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I Am Not My Genius' Keeper

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Steve Rogers was going to kill Tony Stark.

And not a single jury in the world would convict him. He’d probably get some sort of honor. At least from their teammates at this point.

The genius had disappeared into his lab, after informing everyone that he had to do some major upgrades to JARVIS and therefore he and the AI would be unavailable for the next two to three days. That had been five days ago. No one had heard or seen (in Tony’s case) either of them in the last three days. Granted, it wasn’t all that unusual for Tony, but. But when even Bruce was locked out that long, there still, it was worrisome.

But what had Steve’s blood boiling was the fact that because JARVIS, and therefore several other important systems (i.e. the Avengers Assemble alarm), were down. The team had nearly missed a call to Assemble as a result. The only reason they even knew anything was happening was because Fury had called his cell phone and screamed at him to get his and his team’s asses in gear before a squadron of Doombots destroyed downtown.

They quickly got ready for battle and were halfway to the Quinjet before Bruce pointed out that someone would have to go get Tony. Steve had somehow gotten elected to the job. He promised to keep them updated before turning around and heading down to the workshop.

Reaching the lab, he imputed his access code. There was a negative buzz, signaling that the code had been rejected. He growled in frustration, entering Bruce’s code (which was rarely ever blocked), and getting the same reaction. Grinding his teeth, he banged on the door for a minute before side stepping to peer through the glass wall to try and catch a glimpse of the elusive genius.

The lab was eerily still. From what he could see, U and Butterfingers were both in their charging stations while Dum-e was nowhere to be seen. Steve was concerned for a moment, but then he remembered that JARVIS’ servers were in a back room of the workshop and Tony probably had the missing bot back there helping him.

Moving back to the door, he tried his access code one more time before taking his shield off his back. Tony had been indulged long enough, and he was done playing nice. The glass was blast proof, according to Tony, but he’d also said that he’d shattered it on more than one occasion with the Iron Man repulsors.

Bringing his shield arm back, he slammed the disk into the glass once, twice, two dozen times before the panel crumbled to the ground. He slung the shield up onto his back again as he stepped through the opening he’d made. The concern he’d felt before came rushing back when the silence in the workshop hit him. The few times he’d been down there before, there had always been obnoxiously loud music playing, or at the very least, some sort of machinery running. Currently there was only the soft whirls and clicks of equipment and computers on stand0by.

Moving further into the lab, he tried calling out, “Tony?”

A sudden whirling of machinery had him reaching for his shield before he saw Dum-e come racing out from a back room. He relaxed as a smile spread over his face.

“Hey boy, where’s To- Dum-e what are you doing?” The bot rolled up to him, grabbing the front of his uniform and started pulling him towards the room he’d just come from, all while making frantic noises. After stumbling a few steps he was able to keep his feet under himself and allowed Dum-e to lead him away. At the doorway of the room, the bot let him go and zoomed off to the other side of the room.

“Tony? You in here?” Steve called, glancing around the room. He saw row after row of computer looking equipment, and came to the conclusion that this must be the server room. There were empty water bottles scattered everywhere and all across the lone table a few feet into the room. Taking a closer look at the bottles on the table, he noticed one of the bottles was liquid DayQuil. The bottle had been knocked over at some point, making it impossible to tell how full it had been. Steve was silently fuming at the blatant indicators that Tony was working down here while sick. A loud beep from across the room drew his attention back to Dum-e, who was waving his arm at him and whirring insistently.

Steve’s growing worry spiked as he rushed over to where the bot was. He subconsciously noted that the space between the server and the wall was too small for the robot helper to fit through. Not that that fact hadn’t stopped him from trying, if the skid marks on the floor and wall, and the dents at the bottom of the server case were anything to go by.

Poking his head around the corner, his heart jumped into his throat. A limp arm was sticking out from behind one of the servers, five rows back.

“Tony!” He cried as he pushed past Dum-e. Whipping around the corner, he beheld the missing genius crumpled on the floor with a tool still clenched in one hand. Ripping off one of his gloves, he knelt next to Tony’s body and pressed two finders to his neck. He breathed a sigh of relief when he felt a slow pulse, but frowned as he noticed the heat radiating off him. Gently, he rolled the smaller man onto his back and immediately noticed how flushed his skin was. Pushing aside Tony’s sweat slick hair, he rested the back of his naked hand against the burning skin of his forehead.

