A/N: Because apparently when my muse picks a favorite we have to torture the poor sap to death.
Also, I wanted to try my own spin on "something-goes-wrong-with-Tony's-reactor-therefore-angst" thing. You know the one, always a good time. This was inspired by The Bucket List, though I have no idea why because I haven't seen that movie since it came out. Cookies to anyone else who can remember the scene I'm blatantly stealing from. If you haven't seen The Bucket List, feel shame, and go rent it.
This one's long guys, I apologize in advance, due to that and a lot of medical and comic science conjecture (or, you know, bull that I made up).
Disclaimer: Not even a little . . .
Believe it or not, the evening was actually going relatively well, considering other outings the team had ventured.
It was a simple charity event (simple, being the word Stark used, which translated to: the rest of you will probably hate this) that Miss Potts promised them only Tony would have to speak at, and they'd be home in time to explain at least one whole movie to Steve over take-out (Really, all you have to do is sit there and look like you're enjoying yourselves, and, you know, keep Clint away from the toothpicks).
Needless to say it was still an ordeal, wrangling this peculiar group of people into formal attire and into the limo. Nevertheless, they were there, looking appropriately uncomfortable and seated at their designated table trying very hard not to look bored out of their skulls (or, in Bruce's case, trying not to look scared to death at being in such a crowded room).
Honestly, Steve didn't think he could feel any more awkward. This was just not how he did things. Tony and Pepper were the only ones at the table who looked completely at ease. These things must be like breathing to them by now. Even the fake smiles they threw around looked almost completely real.
Natasha and Clint were surprisingly good at this as well. Steve once asked about it and Natasha just shrugged and said, "We're highly-trained spies, who've been on more undercover operations than we care to keep track of. We know how to look like high-society snobs." Clint just chuckled.
The biggest shocker had been Thor, however. The first time they'd brought him to one of these things, they were all waiting for some sort of Mjolner sized disaster. What they all seemed to forget, though, was that Thor was an Asgardian Prince. The guy really knew how to schmooze. At Tony's questioning look Thor merely smiled and said, "Midgardian relations are not so different from Asgard's my friend." Unfortunately, Thor wasn't here for this one, which was a shame because the god of thunder really had a knack for bailing a friend (a.k.a. Steve) out if they were cornered by a Congressman or overexcited fan-girl.
That left Steve and Bruce, whose grace in such situations could only be described as horrifying. Poor Doctor Banner, for obvious reasons. For Steve, well, that much attention only reminded him of his performing days, which made him feel almost sick when he thought about being paraded around like that. Face down an invading alien force? Sure, in heartbeat. Meet and greet with every rich, influential person on the planet? Where's a grenade to throw himself on when he needed it?
Despite that, fortunately, Steve thought he might get out of this one with the least amount of psychological damage possible. All he had to do was listen to a few speakers, smile for a few cameras, and it was over.
And because he thought that, something was bound to go wrong.
Steve was sitting with Tony to his right and Pepper on the billionaire's other side. Stark sat casually, looking uninterested as usual, tapping absentmindedly at his phone, Pepper watching the speaker intently.
Then something rather odd happened.
Out of the corner of his eye Steve saw Stark suddenly stiffen, hand on his phone going completely still. The Captain glanced at Stark and then at the rest of the table, surprised that no one else had noticed. Then again the next closest people were Bruce, who was doing his best to become invisible, and Clint, who was mumbling something to Natasha while she swatted his hand away from the toothpicks. Finally, Steve looked back to Tony.
Said genius seemed to glance around to make sure no one was looking, smiled in what was probably supposed to be a disarming way at Steve, then quickly leaned (very stiffly) over to whisper something to Pepper. Miss Potts had to take a moment to register what he was saying before nodding in obvious confusion. Just like that Tony handed her some note cards, got up, and left as discretely as possible (which, being Tony Stark, was quite a feat).
Steve watched all this and glanced down at his program – Tony was supposed to speak next. And the current speaker was almost finished.
