"Spider-Man, stick to the sidelines," Tony grumbles into the coms, watching the kid from his peripheral vision.
"Sorry, Mr. Stark," Peter answeres, not sounding remorseful at all. Tony curses silently under his breath as the kid just barely dodges whatever the hell their current villain was throwing at him. They were fighting a large swarm of robot-like creatures with high voltage running through them and their weapons. Tony wasn't really focused on the battle, constantly looking back to keep an eye on Peter.
It's probably why he didn't see it coming.
He was focused so intently on Peter, he completely missed the warning signs on his HUD. One of the bigger robots slammed into him, pulling him clean out of the sky. Tony yelped in surprise before groaning in pain as he hit the ground. He raised his hands, ready to fire. But before he could, the robot simply tore off a piece of his suit on both sides of his chest, and its hands made contact with Tony's vulnerable body.
Tony screamed out in pain as the electricity coursed through him, setting his bones alight with pain and locking him in place. He was defenseless. The robot didn't relent, either, pulling his hands back only to strike once again, barely giving Tony time to breathe before another gut-wrenching scream emitted from his throat as the electricity struck again.
The coms were still open, and all the Avengers froze in horror at the sound of their teammate and friend screaming in utter agony. Peter's face turned pale underneath the mask, sticking to the side of a building and staying unmoving in complete horror.
"Tony," Steve croaked, slamming his shield into the nearby robots with renewed energy, speeding off into the direction of his fallen teammate. The screams were still echoing through the communication systems, drowning out the rest of the Avengers' cries of worry. Peter finally sprang into action, quickly webbing some of the robots up before slinging as fast as he could to where his mentor was still crying out in pain. Tony emitted such a heart-wrenching scream that Peter actually had to catch himself from falling onto the New York streets, nausea rising in his throat.
"Tony!" Steve yelled desperately as he spotted him, throwing his shield ahead of him to throw the robot off his fallen friend. The robot went easily but the damage was already done. Steve kneeled next to his friend, sliding his shaky fingers into the slots Tony had told him would deactivate his suit. The titanium alloy folded into itself, revealing Tony's pale and sweaty face, his eyes scrunched shut in pain.
"Mr. Stark?" Peter called as he touched down next to them, pulling off his mask and revealing his tear-stained cheeks and puffy eyes. Tony groaned, not opening his eyes. His jaw was clenched almost painfully and his limbs still spasmed every now and then. Steve didn't know what to do, his hands hovering over Tony's form uncertainly.
"Steve, get him to medical!" Bruce called from where he was still waiting on the jet for code green. "I'll take yours and Spider-Man's place. Tony needs medical help, ASAP!"
Steve didn't need to be told twice. Delicately, he gathered Tony into his arms before taking off towards the jet. Hulk roared as he passed them, although he paused at the sight of Tony crumped up and whining in pain in Steve's arms. He started shaking with anger, roaring hard enough to make the ground shake.
"No one hurt Tin Man!" He boomed, running off towards the swarm of robots in the city. "Hulk will smash!"
On any other occasion, Steve would've been worried at the absolute fury in the green giant's eyes, but with Tony unresponsive in his arms, he didn't have time. Peter was close behind him, and Steve didn't have the heart to tell him to go. When he entered the jet, FRIDAY closed the doors wordlessly behind them, taking control of the vehicle as they quickly took off towards the compound. Steve put Tony on the bed they had in the jet for cases like these, although he refused to leave the billionaire's side.
"Peter, get him some water," he ordered, too worried to pay attention to his snapping tone. Peter did as he was asked, quickly returning with a plastic cup of water. Steve gently put an arm around Tony to support him and tried to pull him into a sitting position. But Tony's eyes snapped open at the movement, his expression going from painful to desperate as a scream tore from the back of his throat, gasping in pain. His eyes were clouded with pain as they looked at Steve, his fist clenching Steve's shirt tightly. He couldn't get more than a whimper past his lips but his eyes said it all. So Steve lowered him back down with a pained expression, holding Tony's hand tightly in his as they flew back home in silence.
As soon as they touched down, the doors were open and Steve was carrying out a limp and unresponsive Tony Stark, Peter hot on his heels. They were greeted by the medical staff, although Steve was reluctant to give Tony away. As soon as they got him on the already moving stretcher, there was an oxygen mask on his face, and the doctors were shouting at each other as they hurried into the compound. They weren't allowed further than the waiting room as Tony and the doctors disappeared behind thick doors, and Steve and Peter were left standing in the hallway, both looking and feeling lost.
"Is he... He's going to be fine, right?" Peter's fragile voice said from behind Steve. The soldier turned around to see Peter's young face stained with tears as more gathered in his big eyes. "I mean, he-he has to be, right? I mean, he can't just... die like that. Oh, god, what if he dies-" Peter's sentence cut off in a sob, the tears leaking from his eyes. Steve sprung into action, knowing it was what Tony would've done in this situation. He put his hands on the teen's shoulders, looking intently in his eyes.
