All I Want for Christmas: Gun In My Hand
December 22, 2016
Steve took a deep breath and pushed the button for Tony’s lab. He knew the other man would be leaving soon to spend Christmas with Pepper. And it was no surprise to Steve that his travel plans just managed to have him out of the Tower before the others were supposed to arrive. But before Tony left, Steve needed to make certain they were on the same page.
Things had been better since Canada. Since President Ellis signed the pardons. But their relationship was still strained. The only time they ever spoke was during meetings with politicians and a very select few media outlets. Or when Darcy Lewis was present to act as a sort of buffer between them. Steve understood the impetus, he wished more than once that he could have someone stand between him and all of the uncomfortable interactions he had to get through each day, but Darcy couldn’t always be there. For the team to be successful, he and Tony had to learn to move past everything and work together again. Ideally, with more trust, mutual respect, and honest communication than in the past.
Before Wanda and Sam – and especially Bucky – arrived in New York, Steve needed to have everything sorted. He missed his friends. The idea made him snort in the privacy of the elevator. Two months ago he would have given almost anything for a bed that was big enough for his frame and enough solitary space that he wasn’t living right on top of three other men and a woman who, and he loved Wanda like a sister, insisted that ranch dressing was an all-purpose condiment and sandwich spread. Having his own room with clean sheets and pillows that had been washed since he went into the ice was great. A shower he didn’t have to duck to get under and endless hot water was amazing. The release of tension from knowing that there was enough security in place that he would not need to keep a constant watch – I forgot how nice living on Stark’s dime was, was a blessed relief. It was all a heady combination of indulgence and simply not being a fugitive.
He wasn’t going to give up the luxury of clean sheets – that motel in Bangalore disguised as a sweat shop – or personal security – staying up for fifty-two hours straight with little more than fifteen minutes here or there while they all twitched with their hands on weapons, waiting for the soldiers above to storm the cargo hold – without trying his damnedest to make things work.
Steve straightened his spine and nodded to himself as the elevator doors opened. You are both adults. Tony knows what he did wrong, and so do you. This is just-
A feminine shriek had him tensing for battle. Tony had impressive sound dampening in most of the Tower, but Steve’s ears were far more sensitive than the average fifty-year-old-death-metal-enthusiastic-engineer.
“Friday, status?” He asked quietly.
“There are no unauthorized persons in the vicinity, Captain Rogers. The Boss and Ms. Lewis are in his workshop. Boss has requested-”
“I said no, Tony!” The screamed denial was loud, and familiar, and had enough of a serious tone to it to send Steve running down the hall.
“Friday! Open the door!”
“Current security measures prevent that, Captain.”
Steve could hear Tony now too.
“Just try it!”
“No, Tony! That looks awful!”
“You might like it, lots of people like it!”
“That’s just what they say to your face!”
He could hear a struggle, and his eyes widened. He knew Tony had a reputation, but Steve never thought it included coercion. “Open the damn door, Friday!”
“Captain-” But more shouting drowned the AI out.
“Fuck! Get that away from me!”
“It’ll be good! Come on, I need this!”
“Keep that outta my face, Tony!”
“Come on! Be a good girl and open up.”
Steve braced his feet and broke through the door. Glass crumbled around him into a crunchy sea of blue-green that he ground to dust under his boots. In an instant, he took in Tony, leaning over a dark-haired woman with her back pressed to the table, one leg flashing a great deal of skin as she kicked into the air. Fury rushed through him and he wrapped a hand around Tony’s bicep and ripped the older man away. He positioned himself between Darcy, and Tony’s groaning body. If she had been…
“What the hell-!” Tony was yelling even as he stood up.
Darcy flailed behind him “Gah, my eye! What the hell? What the hell? Tony – this is! I can see in infrared you asshole!” Steve hesitated, body still braced for action.
One of the bots moved to assist Tony but he pushed it away. “You are absolutely no help! Where were you when Righteous Virtue destroyed my door – useless piece of junk! Friday, where are my metrics?”
“Bringing Cornea Optical Transmission online, Boss. My programming requires that I also point out you have broken three Stark Industries lab safety regulations, six OSHA regulations, two human-”
“Yeah, yeah, how is it doing?”
“It? It?” Darcy’s voice had reached a timbre that Steve was certain only he and dogs could hear, which explained why Tony ignored her. “What the ever-loving fuck did you put in my fucking eye, you fucking narcissistic manipulative asshole?”
“Calm down, Lewis. It’s just a contact lens.” He leaned closer to the holographic projection that Friday brought up. “Oh, that’s interesting. How is the focus? Do you feel like you are looking through the infrared, or is it impairing-”
“Tony,” interjected in his sternest voice. Then he fell silent. He wasn’t sure what to say after that. Darcy obviously hadn’t been the object of unwanted sexual advances, but she had been…experimented on? Maybe? She didn’t seem hurt, but it was hard to tell with the way she was holding her hand over her face and snarling in anger. He had just decided he should turn and assess her status, when Darcy took things into her own hands. She jumped off the table and stalked up to Tony.
“That looks really good,” Tony said, watching a live feed of what Darcy was seeing projected onto the hologram. “Try focusing on the middle ground, that should bring up the, hm. No. Maybe-” His mouth snapped shut when he realized she was within striking distance.
“Tony. What happens. When I take. This thing. Out. Of. My. Eye.”
“Er. Nothing. Probably nothing. It’s only slightly thicker than a standard contact lens.” He puffed up a little, talking about his own genius. “I miniaturized camera components and integrated a basic HUD. In the next model I think-”
With a flick of her fingers, Darcy had pulled the contact from her eye and flung it onto the table.
“Gah! Lewis! Careful! That is only one of three prototypes! How am I supposed to make a live stream of team maneuvers if I can’t get human testing done?” He carefully picked it up off the table and snapped at U to bring him saline and a storage container. “Look, I’ll get this all cleaned up and then you just need to wear it for another six, ten hours. And if I could get you in a variety of settings, different lighting. Somewhere dim – strip joints for example, or your bedroom. That would be fine. And maybe running, or-”
“Tony.” Darcy leaned in close, closer than Steve had ever seen anyone but Pepper near the billionaire. He was a little concerned that she would be able to do Tony harm before he could intervene. He was a little concerned that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to intervene. “If you ever try to test equipment on me again without my permission, I will shove my fist so far down your throat you’ll think you have a new arc reactor. Clear?”
“Lewis, I hardly think-”
She leaned even closer, her lips almost touching Tony’s ear. Steve couldn’t hear exactly what she said, but Tony’s face paled, and then he jerked away. “Fine. God! Whatever. Just leave then. Don’t you have packing…or something?”
Steve stared as she pivoted on one tennis shoe to leave the workshop. Her right eye was pink and irritated, but other than that she didn’t seem injured. Darcy paused next to him and snatched her glasses off the workbench where they had fallen during the struggle. She waved over her shoulder as she moved on, shoving the glasses onto her face. “Thanks for the assist, Rogers -”
“Your-” Steve began.
“-but I had it handled.”
He could only continue to stare at the door that swung shut behind her. Tony was muttering, degrading his robots and poking at the frozen image of his own face from Darcy’s perspective. Adrenaline, with no outlet, was pooling in his chest and making him antsy. He let out a heavy breathe and turned to Tony.
“What the hell just happened?”