"So who was Nat trying to set you up with this time?" Tony asked with false casualness.
"Someone from Statistics, I think it was," Steve replied into the phone. "I honestly can't tell if she knows about us and is just messing with me or if she is being sincere."
“She's probably sincerely messing with you. And by extension, me, which is just so not on," Tony responded. "Mission go alright? Barton on this one or just you and spider lady?"
"Barton’s still out on his own mission. Not sure when he’ll be back. I think someone took his parking spot. Pretty sure that’s going to end with a few arrows through someone’s…what did you call that German car again?” Steve asked.
“Beemer,” Tony reminded him.
“Yeah, that. Anyway, mission was fine. Mostly, anyway...there was something I need to talk to you about though. But not over the phone. I'm almost to the apartment. Are we doing dinner tonight? I’m starving," Steve asked.
"Of course you are,” Tony chuckled. “Grab that giant Frisbee of yours. Dinner at the big, ugly building tonight,” Tony said.
"Tony, we've talked about insulting the shield. And the Tower has kind of grown on me," Steve responded evenly. “Meet you on the roof?”
"Pick you up in about an hour or so. I’ll call when I’m ten minutes out. Hey, speaking of your apartment,” Tony started, ignoring Steve’s comments. “And I know we're keeping up appearances and all that, which is totally fine, but I'm like 90% sure your neighbor is a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Just FYI," Tony informed him.
"What? No...she's a nurse, I think it was," Steve corrected.
"Uh-huh. Tell you what, ask her for coffee or something. If she says no, she's totally a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent," Tony suggested.
"That's ridiculous, Tony. Why would asking her for coffee have anything to do with whether she’s a spy or not?" Steve asked in confusion.
“Oh, babe. You really do still have that scrawny little guy living deep down in your psyche, don't you?" Tony replied in mock despair. "Trust me. If she turns down coffee with you, she's S.H.I.E.L.D."
"Whatever, Tony," Steve placated absently. "I'll see you in a bit, okay?"
"Yeah, yeah. Hey, wave at the street cam!" Tony instructed.
Steve dutifully waved at the camera situated above the stoplight. "Not sure if that's concerning or comforting, Tony."
"Just keeping tabs, soldier, stand down," Tony said dismissively.
"See you soon, Tony. Please don’t buzz the tower at Reagan again. They really hate that," Steve said in goodbye. Tony heard silence on the end of the line as Steve disconnected and continued to watch the street cam view of Steve on his motorcycle heading to his apartment.
After Steve parked and climbed off the bike, Tony went back to working on the latest armor upgrades. Tony worked for a few minutes before putting it aside as he set about entering his Thai food order for delivery for later that evening. Steve liked the spicy stuff, now that he had a stomach made of lead, apparently, and could eat just about anything short of battery acid. Which was why he was debating Pad Gai Sub or Drunken Noodles when the wall of Steve's apartment exploded.
Tony’s head snapped around to the camera feed, and he saw the tendrils of smoke seeping from the side of Steve’s apartment building.
Jesus fucking Christ, what the hell?
Tony pulled up the street cam feed and set about training the camera for a better angle on Steve's building. He couldn't see much, except the blown out wall, smoke rising from several large holes and debris raining down to the street below. His thumb was hitting the button on his phone to call Steve when Steve's window exploded outward and Tony watched in mute horror as Steve leaped through the window of the adjacent building. Shit, Steve. And God-dammit, out of camera sight. Fuck.
“JARVIS, track him!” Tony shouted, frantically trying to find another camera angle. “Find me a line of sight!” At least Steve was okay enough to be building hopping. Tony reluctantly put the phone down. Not like Steve didn’t have a good excuse for not taking Tony’s call at the moment.
A couple of seconds later, JARVIS supplied another camera feed, this one from the security camera of the office building where Steve had landed, and Tony watched Steve barrel through doors and a glass partition, and bounce off a wall, leaving a distinctive round impression, before jumping out that fucking window, too.
Once he was out of the building, the feed went black as JARVIS scanned nearby video options. “JARVIS!” Tony called.
“Attempting to find an alternative video source, Sir. All cameras in the area appear to have been taken over by an unknown source,” JARVIS informed him. And just who the hell is commandeering cameras? Well, other than Tony of course.
Tony gave it a few minutes, before he simply couldn’t stand it anymore. He hit redial on his phone, watching the connection go unacknowledged. Answer, Tony mentally ordered the phone. Pick up, pick up, pick up, he pleaded when Steve didn’t answer right away. "Come on, Rogers. Pick up the phone. You know I'm freaking out here," Tony mumbled, hitting redial after his first attempt went to voicemail. And then hit it again. And again. And again. Steve was probably going to have about forty missed calls from him, Tony thought, somewhat hysterically.
