Disclaimer: I do not own the Avengers.

Bad news, this is the last chapter. I mean, they've confessed their feelings. They've caught the bad guy. Anymore writing would just drag it on and on. Which what I try to avoid. So, this is the last chapter with a seriously long list of people who have reviewed at the end. Keep a look out for the next story (which might be a real sequel actually) that is titled Problems on Top of Problems.

Another thing, before you start freaking out, remember whose POV this story is in? Tony's. Yeah, that's right. So who can't die? (that's for all of you freaking out about if he would be okay last chapter)

Update: June 26, 2012. I realized I put "Rodney" instead of "Rhodey." That was unacceptable.

Bitter Beginnings


Chapter Eight

Summary: When a recon mission goes horribly wrong there's a domino effect that leaves Steve cracked and almost broken. Luckily, there's a man made of iron who might just be the one to help. Pre-slash/Slash

Dust. Pebbles. A curse. A rumble.



His whole body hurt. He ached all over. Tony couldn't move, couldn't even twitch a finger. His eyes were glued shut.

"Tony, please wake up."

Someone grabbed his hand and squeezed tightly. It hurt…kind of. It was a dull sort of pain, it barely registered compared to the pain in his leg and on his chest—like an elephant was making him its new chair.


He wanted to wake up. Steve was out there. Steve was awake. Steve had to be awake.

But why was he even asleep in the first place? Did he work late again? Ya know, Pepper always warned him that would bite him in the ass sooner or later.

…that didn't explain why he hurt so much, though.

"You said you wouldn't leave. You promised."

Tony thought long and hard. Really hard, it made his head hurt.

His leg hurt. Okay. His chest hurt. Okay. His head hurt (more than it did before). Okay. There were…rocks and dust and pebbles. And Steve. And a pen.

"Well, this is you, leaving. Would it be odd if I called you an asshole?"

Did Steve just call him an asshole? Really?

…Did he just register that Steve was there? Was Steve holding his hand?

Wait, he was leaving?...What?

And then it all came rushing back. The pain increased tenfold and he jerked back to the land of reality with a guttural scream, practically throwing himself off the bed in an attempt to get away from the pain.

Strong arms caught him and held him down; using such gentleness that Tony froze for a moment. His vision cleared and Steve stared at him, blue eyes filled with tears and worry.

Tears and worry for him.

"Tony," he rasped out, voice dripping with relief. He kissed Tony desperately, like it was the last kiss they were ever going to have.

Tony should really start initiating the kisses. He was losing his touch.

"What happened?" Tony croaked out when the soldier pulled away. His chest burned with every breath and he felt greasy all over. No showers? "No, wait. How long?"

"Two weeks."

His eyes widened. Two weeks? "Two…weeks?"

Steve nodded. "Yeah. Your chest was practically crushed; you have more than a few broken ribs. You just started breathing on your own a day and a half ago."

Tony touched the arc reactor. "My—."

Steve frowned, eyes flashing angrily (?). "It wasn't damaged much, but it caused a huge uproar with the doctors when they learned they couldn't do a few vital tests because of it. You're lucky they could figure out a way around it before you died."


He took Tony's hand again, tangling their fingers together and brushing back a lock of too long brown hair. "You're gonna be on crutches for a while, but you shouldn't have a limp…granted, that's only if you take care of yourself."

That's when Tony glanced down to see that his thigh was a lot thicker than he remembered. Right, so that was where the pain was coming from. Metal pole. Leg. Yeah.

"Oh," he said, dazed. "That's…good to know." It was, really.

Steve smiled fondly. "You realize I won't let you slack off in that department, right? I'll force you take care of yourself." His smile grew incredibly sad. "Don't ever scare me like that again," he whispered.

"I won't," he said, but didn't promise. In their line of work they couldn't promise something like that. The look on Steve's face told him that the other man understood. "But I do promise I won't leave you."

"I'll hold you to it."

Tony eyed him strictly, taking in the bags under his eyes and the messy, unkempt hair that was so unlike the soldier it was almost funny. (Did he mention Steve was wearing a 'Property of Stark Industries' shirt that looked incredibly hot on him?) "Have you been here the whole time?"

Steve nodded. "Yeah, Natasha brought me clothes. Bruce, food. And Clint brought me books. You ever read A Clockwork Orange?"

"Can't say I have."


Tony ran his thumb across his knuckles, feeling little ridges from the vase that was broken two weeks ago. "You didn't have to stay."

Steve snorted. "Do you really think I'd leave you here?" His eyes shone with so much worry Tony felt like he was drowning. "You almost died. Like hell I was going to leave you."

He cleared his throat. He really needed to start working on situations like this, the ones where feelings kicked in. "…did you call me an asshole earlier?"

Steve flushed a little. "Maybe," he said clearly, a little too proud that he did. "You deserved it. You were about to break a promise."

"About to," Tony reminded him. "About to is a lot different from actually breaking it." He yawned. Wow, he was really tired. Which made no since, he'd been sleeping for two weeks (Two fucking weeks) right?

Then again. Last time something this (What did Rhodey call it?) "traumatic" happened (i.e. when he first got the shrapnel in his chest) he slept forever. And he wasn't even that injured last time. So who knew now how long he would end up sleeping.

"Go to sleep," Steve urged just when Tony's eyes started fluttering as he struggled to stay away. "I promise I'll be here when you wake up."

"Again…" he mumbled, grinning.

Steve smiled. "Again."

He slipped off to lalaland with that smile in his mind's eye. But he dreamed of explosions and pain and metal poles that went up for miles and miles then dropped right down into the center of his chest. Right where the arc reactor was. Right where his heart was. Maybe he screamed, maybe he didn't.

