Written by me; unbeta'ed for now. :) PrincessNiallxHoran on ao3 will get to it when she has the time!

Prompt Fic for SiriuslyScarredforLife from here. I know this is maybe 25% what you wanted...but I tried TT^TT As usual, it got away from me.

There is some mention of torture. I mean, nothing super graphic I don't think, but I'm also somewhat fucked up in that respect so I can't be too sure. So consider yourself warned. :)

Also, this is a semi sequel to Early Morning Happenings. Not a necessary read but it's fluffy and explains the breakfast thing.

Also, also, our Tumblr is thetwowriters. We share tidbits and put up sneakpeaks about our projects :D Follow us please!

On a final note: please R and R! It makes me happy to wake up and have reviews in the morning :) No flames though, ok? Thank you!

The stupid thing here is that they'd all begged for him not to take that damned mission, had pointed at the suicide-level classification before attempting to use the file itself to (presumably) beat some sense into the his head.

"Don't be stupid," they'd each said, a look on their collective faces that had screamed dire consequences if he even thought about it.

In the end, Tony had taken that damn mission anyway, just to prove that he could do it- that he could beat the odds because he's Tony fucking Stark and he's fucking Iron Man and hell if he's letting a bunch of numbers dictate what he can and can't do.

But that was then, and this is now, and hindsight is the sort of bitch that Tony wouldn't have done even back in his playboy days.

"Where are they?" Bastard number one yells out, even though the room they have him in is a 4 foot all box, at best.

And because Tony has always been, and will always be, a little shit, he points that out. "Ok first of all," he says, finding it in himself to sarcastic even through the taste of bile and copper on his tongue, through the hoarse grind of the words in his throat, "first of all, inside voices. There is no need to be so damned loud in a, well, we can't really call this a room, now can we?"

He makes a show of looking around, eyebrow raised and perfected spoiled brat sneer on his bloodstained face, before turning back to the moron.

"Second of all," he tacks on, almost a little too casually for it be anything but affected, "if you want to know about them, watch the news. For anything other than what you see there, either up the budget on whatever espionage unit you've got going, or you know what? Better idea, eat shit and die."

He gets a knee to the stomach for his efforts which, really, is even a sort of mercy compared to what they've been doling out. Relative to that, if Tony just writes off the rusted shackles as an unfortunate fashion faux pas, he could even pretend that he's being held captive at one of the boring dinners he has to attend as the head of a company.

#richboyproblems, he thinks sardonically.

In the meantime, his captor is yelling again, something Tony would've probably missed if he weren't so used to mentally multitasking and you know, if he were deaf. "You will tell us all you know," he says, "and perhaps you will be allowed to leave, after. Otherwise, you will perish here, alone and worthless."

Yeah right.

It's been almost three fucking weeks of the same bullshit, of being tortured and told that freedom is only a few moments of cooperation away, that if only Tony would pretty please give them a little bit of information and betray everyone he holds dear, then all this could be avoided.

The only problem with that line of logic is that, well, Tony isn't brain dead.

Actually, he's sort of a genius, so there.

He's got the chances calculated to the second. He knows what the odds of coming out of this alive are, knows that SHIELD has officially declared him dead, and he knows that the options are to die a traitor or to die protecting the only people who'd ever shown him affection.

Tony has come to terms with all that- has come to terms with the fact that he won't come out of this alive, and to be honest, it doesn't really bother him much. What does kill him, though, is that he'd skipped breakfast the morning he'd left for this godforsaken mission, in the hopes of avoiding the accusatory glares that the Avengers would undoubtedly throw his way.

He's always been the reigning king of horrible decisions that are bad for him.

The physical hurt, he can deal with- he can deal with them breaking his fingers, his toes, ribs, whatever. He can deal because he's always dealt and he has a damned high threshold for pain, anyway.

But the knowledge that he'd missed that final shot at a moment of happiness- that he'd missed the chance to have someone care for him with no price tag attached- that's what kills him. He'll never see his favorite shade of red again; never feel safe in the flashes of Tasha's hair or Steve's Captain America uniform. He won't have another chance to team up with Clint to bring out the worst in Bruce, laughing as the man turns green and starts to chase them around; he'll never again get to goad Phil until the man is two seconds away from tasing his ass, and he'll never have the chance to beat Thor in a drinking game.

