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Close to the Heart

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When he first hears his husband's voice ringing through the hospital halls, Steve doesn't immediately realize that's what he's hearing.

But Steve's lying on a gurney with a very minor concussion from a traffic collision, so he thinks that's a decent enough excuse. Then Tony's voice is close enough and clear enough to understand and Steve pushes up onto his elbows, frowning.

“...part of I don't fucking care are you failing to understand? Tell me where he is right now, or I swear to God, I will make you regret ever showing up for work today, asshole.”

“Tony?” Steve says in surprise and there's a pause and then what sounds like a huge commotion not far from his door.

Steve?” Tony shouts and he doesn't sound pissed off now, he sounds on the verge of panic, his voice thin with it. There are more sounds of a struggle.

“Mister Stark!” someone yells, breathless. “STOP.”

The door to the exam room flies open a second later and hits a cart with a bang. Medical paraphernalia clatters to the floor, making a racket, but Steve barely notices. Tony bursts into the room, heedless of the destruction he's causing and the small crowd of harassed people in his wake. He's wearing a crimson shirt that would probably look real sharp on him if it weren't only buttoned in three places, none of them the right ones. There's a black and steel tie stuck in the waistband of his pants, which don't look like they're zipped up quite all the way and a black leather belt flapping loose on either side of his waist. He's wearing one neon-soled sneaker and one patent leather dress shoe. Wherever he was, he left in a hurry.

“Oh, thank god,” Tony breathes, his voice wobbling and his dark eyes over-bright.

Steve manages to sit up and nothing more before Tony's flung himself across the room and lunged onto the bed. He grabs at Steve's shoulders, eyes darting over his body. A quick glance behind him shows the little pack dispersing, talking in whispers.

“Tony, what—” Steve manages and then Tony's pressing the whole length of his body to him, covering Steve's mouth with his own in a fierce, desperate kiss. He's still half-mumbling an incomprehensible string of nonsense, which actually isn't something Steve's unaccustomed to, fingers curled around his neck so his thumb hooks under Steve's ear and the other hand fisted in Steve's t-shirt at his waist, trying to draw him impossibly closer. He's clearly worked up about something, so Steve doesn't bother trying to settle him down, he just holds on and steadies them, enjoys the press of Tony's lips on his despite how he aches.

Eventually, Tony can't catch his breath anymore and he drops his forehead against Steve's, fingers tightening a fraction as he concedes Steve's mouth, panting, “Shit, Jesus, Steve. I thought— Goddamn Bellevue.”

“How did you even know I was here?” Steve asks between the light pecks Tony's dotting on his lips, his hand stroking possessively at the hair on the back of Steve's head.

“News,” Tony replies without pausing his shower of affection. “Car. Recognized it. Knew the reporter—got where they were taking you from her. God, Steve.”

“I'm okay, Tony,” Steve says, because Tony doesn't seem to realize it.

Tony's eyes come open, briefly meeting Steve's before he flicks them to the ice pack Steve's still managing to hold over his right eye. “Right,” he says, flat. Then he swallows and suddenly seems to remember why he's here in the first place. “What are you doing?” he demands, pressing Steve into the bed. “Lie back down, are you out of your mind?”

Steve laughs. “You're the one all over me, Tony. Anyway, I told you I'm fine. I just smacked my head on the steering wheel, I do worse fighting all the time.”

Tony ignores him, reaching to cup Steve's face like he's made of glass. “God, look at you,” he mutters. “Let me see,” he orders then, tilting his head back and forth as he tries to see around the ice pack.

“I'm fine, Tony,” Steve tells him and rolls his eyes because Tony's still gently nudging his hand. He pulls back the ice pack so Tony can get a look at his bruised and bloody eye and braces himself because he knows it looks worse than it is; his eye is mostly stuck closed with half-crusted blood from a gash on his forehead and even with the ice pack it's probably starting to bruise pretty spectacularly. The condensation from the ice pack he's holding over the eye is the only thing keeping it from solidifying completely. Instead of cracking a joke about getting him an eye patch or something, Tony swallows hard and Steve abruptly realizes he can feel Tony's fingers shaking against his jaw.

“Tony,” he starts, amusement fading, “I'm okay, really. It looks bad, but it's not, I swear.”

Tony's not paying any attention to what he's saying, sitting back on his heels and looking around like he's going to spot a nurse lurking in a corner. “Jesus, why the hell aren't you getting stitches yet? Isn't anyone going to clean this up? It could get infected.”

“They have other patients who are hurt worse than I am,” Steve explains. “I didn't even want them to give me a room, but they insisted. I only let them because they said it would cause a commotion in the waiting room if I stayed there. My healing factor drops me pretty far down the priority list.”

“You're Captain Fucking America, you should be at the top of the goddamn priority list. Where else are you hurt?” Tony starts tugging at Steve's shirt, flicking open buttons and sliding gentle fingers underneath to open it wider so he can peer inside.

“Tony—” Steve protests and then hisses as Tony brushes over a spot that throbs in response to his touch.

“That hurt?” Tony says sharply, his eyes flicking up briefly as he undoes three more buttons in a flash and pulls open the right side of Steve's shirt, revealing a bruise blooming in an angry red stripe diagonally across his chest.

“Seat belt,” Steve says and then assures him, “It's just a bruise, Tony.”

