Tony has booked his surgery.
Steve is endeavouring not to freak out
Tony's planning isn't helping.
But it's ok because he trusts Tony absolutely.
Totally and absolutely...
There are times when Steve's absolute trust in Tony is... maybe, just a little bit, put to the test.
It's not that he doesn't trust Tony in these instances, but more that he knows his definition of acceptable risk for Tony, and Tony's definition of the same, do not match.
For example there's the time he finds Tony standing on the edge of the roof talking to Jarvis.
'Hey, Tony,' he calls as he walks over.
Tony winces and turns to face him with a sudden blinding smile,
'Steve! You're home early.'
'We hadn't run out of much, Thor's been away,' Steve agrees. 'And Jarvis keeps ordering things in before I get the chance to go shopping.'
'Jarvis' fault, it makes sense,' Tony mutters and adjusts something on his tablet.
'Tony, why do I get the impression you wish I wasn't back yet?' Steve crosses his arms and levels a glare at his partner.
'I'm always delighted to see you, Cap, you wound me with your words.'
'What are you doing up here?'
'Jarvis, we're going to have to do this now,' Tony announces and puts the tablet down on the floor.
'Nope, now Jarvis, or Steve won't let me and this test really needs to be run.'
'Trust me, Steve.'
Tony takes a step backwards and then vaults over the barrier and drops like a stone towards the street.
Steve emits a strangled scream and rushes over in time to see Tony's armour explode from a window and track its creator down. It wraps around him and then Tony's soaring along the street. He spirals up into the air and then performs lazy loops back towards Steve. The armour lands beside Steve and the soldier can't stop himself from tugging it into a hug.
'This can't be comfortable for you,' Tony's voice comes from the armour's expressionless mask. The faceplate flicks back and Steve can feel the reassuring gusts of Tony's breath against his neck.
'Don't ever do that again!' Steve drops his forehead to the armour's shoulder.
'I needed to know how quickly it would catch me,' Tony sounds horrifyingly reasonable. 'Now the reactor is integrated into the suit it may have lessened its ability to track me. Before the street was a given but I needed more accurate data.'
'You jumped off the roof!' the desire to shake sense into this man never quite disappears.
'Yeah,' Tony pulls back and retrieves his tablet from the floor. 'Look at those numbers,' he smiles smugly, 'beautiful.'
'Tony,' Steve struggles to keep his voice calm, it isn't quite Tony's fault that it doesn't occur to him how upset people might be at the thought of him being hurt. 'Tony, I understand that you need to run tests on your suits, but in the future can you not re-enact my nightmares in front of me without any warning?'
Tony flinches and looks up a little guiltily,
Steve takes a deep breath and releases it again all in a rush,
'Yeah, Tony, 'ah'.'
'I'm sorry?' Tony blinks at him and the armour retracts. 'I needed the test run for my own piece of mind; I couldn't let you stop me. I need to know that the suits will still work when this is gone,' he taps the centre of his chest.
Steve pulls him into another hug,
'Tony, I would really appreciate it if you would trust me enough to tell me what you have planned and believe I won't stop you for no reason.'
'I've tried telling people before,' Tony presses a kiss to his neck, 'there tends to be yelling.'
'All I'll want from you is an assurance you aren't throwing yourself to your death...' Steve retorts and drops his head to breath deeply at Tony's neck as he tries to push back the memories of Bucky and Tony both falling...
'Yeah?' Tony doesn't look quite convinced. 'Jarvis, reset.'
'Of course, sir,' Jarvis sounds long suffering.
'This time without the bracelets,' Tony tells him calmly and tugs them off.
'I have the implants under my skin,' Tony reminds him. 'I need to see how big of a difference it makes.'
There's a pause while Steve thinks about that and then he nods,
'Ok... Ok. Yes, alright, I'll be waiting for you here,' Steve nods.
Tony sits on the barrier and swings his legs over,
Steve steps over and brushes his fingers against Tony's where he's holding on,
'I trust you.'
Tony's blinding grin almost makes the heart stopping terror when the genius swan dives towards the ground worth it.
