The first time Tony managed to crawl out of bed, he only made it as far as the trash can in the corner before he was heaving up his guts, stomach cramping as wave after wave of bile burned his throat. When the vomiting finally calmed, Tony tipped onto his side, sucking in air over his abused throat, completely forgetting about his arm.
“Ah, fuck,” he whimpered, landing on his back with a thump, clutching his broken arm to his chest. It was in some kind of temporary cast - he barely remembered those first few hours - but his drug-addled mind kept forgetting that and attempting to support his weight with it. This fucking sucked.
The door to his penthouse swished open, and Tony scrambled to sit up. “Steve?”
“Tony?” It was Pepper. “Are you okay? Why are you on the floor? JARVIS said -”
Tony extended his one functional hand, and Pepper helped him to his feet, concern twisting her expression unhappy. He stumbled to the bathroom, one of Pepper’s hands on his lower back, one on his arm. “Threw up,” he muttered. Once at the sink, he rinsed his mouth, bracing himself against the counter with one hip to counteract the spinning room. Everything hurt, from the gash across his forehead down to two broken toes. Even through the cloud of the drugs they had him on, everything hurt.
A wave of anger surged through him, and he barely bit back the need to direct it at Pepper. It was hardly her fault. She was the one who was here, after all. He was the one who had fucked up…
“Help me to bed?” he asked carefully between tightly gritted teeth.
“Of course.” Pepper hooked his good arm - well, his better arm - in hers and started leading him slowly back to his bed. His sheets were rumpled and dirty, but he was exhausted now, too tired to ask her to change them.
But tired as he was, after Pepper had tucked him in, taken the soiled garbage can, and left, he couldn’t fall asleep again. He stared up at the ceiling, watching the drug-hazy plaster pattern spin and twist above him. It shifted, morphing into two, bright red eyes.
It welled up, hot and acrid, a burning, desperate need to rip, tear, scratch, kill…
Tony shocked out of sleep with a gasp, bumping his broken arm painfully against the bedside table. Again. His eyes prickled, hot with pain and frustration, but he bit his lip until it abated. He shoved those feelings, those memories, into the far corners of his mind to lurk with the other rages and fears and betrayals he hoarded.
He tried to force his imagination to play out something happy, something soft, since he was trapped in bed with nothing else to do. But of course, of fucking course, that brought him to a gentle brush of dry lips and an uncertain smile…
Why wasn’t Steve here? Was what Tony had done really so awful that Steve couldn’t forgive him? Couldn’t even face him?
Bile burned Tony’s throat again, and he rolled over, ready to scramble for the bathroom, but it settled with a gradually receding wave of nausea. And now, he pushed himself back into those terrifying half-memories, those red eyes, that feeling, because in there lay the answer as to why Steve was avoiding him, if he could just -
But it was nothing but a cloud, a haze of red-rimmed rage ending with the sharp shock of pain, then nothing. He’d woken up here, wrapped in gauze and surrounded by concerned teammates. They had brought him back to tower, called in private doctors, because hospitals always seemed to want to take his chest apart and that thought alone was enough to make his breath go short and his heart start pounding and fuck fuck fuck he was having a panic attack.
Tony shifted onto his good - enough - elbow until his head nearly hung off the bed. He breathed, willing it to go deep, reach his lungs, send much-needed oxygen through his body. He focused on the process, pulling air in, feeling it stretch his ribs, the grounding pain of his bruised skin and abused muscles. He was here, he was safe.
Eventually, the panic receded.
But in its wake, it left heart-squeezing, stomach twisting despair. Tony choked back a sob, horrified at his own self-pity, but unable to stop it, weakened as he was. He wanted a drink. Or to punch something - Steve probably.
But, no, that wasn’t fair, either. Whatever had happened - whatever had Steve wandering all over the tower for two days while staunchly avoiding Tony’s penthouse (so what if he had asked JARVIS two or twenty times where Steve was? It was his fucking tower) - was his fault. It had to be. Red teased the edge of his memory, and he backed away from it, rolling flat on his back again, panting. His shirt was sticky and itchy with sweat, but every time he kicked the sheets off, the cold air would hit his skin and set him shivering. Was a magic hangover a thing? It was either that or a reaction to whatever drugs they had given him for the pain.
He stared up at the ceiling, and there it was again: the ghost of Steve’s lips on his.
“Tony…” Steve's voice was so gentle, fuzzy with affection.
