An Experiment Goes Awry
Millions of ideas roar through Tony's head all of the time. He spends every waking moment (and there are a lot of those because he doesn't sleep much. He is usually too preoccupied to remember such a mundane activity) pulling together and picking apart pieces of information and rearranging it in new and creative ways.
When he's bored and the lack of sleep has caught up to him, those ideas tangle like jumbled necklace chains at the bottom of a jewelry box. There's a clear beginning that soon gets lost in a series of knots. For most people that would mean slowing down, taking a step back, and patiently trying to unravel the mess.
But not for Tony Stark. He works on an idea until he encounters another thread, then he's off in a different direction. Some of his best ideas have come from the surprising combinations that fire in his brain.
The last few days have been quiet so he's been in the lab, following one train of thought to another.
There are at least four coffee cups on various surfaces. Some are full, some not so full. A few are still even hot. But the idea is that Tony has one at every station so that when he flits from one project to another like a butterfly on speed, he doesn't waste time having to retrieve the fuel his body needs to keep going.
As Tony drains a cup dry, he idly thinks he should work on a way to inject the caffeine directly into his bloodstream. Yeah, a java I.V. or something like that. He adds it to his list of things to do.
AC/DC's T.N.T. is blaring through the speakers, covering him in a blanket of rock 'n roll. It soothes him. Somehow, his thoughts beat in time with the music. The faster the beat the quicker his mind fires.
A loud pop comes from Tony's right and his head swivels in that direction as JARVIS's accented voice cuts through the jangling guitars.
"Sir, I believe--"
A bright flash nearly blinds Tony and he throws up an arm to shield his eyes. "JARVIS! Engage the--"
BOOM! Sparks shower the room and Tony ducks his head as the ground shakes.
"Shit!" Tony breathes as a blast of something hot knocks him off his feet and he sails across the room, slamming into a wall before sliding to the floor in a heap.
He blinks, dazedly, as black spots spread across his vision. Just before he fades altogether, he sees bright flames shoot up high, scraping the ceiling. The sprinkler system engages and Tony is drenched in seconds.
But he doesn't notice. He's out cold.
Chaos, albeit well-organized, is what greets Tony when he wakes. He groans as the high-pitched beep of the smoke detector penetrates, driving spikes of pain through his already aching head. "JARVIS," he manages in a shaky whisper. "Turn that shit off."
"Tony, you're awake," Bruce breathes a sigh of relief.
Bruce is kneeling on Tony's right side so Tony angles his head to see him better. "Seems like," he says, coughing a little.
"I don't want you talking too much." Bruce tells him. "You inhaled some smoke."
Tony shifts on the floor until a hand to his shoulder stops him.
"No moving either," Natasha warns, her tone tight.
"How is he?" Steve asks, coming to crouch next to Bruce. His hair is tousled, face beaded with sweat.
"The fire," Tony rasps. "My lab." This whole fire in the lab thing was getting old. Scorched walls and water everywhere. Someone has to clean that shit up and it is usually him. The lab is his sacred space and no one else is allowed to come in here and touch anything.
At least the sprinkler is off. Maybe the damage isn't so bad.
"I don't want to move him just yet," Bruce is explaining to Steve. "I don't know what the damage might be, but at least he's awake. That's a good sign."
"My lab," Tony insists, hand fumbling up to catch hold of Bruce's wrist.
"Quit worrying about the fucking lab," Clint growls from above him. He too is sweaty, but his face is pale.
Tony's brow wrinkles. "This is my workspace. There are important pieces of equipment in here. I have to worry about it."
"Unbelievable," Clint mutters, hands clenching at his sides. "I'm going upstairs to meet the firefighters." With that, he stalks off.
Tony stares at his retreating form. "What's up with him?" he asks, bewildered.
Natasha shakes her head and says something in Russian. There's a frown of displeasure marring her pretty face so Tony knows what she said isn't flattering, but before he can ask for a translation, she's up and following Clint out the door.
"What's going on with those two?" he asks, turning to look at Bruce and Steve. His neck is screaming in protest at all of the movement, but there's nothing he can do about it.
Bruce huffs a sigh, looking disappointed.
"You really don't know," Steve says with disbelief. "Bruce, he just doesn't get it."
"Yes, he's kind of stupid that way," Bruce says, mildly.
"What? I'm a genius," Tony protests. There's a twinge in his lower back, but he ignores it.
