more like being wrapped in wet towels than protection right now, every movement was hampered, and he hated how much of a struggle it was to push away from the wall. “What?” he asked, one hand braced to keep him upright.
“We've got a situation,” Hill said.
“Of course we do. I'll meet up with Natasha. Don't even bother giving me any details before then,” Tony said, and cut the connection. “Jarvis-”
“There is a Gatorade machine half a block from here that has met an untimely end,” Jarvis said. “Might I suggest you help yourself?”
“You're suggesting I steal Gatorade from a vending machine that was used as a landing pad by some sort of steampunk dragon on the Jersey shore?”
“It is a sad, sad day, Jarvis, because that is the best suggestion I've ever heard,” Tony said, and he forced his legs to move.
Natasha stopped answering the comm and Tony stopped breathing.
“Widow, let me hear your voice,” he gritted out, cutting hard through the corridors. “Jarvis, tell me you've got a lock on her.” The 'please oh God please' wasn't said, but Jarvis heard it anyway.
“Her last location was two decks below your current location,” Jarvis said.
Tony's eyes flicked to the HUD, trying to get his vision to focus. “Got it. Heading down.” There was a crackling response over the comm system, but it wasn't Natasha, he could tell just by the few sounds that he could make out. “Is the Coast Guard receiving us?” he asked Jarvis.
“Unlikely, sir, I am attempting to compensate for the situation, but the damage appears to be on their end. At this point, any high level message should be routed through SHIELD and then back down to-”
“Yes, I got it, really.” Tony blew out an access door with a single sharp blast and hit the stairwell, skidding against the wall and nearly clipping the stairs. The smoke was so bad that he had to switch to the night vision version of his HUD. “Where the fuck is she?”
“She had reached the control room at her last communication.” Jarvis lit the path and Tony muscled open the door and shot down the hallway. “Widow?” he yelled. “Natasha! You are taking your attempts to save this ship way, way too far.”
The crew was out, he and the Coast Guard had made sure of that, but the tanker was unstable, the fire that had started in the electrical systems raging out of control. Natasha, ignoring every instruction from both the Coast Guard cutter and SHIELD, had disappeared to deal with the fire suppression systems.
They'd kicked on with brutal suddenness, and Natasha had promptly stopped answering her comm.
Tony wasn't happy to find the way to the control room blocked by a collapsed hallway. “Oh, fuck this,” he grumbled, grabbing hold of the nearest piece and ripping it free. “NATASHA!” The smoke was thick, and he pushed his way through. “Goddamn it, Natasha!”
The HUD started howling at him, and he moved in the direction that the alarm sent him, picking his way through the disaster area. It took him only a moment to locate her huddled form on the ground. “This isn't funny,” he said, even as Jarvis fed him her vitals. He went down on one knee, pushing the metal plating away from her slumped form. “C'mon, don't do this to me.” He slid an arm under her, supporting her as best he could before checking the damn schematic. “Fuck this,” he said, blowing a hole in the ceiling.
“Sir, that is not advisable-” Jarvis started, but Tony couldn't focus, couldn't think, and she was still and limp in his arms and he blew his way out of there, heading straight up, pushing them through the shattered plating and into the open air.
“Jarvis, get me the Coast Guard NOW, I don't care what you have to do-” Tony said.
“Iron Man, status report,” the voice came over his comm unit with perfect clarity, and Tony would've thrown his hands in the air and screamed Hallelujah if not for the fact that he was still carrying Natasha.
“I have injured, need medical care,” Tony gritted out, and pushed himself for the Cutter as fast as he could go, and still keep Natasha protected.
“Affirmative, medics are standing by.”
Tony hated coming in for a rough landing in front of other people, but today, he felt he had an excuse. The medics were there, as promised, and Tony handed off Natasha's limp form with a mingled touch of reluctance and relief. They had an oxygen mask on her almost before he lowered her to the gurney. “SHIELD is en route,” Jarvis said in his ear.
“Understood.” Tony stumbled after the gurney, hating that it took far too much effort to keep his feet moving forward, to keep his body upright.
He glanced back over his shoulder. The Captain was approaching at a swift pace, and he flipped his visor up. The man paused, concern flashing over his face. “Are you all right?”
Tony waved him off. “Fine. What can I do for you, Captain? I need to stay with Black Widow, she does not do well when she wakes up and does not know the medical personnel leaning over her.”
“There's a SHIELD team on their way,” the Captain said. “They're less than five minutes out. We've had reports of a leak on the starboard side, we're having trouble making the turn because of the smoke.”
