It was inevitable.
The Avengers all had their turn in the hospital; eventually, the damage done to their bodies would take its toll. They excelled at their job and supervillains started to take notice, attacking the tower and New York City in hopes of getting lucky. It was just a matter of who and what would succumb first to the constant battering to which they submitted themselves.
The Villain of this Week just so happened to be Graviton who had the good fortune of unwittingly trapping a small child in a building, luring Tony to the scene. A few minutes later, the little girl was sobbing in Clint's arms while Graviton collapsed the building on Tony.
Needless to say, Graviton was apprehended (Captain America was a force to be reckoned with when a teammate, much less his boyfriend, was in danger) and Tony was rescued but was still recovering in a hospital room while his teammates waited for him to be released. Pepper had rushed over from SI as soon as she had heard and she and Natasha were talking in low tones in the corner of the waiting room.
Steve was the one allowed in the room with Tony; if he was forced to wait out in the waiting room, he would make everyone nervous. He would sit, fidgeting in a chair, and then suddenly stand up and pace around the room, hands clasped behind his back. Finally, the doctors just started taking him back whenever Tony was injured.
The team took turns to help with cleanup and Sam and Thor had both gone back to help after gaining promises of updates from the others. Bruce and Clint sat quietly waiting for news; one sitting quietly with headphones and the other making paper airplanes and aiming for a nearby trashcan. The Avengers were used to waiting in hospitals and Tony’s injuries were not as severe as some he had sustained. They didn’t even garner curious looks from the nurses and other doctors anymore.
24 hours passed and Tony was allowed to leave the hospital with words of caution about the damage done to his body (broken clavicle, severe concussion, fractured wrist, and innumerable bruises). He recovered under Steve's watchful eyes and his short stay in the hospital was forgotten with the many others that followed.
Until one Tuesday, about five months later, the Avengers were sitting in their typical seats in the living room during a Clint-proclaimed movie night. Tony was curled on the couch between Steve and Natasha, burrowing into Steve's side with his toes tucked under Natasha's thigh. He was perfectly content to stay there forever but suddenly, a wave of heat crashed over him.
Tony felt flushed and stifled from the inside and he quickly needed space. He pulled away from Steve and extracted his feet from under Natasha, letting his head fall against the back of the couch. Steve cast a look at him, blue eyes questioning and Tony weakly smiled in return. Steve seemed to accept that and turned back to the movie while Tony closed his eyes and let an unexpected exhaustion overtake him.
Everything looked...blurry. That wasn't normal. Tony let his eyes clear and movement began to register. People were...putting him on the floor. Bits and pieces of audio information began to filter through.
"Clint, call an ambulance."
"Should we lay him on his side? How long has it - wait, I think he's -"
Tony tried to move. Why did he feel so weak?
"His pulse is very thready." Bruce. That was Bruce.
"I feel hot." Was that his voice? So weak and croaking?
"Drink this." Steve helped Tony pull himself up into a reclining position on Steve's lap. Water was held to his lips and Tony drank gratefully. It did nothing to soothe the prickling warmth that suffused every inch of his body.
"I feel hot." He said again, looking up at Steve, his brown eyes dark with confusion. Steve's heart broke as he pushed Tony's sweat slicked hair off his forehead in a comforting gesture.
Bruce met Steve's eyes and had no answer for the question in them. The EMTs would be there soon.
"A seizure?" Tony crossed his arms. "There is no fucking way I had a seizure. I am in perfect health!" He glared at the neurologist standing at the other end of the hospital room.
"I don't disagree, Mr. Stark, but many people who are healthy can have a seizure. It can be from dehydration or even a -" the doctor's eyes strayed to Tony's arc reactor, "heart issue." He finished. Tony paled and grabbed his phone, talking rapidly to JARVIS as he stalked out of the room.
Steve sighed. "Continue, doctor, I'll make sure to pass on the information to Tony."
"I don't think that there is anything to be concerned about as Mr. Stark is indeed is good shape, however, we would like to do an EEG just to be safe. It's procedure when something like this happens. I'll schedule one for next week." Steve nodded and extended a hand.