"No, Tony, you really aren't," Bruce responds, wrapping a hand around his wrist and looking at his watch.
"What are you doing?" Tony asks, trying to tug his wrist from Bruce's grip.
Bruce just tightens his hold and doesn't answer, eyes still intent on the face of his watch.
"He's taking your pulse." Steve states the obvious.
"I know that," Tony snaps.
"If you knew, why did you ask?" Steve volleys back.
The pounding in Tony's head thrums louder and he grits his teeth. "Why is he doing it? I'm fine."
"No, Man of Iron, you are not." Thor gracefully drops to one knee in the space Natasha has just recently vacated. "You have taken a hard hit."
"You mean knocking myself out against a wall that happened to be in my way?" Tony asks, free hand lazily rising into the air to gesture at said wall. "It's nothing."
Thor grabs his arm and lowers it gently back to the floor. "You must be still, my friend." He unclips his cape and spreads it over Tony. "You are wet and shivering."
Tony gapes at him in amazement. "What the hell? No, this is not happening. I'm fine." He's about to yank the garment off him when Steve speaks.
"Leave it," he commands.
"Bruce? Am I in the Twilight Zone?" Tony asks, puzzled and just a little bit apprehensive. He's never seen his teammates act this way. What the hell was going on? "Have I reached the Outer Limits?"
"I think you did that a long time ago." Bruce pats him on the shoulder.
The answer is not reassuring at all.
"Thor," Steve says.
"The fire is out, Captain," Thor says, then adds, "It was quite spectacular."
"I know," Steve responds dryly. "I was there."
"Indeed," says Thor.
"The damage?" Tony questions. "Is it bad?"
Thor's eyes rake over Tony's form, leaving Tony feeling oddly exposed. "Indeed," the Asgardian says again.
"How bad?" Tony asks, already thinking of what he might need to do to get the lab back in tip top shape.
"We do not know," Thor answers, gravely.
"You don't know?" That alarms Tony and he has the sudden desire to see the damage himself. He's tired of lying on the floor, draped in a god's cloak anyway. He rolls to his side, and pushes himself up. Immediately, he just wants to drop back to the floor. His body feels like one giant bruise and he swears that Thor's hammer is hitting his skull over and over again.
Bruce grips his shoulders and settles him back down. Thor plants a hand on Tony's chest, effectively pinning him.
Tony glares at Bruce and tugs at Thor's wrist, futilely trying to remove the hand keeping him from moving.
There's another hand on his knee and Tony glances down to see Steve give him a challenging look.
"Let me up," Tony growls, wondering when his team had gotten so handsy.
Thor leans over him, face so close that his blond hair brushes against Tony's cheek. His bright blue eyes are stormy and there's a crackle of thunder right before he speaks. "That cannot be allowed."
"Why the hell not?" Tony bursts out in frustration. Then wishes he hadn't. His head is hurting so bad and he wants nothing more than to close his eyes because keeping them open hurts, but it's become a battle of wills now. Tony Stark does not like being told what to do. "Let me up, dammit."
"Tony, please," Steve implores, gazing up at him with a pleading expression that Tony has never seen before and is powerless to resist. "Just take it easy, okay? Lie still."
A beat of silence falls. Then two and that's when Tony notices belatedly that the music is off as well. "Okay, fine," he grumbles, unsure why exactly he gives into Steve so easily.
"Captain Rogers," JARVIS interrupts. "The paramedics are on their way."
"Paramedics?" Tony asks, stupidly. "Oh, hell, no! Bruce, I don't need medics. And don't think for one minute I'm leaving the tower!"
"We'll see." Bruce makes no promises.
"Don't give me that," Tony snaps. "I'll take it easy like Cap wants, but I'm staying here."
"We can hear him in the hallway," Natasha says, stepping into the room. Firefighters and paramedics stream in behind her. She arches a brow. "What seems to be the problem?"
"Our friend is being stubborn," Thor says.
"What else is new," Natasha says. She leans down and brushes her fingers along the fringe of hair lying across Tony's forehead. The tug she gives it isn't exactly gentle and neither is her tone when she says, "But understand this, Tony, for the next few days you'll be dealing with the rest of us."
Tony swallows. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means," Thor rumbles, "we shall not like it if you make light of your injuries."
"And we're going to make sure you take care of yourself," Bruce adds, quietly.
"Damn straight," Steve growls, squeezing Tony's knee.
