Crash and Burn
Chapter Summary: Tony knew he was in trouble...and it had very little to do with the car that had just hit him.
Tony lunged at Steve, a desperate and much too late warning cry spilling from his lips as he shoved his lover as hard as he could, propelling him away from the curb where they had been peacefully waiting for the lights to change, allowing them to cross.
Genius that he was, self professed and officially, Tony was immediately aware that he had just landed himself in deep trouble, and he wasn't talking about the one tonne hatchback that had run the red light, taken the corner too sharply and was now careening towards him.
The furious disbelief in Steve's turbulent blue eyes, along with all consuming fear and panic was a definite sign that Tony would soon be facing an angry lover– should he survive being speed-bumped by New York's stupidest motorist.
Crunch, shatter, screech...bang!
Burning pain encompassed his lower back and spread upwards and across his shoulders, jarring shudders escaping his limbs as he felt his feet leave the ground.
Upside down, right way up – sky and concrete and sky again.
Several sharp, biting stings against his left side and then fiery rawness engulfed his arm, shoulder and the palm of both hands.
A twinge in one ankle suddenly became a screaming agony as he rolled and rolled and rolled.
A sharp crack sounded near his ear and blinding white bloomed across his vision.
And the world went dark.
Light burned his vision in spots as he dragged his eyes open, and Tony knew that he'd only been out for seconds, because he was still moving, still skidding across the footpath.
Everything was muffled and distorted, but despite the seeming mute on the rest of the worlds audio output, Steve was shouting, frantic with fear and that Tony could hear. With gargantuan effort he tried to focus; light swept across the darkness in disorienting spots, but he could see. It was stilted, blurry and tilted nauseatingly sideways, but he could see Steve as the blond pulled himself to his feet from here Tony had shoved him seconds before. Could see Steve screaming, could hear Steve screaming – for Tony, for help, for...
Tony blinked and the world rushed back into sharp, wavering focus and loud, deafening noise. He pulled himself to his feet, not feeling the pain, the ache, not feeling anything – because Steve was screaming. Screaming for Tony.
Blue eyes locked on brown and the screaming stopped, Tony's world slowly piecing together as Steve swept through the growing crowd, broken streetlight fragments and mashed vehicle, towards him.
And then strong arms were around him, supporting him, holding him and the worried, furious, incensed concern rained down as Steve asked, "Tony? You idiot! Are you – how hurt are you?"
The genius leant in heavily, ignoring the questions in favourite of taking stock of the situation, now that he didn't have to risk head butting the concrete again. Realising that Tony was standing and alert, and despite his own burning anger, Steve shook his head exasperatedly, but made allowances for his lover's need. Tony's keen gaze swept the street, seeing what mattered and glossing over the rest.
Smashed car. Immaterial
A man being repeatedly shoved against smashed car. Unimportant
A man being repeatedly shoved against smashed car by Clint. Significant.
Tony honed in on Hawkeye's violent tirade, able to hear the words that spewed from the archers mouth as he flung the stranger up against the unforgiving metal frame of the vehicle.
"...been drinking, you asshole! Are you completely fucking insane! You almost ran over Captain fucking America!" Steam almost wafted from Clint's compact frame and he emphasised his point by shoving the man against the car again.
Tony was sure it was a significantly important matter- whatever this poor man had done to earn Clint Barton's ire, but couldn't help but be distracted by the casual besmirching of his lovers nationally iconic name. Tony would have pointed this out to Steve, but lacked both the energy and the focus, as Clint continuing took all his remaining attention.
"The only way this could have been fucking worse was if you'd, oh, I don't know, hit Tony fucking Stark! Imagine the fucking lawsuit. The man would own you! " Clint bashed the guy back again, spittle flying everywhere as he informed the unfortunate driver exactly which group he may have just accidently attempted to kill.
Tony didn't know whether to be proud or ashamed that the driver went chalk white and appeared about to throw up, but was too busy feeling slighted about the fact that his lover was 'Captain America' and he was just 'Tony Stark'. Although, he supposed, Tony Stark could hardly be considered just anything...
Further contemplation was dismissed as again, Clint started in on the now terrified driver, "And see that guy...yeah, him....he turns into a giant green rage monster when provoked...that's right asshole, you almost hit The Hulk!"
The drunk driver squeaked and sank to the ground in a dead faint, but Tony was already turning slightly in Steve's arms, because, Hulk. Significant.