Lightly, he tapped the side of his face a few times to try and rouse him. The genius coughed roughly a few times, but remained unconscious. That wasn’t a good sign. He needed to find a thermometer to check and see how high Tony’s fever really was.

He was about to ask JARVIS where he could find one, but stopped with his mouth open, remembering that the AI was still offline. And the obvious reason behind that was lying in an unconscious heap at his feet. Not knowing what else to do, he leaned around the corner to see if Dum-e was still there. Luckily he was, and gave a questioning doot when he saw Steve. He realized how worried the helper bot must have been, not being able to reach his creator or call for help.

“He’s alive, but he’s very sick,” He told the bot, whose arm sagged in relief, “I need you to do something for me though, Dum-e. I need you to find a thermometer. One for humans. Can you do that for me?”

Dum-e’s ‘head’ bobbed up and down quickly before he took off to hopefully find one.

Sighing, he shuffled back to Tony’s side. First things first, he had to get Tony off the ground. Reaching down, he gently cradled the smaller man in his arms before standing. He carefully readjusted his grip on him as they squeezed between the servers. The sick man began coughing as Steve walked out of the room. The coughs sounded extremely wet and painful.

“You ok Tony?” He asked, pausing to look down at the man. As violent as the coughing fit had been, Tony was still surprisingly unconscious. Not good.

Moving through the main part of the lab, he looked around for the couch he knew Tony kept down there. He found it over by what looked like a full-scale car prototype. He strode over to it and sat Tony down on it. While trying to keep him upright, he awkwardly pulled the sick man out of the oversized sweatshirt he had on. Just as he was lying Tony down, Dum-e came peeling around a corner with something clutched in his claw. Steve propped Tony’s head up with a folded blanket in the absence of any pillows. Turning, he held his hand out for Fume to place his prize in. The bot gave a proud beep as he released his find into the soldier’s hand and backed away to move around the backside of the couch.

Steve was surprised to see that Dum-e had actually found a digital thermometer. And quickly. Which meant that the bot had had to have seen it being used. Which meant that Tony had been using it and knew he was getting sick.

Oh, he was going to kill the man after he got better.

But first he needed to find out how bad of shape he was in. Kneeling down next to Tony’s head, he took the thermometer out of its clear casing. He turned it on and slipped the end into Tony’s mouth, under his tongue. He took his chin in hand gently and held his mouth shut. Briefly, he worried that Tony’s nose was plugged and he wouldn’t be able to breathe, but that luckily wasn’t the case. The thermometer beeped rapidly, signaling it was finished.

“Oh God,” He muttered as he read the numbers on the tiny screen: 105.5°.

He knew that wasn’t at all good, having experienced such high fevers himself. He tried to remember what his mother had always done for him. And not for the first time since finding Tony in this condition, he wished JARVIS was online to provide assistance. Tony wouldn’t even be in this condition if the IA was still online. Hell, he didn’t even know how long Tony had been lying on the floor where he’d found him.

The genius on the couch coughed wetly again.

Without another thought, Steve gathered him up and headed towards the small bathroom in the lab. Once there, he closed the lid on the toilet with his foot and set Tony down on it. Pressing his gloveless hand against the center of his chest to keep in upright, his fingers carefully spread around the Arc reactor so as not to press on it, he could feel how ragged his breathing was and cringed when Tony had another coughing fit.

Once the coughs had subsided, Steve peeled him out of his sweat soaked shirts and pulled the sweat pants he was wearing off with a quick tug that had the sick man falling off the toilet. Reaching into the shower, he turned the cold tap on all the way. As he was contemplating whether or not to strip down to his own underwear and get in with Tony, his comm. Crackled to life for the first time since he came down to the lab.

“Captain? What’s Stark’s status?” Natasha’s voice asked.

“Sorry, I got a little caught up once I got down here. It’s not good.”

“What’s wrong? Is he wasted or something?” Came Clint’s voice. They must be on speaker in the Quinjet.

“He’s really sick,” Steve said sternly in disapproval of Clint’s automatic conclusion. They all knew that Tony was drinking less and less since the team had started living in Stark Tower with him.

“How bad is he? Does he have a temp?” Bruce’s calm voice broke in.

“His temp is over a 105°. He also has a nasty cough and is unconscious. I was about to stick him under a cold shower and call Ms. Potts to see if she could get his doctor over here to look after him. You guys head out, I’ll find my own way downtown after I’m sure Tony is in good hands.”