Tony was so dizzy that there were two of this man. He closed his eyes, his skin feeling unpleasantly tight against his bones, and he sucked in a thin, wavering breath. “Right. Check and patch. Got it.” He flipped the visor down and for an instant, he thought he was falling, he could swear that he was pitching forward or backward, like the air itself was buffeting him.
He took off before he could hit the ground. “Sir,” Jarvis started. “Your vitals are unstable and becoming more so by the moment. Please-”
“Almost done, Jarvis,” he said, and he swept in too close to the water, his knees almost skimming the surface as he yanked himself back up. “Almost-”
The HUD weaved in and out of his field of vision, the sharp lines becoming a muddy blur. “Jarvis?” he said, and the sound was off to his ears, like it was coming from a distance, like his tongue was numb in his mouth. “Jarvis, I need-”
Tony could hear the AI yelling at him, hear the alarms blaring, but they didn't make much difference, because he was sliding through the air, sliding down, mind and body and when the darkness came up to swallow him, he didn't know if it was the water, or just blessed unconsciousness.
The shock ripped through him, and he jerked awake on a scream. “Wha- Fuck, what the hell, where-” He blinked hard, trying to get his eyes to focus, but everything hurt. Everything, but especially the act of breathing, it was like his lungs had been stuffed with wet cotton. “Jarvis?” he slurred. “Jarvis, did you just SHOCK me? Like, zzzzt, taser like shock me?”
“I am sorry,” Jarvis said, his voice tense. “You were not responding, sir. Please try to stay awake, you are underwater.”
“Well, that's not good,” Tony managed, trying to make sense of the information scrolling across the HUD. “That is- That is definitely not good.” He blinked a few times, but there was only darkness behind the wash of colored lights. “How deep?”
Jarvis was replying, was giving him the data on the HUD, but it didn't make any sense, and the darkness was right there, pushing through the display to swallow him again.
Tony smiled. That was, that was nice, wasn't it, Steve's voice, that husky, affectionate tone that came out whenever he was trying to wake Tony up without freaking him out. “Mmm.”
“Tony? C'mon, baby, wake up.”
Nope. That was a lousy idea. Lousy. He managed a pained sound, and his throat was raw, his breathing labored. His skin felt tight, over-sensitized and moving was an agony.
“Tony?” There was a pause. “Jarvis, you have to get him up.”
“I am afraid that if I fire the repulsors in his currant position, I will only make the situation worse. We must get him to straighten out.”
“Tony?” Steve's voice had a hint of stress now. “Tony, I need you to get up. You can do that for me. Tony. Tony, wake up. Please.”
Tony tried, he really did, but his eyes didn't want to open. “Steve?” he managed, or at least, he thought he managed that, what was happening in his head and what he could manage to get his mouth to do was apparently two very different things.
“Tony.” The relief was audible in Steve's voice. “Tony, you're underwater, and we're having trouble getting to you. We need you to straighten your legs, so Jarvis can activate the repulsors and get you topside.”
Tony thought about that. “You there?” he managed at last.
“Yeah, I'm here. Tony. You can do this. Just straighten your legs and let us help you.”
The words made a certain amount of sense. But Tony was tired, and hot, and moving was just going to exacerbate those conditions. “Okay,” he said.
“It's not enough to say 'okay,'” Steve said, his voice gentle. “You actually have to do it, Tony.”
“Okay.” He sucked in a deep breath, and started coughing, hard and sharp. The sound rattled away inside the helmet and he could hear voices in the background, something about recovery and depth and air supply, and then he was gasping for breath again. “Don't think I can, Steve.”
“You can. Tony, I know you can. I need you to, and you've always managed to do it when we've needed you to. Just one more try, Tony.”
Tony flexed his arms, his legs. “Can I have ice cream?” he slurred out, and it was kind of a joke and kind of not, and he managed to get himself half over in the darkness, the armor dragging against the movements like he was trying to claw his way out from under wet soil. The darkness pressed in, and he thought, with morbid humor, that it wasn't dissimilar from being buried alive.
“Tony, if you can do this for me, yes. I'll give you whatever you want.”
Tony chuckled, flexing his knees, twisting himself over. “Anything?” and he ruined the sexy sound of the question by coughing through it.
“Get to the surface, and I'll take the job with StarkIndustries.”
