“Suit,” Tony said, striding towards the main door of his mansion. It came out more garbled than he’d intended. Still, the parts of his suit came flying; his exoskeleton stabilized him somewhat.
He hit the button and opened the door. Then he raised his fists and lay into Steve Rogers, who was standing on his doorstep with a slightly tired look in his eyes.
Or, better put, he tried to lay into him. His reflexes were never quite on par with those of Captain America, even at the best of times, and especially not today. And even his armor wasn’t properly repaired after... well, after Siberia. He didn’t even have the helmet. He never quite got to that.
In two seconds flat, he was lying on his back, Rogers’ knee of his chest, pressing him down, not that Tony would have been quite capable of shaking him off anyway. Images flickered in front of Tony’s eyes, of another fight, not so long ago. Anger came back, like a bile in the back of his throat. Or maybe it was bile, he figured. Or just a lousy metaphor.
“What the fuck are you doing here, Rogers?” he said though his teeth, looking up, into the eyes of this man whom he wanted to strangle with his bare hands. Or tried to say. It came more like a slur. He registered anger and hurt – and surprise? – in Rogers’ eyes. Well, what the hell did he expect, just coming here like this, especially after that awful letter?
“What the actual...?” Rogers began, then checked himself. No. “What the...?” He closed his mouth before he could finish.
“Miss Manners always, eh,” Tony spat. He wasn’t even struggling to get up. All the strength born from adrenaline and anger had left him, and now he just lay there. He closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them up again, stared at the gray skies beyond Rogers’ head. The man was in his civvies, of course. A faded T-shirt. Probably loaned off someone. The man never gave a thought to his clothes, he just wore what was there.
Last time Tony had seen him, he was in his costume, staring down at him with more desperation and less disgust than now, deciding not to slam his shield into Tony’s face, after all. And what am I supposed to be now, grateful?, Tony thought to himself acerbically. He was coming to his senses, the haze in his head slowly clearing. He could remember coming down to open the door, he could remember the surge of anger when he saw Rogers on the monitor and ordered his armor on the run. But anything before that – blackness. Blackness for god knows how long.
He was sick to his stomach. He sighed.
“Why are you here, Rogers?” he asked again. He meant to put a poisonous edge to his voice, but again, it was just vague and the words were slurred.
“Because,” Steve said, his expressionless eyes staring at Tony’s face, his nose wrinkling with disgust, “you called me over.”
It had been 9 p.m. in Wakanda when the phone suddenly rang. Which meant about 11 a.m. in the U. S. Steve jumped away from the table and ran to pick up, breathless fear mixing with anger to make an emotional cocktail Steve Rogers would rather have avoided. Of course the man would call now of all times... Why would ‘now’ be worse than any other time Steve had no idea, but somehow it was. A part of him had waited for this call, gritting his teeth and dreading. A part of him couldn’t stand the feeling in the pit of his stomach, the one that intensified with every minute or hour or day that passed as the phone stayed dark and dead.
He stopped for a moment to gather his thoughts, steady his hand. The darn thing just kept ringing and ringing. Stupid technology; the thing was too small for any adult’s hand, let alone his. He barely managed to hit the answer button with his thumb.
"Steve, are you there?“
The words were barely recognizable. Stupid reception
He realized he wasn’t saying anything. His voice couldn’t get past a barrier in his throat for some reason.
"Steve? Oh, to hell with all this...“
Tony waited – apparently. At least he didn’t hang up. Was it bad reception, though? Or something else?
"Tony, are you ok?“ the Captain asked, somewhat tentatively, when the silence had grown too heavy to bear.
"No.“ Just like that, simple and bitter and honest.
Fear was like a knife slash somewhere in the vicinity of Steve’s chest.
"Are you hurt?“, he asked hurriedly, urgently, switching into his business hero mode. "Where are you?“
Tony’s laugh was short and bitter – and, Steve was suddenly sure – whiskey induced. It sounded like a short bark, a ‘huh!’. "Nothing so dramatic. I’m at home. As for your other question... well, what do you think?“
“You’re drunk”, Steve cut him off, not too warmly.
“From now on...“, Tony was going on, pronouncing words indistinctly, although his mood was obvious enough, ”...we shall call you... Captain Obvious.”
Anger surged in Steve, right back to the surface, drowning both fear and the concern that had reigned previously. He regretted ever sending the blasted phone. He should have known Stark would use it for something like this. Two months of complete and utter silence, and now he’s calling him to taunt him.
“Did you need something or did you just decide to be a jerk?” he asked very coldly.
Stark mumbled something indistinct.
“I said I didn’t call you to fight.” More subdued this time, with a drunken teary edge. Something in Steve Rogers gave way a little bit.
