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Chapter Four

It's no-one's fault
It's nobody's fault
That I fell on you and you on me
That's what humans do
Then they pass on through
But I think we can't, don't you?

-Missy Higgins, "Peachy"

When Tony was rolled back into the room, Steve was still sitting with his head in his hands, gripping his hair.

"Hey Steve," Tony said softly. Steve's head shot up and he took in Tony, looking tired and attached to an IV trailing behind him, and the white-haired doctor standing next to him. Steve stood up quickly and looked between them.

"Is he alright? Are you alright?"

The doctor shot him a terse smile, seemingly unaffected by their celebrity, then looked down at Tony.

"Mr. Stark, do I have permission to share your medical status and treatment options with your friend…" He glanced up at Steve.

"Steve Rogers," Steve said nervously.

"With your friend Mr. Rogers?"

Tony nodded. "Yes, he can hear anything you have to say."

The doctor closed the door and sat in the chair Steve had been occupying just a second before.

"Well, your diagnosis when you entered the emergency room was pretty accurate. According to the x-rays, Mr. Stark-"

Tony interrupted him with a smile, "Call me Tony, please. Mr. Stark was my brilliant, rich, terrible father."

"Very well then, Tony. You do indeed have 3 fractured ribs," He pointed to them on a slide he held out, showing Tony's chest. The arc reactor stood out surreally on the x-ray. "Luckily they are not completely broken and will stay in place with no intervention from us. I know it hurt terribly when the injury happened, but…"

Hearing this, Steve shrunk back, but Tony anticipated this and held out his hand. Steve took it with some trepidation, holding it very gently. Tony rolled his eyes.

"The pain will begin to ebb immediately as the bones stitch back together. In the past doctors generally bound fractured ribs, just to be sure they didn't move, but today we find this restricts breathing too much. As long as you refrain from any particularly strenuous activities," Here the doctor smiled at Tony, "such as being Iron Man, for about two months, the ribs should heal just fine on their own."

Tony shot back, "What about sexual activities?" He wiggled his eyebrows at Steve, who pulled his hand away and sighed deeply. He couldn't figure out if Tony was serious or just playing with him, waiting for the doctor to leave before he got angry. He crossed his arms and looked back at the doctor.

"Sexual relations will have to wait at least three weeks, I'm afraid," The doctor said without missing a beat. "As well as anything that leads to increased heartbeat and respiration. Go about your daily life, but do be mindful of what you are doing and how it moves your ribcage. Now, I'm afraid there is not much we can do for you here. I will prescribe some painkillers for the next three days, after which you can take over the counter medication as needed." He paused and turned his words towards Steve.

"This is not a grievous injury, but when Tony came in he was slightly dehydrated and suffering from exhaustion. Proper nutrition and at least eight hours of sleep a night will help Tony heal faster and without complication. It is best if someone stays with him to help with anything he may need and enforce an eating and sleeping schedule."

Tony narrowed his eyes a little and began, "I don't need a babysitter, I'm a full grown-"

The doctor waved his argument away. "I don't care how it happens, but you must begin a healthier lifestyle, at least for the next two months. Now, the IV here is just to help with the dehydration. We'd like for you to stay until the bag is empty, then you are free to leave." He handed a sheet from his prescription pad to Tony, nodded to both of the men, and left the room, closing the door behind him.

"Steve," Tony started immediately.

"Tony," Steve said at the same time, and they both stopped. Steve began again, "Tony, I'll leave if you want me to. I can move out tomorrow, Fury can get me an apartment, and-" He paused, looking at Tony's wide eyes. He could see hurt in those eyes, and shock.

"Steve," Tony said quietly, "Why don't you tell me what happened. Why you did that." He mimed squeezing with his hands, and Steve winced.

"My God, I didn't want to hurt you, Tony. I'd never want to… I was just… we were just…" Speaking about sex in this brightly lit hospital room seemed depraved to Steve and a blush began rising on his cheeks. "It felt so good. I've uh… I've done it since I received the serum. With a man." The blush was a blazing red now and Steve's eyes were locked on the floor. "When I did it then, I could always keep some control because I knew I could hurt him." His eyes flicked up to Tony, who was listening seriously.