Tony paused, and the sluggish, fevered parts of his brain came online with the force of a server reboot. “I am-” He sucked in a breath and pushed, hard, against his own muscles and bone and his own desire to just retreat back into a dreamless sleep. “I am holding you to that,” he said, and he was upright, his limbs where they should be, and he had an instant to be so very, very proud of himself and then the repulsors were firing, sending him shooting up, through the water, and he broke the surface with a crack.
The power died, and for an instant he hung there, weightless, and then he was falling back, back towards the fathomless depths, and he barely recognized when Thor snagged him, one-handed. Slumping into Thor's body, he just let his eyes close.
He heard the face plate release with a hiss, and then there was light on his face, painful and brilliant, and faces and forms blocking out the sun. He squinted up, his face twisting, hearing words echo in the helmet, in his ears, words that almost made sense.
“-one hundred and four degrees, pupils dilated, skin dry and hot.”
“-dehydration is the-”
“-long has he been like this, there's-”
“-patient is unresponsive, slurred speech-”
“-get a medical evac, start an IV as soon as we can get-”
“I don't care how you do it, Thor, get the damn armor open,” Steve said, and Tony latched onto his voice like a lifeline. He could feel pieces of the armor coming free, most of the releases working just fine, and then hands were wrapped around his bare palm. He tipped his head in that direction. Steve was scowling down at him, face tense and pale.
“Hey,” Tony croaked out, and started to cough. “What're you doin' out of bed?”
“You do not want to start this conversation with me right now,” Steve said, his fingers squeezing tight. His eyes cut away from Tony's. “I've got him, just do it.”
There was the pinprick of a needle in his arm, and Tony winced. “No, get- I jus' need some sleep.”
“Tony, you needed sleep yesterday. This morning. Now, you need medical intervention, because you are a complete moron with the self-preservation instincts of a mayfly,” Steve said, and Tony was getting the feeling that he was in trouble, because Steve was stroking his hair and talking to someone who wasn't tony and there were medical words being thrown around and he was so tired.
“In interests of full disclosure, I think I have the flu,” he managed, his eyes sliding shut. “Mad at me?”
He felt lips on his forehead, light and delicate and familiar. “So unbelievably mad at you.”
“Okay,” Tony said, because what else could he say to that? “Love you.”
If there was any response, Tony missed it as the darkness closed over his head again.
The murmur of voices reached him first.
Natasha's laughter, rough and husky, Clint's and Coulson's voices rising in falling in soft cadence with each other, the humming that he knew was Bruce's, the tune familiar enough from their time in the lab, and Thor's low and regal tones. Steve had no voice, just the rolling, reassuring sound of his breathing, just a shade or two under a snore, against Tony's shoulder.
The warmth of Steve's body, curled against his, was the second thing he recognized. For a long moment, he just savored the heavy, solid body against his, the faint tickle of hair against the underside of his jaw, the weight of Steve's hand across his chest, resting by habit over the arc reactor.
The smell of coffee came sneaking in next, and his stomach growled.
“It lives,” Clint said, and Tony opened his eyes, blinking hard at the light.
Clint was seated on the other bed in the room, the one that held Natasha, regal and pale against a pile of pillows. An oxygen tank was nearby, but the mask was discarded on the tray table that Clint and Phil were using to play cards. Natasha's shoulder was against the line of Clint's spine, and Thor was sprawled out with his head on her knees and his legs dangling off the end of the bed. His eyes were closed, a faint smile on his lips, as she braided his hair. He tilted his head towards Tony at Clint's words, his smile stretching into a wide, pleased grin. Bruce was seated in a nearby visitor's chair, a bit apart, but still there, still with them, a tablet braced on his upthrust knee. His feet were bare and his hair a tangled mass, but he put his work aside as Tony stirred.
Steve was curled against Tony's side, the broad expanse of his body clinging to the edge of the narrow medical bed. Tony angled his head, just a bit, rubbing the line of his jaw and his chin against Steve's crisp, soft hair. “Hey,” he said, and he sounded like he'd swallowed a frog. Lovely.
“How're you feeling?” Bruce said, rolling to his feet. A penlight was pulled from his pocket, and he flicked it over Tony's eyes before he could flinch back. “Open your mouth and say ah.”
Tony rolled his eyes, but did as he was told, letting Bruce check his throat. A quick glance, and Bruce was tucking a thermometer under his tongue. “This is stupid,” he muttered around it.
“So're you, so it all works out,” Natasha said, her voice barely above a whisper. “You. Are a moron.”