By then the rest of the table had noticed the vanishing act (Banner looking a bit jealous) and sent Pepper some questioning glances. She just shrugged and kept looking between the door and the podium.
After about ten more minutes passed, Senator Whoever was finished with his presentation and stepping down from the podium to polite applause.
There was still no sign of Stark.
Pepper shot yet another worried and somewhat exasperated glance at the door as the host stepped up and announced Tony as the next speaker.
With more polite applause to cover her words Pepper leaned down as she walked past Steve and whispered quickly, "Tony said he was going to the bathroom and he'd be right back in time to speak. Would you please check on him? I'm worried." She only waited long enough to see the Captain nod (and, really, how was he supposed to say no to those big, concerned blue eyes) and with that she smiled gratefully and walked up to the stage.
"Well, ladies and gentlemen," Pepper smiled confidently at the guests as Steve stood and walked out, "You're probably not surprised by this," quiet laughter echoed down the hall as he went through the immaculate door leading from the dining room.
Steve sighed as he headed to the restrooms, "Tony this'd better not be an excuse to get out of a speech."
It turned out he had to ask directions to the bathroom of all things, the place was so huge. When he finally got there the young bathroom attendant (why anyone would need a guy to stand there and hold a towel while they did their business was beyond him) was standing outside, fidgeting nervously.
As the captain made for the door the boy (because there was no way that kid was even twenty yet) stopped him, "No, no, wait!" he practically shouted.
Startled, Steve gave the kid a questioning look.
"Uh," the boy stuttered dumbly for a second before blurting out, "The bathroom's, er, closed." He smiled apologetically at Steve, who raised an eyebrow.
"Is Tony Stark in there?" the Captain went straight to the point. He was not in the mood to argue with a bathroom attendant and it was not unlike Tony to pay one off so he could have the room to himself.
The poor kid blanched, "I, um, well . . ."
Steve sighed again, "Never mind," he stepped past the sputtering kid and knocked a little too roughly on the door, "Tony, are you in there?" like he needed an answer.
Nevertheless, one came, "You gotta be kidding me! Can't a guy use the facilities in peace? Geez, micromanage much, Cap?"
Steve felt like banging his head on the carved mahogany door. He looked back at the kid and twitched his head to the side. The boy gratefully scurried away.
"Pepper sent me," Steve called through the door, thankfully no one could here this from the dining room, "She's giving your speech right now," He heard Tony curse under his breath and the sink turn on, "Everything okay in there?" He wasn't sure if he really wanted to know, "Are you sick or something?" It didn't sound like it though.
When Tony didn't answer Steve began to worry for reasons he couldn't really explain.
"Tony, I'm coming in," Steve finally decided and went for the door handle.
Just as he began to open it, the door was slammed shut from the other side, "No, really, Cap, I'm fine. I'm not sick."
Knowing he could easily push the door open even with Tony holding it closed, did nothing to displace the Captain's worry, "Says the man hiding in the bathroom."
"Steve, you're making a scene," Tony said irritably from the other side.
"There's no one here but us and since when do you care about making a scene?" Steve countered.
". . . Touché . . ."
"Alright, I'm coming in. Move," Steve said in his best Captain America voice. He waited a moment for Tony to comply (miracle of miracles) and then pushed on the door. It swung open surprisingly easy.
What Steve saw next made him freeze. And then look around for possible attackers.
Blood soaked Tony's chest and stained his previously white shirt in an alarming amount. There were flecks of it on the white porcelain sink and the still glowing reactor in one of Tony's hands, wires trailing back into his body. Tony's other hand held a towel to the metal plating that usually held the reactor, also blood spotted.
Not seeing any immediate threat aside from Tony bleeding from the chest, Steve sputtered, "Stark, what the h – "
"Keep your voice down, huh?" Tony hissed, "And close the door."
Steve had to take a second to register that Tony was bleeding all over a public bathroom with the arc reactor in his hand and yet the billionaire was speaking to him as if commenting on bad weather. Annoyed and distracted at the same time. He hadn't shut the door yet, "I'm going to get Dr. Banner." Steve blurted suddenly, because heck if the soldier knew what to do.