“Steve, get him under that water. And make sure not to let too much water run over his face, he doesn’t need to have a panic attack on top of whatever is making him sick. If he doesn’t wake up once he’s in the water though, get him to a hospital as soon as possible, especially since I’m assuming we don’t know how long he’s been like this, right?” There was an undertone of worry in Bruce’s voice.

“Right. I’ll keep you updated,” He promised.

“I’ll call Pepper,” Natasha informed him, “If you end up at the hospital, let her know, she’ll have one of Tony’s doctors on stand-by.”

“We’ll try and leave a few badies for you Cap, but no promises!” Clint called before the comm. clicked off.

The corner of Steve’s mouth twitched upwards for a second at his teammate’s humor, but then Tony was coughing again. The fit lasted longer than any of the previous ones and had Tony whimpering at the end of it. Without wasting any more time, Steve pulled his remaining glove and his cowl off before taking the shield off and stripping his upper body armor and undershirt. Picking Tony up, he maneuvered him towards the shower. Bending over, he set him down on the tiled floor up against the back wall. He shivered as the freezing spray hit his back. Reaching up, he adjusted the shower head so it was spraying more directly on Tony, but not hitting his face. He found a small pitcher under the sink and filled it with cold water. Leaning over Tony again, he slowly poured the water over his head, being careful not to let too much run over his face.

Through the whole thing, Tony sputtered and coughed a few times, but other than his eye lids fluttering once, he remained unconscious.

Steve could see that he was barely shivering under the cold water, while he himself was steadily shaking. Coming to a decision to act, he made sure Tony wasn’t going to slip down onto the floor of the shower before standing and searching for some towels. Finding a pile in the closet, he took all of them. He dried himself rigorously before crouching down by Tony’s discarded clothes to search for a cell phone.

Strangely, there wasn’t one in the pockets of the sweat pants. Yet another indicator of how bad Tony had gotten before he collapsed.

Wishing he had his own phone one him, he reluctantly admitted momentary defeat and went to turn the shower off. Bending down, he picked up the soaked genius and laid him out on the towel on the floor. Taking another towel, he began to rub Tony down.

“Dum-e!” He called out of the room as he worked, a sudden idea hitting him. He heard the bot’s wheels come up to the doorway, “Dum-e, can you find a phone for me? I need to call Ms. Potts.”

Dum-e beeped once and took off.

Steve went back to drying Tony off. When he’d finished, he reached up on the sink counter where he’d left the thermometer and snatched it up. Placing the end in the prone man’s mouth once more, he used his free hand to gather up both their discarded clothes. The thermometer went off and Steve was relieved to see that Tony’s temp had gone down two whole degrees.

Tony still remained unconscious however.

A loud doot from the doorway informed Steve of Dum-e’s return. Glancing over, he saw that the robot had again brought back what he’d asked for. Grabbing his undershirt and pulling it on, he got up to take the phone from Dum-e’s claw. The bot whirred concerningly as he peeked around Steve to look at Tony.

Steve patted the top of his ‘head’, “He’ll be all right,” He comforted as he dialed Pepper’s number.

“ANTHONY EDWARD STARK!” Was yelled through the phone as soon as it picked up.

“Ms. Potts, this is Steve Rogers,” He said before the red head could launch into a rant. Holding the phone between his ear and shoulder, he knelt down next to Tony.

“Steve, you don’t have to cover for him, put him on the phone please,” She sounded bother irritated and resigned.

“I can’t ma’am, that’s why I’m calling. Natasha was supposed to call ahead so you could notify Tony’s doctor, but I’m guessing she didn’t get around to it, judging by your reaction.”

“I was in a meeting, covering for Tony. I was just going to check my messages when you called. What’s wrong? I’ll call his doctor and I’ll be right over.”

“Ms. Potts. Pepper!” He cut in when she took a breath, “He’s really sick and I’m about to take him to the hospital. I wanted to make sure he had someone to be with him before I joined the rest of the team downtown.”

“Yes, yes. I’ll meet you there then. Which hospital will you be taking him to? Oh my god, there are Doombots downtown. You go Steve. I’ll call Happy and we can be up in about ten minutes,” Pepper rambled on and on, a sign that she was at a loss as to what to do.

“Pepper, stop and breathe!” Steve insisted. It worried him how panicked the nearly unflappable woman sounded, “I got him and the team has the situation under control. I’m going to take him to Sacred Heart, since it’s both close and on the way downtown. Are you going to be ok, Ms. Potts?”

