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ratherastory ([personal profile] ratherastory) wrote2012-09-17 11:30 pm

Can You Hear Me (When I'm Calling Out to You)

Title: Can You Hear Me (When I'm Calling Out to You)
Summary: In the days following the big battle with the Chiatauri Steve pays a visit to the Avengers tower which is still under construction. He intends to apologize to Tony for their earlier argument on the helicarrier. Instead, he discovers that Tony didn't come out of the battle as unscathed as he had at first let on…
Characters: Steve Rogers, Tony Stark
Rating: PG
Wordcount: 2,958
Warnings: None.
Disclaimer: *hides under a rock in case Marvel tries to find her*
Neurotic Author's Note #1: So a couple of months ago the spectacular [livejournal.com profile] dante_s_hell won a fic from me in a charity auction. She requested some Tony-centric h/c with Steve in the caregiver role, preferably in the aftermath of the climactic battle in the movie. So that's pretty much what this is. Thank you, my lovely, for waiting so patiently for me! I hope you like it. :)
Neurotic Author's Note #2: I owe a huge debt of gratitude to [livejournal.com profile] peppervl, who must have worn down her fingertips to the very bone at her keyboard, holding my hand and commiserating and making me write and helping me with the premise of the story and working out kinks and figuring out the end (endings are HARD, yo!) and basically being a rock star. Without her, there would be no story. Thank you!
Neurotic Author's Note #3: This isn't nearly as intense h/c as my usual stuff. It's actually kind of fluffy. Mostly it allowed me to meander around in Steve's thoughts and poke at his brain for a while, and let him see Tony in a new light. I expect that if you tilt your head and squint, you can probably see this as pre-slash, but it's pretty much gen.
Neurotic Author's Note #4: The title is shamelessly cribbed from Great Big Sea lyrics.

Steve isn't used to being given things. He's not used to having much to his name beyond his clothes and his shield, and up until now, he's never wanted much more than that anyway. After all, he tells himself, he grew up with nothing, and while the serum was the greatest gift a guy like him could ever hope for, he's pretty sure he's going to spend the rest of his life trying to repay society for that favour. Asking for anything else seems ridiculously presumptuous, and so the idea that Tony Stark is, of his own volition, giving him what amounts to his own floor in the new Avengers tower, more than boggles his mind, especially after the heated words they exchanged on the helicarrier, before they pulled together and saved the world. Words that Steve regrets, even now.

Still, he has to admit—even to himself—that his curiosity is piqued. His old quarters at S.H.I.E.L.D. are little more than four walls and a bed, and the Avengers tower is the embodiment of modern technology. It's natural that he'd want to see how the work on it is progressing, he tells himself as he parks his bike around the side of the building in the space carefully marked with the same star design as his shield (it must be one of Stark's jokes, he assumes, though it's nice to have his own parking space). So there's a legitimate reason for him to be going, apart from the fact that he very clearly owes Stark an apology for outright belittling him when he not only had no right to do so, but was also flat-out wrong, as it turned out.

He's a little worried about the fact that he can just casually walk in through the front doors of the building, right up until he makes his way through the lobby and to the elevators. By then he's distracted by the sudden thought that he has no idea how to find Stark, or Dr. Banner, who's already staying there, for that matter.


"May I assist you, sir?"

He jumps, startled by the sudden manifestation of a disembodied male voice, looking around instinctively. "Um, what?"

The voice speaks again. "I am JARVIS, Captain Rogers. We have never had the pleasure of speaking directly, but may I say that it is an honour, sir."

Right. Right, he's heard of JARVIS, the AI that Tony designed and which essentially runs half of his life and properties, or possibly a lot more than that. Steve shuffles his feet again, then turns his face up toward the ceiling, feeling a bit stupid talking to what feels like thin air.

"Oh, um, thank you. Likewise, I'm sure. I mean, it's nice to meet you, JARVIS. Uh, do you—" he makes a futile hand gesture when he realizes just how much vocabulary he's lacking for what he's trying to ask, "handle security around here?"

"I do, sir, although there are multiple redundancies in place, should my attention be required elsewhere. Did you require assistance with something?"