"Tony!" Steve's voice finally came through, strong and clear, and thank fucking God. "Fury's been hit. It's bad," Steve continued. Wait, what? Fury? What was Fury doing at Steve’s place? Had Fury been the target or somehow got between whoever fired the shot and Steve?
"I'm meeting Natasha at the hospital. There's...Tony, something's going on. Fury…He...he said not to trust anyone. I can’t go into more specifics now…I...I've got to...the ambulance is here. I've got to go with Nick,” Steve said, voice rough and Tony could hear the concern lacing his words. Whatever it was, it must be bad to have him this rattled.
"Steve, Steve, wait. Just...hang on a minute. Let me...did you get a look at who shot Fury?" Tony managed, trying to get his brain to catch up with anything that wasn't a litany of some version of 'Steve's okay.'
"Yeah...he was...he had a metal arm. Caught the shield with it and threw it back at me. Strong. Fast. I don't know, I couldn't...he had some kind of mask on...but definitely not your run-of-the-mill assassin. And I'm somewhat disturbed that I think in different levels of assassin now," Steve said, voice calming a bit as the adrenaline wore off.
"Okay...metal arm. Got it. Well, that should narrow it down, you’d think. See if Widow knows anything, and I'll dig up what I can. In the meantime...Steve…be careful. If they can get at Nick...well, just...remember what he said. Don't trust anyone. Anyone, Steve, I mean it," Tony warned.
"I know, Tony. I--okay, how is he? Yes, I'm coming--Tony, I've got to go, the ambulance is here. And you were right about Agent 13 down the hall, by the way. She was there on Nick’s orders, apparently. Don't gloat," Steve told him.
"Wouldn't dream of it. Call me when you get to the hospital, okay," Tony said, pausing for a moment. "Steve…"
"I know. I'm fine. Don't worry. Well, I know you will ignore that, but don't worry too much. I'll call you once we know more. And Tony...if they're targeting Nick, we could all be in danger, you know that, right?" Steve asked.
"I'm in highly secure Tower surrounded by bulletproof metal suits that attach themselves to me on command. I got this. Worry about Nick and our metal-armed friend right now, okay?" Tony requested, though he couldn't help the warm feeling that ran through him at Steve's concern. Having others worry about him was a bit of a new sensation. Having Steve worrying about him was...oddly comforting.
“Just be careful," Steve ordered. "I'll get to the Tower when I can. Might have Nat in tow. Tony, I--" Steve started.
"Yeah, me too,” Tony cut him off before he could say what they were definitely not saying yet. Nope. Definitely not. “You be careful, too, okay. Try not to jump out of any more windows, at least for a day or so," Tony replied.
“I’ll do my best,” Steve responded as he hung up.
Tony leaned back against the chair, scrubbing his face with his hand. There was obviously a lot Steve felt he couldn’t tell Tony over the phone, no matter how secure Tony kept assuring him the connection was. Probably not totally paranoid of him, considering the circumstances.
A metal-armed assassin. Well, let’s find out who our T-1000 is, shall we? Tony thought, swiping the armor designs to a close and bringing up his search platform.
Three cups of coffee, his new method of telling time, later and finally the dulcet tones of ‘Star Spangled Man’ echoed through the workshop.
“Anything?” Tony asked immediately.
“Nick…Tony…he didn’t make it,” Steve’s heavy voice, rough with emotion came through the phone. Tony almost dropped the headset. Fury…dead? That seemed impossible. For all that, like Tony, Fury was only human, he’d always seemed large than life. “Hill took his body. I don’t know…about… arrangements yet.”
“God, Steve…” Tony choked out. “I’m coming to get you. This is crazy.”
“I know. But, Tony…this…look, the second I walk out there, they are going to want me to head back to the Triskelion. Without Fury, I guess that puts Pierce in charge, at least for now. He’s going to demand a report,” Steve told him, but there was a trace of something under his tone that Tony was working to figure out. “I told you Nick said not to trust anyone. I think we should listen to him.”
Steve didn’t trust S.H.I.E.L.D. Steve. Who trusted most everyone, even Natasha who he actually knew for a fact was lying at least half the time, by Tony’s guesstimate.
“The list of people I trust is pretty short, Rogers. I’ll see if it needs to be shorter,” Tony replied gruffly, and heard Steve’s small sigh of relief. That meant Steve knew Tony understood and would be looking into what in God’s name was happening at their favorite super-secret spy organization. Yeah, surely not anything untoward going on over there…
“Just…get to the Tower as soon as you finish with Pierce. We’ll figure this out, but…just get here, okay?” Tony asked, hoping his voice didn’t sound as raw as he felt. Nick dead. S.H.I.E.L.D. compromised. And Steve walking into the belly of the beast with Hill and Clint off the grid, and Nat who knew where. Fantastic.
