Breathe. He orders to himself. Breathing was a thing. People usually breathed. All the time. It was supposed to be a good thing. It wasn't supposed to hurt that much. I don't have time for this. The genius thinks, as he rides waves of pain.
Man up, Stark, he imagines Natasha saying. Though maybe he doesn’t imagine it and the spy is talking to him through his comm. He doesn’t know anymore, he’s so tired.
Tony, please. He definitely doesn’t imagine that, he hadn't heard that much warmth in Steve's voice direct to him ever. Or maybe that was the evidence that proved it to him that he was just imagining it. The delirium of a dying man. You're not dying, damn it! There it was, the angry note. Definitely Steve's voice. Out of all things, he's hallucinating with his own personal Jiminy Cricket, who, on the other hand, has a husky voice, perfect to whisper dirty talk in his hear. Oh my God...
Man, even half dying the guy still has game. He thanks his subconscious for hallucinate Clint's voice too, who wouldn't want his nemesis' voice in his head in his deathbed?
I've been upgraded to nemesis?
You are not going to die, dammit!
Medivac ETA is three minutes.
The tactical unit is ready to blow shit up to get that jackass out of there.
Several voices shouted things all at once in his head. He can’t keep track of all of them, it hurts too damn much, so he focuses on the numbers. Someone is running up calculations, he doesn’t get what for, though, but it doesn’t matter. Math. That he can do, numbers are safe, numbers don’t hurt. Tony. Numbers. He knows that it isn’t going to work. The math is sketchy, there’s room for far too many variables, the ranges and the mass aren’t quite right. Sixtythree percent of chances of success, he hears Jarvis say. No, that isn’t right, Jarvis is gone. I'm right here, Sir. No you're not. Don't leave me, buddy.
Never. Listen to me, Tony. We're going to get you out of there. Stay with me, okay?
He nods, or dreams that he does. He’s so tired, he closes his eyelids for a moment and just for a few seconds the voices die down and he can finally breathe.
The next time he opens his eyes he’s blinded by the sunlight, but Captain America's worried face appears in his field of vision blocking the light. Someone as dirty and as sweaty as he is, shouldn't be that handsome. Steve's pinched look morphs into a reluctant smile and the hint of a blush appears in his cheeks.
Tony sees white dots dancing in his vision, so before giving in into unconsciousness he manages to turn Cap's look into one of amusement. “If it weren't for the damned sun you'd be the hottest thing ever created.” Famous last words, someone says, but he doesn’t bother trying to find out to whom belongs that voice. Knowing that his team has his back, he passes out.
The first thing Tony notices upon waking up isn’t the bright light that burns through his eyelids, or that someone is holding his hand. The first thing that Tony notices is the lack pain. The guy who discovered the painkillers deserves the Noble. He takes a couple of deep breaths, delighted in this new development which alerts the person holding his hand that he is awake, and squeezes his hand in response.
He remembers bits and pieces about what happened, he distinctly remembers a building falling down on him. And Steve’s face very close to his at one point. So he isn’t even disappointed when he opens his eyes and finds out it’s Clint who’s holding his hand. Just confused. Flabbergasted. Stunned. Astonished.
“I’m not your boo, got it, Thesaurus.” Barton says rolling his eyes.
“Either I’m high or dying.” Those were the only two possibilities he can come up with, albeit he’s sure he has a concussion, his thoughts are too muddled and scattered, so cut him some slack.
“Bit of both.” The archer says with a devil may care tone, still holding his hand he may add.
“Why the fuck are you holding my hand?”
“I was trying to figure out if you get your nails manicured.” His intonation goes up at the end of the sentence making it a question.
“Fine. I bet that the first thing you were gonna say was Cap’s name, now I owe fifty bucks to Thor, thanks, dude.” He’s definitely on the good stuff, his eyelids feel heavier with each passing second. Sleep sounds better that to spend another minute with Clint and his antics.
“That was rude.”
“You know what? Fuck consciousness… Fuck it sideways.” He has enough energy left to make a dramatic exit. Metaphorically speaking, because he isn’t leaving that comfy bed anytime soon.
He’s so dramatic. Dreaming Thor says. He has to be dreaming, because just a second ago Thor wasn't in the picture.
That’s coming from the guy who wears an actual cape. Dreaming Clint says, and Tony feels oddly comforted by the fact that there’s at least one person defending his honor. Nah, don't get your hopes too high shellhead, I'm just keeping Steve's spot warm while he takes a shower. There's a lull in the conversation for a while, and then he hears Clint's voice again and footsteps entering in his room. Okay. His pulse is evening out. He's out of cold.
You know that medicine has advanced from the hand holding to that beeping machine that monotorizes his vitals right?
