While Steve isn’t stupid by any standards, and has always prided himself on his very nearly eidetic memory, following the rapid fire technobabble and modern medical jargon Tony, Doctor Banner, and Doctor Cho are throwing at each other, without having the background knowledge they have, proves to be close to impossible.
Steve does understand enough to know that Tony’s Arc Reactor has been damaged beyond repair during Iron Man’s last battle, though, and he doesn’t need their bond and the constant stream of less than pleasant emotions travelling through it to realise Tony’s isn’t dealing well with that bit of news.
“They’re going to inject me with an experimental virus developed by my crazy ex-fling so they can try to pull metal shards out of my chest without me bleeding out on the operating table,” Tony snaps waspishly when Steve dares to mention the upcoming procedure. “How the fuck do you think I feel about that?”
“Tony,” Steve croaks around the lump in his own throat, relieved beyond measure when Tony’s expression morphs into something softer, something almost contrite as he lifts his arm for Steve to snuggle under.
Tony’s scared shitless, even if he would never admit it out loud. Steve isn’t doing much better, but he’s fighting down his own fear and uncertainty because if there’s one thing Tony doesn’t need right now, it’s a back and forth of worry and concern over their connection.
“I’m going to stay with you the entire time,” Steve says, cementing his promise with a lingering kiss to the still healing bond bite on Tony’s neck. Tony shivers, humming appreciatively, and Steve pecks it again before moving up to Tony’s mouth. “You’re stuck with me now,” he whispers against Tony’s lips, giving the bottom one a gentle nip. “Forever. And ever. And a day.”
“Sap,” Tony accuses, grimacing exaggeratedly. But he’s fighting a smile, practically radiating warm contentment, and he doesn’t protest when Steve, mindful of his injuries, wraps himself around him, face nuzzled into Tony’s hair and one hand resting protectively over Tony’s bandaged sternum.
Spending the holidays and the beginning of the new year in the hospital, waiting for the specialists and surgeons to arrive, isn’t exactly fun, but at least no one cares about visiting hours or tries to make Steve leave Tony’s side. Not after the first time and Tony, already irritated and on edge because of the upcoming surgery and being bedridden until then, nearly reducing a member of the security staff to tears, anyway.
That security guard’s daughter is now the proud owner of scrubs signed and doodled on by both Iron Man and Captain America, and Tony hasn’t stopped going on about Steve bribing their way out of a potential scandal ever since.
A second bed is wheeled into the room after half a week of Steve sleeping wedged in beside Tony, one of his legs and half of his butt hanging out over the edge of the mattress. It promptly gets demoted to acting as a coat rack for the steady stream of visitors trickling in and out at all hours of the day. And night, in Fury’s case.
Miss Potts and Colonel Rhodes visit daily, sneaking in food and electronics so Tony won’t go mad with boredom or, much more likely, drive Steve insane because of said boredom. Steve finds himself on the receiving end of two very different but equally terrifying shovel talks, followed by heartfelt congratulations and ‘welcome to the family’ hugs. It’s a little overwhelming, being accepted into everyone’s lives as if they’ve been waiting for him all along, and if Steve has to discretely wipe at his eyes while no one’s looking, well, then that’s his business and his alone.
Natasha and Clint bring pizza and beer, and a dog Tony pretends to find disgusting and a general nuisance, while simultaneously encouraging it to lie curled up on his legs and feeding it pieces of pepperoni and crust.
Steve makes the, in his opinion, right and wise decision not to ask how the dog, Lucky, got through hospital and Stark Industries security. For plausible deniability’s sake. And because watching the tension and nervousness melt out of Tony’s body as he runs his fingers through soft, yellow fur is entirely worth the lecture about hygiene and inappropriate patient behaviour they have to sit through later that evening.
Despite Tony’s whining that time is passing deliberately slowly just to spite him, the big day does arrive eventually. Miss Potts and Colonol Rhodes are in the viewing area with Steve during the procedure, for which Steve is immeasurably grateful when Tony’s heart stops beating for several seconds before they get it going again.
They’d been warned that this might happen in the preliminary talk with the doctors, but without Rhodes standing with his shoulder pressed against Steve’s and Miss Potts letting Steve cling to her hand, there’s no telling what Steve would’ve done at the sight of his soulmate dying, even if only temporary.
There are no other complications after that, and soon a still unconscious Tony, pale and looking impossibly frail but otherwise fine, is brought into the recovery room where Steve is finally allowed to touch and be with him again. Miss Potts and Colonel Rhodes say their goodbyes after fussing with Tony’s blankets and pillows for a moment, granting Steve some desperately needed time alone with his mate.
Tony isn’t attached to any machines other than a heart monitor and an IV-drip with fluids and pain medication, so Steve kicks off his shoes and pants, and cuddles up to Tony’s needle-free side, face tucked into Tony’s neck and their linked fingers resting on Tony’s stomach.
Steve’s dozing himself when, hours later, Tony stirs awake, groaning and slurring a quiet, “Stee?”
“Right here, sweetheart,” Steve is quick to reassure, pushing up on one elbow so Tony can see his face without having to move too much. “The surgery went really well, baby, you’re going to be fine.”
“Yay,” Tony cheers sleepily, leaning into the contact when Steve brushes some of the sweaty hair away from his forehead and presses a lingering kiss to it. “Means we can go home now,” he says, a happy smile spreading across his face. “Steve. I get to take you home now.”
“Yeah,” Steve agrees, sounding choked up and not caring in the least. “Home.”