Contrary to popular belief, the worst part of being a hero wasn't the fighting.

Sure, the fighting bit got rough sometimes – okay, a lot of times – but it was pretty par for the course. Besides, Tony would never claim to be a pacifist; sometimes, it felt good to get out there and just beat some evil-doers until they scampered off whimpering with their tails between their legs.

No, the fighting wasn't the worst.

It was what came after.

See, Tony was fine when the fists and bullets and various-assorted-freeze/heat/shrink/anti-gravity/death-ray beams were flying. When he was too caught up in the chaos to feel anything but adrenaline. When his mind was too busy charging through strategies and plans so fast an average man would probably have a breakdown.

But then the chaos would end, and the smoke would clear, and the frenzy would ebb to make room for all the other stuff. Other stuff like regret: maybe he could have done this better, maybe he could have done that faster, if only he'd thought of this in time. Stuff like realization: Fury would be furious – insert chuckle here – when he found out they'd blown up a whole building, and were the streets always all cracked up like that, and what were the chances they could train Hulk to "smash" less cars in the line of duty?

Mostly, though, it was stuff like worry. Deep, gut-wrenching worry: was everyone okay? Where were they? Steve? Where was Steve? Was he hurt? Trapped under the rubble? Why wasn't he coming to join the others in the middle of the—

Oh, there he was.

"Well," he said once everyone had made their way to the impromptu powwow in the middle of what used to be a New York City street, "that was fun."

To be fair, he was reasonably sure that the Doombots had caused most of the damage. That said, Bruce looked awfully guilty as he looked around the wreckage. Tony didn't really see why he bothered; Fury and STARK Industries would just pay to have it rebuilt, and it wasn't like they'd just saved the city from Doctor Doom or anything. He figured they should be celebrating.

That, of course, would have to wait until they got out of there, which he promptly suggested they do.

"Shouldn't we try to help clean this up?" Steve said.

"Clean-up is very messy business," Tony said. "We should leave it to the professionals."

Natasha rolled her eyes. "You just don't want to do it."

Raising an eyebrow, Tony feigned surprise. "And here I thought that was obvious. Of course, if you feel the pressing need to stick around and show these silly civil servants a thing or two, more power to you. I'm going home. Steve?"

Steve's brows were knotted, and there was a certain responsible compassion in his eyes that, if it were anyone else, would've made Tony want to punch them in the face. But it was Steve, and this was how he was: responsible, compassionate, kind, and all other sorts of adjectives Tony used to think didn't belong in the dictionary on his word processor. Until he'd met Steve, he didn't think anyone really was any of that.

But Steve was.

And now that he thought about it, there were a few more adjectives he could put with his boyfriend at the moment. Filthy, for one. He was covered in concrete powder and soot, stuck to the skin of his face by sweat. It clung to his suit, too, only, on closer inspection, Tony realized that wasn't what was soiling the royal blue fabric on his arm.

Well, now it simply wasn't a question. Walking up to Steve, he grabbed him by the arm that didn't appear to be wounded. "We're going home," he said, and that was that.

They were gone before the smoke finished clearing.