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"Shit, shit, shit." Tony tore across the patio and slammed into the far wall, pressing himself against the rock and praying that the angle would protect him. Without the helmet, he was a sitting duck. There were repulsors he could still fire, and some of the other weapons could be activated by hand, but without interaction with JARVIS, he couldn't fly, couldn't target, and his head was sticking out of the armour like a giant, neon, "SHOOT ME HERE" sign.

A blur of blue and red on the other side of the patio was undoubtedly Steve, but either he couldn't see Tony from there or he was purposefully not drawing attention to him by looking in his direction. Still, Tony would have liked the comfort of making eye contact with him, just for a moment.

Gunfire broke out again, and Tony threw an armour-covered arm up over his head. "Shit, shit, shit."

There was yelling, then silence, then the distinct sound of metal tinking along over patio stones. Tony dropped his eyes to the ground.

"Shit."

"Tony, GET DOWN!" Steve yelled from across the patio, but there was nowhere for him to go. The grenade skittered to a stop, far enough away and perfectly aligned so it would hit them both with no cover.

The bricks next to Tony's head exploded, and for a moment, he thought it was the grenade going off, but when he opened his eyes, Steve's shield was embedded several inches into the brick wall next to him, right in front of his face.

Which meant Steve had nothing.

The grenade went off. Tony huddled up behind the shield on instinct, locking the armour's joints to keep him standing. He pressed his face to the vibranium, his every atom screeching out for Steve who had left himself completely undefended. Fire and shrapnel zinged past, peppering the patio and wall with debris. He felt a few pieces slice his face, but when the explosion had passed, he was still breathing, he was still standing.

Steve was gone.

"Steve!" Tony sucked in a lungful of smoke with the word, and he coughed it out again. The grenade had blasted a great fissure in the patio, and the HYDRA agents had gone quiet. Tony listened for a moment, heard the sound of voices fading in the distance. Either the rest of the team had finally drawn their fire to the other side of the compound, or they'd given up Steve and Tony for dead. Either way, they were gone.

"Shit, shit, fuck." Tony stumbled a few feet across the stones, looking for Steve, then went back and, with a foot braced against the wall, managed to tug the shield out of the bricks. He held it awkwardly out to the side, using the strength of the armour to keep it aloft, but lacking the control that would actually allow him to use it helpfully. Still, it was all he had in this moment. Steve had given it up for him.

"Steve!" He searched the entire patio but Steve was nowhere to be seen. Tony stood where Steve had stood, then turned around, away from where the grenade had fallen, and started walking, his heart sinking as he drew closer and closer to the metal railing along the edge of the patio.

He peered over it. There was a steep hill, dirt and scraggly grass, that stumbled down to a ravine. At the bottom of the ravine, blue, white, and blood-red, was Captain America, sprawled unmoving on the rocky bottom.

"Oh fuck," Tony whined. "No, no, not Steve. Shit." He spun in a circle, as if that would give him an answer that was better than the obvious, but of course, it didn't. He climbed through the railing, bringing the shield with him, and started to pick his way down the hill.

"This is why you learned how to fly," Tony mumbled to himself. "To avoid fucking situations like this." The rocks under his feet stuttered and flew free with the weight of the armour, and he spent most of the trip down doing more skidding than actual walking. But he managed to make it to the bottom without falling over and without resorting to using the shield as a sled. Which was a fun idea on any other given day, but not today.

"Steve." Tony fell to his knees next to Steve's prone form, tossing the shield nearby. Steve was breathing but his uniform was torn and soaked with blood, and it was impossible to tell where the bleeding was coming from. Tony unbuckled his cowl and eased it off. His blonde hair was dirty and caked with dried blood, but none of the wounds seemed deep enough to be risky. He almost certainly had a concussion - he'd just ragdolled off a thirty-foot ravine - and something was still bleeding, but it didn't seem to be his head. Tony hoped that meant his injuries wouldn't be serious in the face of the serum.

The crackle of gunfire startled Tony to his feet, and he hummed under his breath in frustration, looking up and down the ravine. There was no way to tell if the firefight was getting closer or not. The shape of the valley meant all the noises bounced around, sounding both closer and farther away at the same time. But they were sitting ducks here. Steve was out and Tony had no helmet, no JARVIS, and no major weapons. Plus he was grounded.

He needed to get them to a safe place to hole up, where he could treat Steve's wounds and hide out until the rest of the team extracted them. Even without JARVIS, the tracker in Tony's suit would be live, and if he and Steve both missed check-in, they'd come for them.

So it wasn't a problem to move away - and even though he knew moving people who might have a spinal injury was a bad thing, he had to trust the serum there too. The suit still had its strength, so he could easily lift Steve and carry him, albeit somewhat awkwardly, but the real question was: which direction?

In the end, Tony chose up. Up the other side of the ravine. It was shallower on that side, and the way the trees thinned, it looked like there might be a road there. Walking was hard work, even with the power of the gold-titanium alloy holding Steve's not insignificant weight. Tony had used Steve's harness to hook the shield over his own back, but it swung freely and smacked him in the butt with every step. Steve was absolute dead weight in his arms, and whenever a step didn't land right, Tony could feel his balance shift and threaten to give out. He trusted that Steve's supersoldier body could handle being moved, but being dropped, after being chucked off a ravine, probably wouldn't do him any favours.

"Shit, motherfucking, shitfuck," Tony huffed out, as his footing gave way for the umpteenth time. But a few more steps, and they broke through the treeline and over the crest of the ravine.

It was a road, a thin, dirt road, but a road nonetheless, and all roads led somewhere. Tony followed it, sweat pouring off his brow and stinging his eyes. He could do this. Just a little further.