What can I say Brucie-Dear, I'm an old-fashioned kind of guy.
Some time later he hears voices again.
Tony, you need to man up, because Steve is too slow on the intake and doesn’t get that you have a crush on him. Dreaming Natasha says, and either his subconscious nailed her assholeness or it isn’t really "dreaming" Natasha.
Since when are you interested in Stark’s love life? I remember that when they assigned you to be his PA’s PA you made HR guys add a clause in your contract about not having to be involved in Tony Stark’s love life. Ever. Is that Clint's voice? He doesn't really care, he’s so tired.
I have a bet going. His friends are assholes, he doesn’t even care if he’s hallucinating or not anymore. They’re assholes.
Master Tony, you ought to get up, it's time to get up or you'll be late. That couldn't be possible. Jarvis? It couldn't be. Jarvis... Human Jarvis, the one who was a better dad than Howard ever was, is dead.
Yes, sir, who did you expected?
Are you real?
Does it matter?
He realizes that it really doesn’t. I missed you.
I didn't went anywhere. Now come on, Ana has made pancakes and they're going to get cold.
There's been complications, his lung capacity was already diminished because of the arc reactor, and he punctured a lung in the fall, plus he's prone to chest infections.
Is he going to be okay?
We are confident Mr. Stark will make a full recovery. We induced him a comma so his body can heal itself.
Tu a me.
Was that Italian?
Even in his sleep he's a show off.
¿Qué me dice entonces, señor Stark, tenemos trato?
No, Stark Industries tiene límites, me temo que he de romper nuestro acuerdo.
Señores, si me disculpan, ahora quisiera hablar con mi socio en privado para aclarar la situación. He knows that voice. Obie. What is he doing here? He shouldn't be here.
Come on, Tony it's a good deal, take it. He remembers this, his so called godparent wanted to make a deal with a colombian warlord. He had morals, few, but some. He wouldn't accept that under no circumstances, and now in retrospective, that was a point of no return. By rejecting that contract he signed his death sentence.
No Obie, we have limits, not even Howard would take this. His mentor looked at him with something fierce in his eyes. But a moment later the fire was extinguished and a sympathetic look took over his eyes.
Okay Tony, why don't you go home and catch a few hours of sleep, Afghanistan is a long way away. I'll finish this.
Sure Obie, thanks.
Why is he not waking up? You retired the sedation two days ago.
His body is still trying to heal, it's okay. He'll wake up when his body is ready.
Tony, don't keep me waiting too long okay? I'll wait for you, but this damned chair is killing me, I'd like to sleep in real bed... I mean, I'm not insinuating that I want to get into bed with you... I mean yes I want to... Well, no... Not only that! I want the whole package. Wining and dining. I like you. A lot. A love lot. Oh my God, could you please just wake up already so I can get my foot out of my mouth. Tony dreams that he opens his eyes and sees Steve's face in his hands and the tips of his ears are red. He dreams that he smiles at him while he clumsily caresses his hands. He dreams that Steve wipes his head towards him and looks at him in wonder. He dreams that he mumbles something and Steve smile widens and his eyes crinkle. It's a nice dream, but he's so tired, he feels his eyes close. Maybe he wasn't dreaming, he doesn’t know anymore. Why is he so tired? He doesn’t really care.
Do you ever miss your brother?
He betrayed you.
He was all I had left.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d put a bullet in him if we’d ever cross paths again. But he was my brother.
Love the sinner and hate the sin, right? My mom used to say that.
Lovely chat you have there, I’m getting really in the mood. Tony says exasperated. Some other time he’d have… Well, he’d been just as blunt, but maybe he would have felt a bit more sympathetic for Clint and Thor and their psychotic brothers. Someone got his heart carved out of their chest by someone who they trusted? No? Then I win. Stop the angst and give me more painkillers. For fuck’s sake, I’m not nearly close enough to dying for you to start the feelings talk. He focuses on trying not to scream, that would require breathing, and he’s not sure he can do that right now.
He hears someone call his name, but suddenly he’s just too tired to care about anything. The last thing he sees are doctors crowding him in his bed and and a pair blue eyes looking at him. He doesn’t know to whom they belong, it’s not his fault that the eighty percent of his friends have blue eyes.
Steve storms out of their lab in the Helicarrier, and Tony shouldn’t know that he’s going to discover SHIELD’s phase 2, but he does.
“Hate to see you leave, but love to watch go… Because of your butt.” Bruce laughs and Tony introduces the doctor to The Office, while they run the calculations. But he keeps watching Steve’s angry look in his mind and he’s left thinking Am I not good enough? I’m trying, Cap. I really am.
I have to agree with him. It's a really nice butt.
Who are you sexting, Cap? Your boo bear is unconscious.
Not your business Barton.
So you are sexting.