"I was looking for Mr. Stark. Or for Dr. Banner, for that matter. Just checking in, you know, since I haven't seen them since Thor took Loki back to Asgard. Thought I'd see how things were going," he adds, not entirely sure why he feels compelled to explain himself to the machine. Then again, knowing Stark, JARVIS is probably much more than just a machine. It can't hurt to be polite.

"Dr. Banner is in the kitchen on the fourth floor. Mr. Stark is in his laboratory and has been since early the day before yesterday."

Can computers sound disapproving? Steve could swear JARVIS sounds disapproving. "Oh, well, if he doesn't want to be disturbed, I guess I'll see if Dr. Banner is busy."

"Very good, sir," JARVIS states blandly, and Steve gets the uncomfortable impression that he gave the wrong answer. The elevator doors slide open, and Steve half-expects a trap door to open under his feet and send him sliding down a chute somewhere unpleasant.

He clears his throat. "Did you say Tony's been down there for two days?"

"Yes, sir." The elevator still hasn't moved.

"Miss Potts is out of town at a conference, isn't she?" he asks, remembering his last conversation with her.

"That's correct."

Steve does some quick mental math. "Has he been out at all? Like, to sleep? Or to eat?"

"Mr. Stark occasionally loses track of the time when he's working."

"I see. Okay, JARVIS, change of plans. Where can I get food here?"

"I've taken the liberty of having a cold lunch set aside in the kitchen. I will be happy to direct you there."

And that's how, less than ten minutes later, Steve finds himself carrying a tray with a sandwich and chips and a large milkshake that JARVIS swears contains important nutritional supplements. He pauses outside the door to the lab, from where he can hear Tony's music blasting at top volume—it's nothing he's familiar with, and at these decibel levels he honestly can't tell if he likes it or not—and frowns when he finds no doorknob or handle.

"Allow me, sir," JARVIS says smoothly, and the doors slide open. Of course Stark would have automatically sliding doors, just like on the helicarrier, and yet these things still take Steve by surprise sometimes.

"Thank you," he says in the general direction of the ceiling, hoping it'll mask his frustration at being caught off-guard by a stupid thing like an automatic door.

The music feels like it's exponentially louder inside the lab, and Steve winces in spite of himself. Tony's hunched over a work bench, protective goggles firmly in place as he applies what looks like a soldering iron to whatever it is he's working on. His movements are still a little stiff, and Steve can't help but wince a little at the memory of watching him fall from the sky, of the heart-stopping moment when they all thought that their efforts had been in vain, that the broken armour contained nothing but a corpse. The S.H.I.E.L.D. doctors gave him a clean bill of health, apart from some cracked ribs and a lot of bruises—not that Tony stayed long enough for a proper exam. Still, it's good to see him up and moving. Steve isn't sure how many other men would be working so soon after that much trauma.

Steve clears his throat. "Mr. Stark!" It feels weird calling the guy with whom he helped save the world by his last name, but they weren't on a first name basis before, and it's not like he got permission to use his first name since then. Tony doesn't look up, though, intent on his work. "Mr. Stark! Tony!" he barks finally, and that gets the man's attention.

"Oh, hey, Captain!" Tony throws up his free hand in a terrible mock-salute and pulls off his goggles. "What brings you by?"

"JARVIS suggested you might need a sandwich!" Steve yells, trying to make himself heard over the music, which Tony has made no move to lower. "Can you turn that down?" he gestures aimlessly over his head. He has no idea where the speakers even are.

Tony grins at him in that way that makes it really hard not to punch him in the mouth. "Sorry, I can't hear you! The music's too loud!"

"JARVIS, could you please turn down the music?"

Tony makes a show of sulking when the music immediately ceases. "That's cheating. What brings you by, Cap?"

Steve pushes the tray of food toward him. "I was coming to see Bruce, and you," he adds, "and I was curious about the renovations on the building and everything. It's really generous of you to offer to put up all of us here."

"I see JARVIS has been orchestrating sandwiches behind my back again," Tony rolls his eyes. "JARVIS, buddy, we've talked about recruiting other people in your schemes to keep me nourished. Is that a protein shake?"