"Thank you, Dr. Ginway. Tony will be here. I'll make sure of it."
Steve found Tony leaning against a wall in a secluded hallway, staring at a read-out on his phone. Steve quietly leaned next to him and waited. Finally, Tony took a deep breath. "JARVIS says there's nothing wrong with my heart. It didn't trigger the seizure." Steve remained silent. "They want an EEG, don't they?" Steve hmmm'd in response. "You're going to make me go, aren't you?" More silence. Tony sighed as he leaned his head back against the wall to mirror Steve's stance. "Fine. But I go under duress and under the condition that JARVIS be allowed to monitor them."
Steve quirked the corner of his mouth upwards and reached out to grasp Tony's hand firmly in his own. “I think we can convince them to allow that.” He closed his eyes and immediately, the images of Tony's eyes rolling back in his head, his body stiff and shaking, thinking that Tony was dying right there on the couch, feeling completely helpless to stop this...
"Hey." Steve opened his eyes to see Tony watching him, concern etched across his handsome face. "Seems like this might have taken more out of you than me. Steve, are you okay?" Pulling Tony close to him, Steve took a few steadying breaths.
"Yeah. I am now. Just...don't do that to me again." Tony chuckled weakly into Steve's collarbone.
"I'll try my best. This isn't something I'm dying to repeat, I'll be honest." Steve dropped a kiss onto the fluffy brown hair under his chin. "Let's go home." He murmured.
Five days later, Tony was at a gala with several of the Avengers when the suffocating heat swept over him again. His smile never faltered as he made some excuses and rushed to the bathroom, loosening his tie on the way. Bursting through the door, he gripped the sink and tapped his earpiece. "JARVIS, talk to me. What's happening?"
"Sir, I would recommend that you get some water and sit down. I believe you are experiencing what is called a partial seizure."
Quelling the rising feeling of panic in his chest, Tony turned on the water and cupped his hands underneath. He splashed his face and neck quickly. Ignoring the water droplets clinging to his goatee and eyelashes, he slid to the floor, hands over his eyes and knees pulled up to his chest.
"-ir? SIR?" Tony pulled his shaking hands away from his face as JARVIS' concerned words began to register again. Steve was kneeling in front of him; hands clenched in his suit pants like he wanted to touch Tony but was afraid to try. Tony thought hysterically that the pants would need to be replaced if Steve gripped them any tighter.
"Steve." Tony gasped and Steve lunged forward to pull Tony into his arms. "'m so hot." Tony mumbled as he started to shrug out of his black suit jacket. His fingers fumbled with the loose tie at his neck and Steve gently pulled his hands away.
"JARVIS told me where you were. Tony, why didn't you tell me?" Tony shrugged, half-heartedly.
"I didn't think this would happen." Steve pulled Tony's deep red tie off his neck and pulled Tony into his lap. They just sat and breathed for a moment then Tony pushed himself up. “I think I got your suit wet.”
Steve looked down at his charcoal suit jacket that now sported a wet spot where Tony’s still damp hair had been resting. “Not important.” He declared firmly. “Besides, I think your tie is wrinkled enough that you’ll insist on buying a new one anyway.”
Tony chuckled. “You know me so well, honey bear.”
“I told you to stop calling me that.” Steve grumbled as he started to help Tony up.
On the way home, Tony was unusually quiet, as Steve made sure the team knew they had left. "JARVIS, notify me the next time something like this happens.” Steve commanded quietly into his phone after he had finished his calls.
“Of course, Captain Rogers.”
A week later, after her sparring session with Clint, Natasha walked into the tower kitchen where she found Steve slumped at the table, scratching something on his drawing pad. She stopped in the doorway and observed the tense lines of his shoulders under his t-shirt. His normally perfect blonde hair was mussed like he had run his fingers through it more than once and his fingers were dusted in charcoal. Steve only brought out the charcoal when he was stressed. “I take it the neurologist appointment was not as encouraging as you had hoped.”