It doesn't, but Steve will get over it. And if he has a nightmare tonight he knows Tony will be willing enough to be hugged until Steve calms down.
It's not that Tony doesn't consider telling people his plans before he enacts them, Steve realises, but rather he considers telling them, knows how long catching them up to his speed of thinking will take, and decides not to bother.
It's five days before Tony is due to have his surgery and he's dragged the current inhabitants of the tower with him to a Stark Industries meet-and-greet.
Thor was around, for once, but has since disappeared. Clint, Natasha and Bruce all came too after Tony promised they didn't have to dance or bring partners if they didn't want to. Steve seems to have slipped under the radar of the press and was pretty obviously Tony's plus one.
Which isn't to say he was glued to Tony's side the entire night, but he may have found it difficult to look away on occasions.
Tony is the life of the party and clearly enjoys himself immeasurably.
'I'm going to get you dance with me at one of these eventually,' Tony informs him with a grin.
'Good luck,' Steve retorts and Tony scoffs at him.
As they leave, and yes, Tony is leaving a party before the end and isn't massively drunk, Steve suggests they walk through the park. Tony gives him a look and calls him adorable but he agrees easily enough when the others express a desire to do so too.
'Very romantic,' Tony catches hold of Steve's hand as they walk and if the other Avengers didn't know before they surely know now.
Nobody says anything though and Steve rubs Tony's fingers with his thumb.
They draw apart, a little, from the others as they walk,
'They're a little dramatically unsubtle for a couple of spies and a man who's been on the run for so many years,' Tony tells him with a grin.
'We should have actually told them,' Steve adds regretfully.
'Oh, like they didn't know where this was headed,' the last of Tony's words is drowned out by a roar from behind them and the sounds of a scuffle.
The roar is unmistakably Bruce's alter-ego and Steve takes an automatic step forwards to get between him and Tony. He hears Tony huff an amused breath.
'What happened?' Steve calls as Natasha and Clint jog up the path to join them.
Clint is grinning,
'A drunk tried to get handsy with Nat and Bruce stepped between them; he got a knife in his gut for his trouble.'
'Why are you grinning?' Steve exclaims. 'Natasha, are you ok?'
'Yes,' she replies shortly. 'I pushed the drunk away before Bruce turned.'
'Right,' Steve gears himself up to take control of the situation, 'we need to keep him contained until he calms down. Clint, go and... Tony!'
Tony has slipped passed him and is running back down the path towards Hulk.
'Hulk likes Stark,' Clint shrugs helplessly.
'We'll keep people back,' Natasha calls after him as Steve runs to his partner.
'Tony,' he calls again and skids to an instinctive halt when Hulk roars again and smashes a bench into a nearby tree.
Tony doesn't even flinch.
'Hey,' Tony yells up to Hulk when he gets to his side, the giant swings his head down and snorts. 'I'm not going to let you live down trying to defend a master assassin from a street bum, by the way.'
'Tony!' Steve shouts again as Hulk looms over Tony, still looking furious.
'Back up, doll,' Tony calls over his shoulder to him as Hulk snarls and steps between them; his glare is now firmly on Steve.
'He's really angry, Tony,' Steve calls back but does raise his hands non-threateningly.
'Yeah he is,' Tony agrees and reappears by ducking under one of Hulk's arms, 'but not with us, unless he thinks you're threatening me.'
Steve takes a reluctant step back as Tony crosses his arms and stands, entirely casually, between where Hulk's clenched fists are pressed to the ground.
'Tony, I know he's Bruce, but he's not stable when he's like this. Please come away?'
'He isn't going to hurt me,' Tony scowls at him. 'Come on, Cap. You must know he isn't like that.'
Steve makes the effort to swallow down his panic.
'Hey, I've just realised my two best fellas are serum enhanced,' Tony grins. 'Anyone less awesome than me would be jealous.'
Steve rolls his eyes.
'You alright, big guy?' Tony turns to ask Hulk.
'No touch Tash-ah,' Hulk rumbles.
Tony pats his arm and laughs when Hulk pets his hair in response.
