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Tony's PTSD vs The Power of Denial- Fight!

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It was dark when he woke up, and his arms were uncomfortably restrained with thick, cold cuffs. 

Tony had been kidnapped enough times to know not to panic when he rattled his brain for a memory of how he got here and came up empty. Whatever drugs they’d used on him would wear off soon, and then he’d likely be treated to an uninspiring memory of a dart to the neck or a menacing thug pulling him into a car. It would only be important if he got the opportunity to call for help and could give them a key detail, like a face or a plate. 

Steve wasn’t going to be happy about this. They were supposed to have dinner out tonight, and at this rate he wasn’t going to be able to make their six o’clock appointment. Steve hated missing date nights. 

He cracked his eyes open, then fluttered them closed and then open again. The visibility in the room didn’t change much either way. A penetrating cold had seeped up through his skin and clothes where they were in contact with the hard metal of the chair he was seated in. Shivers rippled down his body like little earthquakes as his body woke up and realized that instead of his boyfriend’s comforting blankets-and-cocoa warmth, it had awoken to chilly discomfort. 

His hands itched to reach up and rub his eyes.

For the moment, it seemed like he was alone. That wasn’t likely to be the case forever, though, and when his captors finally arrived he had to be ready for them. 

Deep breathes brought cold, stale air into his lungs, waking them from their automatic sleep-rhythm. It was an unfortunate necessity; he needed to establish firm control over himself now, before his adrenaline glands got the panic party started, but to do that he needed to concentrate on his breathing. 

Memories jostled against the edges of his consciousness, mere breathes away from sloshing over into his mind and marring his thought process with useless, backlogged emotions from previous kidnappings. He firmly pushed them back. 

First: Evaluate the environment. He was restrained in some sort of chair, likely in a basement or someplace like it. His clothes were still on, but he’d have to assume that he’d been searched while he was unconscious. The restraints themselves were thicker than he’d encountered before, almost comically so. You didn’t need that much metal to hold a normal unenhanced human like him. 

That was suspicious. 

He gave the cuffs a stiff tug. 

Immediately pain lanced through his arms, through his shoulders and up to his spine. His muscles disobeyed him, unwilling to loosen from their painful clenching on his command. 

And then it stopped. 

Twisting his hands in the restraints was awkward, but doable, and if he ignored the way the metal rubbed unpleasantly against the skin of his wrists, he could focus on feeling the outer edges of the cuffs with his fingertips. Slight bumps and ridges, along with regular seams, told him there were several panels there, some possibly screwed shut and some probably magnetic or something, all of them likely opening to a tangle of wires and fiddly electronics. 

So the cuffs had some sort of electronic component. Probably remote-controlled, too, with nasty little surprise options for when he inevitably refused to cooperate. Joy. 

One of the panels wiggled slightly under his fingertips. He suppressed the little victory dance he wanted to do; it would just rub the cuffs against his pour abused skin. Unlike some people on the team, he didn’t have convenient super-healing, so he was just going to have to try and hide the damage from Steve the old-fashioned way, with long-sleeve shirts and a sudden revived interest in wearing fancy watches on both wrists. 

Oh, wait, he had that hulk onesie he’d bought last week, he could just wear that until his wrists healed up. He’d have to wear suits for SI meetings and scheduled interviews, but he could probably get away with wearing the onesie the rest of the time. Heck, he could call up PR and tell them he was advertising the new merchandise, maybe get Steve to indulge his artistic side and take some candid shots that he could send them to put on the official twitter page. 

Honestly, there real challenge here wasn’t going to be escaping, it was going to be figuring out how to eat with the oversized mittens on the hulk onesie. 

The loose panel wiggled, then stuck in place. 

“Come on, don’t get all uncooperative now,” he whined quietly. “Team Fabulous Escape needs you!”

It didn’t budge. 

“Fine then, be that way. I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.” 

He did his best I’m-judging-you face. The effect was lost on the cuff. 

A memory bubbled up over the mental walls he’d hastily constructed. For a moment, the dark, dusty air was filled with the smell of fear-sweat and smoke, and angry voices spoke unintelligible Farsi somewhere just outside the door. 

He shook his head violently. 

“That’s totally off-topic,” he admonished himself. “Old news. We’re only looking for up-to-date info today, thanks.”

The panel refused to wiggle again under his renewed efforts, but it did slide a little, so he switched up his strategy. Instead of pulsing his finger against one edge, he pressed it firmly against the top and pushed down and to the side. His position wasn’t that great, and his fingers ached from the stretching and contorting, but in the end the panel came loose. 