Tony twisted his fingers in the sleeve of Steve’s shirt. “Yes,” he whispered, drawing Steve in. Warm breath against his cheek, a gasp, then that first sweet, soft touch. The easy slide of Steve’s lips slotting with his. That tingly fluttering that settled low in the gut with every first kiss. Steve.
“We have to go,” Steve whispered, pulling Tony closer even as he tried to back away.
Tony tumbled forward, up on his toes, weight against Steve’s chest, and followed him to the door, drawing him into another kiss, firmer, deeper. Filthier. Steve moaned, and Tony’s body lit up, eager.
A hand settled on either side of his face. “We have to go, Tony.”
“I know. Meet me upstairs when we get back? I want to - uh - talk.”
“We do need to talk.” Steve’s ‘Captain Voice’ slipped in.
But they hadn’t talked. They hadn’t seen each other. Because Tony had fallen under some spell and… rip, tear, scratch kill … and he must have done something horrible. Because now Steve was pacing the tower, avoiding him, and Tony was throwing up alone in his penthouse. And this brand new, tentative, budding thing between them was done before it even took root, shocked dead by a killing frost that Tony couldn’t even remember.
Well, fuck that.
Laying around wallowing in pain had never been Tony’s style. His fingers - even the broken ones - itched to do, to build, to create. To, maybe, pick up a bottle and numb some of this pain - physical and mental.
He sat up cautiously, breathing shallowly through the roll of his stomach. If he moved slowly and took care not to jostle his arm, he could make it downstairs.
It took a long time, and a lot of breaks, but he made it. His chair was an island of relief in a sea of wobbly, stumbly pain, and he sunk into it gratefully, letting his eyes drift shut.
There was nothing gentle or affectionate about his voice this time.
Tony’s eyes flickered open, the harsh light burning them until he squinted, adjusting slowly. He must have fallen asleep. His mouth was fuzzy, and he was shivering again. “Steve. Why are you here?”
When this is obviously the last place you want to be.
And that was even clearer now, now that Tony had managed to work his eyes open all the way. Steve hovered in the doorway, tension humming through every line of his body, eyes pinched, brow creased. Unhappy. Tony mourned for the happy Steve, warm in his arms, that had only been alive and there with him for a few moments, grieved for a love that never had a chance to get off the ground.
“Everyone else is gone,” Steve gritted out, not moving from his place in the doorway. “JARVIS told me you were out of bed.” There was a long pause. “Sorry.”
Tony stared at the work laid out in front of him. He hadn't even touched it. On top was still the blueprints he’d been redesigning when Steve had stumbled into the workshop three days ago, all twisted fingers and nervous smiles, and admitted he was interested in Tony, falling for Tony. It was too bad he wouldn’t have time to fall all the way. It was too bad -
“No, I’m sorry,” Tony said, realizing what he was really doing here. “I was baiting you.”
“Baiting -?” He could hear Steve’s head cocking in the adorably puppy-dog way it did when he didn't understand something Tony said.
Tony waved it off. “Nevermind.”
Steve sighed, tight, through pursed lips. “Okay.” Flat, his voice was nothing but flat, blank nothing. Tony squeezed his hand against his thigh to stop it from reaching for Steve. “I’ll go. Unless there’s something you need.”
Tony hated to ask, but he didn’t really have much of a choice. Everything hurt, all in varying degrees, his arm throbbing most of all, the weight of it against his shoulder near agony. He needed to lie down again, and there was no way he was going to get upstairs on his own. He never should have come down here in the first place. He'd buried it in anger, but really it was a painfully obvious attempt to get Steve to come to him. Now that he had, Tony regretted it, all of it. Steve was shifting as if to leave when Tony managed to choke out, “Actually -:
“Yes?” Steve took two hesitant steps into the workshop, and Tony eyed him nervously.
“I need help. Getting back upstairs.” He tried to shrug, winced instead. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine.” Steve was at his side in an instant. He slipped one hand gently under Tony’s good - better - arm and applied just enough pressure to let Tony know that if he stood, Steve would support him.
Tony took a breath and shifted up to his feet, leaning into Steve’s support. The room spun, but Steve’s hold under his arm kept him grounded, and he managed to stay upright. They began a slow, careful shuffle to the elevator, Steve’s iron grip catching Tony’s opposite hip as well, pulling him in against Steve’s side.
Steve was warm, solid, perfect, and fuck he smelled so good. Tony leaned into his chest, breathing in under the pretext of pushing down nausea, when really, he needed every breath that was all Steve to be as full and deep as possible.