Steve has his breathing under control so he pulls out his phone and calls Clint,
'We're good here,' he tells the archer. 'Tony's keeping him calm so we should have Bruce back shortly.'
'Cool,' is all Clint says before hanging up.
'Come on, Cap,' Tony calls to him and Steve realises they've started to move off without him. 'I'm taking Hulk to see the ducks.'
What have I done for my life to be this?
Steve shakes his head and follows.
What else could he ever be expected to do?
Because Tony&Hulk are adorable and I'm not sorry.
It's when Rhodey arrives in the tower and drops his kit bag to pull Tony into a hug that the situation finally becomes a little too real for Steve.
Tony is having major pioneering surgery tomorrow.
Anything could happen.
He all but pulls Tony into bed that night and holds on tight.
'Steve,' Tony runs his fingers through his hair soothingly. 'Sweetheart, it's going to be fine. I've got the best doctors money can buy and I've been over the procedure dozens of times with Jarvis. I had this thing put in in a cave; they're going to be able to take it out in the best hospital in the world.'
Steve just nods helplessly.
'It's going to be fine,' Tony repeats softly and starts pressing kisses to his neck. 'Come on, let me distract you...'
Steve just holds him tighter,
'Can I just hold you, please?'
'Anything you want, darlin'.'
Tony falls asleep in his arms several hours later.
It's longer before Steve finally succumbs.
* * *
Watching the surgery with Pepper and Rhodey the next day is surreal.
Tony is never this still.
Pepper is keeping herself distracted, or trying to, but she keep shifting her gaze towards her boss. Rhodey doesn't bother to pretend; he stands at the window and glares at the activity around his friend.
Steve can't tear his gaze away from Tony's face.
Hours later, when it's over, a doctor comes out to tell them that it all went well and Tony will be coming around from his anesthetic shortly. Rhodey and Pepper both start quizzing her but Steve hasn't been able to tear his eyes from his partner.
Which is the only reason he sees a cover get lifted from a previously unnoticed side table and a large needle get carried over to Tony's side. As Steve takes a breath to ask what it is the contents get pushed into Tony's unresisting arm.
'Oh, I'm going to kill him!' Pepper declares as she pushes passed the doctor to stand closer to the window.
'What was it?' Steve asks nervously.
'Extremis,' Pepper snaps and away while fishing out her phone, 'Jarvis, explain,' she demands and slams her way through some double doors.
* * *
Steve spends the next hour in a state of increasing worry before Tony's eyes finally flicker open.
'What did you do?' he demands.
'Hello sugar,' Tony mumbles.
'God, Tony,' Steve takes hold of his hand. 'What did you do?'
'I couldn't let myself be out of commission for as long as the recovery from this would need,' Tony pushes himself up before Steve thinks to stop him.
'You can't just experiment on yourself like this!' Steve argues then gives into the temptation to pull Tony into his arms.
'Hey,' Tony's petting his hair, 'it's alright, sweetheart. I feel...'
Steve pulls back to see Tony staring blankly at the opposite wall,
'Tony!' he squeezes his partner's shoulder and breathes a sigh when Tony blinks and turns to focus on him.
'I may have miscalculated a little.'
Steve feels himself tense,
'I'll get a doctor,' he half rises but Tony's already shaking his head.
'No, no, it's fine. I've just... Err... gained a little something extra. Jarvis is looking into it.'
'Jarvis?' Steve blinks. 'Oh, do you want to speak with him?' he knows how Tony gets when he wakes up and he can't speak with his AI.
'Already have,' Tony dismisses and starts pulling off the bandages around his chest.
'Tony! Leave those...' Steve stops when he sees the skin where the reactor used to be is already nothing more than an angry looking pink line. 'It's... You perfected the serum?'
'Nah, nothing that advanced,' Tony dismisses. 'Except maybe it is but different. I didn't expect them to remain in my body after I'd been healed and maybe they won't but honestly right now I'd like them to and maybe that'll have a bearing on this...'
'What. Did. You. Do?'
'You know that poison-that-wasn't-a-poison I got hit with a while back? Well, I was studying it and I had this idea for being able to...'