Steve didn’t even look up. “Tony’s been in his workshop for 24 hours. What do you think?” Natasha slid into the seat next to his and laid a hand on his arm. He blew out a breath and laid his pencil down. Natasha didn’t even need to look at his pad to know that he was drawing Tony. It was a common thing these days.
“What did they say?” She asked. Steve was silent for a moment, studying the picture he had been drawing.
“Epilepsy.” He said finally. She frowned.
“Two seizures for a diagnosis. He’ll be on medication for the rest of his life. Dr. Ginway thinks it was probably due to the constant head injuries but we can never know for certain. From the looks of it, it probably won’t impact his life too much. Except…” he trailed off.
“Except we can never know if he will have a seizure in the field.” Natasha finished for him, understanding immediately. Steve nodded.
“He figured that out almost immediately. I could almost see it when he realized he might never be Iron Man again and…” Steve broke off, clenching his hands into fists on the table. “I can’t do that to him, Nat. I can’t go down there and tell him that he has to give that up.” They sat quietly for a moment.
Steve pushed himself up from the table aggressively; his chair scratching out a nasty sound on the floor. “We need to talk about it eventually. He can’t hide down there forever.” Natasha halted his movements with a hand on his bicep.
“Steve. No matter how confused you are about this, remember that Tony is scared and probably hurting. Approach it gently.” She cautioned. Steve hesitated and nodded as he walked towards the elevator.
The music was so loud; Steve could hear it before the elevator doors even opened. He let himself into the workshop. “JARVIS, do you mind turning this down?” He called. The pressure on his ears lessened immediately. “Thank you.”
Tony’s shoulders had twitched when he heard Steve come in but there was no other acknowledgement from the genius. Steve cautiously came in further and sat on the couch on the side, content to watch Tony ignore him.
It took only an hour before Tony threw down a screwdriver with a frustrated huff. “Why are you here, Steve?”
“I left you enough time. We need to talk about it eventually.” Tony curled his lip.
“What’s there to talk about? I think it’s pretty clear what has to happen.” He turned his back to Steve again and placed his palms on his worktable, leaning forward to look at something JARVIS was displaying there. Steve bristled at Tony’s dismissive attitude.
“That’s it? You’re just going to give it up?” Tony whirled around, eyes blazing.
“Give up?” He growled. “GIVE UP? No, Steve. I am not just giving it up. I am being put into early retirement because of the hazards of this job. I am doing what you couldn’t do 24 hours ago.” Tony’s eyes were hard and full of painful surrender as he stepped forward. “I am effectively resigning myself from the Avengers and as Iron Man because I am no longer capable of protecting myself, much less my teammates, much less the innocent people around me.” His hands were shaking now. “So no, Steve. I am not just giving up. I am leaving. Before I lose control and hurt someone.”
“Tony, there are other options -” Steve tried.
“Like what, Steve?” Tony said, flatly, cutting Steve off with a sharp gesture. “Medication? Already going to be taking that. Even if it does control the seizures, you can’t guarantee I won’t have one in the middle of a battle. What if I’m carrying a civilian somewhere and pass out? Or what if it’s YOU? What if we’re in the middle of a firefight and a seizure happens?”
“JARVIS can –“ Steve started, moving closer to Tony.
“JARVIS is incredible and can do so many things but he cannot fight a villain while also trying to make sure that I don’t choke on my own tongue.” Tony said bitterly. “I’ve thought about it from every possible angle. If I can’t be trusted to drive a fucking car right now, how can I be trusted to drive a flying suit of armor?”
Steve looked at Tony intently. Aching disappointment and despair was etched in his eyes and the slump of his shoulders screamed defeat. One step and Steve was gathering Tony into his arms and dragging him to the floor to his lap. Tony tucked his head into Steve’s neck; his goatee scratching the soft skin there.
“Why have you given up, Tony?” He murmured. “Why won’t you be your infuriatingly stubborn self this time?”