"Bucky?" Tony asked, and Steve started. "Saw in your file that you two were close, figured after you…" he pantomimed again, this time a lewd gesture with his hand and his mouth, "that you'd been with someone back then."

Steve nodded. "It was good. Great. But not like what we did." He finally made eye contact with Tony and maintained it. "I was overwhelmed. It was too much, I lost control. I'm sorry, Tony, and it's never going to happen again."

Tony looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. "Well, I hope it doesn't. "

Steve flinched as if hurt. He knew it was coming, he just wasn't prepared, wasn't ready to have Tony taken away when he had just gotten him.

Tony stood up from his wheelchair and walked towards Steve, IV trailing behind him. He put his finger on Steve's chin and lifted it up, making sure they were eye to eye.

"I don't want you breaking my ribs again. What I want you to do is bruise me," he demonstrated by grabbing Steve's ass, kneading his fingers in it. "I want you to mark me," he stood on his tiptoes and sucked on Steve's neck, and when he pulled away there was a large red mark, already beginning to heal around the edges. "And I want you to scratch me." He put his hands up under Steve's shirt and dragged his fingernails along the length of his back. Steve had his eyes closed now, fists clenched, struggling to keep himself in control. He finally pushed Tony back with a hand on his shoulder.

"Stop, Tony," he said in a firm voice. "This isn't funny. I hurt you, and you shouldn't trust me not to do it again if we keep… I mean, I don't trust myself not to do it again."

Tony stepped back into Steve's face, determined. "Steve, come off it. You fractured a couple ribs, hell, that kind of thing happens in football all the time. And what we did was way better than football." When he saw Steve was still looking pointedly away from him, Tony's voice softened. "Steve, I do trust you."

Steve looked up at him then, searching his eyes.

"That's why I told you what I did on the balcony. I've been attracted to you since you moved in. Attracted to your smile, to your laugh, your beautiful body. I thought it was an impossibility, knew that coming from when you did, this," he gestured between them, "this kind of thing wouldn't happen. But it's in my reach now, Steve, and I'm not going to give it up because you're afraid of breaking me."

Steve looked into his eyes, then released a breath and gently pushed Tony back into the wheelchair. He sat in the other chair and moved it closer, so their knees were touching. Tony was staring back at him, naked vulnerability shining on his face.

"Steve, if you don't feel the same way, if you think what we did was a mistake, we don't have to…"

Steve shook his head immediately. "No. I… I really care about you. I have since I moved in. I want to be with you. But I won't do it if I'm a danger to you."

Tony sighed, started to get annoyed. "Steve, I don't care. It's worth it to be with you. We'll figure it out, okay? I'll be on top. We'll have a safe word. You'll wear boxing gloves." He smiled at Steve and the other man finally let a small smile creep onto his face. They stared at each other for a few moments, smiles growing. Finally, Steve leaned forward, close to Tony's face.

"Are we going steady now?" he asked in a whisper. Tony laughed then, a sincere, hearty laugh that probably hurt his ribs, but it filled Steve with joy. Tony grabbed his face and pulled him close and Steve joined him in a lingering kiss.

"No sex for three weeks," Steve reminded when they pulled apart. "No heavy petting either. No Iron Man. No staying up all night. No drinking."

"Hey, he never said no drinking!" Tony cried. "And can't we figure out some kind of understanding on the sex thing? Some non-strenuous stuff?"

Steve rubbed his fingers through Tony's beard affectionately. "Not with you. We'll take it slow, okay? Share milkshakes at the local diner."

Tony breathed out loudly, "Oh, I think I like you a lot, Steve Rogers."

Steve grinned a million-watt smile at him. "I think you're the cat's pajamas."

Tony reached out and grabbed his hand and Steve raised his other to Tony's arc reactor, resting it on the warmth there. They sat linked together, holding hands and watching the IV drip down.

THE END


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