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Under Armor

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"Well there goes about 9.7 million dollars," Tony muses as the chest plate clatters to the ground beside them. The face-plate is skewed at a drunken angle over the top of his head and there's a faint whine coming from somewhere in the suit joined by the occasional spark. He's got one bare foot where the mechanized removal system had successfully freed him from the one part of the suit not too severely damaged to function.

"Only if Sir does not factor in his labor rates," JARVIS interjects.

Steve pauses, staring in consternation at the chunk of twisted metal he'd discarded so carelessly. "Ah, and if you factor those in?" he asks, wincing preemptively because actually he isn't sure he wants to know that answer.

Tony's face scrunches up the way it does whenever he sees Steve and The Future collide awkwardly as JARVIS says, "Twelve point three million, Captain."

"Oh come on," Tony says, tugging at his bent shoulder-plate. Fruitlessly, given that he's only got one semi-functioning arm to do it with. "I'd give myself a discount."

"If you say so, sir," JARVIS replies, sounding remarkably skeptical.

Tony makes a face but there's humor in it.

"So, maybe I should have asked this before, but, anything I should try and salvage? Or avoid?" Steve asks, feeling significantly more hesitant about prying Tony out of the suit than he had before.

Tony pastes a smile on his sweat-damp face and says in the brisk quiet tones he uses when he's vulnerable or being serious or in serious pain, "It's pretty much a total loss. It's all going into the zapper. Just try not to damage the soft chewy center. Also, please start here."

He grimaces as he pulls on the shoulder plate that's most dented inwards out of all the elements.

Steve sighs and nudges Tony's hands away from his shoulder and gently sneaks his fingers under the edges on either side and braces himself to pull. It's not easily done. The chest plate had just been a matter of shearing the catches, but the shoulder plate is almost a solid ring, the alloy fused and melted in places. Tony sucks in a bracing breath, slots his bare foot against the inside of Steve's boot, and holds onto his shoulder to keep himself steady against the pressure. Steve takes a deep breath and blows it out steadily as he drags his hands in opposite directions and the thing bends millimeter by slow millimeter.

"Just a little more, yeah, just… oh, yes," Tony groans as the thing splits open and then releases the pinched flesh underneath.

Steve pauses as Tony tilts his head back on a breathy, relieved-sounding moan as he sags against Steve's shoulder. His lashes flutter back open as he sighs and then licks his lips, but then his dark eyes latch onto Steve's face and his smirk comes back full force. He waggles his eyebrows and says, "Yeah, big boy, just tear it off me. Ooh. Mmm."

Steve does his best attempt at unimpressed, but he's fairly certain that JARVIS would report his cheeks are in fact pink, were he to ask the AI. But speaking of pink, there's a lot more of it visible than there should be. The bodysuit underneath where the bent plate has been removed is torn and bruised lacerations are visible underneath, smears of blood pale on his skin.

"Damnit, Tony," Steve murmurs as he tosses the plate aside and sets in on the next bit without delay, hoping he doesn't find worse hidden beneath the next stretch of twisted metal. "You didn't tell me you were hurt."

Tony makes a face and a waffly sound, semi-functioning arm flexing as he starts to say, "Relatively speaking-"

"Sorry if 'relatively unhurt' doesn't mean much from a man who's got shrapnel in his heart," Steve interjects on a grunt as the telescoping sleeve casings come away more easily than the joint plate. "You should have waited for me," he says as it squeals in protest but goes.

"Well I did try to avoid the massive crushing tentacle, honest, but it turns out children are significantly more squishable than I am so…" Tony shrugs, then winces as the motion pulls at his bleeding shoulder.

Steve sets his jaw and splits the whole gauntlet with a huffed breath and then drops it to the ground with a heavy clunk-whine as the repulsor misfires and then crackles into a much sharper whine that blasts in the direction of Steve's foot, which he snatches out of the way just in time. It leaves a significant gouge in the concrete.