Tony is shocked at his vocabulary, but doesn't say anything. He knows that without the armor, he's vulnerable like any other human, but he doesn't quite understand why his friends are so worried about him. Giving it some thought, he thinks maybe it's because he's never really had anyone care for him but Pepper and Rhodey, and frankly, he's hidden a lot of stuff from them over the years. That's a little harder to do when you have superheroes sharing living quarters with you even in a place as large as Stark Tower.
"Now, you're going to let this nice man look you over," Clint interrupts Tony's thoughts. He sounds pleasant enough, but there's a hint of steel gilding his words.
Tony sighs and gives up for the moment, letting the paramedic do his thing.
"No," Tony argues. "No hospital. I've already said I'm not leaving. I can rest here as well as there. Better even. No one to poke and prod me throughout the night."
"Concussion, Tony," Bruce says evenly.
"Slight," Tony counters.
Bruce begins ticking off on his fingers. "Bruises, contusions, bruised ribs, sore back."
Tony rolls his eyes and pain reverberates through his head. He grinds a palm into his left eye socket and moans.
"Tony, are you okay?" Steve asks anxiously from where he sits behind him.
"Yeah," Tony grits out. He's sitting up now, balanced against Steve's shoulder. He's still not sure how that happened, but he takes advantage of it and leans further into Steve.
Steve settles an arm around Tony's waist. "Maybe the hospital is a good idea," he says, sounding troubled.
"No, no hospital." Tony's no longer demanding, but pleading. He doesn't want to go, but he knows he'll have no choice if they gang up on him. God, shit like this had been a lot easier to deal with when Tony lived alone. But Tony doesn't want to go back to that because there are benefits, some obvious and some not, to having the team here with him. So he begs. "Please, Steve. I'll take it easy. Rest. Whatever. Just don't make me go to the hospital."
Steve stares at him for a moment, then turns to Bruce. "What do you think?"
Bruce ponders for a moment as Tony turns beseeching eyes on him. "I think we can manage," he finally says. "But, Tony," he continues, giving him a stern look. "None of your old tricks. You really do need to rest. No staying up for thirty-six hours straight or skipping meals. No working on projects. None of it. Do you understand?"
"Yeah, yeah, got it. Rest. Check," he babbles whatever they want to hear.
"Okay, no hospital," Steve says.
Tony sighs in relief.
Bruce dismisses the paramedics with the promise if Tony's health deteriorates, they get him to the hospital. Tony's a little disgruntled to hear this, but he'll take what he can get.
"Let's get him up to bed," Steve says.
"Natasha and I will stay here until the firefighters are through checking things out," Clint says.
Steve nods. "Thanks."
"No problem," Clint responds. "Just take care of our boy here." He's tone is light, but there's an undercurrent of seriousness, too.
Tony's too tired and in too much pain to wonder about that. He struggles to his feet, whole body aching. He hopes the painkillers the medics gave him kick in soon.
"Allow me." Thor gently scoops him up from the floor, cape and all.
"Oh, come on, you can't be serious," Tony exclaims as he is cradled against Thor's chest.
"Suck it up," Clint says with a little smile.
"This way." Steve leads them out of the lab.
"Thor," Tony says, "you don't really have to carry me."
"I will do what must be done," Thor returns, solemnly.
"Yeah, well, I can walk on my own," Tony protests, wondering if struggling is even an option.
"Not a good idea," Bruce says from beside Thor. "You're going to be off your feet for awhile. You might as well get used to it."
Tony's eyes widen at that. He had figured a good night's sleep and he'd be back to work. That's how he usually handled things, but it looks like he's misjudged the situation. And his friends.
Thor strolls through the hall toward Tony's room, long legs eating up the distance. "His clothes are damp and he is quite chilled. He must not get sick in addition to his injuries. Warm clothes are needed."
Natasha and Steve spread two layers of towels on Tony's bed. "Lie him down and we'll get him into something dry."
"I'll go make him some tea," Natasha murmurs.
Tony gapes at her. "You're going to make tea? For me?" The day couldn't possibly get any stranger.
She gives him a sharp nod and leaves the room.
Thor gently deposits Tony on the bed and reaches for the hem of his t-shirt.
"What--what are you doing?" Tony squawks, tugging at Thor's hand.
"We need to get you into something dry," Clint explains patiently as he tosses a pair of sweats and a faded t-shirt that's much too large to be Tony's on the bed. "You're shivering."