"No, wait! Rogers!" Tony didn't quite shout after him, but Steve was already half-jogging down the hall, trying to figure out how he was going to get Bruce out of the dining room without alerting every other guest to their current predicament.
He got to the doors and realized he was still going at a pace that was not exactly indicative of the evening suit Miss Potts had kindly forced him into. Slowing down and taking a deep breath he walked, as casually as he could manage with his heart racing, back to his seat beside Bruce, who was still staring adamantly at the tablecloth.
Pepper was still on stage speaking of Stark Industries contributions to clean energy or something. She watched him move across the room, and he tried to look reassuring.
Without sitting down Steve leaned toward the doctor's ear, "Bruce," The man nearly jumped ten feet, recovered, and looked at Steve's somewhat agitated face with concern, "I need you to come with me, er, please?" Steve was really not one for subtlety.
"Uh, yeah, sure Steve. What –?" Dr. Banner started but was cut off by Clint.
"What's up, Cap?" Honestly, for a spy he really needed to learn how to whisper. Now, not only was Natasha looking their way but so were some of the surrounding tables.
Steve tried to smile but he was sure it came out as more of a grimace, "Nothing Dr. Banner and I can't handle." I hope. Clint did not look convinced.
It didn't matter as Steve tugged on Bruce's sleeve and the two walked out. Steve felt far too many eyes follow them out. As soon as they were outside Bruce almost visibly relaxed, "Alright, now what's going on?"
"I don't know, Tony's hurt, I don't know how, but he's bleeding, and the reactor –," Steve panicked as quietly as he could while Bruce jogged to keep up with him.
"What about the reactor?" Bruce's eyes widened, and suddenly Steve didn't know if it was such a good idea to involve the volatile doctor. Thankfully, Bruce noticed his look, "It's okay, I'm fine, but . . . what happened?"
By then they'd reached the bathroom, "I don't know, just . . . see for yourself," Steve finished lamely.
But when he tried to open the door it was locked.
"Tony!" Steve called through the door.
"For the last time, Cap," Stark called back, "I'm all right, go away."
Steve was about to try just kicking the door down when he was shoved out of the way with the words, "I got this."
"Clint?" Steve glared at the archer who was now bent over the lock, "I told you we had it."
Clint just snorted, "Obviously not. Plus, I was bored." Finally, the door swung open.
"Do you always have a lock pick on you?" Bruce asked.
"Along with at least four other weapons I never leave home without," Barton answered simply.
Tony was in pretty much the same state as when Steve left and at their entrance let out a strangled huff sort of noise, leaning his head back as if praying for them to go away.
"Oh my – Tony?" Bruce was the first to reach the billionaire and without preamble pulled the reddening shirt open further to inspect. Catching sight of the arc reactor not where it was supposed to be he looked up at Tony, "I assume that's not going to kill you."
"No, will you stop poking – "
"Holy crap, Stark, you look like you've been shot," Clint was hanging back at the door, suddenly looking much tenser than a moment ago.
Tony glared at him, and then looked back at Bruce, "It happens now and then, but it's not a big deal." He tried to push the doctor away but was failing as both hands were full.
"How is bleeding from the chest not a big deal?" Clint asked incredulously and Steve felt the need to shush him.
Stark shot him another glare and continued, "Nothing's wrong, but the metal plating surrounding the reactor is attached to skin and muscle around it by synthetic graph I developed and it, well, you know, Bruce, that's not exactly my field and it, well, comes loose sometimes," he was rambling nervously. Their faces must have reflected their horror, because Tony rolled his eyes dramatically and said, "It's an easy fix, I just have to get the bleeding stopped, quit staring at me."
"Right, then why is the reactor out?" Bruce asked, officially switching to doctor mode.
"I was getting blood all over it and it was in the way while I was trying to find the source of the bleeding," Tony answered impatiently.
