"You should go talk to Steve," Clint said, when it was all over.
Or rather, it wasn't over -- with two sprained ankles and a broken wrist it would be a while before it was over for Tony -- but the bad guy was behind bars (or foot-thick shatterproof plexi) and everyone was safe, now, so. Beggars, choosers.
"Well, I would," Tony said, laying down four of a kind to Clint's pair and pulling the tongue-depressors they were playing for over to his side of the tray table. "But I can't exactly jog down the hall and say hello. What, should I phone him?"
"No," Clint said. "But you got some hot wheels," he pointed out, indicating the wheelchair he was sitting in, Tony's wheelchair, supposedly for getting him out of here tomorrow. "You want me to chauffeur you down there?"
"Why are you so urgent about getting me to talk to Steve? We talk all the time. We had burgers together literally an hour before Zemo snatched me off the street. And I saw Steve beat Zemo's face in, so I'm sure he's had a fair amount of catharsis," Tony said.
"Is there a reason you don't want to?" Clint asked.
"No! I just think you're being weird about it."
"He was really messed up when it happened," Clint said. "I just think he'd like a chance to talk to you."
"Okay, well, fine, help me into the deathtrap," Tony said, and as soon as he was in the wheelchair, he looked up at Clint, put his fingers to his temples, and said, "I can reaaaaad your thouuuuughts."
"Xavier's going to know you made fun of him," Clint said. He angled Tony out of the hospital room, and as soon as they were in the dim, night-time hallway, he gave a running shove, jumped, and rode the rear bar of Tony's wheelchair as they sped down the hall, much to Tony's delight. Clint jumped off and dragged his shoes on the squeaky linoleum just in time to stop them in front of Steve's door, threw Tony a salute, and jogged off.
Tony knocked on the jamb, poked his head in to see Steve lying on his side in the hospital bed, staring out the window, and rolled clumsily inside.
Steve wasn't working with three only semi-functional limbs the way Tony was, but he did have a massive burn on his face, spreading down over one side of his chest, pink and grainy where it was healing, blistered where it wasn't yet. He wouldn't scar -- he never did -- but he wasn't going to win any beauty pageants in the next few days.
"Hey, Clint and I went joyriding and ended up here. What's a nice guy like you doing in a place like this?" Tony asked. Steve didn't turn -- his face would brush the pillow if he did, which Tony figured would hurt -- but he waggled his fingers in a greeting.
"Waiting for a cheap line like that," he said, as Tony maneuvered around the bed. "How's the prisoner?"
"Better than you, I think," Tony replied. "Extra helpings of mac and cheese for dinner," he added, noticing the untouched food on Steve's tray.
"You were in Zemo's dungeon for almost a month," Steve said.
"Yeah, but it's not like he didn't feed me," Tony replied. Steve had a look he didn't like; he got it when he was upset in a way the Avengers couldn't fix -- sometimes around Memorial Day or Veteran's Day, sometimes when he was coming back from Arlington. Glassy, almost vacant. Like Captain America was running the show and Steve Rogers was hiding out somewhere.
"He broke your wrist," Steve said, in a way that expressed how unwilling he was going to be to ever let that go.
"Hell, I did that on my own when I got my first pair of roller skates," Tony said, leaning into Steve's line of sight. Steve's eyes flicked down to his face, then back out to the window. "Clint was right. Something's eating you."
"We thought you were dead," Steve said. "We saw a body. Your body."
"Well, clearly not, since I'm still inhabiting mine," Tony replied. He actually hadn't heard much about what went down. From his perspective it had been a pretty tedious month, really. Zemo hadn't let him near anything more technologically advanced than a plastic spork.
"I know that now," Steve said. "Natasha didn't believe it from the beginning."
"Did you?" Tony asked, curiously. Steve was silent. Tony carefully stood, hitching himself up onto Steve's bed. He twisted so that his hip bumped up against Steve's abdomen, turned to watch his face.
"Someone died in order for Zemo to make us think you were dead," Steve said. "Don't know why yet. And I should be -- angry, upset? that whoever he is, he's dead, such a pointless death, dying just to manipulate me, us. But -- I'm just glad it wasn't you. That's all there's room for right now."
Tony patted Steve's side, just below where the burn ended, above the waist of his scrub trousers. "Well, you're only human and I'm an extremely charming guy."
