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the five times Steve threw himself in front of Tony Stark and the one time he threw himself behind

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“I really hate to break it to you, I really do,” He started, eyes straying off target and straight to the floor, “but I’m hell bound, always have been. They should’ve put that in the file, maybe then you wouldn’t have tried to save me, yeah.” He kept talking even though he knew Steve wouldn’t hear him, but he was glad for that, too. No one could say he didn’t tell Steve; it was just that Steve couldn’t listen.

“You should stop talking to him while he’s sleeping,” A voice said, accompanied by the padding of feet across the stale floor, “I think you’re saying things he’d appreciate to hear.”

“He’s never been one to enjoy self-deprecation, so I’m pretty sure he’d just get that stern look on his face and then say ‘Tony…’, you know, like he always does.” Tony snorted and turned so he could face Bruce.

But Bruce shook his head, slowly. “No, not that stuff, Tony. The stuff you said earlier, on the field.”

“You didn’t hear that.” Tony said, crossing his arms and flashing a harsh gaze.  “No one heard that, got it?”

“No, we definitely all heard it. Maybe I’ll be the first to admit that it was—it was kind of heart breaking.” Bruce sat in the chair adjacent from Tony’s and smoothed his pants. “You guys may fight a lot but we’re still a team, and this proved it. I think, maybe, just maybe, you guys should quit it with the dramatics. Maybe then he’d see that you didn’t need saving, and maybe then you’d see you didn’t need to let him save you.”

Tony didn’t say anything and he turned to look at Steve, who was still sleeping, peacefully, as if he had crawled into the hospital bed on his own. There was a gash on his head and as soon as Tony’s eyes locked on it, he flinched and turned away. “He got beat up really badly,” Tony said absently, tapping his finger on the arm of the chair.

“He’s healing as we speak.” Bruce commented, voice sweet. “You gotta hand it to the guy, he’s probably loyal and trustworthy to a fault.”

They both laughed after that and then settled into an uncomfortable silence. The machine continued to drone on, beeps never rising nor falling in intensity. There were other hushed voices, doctors and nurses, attending to others in other rooms and other people with other lives, and Tony tried to listen on them, just for the sake of it.

Bruce stood abruptly. “Maybe you should get out or something. We know he’s going to be fine, you really ought to quit beating yourself up like this. It’s getting worrisome, you know, for the rest of the team.”

“What if I lose my spot in line to be the first to yell at him for being an idiot?” Tony asked, one hundred percent serious (even if his tone didn’t show it).

“I wouldn’t worry, I’m fairly sure everyone’s saving that talk for you.” And then Bruce winked and slipped out, feet hardly making noises as they clipped out of the room. “We’re going for lunch, the usual place.”

Tony could picture Bruce shouting it over his shoulder and the nurses all giving him sideways looks, for it’d look like he was talking to no one in particular—Bruce didn’t mind so much, though, because sometimes he did that. Tony’s heard him before; he mutters things mainly related to science, but it’s like he’s explaining it to a class where the only occupant is himself.

He shifted in his seat and figured he really should leave--it’d only been a few hours since it had happened; Steve probably wouldn’t wake up for a bit anyways. But there was still a thick, resonating feeling in the bottom of Tony’s stomach, morphed somewhere between anger and confusion. The confusion stemmed from the fact that Steve threw himself right in front of Tony like a hotheaded madman, and the anger stemmed directly from the confusion (and from him throwing himself, christ). It was obvious that yeah, Tony was in quite a pocket of danger, but at the same time Steve risked his life for Tony’s—and Tony thought that it was absolutely not okay, especially with a guy as young as Steve, especially with Steve himself.