(He'll never get to tell any of them that they're all he's got, that he'd gladly give them whatever they need as long as they never leave him, please God, please.)

He'll never again get to whine about being fed oatmeal, or have Tasha and Clint give him one of their magical head massages, or have the comfort of their solid abdominal muscles cradling his head- he'll never again hear Steve bitch at him about his coffee intake or feel the miserable camaraderie with Bruce, where neither one of them functions well without mainlining a gallon of coffee first. He'll never again get to laugh as Thor gets through another day of pop tart intervention and he'll never again see Phil twitch as Clint shuts his phone down like he isn't just as afraid of the man as the rest of them are.

Tony will rot here- in this dirty, rat-infested, hell-hole- with the taste of blood and pain and death on his tongue, and it's his own damned fault.

"Ha," he says in response to the bastard's previous bid for information, in the hopes of stopping himself from thinking, in the hopes of stopping himself from breaking the fuck down in front of these evil bastards, "Over my dead body."

His captor just grins, a twisted thing stretched tight over his face. "This can be arranged," he says, as though Tony hadn't seen that particular cliché coming, punch to the face and all.

Guess it's two more weeks of winter, then, he thinks as agony takes over again.

Thing is, he's given up because he has no other choice- because it's been three fucking weeks and he's so fucking tired and really, dying is the only way to make sure that he maintains his creed. After all, the last thing he wants to do is let something slip and get the people he loves killed, because damn it, he does love them more than he can say and they are his to protect.

If his demise is what it takes to keep them breathing, he's more than willing to do that for them- they've already done so much more for him, after all, that it's the least he can do.

He manages to fashion his own arc-reactor into a small bomb, just in time for one of his bastard jailors to come in to pick up where they'd left off.

"Contain him," he hears and Tony sort of wants to laugh hysterically despite (or maybe because of) the recently ingrained, bone deep flash of fear- because he's already contained dammit, what more do they want to do? He just wants to set this shit off and get the hell out, whatever way necessary- doesn't think he can deal with any more pain without giving up something that he desperately doesn't want to, be it his pride or his family.

"I'd like to see you try," he says anyway, refusing to go out pathetically and utterly, actually unable to keep from one last quip before ending it all. He's got his finger on the trigger, ready to take atleast one jackass with him, when-

"Tony!" Clint shouts. He looks utterly panicked even as he neatly slices some deserving fucker's throat.

-and it isn't even fair because Tony's gone through all the effort of preparing himself to make the ultimate sacrifice and he'd even prepared a bomb to accomplish what he needs to accomplish and now he has to live. It is an absolute testament to how fucked up his life is, that it's when he gives up that the cavalry finally arrives.

What even.

"Oh my God," Tony almost sobs, trying to roll his eyes and not quite managing it because he's pretty sure that one of them is swollen shut and he doesn't even want to know what's going on with the other, "What did I say, goddammit? Inside voices."

Then he's down for the count; he doesn't even get to brace himself before he's out cold and crumpling into a sloppy amalgamation of filth and his own blood.

When he comes to again, he's magically in a pristine hospital room, with magical wires attached to his skin- and Tony isn't quite sure if he wants to laugh or cry because the sheer relief he's feeling is warring with a mix of disbelief and feelings wrought by what is, decidedly, the Good Stuff.

"Ugh what the hell," he tries to say, "how the hell is this life?"

What comes out instead is an odd choking noise and oh look, he's coughing.

"Idiot," he hears after a few seconds of trying to regurgitate his lungs, Natasha's quiet voice floating over him even as a small but capable (and also, dangerous) hand starts to rub soothing circles into his back. "Come on dumbass," her disembodied voice says, "you need to breath, small shallow breaths."

"My lungs disagree," he tries to rejoinder, because he is the king of sarcasm and wit here, not her- but it comes out in the form of even more spasmic coughing and Tony can't be a hundred percent sure that she got the message.

He tries to flip her off, just in case, except that only makes him choke back a scream because oh shit, they'd broken those hadn't they?

"Idiot," he hears again, a few minutes later when everything in his body settles again and he can't be too sure, but-

"Tasha?" he rasps out, prying open the only eye that apparently works.

