Tony zoomed around the corner, making sure that JARVIS focused on the particular robot they were attacking, magnifying it in his vision so that he could see every single detail of it. His mind raced as he sought out weak spots in the metal casing.
It was another doombot, and by now he was used to those. The problem was that they had evolved and become more complicated over time. The earliest iterations he could handle alone, but now... well, these latest ones, he needed help. He didn’t like admitting he needed help, but he was beginning to get used to it. The team were there though, all engaging with their own robots, so he couldn't really complain.
"What do you see Stark?" Cap called out.
"Just a lot of metal and a bad attitude." He answered. "I think he’s just sent them here to destroy things and bother us, but I can't see any weak spots. I'm going to take a closer look."
"Alright. Keep in contact." Cap answered as Iron Man moved in closer to the robot he was fighting, observing it from a different angle. The plates of armour locked together like armadillo skin, defending it from injury, and the surface was too slick and hard for Clint's arrows to pierce. Another one clinked off its surface with no effect.
"Legolas, you got anything better?"
"I'll see..." The archer’s voice responded, and he could hear Clint digging through his quiver from the rooftop nearby.
"I'll see if I can make you something. You know, something that can stick into things that are hard..."
"You mean so that he can pierce through even the thickest, hardest things with his shaft?" Natasha asked, firing off a shot from her spot on the ground
"Team." Cap reprimanded. "Please, no obscenity over comms."
"We were talking about archery..." Clint whined, but he fell quiet. Tony set off another repulsor blast and his opponent dropped out of the sky.
Steve gave a slight cheer. "Well done Iron-" There was a pause, and when he spoke again there was an edge of fear to his words. "Tony, get down from there."
The other robots dropped out of their fights, and all raced upwards towards him. As he brought up his repulsors and began to hurtle towards the ground, the robots exploded. A wave of vivid white light, so bright it was agonising, swept through the air towards him, hitting him before Jarvis could dim the display.
Everything went dark, and Tony crashed to earth.
"Iron Man? Iron Man, do you read me?" Steve's voice echoed after him.
"Steve?" Tony called out, trying to work out where he was. It was dark and he ached. He tried to reconstruct it. He'd crashed. He'd been knocked out of the air by a doom bot, that was it.
"Jarvis, lights." He muttered, hoping that he wouldn't have to rebuild the entire armour from scratch.
"Sir, the lights are already on."
"Turn them up then." Tony demanded, worried that Jarvis had been damaged by the fall.
There was a faint electronic whirr.
"Sir, the lights are as bright as they can go."
There was the sound of metal snapping, as Thor wrenched off the faceplate to the armour. Tony could feel the sunlight on his face, but he couldn't see a thing. It was just dark.
"Tony?" Steve asked, his hand brushing over the armour.
"Stop ruining my faceplates Thor." He muttered.
"I am sorry Man of Iron. Are you well?" The god asked, concerned. He sounded so earnest, that Tony started to laugh.
"I'm a bit bruised and battered."
"You fell several floors in a suit, it hurts." That was Clint, but he sounded more irritated than normal. Tony wondered if he’d been hit by the blast as well.
"What else?" Steve asked, sounding a little shaken. "Did you hit your head? You're not looking directly at me."
"No..." Tony sighed. "I can't see. The light hit me full on, Jarvis couldn't throw up the shades in time. It's flash blindness..."
"Okay Tony, I'm right here." Steve's voice was more firm now, and his fingers brushed his cheek. "We'll get Bruce to check you over."
"He... needs to... needs to help me." Clint muttered. "I can't see. That... I'm the eyes of the team, I..." His voice was becoming frantic with terror, and Tony heard the murmur of Natasha and Coulson trying to calm him.
"It's okay Tony. Bruce is just looking at Clint, and then he’s going to help you." Steve was trying to sound reassuring and calm. It didn’t quite work. "Tony, can you get out of your suit please, he'll need to check you over..."