"Well, can you put it back in now?" Steve asked a little more sharply than he meant to. At Stark's raised eyebrow he grimaced, "It just freaks me out when it's not where it's supposed to be."
"I second that," Clint quipped from the door.
Tony just stared at them a little longer with a strange expression on his face, as if he wasn't sure what to think of that. Then, pushing Bruce's hands away, slipped the reactor back into his chest and with a twist it was secure once again, "Happy?" He asked, but without the previous bite.
Before Steve could nod, however, the door swung open yet again. Clint was just about to intercept whoever it was when Pepper stuck her head in the door, "Everything o – what happened?" She said it almost calmly and Steve had look twice to see the concern in her face.
Natasha walked in behind her, eyebrows scrunching together at the sight, but made no comment. It was only then did Steve realize exactly how ridiculous it would look with all of the Avengers standing around in the men's room.
Pepper moved to stand by Bruce as Tony said in mock offense, "Pep, this is the men's rest room."
"Yeah, like I've never had to find you in the men's room before," Pepper scoffed while grabbing a clean towel and running water over it.
"True," Tony sighed, "What are you doing in here anyway, aren't you making a speech right now?"
The CEO rolled her eyes, "Well, it wasn't much of a speech since all you put on these note-cards was a flipbook animation of a rubber ducky being harpooned by what I can only assume is Captain Ahab," She held up the note cards, flipping through them to show the very dramatic death of a giant rubber duck, "I had to improvise. It's intermission right now."
"Knew I forgot to tell you something . . ."
"I hate to interrupt," Steve interrupted, "But just to be clear, he's not about to keel over?" the captain gestured to Tony and effectively bringing them back to the big issue.
"No," Pepper and Tony said in unison. Bruce just shrugged and shook his head.
"And this has happened before?"
"Yes," Pepper sighed, looking at her boyfriend, "It looks horrible – "
"Really hope you're talkin' about the injury there, Pep," Tony grumbled.
" – But Boy Genius here assures me that it's not serious," she continued, to which Steve finally relaxed, "I have no choice but to believe him since I'm not a doctor or engineer," The red-head shot Tony a glare as if this fact were his fault. He just shrugged.
"Okay," Steve said, feeling like there was air in the room again, "Okay, great."
"Unfortunately, we still have a problem," Natasha's voice was as flat as ever, but still caused alarm.
"What?" Tony asked, distracted.
"How're we gonna get you outta here," Clint finished peeking out the door, "It's intermission. There's a bunch of gossiping rich people out there."
"It would be a bad thing if they saw you like this?" Natasha said as if speaking to a particularly slow child.
"Oh, right," Tony murmured looking down at his ruined shirt, "I didn't think that far ahead."
"Well, you were about to bleed all over the dining hall," Bruce said as he inspected the skin around the reactor, "I suppose it's forgivable. There – the bleeding's pretty much stopped, but I'd prefer to take a further look in the lab. Any ideas on how we get out of here?"
"Cap," Tony said, "You're the man with the plan. Do your thing."
"Uh," Steve almost blushed. He hadn't thought that far ahead yet either . . .
"Oh, I can cause a distraction," Clint's hand went up a little too fast. At Steve's look, he just shrugged, "So it's a little cliché, got any better ideas?"
Steve didn't. Not wanting to think about what havoc the archer might wreak on the crowd in the process and focusing on getting Tony out of there, Steve just sighed, "Alright, handle it," Even though Clint was already climbing into the nearest vent.
He stuck his head back through to say, "I'll give you a signal to go," and he was gone to do God only knew what.
Natasha actually looked uneasy for a second, "I'm gonna go make sure he doesn't kill anyone," She said it with such flat seriousness that Steve was glad she followed Clint through the vent (how she did it in that slinky black dress and five inch heels Steve was unsure).
All this time Pepper had silently been fussing over Tony, who had (shocker) silently let her.
While buttoning his stained shirt up so the reactor was covered she muttered absently, "I should go get Happy to pull the car around for a quick getaway."