“Will do,” Steve promised.
Tony immediately turned back to his workstation and brought up the access portal he’d already created for S.H.I.E.L.D. Not everyone was as trusting as Steve, and wasn’t that a good thing these days? Tony realized he may or may not actually agree with that sentiment. He finds Steve’s faith in humanity somewhat humbling. Doesn’t mean he’s giving up the backdoor he created into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s network anytime soon. Let’s not go overboard on the whole good influence thing after all.
First things first, Tony thought, opening up a window for the video and audio feeds from Pierce’s floor, since he knew that was where Steve was heading. Then, Tony started digging through the files. Steve had mentioned something concerning about his recent mission. Tony decided to start there. The Lemurian Star…Batroc…
Twenty minutes later, Tony saw Steve walking down the hall to Pierce’s office. Steve’s resident S.H.I.E.L.D. agent was getting her kudos from Pierce. Tony smiled at Steve’s brusque “Neighbor” acknowledgement as he passed her by. A pissed off Captain America was truly a beautiful thing to behold.
Not even Tony could get the feed from Pierce’s office, at least without more effort than it would take since Steve would tell him whatever was said in a little bit anyway. Tony kept digging through the files. Follow the money. That was usually a productive route…
Steve was leaving Pierce’s office, looking rather grim. Tony watched him hit the button for the elevator and step in. A few floors later, he saw Rumlow and another Strike Team member join Steve. Rumlow asked Steve about some of the evidence, but Steve brushed him off, thank God. Last thing Tony wanted was Steve playing CSI when he should be getting his spangly ass to the Tower.
The elevator doors opened again, and a couple other guys stepped in. If Tony hadn’t known Steve so well, he may not have picked up on the subtle shift, the way Steve’s body tensed, the sharp look around him. The elevator doors opened once more and three more Strike Team members entered.
He heard Steve ask if anyone wanted to get off before they got started. Because of course, before people try to kill you, by all means, be polite to them instead of just kicking their collective asses. For fuck’s sake, Steve.
Tony found himself standing abruptly, sending the chair scooting across the floor and banging against an empty table. “Son of bitch!” he managed to shout before about of them grabbed Steve, one left to peel the shield away. A man Tony recognized as a Strike Team member, who just, fucking son of a bitch, had been on a mission with Steve, used some kind of electric cattle-prod on Steve, another grabbed Steve in a chokehold, and one of them used a briefcase handle that turned out to be some kind of magnetized handcuff try to pin Steve’s arm to the wall, and just no, no, no, no, no…it takes Tony a moment to realize he’s repeating that out loud, standing hunched over the video screen watching these assholes go to town on Steve.
Or, well, try to, at least.
Tony found himself with a death grip on the edge of the desk, watching the monitor as Steve fought back, a vicious right hook, sharp kick, elbow jab, all happening in a blur as the vice gripping Tony’s chest tightened and twisted. He watched Steve toss the large man who had him in a chokehold over his shoulder, but a well-placed kick cuffed Steve’s hand to the wall with a powerful magnet, effectively trapping him in place. “God dammit!” Tony screamed with impotent rage. “Steve! Fucking hell.” And then Rumlow, that fucking prick, used the electric prod on Steve again, and that was just fucking it.
“Sir, strike units have been mobilized to Captain Rogers’ location,” JARVIS informed him. Fucking S.H.I.E.L.D. had declared war on Captain America. Tony realized he was shaking, though he couldn’t say how much was from anger and how much was fear. He watched in mute horror as one of the men came at Steve with the prod again, but thankfully, Steve deflected it against another attacker and used the leverage of his pinned hand to drop a couple of them with powerful kicks.
He watched Steve pull his hand off the elevator wall, forcing the magnet to release, and flipping down to face Rumlow, the last man standing. Tony watched in mute horror as Rumlow hit Steve with the prod, and then again, and God, Steve. Tony could swear he could feel the shocks pulse through him each time Steve cringed in pain.
Not personal, my shiny red and gold ass, Tony thought. I’ll show you fucking personal. Steve apparently agreed with the sentiment if not the language, as he smashed Rumlow against the ceiling.
“JARVIS, and I say this only for fifteen year old me, who I should really build a time machine to go visit and tell him that boy, does it fucking get better, but just give me this one, okay?” Tony requested, looking at the pile of unconscious men littering the ground at Steve's feet as he kicked the shield back up onto his arm.
“Certainly, Sir, by all means,” JARVIS intoned drolly.
“My boyfriend can totally beat up…well…everyone’s boyfriend,” Tony announced gleefully, grinning madly. Because, yeah, okay, this was serious, but holy fuck, that was hot.
