Jarvis throws up an alert on Tony’s tablet when Steve makes it back to the tower, and Tony calls in the nurse to help him sit up in bed. The surgical scars over his heart are healing up just fine, with no further damage from the removal of the shrapnel, but the whole area is still swollen and achy.
He takes an extra dose of painkiller. This isn’t a conversation he wants to be distracted for.
Tony must look pretty pathetic, propped up in his bed with pillows, wearing an old button-up for ease of wound care, but Steve is the one who looks worse when he enters Tony’s room. All of his cuts and bruises from the Helicarrier crash have healed, but that’s just the surface.
After nearly a year together,Tony knows how to see past the surface.
“Come on,” Tony says simply, patting the bed beside him.
Steve nods—if you can call it that, with his head hung so low he’s basically staring at the floor. He takes his shoes off, then his collared shirt, then his belt, and folds the shirt before putting it on the table next to the door. His folding is half-hearted, though, his fingers dragging numbly along the fabric.
Tony watches. He thinks it says something, that he can tell how shitty Steve is feeling from how he folds his clothes. It could be laziness, but it’s never laziness with Steve (except with dishes. He always tried to get out of doing dishes properly). Steve is focused, hard-working, and dedicated, and when he leaves a job half-done, it’s because he truly doesn’t have the energy to finish it.
When Steve crawls up onto the bed, limbs moving sluggishly, and rests his head on Tony’s thigh like he could lay down and die there, it’s another piece of evidence that Tony didn’t need.
He rests his hand on Steve’s head. His hair is greasy, unusual for someone who loves hot showers as much as Steve does. Steve tilts his head just slightly into Tony’s thigh, which is a sign for Tony to rub more firmly with his fingers. Tony obeys, slowly.
He lets them sit in silence for a while. Steve’s breathing deepens, and the lines of his body sink into the bed. His hand comes up to touch Tony’s elbow where it rests on the bedspread.
“Do you want to talk?” Tony asks, despite knowing the answer. He gently scratches at Steve’s scalp, to let him know there’s no hard feelings.
Steve hums a quiet negative, but he rubs his cheek a little against Tony’s leg, and curls his hand around Tony’s elbow.
“Okay,” Tony tells him. “We’re good here.”
They’re both hurt. Tony is damaged physically, in a way that made him unable to protect Steve, and that hurts even more inside. And Steve has been cracked down the middle by something Tony doesn’t even know about yet, that inscrutable text from Natasha— ‘Take care of him’ —notwithstanding.
But here, alone in Tony’s bedroom—the site of a hundred intimate, passionate, comfortable, exciting, peaceful, perfect nights—
They’re good. They’re going to be okay.