A bit more softly: “So. Why did you call?”
That unintelligible murmur again, as if Tony didn’t exactly want his words to be understood.
“I didn’t catch that”, said Steve, catching his breath for a moment, then deliberately letting it go.
“I said: Because I miss you”, shouted Tony angrily, this time in a way more discernable manner (it’s as if I can hear him only when he’s mad, Steve thought). “Steve, you complete and utter asshole.” A pause. “I’m... I’m sorry I called.”
“It’s okay”, Steve whispered.
“I shouldn’t have.”
They were both silent for a while. The connection was horrible, choppy and noisy. Or...
“Tony...are you... is that...?”
“No.” Clear and distinct, too much so.
“You’re crying, aren’t you?”
“I’m drunk, leave me alone. Drunk people are supposed to cry!”
And I wonder what I’m supposed to do about these contractions in my chest, Steve thought. No one ever thought me how to deal with something like this. He realized he was crouching, clutching the phone to his ear, leaning desperately into it, as if that would help him hear any better, understand better. Becoming aware of his legs, he sat heavily on the floor. For a moment he thought someone was standing at the door – a shadow that disappeared quickly as soon as he started to turn his head. So, Natasha then.
“Tony?” he said softly after the sniffling had died down a bit on the other side. “Tony, what can I do?”
A pause, a clear line for once. He could hear nothing but his own breathing. For a horrible moment he thought the phone had picked that very moment to go dead. Then, somewhat muffled, a whisper: “Could you maybe come over?”
The Captain was already on his feet, striding through the base. Dressed in his tracksuit, as per usual, he grabbed a pair of jeans off a back of a chair, on his way to his room.
“Hey, that’s mine!” Wanda cried after him, shocked. He was aware of running steps behind him, turned to see Natasha with a mildly amused expression around her eyes.
He looked at the pants he had thrown over his shoulder in a hurry.
“This”, he said, stopping and looking at them in wonder, “is not mine. It’s too small.”
“Because it’s Wanda’s”, Natasha said, deadpan. “Need any help getting dressed? As in, someone to find you clothes that actually fit?” He left her in the corridor and slammed the door in a hurry. “A tip”, her amused voice came through the door. “Take one of the two items of clothing you actually own. Put them on. Pants go on your legs, FYI.”
“He’s drinking again”, he told her hurriedly as he emerged from his room, dressed in a pair of jeans but naked from the waste up, and strode off as fast as his legs would carry him.
Natasha was running after him. “What are you going to do? Steve? Steve, a shirt, please!”
He snatched something off an arm of a sofa: a grayish T-shirt with something on it (he never stopped to look). “Hey, that’s mi... oh, go ahead, never mind.” Sam said, and half stood up from the sofa where he’d been reading the paper. “What’s going on?” He directed the question at Natasha, since Steve was already vanishing through the door, pulling his Ramones T-shirt on.
“Apparently he heard from Tony.”
They both dashed after him. In a great hurry, he was almost loping through the corridors.
“Where are you going? Steve?”
“Apparently”, he said, suddenly stopping dead in his tracks, “I’m coming over. Going over. Whatever.”
“What, all the way to the U. S.?” The Captain just turned on his heels and continued on his merry way. “Wait, Steve, you’re in no state to fly, I’ll take you...”
And so Sam had flown him to the U. S. Thanks to Rhodey, the Accords were being revised at the moment and the Avengers’ fugitive status had been revoked for the time being.
And then, many hours later, he had arrived at Tony’s mansion. Second thoughts had had plenty of time to take root, grow, bloom and wither. Third thoughts had passed, and forth thoughts were now in full swing, as he rang what he called a doorbell because he had no better word for it.
And what greeted him was a snarling apparition of a somewhat emaciated but very angry Tony Stark, hair filthy and plastered to his head, with black circles around his eyes and traces of keyboard engraved on his cheek.
He stank. Horribly. His suit is in a half-finished, limbo-like state. And then he was lying there on the ground, glaring at Steve disdainfully, asking him why he had come.
Steve was asking himself the same question. A cold fury has started somewhere in the vicinity of his toes, than surged up to his groin, and then upwards, until it enveloped his brain, his face, his eyes. For a moment there he thought he was going to smash that snarky face once and for all. But now he just knelt there, on Stark’s chest, looking at him in disgust. I’m an idiot, he told himself slowly. People tried to tell me, but would I listen? No.
Tony’s breath could have killed an army of small animals.
“Could you... not breathe at me?”, he said, wrinkling his nose, then gave up. He stood.
“Up.” His tone could have been used for cutting marble. “Stark. Up. Inside. And take that ridiculous thing off.”