See, brain? No reason at all to panic. He’d be out of this place in no time. If he worked fast, he might even get back to the Tower before Steve even had the chance to realize he was gone. He could show up a little bit late to dinner, right?

His brain replied with a memory of sitting on the sandy floor, tired and shaking from something other than the ever-biting cold, wrestling with the knowledge that no one was going to come and save him. 

Thanks, brain. Really pulling your weight here. Such a team player. 

The loosened panel slipped off the cuffs and into his palm, where he shifted it so it lay between two fingers. If the goons who’d got him in the first place came back before he was free, he might have to quickly put it back in place to hide his progress.

The next ten minutes or so passed in a quiet frenzy of jiggling, prying, sliding, and fiddling. It was tricky to do without being able to see the wires properly, but he had a pretty decent idea of what the innards of a device like the shocker cuffs should look like. It was enough for him to work off of when visual confirmation just wasn’t in the cards. 

At last, when he pulled up against the cuffs they failed to shock him. The loose and pried-open panels were back in place, but the wires underneath were so thoroughly sabotaged that his kidnappers would probably just have to scrap them. 

Success. 

No he just needed to find a way to-

The door banged open with a sound like an explosion. Like Stark Industries missiles clanging violently against each other in a half-full box as it was dropped at his feet. Like the Mark One against the cave walls as he desperately stumbled around in his pumped-up tin can.

Real great job there, brain, none of those noises sound like each other at all.

(The sudden spike of fear, though, that’s pretty uniform.)

Light spilled into the dim room through the open door as four men filed in. One of them flipped a switch, flooding the room with proper light from a bare bulb installed in the ceiling. The last one through shut the door behind him. 

“Tony Stark,” the smuggest-looking one said. “So happy you could drop by.”

“Jesus Christ, this whole thing just gets more and more cliche,” he replied with faux-disappointment. “I’m going to have to eat a whole gallon of Dum-E’s Special Smoothie when I get home just to wash out the poor taste.”

The man’s smugness faded towards anger. Tony smiled, just to push him that last little bit over the edge.

“You sound so sure that you’re getting out of here,” he bit out. Tony shrugged. 

“I mean, I always have before. Extrapolating off past data, I’d say I’m pretty likely to be home in time to have a nice candle lit dinner with my gorgeous boyfriend. Complain all about my boring day.”

Crack!

Tony let his head swing to the side, still smiling. Unseen, his fingers continued to move.

The man stared at his smile for a second too long to pass it off as dismissive. 

“There’s more where that came from if you don’t cooperate,” he growled, but not like he meant it. To Tony it sounded more like he had had that line canned for his first violent threat, and couldn’t think on his feet fast enough to come up with something else when it didn’t work out quite as he intended. 

“You must think you’re such so untouchable, up there in your shiny tower with all your shiny toys,” the guy in the white shirt piped up, saving the first guy from having to try to go somewhere with his obviously ineffectual threat. He was really going to have to learn some names for these guys, or make some up. 

“Oh yeah, untouchable is definitely the word I’d go with. I’ve only been kidnapped what, five times in the last five years?”

The first guy- I’m going to call him Leroy, Tony thought- clenched his fist like he wanted to hit him again, but refrained. 

“No one is coming for you,” he said instead, voice steady but not quite dark enough to really pull off any of these lines. “They don’t know where you are, and each minute that passes lowers their chance of ever finding out. If you’re planning on waiting for a miraculous rescue, I’d pick a different plan.”

Memories of Afghanistan fizzled in the back of his mind, of nights spend trying to count how many days he’d been there and how likely it was that anyone was even still looking for him. They chilled him down to his fiddling fingertips, nearly freezing them in place with phantom terror. 

They also made Leroy’s words sound particularly silly. Like a child assuring a grown up that they’ll make them buy that stuffed animal in the window. 

Tony smiled brighter, pulling out his most blinding press smile. 

“I’ll be sure to keep that in mind, Leroy.”

Leroy frowned. “My name is Bran, not Leroy.”

“Sure thing, Leroy.”

The next slap stung like one of Natasha’s Widow Bites against his cheek. The shock of it sunk through his skin, into his rattling teeth and stiff jawbone, like water sinking into dry, dusty earth. Blood welled up in his mouth where he’d bit his tongue, and he had to breathe carefully through his nose and arrange his tongue to guard his throat and keep from swallowing it. 