'Tony!' Steve is holding Tony's shoulders now and somehow managing not to shake him.
'I released a swarm of nanites into my bloodstream to heal the wound left by the reactor,' Tony tells him calmly. 'Teeny tiny robots, Cap. They can communicate with each other so that they can work efficiently, which is great, but now they've latched onto my brain and it would seem I'm now able to... Recieve digital communications directly into my brain.'
Steve stares at him in horror.
* * *
It's hard to know if Tony is released early from hospital because the doctors are happy that he's in a state to be allowed home or if it's just a matter of Tony being used to getting his own way.
Either way Steve dutifully follows his partner out to meet their car the day after his surgery.
Tony is quiet.
Steve's world is slipping out of his carefully constructed grip; he doesn't doubt his own worth, but Tony seems almost indifferent to his presence.
The drive back to the tower is silent and Steve decides to return to his own floor rather than follow Tony around when he's clearly unnecessary.
They step on to the lift which immediately moves to the level for Tony's workshop. The doors open and Dummy is waiting on the other side.
Steve glances at Tony, preparing to take his leave, and sees Tony's expression; he looks so purely happy that Steve pauses.
'Steve,' Tony says in quiet wonder, 'Dummy says hello.'
Because I love Dummy.
Watching Tony work is normally fascinating and strangely relaxing; there's a surety, a happy confidence to him beyond what he shows to the outside world.
Today is mostly the same, except for one obvious difference.
It isn't that he's stopped talking to the bots; that's not changed at all.
It's the zoning out that's new; he's communicating with the computers more directly, Steve understands, but it's unnerving all the same.
Steve has retreated into the corner of the workshop to breathe deeply.
It's not that seeing Tony this happy isn't great.
But Tony had himself injected with an untested serum just because he didn't think he could spare the time to heal.
Did he think he would be off the Avengers? Did he think Steve would...
Steve, Dummy says hello.
Steve likes to think he's managing this situation quite well, all things considered; he hasn't yelled at Tony, he hasn't run away screaming, he hasn't fainted or started stuttering.
Admittedly he also hasn't done anything useful either, such as question Tony on what this all actually means.
Dummy says hello.
Could they maybe catch a break? Could this please be nothing more than something wonderful?
* * *
Steve blinks himself awake to find himself still in the workshop. There's a ragged blanket draped over him and he smiles before remembering the events of the previous day.
Tony has computers in his blood; Tony is insane.
'Tony?' he calls as he sits up and looks around.
'Sir is just accepting a delivery downstairs,' Jarvis tells him.
'Oh, thanks Jarvis,' Steve stretches and tries to flatten his hair as he stands up.
'Captain,' Jarvis adds after a moment, 'I am sorry you were not informed as to sir's plans.'
Steve shakes his head helplessly,
'I guess I would have only worried more.'
'Captain, don't give up on him,' Jarvis adds. 'Please.'
'And if he gives up on me?' Steve asks.
Tony stumbles backwards through the door carrying a heavy looking box and interrupts whatever reply Jarvis may have given. Steve takes a breath and squares his shoulders as he crosses the room to take the box from his partner's arms.
'Cap!' Tony grins at him.
'Hey, Tony,' he smiles back and lets Tony usher him across the room and puts the box down where indicated.
'I'm glad you're up,' Tony tells him as he fusses with the box. 'Come on, there are another eight boxes in the foyer.'
'Tony, you just had major surgery,' Steve objects without much hope. 'You shouldn't be lifting...'
'Yes, yes...' Tony waves a hand vaguely. 'It's healed; that was the actual point of the serum.'
Steve tries not to sigh audibly and then freezes when he sees the blank look is back on Tony's face,
Tony sways on his feet and then turns to look at him,
* * *
Fury wants a debriefing.
Tony huffs about it but eventually agrees when Steve tells him everyone has questions.
Tony doesn't give them much, but it seems enough to pacify Fury, for now, and more than enough to have Bruce afire with curiosity.
Fury has moved on to more routine briefing topics now so Tony has settled himself into his chair and is fiddling with his tablet. Steve has opted not to waste his time scolding him, but also refuses to respond to the faint vibrations coming every few minutes from his phone.
