It had been months since the fight in Siberia. Maybe a little over a year. Steve didn't remember. It hurt to remember.
His team had found a HYDRA cell in their area, a few miles outside Wakanda's border. Steve was leading everyone in with help from T'Challa. They'd been up most of the night working on a plan. Hopefully, this would be over by lunchtime. He was slinking with Clint down the hallway. They were making their way toward the control room, where they could hopefully shut down the base. They found the door and Clint cracked the lock open. They snuck inside and started going through the computers. It was all going perfectly according to plan.
Until the alarms started going off.
Steve swore and started pushing Clint towards the door. "Go! Take the escape route!"
"Cap, what about you?" Clint tried to stop his pushing.
"I'll be fine! Just... get yourself to safety."
Clint shoved back, making Steve stop. "Cap-"
He knew that Clint didn't want to leave him behind, but there was no sense in both of them being caught if they could still get information. Steve couldn't let any of his teammates be found, but he wasn't afraid of getting caught. If anything happened, it was what he deserved.
Clint stared only another second before running out of the room. Steve took a deep breath and then started to work with the computers again. The comm in his ear buzzed to life.
"Steve. Steve, come in."
Fuck, not Sam. He didn't respond.
"Steve get out of there, it's too dangerous! Now!"
He kept working with the computer, sending out the codes to the Wakandan database for analysis.
"No!" he finally yelled. "I'm almost done."
He shut off his comm and then focused on his work. He finished with the files and then hurried to get out of the room. He heard the first explosion go off farther away in the building, and started to run faster. Another explosion went off and shook the ground a little. It was closer, and Steve was starting to panic. No, no he needed to get out! He kept running, pushing himself harder. A third explosion rocked the hallway and he fell forward. He caught himself and then pushed himself up and started running. Just another turn... one more and he'd be out.
The hallway exploded. He saw red, and then black.
Sam, Clint, and Wanda were hurrying through the remains of the building, searching for Steve.
Sam was scared. As soon as Steve had switched off his comm, Sam had started flying over the building. When the first explosion had gone off, he'd tried Steve's comm again. No answer. He'd been flying as low as possible, trying to catch the moment Steve ran out of the base. But it didn't happen. Now... now they were all just praying that he wasn't dead.
Wanda suddenly started screaming for their attention. She was lifting rubble away to reveal a familiar red, white, and blue shield. Sam and Clint hurried to assist her. The shield was covering Steve's head and most of his torso. His legs were both twisted at odd angles, but his head seemed to be mostly fine; a couple scratches. As they uncovered more of him, they found his arm twisted painfully behind his back. But he was breathing. Thank God, he was breathing.
Clint called for an airlift to get Steve to a Wakandan hospital while Sam pulled out his own phone to make a personal call.
Tony took a deep breath as he rode in the back of the private plane. He'd gotten a phone call from Sam about Steve. Before, he wouldn't have wanted to listen. Whatever they were doing wasn't any of his business. He was keeping Ross away from them, and calling him was endangering them. But he'd been keeping an eye on them after the first big fight they'd had where Steve and Clint had ended up hospitalized. This was the sixth time Steve had ended up with major injuries - not to mention the times he'd been forced to go to medical for the small things. Tony had been silent for a moment before agreeing to go see Steve.
Despite all they'd been through, he couldn't deny that, well, he still cared about Steve. And hearing that Steve was being so reckless... it was a little frightening.
They'd sent an untraceable Wakandan aircraft the next day to pick up Tony, and he was on his way. He landed in the kingdom a few hours later and walked out to meet T'Challa and Sam. They'd shaken his hand and then led him down to the medical bay. They led him to Steve's room and let him go in on his own. The other man was sleeping, so Tony took time to look him over.
There was a patch over one side of his forehead, and scars healing on his nose and cheek. His arm was in a sling, and he could see the outline of the casts on his legs under the blankets. It made him sad to see Steve like this. Steve never let himself get hurt like this on missions. Safety was priority number one. Always.
Tony sat in the chair next to the bed, scooting it a little closer to watch him and wait until he woke up.
His whole body was sore. His legs and left arm, especially. Steve groaned a little when he tried to open his eyes. Why did hospital lights always have to be so damn bright? Someone shuffled beside him and he turned his head to look. He blinked a few times, not really trusting his eyes.
"T... Tony?" he murmured.
Tony smiled back at him, sadly. "Hey, Cap. Glad you're alive."
Steve frowned, pressing the button for the bed to push him up into a sitting position. "Why are you here?"
Tony was supposed to be avoiding him. Right? They hadn't made contact, even though Steve had tried, had sent the letter and the phone. Tony never called. Never wrote back. Not even to tell Steve off, which he would've been fine with. And he'd been here several times within the past year, so why was Tony here now?