-because it sounds like Natasha, the baddest of them all, the strongest and least likely to smile, is crying.

Of course, her face is as blank and pristine and as dry as ever when he finally looks, but the dark circles around her eyes and the slight shaking to her shoulders, the one she doesn't even try to wipe away or hide- those tell a story of their own- pages and pages filled with endless sleepless nights and the raw, endless sort of pain that can only come from losing someone who matters.

She looks like she's been grieving and that hurts Tony more than he can say, more than anything those bastards had ever thrown at him.

"Don't," he manages to rasp out despite his throat screaming various profanities at him, because she is beautiful and amazing and the best of them all and he hates himself for bringing her to this, "Don't. "

"Moron," is all she says to him, shaking fingers moving from his back to his head, where they start to rub circles, clearing away the aches and pains as though she really were magical.

"I'm alive," he wants to say, "Please don't cry."

"'m here," he chokes out instead, butting his head into her hand as much as the machines and his own threshold for pain will allow, "Better than Good Stuff." Because he really isn't sure of just how alive he is right now and, anyway, giving Natasha orders is like giving orders to a cat, useless and more than likely to get you scratched the fuck up. Also, her fingers really are making him feel better than any medication that the doctors have given him, because she's magical. So there.

Besides, his reward is a light, affectionate chuckle, wobbly as it is -the sort that warms his heart because Natasha doesn't let it slip to anyone but to them, her family- and Tony is more than willing to act like a total dunce if necessary, if it means she stops looking so, so broken.

"Stay," he hears her say after a while, even as the darkness takes over again, sleep ebbing and flowing in rhythm with familiar fingers in his hair.

"Ok," he manages to get out before he's falling altogether.

It's three days later when he wakes up relatively coherent again.

This time though, he wakes up to clear, concerned eyes- intense eyes the color of a clear, sunny, summer day- and ok nevermind, he's still high as a goddamned kite.

Still though, he can admit that it's really nice to see Steve's face again. And his biceps. And his shoulders. And the rest of him in general, really.

"Nrgg." he says to Steve, because he's mostly a loser under his shiny suits and inherent sarcasm, which means that he can't be expected to form full sentences for the object of his affections without a few more hours, three times as many cups of coffee under his belt, and a properly functioning body.

But Steve, bless his sweet, adorable soul, just smiles at him slightly, his eyes crinkling lightly from amusement even though he looks like he's about a minute away from keeling over, as though he's been awake for days and days.

"Of course, Tony," he says, his voice taking on the distinct quality of a long suffering best friend or even an affectionately exasperated lover as he pulls up the hospital blankets to better cover Tony up.

Or maybe that's just wishful thinking brought on by the Good Stuff.

Fuck though, he's still beautiful- all blond and sun-dappled and gorgeous despite the dark circles under his eyes and the pinched look that Tony's starting to recognize as a mixture of frantic worry and bone deep sadness.

It makes Tony's heart twinge in a way that he's not entirely comfortable with, yet.

Because Steve should never look anything less than happy or, worse comes to worst, irritated at something else Tony had done- he should always, always look sure and in control- because that's just who Steve is.

He shouldn't have to look like he doesn't know what to do himself, like he's so lost that he can't be found- especially not if Tony's the one who's put that look on his face.

"It's not so bad," Tony wants to say, even though he's pretty sure that talking is way above his current capabilities, "stop looking like the world is falling apart."

He wants to reach up and run his fingers through Steve's hair and tell him that everything is ok now.

Except, well, his fingers are still mostly broken and there is the distinct possibility that he can't even manage to get himself upright.

Also, that's a level of domesticity that won't end well for anyone, least of all Tony, who's been trying and mostly failing to build a wall around his traitorous, horrible, warm fuzzies craving heart for as long as he can remember.

"Mrg," he says in lieu of using actual words, blinking up drowsily and reaching for Steve's arm because really, that's all he can manage at this point without medical intervention or, worse, some sort of ill-timed epiphany- and it's like all of Steve's strings get cut.

Out of fucking nowhere, really, which leaves Tony even less prepared to deal with the emotional backlash than he normally would be.

One minute, Steve is bustling around and trying to arrange everything in the room to precise military lines and the next, he's practically laying on top of Tony and looking like he's maybe two words away from just crying.

