Tony wasn't feeling too bad when he woke up. Usually, when the first thing that greeted him upon waking was the sharp chemical smell of disinfectants, he felt like shit. But it didn't feel like there were any life-threatening holes in important areas, only a vague throbbing localized in the back of his skull. His mouth on the other hand, tasted like road-kill. Now that he was more awake, he kind of felt like it, too.
Blinking heavily, the blurry gray lines of the machinery next to him swirled into focus. The beeping of the heart monitor was atrociously loud to his eardrums, so he lifted up his surprisingly floppy arm and pushed it away. Wiggling his fingers in wonder at their numbness, he lifted up his white shirt just to check for damage. He pouted at the sight of his smooth and unbroken skin. Not there. He stretched his leaden legs and nothing tingled suspiciously. No spinal problems. His heart was pumping blood through his body at an acceptable rate, as the annoying hunk of cheap plastic next to him showed.
Tony leaned forward and started poking through his hair. Rough gauze met his fingertips and he groaned. They shaved part of his head. Without permission.
The last thing he remembered was standing on the roof of a building. He'd been in his suit.
He'd fallen from somewhere, not purposely. Well, maybe purposely. He shouldn't be able fall; he was able to fly.
There was a vivid flash of red, white, and blue. Steve, looking spectacularly unkempt, and why that stuck out in his brain he had no idea. Steve had been reaching for him, or something like it.
"God, this is a hangover from hell," he croaked, throat dry.
In moving the stand that the heart rate monitor was on, he'd unwittingly pushed the cart that had water on it. He was just about to reach for it, when the doorknob clicked and Steve walked in.
Tony froze, instincts telling him that the tense set of Steve's shoulder blades wasn't a good sign.
He was still in his Captain America suit, sans the headgear, and he looked fresh from the battlefield. So Tony hadn't been out for that long. Steve gently closed the door and turned to face Tony.
"You look like crap," Tony deadpanned.
Blue bruises lined Steve's jaw, dirt-smeared scratches on his forehead and cheek, and a particularly angry burn covered the side of his neck.
Steve's face was a blank slate as he approached Tony's bed. Steve must have seen him reach for the pitcher, because he tugged the cart forward with his foot and poured him water with deliberate precision. He carefully set the glass in front of Tony and stepped back.
Tony eyed it suspiciously and took a measured sip.
There was a long pause that seemed to drag for minutes.
"If you're going to say something, I'd appreciate it if you'd, you know, say something."
Steve exhaled sharply, then reached forward and pulled the cup away from Tony. There was a S.H.I.E.L.D symbol on the side, which tipped Tony off that he was at one of their headquarters, in a place that wasn't usually a hospital.
The high-pitched ping met Tony's ears faster than his eyes processed Steve's fingers shattering the glass cup in his hand. Water fell over his closed fist and splattered on the floor. Steve huffed softly and set the shards on the cart in front of Tony and pushed it away.
That's probably why glass wasn't a good idea.
Especially around highly volatile superheroes.
"Do you remember?" Steve asked.
Tony plucked at the IV running in his elbow. "Apparently not the important things."
He watched Steve's clenched jaw rotate, grinding his teeth. "Think about it. We were on the roof. You lunged. You fell. And if you still don't remember, try again until you do."
Tony's head was killing him, but things were starting to piece together, flashes and voices.
Cap was clueless. He had his back turned. The missile was flying. Cap was yelling something in his ear. Radio systems went down. Even if he could warn Steve now, he wouldn't have time to duck. Iron Man was faster. He took it like a champ. Actually, the impact got him in the back of the head, knocking his helmet off. There was a swift drop of his stomach from an uncontrolled fall. Buildings swooped past his vision.
Something latched around his ankle and things went dark.
"Oh," he muttered. "Yeah, I saved your life. Hero complex and all."
Steve stared at Tony.
"You have a little murder in your eyes, there, Cap."
Steve's eyes narrowed, and Tony admired his ability to look so pissed without saying a word.
"Is it cold in here? I feel as though it's getting rather nippy."
Tony inwardly flinched at the sound of Steve's teeth sliding together. Part of him started coming up with an equation to figure out the bite force behind that jaw. Bet piranha's had nothing on Captain America.
"What did I say?" Steve asked flatly. Tony failed to respond. He really didn't see a pleasant way out of this situation. Lose-lose for Tony Stark.