"Alright..." Tony relayed the order, and Jarvis helped him to peel the suit away. He was struggling to stay standing, nearly falling forwards. Steve's arms wrapped around him, rubbing his back.
"I'm here now Tony." Bruce told him, making sure he was aware of his arrival. "I'm here, and I can take a look over you. Any other pain?"
"Just the normal bruising when I fall out of the air." Tony admitted. "I...it wouldn't be the first time I've experienced temporary blindness..." His voice became quieter, as he thought back to the cave. Steve's arms tightened a little, but then he moved back a respectful distance. To Tony, it felt a lot like rejection
Bruce examined him carefully, narrating the whole time, then moved away.
"Tony, the good news is that you were right, it is just flash blindness. In a day or two it's going to get better, and for now there's nothing that can be done to help heal it. It genuinely will recover on its own. Just stay relaxed and try not to let it worry you, tomorrow or the day after your eyes will be back to normal." Bruce sounded so calm and reassuring, like the doctor he was, a voice that they could trust.
"Thanks..." Tony muttered.
"I'll look after you." Steve promised, his hand resting over Tony's own, his fingers wrapping around the engineer's. Tony held onto him tightly. Steve’s voice was almost painfully gentle. "It's only a couple of days. Now, let's get you home..."
Tony let Steve guide him back to the waiting car - someone must have called for it, he didn't know who. He wasn't even sure which of his chauffeurs was driving. He slid into the car, hearing Steve talking to the rest of the team. Captain America was in charge once more, telling the three remaining members of team to handle the clean-up and then get back to the tower. Clint and Coulson had already gone.
Tony curled up against the window, feeling small. He didn't like the darkness. It felt like being trapped.
"Steve." He whispered, and Steve's hand was instantly resting upon his, and the darkness expanded just a little bit.
"Right here Tony. Right here. We're going back to the tower..." Steve's voice was level and calm, and he kept talking to him quietly the whole way home. It made him feel safer and more grounded. Once they were inside the tower and parked, Steve helped him from the car.
Tony took a deep breath as he stepped out. The workshop. The smell of it was familiar, so was the whirr of the bots, and Jarvis's usual greeting. It meant he was safe. Tony felt himself relaxing a little as his feet cautiously edged their way forwards.
"Tony... I'm right here." Steve promised. "Jarvis, Tony needs audio description for a while, can you do that?"
"Of course Captain Rogers. Sir, if you need anything, you can ask, and I shall provide."
"Thanks J. Knew I could trust you." Tony answered, smiling. Steve's hand rested on his arm.
"Where do you want to go Tony?"
"My room. But..." He held out his hands. "Come here You, Butterfingers, Dummy..." The robots whirred over to him when summoned. He rested his hands on each of them in turn, petting them softly. "Good bots...come on Steve, let’s go to our bed, have a post-mission de-brief." Normally that phrase could at least make Steve cough or shuffle awkwardly.
"You sure Tony?"
"Yeh. I'm sure." Tony grinned. "Just because I can't see anything doesn't mean that I don't want to appreciate your gorgeous body..."
Steve chuckled and led him to the elevator, kissing him deeply as they headed to their room. Tony heard the doors open, and walked forwards, trying to remember where the walls were and how the layout of his rooms worked. He'd slept in this room for months now, but this wasn't making any sense. Deprived of sight, his mental map of the rooms swam in and out of focus. He stumbled, and only Steve's gentle hand on his shoulder stopped him ending up on the ground.
"Tony, you had better get clean. You got nastily scraped up, we can shower..." Steve suggested gently.
"I ... no." Tony muttered, looking down, unable to cope with the suggestion. "I can't. I just... I can't." He felt sick. He just... he didn't know how to explain it. After Afghanistan, being in the dark and the water, it was horrible. He felt the room spinning. He couldn't see anything, it was too black, too hard to move through, and any sense of where he was had completely disappeared. The mental map he had constructed vanished completely.
