Notes: I've been sitting on this partly finished fill for a while, so I finally decided to get off my ass and finish it so that I can write more and feel a little bit like I've accomplished something.

Title: Never Again

Fandom: Captain America: The First Avenger / Iron Man (movieverse)

Pairing: Steve/Tony

Words: 2607 words

Prompt: Due to a convenient plot device, Steve and the rest of the Avengers plan to visit Tony at his home in Malibu, as some sort of surprise. They arrive but no one seems to be there. Then they find Tony crawling, halfway to his lab.

This is what happened: Some villain managed to infiltrate Tony's home and pulled an Obadiah, he stole the Arc Reactor Tony used at the time.

Serious H/C ensues.

Bonus if Steve gets seriously paranoid about Tonys safety and never lets him out of his sight afterwards.

Disclaimer: It's not mine. The characters belong to Marvel and the studio which produces the movies; I'm just here to play in the sandbox. I don't make anything by writing this.

Never Again

The mansion was quiet. Too quiet. Steve would've sworn that he could've heard a pin drop. As it was, the only sound he could hear was the pounding of his own heart in his ears and his ragged breathing.

Stark mansion was never this quiet. There was always noise. Whether it was the radio cranked up as loud as it could go, or the sounds of Tony trying, and failing again, to make something in the kitchen, or the very loud bangs and crashes coming from his garage as he worked out a few new kinks in the armour. There was always noise of some kind.

Tony could not stand silence.

Silence meant rejection and it unnerved Tony. He hated it and always tried to fill it up in whatever way he could. He'd babble on and on about whatever new technological development he'd made or the weather – whatever first popped into his head and he'd launch into a very long spiel about it.

Steve knew that and he understood and he put up with it, enjoyed it even. He thought it was endearing even if it did somewhat unnerve or even irritate the others. Steve found that he liked it. A lot.

Maybe it was because he'd lost so much and Tony was some sort of reminder of that, but no. Tony was his own person. He was not his father; the two of them were as different as night and day.

But the silence was starting to get to him. His heart was pounding wildly in his chest and he could hear his pulse ringing in his ears. Something was very, very wrong. And he couldn't say what that was.

"Tony?" His voice echoed, but there was no response.

In and of itself, that wasn't unusual. If Tony was wrapped up enough in his work then he'd block the entire world out; though he would usually make an exception for Steve.

There was something about the silence, though, that told Steve that this just wasn't another of Tony's moods.

It was hard to describe, but his soldier's instincts were screaming in his ears. There was just something wrong – very, very wrong, wrong, wrong! – about all of this. Too much silence. Tony was supposed to be home and he hated silence. There should have been sounds of some kind or another.

He walked further in, muscles tense and poised for combat. Despite that feeling of dread sinking low in his stomach, Steve felt his training kicking in and a strange sense of calm settled over him.

Steve didn't actually see anything out of the ordinary until he rounded the corner to the large living room with its huge windows looking out over the city below.

The coffee table had been kicked over and one of the lamps had been knocked off its table and shattered on the polished floor.

That was it. That was the only sign Steve needed.

"Tony?" He whirled around, taking off towards the staircase that led down to the lab. If something had happened it would be all his fault because he should not have left Tony alone, not like that, because sometimes he did forget that Tony wasn't as strong as he seemed to be.

If Tony was hurt, if someone had – then it was Steve's fault. He shouldn't have lost his temper with him, shouldn't have gotten into that argument with him. If he hadn't started it, then he would have been here. He would have been here and he'd have been able to help Tony – save him.

If anything had happened to him, it would be all Steve's fault. Maybe Tony would be able to forgive him some day, but Steve would never forget; would never stop blaming himself.

He'd failed to save Bucky. He wouldn't fail Tony like that. Not when Tony was all he had left, that one spot of light that made him smile when he'd been drowning in the fact that everything he'd known and loved was gone. Tony had helped him through all of that, taught him that it was okay to open up his heart again.

He wouldn't be able to take Tony's loss. It would destroy him.

Steve only stopped long enough to withdraw the gun that Fury had issued him alongside his reinstated commission. It felt unfamiliar in his hand – the weight of it wasn't quite what he was used to – but he felt a little bit calmer. This was something he knew.

