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Formalized Ties

Story Info

Title: Formalized Ties

Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)

Fandom: The Avengers (MCU)

Era: Post-Avengers movie

Genre: Drama

Rating: T / FRT

Characters: J.A.R.V.I.S., Steve Rogers (Captain America), Tony Stark (Iron Man) (, Dummy, Nick Fury, Howard Stark)

Summary: Steve comes to spend some time with Tony in Malibu. It has the potential to get really awkward for the two of them.

Written for: tigerdreams tigerdreams (LiveJournal) at Avengers Fest (2012) avengersfest

Warnings: Language, brief violence & injury. Some spoilers for The Avengers, Iron Man films and Captain America: The First Avenger.

Disclaimer: Iron Man and Avengers, their characters and everything else belong to Marvel. The movie versions belong to Marvel Studios, Joss Whedon, Jon Favreau, Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures… in short: everyone but me. This is pure fiction, created to entertain likeminded fans, no profit made.

Beta: Gamebird (game_byrd)

Feedback: Appreciated, cherished and loved. Concrit welcome.

About Formalized Ties: Written as a quick pinch hit.

Exploring the friendship of Tony and Steve after the palpable tension in The Avengers – and what may have happened afterwards (with Fury playing an unwilling/unsuspecting matchmaker). This is more Steve & Tony than an actual pairing, however; could be considered pre-pre-slash, too…

Story and status: Below you see the writing process of the story. If there is no text after the title, then it is finished and checked. Possible updates shall be marked after the title.

Formalized Ties

~ ~ ~
Written for tigerdreams (LJ) at Avengers Fest.

Formalized Ties

It was a few weeks after the whole mess with Loki, the Chitauri and the Tesseract. The Avengers had ‘disassembled’ and Tony had gone back to his normal life, much as it could be called that. Far as Tony was concerned, he was still coming down from the high of flying a nuke into space and he was allowed to be a little upset about that experience.

Which meant Nick Fury should give him an unofficial leave of absence from anything that didn’t threaten the safety of the entire world; for everything else there was S.H.I.E.L.D. and all their super-secret top agents.

As it was, he found himself looking at Steve Rogers, wearing his beige slacks and worn brown leather jacket, blue eyes wary as he stared back at Tony with obvious hesitation in his usual posture. “Fury sent me,” he finally said.

“I know,” Tony replied and finally stepped aside to let him in.

“Welcome to Malibu, Captain Rogers,” J.A.R.V.I.S. greeted their quest at once.

Steve looked around hesitantly, either at the incorporeal voice or the excess of Tony’s Malibu house. “I hope this isn’t a bad time,” he said, sliding his bag from his shoulder but not dropping it, as if expecting Tony was going to tell him to leave.

Tony felt like telling him that it was, in fact, a bad time – although it really wasn’t – but he knew Fury would be chewing his ass if he booted the national icon out of his door and even Tony had the sense of self-preservation to not piss off the S.H.I.E.L.D. director unless he absolutely had to – or when he wasn’t in a mood to deal with Fury’s shit. “No, it’s fine,” he easily half-lied. “I even got you a room ready.” He finished with one of those winning smiles that always made the magazine covers.

“Oh,” Steve replied, looking unfairly surprised. “I won’t stay long. Fury just thought…”

“That I could help you adjust? Build some team spirit? I don’t know where he got the idea we didn’t get along.” Tony shrugged, then turned and walked off, leaving Steve to follow. “Kitchen’s over there although I don’t know if there’s anything in the fridge other than pure essentials. Your bedroom is down the hall there, mine is in that direction,” he pointed half-heartedly. “J.A.R.V.I.S. will help you with anything you need,” he wrapped up the introductions then turned to look – only to find Steve far behind him, staring out at the ocean through the wide windows with a far-away look on his face.

Tony stopped, waiting for him to snap out of it. When Steve finally did look at him, he seemed rather startled. “Sorry, I just haven’t seen the Pacific before.” He looked at Tony a bit longer then cracked a small smile. “I didn’t know you could be quiet for this long.”

Tony rolled his eyes. This was going to be a wonderful few days – or however long Fury was adamant to have Tony cater to Steve’s needs, whatever they were.

- - -

“Fury said we should talk.”