"Huh," Tony says, eyebrows high, hand outstretched as if to repulsor-blast from his bare palm in reflexive protest. When Steve reaches for his other arm he pulls away sharply, looking a little wild-eyed and saying, "Uhhh no, I'm thinking dropping into the EMP pod now might be a better route to decommission this before I blow something or someone up I'd actually miss."

Steve stares at him, then grabs his waist and holds him steady with one hand as he digs the other under the broken catch on his hip plate. "You mean dropping yourself," he grunts and the plate comes away, Tony's hips jerking with the force of it. "Complete with mechanically-assisted heart function-" the shoulder plate comes next. "Into a coffin-sized tube-" The sleeve goes flying. "Designed to completely fry all tech."

The concrete chips under the gauntlet as he slams it into the ground with enough force to have it smashing apart before it can even begin to fire. He plants his hands on his hips and glares at Tony, chest heaving just a bit with the exertion.

"Yeah, I can't see why that could possibly be a problem," he says.

"Hear-hear," JARVIS chimes in.

Tony opens his mouth and then screws up his face and glares in the direction of one of JARVIS's cameras. "You bastard, I did not program you for second-tier sarcasm."

"Of course not, Sir."

Tony fish-mouths, then just grunts the way he always does when he's proud of something and fiddles with the clip holding the neck plating together. That part at least comes off the way it's supposed to, though the frame around his face isn't so cooperative as he tries and fails to pop the catch.

Steve pulls his hands away gently and first pries the askew mask off the rest of the way with a screech of metal, then slips his fingers on either side of Tony's mouth to grip the frame and pulls across the joint. It's one of the strongest parts, hard to synthesize alloy requiring him to really strain to get it to budge. At least Tony sort-of protects his head. When it comes loose in a pinging snap, Tony's knees give under him and he catches himself on Steve's bent arms, blinking rapidly.

"Tony?" Steve asks, worried at the dazed look.

"Whoa, okay, guess I had something…" he trails off, then straightens his legs again, still uneven with the lone boot. He shakes his head and buzzes his lips a little, blinking it back, then glances up at Steve and pats a hand on the star on his chest. "Better now. Though I appreciate the assist."

But instead of backing away, his eyes drift back down and his hand pats again almost absently as he stares at the lines of the shape, fingers nudging against the edges of the material he'd designed for Steve himself.

"You. Always there when I…"

"Tony?" Steve asks, frowning when he has to say his name again.

Then at least Tony looks back up at him, eyes widening as if surprised at how close their faces are. Steve lifts a hand to cradle his head and Tony's eyes flutter shut as he leans his cheek into his palm. He's momentarily distracted by the softness of Tony's features, the vulnerability shown with those dark lashes fanned over his cheekbones, sweaty strands of hair stuck to his forehead and marring his usually impeccable appearance. Then he realizes his hand feels wet. Not sweat damp but wet in a way he knows far too well.

"Oh god," he says, lifting his fingers away just an inch and spotting crimson. He immediately presses back down, turning Tony's head and finding the bleeding, trying to restore the pressure the helmet had clearly been supplying to keep the wound together before.

"S'matter?" Tony asks, fingers flexing disjointedly on his arm. His knees wobble and then go soft under him, leaving his whole bodyweight in Steve's grip, eyes blinking in an uneven fashion like he's struggling to keep them open.

"JARVIS, you seeing this?" Steve barks, cradling Tony closer to his chest and getting an arm around his trunk so that he can lift him and carry him along towards the nearest piece of horizontal furniture.

"Yes, Captain," JARVIS says immediately, then pauses.

His booted foot swings a little, banging sharply against Steve's shin, but that doesn't matter. Getting him laid down on the couch is what's important, even if it's awkward as all hell, groping at his unevenly-weighted body to shuffle him over without letting go of the slowly-seeping gouge in his skull.

"Tony? Come on, stay awake Tony."