He shrugged. “Saved your ass.” He was kind of proud of that. Okay, really proud of that.
She gave him a look that promised pain, and Clint leaned back against her shoulder. “He did,” he said in a stage whisper as Coulson stood and headed for the door, one arm in a SHIELD blue sling.
“Fine. Thank you,” Natasha said, her lips twitching.
“You're welcome,” Tony said, magnanimous in victory. Bruce hooked a thumb under his chin with a stern look, pushing his mouth closed.
“Thermometer,” he said, his fingers sliding down Tony's neck, checking the sides of his throat with a firm touch. Tony let him do it without protest until the damn thing beeped, and Bruce pulled it out. “Better,” he said, and he sounded relieved. “Headache? Nausea? Does your neck feel stiff?”
“Everything feels stiff,” Tony said, his hand coming up to stroke Steve's hair. “Is he okay?”
“He's fine. Still hit with occasional bouts of vertigo, but he's almost back to normal.” Clint folded his arms on top of the tray table, reaching for Coulson's cards. He glanced at them. “Dammit.”
“He's going to know you cheated,” Bruce told him.
“Why do you think I did it?”
“How long have I been asleep?” Tony asked.
“Near to two days,” Thor said, and he should not manage to look so manly with a braid. He sat up. “We were all much concerned for your welfare.”
Tony winced. “Fuck.”
“Pretty much,” Natasha said, smiling.
“What are you doing in here? A., you usually duck medical faster than anyone other than Clint-”
“I am the champ!” Clint said, thrusting his fists into the air.
“And B., I should rate a private room.”
“I was assigned to guard you when the rest of the team couldn't be here,” she said, her nose in the air.
“That, and the concussion, dislocated shoulder and smoke inhalation,” Coulson said, stepping back in with a tray balanced on his hip. “Feel up to eating something?”
“Is it a cheeseburger?” Tony asked hopefully. He shifted, and did his best not to dislodge either his lover or his IV. “A really big cheeseburger?”
“It's chicken broth and tea with extra honey,” Coulson said.
Tony gave him a look of horror. “So what you mean is, do I feel up to drinking something.”
“Not unless there's booze in that cup,” Tony said, giving the tea a dirty look. “Do I look British?”
“Drink your soup and tea and we'll see about getting you some toast.” Coulson gave him a smile. “Dry.”
“You're a peach,” Tony said, just as deadpan. He reached for his sippy cup of broth. “I hate you all.”
“Who here is surprised that Stark is a whiny bitch when he's sick?” Clint asked. “Oh. Shocking. Look at the complete lack of hands.”
“When you get back to the tower, you will find that your room is now a cardboard box in a back alley,” Tony told him, grinning.
“I was worried about you, too, buddy.” Clint rolled to his feet. “C'mon, Nat, you feel up for a trip down to the mess for some real food?”
She nodded, and Thor perked right up at the mention of food. “Bruce, join us?” she asked, and he gave her a grateful smile and a small nod.
“Yeah, I'm just going to make sure they update his chart,” he said, reaching for his shoes. “I'll meet you down there?”
“I'll come along with you, if that's all right,” Coulson said. “Reports to be filed.” He touched Clint on the arm, fingers light on the other man's elbow. “And by checking my hand, you automatically fold,” he said, with a stern look.
“You would've bluffed me, anyway.” Clint knew better than to support Natasha, but he and Thor took up flanking positions on either side of her, in case she needed it. They headed for the door with smiles and a brief outbreak of chatter. “We'll be back later, Stark.”
“Behave yourself,” Natasha said. “We're trusting you not to molest our team leader.”
“You... Should not have this trust in me,” Tony said, arching his eyebrows. The soup tasted remarkably good, and as much as he would never admit it to Coulson, it was the perfect choice right now.
“Don't get dumped,” Clint said, and Thor grabbed him by the back of the shirt and hustled him through the door. “Hey, what, it's-”
They were gone, door closing behind them, and Tony leaned back into the pillows with a sigh. “I know you're awake, Rogers,” he said, letting his free hand stroke the short hairs at the back of Steve's head. The texture was familiar and comforting against the pads of his finger tips. “Are you that mad at me?”
“I think I have a right to be, don't you?” Steve said against his shoulder, not even opening his eyes. “You scared about ten years off of my life.”
Tony sighed. “Sorry,” he said, resting his chin on the top of Steve's head. He could feel the other man's breath against the base of his neck, soft and warm. “I really thought it was just a cold. Figured the aspirin would kick in and take care of the fever.”