Steve had entered the workshop about twenty minutes earlier; when Tony hadn’t acknowledged him right away he went around, looking at things, waiting for a chance to butt in.

“Yeah?” Tony asked, finally sliding away from the portion of the suit he had been fixing. “Did he tell you what we should talk about?”

“He said we would figure it out,” Steve noted, stepping closer.

Dummy followed him, snapping his jaws as if he wanted to squeeze that super-soldier ass, although Tony knew better. Well, at least he thought he did and pointedly snapped his fingers at the robot. “Hey, Dummy, there’s work for you to do. Get on it.” Dummy veered off to the side and started cleaning a desk, actually making even more of a mess but at least it kept him busy.

Steve looked thoughtful when Tony paid attention to him again. “You’re…” The blond stopped short, looking like he had just thought of something too inappropriate to say out loud.

“What?” Tony pressed.

“You’re not polite even to your robots,” Steve observed.

Tony leaned back in his chair – only to remember it didn’t have a backrest and almost fell to the floor. “They’re my robots. I assume I can talk to them in any way I want,” he pointed out after catching himself.

“Don’t you think they would appreciate it if you were nicer?”

Tony raised an eyebrow. “Honestly, Cap; are you of all people going to lecture me on the feelings of artificial minds?”

Steve flushed slightly, looking to the side where Dummy was still working. “I’m just saying,” he finished.

For a guy coming from the 40s he was awfully comfortable around Tony’s creations. Maybe this was right out of some science fiction novel Steve had read – or maybe he was trying to adjust a bit too hard.

Steve didn’t seem to want to elaborate and Tony sure as hell didn’t want to prolong the pain of this discussion. He turned back to fixing his suit and heard Steve leave a moment later.

- - -

Steve cooked. He also managed to make J.A.R.V.I.S. lure Tony out of his workshop and go upstairs, expecting something very different than the smell of food in the air and plates on the table.

“I thought it was the least I could do while staying under your roof,” Steve explained.

“There’re places that deliver food these days,” Tony started.

“You always eat take-out,” Steve noted. Tony gave him a look to challenge his theory, seeing as they hadn’t known each other long enough for Steve to be aware of Tony’s eating habits. “J.A.R.V.I.S. told me,” the taller man added, wiping his hands on a towel and bringing a pot to the table. Tony peered at it suspiciously.

“Pot roast and veggies,” Steve announced. “It’s not going to kill you.”

“I might be allergic,” Tony tried.

“I informed Captain Rogers of all your culinary restrictions and dislikes.” J.A.R.V.I.S. sounded way too smug.

“I always thought you might be a picky eater,” Steve mused. “I was surprised how… exotic your tastes are.”

Tony declined to comment and instead sat down to eat. Steve cleared his throat after a bit and looked at him pointedly. “What?” Tony asked; first they told him to come eat and now his plate sat there empty.

“You could wash first,” Steve suggested.

Tony frowned then sighed and got back up, going to the nearest bathroom. Okay, so he was covered in grease and fine metal dust… He went and changed his clothes while he was at it. He returned to the table in ten minutes and the other man seemed to agree, giving him a nod of approval and placing some potatoes, carrots, and two slices of roast beef on the plate that was clearly meant for Tony.

It wasn’t half bad. Tony’s own cooking abilities had never been much to brag about, but somewhere in between being a super-soldier and saving the world, Steve had stood in front of the stove long enough to master the culinary arts. Or perhaps he had done that before the war, with the times being tough and rationing being the big word.

“Do you like it?” Steve asked after a bit, wolfing down the rest of what he had made to satisfy his metabolism; Tony wasn’t sure he could eat so much in a whole week.

Tony knew responding with a wordless shrug would probably be more insulting than whatever he might think of saying, so he sort of nodded and finished chewing. “It’s nice. I haven’t had home-cooked food in… Well, I was never certain if the kitchen actually even worked.”

Steve didn’t comment, focusing on the rest of the food on his plate instead, eating every last bit while Tony concentrated on emptying his.

- - -

“You look a lot like your father.”

Tony’s razor blade almost slipped. He was in his bathroom and he had no idea why Steve was there with him while he did his post-shower shave. He was sure the super soldier had mumbled some kind of excuse to lean in the doorway, letting uncomfortably cool air into the steamy room.