They still argued but it was more for the sake if it than anything else; it was to keep it up, because it was nearly the only thing they knew how to do in each other’s presence. Rarely would it ever drift into scars from the past, and when it did, they were mindful to switch to something monotonous again. The rest of the team learned to ignore it as time went on, and eventually it became routine, to come and argue and laugh and poke fun at Steve, and then on the field, to poke fun at Captain America. Neither of them really enjoyed it, but neither of them knew how to stop. They didn’t know what boundaries were still set up, or if there were any from the start, or if spending time together would only result in arguing.

Honestly, sitting by the hospital bed was the most time Tony had ever spent voluntarily with Steve, and Steve wasn’t even awake. He tried not to find it as pitiful as it was, with Captain America being such a centerfold in his childhood, being such an anchor; for when his father would be angry, there was always Captain America there, sitting in his room, holding the plastic shield. And there was always Captain America, holding the real shield, locked somewhere in the ice for his father to run to. They would both run to things that wouldn’t talk to them, to things that weren’t real, to things that would give them no consolation but the most consolation either could remember. Tony figures that if his father could see Steve right now he’d cry, and hug him, and tell him how great he is; essentially all the things he’d never say to Tony.

That left a bad taste in his mouth and he shook his head and brushed off his pants, standing slowly. “Hell bound, Steve. Remember that before you throw yourself in front of a ray gun, alright?”

His back was turned and he was nearly out of the door when there was a huff, and then a dry laugh. “Hell bound, you? I’d hardly believe that for a second.” His voice was raspy but clear amidst everything else.

Tony froze in his tracks and turned slowly. “How much did you hear?”

Steve smiled at that and his eyes nearly morphed into puppy-eyes, “Enough to make you hate me more.”

He narrowed his eyes and took the seat next to the bedside again. “Uh-huh.”

“I kind of made everyone angry, didn’t I?” Steve rubbed the back of his hand with his thumb, “Didn’t think it’d hurt me so bad. I saw him using it earlier and it was melting cars, so…”

“So then it totally wouldn’t hurt you, if it was like, melting cars.”

“I was more worried about what it’d do to the Iron Man armor,” He said quietly, but he didn’t have to add the ‘with you in it’ on the end.

“Oh.” Tony said, because there wasn’t really anything else for him to say, because it was so obstinate. The air seemed to beat down on his face like harsh sunlight; it was nearly heavy, and he realized that they didn’t get along but they sure as hell could, and that they were, right then at that moment. “…Yeah.”

“It probably would’ve been fine, but call me a sucker for rather going the ‘rather be safe than sorry’ route.”

“And your vision of safe includes jumping in front of a beam, right.” At that Tony’s voice grew a bit colder, and he could feel himself slipping, slipping back into the suit he wore when he was normally around Steve. “God, fuck it. I don’t want to argue anymore.”

“We were arguing?” Steve asked, completely innocent.

Tony sighed and shook his head. “No, not really? I don’t think. Whatever. I could just—shit, it’s so easy to argue with you.”

“I could say the same to you.” Steve said, and Tony expected some sort of curtness in his tone, but it was normal. “So, don’t tell me something else happened and you stayed behind?”

“No, the team just went out for lunch. Nothing big.”

Steve hummed at that and Tony knew if he was standing that his foot would’ve been tapping. “You should’ve gone,” He said absently, eyes trained to the ceiling.

“I was about to when you ‘woke up’, you know.”

Steve gave him a look that translated to “I can see straight through your bullshit” and crossed his arms. “Seriously, though. Why’d you stay here for so long?”

Tony shrugged and played a face that was somewhere between ‘eh’ and ‘he found me out’. “Guilt, I guess?”

“Well,” Steve said, shifting himself so he was sitting upright, “That’s stupid, I’m the one who decided to block it.”

“Wouldn’t have had to if I was paying more attention.”

“You were fighting a different battle,” Steve said, slowly, as if he was unsure of his own words. There was a stagnant silence after that, and he took it upon himself to break it. “Do you know when I can get out of here?”

“Eh, they’ll probably want to keep you overnight, but I’m not sure.”