"The wound does not appear to be serious," JARVIS announces, to Steve's profound relief. "A laceration that may require stitches but mostly a pressure bandage. The surrounding swelling seems to be putting some inconsistent pressure on the vagus nerve which is likely the cause of his faintness. Maintaining a horizontal body position should help prevent drops in blood pressure or a risk of falling while we perform first-aid. I'm sending Butterfingers with a kit and will monitor for signs a more aggressive treatment is required. I have every reason to believe there is no cause for alarm, Captain."

Steve closes his eyes a moment, calming the pounding of his heart in his chest before he takes a deep breath and gets back to first aid. He stretches to grab a clean oil rag that's migrated over to the coffee table - mostly clean, at least. He tears off the stained corner with his teeth, then folds it up so the clean side is ready when he shifts it to take the place of his other hand.

Tony winces at the transition, making a soft sound of protest and Steve makes soft shushing sounds on reflex, dragging his knuckles over Tony's temple and pushing sweat-damp hair back off his face a little. He moves to pull away, but Tony's hand latches onto his wrist, holding his hand against his face for a moment. Then he blinks his eyes open again slowly, looking a little clearer.

"Don't worry, Steve… looks worse than it is. Just a bump," Tony murmurs. The corner of his mouth twitches up and his eyes crinkle around the corners as he looks straight into Steve. "Kiss it better?" he says, voice sounding rough and like maybe it was meant to be teasing but didn't make it. Like this thing they've been dancing around for a while now is just too big to shift anymore.

Steve's breath catches, because there's almost nothing he wants more than that. And he can't actually think of a good reason to keep dancing. His thumb glides slowly over Tony's eyebrow, and then he lowers his face to brush his lips over the bruised edge of Tony's cheekbone. The cut on his chin. Tony's breath is shaky, his hand on Steve's wrist tight.

"Might take a while," he cautions as he gently kisses another bruise on Tony's jaw. "Might take a long time. Might take forever, rate you go acquiring injuries."

"I think I could live with that," Tony murmurs, eyes dark and focused on Steve's when he lifts them.

"You'd better," Steve says firmly, because there's still blood on his fingers, still worry in his chest. "You'd better stick around."

"That's the plan." Tony gazes at him for a long moment, eyes softening and thumb caressing the pulse in Steve's wrist. Then slowly he lifts his free hand to his own mouth, runs slightly shaky fingers over his lips. His eyebrows go up in a dare, eyes going bright and mischievous as he sticks his tongue out a little and says, "I hnk I bt ma tng hoo."

Steve closes his eyes, laughing helplessly. "Of course you did."

When he opens his eyes again, Tony still has his tongue out, eyebrows waggling at him in daring delight, slightly loopy from the blood-loss and trauma, but still very present. Steve puts on his best Captain America face and sighs, saying, "Well, it's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it." Then he calmly, solemnly, puckers his lips and kisses the very tip of Tony's outstretched tongue.

And then Tony's laughing, and Steve's laughing and then Tony's grabbing his chin and pulling their mouths together properly and they're kissing, really kissing and it's good. It's so good.

The sound of the elevator arriving and Butterfingers's tracks rolling across the floor has him pulling away, though Tony makes a sound of protest. He wants to keep going, of course he does, but he'd much rather wait until there is less of a chance of Tony passing out in his arms.

Still, looking down at Tony looking up at him, he'll let himself take one more kiss first, because if there's one thing he's learned in his life, it's never to take moments like these for granted. Tony's waiting for him, opens for him as he takes his mouth again and it just feels so right. Like slipping into custom-fit armor made by hands he trusts. Like coming home again after feeling so lost for so long. Like hope overcoming a longing that had seemed impossible to surmount. Like going into battle, the smell of blood and gunpowder in his nose and knowing someone has his back. It feels like Tony, and everything that means to him all at once.

"Yeah," Tony breathes when he finally pulls away. "You always make it better."