"Don't," he keeps whispering into the blanket bunched up right by Tony's hip, "Please. Just. Don't."

Even though Tony is completely out of his element, even though every well-honed defense mechanism in his system starts to rear its collective, ugly head- he isn't enough of a shit to ask, 'Don't what?'

He isn't enough of a shit to pass it off or to make it funny because for once in his life, he recognizes that this is serious, that Steve is genuinely unhappy and panicked and needs Tony to not be himself for a minute.

No, that's not fair. Steve needs him to be careful because he can't stand the idea of Tony getting hurt.

Huh, Tony thinks, what a novel idea.

So, in a gesture befitting of that thought process, he throws caution and walls and everything to the wind and just cards his two mostly intact fingers through soft, golden hair.

"Ok," he coos, well, rasps really, because that's all he can manage for now, "Ok."

He's mildly gratified when Steve falls asleep just like that, curled up against Tony's hip like he never wants to leave.

Maybe this 'caring' and 'love and support' lark isn't so hard, after all.

Ha. Tony is way more awesome at this than Pepper gives him credit for- emotionally underdeveloped his awesome, well-toned, perfect ass.

When Tony wakes up again, it's another three days later according to his internal calendar, it's clearly nighttime, if the lack of normal sounds are anything to go by, and there's something massive and heavy taking up the left half of his bed oh dear God.

What even.

It's dark as fuck, and even if it weren't, his eyes are fucking swollen shut- he hurts everywhere and he can't maneuver his fingers well enough to hit the alarm call or the morphine dial and shit, there is a giant thing making his bed dip at an angle that's actually near impossible. Tony's flashing back and he's afraid, afraid that if he somehow turns on the lights, he'll be back in that jail cell, and that this will be some sort of new torture technique- afraid that this is all an infection induced dream and he'll lose everyone all over again.

He doesn't think he can handle that.

He goes to say as much, tries to say, "Please, please, just leave me be." But his throat is still messed up and he can't even breathe too hard without going into a massive coughing fit, so he just sort of hacks out a lung onto whoever's face and hopes that they get the message.

They don't.

Instead, a ginormous (no really, it's huge) hand comes to settle on his chest, gently, as though the person attached to it is not only heavily invested in his well-being but is also thinking of him in terms of a small child- and Tony would feel incredibly insulted because that's just his default setting except-

"Me Hulk," Hulk says, "TinTin ok?"

-and Tony is too busy practically deflating in relief to really react in any of the ways he normally would. He just sort of melts into the less than ideal mattress that the hospital had seen fit to provide him with and breathes for a second.

"Ok," he manages to rasp out after a few minutes, because Hulk asked a question and Hulk, in a word, gets snotty when he doesn't get responses, "Ok."

"Good," Hulk rumbles soothingly (although how that voice could sound anything but menacing, Tony doesn't know), and smoothes down the blankets with hands have literally crushed people to death, "TinTin sleep."

The irony, Tony thinks, is in how safe he feels. He knows what sort of damage Bruce can do when rage finally takes over and the green comes out; he knows how volatile the situation can get with even the slightest misstep. Except, those hands, big as they are, dangerous as they are- all they do is give Tony a sense of home, of security.

"TinTin home now," Hulk goes on to say while Tony is thinking, something utterly protective in his growl even as he moves his hand away from the blankets and smooths back Tony's hair, "TinTin safe."

That single finger is bigger than the entirety of most people's palms- and it's most definitely within crushing distance of Tony's skull, and all Tony can think is, Yeah. Ok. I trust you.

"I should've never let you watch that movie," he tries to say instead, even as he begins to settle, because snark is the cure-all for sentimentality and he feels a little too unmacho right now to let it stand, "Told them that it wasn't the brightest idea in the idea box."

But, in the end, he's too busy curling up as much as the wires attached to his body will allow him to, into the wall of warmth that Hulks solid form creates, and he really can't be bothered to be a jerk about the whole thing, after all.

He thinks he imagines a kiss to the forehead, bestowed from a mouth too big for a human face- but he can't be bothered to think about that either, because he's too busy slipping back into sleep.