There was a long silence and then, “I can’t do it. I can’t hear you say the words.” Tony let out a soft breath that landed on Steve’s neck. “If I’m going out, I’ll take myself out. I can’t afford to give myself that false hope. If we find a solution, fine. But I won’t allow my…pride to risk your safety. I’ve just been down here with JARVIS trying to figure out another way but...maybe in the future when we know it’s better controlled…I just can’t risk you and if you get hurt because of me...”
“Okay, okay, Tony. We’ll do this however you want.” Steve soothed. Tony curled his arms around him, pulling them closer together. “Thank you.” He whispered.
“That means you have to tell the team then, Tony.” Steve said, rubbing comforting circles into Tony’s back through the black mesh workshop shirt he was wearing.
“Fine.” He grumbled but relaxed into Steve’s touch. There was calm silence for a moment and then, “Who would’ve thought that I could survive torture in Afghanistan but fucking concussions would take me out?”
Steve couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled out of his throat. As long as Tony had his sense of humor, everything would be okay. “Also, if there is an infuriatingly stubborn bastard in this relationship, it is definitely not me.” Tony added, a smile spreading across his face.
Life went, mostly, back to normal. Tony started taking medication and JARVIS started monitoring Tony’s brain patterns, sleeping patterns, and medication intake regularly.
The team was very supportive of Tony’s decision and all took a crash course in seizure emergency response. Tony’s medication information was common knowledge to all of them and Steve presented Tony with an I.D. bracelet about two months after the diagnosis.
Everyone pretended not to notice the tightness around Tony’s eyes when he kissed Steve goodbye before the team left on the QuinJet or the long hours he spent working on all of their equipment, making it more efficient and more effective. All of them worked at keeping Tony busy by sharing time and experiences with him or teaching him something new.
Both Pepper and Rhodey were spending time in New York with Tony to make sure he knew that he was loved and supported on all sides. Rhodey had flown in for a couple of days immediately after the diagnosis and he and Tony had spent many hours sequestered in the penthouse just talking. They emerged closer than ever and Tony seemed calmer, even at peace with the decision he had been forced to make. Pepper made sure to send all kinds of work Tony’s way to avoid leaving any kind of space in his life for wallowing.
Steve tried to offer as much support as possible to his boyfriend but as time passed, he could feel that Tony was pulling away emotionally. He spent a lot of time in the workshop and when he did come up to the common areas, he was exhausted and withdrawn. Very rarely did he partake in the verbal sparring with Clint like he used to and he never stayed awake more than one night in a row. But when Steve would broach the topic, Tony would give a glib answer about responsibility and growing up and then wander away.
It became impossible to ignore when Pepper called Steve one evening while he was relaxing with Clint and Sam in the living room. They had become good friends through Tony and Steve appreciated her no-nonsense attitude towards life.
“Steve, how much time has Tony been spending in the workshop?” She asked after he had answered.
Steve frowned, thinking. “Same amount as the last time we talked. Why?”
“I haven’t gotten any new designs or updates or even emails from him in the past several days.”
“Very.” She answered firmly. “At the very least, I get text messages from him about how all the researchers in R&D need to be fired for missing obvious problems.” Steve smiled fondly. “Stop smiling, Steve. If Tony isn’t bothering me or working on SI stuff, could he be busy with Avengers work?”
“I haven’t gotten anything new from him. Just a moment.” Steve held his hand over the phone and asked Sam and Clint, “Has Tony given either of you any new tech to try out or mentioned anything he has been working on?” Clint shook his head and Sam sent Steve a questioning look.
“No. I haven’t even seen him in the last few days. Why?”
“I’m not sure yet.” Steve uncovered the phone. “Pepper? Sam and Clint say no. I haven’t talked to Nat yet –“
“She hasn’t either.” Pepper interrupted.
“Tony thinks it’s creepy that you two meet regularly to talk.”
“Tony thinks a lot of things.” Pepper said, airily. “I think you should go talk to him. This dry spell is unusual for him.”
“Maybe he’s working on something else?” Steve suggested.
“Well then you’ll find that out.” Was her only response before she said a crisp goodbye and hung up. Steve shook his head and looked at the two men across the room.