Volume rising, Steve repeated, "What did I tell you to do?"
"Before or after I saved your life?"
If looks could kill, he'd be dead. Actually, he would've died the moment he'd met Captain America.
Steve inhaled quietly.
The tension in the room was almost palpable. He could probably lick it.
"I believe you told me to go assist Barton."
Steve exhaled. "And what did you do?"
Tony paused. "I did not go assist Barton."
"Exactly, Tony. And I specifically told you. I told you to leave. Instead, instead, you fly in out of nowhere and get yourself shot in the head. With a missile. What were you thinking? I told you to get out of there! At no moment did I ever say come join us!"
"Rodgers," Tony broke through the tirade. "It was headed directly for you."
"No!" Steve yelled. "No, don't even say that! Don't even try and lie to me like that! I asked JARVIS whether you had any weapons to counteract it without getting anywhere near it. He listed ten different ways you could've approached this! Ten, Tony! Ten!" He threw his hands out to his sides in disbelief. "But instead of thinking about your decision, approaching this like a rational person, you just launched yourself in front of a speeding missile!"
Steve's face twisted with anger, his chest heaving with one part water and three parts raging anger. "You don't even remember what happened clearly! Christ, Tony, it nearly took your head off! You were this close," he held his thumb and index finger together, "from falling at least twenty stories. God, why don't you have a sliver of self-respect for your own safety? It's ridiculous!"
Tony swallowed and remarked, "I really don't see why you're so angry about this."
"Because!" Steve exploded. "Because you ignored me! Again, Tony! And you keep doing it! This time you almost died! When is it going to be the last time? When is this entire charade going to run out of miracles?" Steve's tone was loud, but there was underlying string of desperation to it. "You almost died. I can't—."
Steve stopped shortly, pressing his fingers into his eye sockets, grimacing in pain. He jerked his head, like he was trying to ward it off. Tony didn't miss the hand that fluttered to his side.
"You gonna get that checked out?" he pointed vaguely towards the apparent wound.
"Don't," Steve cut him off. "I'm not lying to you when I give you an order. I'm not trying to act superior, or make a fool of you, or control anyone. I'm saying it because it's the right thing to do at the time and I'm the one who's responsible for getting everyone out of battle. That's it."
"So listen to Cap next time."
He really didn't mean for that to piss him off even further, but it seemed to do so anyway.
"Tony!" he yelled. "You don't get it!" He went to say more, but instead growled and pressed his hand deeper into his side. Tony watched silently, noting the blood that was coating his uniform. It was everywhere now that he paid attention.
Steve took a strangled breath and laser-focused on him with dark blue eyes. "I'm asking you to trust me. I know we got off on the wrong foot, but the second we step out on the battlefield, the only thing I care about is getting us all out of there alive. That is goal number one. So just try, alright? Genius, billionaire, philosopher, I don't care."
Steve shot him an exasperated look. "Sometimes I find that hard to believe."
Tony shrugged. Steve was kind of rasping for air at this point, but he took a strangled breath and gathered himself for his closing argument.
"Just trust me. Care about what happens to you. It's kind of hard to watch out for everyone if you're half-suicidal. And when I tell you to leave, do it. No more missiles."
Tony nodded. "No more missiles."
Steve shook his head and turned towards the door. Maybe he meant to be discrete, or just plain didn't care, but he pulled his hand away from his wound and blood was dripping off his fingers. Tony's stomach twisted in alarm. The burn on Steve's neck really was almost in a perfect circle.
He was halfway through the door when Tony stopped him. "That's quite the burn you got."
Steve barely turned his head. "Yeah."
There was a jump in the heart rate monitor next to Tony. He swallowed. "How'd you get it?"
Steve seemed to sag where he stood. His red painted fingers drifted up to his neck, but he pulled them back before making contact. Tony ended up looking at the back of his head. "Your thrusters were still kind of sputtering when I caught your foot."
He stumbled to his left, bracing his hand on the door jam. "I should probably go get this checked out. Rest up, huh?"
Steve limped away, and Tony flopped back on his bed.
"Wow, you just got reamed by Mr. Manners."
Tony lifted his head up as Clint walked into his room. He had a nasty scratch on his cheek, but he looked otherwise unharmed.
"Yeah, yeah. I heard. Think the guy just likes to yell at me."