Fury is telling them about the various events across the globe that SHEILD are aware of, but that don't require the attention of the Avengers themselves. Steve takes it upon himself to offer the team out as individual assistants; he hates the idea of anyone coming to harm because someone thought that the threat didn't warrant the attention of the legitimate superhumans.
'Why are you briefing us on this, Nicky?' Tony stretches his arms over his head. 'Sector 7 is Coulson's baby.'
Steve feels himself freeze as Fury falls silent and stares at Tony.
Natasha scowls and fixes her gaze on Fury while Clint just goes still and stares at nothing in particular. Bruce and Thor look confused.
'Agent Coulson is dead, Tony,' Steve reminds his partner.
Tony has glanced at the reactions of the rest of his team and then fixed his gaze on Fury,
'You haven't told them?!' Tony sounds baffled more than anything else.
'It's need to know,' Fury grits out.
'What do you mean need to know,' Clint snaps and gets to his feet even as Natasha grabs his arm.
'Tony?' Steve asks quietly.
'Coulson is alive,' Tony says, sounding offhanded but staring intently at Fury. 'I assumed you all knew.'
Steve's heart tries to soar, upon hearing such good news, and plummet, upon understanding what that means for them, at the same time.
What does that say about Steve's capabilities as a leader and as a boyfriend that Tony thinks he would withhold something this important?
What does it say about Tony's belief in his partner that he would learn this information, assume that Steve knows it too, but never mention it? Does he really think Steve would be angry with him for finding out?
'How long have you known?' Bruce asks quietly as Clint practically shakes with rage.
'Since as soon as I got back to the workshop after New York,' Tony shrugs and glances to his friend. 'I'm a consultant, but the actual Avengers should be at a high enough level of clearance to know. Coulson thinks you know.'
The meeting then spirals into an argument between Fury, Natasha and Clint. Steve isn't feeling sufficiently generous to assist the Director beyond standing beside Clint ready to restrain him if necessary. Everyone is on their feet now, except Bruce, and it takes Steve a moment to realise that Tony's gone.
* * *
Once things have calmed down, which only happens once Fury agrees to take Clint and Natasha to see their handler, Steve leaves to follow Tony.
He really needs to have a talk with Tony now; clearly he's not made Tony properly aware of his belief that, despite Tony's own assertions, Steve does consider him a full member of the team. He needs Tony to know he would never withhold that sort of information from him on a technicality.
And he needs to work out how to make Tony trust him in turn.
He finds Tony already up to his elbows in car engine parts in the workshop,
'Tony?' he calls over the music.
The music cuts and Tony's head lifts in surprise,
'Cap,' he smiles, but it looks hesitant, 'how can I help you?'
Steve settles himself to lean against a workbench as he looks over at his partner. Tony keeps his gaze for a few moments then glances away as he keeps adjusting something in the car.
'How did you find out?' Steve has learnt it's not worth beating around the bush with Tony.
'Jarvis has been in SHIELD's systems for a long time,' Tony returns his gaze more permanently to the engine. 'He told me before Thor had even taken Loki back to Asgard.
'He was dead for a while,' Tony adds quietly, 'and he was critical for longer, but he was stable before I returned to Malibu.'
'Tony,' Steve steps closer and brushes a hesitant hand across his partner's arm, 'I wouldn't have kept this from you.'
'I know that now,' Tony sidles away from him.
Steve thinks he's still lying.
'I'm sorry,' Steve steps closer insistently.
Tony looks at him strangely, but allows Steve to rest a hand on his back without recoiling.
'I'm sorry,' Steve forges on, 'that I haven't made you believe, made you trust, in how much I... like you.'
Tony flinches again, which wasn't the reaction Steve was aiming for.
'I like you,' Tony mutters, sounding defensive.
Oh, Steve almost bites through his lip, he thinks I'm accusing him of...
'No, Tony, I didn't mean it like that. I... Do you trust me, Tony?'
'You know I do,' Tony finally meets his gaze and steps closer so their chests are nearly touching.