The screw wiggled under his fingers. That was more important than the overpowering taste of blood. There wasn’t even that much- it just seemed like there was a lot because he was being dramatic. 

He spit out a red glob of spit on the floor, smile weathering the shock like a heavy piece of furniture in a minor earthquake. It would take more than that to break it. 

Leroy made a high, surprised noise of disgust and danced backwards to avoid it- after it had already splattered onto the floor. Great reflexes there, Leroy. Really inspiring terror here. 

Tony could do this. These guys didn’t have anything on the Ten Rings don’t think about the Ten Rings or Killian don’t think about Killian or any of the other kidnappers he’d faced down over the years. This was going to be a cakewalk. He’d escape so quickly, Steve wouldn’t even realize he’d been gone, and then Tony could make sure to make it sound funny and quaint when he told him about it, and by then the slaps would have stopped vibrating in his bones. 

He wasn’t even really kidnapped. Sure, it seemed at first blush like he had been abducted by unknown agents, and was now being held captive in this dark, dusty room in a basement somewhere. But was he really? As soon as he got these cuffs off, he wouldn’t be a captive anymore, and was it really an abduction if there wasn’t any style or finesse involved?

“You talk a big game about how your weapon making days are behind you, Stark, but we think you just need a little persuasion. I’m sure you’re a little rusty, but I bet it’ll all come rushing back after a bit, right? You just need enough time to know for sure that no one’s gonna save you.”

The Ten Rings had better reason to think the same thing, buddy, and look how long I was there before I escaped. 

Wait, no, don’t think about that. There was no way these bozos were going to hold him for months . He was getting out today. No one had held him for that long since he’d become Iron Man, and no one ever would. 

Think about Steve instead. What was the best way to go about convincing Steve that everything was fine? Steve was sure to overreact, so he’d have to have a clear and succinct way to tell him that it wasn’t even a real kidnapping before he got any funny ideas. He’d have to be sure and focus on the cuffs, and how he was never really a captive, just a little stuck. Maybe if he started the story in the basement, he could skip over the abduction-that-wasn’t entirely- that was probably the best way to do it.

The next blow fell, but Tony barely even reacted. He was getting into the rhythm of things now, and nothing these thugs could do would knock him off balance. 

Suddenly, a banging noise from upstairs shook the ceiling. The sound reverberated lightly through the air. It was too far away to be all that loud, but in its wake a horrified silence like new fallen, freshly-bled upon snow swept through the cell, so every little startled inhale, uneasy shift of weight, and delayed tremor of the walls sounded loud clear as a bell. 

The man standing over Tony clenched his jaw so hard the skin on his chin wrinkled up. Then, with a visible effort, he wrenched his focus back from the distraction. 

“Jack, TJ, go see what’s the matter. Willie, radio the guys uptop.”

The men left as ordered, though they looked a little like scared kindergarteners trying to sneak past the monster in their closet to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. 

Another loud bang rang out, closer this time. Dust motes drifted down from the ceiling like confetti. 

Congratulations! Captain America found your hideout!

He giggled. The man standing over him snarled, but didn’t cuff him again.

“If you salute him and recite the Bill of Rights, he might let you go,” Tony said with his best shit-eating grin. “Though it might help if you call him Sir, too. Military types like him love that. Just to cover your bases, you know?”

This time the man did slap him, hard enough to snap his face to the side. 

“Shut up!”

“Really?” Tony replied, tone as light and jauntily needling as when he sparred with paparazzi. “I thought you went to all this trouble so I would talk.”

That earned him another slap, this time with more power behind it. His jaw was beginning to ache from repeated impact. 

There wasn’t any use trying to stay in tight control of his body, or even to stop his head from lolling from the force of the slap. Movement did the work of distracting and assuaging at the same time. So long as his captor’s eyes kept following the reassuring way his face and neck jerked when they hit him, they wouldn’t happen to fall on his minutely-working fingers where they slipped just slightly under the loosened panel on the cuffs. 

 He slowly slid his fingertips over the tiny screw. It wobbled under his touch like a tear just before it spilled over the eyelashes and down the cheek. His breath stilled in his chest. 

It fell with the next body-rattling slap, right into his lap. He shifted his legs quickly so that it fell between his legs and out of sight. 

With a forceful pull he ripped his wrist free of the cuffs. 

