Tony sits, for minutes. Hours, maybe.
There is wind, blowing, through the gates in front. People pass on bikes, on foot. Laughing. Talking. Normal things, normal concerns.
He imagines he hears the walls crumbling around him as he pitches onto his side and his shoulder digs into rubble and broken glass and rebar.
He shuts his eyes and falls asleep, because there’s nothing left to do.
- - -
Steve doesn’t go back to the safehouse.
He walks. Presses his feet to the ground, runs his fingers over brick. Thinks of these alleys in different times, when he wasn’t what he’d someday become, when he was slight and small and easy to make bleed. Thinks of having his face ground into asphalt, the taste of gravel mixed with blood.
He thinks of being weak.
It should be funny. He’s shuddering now, the whole of him trembling with misplaced strength. This is what dying feels like, he thinks, and then he realizes he’s never managed to do it properly.
He catches glimpses of himself in the few windows that are low enough for him to see. He’s forgotten his cowl, but still, he’s gaudy, he should be worried about security, he should be worried about getting arrested or turned in, or. He’s worn his costume for so long that he forgets, sometimes, just how conspicuous he is. He’d like to be able to fade into the shadows at the drop of a hat, vanish into smoke and nothingness whenever he pleased.
Maybe if he could do that, this never would have happened.
Somewhere in Brooklyn, Steve realizes he doesn’t have anywhere to go. There’s nowhere but back, to planning and strategy and maps and how is Tony going to fuck us over this time.
Steve tries to steady himself with a hand thrown out to a brick wall, but he’s already retching.
He hopes to god Logan hasn’t shown up.
- - -
Tony opens his eyes to darkness, but he can’t bear to turn his mind back on again.
He’s never kept it off this long, someone will probably come looking for him. But there’s a hissing, a buzz – inaudible to regular, un-computerized humans – in the back of his mind that suggests he still hasn’t managed to even do that. Always plugged in.
He should probably stop trying to be human.
He sits up and cards a hand absently through his hair. It’s greasy, standing by itself.
He’s still naked.
His boxers are lying on the floor a few feet away.
His body hurts everywhere. He’s got an elevated healing factor, now, but he was just savaged by 230 pounds of supersoldier. He’s going to feel this for hours. Days, maybe. He hopes not. He’s supposed to be in fighting shape in time to beat the shit out of his friends over a piece of paper.
His thighs stick to each other. His blood has dried, by now.
He tries to stand up. His foot seems to be less crushed and more fractured, so that’s good. He can put weight on it. He wants to call his armor, but he wants to acknowledge his brain less.
(He hates this place.)
There’s a stain, on the floor, where he was lying.
Anxiety supersedes discomfort, because Tony can’t let anyone find him like this. He grimaces and reaches –
The gold spreads out over his skin. It’s cool, even though it comes from his own body. He’s chalked it up to a trick of the brain. The news feeds scroll through his neural pathways, but he doesn’t really see them. He doesn’t really see anything.
He holds his arms out only as much as he has to for the armor to wrap itself around him, stands like a damp scarecrow of a man in the middle of the room.
He walks over to the picture. Exuberance and promise, all, he thinks. Steve is smiling. Steve has his arm around his shoulders. Steve –
He incinerates what’s left of his underwear.
If he fails to extinguish it, entirely, if he sees the sparks catch and ignite the dust and particulate littering the floor, well.
Fires start all the time.
- - -
The minute he walks in, they’re on him.
“What the fuck, man, we’ve been looking for you for hours –“
“Cap, you can’t just break communications like that, we thought they’d picked you up –“
“You’re covered in blood, what the hell happened to you –“
Steve is breezing past them, dazed, and he wonders how he must look. How he must smell, thank God Logan’s not here. What words his mouth should say. He’s covered in blood.
Fearless leader, he thinks.
“I got in a fight,” he says.
“With who?” says Peter. He’s sitting in a chair, his leg all done up in a cast, his arm in a sling across his chest. “You look worse than me. And I just got tag-teamed in a sewer, so.”