“That’s where the similarities end,” Tony replied, picking up the pace, making sure not to pull the wrong way; his goatee was iconic, no reason to change it now just because of a stupid comment from the Star Spangled Man.

“That’s not true at all,” Steve went on. “I knew him.”

Tony sighed and put the razor down. He would finish later and it was good enough for now, most of the faint stubble gone. “Someone may have told you this already, but I wasn’t my dad’s biggest fan – or he mine.”

Steve frowned. Obviously he wasn’t new to this piece of information; why he had chosen to ignore that was beyond Tony. “That’s something I don’t understand. You are so alike; both inventors, both smart men.”

“He was a shit father,” Tony deadpanned.

“You sure it was his fault alone?”

Tony didn't dignify that with an answer. “I have a meeting,” Tony said, moving past Steve to his bedroom.

Steve didn’t need to know the meeting would take place a few miles up, wearing the Iron Man armor.

Anything to get out of the house for a while…

- - -

Steve looked so apologetic in the next few days it made Tony sick and he attempted to avoid him. Yeah, he knew Steve had known his dad during the war before disappearing in the ice. It sounded like a completely different Howard Stark, the way he talked about him, and sometimes Tony wondered if he would understand his dad better if he had seen him then.

Of course at that point, he was reminded that he didn’t want to understand his dad and dismissed the whole thing.

However, staying in the same building with an apologetic Steve Rogers was unbearable. Tony could have gone to New York, or just hung out in his suit flying around, looking for trouble, yet it seemed kind of impolite seeing as Steve was his guest. When had that become a problem? Steve knew where the door was, he had his bike; he could leave. If not, J.A.R.V.I.S. could take care of him.

Fury called on the second day, inquiring directly at how his time with Steve was going, which implied he either knew Tony was avoiding Captain America – or he had one hell of a sixth sense about this stuff.

Tony returned home, refusing to admit his tail was between his legs, and walked up to the living room to find Steve sitting on the couch, staring intently at a screen where J.A.R.V.I.S. had collected several articles and publications by and about Howard Stark. Steve looked up when he realized he wasn’t alone and Tony froze, unsure if he could do this, refusing to acknowledge he had anything to apologize for; Steve had brought it up and he had no right to tell Tony what his dad had or hadn’t been like.

“I’m sorry about earlier,” Steve launched into his quest for forgiveness before Tony could stop contemplating on how many levels of wrong that discussion had been. “I didn’t mean to offend you or remind you of something you would rather forget.”

Tony raised an eyebrow. “Okay.”

“I…” Steve started then stopped. Behind him the screen still showed the articles he had been browsing.

“You talked to Fury, didn’t you?” Tony had to sigh, had to put two and two together. Of course Steve had called Fury!

Steve looked both defiant and awkward. “You disappeared and I knew it was because of what we talked about; J.A.R.V.I.S. promised to tell me if something was really up.”

Tony felt like giving his AI an evil eye but didn’t bother. They would talk about that later. “Well, I’m back now so… all’s forgiven,” he forced out, swatting at the air as if to fend off the words. He headed out towards the bar to get something to drink. He sure needed it and deserved it, too, because he hadn’t been particularly nasty to Steve yet – something people told him he should work on.

As he filled a glass with ice and scotch and waited it to warm up a bit, he went over their little discussion in his head. Steve had returned to the couch but didn’t seem as absorbed in what he had been doing before. Tony fished out his phone as he watched the other man, then connected the smaller device to the screen and went over what Steve and J.A.R.V.I.S. had been up to before he got back.

“You want to know about my dad?” Tony asked finally.

Steve looked up. “Well, yeah. I knew him, and…”

Tony waited for him to say it, whatever it was.

“You’re one of my last ties to my old life,” Steve finished in a quieter voice.

Tony guessed that was true although Peggy Carter was still alive. Why Steve hadn’t given her the call that had been overdue for seventy years, he would never know. Maybe because it had been seventy years and the Peggy he had known was long gone, in a sense. But then again so was Howard Stark and Tony was a poor imitation of his father.

Yet Steve kept thinking they were alike…

“There’s an old lab of his at one of my research facilities,” Tony eventually spoke again, raising the glass to his lips. “I could take you there tomorrow, to show you some of the things he was working on before he died.” Saying that tightened his throat a little. They may have had their differences – a lot of them – but when he lost his parents, it had been way too early and too sudden.