"Am not," Tony mumbles just to be contradictory.
Bruce gives him a withering look.
Thor tugs at the t-shirt.
"Hey, hey," Tony grunts, struggling in the soft cotton of the damp t-shirt. "I can do this myself."
"No need," Thor replies as the t-shirt tears and he pulls it off him.
Tony lays back, panting. His head hurts and his body is aching. There's a pain in his side that flares up every time he breathes. Exhaustion settles down over him like a dead weight.
"That's better," Bruce murmurs.
"What?" Tony asks.
"He means you've quit fighting," Steve says, approvingly. "That'll make things easier all around."
Tony tries to glare at him, but a yawn escapes him instead. It's too much effort to keep his eyes open, let only fight with the people who are trying to help him.
"Sleep," Bruce commands, softly. "We'll wake you up every few hours just to check on you."
Oh, joy is Tony's last thought as he drifts off to sleep, the pain pills finally kicking in.
His friends quietly work around him, making him warm, and dry, and comfortable.
"Tony. Tony!" The voice is insistent, drilling into Tony's slumber and yanking him into consciousness.
"Mmm..." he grunts irritably, stubbornly keeping his eyes shut.
"I need for you to wake up. Please, Tony."
The concern Tony hears is enough for him to obey and he blinks, lids rising slowly as if they are dipped in molassas.
Steve is looming over him, eyes dark with worry, brow drawn tight. He also looks tired even though the left side of his head is pillow-mussed, hair spiked.
"Wha--?" Tony mutters somewhat intelligibly.
"Hey," Steve says, sounding relieved. "You really with me?"
Tony huffs, exhaustion still clinging to him like cobwebs. "Sleepin'. Go 'way."
Steve chuckles. "I'll take that as a yes. How do you feel?"
There's a warm weight on his chest. Tony looks down and realizes it's Steve's hand. Stranger still is the soft caress of Steve's fingers against Tony's naked skin where the collar of his t-shirt--no, not his, he thinks in befuddlement, Steve's--has shifted.
Tony sucks in a breath. The touch is both comforting and stimulating. Two things he's forbidden himself to feel from the great Captain America.
"Tell me what's wrong?" Steve asks, sharply, leaning closer so that Tony can see the deep blue of his eyes even in the feeble light of the moon streaming through his bedroom window.
He wants to look away, but he's mesmerized by the swirling blue depths.
Tony can get lost in those eyes forever, he thinks, but knows he'll never have that luxury, that privilege.
"Bruce," Steve calls, urgently. "Something's wrong. He's not responding."
Suddenly, Bruce is looming over him, too, and Tony has the urge to push himself back against the pillows, wanting desperately to escape the hovering he thinks is unjustified. He's used to lots of attention, but not the caring and concerned kind. It's a little overwhelming.
"Stop. I'm fine. Go away."
Of course, neither of them does as he asks. Apparently, the other Avengers have been struck with a sudden affliction to ignore his requests..even the ones that sound like demands. To be fair, Natasha had warned him.
Bruce laid two fingers against Tony's temple and rubbed gently.
Tony's eyelids flutter and his protest at being touched disappears on a sigh. It feels so good, easing the ache in his head. He relaxes even further when Bruce begins to massage both temples in tandem.
"Headache bad?" Bruce whispers.
"Nu-uh," Tony refutes even though he knows it's clear to the two men hovering over him that it's a lie. It is an automatic response, years in the making. So sue him.
"Tony," Steve says, warningly, not buying any of his bullshit.
The concern still lurks in his tone and Tony wonders if he's ever going to stop hearing it. Something tells him that there's been a decided shift in their friendship. Tony's not quite sure what to make of it, although it does give him cautious hope.
He frowns, trying to puzzle out what has changed between them. The only thing he gets for his trouble is an increased throbbing in his head despite Bruce's soothing ministrations. The pain drifts down his neck and across his shoulders. His entire back stiffens and he lets out a moan.
"Bruce," Steve says, anxiously.
"I see," Bruce says, calmly. "Don't worry. We can give him something for the pain. Help him up."
"Listen, I'm good," Tony says, feeling he should protest even though there's now a sharp pain skating across the back of his head, like a sharp knife cutting into his brain.
"Tony, will you just let us help you?" Steve asks in frustration. "Stop telling us you're okay because no one believes you."