“Has Tony seemed odd lately to either of you?” Clint paused their game.
“No? But Stark is normally odd so our context for normal is way off here.” He said, gesturing with his controller.
Sam nodded. “I’d have to agree with Clint. Tony’s been acting the same as he has been for the past several months. Same routine schedule. Have you noticed anything odd?” Steve furrowed his brow and had to admit that no, he hadn’t noticed anything off.
“Just go ask him. He’s probably working on something big for us or just got caught up in another engineering binge. You know how he gets.” Sam said.
“Tell him I want more exciting arrows!” Clint called as Steve pushed himself out of the chair and walked towards the elevator. Sam sent an unimpressed look at Clint. “What? I’m bored of the ones I have. When you’re the guy with the arrows, you have to change it up; otherwise it just gets monotonous.”
“Why don’t you change up your MarioKart game so playing against you isn’t monotonous?”
“It is on now! Just you wait.”
“Tony?” Steve called, stepping through the door into the workshop. The environment today was a sharp contrast to that of many months before. It was dimly lit with ambient noise playing instead of the previous bright holograms and loud rock music.
“Steve?” Tony appeared in front of him, “what are you doing down here?”
“Can’t I just visit you? I’m down here all the time.” Tony assessed Steve quickly and then turned back to his work with a shrug.
“I thought you were with Sam and Clint this afternoon.” Steve came up behind Tony and wrapped his arms around him.
“Mm yes.” He agreed. “But then I came down here.” Tony let his head fall back against Steve’s broad shoulder and rested his arms on top of Steve’s. Steve nuzzled his face into Tony’s neck, inhaling the unique twist of metal and expensive cologne that made up Tony’s scent. He could feel Tony relaxing slowly in his embrace.
“Aw, honey bear. I didn’t know that you missed me that much.”
“I’m pretty sure we had a discussion about you calling me that.” Steve grumped into Tony’s neck.
“Hmm no. I remember you saying stop and me ignoring you.”
“As per usual.”
Tony laughed and Steve tightened his arms a miniscule amount. He had seen the lines of frustration in his lover’s face and hearing that laugh was music to his ears.
“So,” He mentioned nonchalantly, “what are you working on?” Tony shrugged.
“Just bits and pieces of things for Pepper. Thinking about new arrows for Clint – he needs variety.” Steve hid a smile.
“What things are you doing for Pepper? Cleaning up after R&D again?”
“Not really. I’ve been working on some new ideas though.”
“What kind of new ideas?”
“Just new - why?” Tony turned around in Steve’s arms with a suspicious look on his face.
“Curious.” Steve shrugged.
Tony stared at him for a moment and then wriggled out of Steve’s embrace, putting distance between them. “Pepper sent you, didn’t she? She’s wondering why I haven’t sent her anything.”
“She’s just worried, Tony.”
“I’m fine.” Tony cut him off, violently. “I’m just working on a project, that’s all.” Steve took a step forward and Tony held up a hand. “Just stop, Steve. She’ll get something from me soon.”
“Tony,” Steve said gently. “What’s the matter? You’ve been a little...sequestered lately but you don’t talk about new projects or banter with Clint. There’s something wrong - why won’t you tell me?” Tony’s face was a blank mask.
“I’m sorry I’m not working fast enough. I’ll try to get something out for the Avengers and Pepper soon.” He spat out, turning away from Steve.
“You know that’s not what I meant and you’re ignoring most of what I said.”
“Right. Really, what does it matter what I’ve been doing down here? If you aren’t so interested in the speed of the results, why come bother me at all?”
“Can’t I just be worried about you, Tony?”
Tony laughed bitterly. Steve hated the sound of it. “There’s no reason for you to be worried, Steve. Not anymore. I’m not even in harm’s way most of the time. Just let me work.”
Steve clenched his fists. “All you’re doing is convincing me that there is something going on and you refusing to tell me anything about it is just making it worse. I don’t care about the projects. I care about you!”