“But you made that choice alone. You kept us in the dark.” Steve's fingers stroked around the curve of the arc reactor's edge, back and forth. “If we'd known, we could've kept an eye on you. As it was, you ended up sending a Coast Guard crew into a complete panic. They really thought you were dead.”
Tony winced. “You're going to make me send them apology cards, aren't you?”
“I do like creative and polite ways of making you suffer,” Steve agreed. Finally, he shifted, tipping his head back to look up and meet Tony's eyes. “Don't ever do that again.”
“I'm not in the mood to negotiate. You tell us, you tell me or Coulson or Bruce if you're not one hundred percent. We can't stop you from going out anyway, but we could've sent more back up, we could've made sure that someone was watching out for you.” He reached up and rested the back of his hand against Tony's forehead. “This wasn't a situation that was beyond our control. It was out of control because you let it get to that point.”
Tony leaned into the contact. “This would be easier if you'd just get mad and scream at me.”
“But when I lose my temper, you always win.” Steve grinned at him, his sleepy eyes dancing. “If I am calm and rational, you get all flustered and give in to all my demands.”
Tony opened his mouth to object to that, and paused. “Well, damn,” he said, blinking.
“Yeah.” Steve sat up. “Still mad at you.”
“I know.” Tony sighed as Steve's warmth pulled away from him. He shivered. “Where are you going?”
“To run a bath. I'm betting you could use one.”
“I could use some coffee,” Tony said, struggling into a sitting position. It took way too much effort, and he was dizzy by the time he managed it.
“Do not push your luck right now.”
Tony sighed. “You're not going to take the job at StarkIndustries, are you?”
“I promised I would. Pepper brought the paperwork around yesterday, and God help me, I signed it. I will be doing contract work when available at the high salary of a dollar per year,” he said, with a faint smile. “Unlike some people in this room, I honor my commitments.”
“I love you. So very, very much,” Tony said, his voice reverent.
Steve gave him a look over his shoulder, but he was smiling. “Tell me when you're not feeling well, okay?”
“Okay,” Tony agreed, his lips twitching. “But only so I can whine for sympathy and attention.”
“Making it no different from any other day,” Steve said, and when Tony gave him sad, pathetic eyes, he grinned. “I do not fall for that. Any more. Mostly. Stop it, your eyes are gigantic, it's very disconcerting.” He crossed back to the bed, leaned over Tony and planted a hard kiss on his lips. “I love you. Even though you are determined to make me insane.”
“It's not my fault. You're so cute when you're freaking out,” Tony said, and that earned him another kiss, hard and fast. “Not funny?” he asked, his breathing rough and uneven now, and it had nothing to do with the flu.
“Not funny.” Steve rested his forehead against Tony's. “Bath?”
“Are you involved? Naked and wet sort of involved?”
Steve flushed, his cheeks and ears going red. “No, we're at SHIELD.”
Tony made a face as Steve pulled him up. “Good point. No reason to give Fury any more blackmail than he already has on us.” He leaned heavily against Steve's side. “I'm sorry.”
Steve kissed his head. “I know. Please try to be less sorry and less trouble to begin with.”
“That is so much harder, though,” Tony said, grinning. “And you're kind of attracted to my bad boy mystique.” He was laughing until he caught a glimpse of the blush crawling up Steve's cheeks. “Steve. Oh, my God. You do. You like it when I'm bad.”
“I don't like it when you nearly get yourself killed,” Steve said, and he was trying to sound stern, but his face was bright red.
“You have such horrible taste in men, really, it is just, I do not even know what to do with you.” He grinned, ignoring the fact that his whole body ached and his legs didn't want to hold his weight. Only Steve's firm grip kept him upright. “This opens up so many possibilities. I, I don't even know, it's an embarrassment of riches, I am going to do such horrible things to you when I'm feeling better.”
Steve groaned. “Tony-”
“No, you're right, I owe you, this was unacceptable behavior, I've got to make it up to you somehow.” He grinned at Steve. “When's your first day on the job?”
Steve groaned. “This was the worst mistake I've ever made.”
“Great! Something to work towards!”
To: Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD
From: Phil Coulson, Agent of SHIELD
Re: Avengers Initiative
Attached file: Classified, Level 7: Tony Stark/Coast Guard Incident (108 KB)
Also, there is what appears to be cell phone footage of a seemingly drunk Iron Man knocking over a Gatorade machine in New Jersey and helping himself. We are trying to contain it.