He heard the CEO exhale shakily, “Yeah. It’s just, the last time he got really sick, excluding the palladium poisoning, was before Afghanistan and he was in a bad way then. Now, with the Arc reactor, I’m really scared of what could happen…”

Steve was quiet for a moment. He hadn’t even considered how the Arc reactor would be dangerous to Tony’s well being in his current state. JARVIS had once explained to the details of the reactor and its effects on Tony to the team once, when Tony had been away on business. They now all knew that the device keeping him alive had a severe impact on his lung capacity.

“He’ll be fine, Pepper,” He reassured softly.

“He usually is any ways,” She laughed shakily, “I better call his doctor and Happy. Take care of him, Steve. We’ll meet you at the hospital.”

The call ended. He shoved the phone into one of his belt pouches and strapped his body armor and shield back on. Shoving the loose end of his cowl and his gloves in his belt, he quickly gathered up Tony’s clothes.

It had been awhile since he’d had to dress a limp body. Awhile meaning not since the War. He remembered it was a difficult task. A task that became that much more difficult when doing it alone. He tried to coax Dum-e into the room to help him, but as soon as he’d told him to come into the bathroom, the bot had taken off with a screech. Tony had obviously done something to discourage him from ever coming into the bathroom.

With a sigh, he went to work wrangling Tony back into his clothes. He had just finished getting the other man’s pants back on when he heard him groan. Steve froze momentarily in shock before reacting.

“Tony? Tony, can you hear me?” He asked hopefully, supporting the genius’ head so he could look into his face. He slumped when he saw that Tony remained unconscious still.

Then, Tony’s eyes flashed open for a second before they rolled up into his head and his body started convulsing.

Fever seizure, Steve’s mind supplied before his body was moving into action.

He scooped up Tony’s twitching body, not bothering to even attempt putting the man’s shirt on, and took off running. Dum-e chased after them worriedly until they crossed the threshold of the opening Steve had made earlier. Bolting to the elevator at the end of the hall, he waited impatiently for the car to come up to the lab level. Finally the elevator arrived and he was in and entering his speed override code before the doors were open all the way. An instant later the box car felt like it was free falling, it was moving so fast. Steve clutched Tony’s body to his chest. Just before they reached the ground floor, he felt the genius still in his arms. Leaning him back slightly, he carefully placed his fingers on the pulse point in Tony’s neck. He sighed in relief when he felt a shallow pulse under the too, too hot skin.

The elevator dinged as they reached the garage. Gathering Tony up, he sprinted out the doors the second they were open enough for him to slip through. He made a bee line for his motorcycle, which was parked amongst Tony’s various cars.

Reaching the bike, he carefully maneuvered Tony onto it so he’d be positioned so Steve could hold him in front of the seat. Climbing on behind him, he carefully kick started the bike. Putting it into gear, the tires squealed as the bike tore towards the exit. He hoped that the automated door still worked without JARVIS to run it. Shifting Tony a little to keep him centered, he breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the garage door opening to the street.

Steve gunned the gas and peeled out onto the road, barely blinking an eye when he almost hit a delivery truck. Getting the bike back under his control, carefully rebalancing Tony again, he opened up the throttle and weaved in between traffic without a single care for traffic laws. A few minutes later, the hospital came into view.

His motorcycle roared as they pulled up to the Emergency entrance. Killing the engine, he scooped Tony up into his arms once more and turned towards the door.

“Hey! You can’t leave that there!” Someone yelled at him.

“Then tow it!” He shouted back as her rushed through the doors.

“Steve!” Someone called from across the room. The soldier homed in on the voice and saw Pepper, Happy and some doctors waiting with a gurney and a team of nurses. Steve didn’t bolt for them, but it was a near thing.

“He had a fever seizure, probably about fifteen minutes ago now. It lasted about two minutes. His last known temperature was 103.7°, but that was some time before the seizure. He hasn’t regained full consciousness since I found him, and I don’t know how long he was even sick before then,” He informed the medical staff as he laid Tony on the gurney.

A flurry of action commenced as they rushed into a separate room: Tony’s temperature was being taken, ice was packed along his body, his pupils checked with a pen light, chest leads being attached and IVs inserted.

Steve made to move out of the way of the people now helping his friend when someone grabbed his wrist. A second later the simple grip turned into scrambling hands that were trying to pull him back.

