About ten minutes after they leave the site, Tony says, "Don't look now, but we've got a tail."
"What?" Steve starts to move, then checks himself from turning around at the last possible second. "Are you sure?"
Tony checks the rearview mirror again, although it isn't really necessary. The Audi's been behind them for the past three miles, since they left Roxxon headquarters, following them like a faithful puppy dog. "I'm sure." He first saw the two guys lounging by the parking garage elevator like they were just buddies on a smoke break, but he recognized the cut of their sport jackets at a glance, and he knew exactly what kind of weaponry they were carrying. When they hopped into a dark green Audi just as he and Steve were pulling out of the parking garage, he knew it for certain. "Obviously someone doesn't like us knowing where their secret hideout is."
"And this is why we let the actual spies do the recon," Steve says dryly.
"Hey," Tony protests. "I was there to follow up on a consulting request. Perfectly aboveboard. You just happened to come with me."
"Yeah," Steve grunts. "It was a great cover story. Too bad no one asked us about it before they just decided to follow us." He ducks his head so he can look in his side mirror, craning his neck to see the car following them. "Can you lose them?"
He looks over at Steve with his most winning smile. "Can I lose them? I'll have you know, Steve Rogers, that you're looking at the man who once drove his own car at the Monaco Grand Prix."
"Yeah, I saw it on You Tube," Steve says. "The memory is not exactly inspiring me with confidence."
Disgruntled, Tony returns his gaze to the road. "Yes," he says shortly. "I can lose them."
"Then I suggest you do that," Steve says, sounding every inch like Captain America.
"Sir, yes sir," Tony says. One quick push of a button activates the GPS. He's never been to this part of Vermont before; he has no idea what he's dealing with. The Roxxon offices were set outside the town, in a pastoral setting designed to fool everyone into thinking they were innocent and charming. But they've been driving long enough now that they're coming up on the town itself. "JARVIS, I'm going to need you to guide me someplace with a lot of intersections and traffic lights."
Beside him, Steve does a double take. "What? Tony, this isn't the movies."
"Exactly," he says grimly. "This isn't a car chase, Steve. This is an assassination attempt."
"Oh," Steve says.
He glances in the rearview mirror one last time, then hits the accelerator. The Rolls jumps forward, sleek and silver and full of the latest bells and whistles – most of which he installed himself after grumbling about the shoddy custom-built job the factory did.
The car behind them speeds up as well.
"In 1.3 miles you will be entering the city limits," says JARVIS. "Turn right on Ford Street."
"Got it," Tony says.
"What are you planning to do?" Steve asks anxiously.
"I'm planning to lose them," he says as he gives the Rolls more gas. "Isn't that what you wanted?"
"Ye-ees!" Steve yelps as he's thrown backward by the sudden acceleration. "But not like this!"
Tony ignores him, and concentrates on getting to the city as quickly as possible. On a straight stretch like this, he has no worries – he knows the Rolls is faster. But he can't lose them through sheer speed alone.
And he can't deny either that he's pissed off. This certainly isn't the first time someone has tried to follow the legendary Tony Stark, and it's not even the first or the fourth assassination attempt, but this time he's not at the mercy of Happy or whoever else is driving. Today, it's all on him.
They enter the town, and it's all quaint and nicely maintained, and probably the kind of place where it would be fun to spend a Saturday afternoon shopping and checking out the local restaurants. Traffic isn't too bad, but there's enough to provide some sort of cover. Tony checks the rearview mirror again and sees that their tail is still right behind them.
Time to change tactics. "JARVIS, call out the approaching roads. Distance and direction."
JARVIS's calm voice fills the car. "Copley Street, .2 miles, bearing east-west. International Avenue, .4 miles, bearing east-west. Maple Street, .6 miles, one-way bearing east."
There's more, but Tony tunes the rest out. He's heard what he needs to hear.
The Audi is still close, weaving through traffic. He shoots through the intersection at Copley without even slowing down, then darts in front of a blue SUV as he changes lanes. "Glove box," he says.
Steve opens the compartment and pulls out the pistol that was hidden inside. "Tony?"
He grins as he changes lanes again, unable to help himself, even though it isn't remotely funny. "You really think I travel anywhere unarmed?" The suit is in the trunk, of course, but that won't do them any good now. And anyway, sometimes there's just no substitute for a good old-fashioned weapon in your hand.
The game is up now. The men in the Audi clearly know that they know they're there. They abandon all pretense of just following – and they speed up, cutting off cars in their haste to close the gap between themselves and the Rolls.