His eyes found the last present member of their little group. Bruce, thankfully still Bruce, was standing a little off to the side and behind them. His arms were wrapped around his torso and eyes closed as he willed his blood pressure to calm after the adrenaline shock of almost being hit by a car.
Tony wasn't sure if he should try and help calm the big green guy, wasn't even sure if he could physically get over there, but the decision was taken from his hands when Bruce almost immediately registered the familiar and heavy gaze that was Tony Stark and turned his own eyes towards his friends.
At seeing Tony, obviously bruised and battered, leaning into the supporting grip of Steve, Bruce hurried towards them, force of need calming the green guy.
"Steve! What happened, did he get hit?" Bruce asked as he reached their side, corralling Tony in from the left, while Steve cradled him from the right.
The blond answered, one hand coming up to stroke through Tony's hair, "Yes. Well, I mean - I'm pretty sure. I didn't actually see and he's still on his feet, but he's a bit of a mess."
Tony, not happy to be spoken over, cut in with, "Excuse me, right here! And I'll have you know, I'm never a-"
Tony was cut off by Steve's low, heated murmur of, "Be quiet, Tony" and the genius's mouth snapped shut with an audible click.
Bruce stared between the two, suddenly seeing the apparent fury in Steve's tightly controlled face and movements, and wondered what was going on. Although, from that response, he had to wonder what Tony had done.
Clint's arrival defused the situation slightly, until the assassin took in their positioning, Tony's bruised and battered state and all but snarled "That asshole actually hit you? I'll fucking kill him!" and spun back towards the still downed driver.
Seeing that this was heading nowhere good, very fast, Tony reached out and snagged Clint's arm.
Now connected to all three of his present team mates, he said, "Everyone's here? Everyone's okay? Good. Then it seems like as good a time as any to-" and his eyes rolled back in his head as dropped like a rock, knowing that this time, he'd definitely be caught.
The mechanical beeping was a steady staccato in the background; too familiar and only comforting in that it broke the stifling silence of the whitewashed hospital room, only reassuring in that it said 'You're still here'
Listening past the low buzz, focussing instead on the soft breathing echoing around him and the occasional rustle of clothing, Tony slowly struggled towards wakefulness. His efforts were sluggish and lethargic, a heavy cloying haze making it difficult, but eventually he was blinking tiredly against the darkness, the room slowly coming into focus as his eyes adjusted.
Even if he hadn't been able to see the small digital alarm clock happily beaming its 2:19 am time stamp in bright neon orange, Tony would have instinctively known it was ridiculously early. Vague recollections of previous awakenings; of 'name, day, and president?' and the typically inappropriate answers he'd responded with swam distantly in the back of his mind. He correctly surmised, with the earliness and his unassisted waking, that 'concussion-watch' was finally over.
He'd known, despite it being almost 3am that he wasn't alone, and didn't have to base his reasoning solely off the quiet breathing and other discord of soft noises that filled the small room. Although he sometimes resisted the intimacy, or found he couldn't understand why, Tony at least knew, in his heart, beyond the physical reminders of soft sighs and a murmur here or there, that he's no longer alone, that he has a team, friends. Family.
Sure enough, he could easily make out Thor's intimidating form, half seated, half slumped on a bed by the far wall, upper body leaning back against the wall and long legs stretched out on what appeared to be a 'rollaway cot' - it'd been wedged in tight under the window, and the flimsy thing looked like it could collapse under their resident god's weight at any given moment, even if Tony thought it'd held up admirably so far.
Although just the dangerously buckled frame was enough to make Tony twitchy, neither the bed's state, nor the massive divine weight that occupied it seemed to particularly concern Natasha. In the darkened state of the room, Tony could just barely make out her petite body, tucked in close along Thor's legs, almost completely concealed in the darkness between his body and the wall. Looking a little closer, he can see her head pillowed on Thor's leg, deep red curls fanned out across the stark white of the hospital sheet.
A creak from almost above his head, but slightly to the left grabbed his attention, and Tony's eyes, almost of their own accord, found their way to Bruce. The billionaire couldn't help the wince that escaped him as he took in his fellow scientist sleeping position. Bruce had claimed the god-awful hospital visitor's chair; plain cold white, made of the thinnest, ricketiest, cheapest plastic available, and surely designed to be as uncomfortable as possible. The physicist had melded himself into the chair, legs half curled up beneath him and head tucked to his chest. Tony had no doubt that Bruce would wake to a killer back-ache come morning, but was also doubtful that anyone would be able to convince him to move; not with an injured Tony in the hospital bed and the rest of the Avengers in the room.