“But I am the projects!” Tony exploded, stepping forward into Steve’s space and gesturing wildly. Steve took a faltering step back in response the fiery emotion displayed in front of him. “That’s all I have anymore! And I’m barely even that. You want to know why it’s taken me so long to send anything to Pepper, Steve? Are you curious about why I haven’t touched any of your equipment in the last month? Because I can’t figure out how to work on them!”
Steve’s eyes went wide and Tony made an inarticulate noise accompanied by a slashing motion with his hand. “That was inaccurate. I probably should’ve said I can’t keep anything in my head for more than 5 minutes and constantly get migraines that prevent me from focusing on any one idea. The moment an idea comes to me, I used to be able to file it away and access it later. Now? I have to tell JARVIS specific words and details so that I can recreate it when I have the time or the space. All the random thoughts and projects that would float through my head? Gone in moments. I can’t keep any of them without help.”
“Tony…” Steve breathed, reaching out a hand. Tony ignored it and started to pace in a tight line in front of his worktable.
“Words will fly out of my head suddenly when I’m speaking. Do you know I forgot the word restaurant the other day? I couldn’t remember it! So I just called it a cafe and moved on. I can’t give speeches without detailed notes, Steve. There is no more clever banter because I can’t remember the second half of my sentence!”
Tony stopped pacing and ran his hand through his hair. “No matter how many hours I sleep at night, I am exhausted. I can’t focus on anything anymore because of my migraines and…” he trailed off, grimacing. “and I forgot the rest of my sentence.” He turned his back to Steve and braced himself against the worktable.
“The only thing I had left was my intellect. And now that’s taken from me.” He muttered so low that Steve had to strain to hear it. “Billionaire, genius, playboy, philanthropist.” His voice started to rise. “The only unique thing about me was Iron Man and my genius. And now I have nothing. I can’t fly the suit and my brain takes twice as long to do anything. Do you know, Steve,” he asked, “that my medication actually inhibits neuronal action in the brain? My information processing speed was magnificent. And now it has diminished to a pathetically low level.”
Tony pushed away from the table and turned to Steve, eyes blazing and face set in determination. “So what am I good for, Steve? What can I contribute to this world? TELL ME because I am coming up empty when I look at what I can give!” He spat out.
Steve had tears in his eyes and he felt shaken to his core. “Tony…you are a genius.” Tony snorted and opened his mouth. “No, listen to me!” Steve insisted, leaning forward into Tony’s space. “You are a genius and nothing will ever change that. No matter how fast you can process a piece of information, no matter whether you can remember the word “restaurant” or the word “lettuce”, you will always be a genius. You made Iron Man in a cave while hooked to a car battery. You found a new element while you were dying.” Tony didn’t move and Steve stepped cautiously closer.
“You have saved the world time and time again on your intellect alone while you were under pain and duress. I know that no matter what challenge this medication puts you under, you will continue to create amazing things and save the world with your inventions. Because that’s what you do. You’re Tony Stark: the man who saves the world by seeing what everyone else doesn’t see. You don’t need the processing power of a supercomputer for that.”
Steve grasped Tony’s hand and said quietly, “The only one who thinks you have nothing to give to the world is you.” Tony stared helplessly at Steve who pulled Tony over to the couch and cuddled him mercilessly. Tony was stiff for several minutes, still in shock, and suddenly all the tension eased out of him followed by a bone deep sigh. Steve smiled and drew Tony further into the vee of his legs to lean against his chest, encircling him in his arms.
“You’re too good to me.” Tony muttered.
“Don't you dare talk like that, Stark.” Steve warned.
“Make me, Rogers.” Steve huffed out a laugh and leaned down to kiss the corner of Tony’s mouth. They sat peacefully for a moment and then Steve sat up, dumping Tony onto the floor.
“You’re fine. Now, com’on,” he said, tugging Tony up and towards the stairs to the elevator. “I know for a fact that Pepper does not need anything today and I definitely need a nap.”