The metal pulled painfully on the tender skin rubbed raw in place by the metal. He swallowed down the scream that tried to rip free from his chest as the curved edge caught a bruised spot and channelled the pain into fury. The man’s eyes widened, but before he could dance out of the way Tony grabbed his shirt and yanked him forward. He stumbled and fell face first into the wall behind Tony’s chair. His yell cut off and he slumped to the floor. 

“Tisk, tisk,” he muttered to the unconscious body. “Such a poor show. Captain America would be so disappointed in you.”

The room was bare of any useful technology or digital content worth swiping on his way out, so he didn’t linger. 

As soon as he slipped out the door, he was greeted by a scene of chaos. Flashing lights and blaring alarms temporarily stunned him; they must have been holding him in a soundproofed room. Spinning red lights illuminated the moldy walls and the battered, stolen-from-a-landfill tech that lined the walls. People were shouting orders, but no one seemed to be actually calling for order. Like they all hoped that if they planted the idea in someone else’s head, they wouldn’t have to be the one to had answers.

Darkly clad, dangerous-looking men were trying to flee the scene and look inconspicuous at the same time. Given that most of them seemed to have been hired at least in part based on their size, this was very difficult to pull off. One guy kept drawing his gun, then stuffing it back into his coat, then pulling it out again, fear and uncertainty making his fingers tremble so hard the metal of the gun rattled against the bands on his fingers. 

Their attempted flight was complicated by the fact that the danger was coming down on them from above, like a great noble eagle striking down vermin. If they tried to vacate the premises, they risked running right into Steve’s giant metal frisbee of death. But if they fled before the shield, eventually they’d run out of dark, musty basements that weren’t marked on the official blueprints, and then they’d be cornered. 

Some of them tripped over their own feet hurtling down the stairs, while others fought their way in the other direction, like spawning salmon swimming upstream. Like salmon, many of them were picked off by the glorious swooping eagle that was Captain America. 

Tony’s heart soared when he spotted Steve’s bright, spangly uniform amid the dull blacks and browns. He was saved.

Well, he’d sort of already saved himself. It wasn’t like he was still stuck in cuffs. But the sentiment was there.

“Steve!” He called, hands cupped around his mouth like a middle school soccer coach yelling instructions to a kid who definitely couldn’t hear them. “Honey, I’m here!” He waved his hand in the air, jumping a little to get the extra height. 

Steve’s eyes swept the room, landing on Tony as a rectangle of red light or some sort of alarm siren on the ceiling passed over him as it continued circling around the room. 

“Tony!”

He snatched the returning shield out of the air, grabbed the rickety railing offering some meager protection to those standing on the equally rickety platform at the top of the stairs, and hurled himself up and over it. He sailed through the air gracefully, body still poised and tensed with anticipation. The annoying flashing light of an intruder alert alarm flared behind him, backlighting his body and glinting off the big white star over his heart. 

He landed gracefully, legs already bent to kick off the dusty concrete floor and arms outstretched towards Tony. Tony reached out for him-

And then suddenly he was cold, and his leg hurt. 

That wasn’t right. Pain was usually hot, fiery, the burn of hot metal on weak flesh. This was like falling into a cold autumn stream full of lurking boulders and feeling your breath leave your freezing lungs in shock as dying salmon drifted in surrounding water, turning everything blood red as other creatures came to feast. He was drowning, and it was dark. 

The last thing he saw was Steve’s horrified face. A drop of blood splatter hung like a teardrop on his face. 


Tony woke up to soft grunts and sounds of frustration. It sounded like someone was trying to push a heavy piece of antique furniture, but wasn’t having any luck overcoming the inherent inertia of thick, finely-crafted hardwood. Only with more soft, pillowy sounds than harsh scraping of wood-on-floor. And also on top of him? The last piece of furniture he’d seen had been the chair he’d been cuffed to, but how could he have gotten under that? It was solid all the way to the floor. There wasn’t an opening to get under it, and no space inside once under it. 

Come to think of it, though, there was something heavy on his chest. Not so heavy that he couldn’t breathe, but certainly heavy enough to make his lungs feel like they were expanding inside a vice. 

He tried to open his eyes, but the crust of sleep was too thick for his eyelid to break. 

Above him, someone muttered a curse, then shoved harder at the weight on his chest. It shifted by a few centimeters, then slid right back into place. 

“You wonder why they even keep us around if they’re not going to listen to us,” the frustrated voice said lowly. “Might as well just leave them to bandage over the bullet holes with bandaids and let mad scientists juice them up willy nilly. If I’ve told him once I’ve told him a thousand times…”

Hey, wasn’t that one of the doctors he’d started keeping on hand in the Tower? Doctor Tang? 

