Steve sighed as he leaned his head against the glass door to Tony's workshop.
"Tony, please, let me in." He was not too proud to say that he begged. Tony had been in the workshop for two days straight, which wasn't exactly long for the genius billionaire. What worried Steve this time more than others, was the fact that JARVIS had told him about Tony's rising temperature. Steve was aware of Tony's screwed up immune system, and he was a little more concerned about the man's self-worth (or lack thereof) than usual.
"Go 'way," he heard Tony mutter through the speakers somewhere by the door. Steve sighed.
"JARVIS, please let me in?" Steve tried again. He'd already tried his override codes, but none had worked.
"I'm afraid I can't do that, Captain," JARVIS said, sounding remorseful. "I am programmed to protect sir and give him what he needs most. It appears he needs to be alone."
"But doesn't he need my help?" Steve said, perking up as an idea formed in his head.
"Excuse me?" JARVIS said, sounding as confused as an AI could be.
"Tony's sick, right? So... shouldn't I help him out? Give him some soup, make sure he's comfortable, give him painkillers if he needs them? You can't possibly expect him to fight through the flu alone in his workshop, right?"
JARVIS stilled for a moment. Then, the light beside the door blinked green. Steve smirked, giving a quick thanks to JARVIS before pushing open the door and stepping in. The workshop was a mess, but that wasn't anything new. Tony was a mess, too, but again; Steve expected that. What he hadn't expected was to find Tony hunched over his desk, his head buried underneath his arms as he tugged at his hair.
"Hey, Tony," Steve said softly, crouching down next to Tony's chair and putting a hand on his knee. "What's wrong, baby?"
"I'm pathetic," Tony murmured, and Steve almost flinched at the hate and defeat in Tony's voice. "A little flu and suddenly my hands are shaking, my head hurt too much to think, my breathing is heavy, and I can't stay upright for more than a few minutes before my knees buckle."
"Tony..." Steve started softly, lovingly, while he ran a hand over Tony's leg soothingly. "You're not pathetic. You're probably the least pathetic person I know. Just because your body shuts down sometimes as a normal body does, doesn't mean you're pathetic. It just means you're human."
"Yours doesn't," Tony muttered, and Steve knew, judging from the weak comeback, that Tony was probably already more out of it than he was willing to show.
"No, mine doesn't," Steve said patiently, never ceasing his soothing movement. "But my body isn't exactly normal, now is it?"
Tony grumbled something incoherently but didn't push Steve away, which the blonde counted as a win.
"Let's go upstairs, yeah?" He suggested calmly, not entirely sure as to how far gone Tony was exactly. "We can put a Disney movie, and I can make us both some soup."
"No, gotta finish this," Tony said, waving his hand around the workshop vaguely. "Too much work."
He sounded so tired, so exhausted even. His voice was weak and every now and then he was coughing painfully, a hand rubbing at his arc reactor.
"Tony, you've been working so hard lately. How about you stop taking care of everyone else and start taking care of yourself for once?" Tony shot upright, losing his balance a little before catching himself.
"No, Steve!" He said, angrily. He'd probably meant to yell but his abused throat wasn't really in for that. "These weapons need upgrades, your suits need upgrades, Pepper needs the new invention by the end of this week and I barely have the blueprints, JARVIS needs an update, R&D is up my ass about some stupid mistake in one of their products, my armor needs repairs-"
He probably would've listed up more, but he was cut off by a coughing fit that shook his entire body and had him groaning in pain once it was over. Now Steve knew why he was sick.
"Tony, that's way too much," he said softly, running his hands soothingly through Tony's hair in the way he knew the billionaire liked. "I think the stress is getting a bit too much for you, Tony. Your body can't take it all."
Tony protested weakly, although he barely got a word out of his mouth before he was coughing again, leaning into Steve in exhaustion.
"I'm so tired, Steve," he whispered brokenly, and Steve felt a wet spot forming on his shirt from Tony's tears. Tony never actually cried, getting defensive and snappy instead. So Steve knew Tony was really tired, and really sick if his emotions got the better of him so quickly. "I don't want to let them all down, you know? But no matter how hard I try, I just can't do it, Steve. I can't do it..." He broke off into soft sobs that had Steve's heart break and he quickly pulled the smaller man against him, holding him close.
"Tony, you don't have to do this for everyone," he said, his fingers still playing with Tony's curls. "It's okay not to be okay, sometimes. Everyone has their limit, and it would be unfair to ask you to cross it. So don't, Tony. Come upstairs with me, we'll lay in bed and I'll give you anything you need. Just let someone take care of you, for once. Please, Tony?"
"But I can handle stress," Tony protested, couching weakly. "I've done it for years, Steve. What's changed now?"
"What's changed, Tony, is the fact that you now have a hunk of metal in your chest. That you have a decreased lung capacity and an affected immune system. What's changed, is that the weight of the world seems to rest on your shoulders, and you insist on carrying it alone. But Tony, you don't have to. I'm here for you, the team's here for you. I'd be happy to share the weight. Just tell me what I can do."
Tony's slightly puffy eyes looked directly into Steve's, trying to detect any hint of a lie. When he found none, his eyes filled up with fresh tears and he dissolved back into sobs.
"Oh, come here," Steve chuckled, pulling Tony up and holding him close as the exhausted man cried out his remaining energy. At some point, he seemed to be too tired to cry anymore, and he completely deflated in Steve's arms. Steve pretty much carried him upstairs and to their bedroom, helping him get changed and getting him comfortable in bed. He pulled him close under the covers, and soon enough, Tony was passed out on his chest, breathing softly with a hand still fisting Steve's shirt. It was still way too early to sleep, but Steve decided he wouldn't mind just holding his boyfriend for now. So, he kissed the sleeping man's soft curls, turned off the lights and settled back, wondering how in the world this was his life.
Tony made a soft noise in his sleep as he shifted to lean into Steve's warmth a bit more, shifting around a bit before settling comfortably against the big soldier. Steve smiled goofily and decided he wasn't complaining.