Tony would never antagonize the S.H.I.E.L.D. medics again.

Okay, maybe that was setting his goals a little high. But there were some things he wasn't going to complain about, if not ever, then at least for maybe the next, say, three months? He could do three months.

This had earned the medics three months.

See, if it wasn't for them and their obnoxious insistence that they keep a ready supply of all of their blood, this would have been a lot more difficult. As it was, the several pints they had collected from Tony's favorite super-soldier since his thaw-out had been extraordinarily helpful.

Bruce had put the last pieces together an hour ago. The poison was a derivative of organic arsenic, and once he'd figured out what it was, it had apparently been pretty straightforward from there figuring out a treatment plan.

Tony could've kissed him. That would've been weird though, and given that neither of them had shaved since all this started, probably a little scratchy. He settled for helping him set things up.

The first was an exchange transfusion. The poison worked by binding itself to tissues and destroying red blood cells, so replacing the destroyed cells and affected tissues helped dilute the effects some.

In tandem, they had him on chelation therapy, pumping in a drug – the name of it started with a D, but it had too many syllables and not enough importance for him to remember – that would give the arsenic something else to bind to until his body could figure out a way to flush it out on its own.

To be honest, Tony hadn't been so sure about it the first hour. They'd stuck him in enough places with enough needles to make a pin-cushion sympathetic to his plight, and though he hadn't woken up all the way, it was clear Steve had felt the vast majority of it.

Now, though, with all the little pinpricks neatly bandaged, his metabolism up, and his sedatives and muscle relaxers reduced to a slightly less coma-inducing level it seemed like Steve was on the mend. It would take him a couple days to a week, Bruce said, before he was back to normal.

Tony would settle on him just waking up, already. His ass was starting to go numb, sitting there in his desk chair by the bed. It was going on ten at night, so television was for shit, and he didn't really have anything to do. As it were, the sleeping man lying in the bed was the most interesting thing going on in the room.

…these truly were desperate times.

"I'm bored," Tony said aloud and to no one in particular. It wasn't like there was anyone to say it to; the others were all downstairs. Far enough away to give Tony his space, close enough that they were there if he needed.

And Pepper said he needed to make friends. Seemed to him he had all he needed.

"I think it's only fair to warn you, last time I was bored, I found a way to hack into the PA system at the PGA tournament and blast ACDC at the last hole. Blew the guy's swing. I think he hit a squirrel…And then there's the time before that, I—"


Tony would've jumped, only he was too busy swiveling around in his desk chair and half-falling, half-leaping out of it and over to the bed. Bracing a hand on the bed, he leaned over Steve's still form, his eyes scanning for any signs of consciousness.

"Steve? Was that you? Because it sounded like you, and if it wasn't, I might actually have to start listening to Pepper when she says I need thera—"


Tony felt his heart stop dead in his chest as two slivers of the most gorgeous blue he had ever seen slid open.


Steve was awake. He was awake, and he wasn't screaming or throwing punches or anything. He was awake, and as far as Tony could tell, he was okay.

More or less, anyway.

"You're awfully cranky for someone that's been sleeping for three days," Tony said, unable to keep the big ass grin off his face. He had to jab; it was in his nature. But he jabbed with love. "Wake up on the wrong side of the coma?"

"Coma?" Steve's brows knotted.

"More like an extended nap. Highly extended." And a little heavier on the drama, but he wasn't going to go into that just yet. "How are you feeling?"

"Honestly?" Steve said, shifting a little. He winced as he did, but Tony was pleased to find that he managed to at least push himself up a little on the pillows. "Like I've been hit by a tank."

"Just a tank, huh?" Tony said. "And here I thought it was going to be bad." Smiling, he sat down on the side of the bed. "You're feeling better, though, right? Seriously, I mean."

"I guess," Steve said. "I'm a little fuzzy on the comparison."

"You'll be a little fuzzy on a lot of things for the next few hours," Tony said with a chuckle. "The miracle of modern drugs. You should get a little while to enjoy it before your superpowers kick back in and spoil the buzz."

Steve just rolled his eyes. "You're a bad influence."

"But I'm sexy."

"Actually…" Steve studied Tony for a moment, "you look like shit."

"Now you're just being hurtful."

"Sorry." And he actually sounded genuinely sorry.

Damn, Tony loved this man. He exasperated, worried, and confused the hell out of him sometimes, but damn did he love him.

"Don't be. The drugs also say you get a free pass for saying whatever the hell you want."

"Huh." Steve seemed to mull over that little bit of information. "So, I have drugs..." a glimmer of the mischievous streak Tony adored came through in the form of a weak but clever smile. "What's your excuse."

"Touché. You know, I think I liked you better when you were asleep."

As if on cue, Steve yawned.

"I think that means it's bed time for Cap'n," Tony said.

But Steve shook his head. "I'm not tired."

Now, Tony had never had much experience with kids, but he imagined that was kind of what a toddler that wasn't ready for a nap would sound like.

Funny, it was actually cute on Steve.

"Your lips say no," Tony said, "but your yawn says 'sleepy time'. Come on, the world will still be here when you wake up. I'd say make the most of your downtime while you can. Fury will be riding your ass before you know it. After I've had my turn, of course."

And somehow, sleepy and sick and still a little bit stoned as he was, Steve managed to look incredulous. "Really?" he said. "Sex jokes? That's—that's…really? Really, Tony?"

"I am a product of my upbringing."

Steve raised an eyebrow. "Lots of fondue?"

Tony blinked. "Yep," he said after a moment, "definitely time to sleep. You're talking nonsense again."

"Pot and kettle, Tony." Another yawn. A cough. A wince. "Pot and kettle."

"Aren't you a steaming pile of compliments today?" Tony said, and he stood.

And promptly watched as Steve, still weighed down by drugs and weak from the poison, exerted the monumental effort required for him to shift over to one side of the bed and pull back the covers. "Sleep, Tony."

Because even when he'd just woken up from a near-death experience, Steve always had his back. He was always looking out for Tony, always caring about someone other than himself.

It was times like this Tony was reminded just how good a man Steve Rogers really was. And how lucky he was to have him.

"Well," he said, a small smile on his face as he stepped out of his shoes and kicked off his jeans, "if you insist." And as carefully as he could, he slid into the bed next to his boyfriend.

One could argue that it was his weight pulling the mattress down, but Tony liked to think Steve curled into him because he liked it better that way. God only knew, as Tony slipped an arm around Steve and pulled him close, that he definitely did.

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

It was when the chaos would end, and the smoke would clear, and the frenzy would ebb to make room for all the other stuff.

But sometimes, just sometimes, it was the other stuff, what came in the aftermath, that was also best part of being a hero…the best part of being alive.