A few hours later found the two of them ensconced in their bed; Tony curled against Steve’s side with one of Steve’s arms thrown over him. Tony was lazily drawing patterns into Steve’s chest, occasionally catching on a chest hair and causing Steve’s breath to hitch. Steve thought about asking him if they were equations like they used to be but decided against it after thinking back to their previous conversation. Their legs were tangled and he slowly drew his fingers up and down Tony’s bare back, feeling goosebumps rise from his actions.
Peaceful silence had reigned between them from the time they entered the room. Steve had watched Tony slowly strip off his shirt and a desperate need to show Tony how much he was still valued rushed over him. He found himself clutching Tony’s face and kissing him breathlessly, trying to communicate everything he was feeling without words. Tony pulled back with a searching look at Steve’s face. Whatever he found there was satisfying because he threw himself on Steve, pushing them both back onto the bed and crushing their lips together.
They had shared kiss after kiss; Tony making little broken noises as Steve placed feather light kisses down his jaw and neck. It was tender and emotional in ways that they had not touched in a very long time. It was therapeutic for both with whispers of “I’m sorry” and “You are worth everything to me”.
The strong sentiment that permeated the atmosphere had led to this: the two of them quietly sharing space and drawing strength from their renewed trust. Tony took a deep breath and Steve could feel his body stiffen in preparation for whatever he was about to say.
“I’m scared.” He confessed. Steve remained quiet, knowing that any response might spook Tony into silence again. Two emotional confessions in one day was practically a fucking miracle. “My whole life is about control and I acknowledge that I am a control freak. But this…epilepsy has destroyed all of that. I have no control over my own body, Steve. The reactor – I made that; I know it inside and out and I can make it work. I can control my heart problems and I made it into something better. But my body could betray me at any time and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.”
Tony chuckled weakly. “I can’t even have alcohol anymore. Forced sobriety for me.” A moment of silence and then, very softly, “I’m scared that you don’t love me anymore because I can’t be special.”
Steve sat straight up so quickly; he knocked his shoulder against Tony’s head. “Ow!”
“I’m sorry, but what the fuck, Tony. Do you really think I’m that shallow? That I was only with you because you were Iron Man? Furthermore: did you not hear my whole ‘you’re a genius’ speech a moment ago? Do you think a man who thinks you’re only average would be able to rant about your genius for so long?” Tony half-smiled wearily.
“I’m sorry, Steve. I didn’t say it was rational.” Steve tugged Tony closer to him and whispered in his ear, “You could lose everything and I would still love you.” Tony closed his eyes and breathed out slowly, all the anxiety draining out of him.
“We can work through this, Tony. I know everything is hard and you’re getting used to your medication but you’re still you. And you and I together can do anything.”
Steve softly pulled his fingers through Tony’s hair. “You don’t have to be afraid to lose control. I’ll always be there to catch you. I’m sorry I didn’t see how much you were hurting and I wish you had just told me so I could help you. Trust me enough to come to me with these things next time, please? Let’s not wait until Pepper comes to me and then do this all over again.” Steve asked pleadingly. Tony hesitated and then nodded.
“I can’t promise that it will come easily but I do trust you.”
“That’s all I ask. You know that I will never stop looking for a way to give you what you lost.”
Tony sent him a heartbroken glance. “Steve, can we please not talk about that right now? That possibility is so far out of reach.”
Steve tilted his head and then nodded once, firmly. “Okay, Tony, okay. But that doesn’t mean I will stop trying.”
Tony rested his head against Steve’s collarbone and whispered, “I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
After a brief second later, “Can you please stop assuming Pepper is only interested in what you can give her? I’m not emotionally prepared to handle an upset Pepper. She cares about you, Tony. Don’t make me tell her about this.” Steve added.
“You and Pepper are conspiring behind my back, I just know it.” Tony complained as Steve chuckled into his hair.
“I thought that was Pepper and Natasha.”
“Well of course them too. But their conversations are just creepy.” Steve laughed and Tony looked very pleased with himself.
JARVIS awoke Tony that evening from where he was curled at Steve’s side on their bed and altered him to take his medication. He stared at the brightly colored pills in his hand for a long moment. Then, with a glance at a sleeping Steve, muttered, “Bottoms up, motherfuckers.”