Considering his best friend was still brainwashed and on the run, things for Steve had actually been pretty good since the fall of SHIELD. The trail had gone suspiciously cold just outside Moscow – something that had driven Sam absolutely mad – but Steve was under the impression that, when he was ready, Bucky would come to them. They'd managed to collect information along the way, after all, and – for now, at least – Steve was content for that to be enough. He knew his best friend better than anyone else after all, alive or dead.
From there they had flown back to Steve's apartment in DC – a little dejected, but overly still hopeful – only to find...
He was really getting sick of people breaking into his home.
“Hey, Cap,” the billionaire replied, swinging to his feet from where he had been sitting at the dining table. “Nice place. Neighbourhood's a little more... flamboyant than I thought you'd be comfortable with, but kudos to you for fully immersing yourself in the twenty first century. And, hey, you've got yourself a friend! Am I interrupting something, or -”
“What are you doing here, Stark?” Steve cut him off, because he really wasn't in the mood for his snark.
“Wow, I mean, I was just kidding, Cap, but you got a little defensive, there. Got something to tell us -”
“Okay, okay,” the man acquiesced, putting his hands up in defence as his shoulders sagged a little. “I just, I had a little trouble recently, so I've been staying in the New York place while my Malibu pad gets refurbished. I'm fine, by the way – thanks for the concern. But anyway, I was going through some of the systems – you know, doing a few patches and upgrades – when JARVIS, he's my main man, tells me there's been a security breech, and that SHIELD's targeting me.
“Of course, I do a little digging – get round to looking at that info I pulled off the Helicarrier – and the rest isn't too hard to work out. I, uh... I just stopped by to, uh, to thank you, I guess.”
Steve's eyebrows rose in surprise, because, honestly, the last thing he had ever expected from Tony Stark, of all people, was a thank you.
“That looked like it physically pained you, man,” Sam replied when it became obvious Steve was too shocked to speak. “You don't thank a lot of people, do you?”
“Only those who deserve it,” Stark replied, shrugging. “I heard you got pretty beaten up, and I just... maybe, if I'd looked at that intel earlier -”
“It's fine, Stark,” Steve told him, because the guy really did look like this conversation was causing him pain, and he wasn't about to make him apologise as well as thank them.
“You can...” Stark hesitated for a moment, brow pressed together as he glanced down at his shoes. “You can call me Tony, you know. If you want to, that is -”
“Tony,” Steve cut him off, because the brunet really could blather on when he wanted to. He didn't miss the small, genuine smile that tugged at the corner of the man's lips, though. “It's fine. Is there anything else?”
“Your bedroom,” Tony blurted eloquently, then sighed – obviously exasperated with himself. It was a little endearing, honestly. “I mean that I have a room all set up for you at the tower – for all the Avengers – and I strongly suggest that you take it. As much as I hate to say it, Fury had our backs, and now he's gone, we're going to need a lot more than a riveting speech from Natasha on Capital Hill to protect us – especially with all of SHIELD's secrets having been leaked. We need to stick together – safety in numbers, and all that.”
Steve narrowed his eyes. “What are you suggesting?”
“That we're not exactly in the public's – or, more importantly, the Government's – good books right now, and we need to be careful,” the genius replied seriously. “Listen, Cap, you're used to battlefields that have trenches and guns, but I'm used to battlefields with witness boxes and public enquiries. Just... trust me on this?”
Steve looked at him for a few moments, trying gauge whether he was sincere or not, and... for once in his life, he was certain that the man was. It was his eyes that gave it away, really, and, out of the blue, Steve thought that maybe that was why the brunet wore sunglasses so much – because his eyes gave absolutely everything away. Then, of course, he realised what a strange thought that was to have had, and quickly put it to the back of his mind.
“Steve,” he said, crossing his arms across his chest.
“I, uh... what?” Tony asked, frowning in confusion.
“If you're Tony, I'm Steve,” he told him, and watched as realisation of what that offer meant dawned on the genius' face.
“Good, that's... good,” he nodded, smiling again. “And, hey, your buddy can come, too, if you want. Probably a good idea if he does, actually – I saw footage of that suit, and -”
“Dude, I have a job,” Sam cut him off, mirroring Steve's stance by crossing his arms over his chest. “There's lots of ways to help folks, and they don't all include superheroes duking it out.”
“There are lots of veterans in New York, too,” Tony shrugged. “I can talk to the military council – swing it so they can transfer you over to -”
“So you read my file, then?”
“- New York and you can... wait, what?”
“You been snooping through my business?” Sam repeated, eyes flinty. Steve was vaguely aware that he would be the one who'd have to break up any sort of fight that broke out between the two men.
“Well, no, I... I was just...” Tony stammered, then slapped on what, after seeing a few genuine smiles, Steve realised must be his public persona. “Gotta look after our assets, haven't we? It'd be no good if you turned out to be a super soldier slayer, or something. We need Steve alive.”
And... huh. Had Tony really gone to all that trouble just to make sure Steve was safe? That was a little out of left field for the genius, honestly, because – where they didn't hate each other anymore – they weren't exactly friends, either.
“So you got time to give me a background check, but not to look through some intel that could have helped us out?” Sam snarled. “Looks like you got your priorities all sorted out.”
“Children,” Steve warned before Tony could reply, because, after the couple of months he'd just had, he really didn't want to be dealing with this on top of everything else.
