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Not What I Meant to Do

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Tony doesn't actually mean for them to see it.

It's bad timing, or whatever, that he happens to need a new ice pack just before lunch. He figures he'll have enough time before everybody shows up to get the pack in place, but he doesn't take into account the fact that the bruising has made moving even his right arm kind of stiff and difficult, and he drops the new pack. Twice.

The second time it skids under the table.

He's underneath, cursing a blue streak and really wishing he had some fucking painkillers when Clint says, "Uhhh, hey, Stark, you need a little help there?"

“No!” he snaps, and manages to grab the ice pack. He drags himself out from under the table, pulls himself upright, and finds Clint and Thor both standing there watching him with raised brows. Their eyes drop to his chest—exposed because he's pulled the left side of his t-shirt up over his shoulder so he can get to it more easily—and widen almost comically.

“Friend Stark, you are injured!”

“Holy shit,” Clint says, “what the hell is that?”

Tony gives him the look a stupid question like that deserves. “Uhh, a bruised shoulder?”

"What the hell is what?" comes Steve's voice through the door, and oh, god, everything's about to get a gazillion times worse.

He scrambles to cover the bruise with the ice pack, but his goddamn fingers slip on the condensation and it hits the floor at his feet with a splat.

"Crap." He looks up, biting down a wash of guilt when he sees the flat, lowered set of Steve's brows and mouth.

"You said you didn't crash," he says, very, very steadily.

"Holy shit, Stark," Natasha blurts, appearing behind Steve.

"I didn't! Say those exact words," Tony says and then mumbles, "I merely implied that because I didn't hit the ground, that I didn't maybe go through three brick walls and possibly hit a steel girder. Or something."

He knows the bruising looks bad, technically, kind of is bad, because they'd forced him to go through some nerve damage tests, but come on! The tests had all come out negative and sure, his shoulder is purple and red and, yeah, there's kind of a shadow effect from the way he'd impacted where you can see the outline of his ribs, which is slightly disturbing, but it's just some bruising.

"Oh, fuck, you stupid fuck," Clint cries, "That is considered crashing!"

"Sit down," Bruce orders. Where the hell had he even come from, he wasn't there two seconds ago, was he?

"There's nothing wrong with my legs—" he starts and Steve glowers at him.

"Sit. DOWN."

He swallows a little and then sits when Natasha pointedly pulls out one of the high bar chairs for him. Bruce moves in on him. "Put your arm up. Tony, put it up."

"Why, what are you doing, I just need the ice, okay, there is nothing wrong with me if you will just let me get on following doctor's orders—ow!"

Bruce pulls his t-shirt off.

"Jesus," Clint mutters behind his hand, "look at it. Are they sure you didn't break anything? Nat, do you see—" He waves his hand, a finger pointed out at him.

Bruce, bent alarmingly close to him, is breathing a little too loudly for comfort. Tony tries to ignore it and says, "They did like, four x-rays, okay, no broken bones."

Thor frowns at him. "Why would you hide a thing like this from us? This type of injury must be very painful."

"Tony," Steve says, voice flat, "you can see the outline of your muscles. Of your bones."

Tony stares at the five of them, all gathered around him and looking worried and annoyed in equal measures. "What is wrong with you guys? I'm fine, it's not like I'm dying again."

Bruce shudders and his eyes flick up, glittering green. "Again?" he growls, and his voice has dropped a pants-wetting two or three octaves.

Natasha shoots a look at Clint, who immediately steps forward, putting a light hand on Bruce's shoulder. "Hey, Doc, why don't you let Cap finish up, huh? Let's get him some more ice for that, huh?"

Tony sits very still, while Bruce allows himself to be drawn away, though his eyes don't leave Tony until Clint opens the freezer door.

Then Tony opens his mouth, glances up at Steve, Thor, and Natasha who are all eyeballing him like a very naughty child, and then licks his lips and says in a small voice, "Um. I guess I should have mentioned that?"