They arrived in Tony’s room unexpectedly, and Tony realized he must have checked out a bit in the elevator. The ride was impossibly short, and he couldn’t remember crossing the kitchen or living room. Steve tipped him gently in bed, hands hovering nervously over his shoulders until Tony leaned back with a sigh.
“Are you okay?” Steve asked, then winced as if the question brought him some kind of pain.
Tony tipped his head in the best approximation of a shrug that he could do and nodded. He was hungry, his sheets were mussed, and he needed a fresh glass of water, but he couldn’t bring himself to ask for those things when Steve so clearly wanted to be anywhere but here.
“Okay. I - Okay.” Steve turned to go. Then stopped. He stood still, facing away from Tony, for a long time, shoulders ratcheting up around his ears. “Tony.” He turned back, steeled for something. Tony’s fingers twisted into the sheet, needing something to hold on to. This was it, Steve was going to tell him what he’d done, tell him he couldn’t forgive him, couldn’t unsee it. That he couldn’t let Tony put his blood-covered hands on Steve’s pristine skin. “I know I don’t deserve it, but I just - I really hope you can forgive me. Someday.”
Tony’s brain ticked over, trying to slot that information into what he knew, but it wasn’t right. He was off-balance still, confused, missing things. “What?”
“I hope you can forgive me,” Steve’s words tumbled out faster and faster. “I’m so, so sorry, but you wouldn’t stop, and I knew you wouldn’t want to hurt anyone, and I tried, I tried so hard to get through to you, but the magic was too strong and - fuck I’m just so sorry. I can’t even look at -“ Steve slapped a hand over his mouth, and a horrible noise squeezed out from between his fingers.
“I -” Tony rubbed his hand over his face, wincing as he found a few new bruises. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he settled on.
Steve shifted from pained to confused. “What do you mean?”
“I can’t remember what happened.”
“What - Tony! You told the doctors you could remember.”
Tony wriggled into a sitting position, hating the feeling of talking up at Steve while he loomed over him. “I did, at the time, but every hour, as the magic faded, it got hazier and hazier. It’s just a faint red blur now - a feeling. I - I can’t remember what I did, Steve...” Scratch… bleed… kill… Tony swallowed.
“I -” Steve appeared to be at an absolute loss for words. Then he slipped to his knees, settling at Tony’s eye level. “The curse sent you wild, bloodthirsty. You turned on us. We tried to restrain you, but you kept breaking free and trying to hurt someone. In the end - in the end, I had to stop you. I… I did that.” Steve gestured to Tony’s arm, a short, awkward flick of his hand. “It worked… You - you passed out. I’m sor-” Steve broke off, his hand coming back up to cover his mouth again.
Tony rolled the information around in his mind. “Who did I hurt?”
“No one. I wouldn’t have let you hurt someone, Tony. I stopped you. I just wish there had been an easier way. I wish -”
They fell into silence.
“I didn’t hurt anyone?”
“No. Of course not. And even if you had, it wouldn't have been your fault. You were being controlled.”
“But.” Tony shifted his bad - worse - arm into a more comfortable position, and Steve winced with him. “But, we had a date. And you didn’t show.”
“We were going to - uh - talk. After… after. But you didn't come up. You avoided me like the plague. I thought - I thought I’d done something so horrible you couldn’t face me.”
Steve blanched. “Oh god… Tony, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know you couldn't remember. I figured you wouldn’t want to see me after I - after I did that. You’re in pain because of me. I thought you might be, you know, afraid of me... I was waiting for you to ask, so you wouldn’t have to see me if you didn’t want to. And when you didn’t… I assumed you didn’t want to.”
Tony brushed his fingers over Steve’s cheek, hopeful for the first time in days. “I did. I did want to. I thought I’d hurt someone, and you couldn’t bear to look at me, having seen me like that.”
“Of course not. Of course not. I would never -”
Tony curved his finger over Steve’s cheekbone and settled it over his lips, silencing him. “How about - how about we were both idiots, and we start over?”
Steve nodded, Tony’s finger still resting on his lips.
“So… what I asked you up to talk about the other day? I like you Steve, a lot. That falling thing you mentioned? I’m totally on board.”
Steve’s eyes widened, then softened. The lips under Tony’s finger broke into a wide smile, brushing his skin in a soft kiss as they moved. Tony moved it now, hooking it under Steve’s chin and drawing him forward. Steve braced his hands on either side of Tony, on the bed, and dipped down. The kiss was featherlight, nothing more than a promise, an agreement, but that was all Tony could handle right now, and it was perfect. It was everything.
“Stay,” Tony whispered against the lips that still hovered over his.