Tony started to turn, feeling the need to visually locate all of his team and knowing that Clint had to be in the room somewhere, when he felt a hand settle on his ankle and squeeze in comforting acknowledgement. Looking down his body, towards the door, he took in the shadowy form seated cross-legged at the base of the bed. Back straight and breathing slow and controlled, Clint was splitting his attention between the door and window; 'Hawkeye' was on watch.
Blurry memories of a curled weight at the bottom of the bed and Clint's head resting against his left ankle, perhaps the last time they woke him, informed Tony that the assassin hadn't been awake the whole night, and that someone else must have been guarding them, him, earlier.
Only one 'Avenger' remained visually unaccounted for, but Tony knew where Steve was. While he couldn't actually see the blond; judging by the engulfing heat stretched down his back, the warm breaths puffing against his neck, and the large hand branded possessively against his hip beneath the blanket, Tony felt safe in the assumption that his sleeping lover was holding him. Which, given how furious Steve had looked the last time Tony had the capability to actually do so, was a definitely a bonus in Tony's opinion.
Licking his lips and swallowing unpleasantly against his dry throat, Tony ventured to ask what had been on his mind for the past 10 minutes, knowing Clint would hear him without having to raise his voice, "So uh, The Cap? How mad is he? "
Clint, confirming the suspicion that he'd know Tony was awake the whole time, just leaned forward, resting an elbow on his knee as he answered quietly, "Oh, a little. Now, Steve on the other hand...well personally, I'd probably go with furious..."
Tony groaned miserably; that was so not the answer he'd been hoping for. Although he'd been expecting it, the last thing he wanted to deal with was an angry lover; Steve always ended up being so right when he got like this, and Tony was usedto being right.
Clint, somewhat because it was the truth, but mainly just to be an asshole, added, "And Bruce too, he's not all that happy with you either."
He bit back a grin at Tony's answering groan, but the archer's voice was strangely serious when he continued a second later, "Neither am I, if you want the truth. That was pretty much colossal stupidity, Ironass- although admittedly, I can't say much without getting hypercritical...so," wagging a forbidding finger in the dark space between them, Clint scolded "Bad Tony."
His own grin met Tony's soft snigger of laughter as Clint added with a little more sincerity, "It's like you told me last week – I'm a soft squishy human, and you have the multi-million dollar, virtually indestructible armour suit. Well – in this situation, you're me and Steve has the multi-million dollar, virtually indestructible Super-serum...it makes sense for him to take the heavy hits, capiche?"
Scowling uselessly into the dark, Tony went to deliver a typically smart-ass answer when the hand settled on his hip squeezed gently in reprimand and, in a case atypical to his usual behaviour, the genius thought better than to intentionally infuriate his already angry partner.
Wanting, needing, to see his lover's eyes, for comfort, confirmation and reassurance, Tony turned towards the steady warmth...and chocked back a ragged cry as intense fire like pain burnt through his body and into his mind.
It seemed that tiny discontinued movement had been a terrible, terrible idea. Every nerve ending was ablaze and blinding ache's beat sharp beneath his skin. Brown eyes widened with agony and he sprang almost completely upright on the bed, igniting even more of the raging inferno that had suddenly lit within his body.
He was vaguely aware of Steve's arms being thrown around him, half to comfort and half to restrain as Tony attempted to throw himself wildly from the bed; anything to escape the pain. Gently murmured words barely reached him, 'be still...breath...Bruce...pain...self-admi.. button!...and he forced himself to stop struggling, to mentally focus on the fingers that threaded gently through his hair, as slowly but surely the pain faded and so did Tony, eyes slipping closed and his body finally relaxing into sleep.
Sunlight streamed across his closed eyes, slowly bringing Tony into the warmth and awareness of daytime. He yawned, and remembering the agony of last night's movement, very tentatively took stock of his injuries, pleased to note that the level of pain had been misleading. He found mostly minor injuries; a sprained ankle, nasty gravel rash in a few places and a couple of small cuts, not to mention, bruises everywhere, turning his skin a deeply mottled palette of greens, blues, blacks and yellows. Attractive.
Moving was still painful, but unlike the night before, it's bearable and Tony knew that someone must have increased or changed his pain medication for it to make that much of a difference. He cracked an eye open, and immediately banished the breathtaking clench of his chest when he took in the empty room. No doubt the rest of the team had better things to do than sit about the hospital with him all day. Not even one of them. Not even Ste – Tony shook the thought ruthlessly, ignoring the determinedly lingering hurt; he had larger things to concern himself with.