"It's a milkshake, sir, enriched with protein."

Tony is examining the contents of the glass with a doubtful expression on his face. "You can't dress a mutt up in a suit, dye it pink and enter it as a standard poodle in a show, JARVIS. It's a protein shake."

"I am sure that you'll like it if you taste it, sir. I was very specific in my instructions."

Steve isn't quite sure what to do with himself while Tony apparently has an argument with his own creation. JARVIS sounds amused, like a tolerant parent, and up until now Steve had been pretty sure that computers couldn't sound amused. He's definitely going to re-evaluate everything he thought about Tony's home-built AI, he thinks to himself.

"The building's looking good. So far, anyway. I can't believe you're managing it all just with the arc reactor technology," he says, trying to find a subject of conversation that isn't likely to end in an argument. He and Tony aren't exactly on the best of terms, even though Captain America and Iron Man seem to work together perfectly fine. He still regrets his words on the helicarrier, but he can't quite figure out how to express it.

Tony has already taken a large bite of his sandwich, apparently oblivious to Steve's inner turmoil. "So have you seen the place yet?" he asks, mouth still full. "You should ask JARVIS for the full tour. Take Bruce, too. He's been hiding with his chemistry experiments for two days, he could use the fresh air."

"JARVIS says the same thing about you. More or less," Steve retorts, then forces himself to stop before he lets himself get pulled into another discussion they'll both regret. "Look, Stark, I just wanted to say, about what I said earlier on the helicarrier, about you not being the guy to lie on the wire—"

"How the hell did JARVIS talk you into catering service, anyway?" Tony asks, though he's examining some sort of electronic chip thing at the base of whatever the heck it is he's building, sandwich held in one hand. "You never struck me as the type for delivery, unless you've been using that motorcycle for things other than roadtripping?"

"Come on, I'm trying to apologize, here. At least pretend to be gracious about it, I'd appreciate it," Steve snaps, then wipes a hand over his face. "Geez, it's like you have a schematic of all the right buttons to push with me. Can we try this again, please?"

"Seriously, if you're thinking of branching out into pizza, or something," Tony's attention hasn't drifted from his invention, "let me know. I'm always looking for investment opportunities," he looks up briefly, just long enough to give Steve a mischievous wink. The look is so good-humoured and so obviously meant as a joke rather than mockery, that Steve just sighs.

"You're not going to let me apologize, are you? You're really going to stand there and pretend like you're not listening to a word I say?"

"Okay, no, joking aside, it was nice of you to bring it. Sometimes I get caught up," Tony keeps talking, bending over to tweak at something with a pair of pliers, still not looking up at him.

That's when Steve figures out that there's something definitely wrong with this picture. His suspicions are all but confirmed when, a moment later, Tony reaches up with an all-too-casual gesture to lightly press two fingers just behind one ear, as though he's trying to relieve pressure there.

"Stark. Tony," he amends, "can you hear me?"

Tony frowns a little, then looks up. "Look, Captain, I appreciate the lunch and all, but I'm sure you have places to be, people to see, kittens to rescue out of trees and all that. I sort of have to finish this, and… what?" he stops mid-patter, apparently seeing something in Steve's face that Steve himself doesn't know its there.

"You can't hear what I'm saying, can you?"

That gets him a derisive snort. "Don't be ridiculous."

"Okay, then what did I say a few minutes ago?"

Tony glares at him, but there isn't much heat in it. "I didn't realize there was a test. I'm busy, so I wasn't listening. If I'd known there would be a written exam at the end of your visit, I might have taken notes."

Steve sighs, pinches his nose, and reminds himself that he's not here to pick a fight. Again. He tries a different tactic. "Come on, Tony, please. I'm not trying to be a bad guy, here. I'm just worried."

Tony rolls his eyes. "Oh my God, it's like arguing with a puppy. A really sad puppy. JARVIS, remind me to start practicing my puppy-kicking skills."

"Noted, sir."

Steve ignores the mild sarcasm coming from the AI. "What happened?"