Steve buries his face in Tony's neck and wraps his arms around his waist. Tony arches up into him and their bodies are flush together. Steve clutches him a little tighter.
'I thought you knew,' Tony pets his hair.
'Tony,' Steve speaks into his partner's shoulder, 'I am on your side, not Fury's; I would have told you.'
'Alright,' Tony presses a kiss to his neck.
Steve forces himself not to prevent Tony from pulling away.
'We good?' Tony asks.
'Of course,' Steve nods and forces a smile, 'it'll take more than that to get rid of me.'
Seeing Tony relax at his words is a little heartbreaking.
Steve has come to realise that the relationship he has with Tony is so very close to being unhealthy.
He can't get over the certain knowledge that his partner doesn't trust him.
Is he kidding himself by trying to have a relationship steeped with this much mistrust?
No, he tells himself firmly, if he gives up on this now all he'll have done is prove Tony right to not have believed in this. It must count for something that he, at least, trusts Tony?
Which doesn't stop him from curling up in Tony's bed at night, while the genius is still up and working, and feeling a little sorry for himself.
But then Tony comes in, either buzzing with a new discovery or shattered from being up too long.
Being the sole focus of Tony Stark is an amazing feeling.
He will make this work.
* * *
Steve is professional enough that when he's fighting with the Avengers he doesn't look up to watch Tony fly overhead. That doesn't mean he doesn't know where the man is.
SHIELD has tracked some bomb makers to a remote canyon, which is great but they've since found it must have been leaked information. They've walked into an ambush and the leaders of the group, who have since fled, have sent them a message saying there is a bomb ticking down nearby.
'Widow, do we have a location yet?' Steve hates to harry her, but this is important.
'Tony?' he calls.
'Why is she Widow, but I'm Tony?'
'You don't have a secret identity,' Clint points out as he shoots another flurry of arrows.
'Tony! The bomb?' Steve shouldn't need to remind his teammates about this sort of thing.
'Noth...' Tony trails off. 'Found it, Cap.'
'How long do we have? Can you get it out of here?' Steve demands as he ducks a wild swing from a new opponent.
'Can't move it,' Tony replies. 'Half an hour on the clock. I'll disarm it but you guys need to get to a safe distance, this thing packs a punch.'
'How do you know?' Steve checks his opponent is unconscious.
'It's one of mine,' Tony tells him calmly.
'How far do we need to be?'
'At least a couple of miles,' Tony already sounds distracted. 'It's full of shrapnel by design and it looks like they may have made it dirty.'
'Tony, will the suit protect you if it goes off next to you?' Steve asks even as he joins the two assassins in exiting the area while still fighting the remains of the gang.
'If it goes off in my face?' Tony drawls, 'no. With a couple of hundred meters I'll be fine and the suit can go supersonic if I need it to.'
'Alright,' Steve agrees, 'make sure you leave yourself enough time to get away.'
A quarter of an hour later the three of them reach the Quinjet. Steve beelines for the monitor so he can check on Tony while Clint and Natasha stand on the ramp watching for anyone who may have followed them. Steve pulls up what should be the video feed from Tony's helmet but all he can see is a rock and the feed is sideways.
'Tony!' he shouts down the comm. desperately.
'Jesus Christ!' Tony's voice comes back to him immediately. 'For fucks sake, Cap, this is a little delicate, can you not make me jump?'
'Tony, thank God,' Steve sighs and then realises the implications of the video feed. 'Tony why have you taken off your helmet?'
'Oh, you're on the video feed?' Tony stalls.
'Yes! Turn it so I can see you.'
There's a small pause,
'It's fiddly work, Cap.'
'Turn. The. Helmet.'
He hears a sigh over the comm. and then the picture shifts and he can see Tony scowling faintly at the helmet as he repositions it to look at him.
Tony isn't wearing any of the suit at all.
'Hey, pumpkin,' Tony grins at the helmet. 'Can I get back to work now?' He's already turned back to the bomb.
'My suit is a work of art,' Tony interrupts, 'but I can't do this with it on.'
'How long on the clock?' Natasha appears at Steve's side.