He'd always hated hospitals, always, but even he would admit that every since Afghanistan and the arc-reactor, he was more than a little paranoid, not willing to allow the technology to fall into the wrong hands. He did cope better now that he had The Avengers at his side, but it was still, in his opinion, an unnecessary risk.
Throwing back the blanket and sitting up with a groan, Tony turned to slide to the floor.
"If you set one foot out of that bed, I'll tie you to it with Clint's bowstrings."
Cringing as he turned towards the previously closed bathroom door, Tony's voice was decidedly sheepish as he said, "Ah, Hi Steve?"
Steve, moving across the room to the bedside answered, "Don't you 'Hi Steve' me. What the hell where you thinking! "
Tony, strangely buoyed by the fact that Steve was still here, that Steve had stayed with him, although most definitely still interested in escaping, replied tauntingly, "Cuss words from America's golden boy! - I'm sensing a cert-"
Gentle hands eased Tony back into the bed, despite Steve angry interruption, "Goddamn it Tony – I'm not joking!"
His own carefully hidden upset and discomfort with the situation rose to the surface to bite as Tony replied, "And I'm not having this conversation here!"
"Conversation! This isn't a conversation – it's me talking and you actually listening for once!" Frustrated anger drove Steve's words as he thought on the circumstances they were once again experiencing, because of Tony's lack of common sense.
The engineer was out of the bed again, already reaching for his clothes, with Steve glaring at his back as Tony answered, "Fine! But you can talk at me once were home. Which is where I'm going now!"
The doctor had already given the go ahead for Tony to be released later that day and Steve knew they needed to have this conversation, again, and he was definitely not comfortable having it anywhere it could be overheard. As he reached to help Tony with his shirt, Steve realised that he'd been masterfully manipulated, but couldn't bring himself to actually care.
They'd been in the limo 12 minutes and already Steve was regretting his anger fuelled capitulation. Happy had been taking the smoothest corners, and the slowest pace possible and still Tony was grey with fatigue and trembling in pain where he'd scrunched himself into the far side of the seat. As angry as he was, as frustrated and exasperated, Steve still couldn't stand to see Tony suffer, especially not because of him, and he had no doubt that at least some of his loves misery was emotional.
Sliding closer, Steve reached out and threaded a careful arm between Tony's back and the seat, and gently pulled the smaller man across the leather seat to tuck in against his side, leaning lightly forwards against Steve's chest to take the pressure of his jarred ribs. A warm, steady hand rubbed light circles into the unbruised area across his right flank, and Tony slowly relaxed, melting into Steve's hold.
A few moments later, the genius's soft voice broke the silence of the vehicle as he sighed and said, "I suppose we can have that conv- you can talk at me now if you like..."
Steve smiled at the peace offering, so typical of Tony to think he had to give something up in return for Steve's comfort, how much he still had to learn for one so smart, "Just rest sweetheart, It can wait until we're home and you're comfortable..."
Tony snorted softly as he turned until he was seated sideways, leaning back against Steve's supporting arm. Looking up into blue eyes, he replied, "The only thing I want to do when we get home is fall asleep in the hot tub - and I 'd prefer if you were there to keep me from drowning, rather than drowning me yourself out of..."
Tony's pause was ample time for Steve to break in with, "...frustrated exasperation that my lover has the survival instincts of a mayfly?"
Tony landed a half hearted slap against Steve's chest, accompanied by his retort, "Well, that's not exactly how I'd put it..."
Catching the assaulting hand and holding it to his chest, over the heart that still felt like it would beat right out of his chest as he remembered yesterday's debacle, Steve exclaimed, "Tony! You jumped in front of a car-"
Tony's interrupted correction of, "Actually, I pushed you out of the way of a car." didn't really help his case all that much.
Steve groaned, covering his eyes with the same hand that still held Tony's as he confirmed, "Exactly! I can't believe- Well, no, I can believe. But what the hell where you thinking!?"
Tony opened his mouth to answer and then shut it again, licking his lips as he really contemplated his answer. When ready he replied, "I – I guess I wasn't. I just, I saw the car and...Reacted. "
Steve's raised an incredulous eyebrow as he said, "Tony, I know how your mind works. You calculate every possibility, every chance, every option, every statistic-"
Sitting up a little straighter and biting back a gasp Tony responded with adamant honesty, "Not with you! I really did just react! I can't even think properly when you're involved. You short circuit my brain and everything is just... Steve."