Then he lost Obadiah …

“I would like that,” Steve admitted, “but you don’t need to do that for me.”

“I think I do,” Tony sighed.

Steve smiled as if he understood. “You’re a good man, Tony,” he said then, entirely too honest and making Tony feel uneasy.

“Don’t tell anyone,” he muttered to his glass and walked to the steps leading down to his workshop. Perhaps he would be able to work past those words, to forget them – yet he couldn’t shake the warm feeling of having his childhood idol tell him something like that; Howard may have ignored him much during his life but when it came to Captain America, he had never hesitated to teach Tony everything there was to know about the man. In the middle of all his resentment when the search for the lost hero went on, Tony hadn’t been able to shake the memory of those exciting stories his father told him of the first superhero he had helped to create, and who had also been his friend.

Who was now Tony’s friend, apparently.

Funny how things worked out.

- - -

Because Tony worked and drank half the night and was going to sleep late into the day, he left Steve a gift the man could browse before their visit to Howard’s old lab; he left him the crate Fury had brought over when Tony was still dying of the palladium poisoning. Filled with notebooks and reels, he left J.A.R.V.I.S. with instructions to help Steve with anything he needed while he took some much needed beauty sleep.

As he had expected, the next day he walked to the main area to find Steve going through the crate, hands tender as he touched the things Tony had been happy to fling across the room in his desperation to find a cure. “I’m sure S.H.I.E.L.D. has more stuff like that hidden away somewhere,” he noted.

Steve looked up then back at the notebook he had been leafing through. “Shouldn’t they give them to you?”

“I’m sure it’s of more use to them,” Tony deflected – although he suspected Howard’s things were just sitting around in a warehouse somewhere. He didn’t want them, though, didn’t need them in his life. “Have you eaten?” he asked, scratching his stomach and yawning.

“Yeah. There’s food in the fridge, warm it up. J.A.R.V.I.S. said you’re not big on traditional breakfast anyway so I thought you could jump straight to dinner.” He still had his nose buried in notes he probably couldn’t understand, yet he seemed to have a strange fascination towards it.

Tony found meatloaf and popped it in the microwave; that he could use, thank you very much for anyone who had ever asked him if he needed help with it. He had fixed the damn thing a few times, too, when it broke or when he and Rhodey brought down half the house while fighting in suits…

As he ate, Steve carefully packed the contents of the crate back inside it and closed the lid. He was quieter than usual, looking out the windows with a slightly haunted look on his face, then glanced over at Tony as if knowing he was being watched. “You remind me of him, in so many ways,” he confessed. “I see you from the corner of my eye and for a moment it’s him.”

“You sound like you’re talking about your dead girlfriend or favorite pet,” Tony observed, shoveling another forkful into his mouth.

Steve flushed. “He was my friend.”

Tony just let out a sound that didn’t really agree or disagree and kept eating.

- - -

Tony drove to the research center in one of the cars, Steve following on his bike. The super soldier had actually asked if Tony wanted him to give him a lift but Tony was a couple years too old to sit on the bitch seat. He hadn’t said it exactly like that and Steve had just shrugged, putting on his sunglasses and roaring the engine to life.

They didn’t break too many speed limits on the way to the facility. Steve didn’t give him a hard time of the ones they did, which was kind of surprising; maybe there was a daredevil in him somewhere.

Steve was looking around the area when Tony slid out of the car, his leather jacket warming under the sun but it would be cooler where they were going. Tony let them in, the few remaining staff greeting him timidly; it was late, most of the people had already gone home and the ones who remained were the types to stay in their rooms.

They took the elevator down, several floors beneath ground level, the air cool as they stepped out of the elevator and over to a thick steel door. Very few people had access into this room – the way Howard had apparently wanted it and Tony had no reason to change that rule. There were few working components on the other side but he had no interest in people snooping around his father’s old projects. There was nothing of use for him either; he had checked early on and then again after Fury had revealed Howard had actually planned on shaking the weapons business.

Steve looked apprehensive as Tony unlocked the door and let them in.

“There’s nothing on the other side, Cap,” Tony joked.

“I’m sure there’s something; that’s why we’re here,” Steve replied.

“Yeah, sure, but nothing that’s going to try to eat your face.” Because that’s what Steve looked like he was expecting.