Warmth spread on his forehead, and then again on his chest, and then everything changed to a warm bed with an equally warm body next to his. Coffee and working on the suit. JARVIS bickering with him. A refill of coffee appearing in the corner of his eye, his gaze leading up to a Steve who smiled at him, kissed him, and made the whole room just a little brighter.

So, yeah, good dreams.

It really, seriously helped that when he woke up the next time Steve was right there, waiting for him.

Okay…not really. Steve was right there, but fast asleep in a very uncomfortable position. He was hunched over, too tall for the small visitor chair that the helicarrier had for the medical bay, and resting on Tony's arm (which explained why he just now realized he couldn't feel it and didn't even know he had an arm…man, he was tired), his hand still clamped around the billionaire's.

Tony grinned, relieved that Steve kept his promise. Not that for one second he entertained the thought that he wouldn't, it was just an ingrained feeling that never went away. Ever. It was really, really annoying.

Steve shifted, and for a moment he thought the other man was awake. But he was wrong…partially. His shoulders jerked and he let out a choked whimper, he squeezed Tony's hand harder (how was that even possible?).

"Steve, wake up." He reached over with his free hand (ow) and shook the soldier's shoulder.

He shot up, eyes wide.

"It was a nightmare," Tony assured. "Everything's good now."

His shoulders sagged but a smile flitted across his face. Steve leaned over, kneading his fingers up and down Tony's prickling arm. "How do you feel?"

Wow, that felt really good.

Tony ran his tongue on the roof of his mouth. "Better," he said. Less sore. Less fire. "Water?"

Steve didn't even respond before a straw was placed in front of his mouth and cool, sweet water was traveling down his throat.

"When I get out of here," Tony said, slightly breathless (damn good water). "You're moving to my room."

He almost dropped the glass. "I am?" He questioned.

Tony narrowed his eyes. "Why is that so surprising?"

Steve dropped his gaze and shrugged. "I'm not sure," he answered honestly (at this point Tony's learned the difference). He picked at the sheets. "Are you sure you want me to...move in so soon?"

His heart sank. "You don't want to?"

"No, I do," Steve said quickly. "Trust me, I do. But…don't you want time to, ya know, to recover, recuperate?"

Tony smiled warmly up at him. "All I need is you."

Steve blinked. "Okay," he said slowly, the corners of his lips twitching. "I think you need to sleep now, you're getting mushy again."

"I don't wanna," he whined (déjà vu…again?). "I hate hospitals." Didn't they all?

"Medical bay," Steve corrected.

Tony rolled his eyes. "Same difference. I've been sleeping for too long…Wait, you're moving into my room, right?" 'Cause he didn't want to leave it up in the air if he did end up falling asleep…without an answer.

Steve chuckled. "Yes, Tony. I'll move in with you." He brushed a hand across Tony's forehead. "Now sleep."


"No! Don't sleep yet."

"Bruce," Steve said, sighing. "You're the one who said—over and over if I might add—that he needed as much sleep as possible."

Something just occurred to him. "Well, oh shit." Oops. Tony swore had a good excuse. "I forgot to ask how you guys were doing…"

Natasha appeared with a laugh and a slightly creepy smile (if spiders could smile Tony had no doubt that was the type of smile they would wear). She leaned against the door frame. "Yeah, we figured," she said. "Too busy making kissy faces at your new boyfriend over there, huh?"

Steve turned pink and rolled his eyes. "Haha, you're so funny, Natasha," he said sarcastically.

Clint smirked (wait, when did he get here?). "I see Tony's rubbing off on ya, Cap."

"…There's nothing wrong with that."

Tony laughed (even though it hurt his chest). "No there's not."

Bruce clapped his hands. "So, I guess we're moving Steve's stuff to your room?"

"…we are?" Clint said incredulously. Natasha jabbed her elbow in his ribs. "Ow! Okay, okay, we are. Shouldn't be too much trouble….jerk," he muttered, rubbing his side.

"You don't have to," Steve quickly said. "I can do it."

"Oh please." Natasha laughed again. "You're going to spend all your time in the hospital until Tony gets out and, by then, you still won't want to leave his side. You're going to be a very doting boyfriend, I can tell."

"…You're having way too much fun with this," Bruce helpfully pointed out.

"Shush, no I'm not."

"This is great and all," Steve interrupted. "But Tony really does need to get more sleep."

"No I don't." He yawned.

Steve grinned. "Yes you do." He shooed everyone else out of the room. Fairly quickly, surprisingly enough.

It was a really bad idea, but Tony shifted over to make a Steve Rogers sized spot (this was a medical bed? This thing was way to big…unless someone arranged it like that…hmm. Coulson? Maria?). He groaned softly before brushing past the pain and patting the bed. "Come join me."

"You shouldn't have done that," Steve scolded. "That really hurt, didn't it?"

"Yeah," he replied honestly, smiling "But you wanna know what will make it better?"

Steve rolled his eyes, but there was a grin on his face and he was already carefully moving onto the bed next to him. "Hm, I don't know. What?"

Tony snuggled against him; careful about his injuries and all the wires (was he a computer or something?). He felt Steve slowly relax and wrap a gentle arm around him.

Okay, maybe if this was what he could look forward to everyday he wouldn't mind staying in a hospit—sorry, medical bay.

Steve dropped a kiss on top of his head (even though it was in need of a serious wash).

Oh hell yeah, this was perfect.

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Thank you all for your reviews and kind words (except the reviews from Chapter Seven were rather…threatening, but that's understandable.)