“Alright, well. You better get to lunch, right? Tell ‘em I’m fine and that I say hi, you know, blah blah.” Steve waved his hand and smiled widely, wide enough to where Tony was nearly taken aback. “Go, go. I bet they’re still waiting for you.”

“Alright. Uh, thanks, Steve. Thanks a lot.”

Steve’s smile softened at that, and then it nearly dropped off of his face. “I’d do it for anyone,” he reiterated, “even if they try their best to convince me they’re going to hell.”

Tony looked down and stood up at that, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I’m not taking it back.”

“Didn’t say you had to, I’m just saying it’s a load of bullshit.” He cracked another smile and then waved his hand, signaling “go, go”.

So Tony went, and Bruce was leaning against a wall in the waiting room. “I’m surprised that you didn’t notice he was awake the whole time,” Bruce said nonchalantly, a small grin bubbling on his face. “Let’s go, everyone’s waiting.”

Tony ignored that it felt weird eating at their usual joint without Steve, or, to be more exact, without arguing with Steve. He wondered if the others felt it too, the silence that came on unexpectedly and hung around, so stagnant.

*****

It wasn’t long until Steve was on the field again, slamming his shield into poor, unsuspecting villains.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long (read as: two weeks) until Steve decided to be—as Tony said as soon as it happened—“a huge fucking idiot, oh my god, there is no larger idiot, why’d you do that, oh my god, really? Oh my god, oh my god, idiot, shit, wow”. He’d (gracefully) dove in front of another ray-gun-type blast, ignoring the shouts from Tony over the communicator. Natasha had shown up next to near right after it happened, and she had a very odd look twisted on her face, and she soon narrowed it to Tony.

“Why’d he do it again?”

“Why the hell are you asking me? How am I supposed to know why he’s stupid?” Tony was what could best be described as pacing, but in the Iron Man suit it looked more like angry stomping and random repulsor firings.

Natasha was kneeled next to Steve, talking to him in low tones before raising her voice to talk to Tony. “Calm down, Tony. It’s not even as bad as it was last time. I contacted S.H.I.E.L.D. and they’ll send a truck right away. We still have a battle to fight.”

Tony nodded and then began to look for whoever shot the gun, but they were gone, so he sat next to Steve until Coulson arrived with a face that did not look pleased in any way, shape, or form.

“I’m fine, Coulson,” Steve had said, but then he coughed, and Coulson (and several agents) hauled him away. “I’m fine, geez.”

*****

The third time it happened it was another few weeks since the last time, and they were “friends” then, one could say. They didn’t argue so much anymore, and they weren’t weird about talking or hanging around each other. It had reached a comfortable stage and the rest of the team was surprised that they had patched it up so quickly, so to speak, but at the same time there was a certain dynamic they shared that the team couldn’t ignore. Natasha pegged it on how opposites can work together, but she’d never say that to Steve or Tony.

When it happened, Tony just about smacked him right then; but Steve had this dumb grin on his face, like he’d just seen Coulson have kittens. Which, he surely would as soon as he found out that Steve had done it again.

“It hardly even hurts anymore, really,” he started, even if his lulled eyes and close to bleeding stomach begged to differ, “it’s worth it.”

“Worth what? We’re not even sure that thing could affect my armor.”

Steve shrugged. “It’s worth not taking the risk of having to know if it could.”

Tony sighed through his nose lightly and shifted Steve in his grip; he had hoisted him into his lap shortly after it had happened, and his arm was around Steve’s middle, but it was awkward with him in the armor. “This is getting ridiculous. We can never find that guy after he comes and fucks shit up.”

“It’s because he’s only after you, duh,” Steve said casually, turning his focus on Coulson to wave. “So listen, I was thinking we should go somewhere together after Coulson yells at me. Like, a movie or something, I dunno.”

Steve had said it so insouciantly that Tony nearly didn’t catch that he was basically asking him on a date. A date-date, with date things, probably, knowing Steve. “Uh, what?”