Steve worked up a nervous smile then stepped forward as Tony switched on the lights. They flickered for a moment and Tony frowned then watched as they came to full brightness, seeming to remember their primary task.

Most of the things were covered with tarps to protect them from the dust, the machinery unused for decades yet some might still be working. All the dangerous apparatuses had been shipped away after Howard’s death – by Obadiah or Tony. There was nothing left Tony was interested in.

Steve, on the other hand, walked around, touching things as if understanding them better when he did that. At times he would stop in front of a shelf and look at things or find a box and open it carefully to see what lay inside. Tony wondered if this was anything like Howard’s shop back when they knew each other and worked with SSR. What crazy inventions had littered his lab back then…

“No one comes here?” Steve spoke up suddenly, breaking the silence and the hum of air conditioning.

“It’s a museum – a dead museum,” Tony shrugged. “I haven’t seen the point and besides, all his work that people should see is out on display in many of my office buildings.” It hadn’t been his thing but Pepper had thought it was a sign of respect and not letting the world forget the roots of the company or the man who started it.

Steve nodded as if he understood then turned towards him. He opened his mouth, probably to thank Tony again for bringing him here although it hadn’t been such a big thing anyway, but before he could get a word edgeways the lights went out and a complete silence fell around them.

Tony blinked, his eyes not seeing a damn thing. He could tell the power was out – and apparently the exit signs hadn’t been changed down here in forever because there was no glimpse of the familiar luminescent red.


“The power’s out,” Tony replied needlessly. He knew Steve would see better than him in the darkness. “It should come back on soon. It never lasts long.” Not that power outages in his facilities were exactly normal so he wondered what had caused this one.

He heard the other man move around – at least he knew it was Steve, seeing as there was no one else in the room. The sound came closer as if Steve was making his way back to Tony or the door. “I thought your new energy source was supposed to be reliable,” the super soldier spoke up, either to calm himself or to let Tony know he was getting closer in the pitch black.

“This building doesn’t have one yet,” he responded then sighed. The blue glow was faint at first when he opened his leather jacket, but once he opened his button down shirt and exposed the arc reactor in his chest, the darkness was filled with a steady shimmer. Tony jumped slightly, not having realized how close Steve had moved in the darkness. The other man smiled wanly at him but refrained from making a ‘comes in handy’ comment, which Tony appreciated.

They both turned back towards the door, listening to the silence. “How long do you think it will be?” Steve asked. “Should we take the stairs?”

“Let’s wait it out,” Tony decided. While Steve would see it as a nice workout, Tony wasn’t over-excited about climbing back to the surface. After ten minutes, though, he was starting to be a little concerned about the duration of the blackout. “Maybe we should take the stairs,” he began to consider out loud.

“We can wait,” Steve reassured him.

It was getting cold down there, though, not to mention the pressing darkness around the arc reactor that lit the room. Tony was getting worried there may have been an accident of some sort because he was sure no one had forgotten to pay the electric bill.

“Let’s go,” Tony finally decided and they moved to the stairs. Of course the very first door they encountered was locked and stuck, not budging despite forceful encouragement. Eventually Steve threw his weight against it a few times and then almost kicked the whole door down before it swung open before them.

The stairwell was equally dark and Tony tried not to stumble as he felt his way up in the light of the arc reactor. A few times he couldn’t help it, though, but felt Steve’s steady hand on his hip every time, steady and protective. It ticked him off but he preferred that to falling on his face.

“This was a nice trip,” Steve said from behind him after a bit, perhaps to cheer him up.

“I’m sure you’ll remember it,” Tony huffed.

“It wasn’t all bad…”

They were silent for another few floors then Tony stopped on a landing to catch his breath. He looked up but saw nothing at all. “The maintenance here sucks. Someone should be fired,” he muttered.

Steve let out an appropriate chuckle. “Maybe there’s a reason for all this.”

“Aren’t you optimistic.”

“Someone’s got to be.”

There was silence again and Steve leaned against the wall beside Tony. The darkness seemed to amplify everything – the lack of sounds being one. Tony didn’t deal all that well with that and found himself shuffling his feet and clearing his throat.

“I think I’ve learned something while staying with you these past few days,” Steve spoke up again after a while, perhaps sensing Tony needed a distraction.


