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You'll Feel a Pinch...

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Tony landed beside the rest of the team. He rolled his shoulder, trying not to groan as he felt it ache. He’d pulled something. Again. “God-damn it.” He muttered. It was an after-effect of having a giant hole cut in his chest. All of his muscles were out of balance and full of scar tissue. Some days, he felt like he pulled something every time he moved. Most of the time, it was okay. He’d gotten used to constant ache in his chest, learned to tune it out until it was only a faint buzz in the background. Most of the time. Some of the time, like today, he just wanted be able to fight without being in pain. Just once.


He jerked his head up to look at Steve. “What?”

“I said, are you injured?”

He shook his head. “Nah. I’m good.” He knew better to annoy the team by complaining every time something hurt.

Steve gave him a hard look. “Are you sure? Your shoulder seemed to be bothering you when you landed.”

Tony gave a shrug, glad the armor covered this wince when the movement pulled at his shoulder. “Just a pulled muscle. It’ll be fine.”

Again?” Clint asked incredulously. “Geeze Stark, you’ve gotta take better care of yourself. What’re you gonna be like when you’re older?”

Tony’s stomach lurched. “Fuck you.” He snarled, stalking away. He threw a punch at a piece of rubble as he walked past it. “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.” He chanted to himself, trying to use his rage to keep him focused, keep the creeping dread away. ‘When you’re older’….He shoved the thought away. No point in throwing himself a pity party. Time to pull himself together and deal with this. “Jarvis, set something up with Amber please. Preferably for today.”


Amber was Tony’s physiotherapist. She was very good and very evil.

“It’s a good thing you’re so nice.” Tony told her as he lay down on the padded table. “It would be too easy to hate you otherwise.”

Amber just shook her head as she prodded at Tony’s shoulder. “This is a good one. You’re not going to think I’m so nice in a minute.”

“Oh. Great.” Tony muttered letting his head flop back against the table. “I’m so excited.”

Amber laughed. “Hey, whatever floats your boat.” She stepped around behind him and put both hands back on his shoulder. “Ready?”

Tony took a deep breath and nodded. Fuck! His shoulder screamed as Amber dug her fingers into the muscle. He forced himself to keep breathing. In….out….In….out…. “Ah!” He cried out as she hit an especially sore spot. He brought his other hand up to his mouth and bit down hard on his knuckles.

“Okay.” Amber said calmly. “That’s the spot. Ready for stage 2?”

Tony nodded and looked away. Stage 2 involved needles. He hated needles. He hated everything about this. Hated that he had to do it, hated how much it hurt, hated that he was here on his own…

“You’ll feel a pinch.”

It was more than a pinch.


Tony rolled his shoulder and groaned as he waited for the coffee to brew. Amber worked miracles, but it left him feeling like he’d been hit by a truck the next day.

“Shoulder still bothering you?”

Tony jumped and whirled around to face Steve. “Jesus Christ! You’re going to give me a heart attack!”

Steve winced and backed up a step. “Sorry. But if it’s still giving you pain, maybe you should get it checked out.”

Tony shook his head. “It’s fine.”

Steve sighed and pinched at the bridge of his nose. “Tony…”

“It always hurts.” Tony gritted out between his teeth.

“What?” Steve dropped his hand and stared at Tony.

“I’ve got a fucking hole in my chest.” Tony waved at the arc reactor. “I’ve got more scar tissue than muscle, and the muscles all fucked up trying to deal with the giant metal thing that isn’t supposed to be there.” All his frustration from the week bubbled to the surface. “I spend a quarter of my life at physiotherapy just keeping myself functioning! I train just to be able to do the fucking training without totally fucking myself up. And the “spa” is a physiotherapist who sticks giant fucking needles into me! So maybe don’t lecture me on taking care of myself when you can’t even get a fucking cold!”

Steve had taken two steps back and was looking at him with concern. “Tony-”

“It’s fine.” Tony felt tears prickling at his eyes and scrubbed them away. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have blown up at you like that. It’s just been a long week.”

“No.” Steve reached out and gently grabbed Tony’s hand. “You don’t have to apologize. I had no idea you had to deal with that.”

Tony shook his head. “It’s just…” His voice broke as the tears returned. “It’s just been a long week.” He sniffed. “It’s not a big deal.”

“Tony,” Steve said gently, “I might not be able to get a cold now, but time was I couldn’t stop getting them. I know what it’s like to be in pain; to feel like you’re body’s betraying you. And I know how hard it is to do that alone.”

Tony looked away. “It’s fine.”

“It’s not.” Steve said firmly. “All those times I’ve given you a hard time for missing training, every time Clint gives you a hard time for getting injured…”

“It’s fine!” Tony repeated. “You didn’t know.”

“I do now.” Steve said firmly. “I’m going to do better.”

“I don’t need your pity.” Tony snarled.

“Oh believe me,” Steve said in a low voice, “this isn’t pity.”

Tony watched him walk away and trying to ignore the way Steve’s voice had set heat curling up his spine. He hadn’t meant it like that. No one wanted a cripple.