Carefully, he made his way towards the stairs, clearing the living room as he went. He slowly made his way down the stairs, making sure not to make a single noise as he went.

But, god, how he wanted to rush down those stairs, calling out Tony's name.

The sleek glass door to the lab was closed, which Steve noticed when he came to the bottom of the stairs. From what he can see from a cursory glance of the lab, nothing looks out of place; almost everything was where it should be, where he remembered it being.

Steve made his way over to the keypad, a small spurt of reassurance shooting through him when he realized that the door was locked. It wasn't just locked, he realized, but locked to the point where he'd need the override that Tony had installed for him (well, Pepper and Steve had insisted on it).

He punched in the code, not lowering his gun, and the door slid open with a quiet whoosh. For a brief moment, Steve tensed, expecting someone to pop out from somewhere with a gun to Tony's head, but that didn't happen. Instead, he was greeted by the quiet noises of the lab.

Focused, Steve raised the gun, slowly moving further into the lab, senses on high alert.

A soft noise that sounded something like a wounded animal drew his attention and he whirled around. He couldn't see anyone, but –


His name came out as more of a panicked exhalation of breath than anything else, but Steve felt his heart hammer in his chest before it jumped into his throat. Slowly – so painful, he just wanted to rush to Tony and take him into his arms and just hold him – he approached Tony, clearing each area as he went.

Tony was collapsed on the floor; he'd probably dragged himself all the way there. He was shaking and, from what Steve could see, barely breathing. He must have heard Steve, though, because he tensed up and tried to drag himself away.

Once he was close enough, and assured that they were the only ones there, he holstered his gun and rushed the rest of the distance to Tony's side.

"Tony!" That time, his voice was louder. Steve could hear the barely suppressed panic in his voice as he wrapped his arms carefully around Tony's shoulders and rolled him over.

The first thing that registered in Steve's mind was that the familiar glow of the arc reactor at the front of Tony's chest was gone. He reached out a shaking hand and pressed it against where it would be, feeling the hollow area where it usually was.

It was gone.

Tony had relaxed a little when he realized that it was Steve, but he was dangerously pale and the veins stood out in his neck and face. He was weakly gasping for breath. But he managed to grab Steve's hand on his chest, squeezing it with all the strength he had left and pointed weakly towards where he'd been dragging himself.

As loath as he was to let go of Tony, he knew that he had to. He might not have understood all the technological babble about the arc reactor, but he was all too well aware of the fact that Tony's survival depended on it.

He did, though, drop a quick kiss on his cheek before moving away and nearly pulling the door of the cabinet that Tony had indicated off its hinges. Steve didn't really care about the damage – those were fixable, Tony was irreplaceable – and quickly found what he was looking for sitting on one of the shelves. The spare arc reactor gave off an innocent glow as Steve pulled it off the shelf, smashing the protective glass casing on the floor before rushing back to Tony's side.

Tony was trying to give Steve instructions on how to connect the arc reactor, but his voice was so weak that Steve could only make a few out. He was shaking badly, worse than before, and his pallor was taking on an unhealthy purplish hue.

Without much thought, Steve ripped the thin cotton tee that Tony had been wearing right off, revealing the empty hole where the old arc reactor had been. The hole where the arc reactor had been was like a gaping wound to Steve and he felt his heart jump up into his throat.

He fumbled for a minute with the cord attached to the spare arc reactor before carefully – his hands only had a slight tremor – sliding it into the hole. He carefully kept it as centred as he could, since he vaguely remembered Tony saying something how it would just click into place; his hands were too large to comfortably fit into the arc reactor's socket, but his fingers were long enough that he could almost reach the plate at the bottom.

Steve heard the click of the arc reactor snapping into place and let out a breath that he hadn't realized he'd been holding. He carefully slid the arc reactor into place, securing it the way he'd seen Tony do before.

Tony made a soft noise that sounded something like a whimper as Steve connected the arc reactor. His breathing slowly began to even out but he was still shaking and his skin was still very white. But the purplish hue started to fade.

Without thinking, Steve pulled Tony into a sitting position and right into a tight embrace. He buried his face in Tony's neck; feeling his pulse, inhaling hi scent, the fact that he was still warm and breathing and alive. That was all that mattered.

Words fell out of his mouth without any particular order. Steve was babbling and they both knew it.