“I was friends with your father – perhaps not his best friend, but we went through a lot. I trusted some of his inventions with my life. But I’ve realized… Maybe he was a better friend to me than he was a father to you, and that’s very sad.”

Tony didn’t know what he should say to that. It was no secret that he and his dad never got along – or that Howard kept looking for Steve long after he gave up on Tony. There had been a lot of resentment because of that but Tony found himself conflicted now that he had met the source of his father’s obsession. Steve was an honorable, good man – even Tony could admit it although he wasn’t ready to say it out loud without heavy sarcasm. He was worth searching for, and the world was a better place with him back in it.

“He should have been your father first and my friend second,” Steve concluded.

“He would have disagreed even if you told him that to his face,” Tony shrugged.

“Maybe. We’ll never know –”

There was a loud bang from above and they both looked up. Feet were moving in the stairs above and Tony felt a bit more hopeful. “Hey!” he shouted upwards.

The steps halted and he saw flashlights moving. He could see shapes of men, wearing dark clothing. He couldn’t see their faces, as if they were covered by something, the skin not catching the light.

“Holy shit, that’s Stark!” one of the voices exclaimed.

“Idiot, I told you he was here! That was his car outside,” another joined.

“Shut up and get him!”

Tony frowned. Alarms were ringing in his head, telling him something was off.

Steve moved suddenly, half in front of him and placed one hand on top of his arc reactor. “Close your shirt,” he said in a low voice, looking up. “I think they’re not friendlies.”

“Are you sure?” Tony asked but drew his shirt over the source of light, dimming it.

“They are holding guns, their faces are covered and they don’t strike me as your usual employees,” Steve observed. “Let’s go back down the stairs.”

“Seriously? How about standing our ground right here?” Tony suggested.

“You’re not wearing your armor and have a glowing target in your chest in the middle of a pitch black stairwell. We need to get –”

A shot echoed in the stairwell and the boots started beating down, coming fast. Tony had to agree that perhaps this wasn’t the best place to fight back. He started backing down again, careful in the dark, glancing back every now and then, trying to keep track of how close the others were. The stairs trembled slightly as heavy boots kept falling rapidly against the steps. Steve was right behind him, a mere shape now that the light was almost entirely gone.

Another shot was fired, flashing in the dark, hitting metal somewhere in between them and their attackers. There were murmurs and a clear argument going on above, buying them time.

“I think they might not want you alive,” Steve told him.

Tony rolled his eyes and almost lost his footing. Only Steve’s hand around his arm saved him from possibly breaking his leg.

They were back at the bottom and Steve pushed him under the stairs, following him, waiting silently. Tony closed his leather jacket, feeling cold and hot at the same time, listening. He knew they might have the element of surprise plus they had one super soldier, but Tony was keenly aware of being vulnerable and didn’t like it.

The men – four of them – came down the stairs loud and fast. They had lights attached to barrels of their guns which swept the darkness frantically.

Whether Steve gave him some kind of sign, Tony didn’t see, but as soon as the first man was moving down from the final step, Steve was on his feet, hitting him square in the face with his elbow. The second one soon followed in the receiving end of a punch that had made super-villains fall. The third had time to lift his weapon; it was far more likely he was going to hit one of his own but Steve was right there, not wearing his Captain America suit either – without his shield.

Tony wanted to help him, to do something other than crouch beneath the stairs, but he wouldn’t be much use in this fight when he saw nothing and was too easily blinded by the sudden flashes of light. A shot was fired then a grunt followed as Steve grabbed the gun and hit the man with it then kneed him in the stomach. The fourth backed up the stairs, trying to aim. He fired before he had a clear shot, hitting the man in front of him, then got lucky and his second bullet clearly hit Steve in the shoulder.

Like a soldier he was, that didn’t slow Steve down, yet Tony had had enough and he moved up, reaching out from between steps and pulling hard on the last attacker’s ankles, upsetting his balance and sending him face first to Steve’s feet. With a final kick from the super soldier, he didn’t get back up.

“You okay?” Steve asked him as Tony made his way from under the stairs, allowing his shirt to fall open again to give them some light.

“Me? I’m fine. You’re the one who got himself shot.”

Steve gave him a bashful smile but didn’t seem to regret it.