He kept telling himself it was just a little further, even though he had no idea where they were going, until, suddenly, it really was just a little further. The trees broke again, and he saw that what he'd taken for a road was actually a long, winding private driveway, and at the end, was a cabin.

The cabin had the distinct look of a summer cottage, out-of-season. There was a boat covered in tarps, up on blocks, the gazebo had been boarded up, there was a lock on the gate the dock, and there were hooks in the trees by the porch for a hammock, but no hammock swung from them.

Tony carried Steve up the steps to the front porch and knocked. No answer. Well. desperate times, and all that. It wasn't like Tony couldn't pay for repairs.

He snapped the doorknob in half and stepped inside. The cabin was nice, but sparse. Sheets covered the furniture, and a few empty, discoloured patches on the floor made it clear that some things, like the TV, didn't stay up here through the winter. There was a couch, but Tony laid Steve out on the big, heavy, wood table instead. He needed all-over access to find his injuries and treat them, and it wasn't like Steve particularly cared about being comfortable right now. Still, Tony took a cushion and tucked it under his head.

He allowed himself five breaths, and an impressive stream of curse words, before he set back to work.

Removing the armour without JARVIS or his bots was a nightmare, but he found the latches and worked his way free, leaving the boots on, just in case. He piled the armour under the table where Steve lay, then turned to his patient.

Steve's uniform was a mess of ash, dirt, and blood, and it was impossible to tell what was going on, so Tony grabbed a bowl, filled it with warm water, stole a stack of tea towels from the kitchen, and set to work removing the uniform, swiping a warm, wet towel over Steve's skin as he revealed it.

Whenever he found a gash, Tony cleaned it with the towel, then sprayed it with disinfectant spray he'd found in the bathroom. There was no point in bandaging up or stitching any of the wounds. Steve would heal fast, so as long as he wasn't actively bleeding. As long as he was alive, which he was, he'd be alright.

Eventually, Tony had Steve down to nothing more than his tasteful, blue cotton boxers. But the boxers were stained too, dark in several places with crusting blood, and Tony fretted.

"Fuck, what if you're hurt there?" It was awkward, but Steve was unconscious, and Tony had a responsibility to help him, right? He was practically a doctor. And doctors touched your junk all the time without it being weird. Besides, Steve had been in the military, so he surely had no shame. It was fine.

It was fine.

"Shit." Tony reached out and peeled the sodden fabric away from Steve's thigh. He tried to peek underneath and see if there were any serious scrapes, but the lighting was too dark and he couldn't tell. He would have to cut them - "Jesus fucking christ!" He looked up and caught Steve's bright blue eyes watching him with a placid expression while he all but molested him on the table. "Ever-loving shitfuck. Goddamit, Steve. How long have you been awake?"

"Long enough," Steve said, a smile twitching at the edge of his lips.

"You jackass." Tony pointed at Steve's crotch. "You know the fucking femoral artery? You could be bleeding out you little shit. Don't give me that judgy look. I was trying to save your life. I wasn't, you know. Peeking."

"I'm fine, Tony. It's okay."

"No, it fucking isn't!" Tony rounded on him, waving a finger in his face. "You're in huge trouble. Of all the stupid, idiotic, terrifying, ridiculous - fuck you! I can't believe - argh!"

"I have a feeling we're no longer talking about me not telling you I was awake." He looked around. "Am I on a table?"

"No, no, we are not. We're talking about that little stunt you pulled with the shield. I'm so mad at you - yes, you are on a table. So, you are not currently bleeding out - which I know because I very professionally checked your femoral artery for damage - but the night is still young and I found scissors!"

"Tony."

"I'm going to kill you. I can't believe you did that. I had to hike down a ravine to save your sorry ass, you know that?"

"Tony."

"You can't just go around saving me so fucking recklessly like that. The world needs you, Cap. God! I don't even know what to say to you right now. I -"

"Tony." Steve's fingers wrapped lightly around Tony's wrist, and he realized that in his wrath he'd marched right up to the head of the table. Steve had pushed himself up on one elbow, and they were heart-stoppingly close. "Tony," Steve said again, softer this time. He pulled, gently, and Tony leaned in.

And this, this was new. He'd never been this close to Steve, ever. In his dreams, sure, in a few shower fantasies, obviously, but close enough to take Steve's breath into his own lungs? Never before.

"Tony…" he murmured it this time, barely more than a word, then Steve kissed him.

"Shit."

"I'm so glad you're okay," Steve said, his fingers tightening around Tony's wrist.

Tony tried to figure out how in the fuck he was supposed to breathe. Eventually, his diaphragm remembered how to do its goddamn job, and he sucked in a lungful of air that was too sharp and too fast. "Steve, what the fuck happened?"

"I got blasted off a cliff." Steve looked down at his mostly naked body with vague curiosity. "I woke up to you groping me."

Tony spluttered. "I was checking for injuries!"

"You're okay," Steve said, rather dopily, as if the very thought made him stupid happy.

"Yeah, of course I'm okay, your dumb ass saved me."

They stared at each other for a moment, Tony glaring, Steve grinning. Then, slowly, Tony thawed. Something twisted in his chest.

"Steve?"

"Yeah?"

"You kissed me."

"Yeah."

"So, are we writing that off as, like, a you being knocked senseless kinda thing or -"

Steve tugged on his wrist again, breaking Tony's sentence off with another kiss. It was soft, easy, just a warm press of dry lips, but it made Tony's stomach flip off a patio and completely fail to stick the landing. If it weren't for the blood, the pain, the strange cabin, the advancing HYDRA agents, the broken armour, and Steve only being nearly naked, it would be perfect.

"Nah," Steve said, still only inches away. "I've wanted to do that for a while now."