The smile faded from Tony's lips and Steve almost wished he'd been more sensitive. But Tony didn't snap back at him. He Just leaned forward a little.
"Sam called me. Said you'd been in the middle of an explosion. I wanted to make sure you were okay."
He huffed out his nose and looked down at his sheets. He was going to kill Sam. "I'm fine."
Out of the corner if his eye, he saw Tony frown. "You know, that's, like, the universal saying that means you're not okay. Talk to me."
"I'm fine," he repeated, sharper than he'd intended. He took a deep breath. "I'll heal up in a couple days and everything will go back to normal."
"And in another month you'll be back in the hospital."
Steve's head snapped up and he frowned at Tony. "What?"
Tony moved over to sit on the bed, facing Steve. "Six hospital visits in the past year. Each within a month or two of each other.
He reached over to take Steve's uninjured hand in his own. Steve wished he could've flinched away, but touching Tony again after a year was... too good to fake hating it. He swallowed hard, staring at their hands.
"How'd you know that?"
"I've been... keeping tabs on you guys since the first one."
Steve's eyes burned, but he refused to let them tear up. "You... You didn't..." He cleared his throat. "You didn't call."
Tony's eyes widened and he leaned in a little. "Steve, I couldn't let Ross catch me, I-"
"I sent you a secure phone."
"I couldn't take any chances."
"I wouldn't send you an insecure phone if I didn't want to be caught!"
Steve stared at him, his jaw clenching. Tony gave his hand a small squeeze.
"Steve, I just didn't want to chance them finding you. I... my own tech I'm sure they can't track, anything else..." He shrugged.
Steve sighed and looked away. "I understand."
Tony sighed as he looked over Steve's face and arm and legs. "Why do you let these things happen to yourself, Steve?"
Steve was silent for a few moments. He didn't know if he should tell him the truth, or if he should give him an excuse. He wanted to. He wanted to give him an excuse, something that wouldn't make him worry. But Tony could tell. He could always tell when Steve was lying.
"Because... Because I deserve it."
He'd done so many things wrong this time; made so many mistakes. He'd let his personal life get in the way of the situation. He'd been stuck in the past again, focused on saving Bucky instead of his new family. He'd let them tear each other apart. He'd kept secrets from Tony and nearly killed him. He'd let down Sam and Clint, and Wanda and Scott. He'd let down Natasha. If Bruce and Thor were here... God, even though they weren't, he'd let them down, too. And Pietro was probably rolling around in his grave. Peggy would slap him for this; tell him he was an idiot and fix it because Steve was incompetent. Bucky... he'd let down Bucky, too.
"I deserve it," he whispered.
He stared down at his and Tony's hands. He didn't deserve this... whatever Tony was doing here. Unless it was to arrest him. He'd probably let him.
But Tony didn't slip any handcuffs on him. He leaned in. He reached over and held Steve's one hand between both of his. He rubbed his thumb gently over the back of Steve's hand. Steve couldn't help that he leaned over a bit to meet him, his eyes closing a little. It had been so long since he'd been this close to Tony. And even longer since they'd had a moment this... intimate. He thought he might cry.
"No you don't."
A tear slipped as Tony pressed their foreheads together, and then another when he leaned in and put a gentle kiss on the corner of Steve's lips.
"I forgive you," Tony murmured.
Steve started to shake, his breath trembling as it passed his lips. God. God, how? How could Tony forgive him for all that had happened, that Steve had caused? More tears slipped as he felt his walls crumbling and his chest warming.
It didn't matter how. He did. That... that would be enough.
Tony reached up and brushed away Steve's tears, cupping is cheek. They sat for a while, just like that. When Tony could feel that Steve had stopped shaking, he pressed another small kiss to his lips, like he used to, and then pulled back, noting the look in Steve's eyes. It made him not want to stand, to leave. But he knew he needed to.
"Stevie, I'm sorry. But I need to get back before they think something really weird is happening."
Steve swallowed hard, Tony heard his throat click, and nodded. "Okay."
Tony brushed his fingers through Steve's hair and gave his hand a small squeeze before standing.
He cleared his throat. "I'm still gonna keep an eye on you, so don't do anything stupid. Or I'll have to come back here and kick your ass," he tried to joke, half smiling.
Steve returned the small smile and mock-saluted with his good hand. "Yessir."
Tony's smile widened just a little and he nodded, opening the door. He looked back at Steve, "Take care of yourself, Cap."
"I will, Shellhead."
He found himself grinning as he left and closed the door behind himself. He walked through the halls, silently promising Steve that the next time he came back, it would be to bring them home.