Was he in Medical?

Holy shit, Steve was going to freak. If he was lucky, he might be able to avoid the stoic I’m-totally-repressing-my-anguish anguished face, but at the very least he’d have to endure some mother henning. Probably have to spend an hour or more convincing him that everything was fine. 

Wait, was everything fine? He was in Medical, why was he in Medical-

It all came rushing back, like dark ink spreading through clear water. His spirits sank under the weight of a thousand chest-tightening emotions, most of them too snarly and heavy for him to mentally touch right now. 

His blunt fingernails scratched lightly against the sore skin under his eyes as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. It always felt sore after an unusually long and deep sleep, or after being sedated. He wasn’t really sure which was which, in this case. He didn’t remember getting injured, but he was in Medical. 

When he opened his eyes, he was greeted with Steve’s slack, drooling face, mere inches from his own. His cheek was deformed by a gloved finger, which was poking insistently at him. 

“Wake up, Captain Rogers,” Doctor Tang whispered sharply. “Mr. Stark is going to come to soon, and you’re pinning him to the bed.”

Tony shifted his legs experimentally. Sure enough, he could barely bend his knees. Steve’s weight was too great mechanical disadvantage for him to overcome. 

At this rate he’d have to start lifting weights again. 

The poking caused Steve to drift upwards from his deep sleep, but only a little ways. His arms, where they were locked lazily wrapped around Tony’s waist, tightened like a child hanging on to a beloved teddy bear. He found himself pressed a bit more firmly against Steve’s chest, close enough to feel his strong, steady heartbeat. Some of his drool dripped onto Tony’s exposed neck. 

“Steve,” he whispered. 

Steve’s body rippled like a lake surface disturbed by a large rock splashing into it. Seemingly every muscle in his body responded to Tony’s voice at once. Steve’s eyes flew open and flicked around wildly, searching for a threat. Tony yelped as his face was shoved abruptly into Steve’s chest, blocking his view of the rest of the room. 

“Captain Rogers. Welcome back.”

Doctor Tang did not sound impressed. 

The tension that sang through Steve’s muscles like cicada song decrescendoed from it’s fever pitch. Tony could actually feel him relaxing against him. It was a very nice feeling. 

“Tony?” Steve’s voice rumbled in his chest, through Tony’s face and directly into his brain. “You awake?”

“You betcha, big guy. Feeling a bit like i’m being laid on by one of those mastiffs the size of couches, though. Wanna let me up?”

Steve pulled away just enough to run his hungry eyes over Tony’s face. He looked like he very much did not want to let Tony up.

“How are you feeling?” he asked, totally skipping over Tony’s question. Thanks, honey. Really feeling the love here. 

“Well, my leg’s not really up to speed, so you might have to carry me to dinner if we’re going to make it in time. Is it too late to claim our reservation? I sort of lost track of time.”

Steve gave him his patented ‘are you kidding me?’ look. It was okay though. It felt nice to be in his boyfriend’s arms again after his little adventure. His hands were still trembling minutely from the cold, and Steve’s body was nice and warm. 

“Mr. Stark,” Doctor Tang interjected, “Do you remember how you were hurt?”

“I got shot, right?”

His leg throbbed suddenly, like a lazy pupil perking up when it heard its name. 

“Yes. The wound has been treated, and you shouldn’t experience any complications, but you won’t be using that leg for the next couple of months. You crutches are by the bed, and Captain Rogers has agreed to look after you as you recover.”

A couple of months? Absolutely not. He had to find a faster way. Iron Man couldn’t take a break for that long over a measly little flesh wound given to him by two-bit wanna-be kidnappers. Perhaps he could brush off the Extremis calculations again...

“I have also been instructed by Ms. Potts to tell you not to try and speed the process up with homebrewed medical miracles.”

Damn it. 

Well, mechanical lower-body braces modeled after the bottom half of the Iron Man suit weren’t medical miracles, right? Just good old mechanical engineering. 

“I’m so sorry Tony,” Steve murmured into his chest with the intensity of a small child clutching a favorite stuffed animal whose limb seam had ripped open. “I should have gotten there sooner.”

“Steve-”

Steve steamrolled right over him, words racing out of his mouth like a runaway train, powered by a powerful engine of guilt and completely missing the brakes of common sense. 

“I’m sorry. I couldn’t save you.”

Doctor Tang side-eyed Steve from behind. tony vehemently agreed. I couldn’t save you? Where was Steve getting this claptrap from?