“Let’s tie it before you bleed all over the place,” Tony told him. Steve promptly reached for his own shirt, grimacing a bit, then tore a strip from the fabric and allowed Tony to tie the wound as tightly as he could. After that Tony knelt down, looked over the weapons of the attackers and dismantled most of them; he didn’t want to carry them all up so he made sure they wouldn’t be able to use them if any of them actually managed to crawl out of here.

Once he was done he gathered the remaining weapons and flashlights and gave Steve one of each in case there were more of these unwanted visitors lurking around. “Lead the way, soldier,” he told him and they began to climb once more.

- - -

The officials were still investigating the attack on the research center. Just a few people had been injured; three guards who had tried to stop the attackers after the power went out, yet none of them suffered from anything serious. Steve’s injury, in the end, was the worst one of the lot – if you didn’t count the attackers themselves.

“I want you to know I’m pissed at you,” Tony told Steve as a nurse took her leave after dressing Steve’s injury.

The blond gave him a look. “That’s a bit unfair,” Steve noted. “I may have saved your life.”

“Exactly. Well, not precisely, but you took a bullet for me, sort of, and now I owe you. It’s not the kind of debt I can count in dollars, either. Plus Fury’s going to go berserk that I almost got his favorite Avenger killed.”

Steve raised an eyebrow. “It’s just a gunshot wound. I’ll be better in a few days.”

“Berserk,” Tony reminded him as Steve pulled his shirt on carefully then got up. There was no reason to keep him under surveillance since he was already healing, and as long as he didn’t do anything crazy in the next few days he should be just fine. Just to be sure, Tony had decided they wouldn’t take any more tours to Stark Industries facilities.

Tony drove them back to his house and J.A.R.V.I.S. welcomed them back upon their entrance:

“I am glad to hear you are going to be well, Captain Rogers. And may I thank you for keeping Mr. Stark out of harm’s way?”

“You’re welcome,” Steve smiled at the AI’s words then glanced at Tony before he could start arguing. “Are you hungry?”

You got shot and you’re asking whether I’m hungry?” Tony rolled his eyes. “I think the usual pattern is that I should be catering to your needs now, seeing as I owe you. I hate owing people. They get so demanding.”

Steve actually laughed and sat himself down on the couch. “Okay, so… Are you hungry, or do you want to wait on me? I seriously can’t tell.”

Tony may have thrown a pillow at him if the man hadn’t just kind of saved his life by taking a bullet which may have been meant for Tony in some sense. Either way he went to the fridge, finding some random leftovers of what Steve had cooked earlier, then put it all in the microwave and took it over to the living room afterwards.

They didn’t talk as they ate but the silence between them wasn’t strained either.

- - -

“Don’t you have a bed to sleep in?”

Tony started and almost fell from his chair, a few pieces of equipment falling to the floor at his feet when his arms jerked to push himself up from the table he had been leaning on. Clearly he had dozed off in the middle of his latest project.

Steve stood next to him, looking entirely too awake given the hour. Tony had to glance at the clock a few times to conclude it was indeed six in the morning.

“I was in the middle of something,” Tony replied, trying not to dislocate his jaw as he yawned.

“Well, clearly you aren’t anymore while snoozing on top of whatever you were doing.” He came forward and tugged at Tony’s arm until he agreed and got up. “I talked to Fury,” Steve added.

“Why?” Tony frowned, wondering if something was up. If something was up, he needed coffee.

“To make sure he won’t blame me getting shot on you – which he wasn’t going to do. He was glad you’re okay and that it didn’t get messier than that,” Steve went on.

“Huh,” Tony reacted, wondering if that was the whole story. Fury seldom was happy with anything that happened, least of all Captain America getting shot.

“I think you’re not awake enough for this discussion,” Steve noted and pushed Tony towards his bedroom.

“I am,” Tony insisted through another painful yawn.

“We can talk about it in the morning… well, later today. When you wake up,” Steve amended. “Go to bed.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Tony muttered, already stripping off his top and eyeing his big bed thankfully. Sometimes Steve gave the right orders.

“Tony?” Steve spoke up, now in the doorway, ready to leave him alone.

“Yeah?” Tony asked, looking at him, for a moment completely unawares of what might come out of the other man’s mouth next.

Steve hesitated slightly then nodded as if he had just decided on something. “Good night,” he concluded softly then closed the door and left Tony wondering if that had been even close to what he had originally been about to say.

The End