Tony snorts. "All I'm saying is that the two of you don't need to hang around. I can take care of myself. I've done it before. This time doesn't need to be any different."
"But it is different, my friend." Thor steps into view, his booming voice dropping low, but still filling every corner of the room.
Tony winces, not so much because of the sound--he knows Thor is incapable of whispering. He's too larger than life to do that--but because there is yet another person to witness his vulnerable, pain-filled moment. And, really, was all this hovering necessary?
"Yes," Steve answers, quietly. There's a slight smile on his face when he adds, "And you really should learn not to blurt your thoughts out like that."
"Yeah, I'll get right on that," Tony mutters, turning his head away, embarrassed.
Gentle fingers caress his jaw, and inexplicably Tony feels tears prick at his eyes. He wants to give in so badly to the warmth of that touch, to give himself into the care of another. But he has to protect himself. Care and warmth are fleeting. In his experience, both are occasionally given, but not freely offered. And certainly not forever.
Forever, in Tony's world, lasts no longer than a one-night stand. It is just easier to shield himself from all of that.
But this is Captain America, right? There's no need for any shielding. Steve would never hurt him.
"Look at me," Steve whispers, drawing Tony's face around until their eyes meet. Steve's smile is gone, evaporating like fog. His tone is now somber, gaze intense.
Tony can't resist staring up at him, captivated as always by Steve's commanding presence and his unwavering sincerity.
"What Thor says is true," Steve continues. "You're not alone anymore, Tony. Look around you."
Tony doesn't say anything. What is there to say?
"Go on," Steve urges, palm still curved against Tony's jaw.
Tony has no choice but to turn his head as Steve guides his gaze to the door where Clint and Natasha stand, staring at him in concern.
"We take care of each other," Steve states, firmly.
"So you have to let us take care of you," Bruce says, eyes flashing green.
Tony finds that he can't argue. In point of truth, he is overcome with emotion. There's a lump in his throat and he has to clear it before he can speak. "You're all here. Right? I would have kicked you out if I didn't want you here."
"You could have tried," Clint drawls from the doorway.
Natasha narrows her eyes at Tony, arms folded across her chest. "I thought I had settled this," she says, voice hard. "I hope you're through being stubborn."
"I prefer to think of it as being steadfast in my resolve," Tony says, cheekily.
"As are we," Thor returns, emphatically.
Tony is about to respond when agony shoots through his head. He whimpers, curling on his side, hands tangling in his hair, pushing them against his skull, trying to squeeze the pain out.
"Steve? You got him?" Bruce asks, low and urgent. "Watch his ribs."
Steve's arms go around Tony, gently anchoring him to his broad chest as he lifts Tony from the mattress.
"It's okay, Tony," Steve whispers in his ear. "We've got you. You're going to be alright."
The pain is blinding and his body is locked up into one giant knot. Nausea rolls through him and he sucks in air and spits it back out again, fighting the urge to vomit.
"Thor, the wastebasket," Bruce commands.
"I have it here." Thor's voice is back to full volume, ready to conquer any foe even if it's just an upset stomach.
Tony clenches his eyes shut, still breathing harshly.
"Clint, can you please soak some washcloths in warm water and bring them here?" It's couched as a request, but it's an order all the same.
"On it, Bruce," Clint says, and scurries off.
"How can I help?" Natasha asks.
"A fresh bottle of water would be great," Bruce answers.
She nods and sweeps out of the room.
"He's gone quite pale," Thor observes.
"Tony, I need you to take it easy," Bruce says, cupping Tony's face. "You need to slow down your breathing. Come on, slow it down."
Tony opens his eyes and Bruce's face is but a blur through the tears of pain.
"That's it. Focus on me," Bruce directs, as he brushes away a stray tear that trickles down Tony's cheek. "Slow breaths. You can do it. I know you can."
But he can't. Tony knows it. His stomach is resting on a turbulent sea, its contents sloshing all over the place. Tony feels his gorge rise.
"Trashcan. Now!" And it is Steve who thunders even as Thor moves.
Tony is helpless to stop from gagging. He tries to escape from Steve's hold, his bruised ribs flaring in agony, but Steve has a solid grip on him and isn't letting go any time soon. Tony moans in distress, resigned to throwing up all over himself.
"Don't worry. I've got you," Steve reassures as he bends Tony over the side of the bed.