The Captain stared down at his wide eyed lover, Tony obviously willing him to understand the unsaid declaration of love. Steve didn't know how to reply to something of that magnitude and leaning down he murmured softly, "The things you say. I don't even know how" before he captured Tony's warm lips in a gentle kiss.
He pulled back a moment later and Tony pouted at the loss, following his lips, only to gasp in pain as his muscles pulled. Steve settled him closer, supporting more of his weight with a decidedly guilty look on his face as he said, "And then there's my super-serum. I'd have only hurt for hours. You're going to hurt for weeks."
Tony wasn't willing to let Steve enjoy any of that guilt; it wasn't even his and so with a cheekily honest flair he answered, "That sounds like a pretty fair trade to me."
Steve gaped at him, knowing Tony couldn't possibly be dismissing the fact that he was going to be in serious pain for weeks...but then suddenly he understood, because he'd do anything to spare Tony any amount of pain.
It didn't mean he had to like it though.
The blond sighed, mock exasperated as he asked, "Why can't I stay mad at you?"
Tony grinned back, as he quipped, "I'm just perfect like that-"
Steve snorted in amusement, replying, "Perfect pain in my a-" and Tony pulled him into another kiss.
They were in Natasha's room. Her bathroom to be exact; a huge cream and blue monstrosity of chrome and marble, home to 'Stark Towers' one and only hot-tub. Well, it's actually a very large bathtub that has massage jets, but everyone insists on calling it a hot-tub anyway.
Natasha knew they were using it (she doesn't mind – she's allowed the others to use it at various points in time as well), the door was locked and the tub full.
Tony had already stripped off, with some assistance from Steve, and was seated on the edge of the giant tub as he slipped into the shoulder deep water. Gasps and hisses met the stinging sensation of the water against his ravaged skin, but that was followed by deep moans of relief and whimpers of utter delight as the warmth seeped into his sore muscles.
Once in, he turned, arms crossing on the marble edge and chin resting on them as he spoke to his still fully dressed lover, coaxing, "Come on! It's, ooh...sooo good. Heaven."
Steve, seating himself half a metre from the edge, shook his head in reply as he said, "I'm fine, I don't usually bathe, I prefer showers..."
Tony pouted and Steve grinned, but didn't move.
"I'll wash your back, and you can wash mine." Tony bargained.
Steve, looking up from staring into the mesmerising blue patterns the arc-reactor created in the perfectly clear water, shook his head again as he replied, "My back is already clean, and I can wash your back from out here."
"Please! For me?" Tony begged.
Steve eyed him for a moment and then threw up his hands in defeat, rolled closer and slipped straight into the water, fully clothed.
He reached for Tony's laughing form as he declared, "For you? Anything"
Steve's smiled back when Tony wrapped his arms around his neck and pulled himself close, rubbing slick, warm and naked against him, but all Steve noticed was the trembling, and his grin melted away.
Tony's fear of deep water. The complete lack of any other tub in the Tower. The nightmares.
Swearing silently at his own stupidity, Steve pulled Tony closer, secure against his chest. Looking down, even Tony's ashamed look at being found out wasn't enough to throw the blond off asking, "Are you sure this is okay?"
Tony nodded calmly, relaxing into Steve's embrace as he replied, "I don't exactly have a choice, not if I want to walk tomorrow. I'm definitely holding out for a massage though, as soon as the bruises fade - " The concerned look on Steve's face showed that his lover wasn't entirely convinced by Tony's bravado, and the genius sighed as he added, "Really Steve, as long as yo- I'll be fine."
Steve settled, knowing exactly what Tony had been about to say 'As long as you're here', and simply adjusted his grip, one large hand moving to rest protectively over the arc-reactor, and said, "Then you'll be fine."
A/N - Please read and review!
26/04 - Little edit of the ending snippet - explaining why the tub was necessary.
I don't use a beta - it's just me, and while I do the best I can, mistakes inevitably escape my notice...so please, if you happen to notice a glaring spelling or grammatical error - let me know. Thanks.
And that's it folks, for 'Crash and Burn'!
A huge thanks to Kanae Yuna for the request! I had great fun writing her brainchild - hope I did it justice.
Thanks to all who read and a huge thanks to those who took the time to review!
I really hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing this little fic.
Keep an eye out for more in this series soon!