He turned towards the gurney and saw Tony’s eyes open and wide with panic.

Without pause, Steve wrapped his hand around both of Tony’s and moved back beside his head.

“It’s ok Tony. You’re very sick and I had to bring you to the hospital. The doctors are going to help make you feel better,” He soothed the sick man. He looked up at one of the doctors, “What the hell happened?”

“He’s having difficulty breathing on his own, one of the nurses went to put an oxygen mask on him and he suddenly regained consciousness. His temperature is still much too high for anyone’s liking, and it’s probably making him delirious. I need you to try and keep him calm until we get his fever down a little and sedate him.”

“Why do you need to sedate him? He finally woke up, isn’t that supposed to be good? Why put him under again?” Steve asked, stroking the back of Tony’s hands, which were still in his grasp.

“It is good that he’s regained consciousness, but if he’s going to be trying to get away, he’s only going to make things worse for himself. Now, We’re going to need to take an X-ray of his chest to see how much fluid is in his lungs. Worst case scenario, if there’s too much fluid built up in his chest, we’ll have to put a chest tube in to drain as much of it as we can and put him on a respirator for a couple days to take some of the strain off his body.”

Steve felt his face pale.

“Given that we don’t know how long he’s been like this, Captain, we’re going to expect the worst and hope for the best.”

Tony made a soft whining sound and tugged at his hands. Steve released them and leaned down over the delirious man, “Tony, you need to calm down, alright? These people are just trying to help you.”

Tony squirmed on the bed, dilated eyes searching for Steve’s face.

“Don’t… D-don’t,” The sick man forced out on a breath.

“It’s okay, you’re gonna get better,” Soothed Steve.

“Don’t leave… me a- al’ne… with them…” Tony whispered, his eyes beginning to glimmer with tears.

Steve stared in minor shock for a moment before taking Tony’s hand in his again and raised it up and pressed his lips against it.

“I have to go, there are Doombots downtown and the team needs my help. Pepper and Happy are here though, they’ll stay with you,” He explained, running the fingers of his other hand through his hair affectionately.

“Nooooooo,” Whined Tony, tossing his head back and forth.

There was a tap on his shoulder. He turned to see one of the doctors standing there.

“You’re going to have to move, Captain. We’re going to sedate him now and take him up to X-ray.”

Tony’s grip on his hand was weak and easily broken as he stepped away from his side to give the medical personnel room to work again. He almost moved back regardless, when Tony started frantically reaching towards him as soon as he’d let go of him. A nurse injected something into his IV, and a few seconds later his eyes dropped shut as his body went limp again.

“Captain?”

Steve jumped as his comm. crackled to life, “Agent Romanova? What’s your status?”

“Everything is fine, Steve. We’re just finishing up with a straggler out here, so you won’t be needed. How’s Tony?”

“He woke up for a few minutes, so that’s good. They sedated him though, and are taking him up to X-ray right now. The doctors seem to think they’re going to have to insert a chest tube and put him on a respirator for a few days.”

“Well, at least he’s being treated now. He’ll pull through, Cap. He always does,” He could hear her begin to tell the others what he’d just told her. There was a muffled voice close on her end, before she relayed the words back to him, “Bruce says to stay with him, unless Pepper or Happy are there. He doesn’t do well waking up in strange places. I’ll contact Fury and put off the debrief for a different day, if possible. Regardless, we’ll be there as soon as possible.”

“Understood. Hopefully we’ll see you soon,” The line disconnected and he stood in the now empty room suddenly feeling exhausted after all the drama. Someone by the doorway cleared their throat. Turning quickly, he saw Happy standing there with his hands in his pockets.

“Oh right, I should probably… Tony. I should-“ He started.

“It’s fine Cap, Pepper went with him,” The chauffer informed him, “I’m guessing the other Avengers are going to show up at some point?”

Steve nodded numbly. He’d never had much contact with Tony’s driver, bodyguard, and friend. Tony trusted him and he seemed friendly enough, so he was good in his book.

“Well, maybe we should go stake out a corner of the waiting room till they get Tony into a room,” Suggested Happy.

“Yeah. Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Steve agreed, before following the other man.

They found some empty seats in a corner of the waiting room, where Steve ignored all the curious stares now aimed in his direction. The two men sat quietly for some time, Happy was playing a game on his phone while Steve blankly flipped through a teen magazine. Suddenly Happy sighed heavily, catching his attention as he put his phone away.

