The fucking flip phone is like Steve giving him the finger one last time. "Yeah, I screwed you over, but I know you'll come crawling back to me as soon as you're in trouble."
Like hell he is. Tony isn't about to give Steve the satisfaction. (He still keeps the phone in his pocket.)
The fallout is every bit as bad as he expected. Dealing with the press is a nightmare, then there are all the practical concerns of who will pay for what, plus Ross won't leave him alone, and Tony focuses on doing as much as he can while making sure he still has plenty of time for Rhodey, and for the other remaining Avengers, if they can be called that. They're still calling themselves that. It feels fake.
He's been through some pretty tough times before, but this feels different. Everything he thought he had has fallen apart around him. Honestly, he isn't taking it very well. (He really, really isn't taking it well; his life is a train wreck and instead of the brakes, he's hitting the gas.)
He's probably drinking too much, and overall he’s not feeling great. It seems to take longer than it should for him to recover from the assorted injuries he picked up during the whole damn mess. So, yeah, he probably brings it on himself. He's always thought it's only a matter of time, anyway, considering his medical history.
It isn't as if he's never had chest pains before—he's well and truly familiar with various flavors of them. That's why he's instantly convinced this is bad. Not "I'll tell myself it's a panic attack and it'll probably go away" bad, but "someone grabbed the arc reactor and I'm about to flatline" bad, except without the arc reactor part. He can't breathe, and his chest is hurting and tight and heavy, like when Steve slammed the shield—
Tony slumps into the nearest armchair. He's covered in cold sweat, darkness starting to creep in at the edges of his vision, and even if he's not surprised, he's still fucking terrified.
He fumbles for the phone.
He doesn't expect Steve to pick up, so when that actually happens, Tony almost drops it. His hand is shaking. His other arm, the left, aches fiercely.
"Tony?" Steve's voice cuts through the ringing in Tony's ears.
"Steve. I'm sorry," Tony says. "Also, fuck you."
There's probably a reply, but he can't make sense of it, not anymore.
The phone slips from Tony's hand and falls to the floor with a clatter.
Contrary to all his expectations, Tony wakes up.
They give him the news, and none of it is particularly surprising. Myocardial infarction complicated by pre-existing trauma, he's extremely lucky to be alive, lifestyle adjustments will be necessary, blah blah. He could've guessed as much. (He's sure the words will sink in properly later and then there will be self-pity and despair.)
It's only when they let Rhodey and Pepper in that Tony realizes the full implications of the situation.
Shit. He's still alive.
He had to go and make that phone call and survive. Normal people make embarrassing phone calls while drunk, but not Tony, oh no. Tony Stark knows how to be dramatic. He only makes embarrassing phone calls while having a heart attack. Well done. The level of facepalm that this calls for would probably lead to fractured cheekbones.
Maybe Steve will have decided to ignore it. It probably sounded like a drunk dial, anyway, and why would Steve even care?
Pepper still seems to care, for all that they're no longer together, either. She has the teary-eyed look she had after Afghanistan, all those years ago, before everything. "How do you feel?" she asks.
"Déjà vu," Tony replies.
Rhodey doesn't look as much sad as seething. He shakes his head. "Tony, what the hell were you thinking?"
"Uh, that I'm about to go into cardiac arrest?" Tony replies, unsure what Rhodey's going at.
"Yeah, see, that's what I don't get," Rhodey says, glaring at him. "You realized you were dying and had the presence of mind to grab a phone, and you called Rogers? Not 9-1-1, not the hospital, not me or Pepper, but Steve Rogers, who's somewhere halfway across the globe."
"Oh, that," Tony says, grimacing. "Wait, how do you even know? Did you pick up the phone and check my call history? That's snooping!" He points an accusing finger at Rhodey.
"I know because he called me," Rhodey says, exasperated.
Now, that is unexpected. "Huh. Why'd he do that?"
"Because he's smarter than you, genius. He realized something was wrong and did the sane thing and called for help," Rhodey explains. "He saved your life, Tony."
Tony leans back into the pillows, actually going for that facepalm now. This is just unfair. Captain America, saving his sorry ass from wherever the fuck he is, without shield or costume.
As if things couldn't get any worse, Pepper adds, "He's here, by the way. Waiting in the cafeteria. He'd like to see you."
Steve steps into the room looking as flawless as ever, even though he's got the whole incognito thing going on, with a hoodie and a baseball cap. He doesn't say anything at first, just gives Tony a steady, mournful look, his arms crossed.
Tony thinks he'd prefer to have another heart attack right about now, because he's so not prepared for this. (Not that he ever will be.)
"Seriously, Tony. 'I'm sorry, also, fuck you'?" Steve finally speaks up. Turn the knife in the wound, will ya, Rogers?
"I was dying?" Tony tries. Surely there's no better excuse than that.
Steve sighs. "That's kind of my point. You wanted to make sure your last words were to spite me?"
"You sent me that letter," Tony points out. "I was just reciprocating."
"A letter that was never meant to be my last words to you, and certainly didn't say 'fuck you'," Steve says.
"I can read between the lines," Tony says.
"Not sure which letter you were reading, then, because that was never what I meant," Steve says, and, damn him, manages to actually look regretful.
Tony considers pretending that he's too tired and in too much pain so that Steve would just leave it at that. Wouldn't take that much pretending; he really is tired, and his chest doesn't feel great. Of course it doesn't. There's probably more scar tissue than living cells in his heart by now, and if the metaphors in his life could get any more heavy-handed, he has no clue how.
After a brief silence, Steve adds, "Anyway, if you actually meant the 'I'm sorry' part: as I said, I may not have agreed with you, but I understand why you did what you did. Apology accepted."
"Meant it with all my heart, which, okay, wasn't really working at the time and is kind of useless in general," Tony says.
"You're still alive, though," Steve says, with half a smile. "Might not be as useless as you think. It'd mean a lot to me if you found it in there to forgive me too."
Tony doesn't want to. There's no excuse for what Steve did, not telling about Tony's parents—and tearing apart the Avengers. On the other hand, he's pathetically happy that Steve's here. He doesn't want to accept that what they used to have is gone forever, and the only way he will ever get it back, the only way they will be able to move on, is if he does this.
"I'll work on it," Tony finally says. "Might require invasive surgery. It really is a mess."
"I guess that's a step up from 'fuck you'." Steve's smile is a little wider, as if that's more than he was expecting. "I should go. I shouldn't be in this country in the first place, but they didn't know if you'd make it, and I felt like I should be around." He backs away from Tony's bed. At the door, he stops. "You know, you still have that phone. You could call me sometime, when you're not dying."
"Yeah," Tony says. "Maybe I will."