“A date,” Steve confirmed, smiling weakly. “’Case I didn’t make that clear.”

“Captain,” Coulson said, lips pressed in such a fine line that they hardly showed at all, “you, Fury and I are going to have a very detailed talk about reckless endangerment as soon as you get bandaged.”

“He can’t,” Tony said quickly, not even quite aware he was saying it, “He has a prior engagement.”

Coulson looked confused for a moment, and then he licked his lips in the most passive-aggressive way possible before hiding them completely. “Fine, whenever he is through with whatever you’re speaking of, then. Now, come on. Medical.”

*****

The fourth time it happened it was the day after the third, and everyone was quite weary about letting Steve go back onto the field. He seemed healthy, though, and chipper enough, and with plenty of convincing they let him go.

They all really regretted it as soon as he got a twisted look on his face and began to run, run so quickly that his adrenaline spiked higher. Natasha had shouted that he had better not be going to hurl himself in front of Tony, but they all knew he was going to.

Steve made it there before Tony could detach himself from the throng of robots that were firing regular guns at him, and for the first time Tony saw who Steve had been constantly throwing himself in front of. He looked sickeningly familiar, but Tony couldn’t quite place him, and then he was gone and Steve was running around to the other side of Tony and then he was on the ground, lips curled in a difficult smile.

“What a coward,” Steve snarled over the comm., slowly getting up. “Can’t stand up to a fight.”

“To be honest,” Clint started, “I wouldn’t want to fight you either when you get that look on your face, man.”

Tony flung the rest of the shit-faced bots away and dashed over to Steve, flipping his face plate up. “Really, Steve? Really?”

But Steve’s grin got wider and he took three large steps so that he was right next to Tony, so that his words would be felt against Tony’s cheek, “Worth it, every time.” There was something strange in his tone, and his eyes searched Tony mercilessly. And then Steve kissed him, hot and heavy; it mused of sweat and work and fighting, and it was absolutely nothing like Tony had expected Steve to kiss.

Clint whooped on the comm. and Natasha sighed, muttering something or other about never being able to read those two.

Steve pulled away much sooner than Tony would’ve liked him to, and it still hadn’t really registered what Steve had done, really. “Worth it, worth it, worth it,” Steve said again, smiling, “God, wow. Worth it.”

Tony got this weird feeling in his gut, and it was painfully similar to the one he used to have with Pepper (in what he calls the “before era”), and he shuddered a bit. There was a distressed call from Natasha telling them to get back in the game and then one from Clint that said “there’re still little shitfuck robots over here, guys, so let’s save that shit for later”.

*****

The fifth time it happened, Steve was tired of that guy’s shit. It was another week and a half from the last time, and Steve and Tony were dating—even though they didn’t really want to call it that, they didn’t want to label it just yet, in fear of it breaking.

“I know he’s going to show up,” Steve said as they arrived on the scene. Robots littered the area, ones similar to the others they had seen before. “I know he is.”

“It’s fine, Steve.”

“Not fine.” He muttered, slamming a few dozen that had surrounded Natasha. “Where’s Thor?”

“He’s coming soon,” Clint said, already perched atop a building. “Told me it’d only be a few minutes.”

As if on cue, the sky began to darken, and every one of the Avengers smiled. “Here we go.” Natasha said, once again throwing herself into a thicket of them.

It wasn’t long before they all lost sight of Steve, and it wasn’t long after that when they realized he was sneaking and snooping around, trying to find the guy.

When he found him, there was a distinct sound over the comm., and it was Steve’s voice, low and husky: “I’m really tired of your bullshit.”

The others ran over to where his location was locked nearly immediately, and they saw Steve deliver one of the crispest punches any of them had seen. The man fell over at that and Steve picked him up by his shirt collar and said something Tony certainly wouldn’t forget—“you need to quit messing with my boyfriend.”