“Didn't anybody check for other wounds?” Tony demands, his gaze intense as he follows the line of the bruising, the lines in his face deepening. “You could have internal injuries!”

“Nobody's examined me yet, Tony, I told you, they're busy. One of the nurses gave me an ice pack when she saw my eye to keep the swelling down. If I had internal injuries my stomach would probably hurt. It doesn't.”

“You didn't feel the gigantic welt across your chest!” Tony snaps back and starts shaking his head. “No. No, we're out of here. This is unacceptable. I'm calling Bruce.” He has his phone out before Steve can protest. “Speaker,” he orders and then drops it on the bed by Steve's thigh, continuing his examination.

Hello?” Bruce says after just a couple rings. “Tony? Aren't you supposed to be at the TIME photoshoot?

“You ran out in the middle of a photoshoot?” Steve says, appalled.

“Where are you?” Tony asks, cutting Bruce off and ignoring Steve altogether.

I'm in the lab,” Bruce replies, tentatively confused, and it's barely out of his mouth when Tony says, “Good. Stay there. Steve's been in a wreck and the staff at Bellevue hasn't even done a goddamn examination. I'm bringing him to you.”

Oh my god,” Bruce says. “Is he all right?

“I'm fine,” Steve breaks in, but Tony raises his voice to drown him out.

“We'll be in the lobby in ten minutes.”

Okay, but Tony, he should probably stay there. I know you think I'm a doctor, but I'm really not—”

“Ten minutes,” Tony says and stabs at the screen of his phone with a finger.

“Tony,” Steve protests and Tony's eyes snap up, his mouth drawn into a thin line.

“This is non-negotiable, okay, Steve? Just—humor me. You could have died and I wouldn't have—” He swallows hard and his eyes drop, hands moving jerkily over Steve's body with no real purpose. “You could have died and I wouldn't have been there,” Tony finishes quietly. “I would have found out because of the news. You could still—

And Steve suddenly remembers the night Tony told him about his parents' deaths, about the car crash. About his mother dying a few days after the fact from undiscovered internal injuries.

“Okay,” he says. “Okay, Tony. Let's go.”

Tony calls Happy next, ordering him to come get them and bring a wheelchair with. Steve doesn't protest this time, he just curls his fingers together with Tony's and waits until Tony says he can move, the two men helping him into the wheelchair. He has to admit, he's grateful not to have to walk to the car; the seat belt injury may not be severe, but it does smart and moving only makes it worse.

In the car, Tony disposes of the warmed up ice pack and fills a cloth napkin with ice cubes, urging Steve to lay his head back against the seat so he can press the make-shift pack to his face. “You swear you don't hurt anywhere else?” he says, his voice tense and his fingers unsteady against Steve's jaw.

“I swear, Tony,” Steve murmurs. “My head aches, but I smashed it on the steering wheel, that's no surprise.”

Tony makes a displeased noise in return and urges Happy to go faster.

They make it to the Tower in nine minutes.

Fortunately, Bruce is there waiting, presumably knowing Tony as well as Steve does and knowing that he'd try to break every law of nature, not to mention man, to get them back as quick as possible. “Hi, Steve,” he says, soft and sympathetic. “How are you feeling?”

“Oh, just fine, considering,” Steve replies with a wry smile.

“Come on, let's get you checked out, shall we?”

Despite his initial protests, Steve is actually glad Tony insisted on bringing him back to the Tower. Bruce's demeanor is soothing on his jangled nerves, coupled with the quiet of the Tower medical bay, and it's familiar, safe.

JARVIS takes care of all the scans, doing several extras Tony pushes him to include despite his careful logical arguments and Bruce cleans and bandages the cut over his eye, assuring Tony that it's minor.

“He's going to be just fine,” Bruce concludes an hour later. “His eye should be healed completely by Thursday at the la—”

“I want him to stay for observation,” Tony says, cutting Bruce off as though he's not listening, though Steve knows that's not the case. “Overnight.”

“Okay...” Bruce says, uncertain, but willing enough to go along with it. “That shouldn't be a problem.”

Tony nods, but his eyes are fixed on Steve and Steve shoots Bruce an apologetic look, but he just waves his hand and slips away to give them privacy. When he's gone, Tony sniffs, staring at the ground. He rubs at his nose and then his eyes dart over the bed and he seems to come to a decision. He strips off the jacket, depositing it carelessly on the floor and rolls up the sleeves of his shirt. Then he kicks off his shoes and climbs onto the bed.

Steve immediately lifts his arm to curl around Tony's back, insurance in case he suddenly loses his balance. When Tony doesn't make any further moves, Steve hooks his hand over Tony's hip and drags him down.

Tony buries his face in Steve's shoulder, shoulders hitching with each unsteady breath he takes.

After a long, long time he says, “I can't... I just, I know it's crazy, it's psychotic, I'm being psychotic, you can tell me, Steve, because I know I am, but I can't just— I need to know, okay? To be sure, absolutely sure, because if you—”

He doesn't let himself finish, but Steve knows what he's saying anyway.

“I'll stay as long as you think I should, Tony,” Steve murmurs into his hair and Tony's fingers clench around the sheet at his side.

He'll do whatever it takes to reassure Tony that he's going to be okay, that this isn't going to be a repeat of his parents' deaths. It will take time, but that's all right, he's got time.