"I'm sorry... what happened? ... doesn't matter... oh god... you're... I thought you... alive... thank god... scared me... please... Tony..."

Tony was still recovering from the shock and he was shaking. Steve was holding him a little too tightly, but that wasn't important. He just threw his own arms around Steve's shoulders once he found the strength and held onto him just as tightly.

The two of them stayed like that for what felt like an eternity. Eventually, Steve's rambling quieted down and he was pressing feather-light kisses to Tony's neck, making the older man shiver. But the two of them remained tangled together on the floor of the lab, both unwilling to move.

After several more minutes of the two of them just sitting there holding each other, Steve's grip slackened just a little bit. His head was still resting on Tony's shoulder. It took a few more minutes before he pulled away to look at Tony.

"Are you alright? What happened?"

Still a little too pale, Tony blinked a few times to focus. "Fine, just fine. Better than before even."

Reaching up, Steve smoothed his hands down the sides of Tony's face, stopping to cup it in his hands, "I'm sorry. I didn't meant to get angry at you like that, I shouldn't have–"

"No, no, it's fine, really. I'm fine and you're fine and really, I think that you'd have gotten shot if you'd been here but I'm glad that you're not because cleaning up blood is really a pain in the ass and I really think it's okay that you weren't here and I'm sorry that I pissed you off so badly that you really thought that you had to leave, but I totally understand."

"Tony..."Steve sighed. He couldn't help the feeling of relief that was swelling up in his chest; warmth spreading outward from somewhere deep inside him that he hadn't lost this, that he hadn't lost Tony. "Please, just tell me what happened."

"You know what? I'm not actually that sure about what happened. I just remember that I was on my feet one second and then the next I was sort of falling over and I think I might have broken a lamp. No, I didn't see their face, I think they were wearing a mask but I could be wrong because everything was looking really blurry..."

Tony had leaned closer to Steve, still shivering a little, probably from shock. He was still talking.

"... said something about needing the arc reactor but nothing else. They just took it and left and then I just remember thinking that oh god, I have to get to the lab, there's a spare one there just in case someone tries this again – I learned my lesson from the last time this happened–"

And Steve did remember that; Fury mentioned it in his briefing and sometimes Tony had nightmares about the incident and would wake up in a cold sweat and clung to Steve for hours – not that Steve minded.

"–maybe I should keep one closer to the stairs because I think I nearly passed out when I finally got to the bottom and I really didn't think you'd get back so soon. I was kind of hoping that I'd be able to make it before you got back cause I really do know that you wouldn't want to find my dead body since I know you and I know you'd blame yourself even though it's not your fault and–"

"Tony, it's alright," Steve said, pressing a kiss to Tony's lips to silence him. "It won't happen again, I promise."

"You can't say that. I'll probably do something to piss you off again and then we'll argue and–"

"We'll work it out, don't worry." Steve managed to smile, kissing Tony again, several times. "This won't happen again, alright?"

Tony frowned but shrugged, "Alright, if you say so."

Steve caught the barely suppressed yawn that followed that statement and this time his smile was a little more genuine. The floor of the garage wasn't particularly comfortable and Tony was tired. He'd put him to bed before he contacted Fury about what had happened.

And of course he wasn't about to let Tony walk after he'd nearly died.

Carrying Tony was easy, he just complained about the entire thing.

"I can walk, you know."

"I know. But you're tired and you nearly just died," Steve choked a little on the last word. He had to take a deep breath to steady himself before he continued, "You need rest; not more exercise."

Tony hummed thoughtfully. Steve knew he was probably trying to come up with a good argument to the contrary, but the way he was snuggling closer to Steve's chest and how he hadn't put up a fight when Steve swept him up into a bridal carry was answer enough.

It was a little awkward manoeuvring up the stairs with Tony in his arms, but Steve managed. Tony had already started to doze off in his arms by the time they reached the bedroom, and he only made a sleepy mumble along the lines of a demand for Steve to get into bed with him.

Even though he was fully dressed and it was only late in the afternoon, Steve complied. He shucked off his shoes near the end of the bed before lying Tony down in it and set his gun and its holster on the bedside table, within easy reach if he needed it. He tucked Tony in, telling him in a soft voice that he'd be right back.

He stepped into the hall and sighed. It was going to be a very long next few days.


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