Steve was sick. Steve was sick, Steve was sick, Steve was sick.
“Yo: Iron Man. Come on, we gotta get him back to the Mansion.”
Wildly Tony spun around at the sound of Fury's voice, not even glancing down to observe the half-city block the Hulk was busy taking out. Steve as sick, and in his arms, and... and...
Fury appeared level with him in his helicopter, giving Tony the evil eye. Well, granted: he always looked like he was giving the evil eye. But Tony was pretty sure it was more evil than usual. “Let me make this easy on you, Stark. Hand him here, then you can go back to beating guys up.”
Oddly enough, Fury's words sparked something inside Tony. Beat someone up. Right. Like the men who had unleashed that... virus? Super-serum virus? Whatever it was, that had made Steve sick. Tony could go, beat them up, and get the antidote out of them.
Just as he fired up his thrusters to head back into battle, a clammy hand reached out and grabbed at his suit. Tony knew it was clammy because he had an entire window in his HUD opened to Steve's vitals at the moment, monitoring them like a crazed school nurse. “Tony...” Steve's nose was so stuffed up, the single word ended up coming out sounding more like “Dony” than “Tony”, but Tony knew what he meant.
Careful of his strength in the suit, Tony ran a hand through Steve's already sweat-damp hair. “Yeah, big guy. I'm here. I'm just going to go and crush some skulls in until I know how to make you better.”
“I know.” Briefly Tony toyed with the idea of lifting his visor and pressing a kiss to Steve's forehead, but then he saw Fury eyeing them curiously and heard and bomb go off behind him. Right. Antidote/antivirus/whatever first, reassuring Steve later. With that thought in mind, Tony adjusted his thrusters and headed back into battle. Having to ignore one last, pathetic “Tony” slip from Steve's lips was a lot harder than he could have ever imagined it would be.
“Sorry, big guy.” Carefully Tony adjusted his grip on Steve as he carried him over to Tony's bed. Thor had offered to carry him, since Steve's weight would mean next to nothing for a god, but Tony had insisted. He had already failed to wring an antidote out of the supervillains' necks: the least he could do was carry Steve and put him to bed.
As he gingerly set Steve down on the bed and started pulling the covers up around him, Tony realized there had to be more that he could do. Poor Steve just looked so sick and pathetic – pale skin, flushed cheeks, fever-glazed eyes, damp hair – that it ignited some sort of deep-set caretaker instinct within Tony that he had never even realized he had. Now that they were alone, Tony could indulge in the urge he had pushed aside earlier. Bending down, he pressed back Steve's sweat-soaked hair with one hand and pressed a kiss to his forehead. His skin was clammy, which just sent another shiver of fear through Tony. Those villains better have been telling the truth: Steve had to get better on his own from this, and soon. Otherwise Tony was going to rip the world apart avenging his death.
Tony pressed another lingering kiss to Steve's forehead before he pulled back. “Yeah?”
Steve rolled listlessly in the bed, looking like he wanted the mattress to swallow him up and not spit him out until he felt better. “Could you...” Steve swallowed thickly, chapped lips obviously uncomfortable. Tony waited, stroking his hair. “Cold,” Steve finally managed to get out.
“Cold.” For a moment Tony just looked into Steve's eyes, thinking maybe he saw a glimmer of interest, of affection there. Then his brain kicked in, and he registered what Steve was saying. “Cold!” Reeling backwards, Tony smacked himself on the head. “Cold! Right. I'll just...” And with that, Tony took off into his labs. A heated blanket wouldn't be enough, of course. Because any time the fever broke, Steve would be hot. So he needed to build a heated and cooled blanket, that would run an analysis of Steve's vitals at all times so it would know when to be warm and when to be cool. Yeah. That wouldn't take very long.
As he worked, Tony mentally berated himself for earlier. A kiss on the forehead was fine. Relatively normal. Hell, Thor went around pressing great, smacking kisses to everyone's mouth every time he discovered a new type of deli meat (“This salami with the peppercorns is the most delicious! All must try this! Tony! Allow me to thank you for introducing me to it!”). Granted, Tony wasn't Thor, but he also wasn't known to be stingy with his affections. It shouldn't come as too off-model for him to have kissed Steve in a moment of panic. A few moments of panic. And it was just the forehead. Just the forehead.
An hour later Tony was scrambling upstairs with his somewhat gerry-rigged blanket. He placed it over Steve, explaining how it would keep him hot and cold whenever he needed it. Almost immediately Steve's shivers stopped, and he relaxed beneath its warmth.
Tony let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. After one last pass of his hands over the blanket, he brought himself back under control. It wouldn't do to sit beside Steve's bedside and pet him all day, after all. He was just going to extricate himself from the situation and go... do something...
Fuck, two congested syllables from Steve and Tony was falling over himself, clutching at Steve's arm and ready to do anything to make him feel better. “Yeah, yeah. I'm here. What do you need?”