Turning towards him, Happy smiled a little, “I’m bored, and we don’t know each other half as well as we should for dealing with Tony as much as we do. That said, you wanna hear some embarrassing stories about the Boss?”

“I can use all the dirt I can with that man,” He tossed the magazine aside and turned to face Happy with the first real smile he’d had all day.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ A Week Later ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Steve could hear Tony’s raspy voice from down the hall when he stepped off the elevator. Approaching his hospital room, he saw that someone had left the door open. Leaning against the doorframe, he watched the still ill man for a moment.

Tony was sitting in the hospital bed, which was raised so that he was in a reclined position rather than flat out on his back, nested in a good deal more pillows and blankets than he should have had. He was still hooked up to several IV bags, heart monitor, and had a nasal canal to ease his breathing. There was a tablet sitting in his lap, to which he was berating someone.

“No, no, no, no, no Bruce,” He scolded hoarsely, “Just stop. Dum-e could do a better job than you right now.”

“Well then why aren’t you having him do it?” Bruce’s clearly irritated voice came through the speakers.

“Because he can’t fit between the servers. For which there is a reason why he cannot. But seriously Bruce, you’re better than this!” Tony’s voice cracked as he raised his voice, inducing a coughing fit. It lasted about a minute, and at the end of it he grabbed a small plastic pan from the bedside table and spit out a mouthful of phlegm, “Ugh, gross.”

“Alright, I think that’s enough for today,” Steve said, pushing off the doorframe and fully entering the room.

Tony looked up at him in surprise, “What are you doing back here so soon?”

“I’ve been gone for over an hour Tony,” He said flatly, grabbing the tablet from Tony’s loose grip, “I’ll take that.”

“Hey! Give it back!” Tony cried indignantly, triggering another coughing attack. When it subsided and he’d spit out another mouthful of phlegm, Steve handed him his water jug.

“Well, at least he’s actually coughing stuff up now,” Bruce’s voice drifted up from the tablet. Steve raised it up to see a harried looking doctor smiling tiredly.

“I think you’re both done for the day, wouldn’t you say?” Steve asked the other man.

“It’s probably for the best. At least I’ll be able to get some of my own work done today. Take good care of him Steve, I’ll see you guys tomorrow,” And with that, Bruce cancelled the connection and Steve turned the tablet off, setting it down away from Tony.

“Do you want JARVIS back up or not?” Tony’s voice was barely louder than a whisper now as he glared at Steve, his lower lip sticking out in a dramatic pout while he purposely breathed through his nose.

“What I want, Tony, is for you to get better,” He said sternly, pulling up his usual chair next to the bed.

Tony made an unimpressed sound as he continued to breathe through his nose. Steve noted that he was looking a little pale and his face was sweaty. He pressed the back of his hand against his forehead. He frowned a little, noting that Tony still had a slight retrograde fever before the smaller man jerked away from him.

“You ok? Or do you want a mask instead of the canal?”

The sick genius glared at him for a moment before sighing and nodding.

Steve reached over and hit the nurse call button. A few seconds later, a young woman entered the room, giving them both a friendly smile.

“What can I do for you?” She asked.

“Tony is having a little trouble breathing and would like an oxygen mask. And his fever is back.”

The woman nodded before going to work. She swiftly exchanged the nasal canal for a full mask, securing it comfortably over Tony’s nose and mouth and around his head. Checking his vitals and medical chart quick, she then moved to the side of the room and drew out some medication into a syringe, which she then injected into Tony’s IV line. While she was in the room, she picked up the dish Tony had been spitting up phlegm into all morning, taking it to the skin and rinsed it out before putting it back.

“You need anything else while I’m here?”

“No, I think we’re good, thank you,” Steve said for the both of them as Tony shook his head. She nodded, making a few notes in Tony’s chart before leaving, closing the door behind her.

The two men sat in silence for a few minutes while Tony’s breaths eased from harsh wheezes to only being slightly labored.

Steve was about to speak, but Tony beat him to it.

“Steve, can I ask you something?”

“Of course you can, Tony.”

“First of all, I just want you to know I’m not trying to get rid of you or anything, but it could possibly sound that way? And since you’ve taken my tablet, I might actually lose my mind due to boredom if you left, so, obviously, I don’t want that to happen. Also, I’m afraid the medical staff might try to kill me if you’re not around? So-“

“Tony,” He interrupted with a small laugh and smile, “What is it you want to ask me?”