Steve looks behind them. He grips the pistol in both hands, clearly unhappy about it. As they barrel through the next intersection, he says, "I'm not shooting at them with all these people around."
"You think that's going to stop them?" Tony snaps.
"I think it's probably the only thing stopping them," Steve says.
"Let's hope you're right," he says. They're nearly at Maple Street now. Three seconds…two seconds….
He doesn't brake, does nothing to signal his intentions, although he does lift his foot off the accelerator at the last second. He just wrenches the wheel to the right. Tires screech. He and Steve are thrown to the left; his shoulder hits the door hard, and Steve nearly ends up in his lap. Then they're hurtling down Maple Street – headed the wrong direction on a one-way street.
"Tony!" Steve yelps his name as he rights himself.
He checks the mirror; the Audi follows them, swerving badly as it makes the sharp turn.
"What are you doing?" Steve yells.
"You wanna drive?" he snaps back.
"Yes!" Steve shouts.
"I retract the question," Tony says. He checks the mirror again – the Audi is closer now damnit – then has to focus on the road and the cars parked alongside each curb. There's just enough room to drive in between them, but it's tight. Real tight.
"If someone comes this way…" Steve starts.
"No one's gonna come," Tony says through gritted teeth. Because he has bad luck, yes, but even guys like him deserve to catch a karmic break every once in a while, damnit.
JARVIS is still calling out approaching streets. Maple dumps them out onto Sixth Avenue. Tony shoots across three lanes of traffic, narrowly misses hitting a whole family piled into a tan station wagon, hauls the wheel hard to the left, and forces the car to straighten out again.
Behind them, their pursuers plow into traffic. Brakes squeal and horns blare – but the Audi continues the chase.
"Damnit." He hits the steering wheel with a clenched fist.
"Watch it," Steve warns, pointing straight ahead.
He sees it. The light is red at the next intersection. As if there's a chance in hell he's going to stop for it. Unfortunately, the cars in front of him – in both lanes – are law-abiding citizens with no clue there is a high-speed car chase going on behind them. They're already braking to a stop.
There's nowhere else to go. With a muffled curse, Tony jerks the wheel to the right and drives right up on the sidewalk.
Steve shouts out loud. Terrified pedestrians scream and scatter. Another twitch of the wheel and now they're on the crossroad (Oak Street, JARVIS helpfully informs them), merging with the traffic heading east, leaving the downtown area behind.
And that's when the occupants of the Audi begin to fire.
The windows are bulletproof of course, but that doesn't stop Tony from instinctively ducking and throwing himself forward. The car skids and nearly ends up on the sidewalk again.
"Damnit, you can't—"
"Any time you want to do something and be useful!" Tony shouts.
Steve gives him a dirty look, then dives for the back seat. He's too big, there's no way he's going to fit, and Tony cries, "What are you doing?" then immediately has to fling himself to the left to avoid getting kicked in the head as Steve struggles to force himself through the gap in the seats.
"My shield!" Steve gasps.
Like that's going to do them any good. "You throw that now, you're not getting it back!" He doesn't care how good Steve is at throwing that thing and having it return – this is reality, not the movies. The shield is not going to boomerang back to them off a car driving fifty miles an hour.
"Just keep driving!" Steve yells, his voice muffled now. He kicks and squirms and plops into the back seat.
Unable to help it, Tony twists around to see what he's doing. He sees Steve reach for the backseats and pull them down, giving him access to the trunk. He catches the tiniest glimpse of the silver suitcase holding his armor, and then he's forced to turn around again and pay attention to the road.
And the Audi rams them from behind.
The impact hurls Steve into the driver's seat. The whole seat is knocked forward. Tony is flung against the steering wheel. There's a heavy thonk as the arc reactor strikes the wheel. It hurts, fuck it hurts, pain spreading like wildfire through his chest and up into his neck and shoulders, but there's no time to worry about that.
"I'm okay!" Steve hollers, sounding a little pained. "Just keep going!"
Like there's any other option at this point. They're rapidly leaving the town behind. The road narrows into two lanes a little up ahead.
"Slow down a little if you can," Steve says.
"What?" Tony risks another glance into the backseat, because he knows he heard that wrong, of course he did, there's no way Steve would have told him to slow down…
Steve is crouched beside the back door, one hand wrapped around the handle. He's got the shield strapped to his left arm, the pistol tucked into the waistband of his trousers.
What the hell…? "You gotta be kidding me!"
"Just keep driving!" Steve orders, and then he shoves the door open. And just like that, he's gone, tucking and rolling and fucking gone.