It's subtle but Tony definitely flinches,
'How long, Tony.'
'Seven,' Tony admits. 'Everything's fine, Cap. I've got time.'
'If it gets down to a minute then put on the suit and get out of there,' Steve insists.
'I know how long this will take,' Tony keeps working. 'And to finish off I will have to use some of that last minute.'
'I don't want to watch you die, Tony!'
'If I'm wrong Jarvis will cut the feed with ten seconds to go.'
'Don't you dare!' Steve retorts, appalled.
'Make up your mind, sweetheart,' Tony suddenly sounds tired.
'I love you,' Steve blurts. At some point Natasha has melted back out so at least he's alone.
He can see Tony has closed his eyes for two long precious seconds. His eyes flick over to the helmet before he keeps working.
'I know what I'm doing,' is the eventual reply. 'I designed it, I know how to disarm it.'
'Alright,' Steve replies quietly and keeps his eyes glued to the screen.
Steve bites his lip and grips hard on the console as he watches Tony work. Natasha and Clint stay outside and Steve guesses it's to give them some privacy; he appreciates it.
'One minute remains,' Jarvis sounds tense and Steve feels the metal of the console give under his grip.
'Nearly got it, buddy,' Tony replies.
'Don't cut the camera,' Steve begs suddenly. 'Promise me.'
'I promise,' Tony nods and shoots a quick smile to the helmet. 'I... it was an honour, Captain.'
'Right, here goes nothing; I'm pulling the plug...' he sees Tony shift his grip on something.
'I love you...' Steve whispers because he refuses to have only told Tony that once.
Tony's only reply is to pull something out of the bomb.
The video feed goes dead.
Steve's heart stops.
There are voices coming to him as if from a distance; people are talking and someone says his name. The voices are raised, but he doesn't pay them any attention.
He's dropped to his knees on the floor of the Quinjet and pressing a hand to his bowed head.
All he can see is that last smile on Tony's face.
This can't be happening.
He shakes his head. He's Captain America; his team needs him.
The rest of his team needs him.
Tony doesn't anymore.
His unofficial second in command is...
His boyfriend can't really be...?
There's something touching his face; he tries to pull away but the grip is strong. He thinks he makes a whimpering noise but then there're a very familiar pair of lips on his own.
His eyes fly open as he rears back.
'Tony?!' he reaches immediately to grasp at the suit. The gauntlets are still framing his face and the faceplate is flipped back to reveal the very worried, very alive, Anthony Stark.
'Steve, baby, you ok?'
Steve's grip is probably lighting up the pressure warnings for Tony's suit.
He doesn't let go.
'You... I saw...'
'I promise everything is fine. I didn't cut the feed. Jarvis... I didn't ask him to, I really didn't,' Tony speaks very quickly. 'I called as soon as I realised what happened and then got here as quickly as I could when you didn't reply.'
Steve knows there are tears running down his face and some very ridiculous part of his mind is reminding him that Tony doesn't do well with tears so he tugs the suit against him so he can sob into the armour's shoulder.
'I'm fine, darling,' he can feel metal fingers brushing through his hair, 'I promise you I'm fine.'
There are two loud clunks behind him as Tony drops his gauntlets and then a third when Tony manages to get a hand to the helmet. Tony wipes his thumbs across Steve's cheeks and pulls him into a life-reaffirming kiss.
'I thought you were...'
'I know,' Tony presses kisses up the tear tracks on his face to his eyes and then hugs him tightly. 'I'm sorry. I'm going to have words with Jarvis.'
Hugging a metal suit isn't comfortable, but Steve can't even think of loosening his grip.
He doesn't know what he'd do without this man now.
* * *
The trip home passes in something of a haze.
Clint and Natasha have settled into the pilot's and co-pilot's seats respectively and closed the door between them and the back compartment. Tony has removed the rest of the suit and coaxed Steve into taking off his cowl and gloves. Steve lies down on one of the bench seats, Tony somehow wedges himself in beside him and wraps an arm around his waist. Steve hugs him close and concentrates on listening to him breathing in and out.
'I don't want to do this without you,' Steve breaks his silence.