Shut up, Thor. I'm just looking something up.
He's looking how to deadpan pickup lines on wikihow.
Natasha, damn it! Give me the phone back! Sex and Steve in the same conversation? This one is dream. For sure. He's twelve percent sure of it.
That'd be the massive blood loss. It'll pass.
Am I dead or dreaming?
Was that an attempt to say ‘Are you lost ma'am? Because heaven is a long way from here’ ‘Cause I've heard that line before, and it's lame. Thank fuck you don't have a fedora on, that would be...
Your pillow talk is such a turn on. He didn't even bothered trying to stay awake this time.
What's with you boys and your obsession with pickup lines?
“Is that an Apple? Are you actually holding an Apple in Tony Stark’s presence?” Sam says in a mocking disbelieving tone.
“Yeah, well, ‘presence’” Clint says on the background, and Tony can hear the air quotes.
To which Steve answers in the same patronizing tone that Sam used, “It’s not an apple, it’s a phone.” He replies distractedly, realizing what he actually said when everyone laughs, but no one notices that Iron Man was in the land of living again.
“Could you stop laughing at my boner.” Cap replies, so Tony does what he does best. He puts his foot on his mouth.
“Trust me, I’d do many things to your boner, laughing is not one of them.” There’s a chorus of Tony’s and Doctor’s followed by hugs and shoulder squises. Tony thinks that it must have been really bad if the redhead master assassin is willing to hug him.
“Fun fact, ‘boner’ in the forties meant ‘mistake’.” That explains the sudden PDA.
He’s saved from putting his foot further in his mouth by the doctors sweeping in and ushering everybody out. Steve looks at him as if he wants to say something but Natasha grabs his elbow and drags him out of the room, and before closing the door she winks an eye at him. So almost dying puts you in good grace with everyone, who knew.
The doctors poked and prodded at him, and told him what he already knew, that he should quit drinking, eat healthier and that he'll be on medical leave for a while. They also told him that his body went through a severe trauma, so he'll get tired quickly. I'm tired of listening to you, don't you ever stop talking. He was too weak to walk out of that conversation, so he opts to go to sleep. Maybe they'll get it, and will shut up.
“And you shouldn't... Oh, yeah, that's... Yes. Good. You should rest. I'll tell the rest to your teammates." Fuck, that didn't went as planned. He'll be lucky if Thor wouldn't carry him to the bathroom... Again. The Avengers are a bunch of mother hens.
“...times you do this thing when you talk out loud and you don’t realize you did. That time when you had Thor's mead instead, you spent an hour shouting `witchcraft’ at us. Don't worry, I was the only one who was sober enough to remember it.” Tony pretends to be asleep, and Steve continues. “The doctors told me that you may not remember this last couple of weeks. You've been in and out and you've said... Things, about my smile, my eyes, my shoulder-waist Dorito ratio.” Steve gives a breathy laugh. “So, it only seemed fair.” Tony feels his brow twitch in confusion, and Steve clears his throat, the brunet can hear the smile on his voice. “Are you a magician? Because whenever I look at you, everyone else disappears.” Tony opens his eyes and frowns, he looks at Steve bewildered, but the blond is looking at him with a fond smile.
“Did you sit in a pile of sugar? Cause you have a pretty sweet ass.” Tony is speechless, a fact that Steve seized. “Do you have a sunburn, or are you always this hot?”
“What the hell...?”
“Does your left eye hurt? Because you've been looking right all day.” That one makes Tony smile.
“You are like a candy bar, half sweet and half nuts.” The genius laughs and Steve's shoulders relax. The blonde has been fiddling with a cupcake all that time, and now he offers it to Tony, but before he can even start to nibble it, Steve says in his mock disapproving Captain America voice. “Put down that cupcake... you're sweet enough already.” And before Tony can say a comeback, Steve staffs the cupcake in his mouth.
“Whaaff thee phrout?” Asked Tony talking through a mouthful of cupcake, and Steve ignored him.
“Was your father an alien? Because there's nothing else like you on Earth” Tony swallows almost choking, and replies.
“That one would be more fitting for Thor.” Steve just shakes his head amused while he offers him water.
“Are you my appendix? Because I have a funny feeling in my stomach that makes me feel like I should take you out.”
“That one was gross.” Despite his disapproving tone, Tony is smiling.
“Shh, it's rude to interrupt when someone is wooing you.”
“So that's what this is?”
“I thought, what's the best way to woo Tony Stark? Sarcasm? Flattery? And then I thought, why not both?”
“Hence the pickup lines.”
“You say it like they didn’t work.” Steve says looking smug, and Tony has to wipe that smile off his face.
Tony can hear his teammates catcalling from the hallway, but he's too busy kissing Captain America to care.