Steve dropped the guy after that and it was clear he had been knocked out, so he lifted the man and turned to see everyone staring. “Oh,” he said, blushing, “I got him?”

“Jesus, Steve,” Clint murmured, slow smile growing on his face, “that was probably the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time, like, shit man.”

“I’m impressed.” Natasha said, nodding. Bruce was next to her, calmly de-Hulked and surprisingly, his pants held up.

Tony was standing stock-still, face plate down, because it was replaying in his head, that one word: boyfriend, boyfriend, over and over and over. And he’d be lying to himself if he wasn’t scared (Tony Stark: World’s Largest Commitment-phobe) but he’d be lying to himself if he said he wasn’t happy, too.

They searched the man’s body and found a remote-control type thing that shut the robots down; S.H.I.E.L.D. came in quickly after that, and they took the gun and the guy and a few dozen robots.

“Well,” Bruce said, stretching, “I’m hungry.”

“Let’s go out for lunch, yeah?” Clint said, ebbing closer to where everyone was centered.

They all nodded in unison and Steve hung back by Tony. “Uh, I know you didn’t… Want to label it, but I was—kind of caught up in the moment. Sorry if it made you feel awkward?”

Tony shook his head but realized that it was probably hardly noticeable with the suit on, even though he had the face plate down. So he kissed Steve, because that was answer enough.

*****

The one time where Steve threw himself behind Tony (he wasn’t necessarily behind Tony), it was overwhelming.

The want, the need, the desire and the rocking of hips all at once; the sweet nothings being hushed into his ear, hot and heavy with air, god, this is all he’s wanted. Tony drove his nails down his Steve’s slick back, and indulged himself in a whimper, a soft moan, because it felt so good. So right.

“You’re,” he said, voice mixing with the rustling of the sheets, “perfect,” and it came out louder than it should’ve, peaking on adrenaline, on hot lips and tousled hair. Steve froze, and terror welded up in Tony; he could feel his lips running dry.

“I love you,” Steve said, breathless, with the nails still grated into his back; with his heart going miles and diving so low he thought perhaps this was it—this was what it was like to love someone, to love them with everything you’ve ever known, to love them even with the bad they’ve done—and he should know: Tony Stark had done a lot of bad. But it wasn’t like he hadn’t done a lot of good, either, he had done so much good, sometimes to the point where he would be put on the brink of death. But that was too much good for Steve to handle, because if anyone had to die for others, it would be him, not Tony, not anyone else on the team. They could fare without him. He pushed the thoughts out of his head with a grating force as Tony pressed his mouth to his, hot and lucid and desperate, for anything and everything, and yeah; this was it, this was what it was like to love someone.

Tony’s hands slipped up his back, still dragging their nails; Steve’s back arched as they grazed his neck, softer now. Tony’s fingers wrapped themselves in the nape of Steve’s neck, in soft blond hair, and his tongue was sliding across a firm jaw, salty with sweat, with lust. He reached his ear and leaned in closer, close enough to where it would be heard, and whispered: “I love you too.”

Hands slipped, they slide across pure muscle, nails dancing across bare flesh; it was a hot mess, a thick tangle of pent up yearning, pent up groans and slick lips. Steve’s palm was flushed against Tony’s cock, and he worked it slowly to the rhythm that he rocked his hips.

“Jeeessssussssss,” Tony said, letting the s’s slip on his tongue, letting his hands and his nails seep into Steve’s back again, “don’t go light on me here, Steve,”

There was a wry chuckle, a wry breath from Steve as he fleshed in harder, as he thumped faster and faster, breathing jagged. He could feel the muscles in his abdomen tighten as he released a shuddery, weak breath he hadn’t known he was holding; Tony grinned lazily, pulling him in for a sultry kiss.

Later, he’d throw himself behind Tony, when there was only the light from the arc reactor and a small sliver from the moon where it peeked from the curtains.

Later, they’d lie in bed, arms lazily thrown across each other, sheets crumpled and ruffled.