When it happened, it happened fast, but wasn't that always the way?
Steve was willing to admit that he hadn't been in his Quinjet seat with his safety harness securely fastened, but that was because they'd taken off about twenty seconds ago and Tony had gotten to the cockpit faster. Trying to clear out an AIM base with just the two of them, Steve could acknowledge in hindsight, had been a mistake, but at least there was no permanent harm done. Unfortunately, that included to the AIM base as well -- if Steve could have looked behind them, he thought he might have seen half a dozen beekeepers angrily shaking their fists.
But it was AIM, so Steve wasn't particularly worried as he picked his way forward, because what the hell was AIM going to do to them?
"Oh, shit," Tony said, from the cockpit. "They have missile lock."
Steve pushed his way faster past two more seats, almost to the front of the plane. "Shake it. Countermeasures."
"I'm trying," Tony hissed back, "but it's a solid lock. Sit down and I'll see what I can-- fuck! Two more incoming!"
This wasn't good.
Tony turned his head back to look at him; there was real fear in his eyes now. "Brace yourself! Impact in three, two--"
There was a horrible noise, metal screeching on metal, and then the deckplates below Steve heaved, threw him into the air, and slammed him into the far bulkhead.
Everything went dark after that.
The next thing Steve was aware of was pain. Everything was still dark. His head was throbbing, and something felt very wrong with one of his legs and one of his arms. It was hard to think. He was draped uncomfortably over a surface that he was certain he wasn't supposed to be lying on. Was it night already?
Oh. He had his eyes shut. Thinking was very hard.
He opened his eyes.
"Oh, thank God," Tony said, from next to him. He had the armor faceplate up and his gauntlets off. His face was pale, and very blurry, and he was clutching one of Steve's hands, the one that didn't hurt. "Okay, sweetheart, can you squeeze my fingers?"
Steve did, albeit weakly.
"Good," Tony told him, and Steve smiled. "Can you wiggle your toes?"
Steve tried it. "Uh-huh."
Relief flooded Tony's face. "Oh, thank God. I thought for a minute you broke your back. Okay. Whew. You should see the goose egg on your head, though, Jesus. Speaking of--" he waved his other hand in Steve's field of vision. "You want to tell me how many fingers I'm holding up?"
The fingers blurred and doubled. "Um. Not six?"
Tony petted his hair. "Okay, honey, that's a no. So I'm thinking concussion. Hurts anywhere else?"
"Chest," Steve said thickly. "Ribs, I guess. Arm," he said, and Tony promptly dropped his hand. "No, other one. Leg-- left leg. Probably all broken."
Tony's fingers moved to Steve's face, stroking the side that didn't feel quite so sticky with blood. "Okay. I can at least do something about a couple of those, while we wait for rescue."
Steve blinked up at him. "What-- what happened?"
"AIM happened," Tony said. "You remember, there were missiles? I think you got knocked out by the missile impact, which is what you get for not wearing your seatbelt. Then I had to put the jet down somewhere, which wasn't easy, but." He half-smiled. "I think this is the part where you're supposed to say any landing you can walk away from but I'm not sure you can, right now, huh, sweetheart?"
"Probably not," Steve agreed.
"The good news," Tony added, with a flash of a smile, "is that the rescue beacon still works, so with any luck the rest of the team ought to be showing up in the other Quinjet in a couple of hours. Now, stay still and I'll go hunt for the first-aid kit."
"Not exactly going anywhere right now."
Tony ruffled his hair. "Good point."
Wherever they'd landed, it was cold; Steve was only now noticing this because Tony had had to cut through his uniform at the shoulder, and Steve's flesh was prickling in goosebumps. It was probably shock, as close to it as he ever got these days. He didn't say anything about it, but Tony must have noticed, because he pulled the blanket from the first-aid supplies up over Steve while he worked on splinting his arm. Steve assumed the leg would come later.
He didn't think Tony had ever taken care of him like this before. Other Avengers, sure -- you didn't get to be an Avenger without having picked up some basic and not-so-basic medical training -- but Steve had never really needed to be the recipient of it before. Usually it had been the case that he'd never been so badly off that the serum couldn't heal it immediately, or it had been bad enough that they'd needed to medevac him somewhere fast, and in that case it had never been Tony taking care of him.
And Tony's bedside manner, Steve was now discovering, was one of the kindest he'd ever been privy to.
"So hold your arm out just like that -- yeah, that's right, honey, good job," Tony said, as he started to wrap Steve's arm for cushioning, with the vet wrap that had been in the kit. Tony had wiped up the blood from most of the scrapes; Steve had told him not to bother with the rest.
They'd already established Steve still had feeling in his fingers -- in his whole arm, even -- and he tried and failed not to wince when Tony pressed his hand against the aluminum splint, letting it mold to the shape of Steve's arm.
"Going to hurt a little, sorry, sweetheart," Tony said. nimbly holding the splint in place with one hand while reaching for the other elastic bandages to secure the splint.
Steve heard himself make a small, quiet pained noise when the first of the bandages went around his wrist.
"You should have seen the crash, though," Tony continued, tying the bandage off and moving to Steve's elbow, and that was when Steve realized that Tony was trying to distract him. "It was a spectacular landing, if I do say so myself." He half-smiled. "I like to wake up every morning and ask myself what I can do to make the Aviation Safety Reporting System cry today. I think we make up half their crashes every year, between the suits and the jets."