“Sir, S.H.I.E.L.D. has activated several additional strike teams and…I’m afraid they are scrambling a jet as well,” JARVIS informed him in response.
Okay, that…obviously wasn’t good. What the hell was happening here? It was like the world had been turned upside down. And why had he ever agreed to Steve living in D.C. anyway? Thirty minutes flight time…he could cut it to fifteen if he really pushed it.
“No, no, no, don’t open the doors, fuck!” Tony shouted helplessly at the screen as the elevator doors opened to reveal a heavily armed strike team. Steve whirled with impossible speed and cut the elevator cables with the shield, sending the car plummeting down. Tony was gripping the screen as if he could, by sheer force of will, slow the falling car. Finally, the emergency brakes kicked in. Steve opened the doors enough to see the second strike team waiting for him before quickly closing them again.
Tony watched as Steve paused for a moment. Tony’s mind was already running through possible escape scenarios and he was halfway to picking up his phone when, “Oh my God, no!” Holy fuck, he did not…The armor was locking itself into place around Tony before he finished forming the thought to call it. He watched mutely as Steve fell, breaking through the glass roof above the S.H.I.E.L.D. lobby, a layer of precious vibranium the only thing between Steve and the hard concrete. Tony found his hand pressed against the screen as if he could reach out and touch Steve as he struggled to get up and run out of the building. And, okay, really, that was just fucking enough.
“JARVIS, load the feed to the suit,” Tony ordered, walking to the launching pad. From inside the armor, the HUD display flickered on. A moment later, he saw Steve, on his motorcycle, just barely make it out of the garage before the security doors sealed shut. Steve was speeding down the annex road to the security gate when a S.H.I.E.L.D. Quinjet appeared, ordering him to stand down. And holy fucking shit, did he just launch himself at a jet? After Tony rescued his ass they were going to have a serious conversation about appropriate levels of risk. Tony stopped abruptly in mid-air, because, really, this deserved his full attention, he thought, as Steve and his giant Frisbee took down a freaking Quinjet.
Tony was never going to mock the shield again.
Well, at least not for a couple of weeks.
He watched Steve leap off the disabled jet and land nearby, taking one last look at the damage, before taking off in a run. A moment later, the HUD indicated an incoming call and Steve’s picture popped up.
“Sorry about the window thing,” Steve said dryly, barely out of breath.
“You…you…the fuck…you…holy shit, Steve…” Tony sputtered.
“Get back to the Tower, Tony,” Steve responded evenly. “I need you to figure out what’s going on here. I need information. I’m flying blind right now. That’s not working out so well.”
“You think???” Tony asked incredulously. Not working out well was the understatement of the year. “I’m coming to get you, so just fucking forget this heroic bullshit and prepare to be carried bridal style back to the Tower.”
Steve just laughed. “I’ve got to pick something up. As soon as I know more, I’ll be in touch. I’m tossing the phone now, Tony, so don’t even try it.”
“Steve…” Tony pleaded.
“I’m fine. Really. Go back to the Tower. Figure out what’s going on. I just…I need Tony Stark right now, not Iron Man,” Steve replied, and Tony could hear the weary frustration leeching into Steve’s voice now.
“I don’t like this,” Tony said sullenly.
“I know. Do it anyway. Please?” Steve asked softly.
“No more windows, okay?” Tony implored.
“I’ll try,” Steve answered.
“Do---“ Tony started.
“Don’t quote Star Wars,” Steve ordered, cutting Tony off. “I said I’ll try. Not a huge fan of it, come to think.” Tony huffed out a raw laugh.
“I’m eating your Thai, by the way,” Tony said.
“Finding out the organization you’ve been risking your life for is trying to kill you is one thing. Eating a man’s Thai food…that’s just mean, Tony,” Steve deadpanned, and Tony found himself grinning. “S.H.I.E.L.D. Metal-armed assassin. Project Insight. Go.”
“Sir, yes, sir!” Tony replied promptly. “Steve…they’re going to come after you again. I know you know that. Just…be careful.”
“I will, Tony,” Steve promised.
“I’ll be in touch as soon as I can. Tony, I…well, you know,” Steve said, suddenly sounding like he must be shuffling his feet in the dirt or something.
“Yeah, I ‘you know’ you, too. Whatever. And break the phone before you toss it. It’s a prototype,” Tony instructed. Was it possible to hear someone roll their eyes? It felt like it. Tony hung in the air a bit after the line went dead, still torn between heading for D.C. or back to the Tower like Steve had asked. He could probably find Steve easily enough, even with S.H.I.E.L.D. commandeering the cameras for the same purpose. But Steve was right…for now. This problem needed Tony Stark.
Didn’t mean he wasn’t going to repulsor Rumlow’s ass when he found him.