Thor is next, about two days after that, and Tony doesn't really get to say as much as he would like- mostly because he's had his first shitty nightmare about his shitty, horrible captors and it looks like he'd clung to one of Thor's massive arms in an effort to-

He doesn't even know, actually; everything is painted over with sleep and panic and it's all fuzzy, like he's been at the drink again.

He can't fucking think.

What he does know, though, is that Thor has seen fit to climb into his hospital bed and more importantly, has somehow managed to fit most of his bulk into less than half the twin-bed that the hospital had so graciously provided for him.

How did he even do that?

Drugged or not, nightmare or not, Tony's brain is more than capable of understanding basic physics, of distinguishing the more important things in life, and is just hazy enough to latch onto the one thing he's capable of focusing on.

-which is why he proceeds to shake Thor awake without a thought to the other man's comfort or sleep cycles.

Except, apparently, Gods don't have sleep cycles and Thor's been awake the whole time.

"Sleep, friend," the giant of a blond rumbles out even though Tony's doing his admittedly limited best to shake him apart, before deftly curling around Tony in a way that he just knows is comforting, the bastard.

"Stop defying the laws of physics just because you can," Tony grumps in response, because there are principles to follow and Jesus, as much as he'll never say it out loud, he's so fucking afraid.

He bitches because if he goes back to sleep the way his body is practically begging him to, goes back to sleep and curls into all that warm, solid muscle, he's going to wake up screaming and crying and he really, really doesn't want to deal with that.

Worse still, he doesn't want Thor to deal with that, and he knows better than to think that the overly loyal puppy of an idiot would ever leave him alone at this point, even if he asks.

So he grits his teeth at sleep and says things like, "Dead physicists are rolling in their graves, Thor, dead and rolling. "

"Sh," Thor coos in response, running large fingers through the hair at the nape of Tony's neck, "Sleep. For it will aid in the healing of your mortal flesh."

That is not the response that Tony wants.

Also, that's mildly insulting.

"You're fired," Tony says, sulkily because this isn't fair, "What use are you if you're just going to make me sleep? Sleep is boring and unnecessary. Like a double whammy of anti-awesome."

But Thor is a patient little shit, and he's got a little brother who makes Tony's sulks look like rainbows and kittens and chocolate wrapped in scented satin- he knows how to deal with snits with the sort of finesse that he rarely shows in anything else, ever.
Thor also knows bluster when he sees it, because that's something else he'd had to familiarize himself with as a direct result of having an extremely obstinate younger sibling, and he knows better than to give anything Tony says any sort of credence.

So he just says things like, 'It will be alright,' and, 'I will shield you from Niorun and assure that she does not distress you,' and, 'Peace, little one. It shall all look well in the light of morn.'

And dammit all if Tony doesn't feel his eyes closing against his will, if he doesn't feel his body relax against the onslaught of Thor's words and his fingers in his hair.

"Please," he pleads anyway in a last ditch effort, because he desperately doesn't want to go back to that horrible place, even in his dreams.

There's a second of silence where Thor is as stiff as a board, and Tony wishes that he hadn't opened his big fucking mouth- then Thor exhales, as though releasing a frankly alarming amount of negative emotion through that one breath, and says, "You are safe."

His voice is quiet and serious in direct contrast to the jovial boom that he normally employs to communicate when he says, "None shall harm you again, while it is in my power." And that, more than anything else, puts Tony at ease.

"You can't promise that," he slurs out anyway, even as his systems start shutting down, because his body instinctively believes the other man's words where his mind can't just yet, "There is no possible way for you to be able to keep your word."

"I don't know if you've noticed," he continues on, oblivious to the things coming out of his mouth, "but I'm not the most liked person out there. Actually, you could say that there are a lot of people out there who outright hate me. Enough to pay people with both the hatred and the balls to actually finish me off. Assuming I don't finish myself off to begin with."

Thor tenses up again before shrugging and loosely wrapping his gargantuan arm around Tony, "You severely underestimate my abilities, my friend."

"As you humans say," he goes on to say, as though it's the simplest thing in the world, "I will be there to catch you when you fall. None shall harm you again as long as I draw breath."

Tony sleeps, then, incapable of resisting as he finally blacks out-and when he inevitably wakes up screaming, Thor is there to pull him close and make it go away and to gently make him settle back in.

