"Look I didn't mean to-oh! yes, thank you-I didn't mean for that to-"
"I'd save it Stark. I don't think he wants to hear it. Hiya, thanks."
"Welcome aboard Mr. Stark, Mr. Barton. If you follow the others and take a seat, we will be departing shortly."
The decidedly patriotic looking air hostess who's name was Cathy apparently, smiled and directed them to where the other Avengers had sat. Since it was a private Stark jet, it shouldn't have mattered what time they leave, but Steve had insisted that they leave early. Then again, Steve was also fighting with him at the moment so whatever he said kind of got obliterated under the seething Cap look.
Honestly, Tony hadn't meant to take the hit. He had been trying to rescue civilians from the party, and yes, their mission was supposed to be undercover, and yes, he was supposed to be one of the civilians to not draw attention, but it turns out Malaysia has Hydra agents too and they had no issue busting out the big guns in a crowd. So like hell was Tony gonna just walk off and leave the others to deal with it.
Steve seemed to think he should've. Then again Steve seemed to think a lot of things since Ultron.
When Tony had told Steve he was tapping out, he'd assumed that would be the last time he'd hear from Rogers. But no, every few weeks he'd fly out to see how Tony was doing, or as Steve called it, 'mission report' like a good little soldier. But Steve knew he wasn't a soldier and these visits turned more into a sit-and-watch-Tony-work fest than a let's-talk-missions visit. On odd days, Steve would suggest they go out for dinner and Tony would find himself in one of his favorite Italian restaurants with Steve secretly disappearing to pay the bill when he wasn't looking. A couple of other weird things like that had been happening, but Tony was sure Steve just really wanted a friend right now and for some bizarre reason, he'd chosen Tony. That would definitely explain some of the movie nights they'd had where Steve would yawn and rest his arm around Tony's shoulder, for the entire duration of the film. All things considered, Tony actually really liked spending time with Steve.
Except Steve also shouted at him sometimes which wasn't nice. As in, Steve would be talking and Tony would be working and not want to interrupt him. Pepper told him he talked too much so he should be quiet and let others speak. So he did just that but then Steve would just...
'Are you even listening to me?! Tony, speak to me, I'm here, look at me at least! Hey, don't ignore me Avenger!"
"I'm not an Avenger...and I am listening-"
So yes. Not fun. That kept happening.
And of course there were the missions that were strictly Avengers business, super official and all that but both Fury and Steve kept calling him in at least once a month. It was usually for undercover ones like this, but still.
One way or another, he ended up using Ironman to get out of the situation. A part of Tony felt like they might've been plotting this, putting him in a position where he'd have no choice but to use Ironman. But that would be stupid because he was the one who chose to use Ironman and they were the ones telling him to stay safe. And after Ultron, he doubted anyone trusted him with an ounce of technology. Honestly, it was a wonder Tony was even still allowed to do the upgrades for the team or the newly reformed Shield.
"Mr. Stark, if you could please take a seat and we will stow your bags for you."
"No, no that's okay. I've got it." He stepped into the cabin and paused, getting a tap from behind from Clint.
Steve and Natasha and Bruce had all decided to sit on the left. Clearly one side. For some reason his gut felt like it caved in as he realized that he could sit on the right and Clint could very easily sit on the left too. Nat and Bruce hadn't really spoken to him since the mission either so maybe they'd all discussed him when he wasn't around. Maybe they all-
No, they must have discussed him at some point anyway. But they wouldn't-they wouldn't exclude him like that.
Swallowing, he waved the air hostess away and lifted his bags into the overhead lockers, securing it with a loud click. He hadn't realized the cabin had gone silent but he ignored it in favor of sitting on the right hand side table seat and folding his arms and looking out of the window. His heart thudded loudly in his ears and he felt multiple eyes fall on him.
"Hey, you okay?" Clint asked as he sat opposite him across the table and tried to catch his gaze. Tony did a quick double take just to be sure then he breathed out and smiled when he realized Clint had definitely buckled in. He wasn't alone.
"I'm good birdbrain. Just feeling tired. It's been a long few days." He went back to looking out of the window and watching the sun set. What he would do for a vacation right now but...
He didn't want to let Fury or the Avengers or Steve down. If they needed him, how could he say no?
Clint cleared his throat and leaned back in his seat, mimicking Tony. "You can say that again." He paused. "I would shoot for a vacation." He said almost tentatively. Weird-oh, wait!