Tony is hanging precariously over the side, but he knows he won't fall. Not while he is safe in Steve's arms. Not with Thor's hand on his shoulder, godly strength keeping him anchored.
Tony's stomach churns, turning in on itself and he throws up everything he ate at breakfast. Thank god he had skipped lunch. The stench rises from the wastebasket and fills his nostrils. He gags again. With each heave, the pain digs deeper into his skull. The tears are coming a little faster now, sliding rapidly down his face as he whimpers, stomach muscles twitching in pain, ribs throbbing.
A hand slips under his t-shirt. It's warm against his skin.
"Steve," Tony murmurs when he no longer feels the need to vomit.
"Right here." Steve as he begins to rub Tony's stomach, soothing the quivering muscles.
Tony slumps back against him, spent and exhausted.
Steve cuddles him close, securing an arm around Tony's chest.
Tony is momentarily distracted when he feels the ghost of a kiss along his neck. He blinks. No, that can't have been right.
"Here. Drink some water," Bruce says, holding a bottle to his lips.
Natasha watches him from behind Bruce, looking ready to force the water down Tony's throat if he doesn't obey.
Tony sips cautiously. His stomach is still rolling and he doesn't want to tempt fate.
"Take these." Bruce holds out some pills. "One is for the pain. The other for the nausea."
Tony reaches out a shaky hand to grab them, but Steve gets a hold of them first.
"I've got 'em," Steve says before pressing them to Tony's lips.
Tony pushes Steve's hand away. "Fuck that," he growls even though it sounds weak.
"We talked about this," Steve says. "You're supposed to let us help."
Tony just glares at him.
Bruce smiles knowingly, but what he knows Tony isn't so sure. "I think Tony can handle this part on his own."
"Thank you," Tony murmurs, gratefully.
Steve reluctantly hands Tony the pills.
Tony, for his part, swallows them without complaint.
"Get some sleep," Bruce says, quietly.
Tony wants to point out that was what he was doing before they woke him up. But he is too exhausted and there isn't much of a point anyway. They are sure to wake him up again soon.
"The Pythagorean Theorem is A2 + B2 = C2 . The capital of South Dakota is Pierre. Thor loves Pop Tarts, and Steve's favorite color is blue," Tony mutters.
"What?" Steve asks, confused. There's a slight panic in there, too. "Bruce? What's wrong with him? Is he delirious?"
"No, he's okay," Bruce answers.
"Then why is he spouting nonsense?" Thor questions, also sounding alarmed.
"Standard practice for people with concussions is to ask questions to check their state of mind. Whether or not memory may have been affected by the blow to the head. Giving the right answers is a good sign," Natasha responds, amused.
"But we have not asked him any questions." Thor sounds perplexed and Tony smiles.
"That's because he likes to stay one step ahead of everyone," says Clint, dryly.
"That's our Tony," Bruce says warmly, laying a hand to the side of Tony's head and smoothing a thumb along his brow. "Now sleep, Tony. That's it. Close your eyes."
"'m not a little boy," Tony mumbles in protest even as he snuggles into Steve's embrace, snuffling contentedly.
Steve leans back against the pillows, drawing Tony with him. Bruce scoots closer, his hand still nestled in Tony's curls.
Thor gives Tony's wrist a brief squeeze. "Rest, my friend," he says before he leaves, taking the stinky trash can with him.
Natasha and Clint both converge on him, Clint laying a damp washcloth across his forehead.
Tony sighs and he relaxes, boneless in Steve's arms. His headache immediately eases.
Steve draws the blankets over them both, cocooning Tony in warmth.
"Little boy," Natasha murmurs with something akin to affection. Not that she would ever admit it.
Tony wants to answer, but he's drifting away. The whole thing is so surreal, he thinks. It's like he's buoyed on all sides, the strength of his friends holding him up, ready to catch him if he falls. It's a strange sensation and he's not sure how to deal with it. But right now he doesn't care. He's safe--cosy, his brain suggests, the thought sneaking up on him.
He's not even sure what's happening between him and Steve, but he's willing to explore it even if it means going out on a limb and taking a chance. Life isn't anything without risks. And Tony is nothing if not a risk taker.
Right now, despite the pain, he's happy.
The last thing Tony feels before falling into a deep sleep are fingers threading through his hair and gentle puffs of air along his neck.
He suspects this is what love feels like.
He would have to perform a few experiments to confirm it.
And boy was he looking forward to that.