"Alright Tony." Steve's voice was gentle, calming, the hand on his shoulder squeezing softly. Tony was grateful for that as it gave him something to focus on as the rest of the room span out of control. "How about you sit on the side of the bath, and I get a flannel and help you wash?" Steve suggested kindly. Tony nodded.
"Yeh... we can do that." Tony muttered. He could imagine that working. As long as he knew where he was. "Keep talking to me?"
"I'll do that." Steve reassured him. "I'll talk to you the whole time." He guided him to sitting on the edge of the bath.
"It's okay Tony. Just sit down, there you go...Take your shirt and pants off if you can? It'll help."
"Yeh, sure...." Tony fumbled with his clothing, wondering why it was so difficult. He closed his eyes and that somehow made it easier. He could just pretend he only couldn’t see because he had his eyes closed, and Steve’s voice proved that he was there with him.
The engineer could hear water running, but he tried to ignore it. He didn't want to feel trapped, to think too much of the dark and the water. It had too many bad memories within it.
"Tony... relax. It's alright. I'm right here..." Steve's hand reached out for his, wrapping his fingers around Tony's. "You can keep hold of me if you'd like to."
"I'd like that..." Tony murmured, sliding his hand over to Steve's side while Steve filled the sink with warm water.
He soaked a flannel, wringing it out and brushing it over his shoulders, kissing his forehead.
"It's okay." Steve kept talking, murmuring almost mindlessly. It was important that he talked, that he could keep Tony feeling safe. "I'm right here. You did really well earlier. I don't think it will be too long until your sight recovers, and until that happens, well, I'll be here the whole time. You should know that. I love you Tony. You're perfect, and brave, and a bit of an idiot at times. But you are amazing."
Tony laughed at that, tilting his head up towards Steve as the damp cloth slid over his neck.
"You really know how to flatter me."
"I'm not flattering, I'm being honest. I'm going to clean around the reactor now okay?"
Tony nodded sharply, sitting still, his fingers gripping the edge of the bath, the knuckles turning white from stress and fear that bubbled through his skin. Steve's hand brushed the metal case as he wiped the skin clean, before he moved further down his chest.
"It's alright Tony..."
In any other situation, Tony would have been flirting with him. It would have been fun to be being touched. But not with the water and the darkness. He sat still, focusing on his breathing.
"It's alright." He echoed Steve, relaxing as the touches moved lower down his legs. Once he was clean, Steve moved away, dropping the flannel in the sink. A moment later, a fluffy towel wrapped around him, and Steve's hands helped him back up to his feet.
He was pulled up against a reassuringly strong chest, burying his face against Steve's throat and inhaling his scent, kissing the skin softly.
"Better?" Steve asked quietly. Tony nodded, and paused.
"Come on. Don't like being in the bathroom. Bedroom."
Steve nodded, arm around his side, guiding him to the bedroom and sitting him on the bed. He sat down beside him and Tony leant forwards into the dip, kissing Steve's shoulder and nuzzling his nose into the warmth of him.
"Tony?" Steve's arm wrapped around him. "What's wrong?"
"I don't like this. It feels like ..." He hesitated, too many options occurring at once. He tried different combinations of words in his mouth, looking for the one that would make most sense. He could sense Steve's eyes on him, and he knew that he needed to say something. "It feels like I'm not in control."
"It's okay..." Steve murmured, but Tony shook his head.
"No, it's not okay. I don't know... I don't know who I am right now. I've always been in control. That's what I do. I make things so that I can control them, so that I can plan ahead, and right now I can't..."
"Tony..." Steve murmured, kissing his forehead. "You are still in control. Jarvis is keeping an eye on us. He's your eyes, he can see more than you, and I'll look after you with his help. But you are in control. Nothing will happen unless you want it to because you're ..."
Tony had heard enough. He leaned in and kissed him softly, sucking on Steve's bottom lip and then pulling away to smirk.
"I believe you Steve. Now, I'm in control right?"