Steve laughed -- or tried to -- and felt his body recoil in protest, as his ribs hurt. "Ow. That's not how you like to wake up, and I know that for a fact."
"True," Tony said, beaming at him and setting his arm in a sling, and at this point the movement barely registered as pain. "I like to suck your cock before you go on your morning run, and then I like to make the ASRS cry." He grinned. "How do you even have enough blood left to blush, honey? I know you know what we did this morning and yet I can't even get you to say the word cock."
"I know," Steve said, feeling his face heat up, "but-- but--"
"But I just love you anyway," Tony said. "Hey, wiggle your fingers, tell me if that's too tight."
Steve obligingly wiggled his fingers. "No, you're good."
"Right," Tony said, and he sat back on his heels and regarded Steve speculatively. "Nothing I can do about the ribs, so I think it's leg time, sweetheart. I'm assuming you would have told me already if it's your femur, so please say it's not."
"Probably tibia," Steve agreed. It was still a little hard to think, but it was getting better. "Maybe fibula. Can't ever tell with that one."
"Okay." Tony ran his hands through his hair and stood up. "Well, I'm going to need a bigger stick."
"Please tell me that's a euphemism."
"I wish," Tony said, with a snort, "except I would then also be rather upset about my personal dimensions, in the euphemistic sense."
"I have absolutely no complaints about the size of your stick," Steve assured him, and Tony smiled and, presumably, went off to find a bigger stick.
Steve didn't know what part of the ruined Quinjet the curved metal piece had come from, and he suspected he didn't want to know, but Tony lashed it very efficiently to his leg, over his pants, which was a good move because they would have been hell to take off anyway, over a fracture.
"There," Tony said, settling down next to him. At some point in the process of finding materials for splinting, he had shucked his armor. Steve glanced down at his own leg, saw the crimson sheen of the metal, and realized that he was actually wearing--
"Did you splint me with one of your greaves?"
"Yep." Tony's voice was nonchalant. "I figured that since I already had metal molded in the shape of someone's shin, I might as well get some use out of it. Hooray for emergency medicine, right?"
"You didn't need to do that," Steve said.
It felt nice, weirdly intimate, to be wearing Tony's armor.
"Maybe not," Tony said. "Wanted to, though," he added, and Steve got the distinct impression that Tony felt the same way about it.
"Now we wait for rescue," Tony said, "and since I'm pretty sure you're stable enough to move, I'm not going to feel guilty about doing this."
"Hmm?" Steve asked, and that was when Tony pulled Steve's head into his lap and ran his fingers through his hair. "Mmm." God, that felt good. "This is nice," Steve murmured. "I like this."
"Yeah, honey," Tony said. "That's kind of the point. Can't get any painkillers worth a damn in you with your metabolism the way it is, so this is how you're going to get your nice happy endorphins."
Trust Tony to science it all out. "Oh."
"Also I really like doing it," Tony added. "So it has that going for it."
"I'm glad," Steve murmured. "Me too." He could feel himself slipping closer to sleep. "Hey, am I allowed to sleep like this? With a concussion?"
"That's a myth, you know," Tony said. "As long as you're getting better, which you are, you're allowed to sleep."
"Oh, good," Steve said, groggily. "Think I might."
He shut his eyes, and the world went away again, but this time he was safe and warm, surrounded by Tony.
He awoke to the sound of multiple voices, one over the other.
"--going to have to lift him," Tony was saying, "and I took the suit apart to splint him."
"Well, I can," Carol said. "And Thor definitely can. I wish you could have told us to bring crutches but I guess the emergency beacon isn't that specific."
Steve cracked one eye open and then the other. "Nnn. Hi, Warbird."
Carol grinned back. "Hey, there you are. Do you want this to be a team lift or are you okay with just me?"
He shrugged. "I'm sure you'll do a great job."
"Great," Carol said, and promptly lifted him up in a bridal carry. "Let me know if I bang your arm. Or leg."
"Probably mostly healed anyway."
"We are definitely X-Raying you first thing when we get home," Tony said. "No one wants to break and re-set anything."
"He's a worrywart," Steve told Carol, as she flew over the four-foot drop where the Quinjet ramp had once been able to extend. "I'm fine."
Clint poked his head out of the other Quinjet, and he was already snickering. "You stay right there. I gotta get a picture of this."
"Clint," Steve said, aggrieved.
"Yeah," Carol called back to Tony, "he's definitely fine."
After several minutes of wrangling the entire team into the second Quinjet, Carol deposited Steve unceremoniously into the seat next to Tony. It was sweet of her.
"Enjoy the flight," Carol said, and headed up to the cockpit.
"Hi, honey," Tony said. "You want any help with that?"
Steve stared at the mess of straps surrounding him -- the five-point restraint harness was a mess at the best of times -- and then stared at his arm in a sling and sighed. "I don't suppose I could put my head in your lap again?" he asked, hopefully.
"Absolutely not," Tony said, but he did stroke the back of Steve's hand. "You're wearing a seatbelt all the way home."
"Fine," Steve agreed, but after Tony strapped him in he let him lean his head on his shoulder, and that made it all worth it.