Tony shrugs, the gesture a little helpless. "I don't know. There's… ringing in my ears, or something. Like that high-pitched sound you used to hear on TV sets when the broadcasts stopped for the night… and you have no idea about that, never mind. Everthing's kind of muffled."

"How long?" Steve asks, dreading the answer.

Tony fiddles with the pincers, flipping them between his fingers. "Since I regained consciousness."

"You've let this go on for—no. No, I'm sorry, that's not what I want to…" Steve stops, takes a breath. "I just… let me take you to a doctor, at least. Just to make sure. You can't tell me you're not worried?"

"I don't want to see a doctor!" Tony snaps. "Stupid S.H.I.E.L.D. quacks. Besides, they're busy with all the casualties from before. Alien invasion, remember? Lots of casualties."

"I haven't forgotten," Steve fights the impulse to roll his eyes. "How about Bruce, then? He's got a medical background—"

"No!" Tony cuts him off with such vehemence that Steve rocks back a little on his heels. Tony softens his tone "I mean, Bruce is, you know, busy. And stuff. I don't want to bother him, and…" he waves one hand in a vague semi-circle, and that's when Steve gets it.

"You think it might have been him. I mean, the Hulk, when he roared at you. You think that's what did it?"

Tony makes another small, helpless gesture, his expression suddenly miserable. "The helmet is designed to protect me from all the loud noises I might encounter when I'm out there chasing planes and whatever. The only time I wasn't wearing it was… yeah. And I'm not putting that on him. Guy carries enough guilt as it is."

The kicker is, Steve can understand that. He's seen the way Bruce flinches every time the Hulk comes up in conversation, the way his shoulders hunch when he's around other people, like he's trying to disappear. The only time, in fact, that he's ever seen Bruce actually relaxed (though, granted, they haven't spent much time together), is when he's around Tony. Tony who, for better or for worse, doesn't seem to worry about provoking him, about issuing challenges that might or might not result in Bruce's losing control. And maybe that has a lot to do with why Bruce trusts himself around Tony—because Tony extended a hand toward him first. Steve gets the feeling that the number of people who have done that for Bruce can be easily counted on the fingers of one hand, with fingers to spare.

"Okay, then your doctor. You must have one?"

"If I may, sir?" JARVIS startles them both by interrupting, much more loudly than he usually speaks. "I've taken the liberty of making an appointment for you with Dr. Kerr in precisely one hour. If you leave now, you will arrive in plenty of time."

"Sneaky bastard," Tony mutters. "Fine."

Less than two hours later they're back at the tower, and Steve is desperately racking his brain for a way to get rid of the dejected slump in Tony's shoulders.

"At least it's probably temporary, right?"

"Right." Tony's trying to put a brave face on this, but he's not being entirely successful. He's watching Steve intently, eyes fixed on his mouth so he can make out what he's saying. "Sure. I'm sure it is. Temporary. Totally. Couple of days, I'll be good as new."

"A couple of days of quiet," Steve reminds him pointedly. "So no more playing that racket so loudly that people can hear it three blocks away."

"The place is sound-proof," Tony replies, clearly miffed. "But yeah, point taken. What the hell am I supposed to do if I can't listen to ACDC? It helps me think."

"Take a break?" Steve rubs the back of his neck. "I mean, uh, everyone keeps telling me that I need to get out more, be out in the world… well, mostly Director Fury and the psychiatrist that S.H.I.E.L.D. insisted I talk to at first, and…"

"Why, Captain Rogers, are you asking me to be your personal tour guide to the post-modern world?"

The twinkle in Tony's eyes is genuine, no doubt about it, and the lines of tension have eased from around his eyes. At this point, Steve is willing to let him have some fun at his expense, so long as it means he doesn't keep looking as though someone has killed his dog.

"Yes, but on one condition."

Tony arches an eyebrow. "You're asking me for a favour, but you're imposing conditions?"

Steve allows himself a small smile. "On condition that you call me Steve. I think we're past the point of formality, don't you?"

At that, Tony throws his head back with a laugh, and claps him on the shoulder. "Okay, Steve. You got it. First thing we're going to do?

