A/N: I own none of them. Warnings for slash and character death.
Everyone knows that when Tony Stark starts to work on something new, he won't come away from the lab table until he's done. "Done" sometimes happens in about two or three hours, but usually "done" doesn't happen in at least two days. Sometimes it happens after about a week. He barely eats and drinks, and never sleeps or showers or does anything else while he's working.
"Tony." An exasperated voice sounds behind him. It's warm, with just the right hint of mischievousness and affection and worry behind the exasperation. "You've been at it for the last four days without sleep. Come on. Let's get you some food and sleep, and then get you in a shower."
When Tony swerves around, the smiling face he expects, the twinkling blue-green-gray eyes and the outstretched hand isn't there. The lab is empty save for him, and he turns back, his knees on the verge of collapse. He manually turns off the lights and stays in the shower, scalding hot water raining down on his back.
"Tony!" The voice is worried, and for a moment there is a cool hand in the middle of his throbbing back, seemingly seeping away all the pain. "Stop it. Come on, wash your hair and get all this sweat off of you. Let's get you to bed."
Tony numbly reaches for the shampoo, and when he lathers it into his hair, he feels two other hands, smaller than his own and gentle but strong, working out the sweat in his hair. When he lathers body wash into the shower towel, he hears a gentle coax and he robotically rubs four days of grime off his body. He shuts off the water and towels himself dry. A gentle touch on his arm leads him out of the shower to his bed.
He numbly climbs into bed, and there is a pressure on his side, a tickle of short dirty-blonde hair on his chest.
"Tony. What were you working on for the last four days?"
Tony's throat doesn't work. The voice and the touch disappear, and he's left in the dark by himself. Just when he feels like he may cry, there is a gentle touch on his cheek and a soft kiss on his forehead.
"Tony, go to sleep. I'm right here."
And Tony leans into the touch that won't disappear, into the hand that's combing through his hair, and he closes his eyes and gives into exhaustion that he never knew he had. When he wakes up, it is bright outside, and he is alone. JARVIS greets him a tentative morning, and Tony ignores him. He makes his way back to the lab, but when his hand hovers on the elevator button, there is a gentle nudge on his side.
"Tony, you have to go eat something. Come on, to the dining floor."
And Tony's hand obediently presses the button for the dining floor. When he reaches it, he's greeted with large brown eyes. Bruce almost drops his mug. Bruce looks tired and haggard, and his eyes are swollen and a puffy red, like he's been crying. When he sees Tony, he backs away and starts talking fast, something about breakfast and coffee and pancakes and eggs. Tony sits on the dining table and watches Bruce flurry around the kitchen, making eggs and pancakes and setting the coffee pot, and he can feel a smaller hand, gentle but strong, weaving fingers through his left hand, and the gentle laugh that he's memorized the exact pitch of.
Bruce makes enough to feed a room full of Thors, and he sits opposite of Tony when he brings the food over. Wher is Thor, anyway? Bruce is talking to him and Tony nods along, but Tony is barely paying attention to either Bruce or the food he's eating. All of his senses are attuned to the pressure of the fingers weaving through his left hand and the gentle laughter that comes occasionally.
Suddenly the door opens and the pressure and laughter disappears, and the elevator doors open. Tony turns to find Steve and Natasha, both looking as tired and worn as Bruce. Natasha stops when she sees him, and Steve looks sad. He pats Tony's shoulder and sits on his right. Natasha sits across the table from him.
They talk to him, but he doesn't pay attention because the pressure on his left hand is back. It's increased now to soft warmth on his side, and a pressure on his shoulder and a tickle of short hair on his neck and shoulder. Tony brings his left hand to his lap, and the pressure doesn't disappear. If anything, the grip tightens and he hears a satisfied sigh, a warm breeze across his bare shoulder and the shifting of cheek muscles on his shoulder as the sigh extracts itself from soft lips.
After a few more minutes of Tony eating, stiff because he doesn't want to disturb the leaning pressure on him, he finishes the eggs and the pancakes and the coffee. He hasn't realized he was so hungry.
"Tony. I told you. You're human like the rest of us. You gotta eat, drink and sleep, too."
Tony nudges his shoulder reluctantly and the pressure moves away, but the pressure on his hand stays. He starts to move to the elevator, but Steve claps his hand on his shoulders. Tony doesn't pay attention, like he never had with the steady pressure on his left hand. There is a gentle brush across his knuckles from a calloused thumb, and Tony experimentally tightens his grip. The pressure tightens in response. Steve is saying something. About a funeral.
Tony's eyes furrow. Who died? He tries to remember if it was one of the victims of last week's hostage mission, or if it was one of those important senator people or whatever that they always have to attend. The gentle laughter comes back.
"Tony. You have to start paying attention to these things."
Steve looks sorry, Bruce looks like he swallowed something rotten, and Natasha won't meet his eyes. Steve grabs his shoulders. Tony stares at him when the two words drop from his lips, accompanied by Bruce turning away, rubbing at his eyes, Natasha storming out of the kitchen, and two drops of tears scrolling from Steve's own eyes. The pressure on his hand shatters away. The laughter that rings in his ears breaks into pieces.
Tony screams, grabs his head and lashes out at Steve. Steve keeps a firm grip on him, apologizing and crying and Tony realizes there are tears streaming down his own face, and that realization just prompts him to scream even louder. They collapse onto the floor, Bruce sniffling in the background, and then there is another hand on his shoulder.
Thor looks like a mess. His long blonde hair is matted together with grease, and his flawless god-skin is ashen and gray. His eyes are hollow, and he bows down, his head on the marble floors, and he howls his apology to Tony, his hands balled into fists in torment and anguish.
Suddenly Natasha is back and she flings something at Tony, screaming in Russian. She grabs Thor and puts him upright, and he lets out a tortured wail. Tony stares at the bow he made Clint almost a year ago. The string is snapped and the bow is in pieces, stained with blood in too many places. She screams at him in Russian, tears starting to stream down her own face, and Tony reaches for the bow.
There is no laughter, there is no pressure on his hand or fingers playing with his hair to reassure him. Clint Barton is dead, has been since a week ago when he and Thor went on a mission and he was killed before Thor had time to reach him. Tony stares, his hand trembling as he gathers the pieces of the bow in his hands.
He runs and no one stops him until he is back in his lab. There is a body on his lab table, of an archer he loved more than anything he'd ever known, his skin cold to the touch but still pink, his lips cold as ice but still red. Tony places the broken pieces of the bow next to the body, so peaceful that it looks like Clint is asleep. He collapses next to the table, apology spilling from his lips in every form and language he knows.
"Tony. It's okay. You can let me go now. I'll always be here, by your side, but you can let me go now."