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Closing the Circuit

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"This is ridiculous," Tony said, and Steve knew him well enough to know that the mockery was taking the place of what for anyone else would probably have been sheer terror. "This is embarrassing. That's what it is. This is undignified. We did not fight Onslaught and come back to life from an alternate dimension to be killed by the goddamn Trapster. No. I refuse."

The abandoned warehouse was dim; the EMP had knocked out all the lighting overhead as well as every system in Tony's suit. The slow-burning fuse ten feet away that led to the pile of dynamite, however, was bright enough for both of them to see. Steve thought they had about five minutes left.

There was something to be said for the classics of villainy.

"It could be worse," Steve told him. "He could still be calling himself Paste-Pot Pete."

He could just barely see the golden glint of Tony's mask in the dark, even though Tony was right next to him. "Good point," Tony said. He didn't move; Steve didn't think he really could, with no power to the servos. Everything that had been turned on -- which was all of Tony's armor -- had been fried in the EMP burst. "Then our obituaries would have had to explain why they'd found us glued to the ceiling. At least we'll be spared that."

"Tony," Steve said, patiently. "We're not going to die."

He didn't need to be able to see Tony's face to imagine the dubious stare.

"I appreciate your optimism." Tony's voice -- his real voice, since the suit filters had been deactivated -- was weary. "But I have literally no working armor systems and I'm pretty sure you have a broken leg."

On cue, Steve's leg throbbed in agony; he wasn't sure how severe the fracture was, but even he wasn't going to be able to walk on that. Trapster had gotten really, really lucky.

"I heal," Steve said. "You know that."

"Yeah," Tony retorted, "but are you going to be able to walk out of here before that thing detonates?" Steve couldn't answer, and Tony snorted. "Exactly."

"We'll find a way." He had to believe that. He had to. "Look, at least he didn't tie us up. I can still crawl."

"You crawl on out of here, then." Tony's voice was bleak. "But I can't walk. I can maybe get upright, because my arms still work, but most of the other joints are locked, and that includes the emergency armor release. And you can't carry me. Not with a broken leg. You'll have to leave me."

Like hell. "I'm not leaving you."

"It makes sense," Tony continued. "We don't both have to go out like this. There's no point in you dying too. Be reasonable."

Steve gritted his teeth. "I'm not leaving you, Tony."

Tony was silent for several seconds.

"I just want to let you know--" Tony began.


"--that it's been an honor to know you--" Tony continued.

"Tony, we are not doing this, okay?" Steve raised his voice. "We are not having this conversation. We're going to get out of here--"

"--and that I love you."

He couldn't have heard that one right. "You what?"

Suddenly the slowly-burning fuse seemed far less important. Tony loved him. He'd thought -- he'd spent ten years thinking -- that Tony couldn't possibly feel the same way. But apparently Tony had. Tony did.

"Uh. I didn't quite mean to say that out loud. You know," Tony said, after a pause. "Wow, this was easier in my head. Whatever you want it to mean. You're my friend. I love you. You know."

He could tell that Tony was trying to walk it all back but he wasn't sure how to make him stop. "As a friend?"

If he could have gotten Tony's armor open, he would have crawled into Tony's arms and kissed him, explosives be damned.

"You're gonna make me say it again?" Tony sighed. "God, this is awkward."

"You were the one who said it in the first place," Steve pointed out. He took a deep breath. "Also, if I hadn't had feelings for you for a decade, that would have been really awkward."

Tony paused. "Wait, what do you mean, feelings?"

"What do you think I mean?"

"Well," Tony said, "right now I'm thinking dying confessions of love are way, way better in fiction than in reality." And then he paused. "Also. Uh. We're not going to die. Surprise."

They could worry about the rest of it later. They were getting out of here. "You have power?"

"Sort of," Tony said. "I have one thing left. Apparently. It wasn't affected by the pulse because it was off. Haven't used it in years. I'm not sure this is going to work. Help me up, would you?"

Steve scooted over. There was nothing wrong with his arms, and he could easily help push Tony upright in the armor, even if he couldn't stand up himself. So he got a good grip on Tony, and he lifted, and Tony rose to his feet in an ungainly motion.

Tony was standing now, but he couldn't move.

"So," Steve said, hopefully. "About those feelings."

"You just wait until we get out of here," Tony said, changing the subject with a little less deftness than usual. "Also, I don't think you're going to enjoy this part. Here. Uh. I need to carry you."

"What do you mean, I won't enjoy it? I already like where this is going," Steve said, as he struggled upright, trying not to put weight on his leg. And then Tony scooped him up and off his feet. Steve put his arms around Tony's neck. It was all very Gone With the Wind. "But I thought you couldn't walk either."

"Oh, I can't."

And that, of course, was when Tony hit the jet-powered roller skates.

They rolled to a halt, a safe distance away, and Tony carefully let Steve down. Steve still couldn't stand on his own, but he was upright again. Halfway through their mad dash, zipping down the concrete aisles to safety, the lights had flickered on on Tony's armor, and Steve guessed Tony had power now.

"I do actually like the roller skates," Steve pointed out. It was the first thing either of them had said in minutes.

Tony put his faceplate up and they both watched the warehouse explode, in silence.

And then Tony glanced over at him, eyes wide. He chewed on his lip.

"You know," he said. "If you want to forget about everything I said earlier-- I mean, we were both under a lot of stress-- so if you want--"

"Are you kidding?" Steve asked. "You know what I want? I want to know if I can kiss you."

Tony blinked at him in surprise. He was starting to smile. "I, uh. Yes. Yes, if you really don't mind-- mmf--"

He didn't even give Tony the chance to finish his sentence. And then he was kissing Tony, and Tony was kissing him back, and Tony had lifted him in his arms again, and they skated away together.