Tony shouts in wordless protest, in denial, in utter, absolute disbelief. Reflexively he hits the brakes, trying too late to slow the car down for the leap Steve's already made, and also because he can't leave Steve behind, he can't, goddamnit.
The Audi rams into the Rolls again.
Helplessly he's flung forward, and he swears he can hear Steve shouting at him to drive, drive, drive.
There's a street coming up, a four-way stop only, no stoplight necessary, there isn't enough traffic. He jams his foot to the floor and yanks hard on the wheel. The Rolls groans in protest, then shoots forward, but doesn't want to turn. Yelling wildly, hauling the steering wheel over with all his strength, Tony manages to slew the car onto the side street. The rear end flirts dangerously with morphing the turn into a rollover, then settles back down.
He twists around, looks.
Steve is down on one knee, using the shield for cover. He's got the pistol out, and he's already firing, taking advantage of the clear line of sight he has now that there is some space between the two cars.
Just as it starts into the turn, still following the Rolls, two of the Audi's tires blow.
Tony slams on the brakes. He can't not.
The Audi rolls, glass shattering, metal crumpling. The car spins past the side street, and onto the grassy field that borders the road, ending up upside down and utterly totaled.
The Rolls shudders to a halt.
For a few seconds Tony can't even move. He just sits there, staring at the remains of the Audi. The two men who were inside jump out and start running. Steve takes them down with his shield, and it's like watching an old Captain America movie, it's the same fucking gorgeous blending of athletic acrobatics and righteous authority in action.
By the time Tony manages to get out of the car and stand there on shaky legs, it's all over. Steve's got the guys laid out on the side of the road, unconscious and bound with their own neckties.
Steve comes back over to the Rolls, and Tony reaches out for him with one hand, and his knees almost buckle, and his hand is shaking like what the hell, Stark, he's been through worse than this, so what's that all about? Steve just takes hold of both his upper arms and guides him around the car to the passenger side, away from the crumpled Audi.
They sway against each other and he can feel Steve shaking too, and that's just… God…
"Steve. Oh my God… I didn't…" Steve is bloodied and scraped up from his stunt dive, his clothes torn and ripped. Just one fraction of an inch to the wrong side and he would be dead right now, and the very thought makes Tony want to throw his head back and scream, because Steve…
"Tony! I saw… Did you…?" And oh hey, apparently Steve can't complete a sentence either. Which is reassuring. Somewhat. Steve's hands clutch at his shirt, then yank, and buttons go flying everywhere. Then Steve's hands are on the arc reactor, palming it, patting it down, assessing for damage or something, it doesn't even matter. All that matters is that his hands are large and warm and where they touch Tony's skin, they set off little fires in the pit of Tony's stomach.
And that's really all he can take. He's already hard, wheee adrenaline rush, and he can see Steve is too, and he figures he's earned this, by God. He grabs Steve's head with both hands and there's about half a second where he thinks Steve might protest, but Steve doesn't, and then they're kissing, tongues and lips and he would swallow Steve's mouth whole if he could, he can't get enough. They're down on their knees now, the Rolls hiding them from sight but even if they were standing in Times Square he wouldn't care. Because it's Steve and thanks to him Steve was in danger and he almost got Steve killed and he would have never forgiven himself and thank God Steve is alive but he knows Steve is hurt and it's almost more than he can stand.
And still Steve's hands are on his chest, and it's like a miracle cure, there's no more pain, there's only the heat and Steve and the need, oh hell, the need to have him.
He reaches down with one hand, frantic, tugging at buttons and zippers, because he'll be damned if he comes in his pants like a horny teenager. Not after everything that just happened. One of Steve's hands joins his, and then there's nothing but bare skin and heat and he groans into Steve's mouth, and Steve's hips buck forward, and God, just to know they made it, they're safe and okay and Steve is panting in his ear as they jerk and shudder against each other and finally into release.
Suddenly boneless, Tony slumps against the side of the Rolls. "Oh, fuck."
Steve takes a moment to catch his breath. "Did we just…? And that…?"
"You know," Tony says, "I think we just did." He looks around, peering over the hood of the car. The Audi is still on its roof. Sirens are screaming in the distance. In the south, lightning flares in the sky. He figures they've got two minutes, max, before either Thor shows up or the police. At this point, it's a toss-up.
Awkwardly he reaches for his zipper. "Um."
But Steve has seen it, too, and he's already tucking himself back inside his trousers. "I don't think anyone needs to know about this."
"I think you might be right," Tony says.
They look at each other, and suddenly they're laughing, loud and unrestrained, maybe even a little hysterical, but hell, who cares? They're still here, they survived.
And it was one hell of a wild ride.