He's utterly oblivious to the dark look on Thor's face as he plots death on all those who would make a kind, honorable man like Tony Stark cry out in such a way.

By the time Clint and Coulson drop by, Tony is past tube feeding and has moved on to glaring at the terrible hospital jello.

"Took you long enough," Tony says when they walk in, not taking his eyes off the green blob of edible betrayal on his tray, "Can you do me a favor and get me some pizza? I don't feel like dying from a gastrointestinal infection today."

He's talking like he always does, snide and more than a little demanding, which is why he's completely gobsmacked when Clint actually lets out what sounds distinctly like a growl.

"What the fuck is wrong with you?" he says-Tony swears he hears a molar or two cracking even though he's like, atleast three feet away-

"What do you mean?" Tony asks because that's what normal people do, which is why he's taken by surprise when Clint lets out a horrible screechy sort of sound and stalks off like Tony's stepped on and brutally murdered his favorite bow.

Tony just turns to Coulson and says, "Ok, then?"

Because again, he hadn't said or done anything out of the ordinary, unless asking for some pizza had become a crime while he'd been unconscious.

Coulson just gives him a sardonic look in return, like he knows exactly what Tony is thinking and is mentally lowering his estimation of Tony's IQ. Then he sighs, says, "He's the one that found you. He's the only one who got to see before you were cleaned up. I think his reaction is understandable."

-and he walks away, just like that, because he knows how to detonate psychological bombs to maximum effect.

Also because he is a dick.

Tony doesn't even bother to argue back, just grits his teeth and starts to lug himself out of bed because he isn't even going to fool himself into thinking that he's capable of leaving this be. Even he isn't willing to be so heartless because he knows exactly where he'd be if their situations were reversed.

On the other hand, that doesn't stop him from being a douchebag when he finally manages to hobble over to where Clint is crouched, on top of a vending machine where he has a prime view of the comings and goings.

Alright then, must be a day ending in y.

"Feel free to leave your nest and join us normal people, Barton," Tony grumbles when he finally gets there, "I don't feel like getting a crick in my neck because you're sulking."

It says a lot that Clint doesn't even say anything as he quickly climbs down (or better yet, that he bothers to climb down at all, much less quickly) and it freaks Tony the fuck out- because Clint may not be reigning king of snark but he does come close. Also, he's just as much of a douche as Tony is on his good days- this meek bullshit doesn't sit well no matter how he spins it.

It doesn't make sense in Tony's world that he shouldn't be shooting his mouth off; it doesn't sit right that Tony feels absolutely no need to punch Clint in the face.

"Ugh," he says as he slowly slides down the wall and plops abruptly, "this is depressing."

That, atleast, gets a response.

"Yeah," Clint grumbles back as he joins Tony on the floor, "Tell me about it."

"I should not be this tired." Tony says with a sigh because shit, he shouldn't be and that's not even what he means when he says that but that's ok right now.

Clint just gives him a half-hearted grin. "Oh so it's all about you, now," he says, "way to go Me Monster. Your ability with being utterly self-centered never ceases to astound."

Tony just tosses a mild glare towards him before sighing again, because this is not the time to hash out their oldies but goodies, even if it would be better than the conversation that they're about to have.

For fuck's sake, there isn't even alcohol or potent drugs to smooth the way.

"You know it wasn't your fault, right?" Tony asks after a few minutes of silence, because they need to discuss this even though neither of them particularly wants to. He doesn't want Clint, one of the few people that he can honestly call a best friend, to wallow in guilt he doesn't deserve.

He wants Clint to be his normally, shitty self more than he doesn't want to have an emotions talk.

Theoretically, anyway.

Clint takes a minute to answer and when he does, it isn't the desperate bravado that Tony half expects.

"I saw what they did to you," he whispers out, voice breaking as he practically deflates onto a conveniently uninjured part of Tony's shoulder, "I should've found a way to get to you faster. Jesus, Tony. I can't..."

And Tony could say something like, 'No. Really. It's not your fault,' or even, 'come on Clint, you didn't make me do anything.' But he also knows that it isn't something that Clint would want to hear.

Instead, he looks at his friend carefully, taking in the dark circles under his eyes and the pinched look about his mouth, and he struggles his way upright.