Steve ignores him. Peter is probably used to it by now.
“Has anything happened while I’ve been out?”
“They picked up Daredevil and Namor sent you a message,” Sam says.
“Ok. I gotta shower. And sleep,” he says. “Namor’s not coming, is he?”
“No,” says Luke.
“Ok,” says Steve.
“Are you ok,” Sam says.
Steve thinks about that and has to turn around so they can’t see his face.
“No,” he says.
They look at him like he’s gone mad. He leaves them without offering any further explanation and trudges deeper into the apartment, into one of the last bedrooms off the main hallway. Sue and Johnny’s wigs are lying on the bed, but there’s nothing else to indicate anyone’s claimed this room. Steve locks the door and leans his shield against the wall.
He looks at himself under the glare of the bathroom light. His cowl is ripped. He’ll have to do repairs after he showers.
He’ll have to scrub out Tony’s blood.
He avoids looking at his own face, and strips his costume off and steps into the shower.
He can’t stop shaking.
- - -
Tony autopilots home, lies in the armor, limp.
Scans tell him he’s lost a lot of blood, that he has broken ribs (still), that he has a broken foot and a broken wrist and a broken nose. A fractured jaw that he feels with every swallow. Broken, broken, broken. He’s bleeding internally. The changes in altitude, the gentle banks and climbs hurt.
He doesn’t have time for this bullshit, he’s supposed to be planning a war.
(He’s sick of people counting on him.)
He thought, when this was all over, that Steve would come around. Like a child, he thought that confessions of love could fix what had been breaking for a long time.
He’s not sure he believes in it any more. But they’re all out there, his friends, fighting this war because he’s put on a show of dedication. They’re all out there, fighting and falling and killing and being killed. He needs to fight this war, he tells himself. He needs it to be for their sake. He’s been telling himself it’s for them, for the next generation, for the ones that will carry things on.
It occurs to Tony that maybe he cares too damn much about everyone else (about Steve) -
Then it occurs to him that he doesn’t actually care at all, he’s just been pretending.
Tony’s been thinking, these past weeks, that he’d rather get the chance to be with Steve, alive, than fight beside him. Die beside him. That should have maybe clued him him, he thinks. He thought he was fighting for a world that would have a place for Iron Man and Captain America. Side by side. But Steve wants freedom, and apparently Tony, and he can’t have both.
He can’t have either, now.
Tony’s not used to his plans failing so absolutely.
But he knows. The good of the many falls away when you don't feel like living any more, Tony knows this, he’s been there, he’s wrecked himself and his company and didn’t care. He’s wrecked Steve.
He doesn’t want to do this anymore.
The neural interface feels sluggish, even monitoring news as he flies feels like too much, like a high-tech migraine threatening to overtake him.
He feels cold, and it can’t possibly be the night air.
- - -
Steve stands under the scalding water long after his skin has turned red, and then he slides down to sit on the tile with his back against the shower wall.
“Steve,” Sam says, knocking on the door.
It might be important. SHIELD might have found them all. They might be coming to arrest them.
Tony might be coming to kill him.
He can hope.
“Yeah,” Steve says, and it doesn’t sound like his voice, it’s unbalanced and uneven.
“Do you need med –“
“No,” Steve says over the spray. “I’m – no.”
“I’ll be out soon,” Steve croaks, and tries to sink into the floor and drown.
- - -
Tony showers for 96 minutes, and by the time he gets out his bruises are still dull brown smears on his neck, and his jaw is a mass of yellow and blue.
He can’t look like this.
He leaves his armor in a messy pile in the corner of his bedroom and pads out to the kitchen, to burnished steel and stark tile and a bottle that’s sat in the cabinet for years, now.
His hands don't shake, he doesn't drop the glass. Sue doesn't slap it out of his hands, this time.
It takes him 3 glasses before he breaks down sobbing.