'You don't have to,' Tony replies sleepily and snuggles a little closer.
It's too rare to have a sleepy Tony in his arms.
He nearly didn't have Tony anymore.
Steve realises he's clutching Tony too tightly when the genius grumbles against his shoulder. Steve loosens his grip and rubs his partner's back rhythmically.
'I'm glad I...'
'Don't get sappy on me, Cap,' Tony interrupts with a weak thump to his stomach. 'Not when I'm too tired to get away.'
'You're really romantic...' Steve can't stop himself smiling.
'Anything for you, sweetcheeks,' Tony pats his chest vaguely and falls quiet again.
'Anything?' Steve murmurs.
There's no reply.
Steve presses a kiss to Tony's hair and listens to his partner breathing.
* * *
Through unspoken agreement they head straight back to StarkTower rather than debriefing.
Steve would disapprove but Tony is asleep in his arms and he would pretty much have to let him go if he wanted to be in a meeting with Fury. Letting Tony out of his sight is just something that isn't going to happen right now. And it's not as though he could convince Tony to come with him.
He does manage to wake Tony up without the other man having a panic attack, though all the computer systems on the Quinjet go haywire for a few seconds.
'We're home,' Steve tells him quietly.
'The tower?' Tony dismisses his panic and stretches against his side. 'I need a drink.'
There's a split second, as Tony gets up from the bench, where Steve is insanely aware of the distance between them and then he's reached out and grabbed hold of Tony's hand.
'I'm sorry,' Steve doesn't let go. 'I just... I could have lost you today. I though I had lost...'
Tony shifts his hand to lace their fingers together and presses a kiss to Steve's forehead,
Steve nods helplessly and lets himself be towed to the penthouse.
'Welcome back, sir,' Jarvis' adjusts the lights. 'Would you like me to turn on the coffee machine?'
'Do we have ice?' Tony asks as he walks to the bar.
'Of course, sir.'
'You owe Cap an apology, Jay,' Tony announces as he pours a scotch one handed; Steve is still gripping the other.
'I do,' the AI replies. 'I can only beg your forgiveness, Captain. I did only what I thought was right.'
Steve just nods silently.
'Do you want anything, Cap?' Tony gestures to the bar.
'You,' Steve blurts.
'You have me,' Tony just smiles and presses an alcohol flavoured kiss to his lips.
He just pulls the other man against him and deepens the kiss. He never really would have expected the rasp of a beard against his skin to be so welcome.
Tony nips at his lips before pulling back just far enough to knock back the rest of his drink,
'Come on, I'm taking you to bed.'
Steve follows obediently. Upstairs he lets Tony strip him of the rest of his uniform and push him into the shower. He half expects to be joined, but Tony waits for him to finish before taking his turn.
Steve sits on his side of the bed and stares at the bathroom door as he waits.
Seeing Tony without the arc reactor in his chest is still surprising. The genius strides across the room to join him in the bed and immediately presses a kiss to Steve's lips. Steve tugs him closer until their lying pressed together.
He runs his hands through Tony's hair and feels the man hum in pleasure.
Just as he's expecting things to heat up he feels Tony shake his head and push himself up a little. He turns his head to look up at him. Tony's expression is nervous determination for a split second before morphing into a cocky smile.
Tony sits up further and then throws his leg over Steve so he's straddling his hips. Steve's hands automatically find their way to Tony's waist. He looks up at the genius in confusion.
Tony fixes his gaze on Steve as his thumbs rub absent mindedly against Steve's stomach,
'I love you.'
Steve's world crashes to a stop for the second time today.
The next thing he knows he's sitting up, with Tony in his lap, kissing passionately. Tony's arms are around his neck and Steve's fingers are digging into the genius' back.
'I love you,' he says when they break for air. 'Tony, I love you so much.'
Tony's protective mask has slipped; there's a look of hope shining through.
Sorry for the delay at the end there.
Hope you enjoyed it despite the wait :-)
PS as per a previous comment I have edited this -verse to correct any instances of using 'arc' rather than 'arc reactor' or 'reactor'. If I missed any I'd appreciate a heads up.