"Yeah, same! We could all-" Tony made the mistake of looking at Steve mid-speech before realizing the Captain was glaring at his own table with an unbreakable gaze. It screamed irritation. When he looked at Natasha, she was pointedly looking away from him and Bruce was just...staring glumly at his hands as if he'd wanted to hide in them.
"-all...yeah a vacation would be nice." He petered off and fell silent. He had nothing to say, no matter how closely Clint was watching him.
No one really said anything for a while, just a few small comments from Clint about his upcoming missions and if Tony would be free sometime in the next few weeks and some quiet comments between Steve and Nat. Bruce was listening to his headphones and within the hour they were done with safety demonstrations and up in the air.
Once they were at cruising altitude, Tony unbuckled his seat belt and stood up. At Clint's raised eyebrow he explained.
"I'm just gonna quickly change into something more comfortable, feeling a bit warm."
Clint nodded with an easy grin and Tony opened the overhead lockers to get his change of clothes. Taking his bundle, he slowly made his way to the toilets at the back of the plane, but not before pausing in front of Natasha.
"Nat?" He whispered, not wanting to disturb Bruce who was fast asleep opposite her.
She turned to him and something she must have seen made the scowl disappear. Her gaze softened.
"Are you-what's up Tony?"
He pulled the clothes tighter to his chest. "I'm sorry about the mission. I didn't mean to screw it up."
Her eyes suddenly hardened again when he said that and she dropped the hand she was leaning on and tilted her head towards him, considering.
"You didn't-" she shook her head and sighed. "That's not the issue here. And it's not just about the mission. It's about the fact that you seem to think it's okay to just jump in front of every bullet that's fired. That you clearly think we don't-look, just give Steve some time. He needs to figure this out too but bottom line is we were worried, okay?"
"Okay..." Tony tried, not quite sure how to respond.
Natasha tapped her fingers on the table, keeping her face carefully blank. "You don't get it. That's okay, Steve will explain it to you somehow. He just needs to decide how." She raised her voice and tipped her chin at the blond spiky hair peaking over the seat in front of her. For some reason, Tony heard himself snicker.
"Go change, you're looking a bit tired and we've barely started. Try and get some shut eye Shellhead."
Tony nodded and carried on with a smile on his face. Nat was okay with him and Bruce probably was too. So that just meant that Steve was the only one who wasn't.
Tony locked the door and dropped the bundle on the free space next to the sink. Then he hung his black suit jacket up and began to unbutton his shirt, catching a glimpse of the scarring on his chest. He paused.
Steve was concerned about him. That's what Nat meant. But they fought so much and Steve got annoyed at him all the time now so maybe this was concern right now but the rest of the time it was anger.
Maybe Steve didn't actually want him on the team at all and this was his awkward way of telling him to leave properly rather than that crap half-hearted attempt a few months ago. So much for taping out.
He took his shirt off and slipped his black polo shirt on and after loosening the belt on his trousers he took them off and pulled on his blue jeans. It wasn't night yet so he'd leave the pjs till later. A quick look in the mirror told him he looked like he had just gotten out of bed, his curls were everywhere and his hair had grown out a bit, brushing past the nape of his neck. Still, he could sort that out on American soil. The dark shadows under his eyes and the dull hue of his skin though...that probably meant sleep right now. And who knew when he'd next get the chance so-
"Tony? You done? I wanna change too you know."
Tony grabbed his clothes, picking up his shoes and socks (he didn't want them on right now) and opened the door. Clint winked at him as he stepped out and Tony walked back to his seat. When he finished putting the clothes away, he turned and sat down and quickly realized Steve was staring at him.
"What is it? Something wrong?"
Steve lifted his eyes up to his face from wherever he had them before but didn't even twitch a muscle. In fact, He'd barely blinked since he'd been staring.
"You going to sleep?"
A bit caught of guard, Tony shook his head. Not yet.
"You should. Or do you need me to tell you to do that too? Actually scratch that, you probably wouldn't listen anyway." Steve replied, almost sounding bored. He leaned to one side and rested his jaw in his hand, waiting for Tony's reply.
Tony squeezed the arm rest. He knew Steve was trying to wind him up but damn him if he couldn't admit he hated it. "Look I get it. I'm sorry alright."
Steve's sharp eyes narrowed. Never let it be said that Captain America couldn't win a staring contest. "What do you get exactly? Care to share?"
"I won't do it again." He deadpanned because two could play at this game.
"What, again? Also, I'm not your mother, you don't have to sound like a kid."