"You guess," Steve says.


Steve's nostrils flare and he takes a deep breath eyes moving to something that's apparently less rage-inducing than Tony like the pantry or maybe the range top, who knows. When he's finished, his knuckles are no longer white around his biceps and he loosens his crossed arms very deliberately as he reaches for Tony's arm.

"I saw doctors, like, plural, this is really not necessary," Tony says. Steve ignores him, holding onto his arm at the elbow gingerly while he skims his hand down Tony's left side. The bruises are sensitive and he flinches despite his best attempts not to.

Steve's jaw tightens, but he doesn't do any more poking or prodding, he just very gently lowers Tony's arm back down to his side.

"Looks worse than it is?" Natasha says, clearly talking to Steve and not him, even though he's sitting right here, what the hell.

"Dunno about that," Steve mutters. "Doesn't feel like he broke any ribs, God knows how he managed that."

Thor clasps his good shoulder and says darkly, "You should know better than to conceal such wounds from us."

"Yeah," Tony says, "I'm getting that. Understanding, not so much, but getting, yes. Loud and clear. Roger that."

Then Natasha tucks a lock of hair behind his ear and he freezes.

"You can be amazingly oblivious, котенок," she says.

"Honestly," Tony says, feeling totally at a loss. "I really didn't think it was a big deal."

Steve's fingers tighten around his wrist and he yelps. Steve immediately lets go, jumping back from Tony like he's been burned.

"Newsflash," Clint says as he and Bruce come back from the fridge, "it's a big fuckin' deal."

Tony stares as Thor closes his fingers around Steve's clenched fist, murmuring something about how it isn't his fault Tony is hurt.

"The whole point of being a team is that we have someone to look out for us, isn't it?" Bruce asks, voice just this side of accusing.

"Well, yeah, sure, but—"

"No buts, Tony, this matters. If you're not a hundred percent, we want to know. How else can we help you get there?"

"Especially if you're not at a hundred percent because of the work," Steve cuts in.

"Think how you would feel were we to keep such a thing secret," Thor says.

Tony bites his lip, reminded of Steve bitching into his shoulder about the burns on his stomach just last week, and all the packs of ice he's not only brought Clint and Natasha, but helped them strap on. It makes his stomach turn over uneasily to imagine them doing it without him. "Oh," he says.

He winces as Clint and Bruce saran wrap the bags of ice into place. When they've confirmed they're finished, Steve and Thor both take a side and help him down from the chair. It's weird and...really nice.

"JARVIS, order in for us, will you?" Steve asks as they head for the media room.

"Certainly, sir."

Steve's hand is warm on his back and Bruce is walking close enough on his right that they're shoulder to shoulder. Tony clears his throat. "So...the suit is pretty good about dampening impacts and whatnot, as you may or may not know, but I hit a rough patch yesterday and went through three brick walls before being stopped by a steel girder. Apparently that's enough to test the limits of the system, surprise, surprise. I bruised the hell out of the upper left side of my body, but miraculously nothing seems to be broken."

Clint hisses gamely. "Yeouch, that must smart."

"It hurts like hell," Tony agrees. It's kind of strange how easily they absorb that information, except, how it's not, not really. When they start bitching about their injuries, he knows he's hearing the whole story, that they're not trying to prove anything by hiding this or that. He worries a hell of a lot less when they're complaining.

"How did the doctors recommend you care for your injuries?" Thor asks.

"Oh, you know." Tony shrugs. "The usual. Ice. Compression bandages. Rest. Et cetera. Oh, and, uh, just so you know, they did some nerve damage tests, but they were all clear."

"That's good to hear," Natasha says.

They let him sit down first and Bruce brings him a pillow to elevate his arm on, and Clint, bless him, gives him drugs. Then they all heap in around him, until he's got all five of them making body contact somewhere. Honestly, he's never been so happy to have fucked up an arm.