Steve stayed silent for a second too long, eyes looking like they were pleading with Tony for something. Abruptly Tony came to a realization: “Your throat! It must be sore.” Straightening, Tony removed himself from Steve's side and started to back up to the door. “Right! I'm gonna go and get you some soup. Some really amazing soup. I'll get Jarvis to make it, make sure he puts all healing-whatevers in it. And an icy. Does that sound good? I'll get you an ice-pop. Ice pop, and-” Abruptly Tony cut off, thinking what Steve would looking like sucking on an ice pop. “Ice cream! I'll get you ice cream-” which granted, wasn't much better for Tony's mental health, but it was certainly a little easier to deal with than the thought of Steve sucking on an ice pop “-and soup, and you'll feel better. Be back before you miss me.”
And with that, Tony fled the room and started shouting for Jarvis.
When Tony brought Steve soup and ice cream, he sat down by his bedside and waited, shifting uncomfortably. Tony really wasn't quite sure what to do with someone who was sick. It wasn't like his father had ever played nursemaid to him as a child, and he tended to piss off the nannies enough that they never cared enough beyond seeing him alive through whatever latest illness he had managed to catch. Hell, once Tony had invented his own private cure to the common cold, he never really got sick anymore as it was (it had to be private, because it was coded specifically for his DNA. He supposed, given the right incentive, he might be able to expand it for general use...).
Tony's nose was buried in scraps of paper as he fiddled with the common cold cure when a small cough drew his attention away from smears of graphite and over to Steve. He was sitting up among a mound of pillows, empty bowls of soup and ice cream stacked neatly within each other on his belly.
“Hey, okay.” Tony collected up the bowls and set them on the nightstand. “Alright, so, uh... need anything else?”
For a moment Steve was silent, eyes trained on something non-specific. With a start Tony realized Steve was watching his hand gently stroke down Steve's arm. He drew it away quickly.
Steve started to lick chapped lips in an attempt to answer when he realized what he had forgotten. “Fluids! Right. You need fluids! Hang on, lemme get you some orange juice. And water. I'll be...” And Tony was hurrying out of the room before Steve could even speak.
When he returned with several gallons of water and orange juice in temperature-regulating thermoses, Tony decided his attention might be better served elsewhere. After all, didn't sick people need rest? And Steve wasn't going to get any with Tony hovering over him, faking playing nursemaid. So Tony mumbled some sort of excuse and beat a hasty retreat to his labs.
Not twenty minutes later, his phone buzzed. Tony answered it without looking, music cranked up as he fiddled with some protein-folding simulations on his computer. “Tony?”
Immediately Tony slapped off his music and stumbled to his feet, phone clutched to his ear. “Steve! Steve, what is it? Are you okay?”
Tony managed to get to his room before Steve had even managed to put sore-throated voice to his request. He ended the call as he stepped into the room, taking in the sight of a still flushed and uncomfortable-looking Steve languishing away in his bed. “Hey, hey. I'm here. What do you need?”
Finally Steve managed to croak out: “Bathroom?”
Tony grinned. Okay. He could help Steve out with that much at least.
By the time Tony was leading Steve back to the bed – bladder lighter and hands scrubbed – plans were already flitting through Tony's mind for some sort of easy-access chair-cum-monorail that he could build, to help Steve get to the bathroom unassisted. After all, Tony was sure Steve would much rather rely on a robot than have to suffer the indignity of Tony helping him to the bathroom every time he needed to go.
Tony was about to make his exit, to work on the new project for Steve, when a clammy hand darted out and wrapped around his wrist. Tony stopped, peering down at Steve with a question on the tip of his tongue.
Before he could get it out, Steve's other hand reached up, pressing cool fingers to his lips. Tony blinked, but waited as Steve struggled to put voice to whatever he was trying to say.
“Tony,” he managed to say through congestion and sore throat. “Stay? In...” Tony couldn't really tell beneath the fever-flush, but he was pretty sure there was a little more color in Steve's cheeks as he struggled to speak. “In the bed. Stay. With me?”
Without really thinking about it, Tony was falling into bed with Steve, tugging and pulling and repositioning until Steve's too-warm body was curled up against his side, his head on Tony's chest. For the first time since the whole debacle started, Tony watched as Steve closed his eyes and a smile spread across his face. “Good,” Steve mumbled.
At a loss for what to do, Tony tried to let his instincts take over. Apparently his instincts were intent on stroking Steve's hair today, because that's what he started doing. Tony didn't have to wonder long if that was the right thing to do, because a few moments in Steve was sighing in contentment and nuzzled his face against Tony's chest.
Okay. Okay. Tony allowed himself a small, satisfied grin. If that's all there was to this whole “taking care of” thing, he could manage this once. He stared down at the way Steve's entire body was just melting against his. Especially if it got him a cuddly Steve Rogers molded to his side.