Tony smiled, "Hey, at least I'm not drunk this time, huh?"
Pepper just shook her head, "I'll meet you in the car, Mr. Stark," She reached up and pecked him on the cheek.
"Thank you, Miss Potts," Tony chuckled as she fussed a little more with his jacket and walked out.
Finally, it was just Bruce, Steve, and Tony standing awkwardly in the bathroom. The silence stretched as Bruce went about hiding any evidence of their presence.
"For the love, Rogers," Tony suddenly said irritably, "Do you practice that kicked puppy face?"
Steve was confused until he realized he'd been staring at Tony since Pepper left.
"Sorry," Steve muttered hurriedly and looked away.
As Steve did his best to help Bruce get rid of all evidence of the incident he heard Tony sigh, "I'm all right Cap, really," he sounded so sincere in a completely not-Tony-I-am-Iron-Man-Stark way that the Captain had to look up, "So, quite with the tragic worry . . . your starting to look like Banner." Ah, there it was.
Bruce gave a distracted, "Hey," from the other side of the sizable bathroom as Steve said, "Forgive me," with his own version of sarcasm, "The gushing blood and barred off bathroom gave me pause."
Stark just threw another towel at his head, which Steve deftly caught.
"So," Bruce finally made his way back over with a trash bag full of bloody towels, "What do you think the signal – "
A loud BANG interrupted him along with several more crashes and minor explosions. Seconds later the door was clumsily flung open to reveal a giddy, yet disheveled, Agent Barton, "That was the signal. Now run for your lives." That was all he said before he ran from the door and they saw Natasha flit past at her partner's heels a large cloud of smoke obscuring her figure.
Steve barely had time to process that before Tony had grabbed his arm and was dragging him and Bruce out the door, "Stark, quit it – "
"Well, hurry up, Cap," the billionaire said breathlessly, making Steve wonder how "okay" he was, "If Barton's running we'd better keep up."
"He makes a point," Bruce muttered and took off after Tony, tucking the garbage bag of evidence under his arm.
The captain could only role his eyes and catch up with his team avoiding confused and blurry guests on the way.
This was quickly becoming the stupidest night of his life.
On the way out he caught a glimpse of the dining room completely engulfed in thick smoke and shadows of guests and security trying to make sense of the situation. Note to self: never let Clint do the distracting except in extreme cases. Several delayed explosions followed them out. Well, at least the guests probably forgot all about Tony Stark's trip to the bathroom in this confusion.
The remaining three finally made it out to wear Pepper and Happy were waiting in the car. They unceremoniously piled in the back of the stretch limo where Clint and Natasha were already sitting, with Pepper and a very confused Happy in the front.
With an almost completely unfazed air, Pepper turned in her seat to face them, "Everyone in?" At the all around grumbled affirmative she smiled, "Alright, Happy, get us home."
"Yes, ma'am," Happy sighed and gave up on an explanation.
As Happy drove off Steve glanced around at his team. Clint and Natasha were covered in air vent dust and grime not to mention some food-like substance on Clint's pant leg. Bruce looked his usual disheveled self, holding a bag of bloody towels looking like he robbed a demented laundry. Finally, Tony, the blood staining his shirt already drying while he sat there with the most awkward expression Steve had ever seen on the genius.
And for some reason this was all suddenly very funny to the super soldier. Therefore, the weird snort/giggle that escaped him was not entirely his fault. Since he was still looking at Tony when it happened he got a glare that would have made Fury proud.
"Sorry," he said to the man for the second time that night, "It's just . . ." He trailed off as laughter took him and gestured to the group piled in the back of the limo.
Clint was the first to join him after a pause, and then Pepper's quiet laughter joined in from where she was still turned around in her seat. Natasha was trying hard to contain a smile by then and even Bruce's shoulders were shaking. Eventually, it was only Tony pouting in the window seat.
Steve gently kicked the billionaire's shin, "Tony," the other finally looked at him amidst the continuing chuckles of the team, "Earth's mightiest hero's just spent the evening locked in a men's room. Laugh about it." Clint only laughed harder at that.