"I-okay, look I've been thinking about this whole thing and maybe I should've picked up on it sooner but I didn't. And that's not your fault or mine."
Steve's stance completely fell apart. His arm dropped and his eyes widened, his mouth slightly open to say something but Tony carried on.
"I'm quitting the Avengers for good this time. I know you don't want me doing these missions but I only just realized that. I made that mistake and I'm sorry."
Steve's mouth closed and he clenched his fist once before letting go. Then he Rolled his eyes.
"And you're considered a genius. I don't want you to quit at all. If anything it's just stupid that you'd think that."
Ignoring the blatant, stinging insult, Tony crossed his arms. "Explain please. What else am I supposed to think exactly?"
Steve scoffed and turned back to his own window. "You can't understand. You don't. But that's okay." Steve waved a hand. "You do what you think is best. Clearly quitting is what you want to do so I won't stop you. But-" Steve stopped and turned to look him dead in the eye. "-if I catch you pulling a stunt like that again, I will take my shield and shove it right up your-"
"Excuse me, don't mind me, hey bathrooms' free if you wanna use it Steve. Move your feet Tony."
"Perfect." Steve opened his seat belt and grabbed a bag by his feet and stood up swiftly. He left without so much as a glance at Tony's face.
Tony, who was still gaping at the thought of Steve saying something so...so-
"You okay? You really should try and sleep you know." Clint asked, eyes wide and innocent. The genius had to wonder if the archer had timed that accordingly or if he genuinely hadn't heard Steve.
"Yeah soon. Just wanna sort something out." He shook himself mentally and pulled out his tablet. He had plenty to distract himself with anyway and hopefully Steve would accidentally lock himself in the toilet for the next hour.
The next half hour saw dinner come and go, and shortly after, Clint and Natasha followed Bruce into dreamland and when the cabin lights began to dim, Tony turned his tablet off and got out of his seat again to stow it away in the locker. A quick glance behind him reminded him that Steve was still awake and watching Friends on his laptop. Tony sighed and clicked the locker shut. As much as he hated to admit it, he really didn't like fighting with Steve.
"You didn't eat much."
Tony whipped around, nearly dropping his pjs. "You scared the hell out of me. Can you please not?"
Steve had taken his headphones off and was looking him up and down and Tony was suddenly very thankful that the lights were dim. He'd hate to freak people out with rosy cheeks, it didn't happen often but sometimes he could blush. "You can't afford to not eat. You've barely eaten since the mission and that was 18 hours ago. We've been travelling since and you skipped meals on the way to the airport."
"I'm fine. I'll eat breakfast, I'm not hungry right now. I just need some sleep."
Steve huffed and shook his head, pulling his headphones back on and Tony rolled his eyes and went to get changed.
Once changed into a plain white shirt and some black sweatpants he came back and noticed a suspicious looking bag on his table. When he sat down, he noticed it contained blueberries and just behind it was some Doritos.
Feeling his lips curve upwards, Tony turned. "Is this for me?"
Steve blatantly ignored him, keeping his eyes firmly on Chandler. But Tony had no doubt that Steve was waiting for him to eat. That bag by his feet was looking suspiciously deflated.
Tony's smile broadened and he pulled the bags into his lap. It was, above all, such a Steve thing to do. More action, less words but every gesture is meaningful. Typical Steve.
"Thank you." He said softly and picked up a handful of blueberries. But before bringing them up to his mouth, he leaned across the isle and stretched his arm out.
"Blueberry?" He whispered, smiling and hoping not to wake anyone up.
There was no answer, just Steve stretching out and snagging a couple of berries. He didn't take his eyes off the screen once but gently nudged Tony's hand back. Silent as a grave, he tossed them into his mouth.
Tony beamed and retracted his hand. So he was not being totally ignored anymore. Half a silent treatment was better than the full version any day.
He ate the berries and started on the Doritos. They settled like a heavy weight in his stomach and didn't feel at all very nice to taste, but that was usually the case with food in the air. But he didn't want Steve to say anything or seem ungrateful so he ate most of the snacks and finally set it aside. Leaning his chair back, he shifted his belt aside and clicked a button to retract the table and stretched out. Sleep sounded great right now.
He turned and pulled up a blanket, watching the sky take an evening hue. His eyes drifted shut, and without realizing it he fell into a semi-lucid state. He fell into a deeper sleep when his blanket was pulled up and tucked around him gently.
He sighed and thought of all the things he'd do when they landed. Cheeseburger first. And maybe answer that email from Thor's friend Daryl.