"Of course Tony..." Steve sounded less concerned now, more relaxed. He could hear Tony's normal personality creeping back into his voice.
"Well, I want you. And now, normally I can just look at you right? Absorb how beautiful you are..." Tony murmured to him, his kisses moving along his jaw and reaching up to suck on the lobe of his ear, happy when he realised that he was able to navigate Steve by touch alone.
"Yeh... normally you can..." Steve gasped, tilting his head.
"But right now I can't. I'll have to use my hands..." Fingers ran up along Steve's side. "And my mouth." He nuzzled against his side, sucking harder on his earlobe.
"Yeh... we can do that." Steve agreed. "It sounds really good..."
"Course it sounds good..." Tony groaned, smirking as he reached to unbutton Steve's shirt, caressing him and gasping as Steve's fingers traced over his body in return. When his shirt was undone, he kissed down Steve's skin, nuzzling against it and relishing Steve's scent, as Steve's hand ran down his back in return.
Steve grinned down at him, tilting his head to let Tony kiss at his neck.
"You are so beautiful..."
"Yeh... but you feel beautiful..." Tony murmured, kissing him gently, sucking on his lips as he pushed away the sleeves of his shirt. Then he tangled on the bed with Steve, fumbling him out of his trousers, and licking at the skin of his neck. It was hot, and he could feel the pulse racing in his throat.
Steve rolled them, sliding the towel away from Tony, fingers stroking over his hips, lingering in the dips there before he ran his hand over him. Tony surrendered to the sensation for a moment, rocking up against his hand, enjoying every second of it.
"Come on Steve... I want more..."
"Yeh..." Steve searched on the bedside table, not breaking contact with Tony, and let out a short cry of victory when he managed to find what he was looking for.
Tony smiled and held out his hand. He nodded when he got handed the lube, preparing himself as he pressed close to Steve. Once he was fully ready, he rolled them over again, straddling Steve and sinking down upon him. He could imagine how Steve would look right now - it was a sight he'd seen often enough in the past. He leaned down, kissing up his throat, and finding his way over to Steve’s lips, kissing him again as they began to rock closer to each other, Tony shifting his hips until he found exactly the right angle.
They moved as one, exploring their partner’s body with hands and eager mouths until they found their release together, crying out each other's names. Steve picked up a tissue from the bedside cabinet, wiping himself and Tony clean and pulling him into his arms.
"Was that alright?" Steve murmured as Tony lay down on him, resting his head over Steve's heart. Steve's fingers stroked through his hair and Tony felt himself relax, cuddling up close to the security of his lover's body.
"Yeh Steve. Really good... you're fantastic, you know that? And not just in bed…"
Even deprived of his sight, Tony could feel the heat spreading across Steve's face. He was still shy about compliments about his prowess, for all that Tony tried to deliver them regularly.
"You were the fantastic one Tony... do you want to stay in my arms tonight?" He hesitated for a moment, knowing that Tony's pride might stop him from agreeing to it even if he wanted it. "I mean, it'd really mean a lot to me."
"That's fine..." Tony answered, the last slight hints of tension leaving his body as he relaxed against Steve's chest, slowing his breathing to match the soldier’s own.
After a few minutes, they were both deeply asleep, and they woke only the following day. All night their thoughts were peaceful, and Tony didn't have nightmares. He felt too secure for them, for that night at least. They lay on the bed, their limbs tangled together and holding each other close.
The dawn light began to filter into the room, and Steve stretched as his alarm blared. He opened his eyes slowly, feeling a weight on his chest, and glancing down to find Tony curled against him. He frowned a little as he remembered the previous night, and the flash blindness that Tony was suffering from. His fingers snuck out to stroke Tony's hair back from his face.
The contact startled him a little and Tony blinked up at him in confusion, letting out a slight squeak of irritation at being awoken. It took another few moments before he registered what had happened, and he gazed up into the soft azure pools of Steve's eyes.