"I'm going to show you the Internet."
embroiderama: (Avengers - Bruce & Tony nerdgasm)

[personal profile] embroiderama 2012-09-18 03:52 am (UTC)(link)
Aw, I love this--banter and the beginnings of friendship with that nice little bit of h/c. ♥

[identity profile] ratherastory.livejournal.com 2012-09-18 03:53 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you! And wow, that was fast! I just finished answering your comment on my other fic!
embroiderama: (Default)

[personal profile] embroiderama 2012-09-18 03:54 am (UTC)(link)
I'm procrastinating on going to sleep and feel like reading short fic, and there yours was. :)

[identity profile] ratherastory.livejournal.com 2012-09-18 03:55 am (UTC)(link)

Always happy to enable!

[identity profile] gottalovev.livejournal.com 2012-09-18 04:54 am (UTC)(link)
I really liked this! of course Tony would pretend everything is ok... *shakes head*

[identity profile] ratherastory.livejournal.com 2012-09-18 04:54 am (UTC)(link)
Tony is a bit ridiculous that way. Glad you liked it!

[identity profile] mymuseandi.livejournal.com 2012-09-18 05:14 am (UTC)(link)
I hope the deafness is only temporary! :)

Great story.

[identity profile] ratherastory.livejournal.com 2012-09-18 03:34 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you! I'm pretty sure it's only temporary. Between all the brilliant minds they have at their disposal, what's a little tinnitus, am I right? ;)

[identity profile] tabaqui.livejournal.com 2012-09-18 12:44 pm (UTC)(link)

I so want the 'go see Tony in his tower to talk' to be a canon moment!
Love it, love it. :)

[identity profile] ratherastory.livejournal.com 2012-09-18 03:38 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you! I'd really like there to be a moment like that, even if it doesn't involve Tony being deaf. Steve would be all earnest and trying to apologize, and Tony would spend the entire time deflecting because he doesn't do feelings, okay?

[identity profile] jennytork.livejournal.com 2012-09-18 01:47 pm (UTC)(link)
I am the opposite of [livejournal.com profile] mymuseandi -- I hope it's permanent!

Great job!

[identity profile] ratherastory.livejournal.com 2012-09-18 03:38 pm (UTC)(link)

Thank you!

[identity profile] eavis.livejournal.com 2012-09-18 02:53 pm (UTC)(link)
D'awww! This was precious. I do love the bromance between these two.

[identity profile] ratherastory.livejournal.com 2012-09-18 03:38 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you very much! The banter is so much fun, I have to rein myself in not to write ONLY that. ;)

[identity profile] dante-s-hell.livejournal.com 2012-09-18 03:20 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, I just loved this! JARVIS is such a mother hen! He's perfect in this.

But the boys... the boys! Their voices were so perfect! I could imagine the scenario completely.

And poor Bruce. I'd like to see him angst over what happened when he finds out. ;-)


Awesome story. Thank you so much! *hugs*

[identity profile] ratherastory.livejournal.com 2012-09-18 03:40 pm (UTC)(link)

Oh, I'm so relieved you liked it! It's kind of light h/c by my standards, so I wasn't sure it was what you wanted... ack. Anyway, yay!

I figured JARVIS would be a sneaky mother hen and recruit any likely allies for his quest to get Tony help.

Poor Bruce. There will be LOTS of angst when he finds out. ;)

*smishes you*

[identity profile] claudiapriscus.livejournal.com 2012-10-08 06:37 am (UTC)(link)
Aw, this is lovely! I've had it open in a tab for ages, but it took me this long to actually read it. (I was avoiding MCU fic because of guilt over an unfinished story, hah). Well worth the wait... but I am sorry I didn't read it earlier, because it was like a bubble bath for my brain. Just avenger-y fun.

[identity profile] ratherastory.livejournal.com 2012-11-09 01:44 am (UTC)(link)
I understand entirely. I often put off things in favour of trying to get unfinished writing done (like answer comments!), so I'm glad you were able to come back to this! I'm very pleased you liked it. :)