Tony fought quite valiantly to resist Steve's smiling stare but eventually gave in to the grin tugging at his mouth.
Back at the tower, changed into more comfortable clothes and watching the promised movie, Steve kept stealing glances at Tony and Pepper tucked in together on the couch.
Bruce had looked Tony over, like he said he would, down in the lab and gave him the all clear (See, I told you not to worry). Apparently whatever synthetic graph Tony was using didn't bond well with the metal plating of the reactor (not that there was a whole lot of skin, synthetic or otherwise, that was meant for such things) and had a tendency to deteriorate if left unchecked. And, naturally, Tony hadn't checked. He had a temporary patch on it now.
Pepper berated him, but not much and with the look of a woman who'd been there and done that.
Bruce said that he, being more the biologist of the two, could help make a more durable substance which launched into a long conversation about . . . science . . .
Clint simply thanked Tony for livening up the evening while Natasha told him that if the genius was ever the reason she had to climb through an air vent in one of her good dresses again, she'd kill him. Tony obviously believed her.
Now everyone was passed out on the couches of the entertainment room and Steve was pretty sure he was the only one still awake.
At least until he stole yet another glance at Tony and found the billionaire staring back with a smirk, "Caught ya'."
Steve felt his face heat with embarrassment, "Sorry," he had to stop saying that.
Tony just rolled his eyes, still smirking, and turned back to the movie. Thinking that was the end of it Steve did the same.
"Hey, Cap?" Tony's quiet voice caught the Captain's attention again and Steve turned back. Tony wasn't looking at him, but fiddling nervously with Pepper's hair splayed across his shoulder, "Thanks."
Steve could feel a smirk of his own coming on, "For what?"
Stark gave a watered down glare, "Just . . . thanks . . . for barging into the men's room."
The Captain chuckled, "Well, you're very welcome Tony."
"Hey," came the groggy voice of none other than Clint on Steve's other side, "If anyone should be thanked it should be the guy who blew up an ice sculpture for you."
As Tony opened his mouth for some snarky comeback Bruce slurred from the couch he stole for himself, "Or the one who hid the evidence."
"How about the lady that had to had to BS some speech about clean energy and notified the get away car?" Pepper muttered into Tony's shoulder.
"Alright, alright, thank you," Tony grouched plopping his head back on the couch, "Thank you all. Now that I've officially reached my gratitude quota for the month, good night." With that he scooped Pepper up off the couch as she squeaked and laughed (Tony, quit it, your embarrassing me) and walked out of the room.
"Hey, Nat?" Clint mumbled, "Carry me to bed, too?" The red-head just mumbled something grouchily in Russian and slapped his arm as Clint giggled. They finally drifted away as well.
Bruce ejected the movie and met Steve's worried gaze. Before the latter could even open his mouth to ask, however, Bruce beat him to the punch, "He's fine, Steve, really," when Steve still didn't look convinced, he quipped, "Trust me, I'm a doctor."
Steve smiled sheepishly, "I just . . . worry . . . about him." He hoped he didn't sound like his mother when he said that.
"Good," Bruce said firmly, "He needs a few more people to worry about him."
Steve slowly nodded, "I guess so," he stood and followed Bruce out the door to the elevator, "But the next time he's locked in the bathroom you are handling it."
A/N: Just saying, I'm not a doctor, I don't know if that's how an old wound such as this would behave. If you do know whether or not I was even remotely close (or so far away I just made medical personnel everywhere groan) I'd love to hear about it.
Also, sorry Thor's not in this one. I tried twice to work him in but it was getting to be too many people and a very small bathroom. Sorry, Thor. I love ya' big guy it just didn't work out this time.
One last thing to add to these already lengthy a/ns, I'm not an expert on the comics (I've read a few but not nearly enough) so I honestly don't know how public the Avengers are, I'm just guessing and using a lot of creative license. Hope it doesn't bother anyone, but if it does feel free to comment.