Steve's lips twitched, and then he hissed.
"Sorry, I'll try not to make you laugh."
"Don't strain a muscle," Steve advised.
Tony leaned forward carefully, resting his arms on Steve's bicep, chin on his folded wrists. Steve took the weight like it was nothing, like he always did.
"Come on, Cap," Tony said. "I know it hurts to smile but I'm fine, and you'll be fine by tomorrow. You're freaking Clint out."
"Death gets you thinking, that's all," Steve said. "Things you meant to say and didn't. Things you wish you hadn't said and could take back."
"Ooh, I'm all ears," Tony said. "For which of the many insults you have flung at me over the years are you sorry?"
"I'm in love with you," Steve said.
From the way Steve's body tensed, the way he held himself, Tony could tell Steve was waiting for him to lean back, to slip off the bed and probably to make awkward small talk for two minutes before fleeing. A few years ago he might have, too. But Tony was sort of proud of having grown up a little, recently. A thrill of recognition shot through him, excitement that now, this is happening now.
He tilted his head, cheek brushing Steve's bicep, and reached up with one hand to smooth his hair away from the angry red edge of the burns.
"Is that all?" he asked, amused. "I knew that already, you know."
Steve's eyes flicked up to his, and the question on his face was so clear it really was comical.
"You're not subtle. And when I'm in love with someone I watch them very, very closely," Tony said.
Steve cleared his throat. "You never said anything."
"Neither did you. I thought it was going to be a faux-platonic unacknowledged thing, to be frank," Tony said. "One of those perpetual-bachelors deals. Can't be easy, growing up in the thirties with a secret like that. Wasn't easy for me before I came out as Bi, and I grew up in the eighties. Well. I guess it wasn't easy after, either. Point is, you'd come to grips with it in your own time or you wouldn't. I was ready to wait. One thing I have learned -- there's no rushing Steve Rogers."
"You seem to have managed regardless," Steve said drily.
"Oh, that was all Zemo," Tony said, scooting up on the bed so that he could kiss Steve's forehead, which was all the unburned skin that was available. "Can you lie on your back comfortably?"
"Why?" Steve asked, but he was already rolling over, tucking the end of the pillow under his head so it would prop him up without touching the wound.
"So I can do this," Tony replied, fitting himself into Steve's uninjured side, resting his cast-bound wrist on Steve's chest. He laid his head on the pillow next to Steve's, nose brushing his cheek. "Mind if I sleep here tonight?"
"You'll get a cramp in your neck," Steve said.
"No, I won't."
"You say that every time you sleep exactly like this on the sofa and then you wake up griping about the cramp."
"Not exactly like this," Tony purred. Steve rolled his eyes. "I can go, if you want."
"No, I don't want," Steve sighed. His arm came up to secure Tony in place. After a few moments of silence, he spoke again. "I was going to come and see you. Earlier. I just...when you think something is real and it turns your whole world sideways, and then it turns out it wasn't real at all -- if we really did have you back, but then suddenly we didn't...the one nearly beat me. The other would have."
"I'm here," Tony said. He curled his fingers into Steve's skin, nails leaving little red pressure-marks to prove it. "I didn't die."
"Thank God," Steve said, and his breath was weirdly short, chest jerking under Tony's hand, until Tony realized he was fighting tears. "Thank God."
Tony wasn't especially good with emotion, and Steve Rogers crying was something he had never ever encountered and which was way out of his league in terms of providing comfort. But he stayed where he was, fingers curling and uncurling over Steve's heart, breath steady against his jaw, until the terrible spasming faded and the quiet, harsh noises in Steve's throat subsided. He still hadn't actually cried. Well, that was Steve, through and through.
"I'll risk a cramp or two," Tony said. "Go to sleep. I'll stay."
"No, you sleep," Steve countered. "I gotta -- "
"Keep watch," Tony finished. Steve looked sheepish. "Fine by me," he yawned. "Wake me up in time for institutional powdered eggs and green Jello."
"I like green Jello," Steve said.
"Sleep, Tony," Steve said.
"Mm-hm," Tony agreed, soaking up the warmth of the body under his, already halfway to sleep. He barely felt Steve brush a kiss over his eyebrow, and he was already under long before the nurses noticed he was missing from his own bed and went to find him in Steve's.