"Hey, Peter, look at me," he ordered firmly but warmly. He waited until the teen's brown orbs met his before continuing. "Tony's going to be fine, you hear me? He's going to pull through like he always does, you know he will. Within no time, he's going to be complaining about everyone fussing around him and we'll have to struggle to keep his ass in bed. I promise you, Peter, he'll pull through."
Steve had thought a lot about it on the way there, and he knew Tony had walked away from far worse than electrocution. He still worried, mind you, but he was confident in his promise to Peter. Peter seemed to sense his honesty and determination, and he nodded, wiping at his nose and straightening himself up.
"Okay, you're right," he agreed, nodding to himself. "He's had worse, he'll survive."
Steve nodded, clapping the young man on the shoulder.
"That's the spirit. Now, go get changed before we see him, those tights really can't be that comfortable."
"They're more comfortable than you'd think," Peter shrugged. "I mean, they're Mr. Stark's design, after all." Steve nodded.
"Touché. Now, hurry up, we don't know how long this will take." Peter nodded, saluted him and raced off to get changed. Steve looked over his dirty outfit skeptically before deciding it wouldn't hurt to clean up for ten minutes.
Ten minutes later, they were both back in the waiting room, both still looking worried but less like they were about to hyperventilate. They sat in comfortable silence for a while, both dozing off a bit but still too tense to fall asleep completely.
They must've sat there for hours before the door finally opened. They both shot up from their seats, looking at the doctor expectantly.
"How is he?" Steve asked immediately.
"Is he okay?" Peter followed, sounding as worried as Steve felt.
"He'll pull through," the doctor said, smiling kindly. "He's currently in a lot of pain, however, so we put him in a medically induced coma. We expect he'll be able to wake up in two days. He's expected to make a full recovery, though he'll have to take it easy the first few months." She looked sternly at them both over her glasses. "His muscles are likely to be weak from the electricity it was exposed to and he won't be up to much at first."
"Can we see him?" Steve asked softly. The doctor nodded.
"Just the two of you. And you'll have to be quiet, I'd like his environment to be as calm as possible while he's in this state."
Both heroes nodded and the doctor let them past, shutting the door behind them for privacy. There wasn't much in the room beside the medical equipment Tony was attached to. The hospital bed was white, as it always was, and it seemed too big for Tony alone. Tony was pale, lying in the middle of the bed with his arms above the covers, showing the source of most of the wires he was attached to. He was completely still, save for the rhythmic rising and falling of his chest as he breathed. Steve blew out a breath as he took a seat on one side of the bed, Peter following his lead and sitting down on the other side. They both took one of Tony's scarred hands in theirs as they remained in silence, comfortable to just watch their teammate, safe in the knowledge that he was going to be okay.
Tony dreamed. It was a good dream, for once. The last thing he remembered was Steve holding his hand and the feeling of intense pain in his bones. Then, everything became hazy, the noise around him fading as his vision turned blurry before fading to blackness.
He woke up in his bed, feeling warm and content. There was a feeling of warm, strong arms wrapped around him, and he felt oddly safe in their hold. He let himself drift, unaware and uncaring of the time passing.
Eventually, though, he felt a warm hand push his hair from his forehead tenderly, and he blinked his eyes open. He felt a small spark of surprise to Steve's face close to his, a warm smile on his lips and his blue eyes alight with love. Tony got lost in his eyes, in that look he'd never once seen directed towards him. He reveled in it, sucking it up like water in the desert. He didn't know why Steve was looking at him like that, but he wasn't about to waste what was probably a once in a lifetime sight.
"Hey, sweetheart," Steve said softly before leaning forward and kissing his lips softly, delicately, like it was something he did every morning. Tony was stunned, a hand coming up to touch his lips once Steve pulled away. His wide eyes met Steve's who was grinning at him warmly.
"You-you kissed me..." he whispered, his voice filled with shock and disbelief. Steve gave a warm chuckle.
"Yeah, Tony. Of course, I did," he laughed, leaning forward again to drop a kiss on the bridge of Tony's nose. "It's one of the many benefits of dating you," he whispered in his ear. Tony smiled, settling into his warmth. He didn't understand, but he didn't feel like he had to, either. He was happy just lying there with Steve's strong and protective arms wrapped around him. He floated in the warmth contently, feeling relaxed and thoughtless in a way he'd never felt before. Tony smiled, genuinely smiled, burrowing further into Steve's hold as the blonde's fingers played with his hair. He let out a soft sigh of content and let himself drift.
Steve and Peter both came by regularly for the next two days, both anxiously awaiting the moment they could wake their friend up. They talked with each other, mostly about Tony. About memories they had of him, of moments they'd shared. Steve even admitted to the teen how rude he was in the beginning, even choking up a bit as he thought about the way he'd treated the man he now couldn't live without.