“Steve, honey, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Steve lifted his face out of Tony’s throat long enough to shoot him an incredulous look. 

“Tony, you got shot.”

“And yet here I am, safe and sound.”

Doctor Tang made a so-so motion with her hand at that, but Steve didn’t see or care. 

“You got yourself free before I even tracked you down! If it hadn’t been for me, you wouldn’t have had to run into that firefight in the first place.”

“Steve, sweetheart, if you hadn’t been there I would have had to walk into enemy territory and just hope no one noticed me, and that’s only if I managed to get out to that room in the first place. You showing up drew so many people that I only had to get past the one guy. They’d still be interrogating me if it weren’t for you.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he had to fight down a shiver. Don’t think about that, he told himself. You’d have gotten out somehow. Eventually. There was never any danger, so there was no need to panic. 

For some reason, telling himself not to get upset had remarkably little affect on how upset he felt. New project idea- find a way to get his amygdala and hypothalamus in line, possibly through nanobot intervention. The fight-or-flight response had been of absolutely no use, and the bad memories of Afghanistan had been an enormous hinderance. If those wayward brain tissues had been employees, he’d have fired them for incompetence on the spot. 

“Besides, i wasn’t even really kidnapped!” He finished with a smile. 

Steve blinked. Doctor Tang looked at him like he’d just announced that the sun revolved around the Earth.

“How do you figure that?”

“Well, you see, they were just so bad at it, you know? Left me unsupervised while they were waiting for me to wake up, so I got the chance to take stock of my surroundings without them there. Plus, they can’t have had that great a security plan if you were able to punch right through it like you did. Believe me, I have real kidnapping experiences to compare this to, and boy have these guys got nothing on the Ten Rings.”

“Tony, are you implying that the people who kidnapped you didn’t really kidnap you because they weren’t as bad as the terrorists who tortured you for months?”

It sounded so weak when he put it like that.

“Well, it’s all in the past now, anyway.” He willed his smile to grow. “So it doesn’t really matter whether they kidnapped me or not.”

“Tony, that’s not even in question. They kidnapped you. Jarvis showed me the footage of them pulling your unconscious body into a black van. I just don’t know why you’re insisting that that’s not what happened.”

Because then he’d have been kidnapped again, and it would sort of be like Afghanistan had happened again, like Killian had happened again, like he was back there, like he was going to die, and he couldn’t go back. He walked out under his own power. He couldn’t be kidnapped again. 

His mind felt like a glass dew drop on the cusp of going into freefall and shattering into a million pieces on the hard earth. 

Steve looked mutinous, like a golden retriever forced to return to the leash before they were done playing fetch, but something in Tony’s face must have told him how much Tony very much didn’t want to have been kidnapped. The hard, time-to-march-into-Mordor line of his jaw softened into something less confrontational. 

“Okay, then you weren’t kidnapped. Does that mean I don’t need to stay here and cuddle you better?”

Tony squawked in indignation. 

“Of course you need to cuddle me! I got shot!”

Over Steve’s shoulder, Dr. Tang took a deep breath, made a what-can-you-do shrug at herself in the mirror, and slipped out the door. Oh well. They probably deserved that. 

Steve pressed a soft kiss to the underside of his chin and buried his face back into Tony’s neck. 

“So you admit that you got shot? Sorry, I’m not sure what the story is here. Help me out so I don’t make a fool of myself filling out the post-mission reports?”

Tony slapped his shoulder. Then he got a better idea, and reached down to slap his ass, but unfortunately Steve was tall and not above letting his lower body hang off the end of the bed so he could both avoid Tony’s injuries and position his face against Tony’s throat. Even when he stretched he couldn’t reach it. 

“Har-de-har-har, ‘mission reports’ my ass. Are you telling me you actually followed a mission procedure? You? You won’t even maintain stakeout if it means you can’t go join the brawl brewing in the back alley next door so you can beat up some bullies.”

“How about this, then; I won’t let you up until you tell me.”

Steve grinned playfully and settled his weight a little more firmly on top of Tony’s torso, pushing him deeper into the hospital mattress. It felt good, like a weighted blanket or a thick, heavy coat that the icy wind couldn’t penetrate. It felt safe.

He kissed the top of Steve’s head and let his spine shed some of the fear-tension that had kept it tight as a freshly-strung violin ever since he’d woken up cuffed to a chair in a dingy, unfamiliar basement. 

“Sure, honey, you do that.”