"Come on then," Tony says, offering his hand as though he actually has the energy to pull anything up, much less a fully grown male, "Up."

Clint looks confused, but he gets up anyway, hovering slightly as though he were making sure that Tony doesn't keel over.

Tony is actually mildly insulted but that an argument for another day.

Instead of harping like every instinct in him is asking for, he says, "Let's go." He grabs the other man's hand and starts leading him along, back to his hospital room, before gently pushing him onto the godforsaken hospital bed.

"Sleep," he says, forestalling all arguments, because Clint needs sleep, Tony is tired and really, if fucking Thor could fit on half this bed, Clint should have no problems."Shut up," he adds as a preemptive strike because he knows his friend and knows that a snide comment is about to slip out.

"You shut up," Clint grumbles in response, and before Tony can get another word in, he's burrowing in and starting to doze off.
"Just…don't talk about dying so easily ok?" he mumbles as his eyes start to close, "Just…just for a little while. Just…can't…"

Tony doesn't even bother to roll his eyes, mostly because rolling his eyes actually hurts still—nor does he do something sentimental like holding the other man close. Instead, he just hobbles his way into bed, lets Clint curl around him a little, waits for the other man to fall asleep, and closes his eyes.

The last thing Tony feels is Coulson's fingers in his hair, because the man is a ninja and no one ever hears it when he walks into a room.

"You do not have permission to do this, ," he says, "ever again. Or there will be consequences."

All Tony can do it agree, because he knows better than to disagree with Coulson.

"Aw, no need to be jealous, Coulson," he slurs out with the last of his wakefulness, "There's room for you to climb in too."

He actually means, 'I promise I'll try to be more careful.' After all, if Phil weren't there, shit would fall apart, no one would know what to do or where the coffee is, and then where would they all be?

Also, they would never find his body if he were to ever piss Coulson off and nothing (nothing) pisses the man off more than an out of commission Avenger. Seriously, there have been incidents (as in multiple, as though one weren't enough of a heart attack inducer) where Coulson has gotten in Fury's face when he thinks his team needs a break, and Fury has actually backed off.

Tony has no intention whatsoever of getting in the way of a force of nature like that.

(Also, he doesn't want anyone to look like Clint did just a few minutes ago, like he's a second away from a complete breakdown on Tony's account. But that's neither here nor there.)

The first breakfast since Tony had disappeared happens right after he gets released from his requisite hospital stay- and if Tony were a little less busy burrowing his face into Natasha's comforting stomach muscles and later squinting up to smile at Clint's disgruntled expression as he cuddles into his marginally more dubious but no less comfortable belly, he would have noticed the almost palpable relief in the air.

As it happens, he's too busy basking in Natasha and Clint's fingers in his hair, Bruce and Thor's miserable solidarity, and sleepily complaining to Steve about being fed oatmeal again to think on that too much.

Then Coulson walks in and everyone settles and if they all keep a closer eye on him, if they all (there's no other word for it) cuddle in a little whenever they get the chance- well, Tony's too busy basking in happiness to really care.

It isn't until later that he finds out that they hadn't had the heart to do much of anything with him gone, much less have a family breakfast without him there- at which point all sorts of strange, frightening things start to happen in the general vicinity of his arc-reactor that he doesn't really want to talk about. Ever.

Incidentally, the next time a solo job crops up and he goes against all advice and takes it anyway, he finds the mission ripped out from under him by a cowed Fury, one mildly furious handler, and a team of exceptionally panicked and angry superheroes.

The mission gets given to one of the more obnoxious agents that S.H.I.E.L.D has to offer, who ends up pulling things off to rousing success and praise galore.

But, as Tony looks around at Clint and Natasha bickering, at Steve and Thor trying to figure out one of their newer flat-screen TVs, at Bruce and Coulson discussing the cultural differences between the peoples of India and Pakistan and why they'll never get along…

Well, he can't really say that he minds.

As usual, I'm not really happy with this. :( Ugh, sorry for inflicting this on you. Incidentally, there'll be more coming because I've been looking into googdocs and I have a trillion half-finished pieces there.

My bad.

Still, I hope you enjoyed this even a little bit. :) Don't forget to R and R! No flames please.