Clint nodded slowly and sank into the chair next to Tony's bed. "Well, you're not lying."
"I didn't think I'd live to see him lose control like that. It was rather impressive."
Clint squirmed in his seat, grunting in discomfort. "He was definitely pissed off, I guess."
"Why, I've yet to discover."
Tony watched Clint's face crumple in disbelief. "You really think so?"
"Well, I survived. No one died. I just fail to see the significance of my actions."
Sighing patiently, Clint rested his elbows on his knees. He was rolling a broken arrow between his fingers. It was one of Tony's own, designed to cut through the densest material without breaking.
"You and Steve are two very different people, so I get why you don't see this his way."
Tony absently scratched at the back of his hand. "Did I miss a memo? Why are you on his side? You're ganging up on me. I don't appreciate it."
Clint snorted softly and shook his head. "You don't understand, dude. I mean, you just flew in front of that thing and it took you out. You started fall over the side the building, but Steve lunged and just barely caught your foot. And your flying things must have been malfunctioning, because they were still going. He was so lucky that he turned his face in time." He sat back, nose scrunching. "It was burning his neck and he didn't even let go."
Tony let his head fall against his pillow and groaned. "Crap. That was me. I'll buy him a puppy or something."
Clint smirked before tiredly closing his eyes.
"You don't get what I'm saying. Steve doesn't…he doesn't have anyone. Like, no one whatsoever. Everyone he was ever close to, ever knew, is dead. And, Natasha figured this out for me, but I get it; the guy's terrified of any of us kicking the bucket. I mean, pacing the halls, hair-pulling, scared out of his fucking mind terrified."
Tony shifted on the bed.
"So when he gets a little paranoid, just…try not to get yourself killed." He stood up, rolling his shoulders. "Well, I gotta fly. Natasha had to get a sling, and I can guarantee she's not still in it."
Tony smirked, and waved him away. "Farewell, feathered friend. Godspeed."
Well, there went his self-esteem. Maybe it hadn't been the best idea to kamikaze his way in front of the missile headed for Steve. He'd just reacted on instinct. Captain America dying would really send the U.S. into a tailspin. He just…did it. The idea that Steve was actually frazzled about something threw him off. Steve, the king of complete composure, had a vulnerability.
Thinking about that made his head hurt more than it already did, and normally he would want to break out right away, but he felt crappy inside and out, so he drifted.
When Tony woke up, he found Steve slumped in a chair that was parallel to his bed. He had changed into sweats and had his shirt pulled up to reveal a white bandage that he was lazily picking at with one hand. His eyes were half-open, blinking sluggishly and resembling a sleepy cheetah.
Tony poked his arm. "What are you still doing here?"
"'S my job."
He paused, speaking unusually quiet for once.
"Oh, that first one in, last one out thing. That's noble."
Watching Steve's head fall down to his chest and bob back up was exhausting. The guy looked completely trashed, and not even in the good way.
"Why don't you go back to the Tower and get some sleep? I promise I'm in no mood to create trouble."
Steve's features barely even moved as he mumbled, "Everywhere you go you create trouble."
"Flattery won't work on me," Steve hummed drowsily. He wasn't even bothering to keep his eyes open now. His responses were slurred and open. This was about as incapacitated, and uncensored, that Steve could get.
Tony snorted with fond weariness and reached forward, tipping Steve's head onto his bed. It didn't look like the most comfortable position, but Steve sagged sideways like a puppet with its strings cut. Tony regarded him with a curiously puzzled expression.
His hand fluttered, hovering over Steve's hair before he sighed and ruffled the blonde strands. He waited for Steve to say something, catch him in an unguarded moment, but the guy was well and truly out. Tony scooted down further, grabbing his phone that had appeared next to him, and started contacting JARVIS, Steve a furnace to his left.
They were friends.
The Avengers was a fantastic movie, with fantastic characters, fantastic background, fantastic effects, fantastic everything.
Somehow 99% of the fanfiction is super shitty. I've never seen so many stories with "OFCs" in my life.
It pains me, because with such detailed characters and an incredibly dynamic back story, writing within the universe IS NOT HARD.
Sorry, I just don't like seeing good things trashed. I'm waiting to get on AO3, which will only be a few decades from now. *Sigh*
Any recs from fanfiction that are good?