With a sigh, Tony licked his lips and turned his head so he was looking him right in the eyes, “Why are you here, Cap? Don’t you have anything better to do than ‘Tonysit’?”

Steve sighed himself. He’d been expecting this question since Tony had come off the ventilator and his fever broke, and comprehension of his situation following soon after.

“I’m here because I want to be, Tony, and because I like you,” A little more than was appropriate for just being friends, if he were being honest with himself.

He met Tony’s gaze and held it, hoping that the genius could read the truth in his words there.

“Really?”

“Yes, you idiot,” Chuckled Steve, leaning forward to ruffle Tony’s hair. The other man swatted weakly at his hand, smiling.

“Well, I don’t know if I’ve ever said this, but I like you too, Cap,” Tony’s lips were tilted upwards in a shy grin.

“So now that we have that cleared up…” He half-joked.

“Oh, don’t be an ass,” Laughed Tony.

“I’ll try not to be, but can I ask you something now?”

“I suppose… But I reserve the right to not answer.”

“Fair enough I suppose,” Steve said as he nodded, noting that Tony was beginning to throw up walls in preparation, “You knew you were getting sick, so why didn’t you just take a couple days to sleep it off before it got bad?”

Tony sat watching him for a moment, as though contemplating whether or not to answer. His shoulders relaxed suddenly and he tipped his head back, “Cause JARVIS’ code was in complete shambles when I first felt like I was getting sick. I had to at least get him back to an operational state before I could do anything else. But it hit me harder and faster than anything I’ve ever had before. And believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve been sick since Afghanistan, even when my immune system was compromised by the Palladium poisoning. So I thought I had more time, and then a hardware error popped up in the servers that need to be fixed before I could upload the safe-mode version of JARVIS… And well, here we are.”

The bed ridden genius’ head was now tilted down as he stared at his hands in his lap. Steve breathed out through his nose before standing and moving towards the bed. He cradled Tony’s face in his hands and leaned his head up so they were face-to-face, “Tony, I want you to listen very closely: You are more important to us than any sort of program or tech. No offense to JARVIS at all. But without you, he wouldn’t even exist, so I don’t think he would have minded if you’d taken a few days in bed to get over being sick. So let me make this nice and clear to you, Tony, you mean more as a person to me -to us-, than any sort of tech upgrade you could come up with.”

Not that Steve would say anything about it, but he could have sworn in that moment that Tony’s eyes were wetter than usual.

“At least tell someone if you’re not feeling good next time,” He ignored the slight waver in his voice, “We could avoid a lot of trouble that way.”

Tony let out a choked laugh, his hands coming up to wrap around Steve’s on his face, “No promises, but I’ll try to keep that in mind.”

“That’s all I’m asking.”

“Well, Great.”

“Fantastic!”

“Super!!!”

“Awesome!!!!!” Tony started laughing hysterically, before breaking off into a coughing fit. Steve let go of him and reached for the container on the table and Tony’s water jug. He presented them to him, handing over the pan when he reached for it. He swapped it for the water once Tony was finished spitting out the mucous. Tony took a few sips of water before handing it back as well, replacing the mask that he’d tugged off.

He placed the items back on the table, and when he turned back he raised an eyebrow at Tony’s amused, yet tired, expression.

“Did that seriously just happen?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Captain America watches The Most Popular Girls in School. Who’d’ve thought it?!” Tony was far too amused, so Steve decided to turn it right back around on him.

“Who’d’ve thought Tony Stark watches The Most Popular Girls in School?”

“Touché,” Yawned Tony, arching off the bed as he stretched.

“Get some rest,” Steve encouraged, grabbing the blankets and pulling them up Tony’s body to tuck in under his chin.

“Dude, I just got tucked in by Captain America, yet another childhood fantasy fulfilled,” Tony murmured quietly, his eyes already sliding shut.

“Shut-up and sleep.”

“You’re mean.”

“You still love me.”

“An awful lot more than I should,” Tony’s voice trailed off into snores.

Steve sat there for a moment trying to figure out if he’d heard that correctly. Finally, he moved his chair up to the bedside and reached under the blankets to hold Tony’s hand. He sat there contemplating ways to get the genius to explain exactly what he meant, and if he really did mean what he thought he meant, hopefully do the same. A small smile lifted his lips, and after some time, he drifted off, resting his head on the bed next to Tony’s hip.