"Hey," Peter said gently, putting a soft hand over Steve's, which was still holding Tony's. "I know I haven't known Tony for long- I mean, Mr. Stark. But I do know that he's very forgiving. And stubborn. Trust me, if he hadn't forgiven you, you would currently be living in the streets. In the best-case scenario."
Steve laughed wetly, wiping at his eyes and clearing his throat.
"You're right," he said, looking at Tony lovingly. "I just- I never apologized for it properly, and I still feel so bad about what I said that day. I bet Tony is, too. I guess it would help us both if I just apologized to him-"
He was cut off by the doctor knocking on the door before peeking her head in.
"Hey, boys," she greeted kindly. They both smiled at her, wondering with (slight worry churning in their gut) what she was doing here. "Oh, don't worry," he waved away their worry. "I'm just here to prepare him for waking up."
She set to work, a few nurses helping her out.
"He'll be waking up somewhere within the next two hours, although I don't know how coherent he'll be," she told them. They both thanked her politely before turning back to their friend. The doctor smiled, pulling the door shut behind her to give them some privacy.
Of course, in true Tony Stark fashion, Tony woke up well within the first thirty minutes, blinking hazily up at the ceiling. He groaned a bit, closing his eyes again as he turned his head.
"St've?" He mumbled, his voice soft and weak. They'd replaced the tube for an oxygen cannula to make sure he could talk to them.
"I'm here, Tony," Steve responded immediately, itching to help his friend out in any way he could. Tony forced his heavy eyes open, his brown orbs landing on Steve. A big, open grin formed on his face, amplified by the heavy painkillers he was on.
"'ey, sw'theart," he slurred a bit, his eyes lighting up when he saw him. Steve pulled back a bit, looking over at Peter in confusion. Peter met his gaze, equally as confused. He shrugged, and Steve turned back to Tony, who was frowning. "W's wrong?" He asked, sounding concerned.
"N-nothing, nothing's wrong," Steve stuttered, his heart fluttering in his chest. Why did Tony calling him sweetheart affect him that much?
"Why 're you there?" Tony asked, frowning. "C'me back 'n bed, h'nny," he said, his eyes already drooping again. Steve's breath caught in his throat.
"Tony, what do you mean?" He asked softly, his voice no more than a whisper. Tony's eyes, which had drooped shut, suddenly snapped open, looking at him with absolute hurt. It made Steve's heart clench, wishing that he could do something, anything to get Tony to stop looking like that. But he didn't know what was going on, what Tony meant.
"Steve?" Tony asked brokenly, his voice tight. Suddenly, all the blood vanished from his face, and he looked crushed. "Oh, no. I messed up, didn't I?" He whimpered, brown eyes filling with tears. "I'm sorry, Steve. I'm so sorry, I don't know what I did, please, don't leave me-" He broke off in a sob, and Steve couldn't take it anymore. Within a second, he'd kicked off his shoes and climbed into Tony's hospital bed, pulling him close. Tony's tears quickly stained his shirt, soft sobs making his shoulders shake.
"Tony, you didn't do anything, okay?" He quickly assured him, his fingers running through the man's brown curls. "You did nothing wrong. I'm not going to leave you, Tony. I swear, I'm not going to leave you." His own voice grew tight as tears made his eyes burn. He dropped a kiss in Tony's curls, uncaring of Peter still present in the room as well. "I'm not leaving you, Tony. I'm not leaving you." He repeated it like a mantra until finally, Tony's sobs died down, and he grew limp in Steve's hold, exhaustion dragging him back under.
Steve met Peter's wide eyes, giving him a silent 'I don't know either'. But he'd figure it out. He'd find out what Tony meant, although Steve had a sneaking suspicion he knew what it was, and he was going to do anything to prevent Tony from feeling like he'd done something wrong, like Steve was going to leave him. So he held him close, his hands still playing with the man's unruly hair as he slept.
"So," Peter broke the silence after a few minutes. "Are you, like, in love?" He gasped at his own realization, jumping out of his chair.
"Peter," Steve said, trying to stop him, but Peter was already up and bouncing as he pointed in their direction.
"You're in love!" He exclaimed. Steve groaned, burying his head in Tony's soft curls. Peter laughed, moving with way too much energy for Steve to handle right now. "I can't believe it! How come I didn't see this coming? Oh, you two are a total OTP, man. You're a power couple, super husbands-" He gasped. "Super Husbands, that's totally what I'm going to call you two! Oh, I ship it so bad!" He squealed. Steve groaned again, wondering what it would take to sleep as deeply as Tony at that moment.
"You brought this on us," he grumbled into the sleeping genius's hair while Peter was still yelling things Steve didn't understand at all. He kissed Tony's curls again, pulling him closer and reveling in his warmth. "You're lucky you're worth it."