“I should be going,” Tony said stiffly, glancing at the ground again before turning his gaze on Steve. “If you still want to move in – and I highly suggest you do – a couple of movers will be by tomorrow to pack up your stuff. The other Avengers are already there, so -”
“Even Natasha?” Steve asked, genuinely interested, because he hadn't heard from her in a while.
“Uh, yeah,” Tony replied, obviously taken aback by his interest. “She asked about you, too, actually. Are you and her...?”
“We're friends,” Steve replied firmly, because – even if they were more, which they were absolutely not – it would have been none of the genius' business.
“Speak for yourself,” Sam mumbled under his breath, then grinned when Steve flashed him an unimpressed look.
Steve sighed, then nodded. Honestly, he just wanted this conversation to be over. “I guess I'll see you tomorrow, then.”
“Great,” Tony grinned – his real one, this time, which Steve refused to think too much about. “I'll just let myself out, then, shall I?”
“How did you even get in?” Steve asked, following after the man regardless as he wandered towards the door. “They told me this place had good security.”
“Agent Thirteen let me in,” Tony shrugged, as though that was the most normal thing in the world.
“Of course she did,” Steve sighed, opening the door for the man. “I suppose you go way back?”
“Well, now you mention it,” Tony replied, grin turning a little wistful, “her aunt babysat me when I was a kid sometimes, and I kept in touch. I take full responsibility for Sharon being able to hack as well as she can.”
The funny thing was, Steve could picture it – a teenage Tony sitting patiently with a little Sharon as he taught her how to hack government mainframes. It was a shame, really, that the fact she had lied to him had immediately turned him off, because she was actually just his type.
“Anyway, see you tomorrow, Steve,” Tony continued, offering a little wave as he walked through the door.
“See ya,” he replied, and then closed the door with a sigh and rested his head against it – not really sure what he had just gotten himself into.
“I don't know if the guy's scared of you or wants your dick, but, either way, you deserve better,” Sam snarked from behind him. Sighing again, Steve pushed away from the door and wandered over to the kitchenette, finding the other soldier with his head in his fridge.
“You're not allowed my food if you insult my team,” he replied, taking a seat at the breakfast bar.
Sam just flipped him the bird good-naturedly.
In all honesty, Steve had expected moving in with the rest of the Avengers to be a complete nightmare. They were all such different people, after all, and – with their backgrounds and lines of work – all a little highly strung, too. As it turned out, though, in the months that followed, it kind of...worked. Sam dragged his heels a little, but eventually admitted he'd caught the superhero bug and moved in within two months. He and Tony still weren't the best of friends, but, y'know... baby steps.
Tony and Steve, however? That was another story entirely. Admittedly, the first month or so had been a little awkward between them, but – at Natasha's insistence, actually – Steve finally built up the courage to tell the genius what had really happened to his parents. Tony hadn't been as surprised as he thought he'd be – actually told Steve that he had had a feeling from the beginning that they had been targeted, even though he hadn't been sure by whom. He'd thanked Steve nonetheless, and the whole experience had, actually, made them a lot closer.
Now, almost six months – and three further failed attempts at finding Bucky – later, Steve felt safe in saying that Tony was his best friend. His best friend from this time, at least. Sure, he loved Sam to pieces, but, thanks to his job, he didn't really get to see him all that often. With Pepper as his CEO (and nothing else, now, because they had finally broken up around three months after Steve had moved in), Tony was almost always at the tower, and – no matter how busy he was in his workshop – he always had time for Steve.
Take now, for example – Tony was currently completely upgrading the whole of JARVIS' mainframe, apparently, but he was doing so on a tablet whilst taking Steve through the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time, too.
“I'm going to make him smarter,” he told Steve quietly. “At the moment he can make his own decisions, but only within certain parameters, and only within the commands that I give him. By the time I'm done, he'll basically be a completely independent mind.”
Steve didn't know whether that thought terrified or excited him, so he didn't say anything at all. One thing was for sure, though – Tony was an absolute genius.
“So, this Han Solo fella,” he started, frowning at the screen. “He seems like a bit of an ass to me.”
“You'll love him by the end,” Tony replied absent-mindedly, eyes still focused on the tablet in front of him. “He's the loveable rogue.”
“I'll take your word for it,” Steve smiled, turning back to the screen. “Where are all the ladies in this movie? There's been, what? Luke's aunt and princess Leia, and that's it -”
That, of course, was when the Avengers alarm went off.
Sighing heavily, Tony quickly saved his work, then hit pause on the remote control. “Sorry, Steve. Looks like we're going to have to save the intellectual conversation on Lucas' complete lack of women in this franchise for another time. Right now, we've got a world to save.”
Steve rolled his eyes at the pure cheesiness of the genius' line, but still followed him out of the room to go change into his suit. With SHIELD having fallen, he didn't wear his commander uniform anymore, rather a new suit that Tony had made for him, instead. He'd never tell anyone, of course, but he thought his current suit looked and fitted the best. It was like a cool mix of all his suits so far, and he kind of loved it.
Once they were all ready – apart from Thor, who was off world with Jane, and Sam, who would meet them there from work – they all piled into one of Tony's freshly made Quinjets (none of them trusted the old ones after finding HYDRA out, because anything could have been lurking in the wiring) and were on their way.
“Looks like we got robots loose in Queens,” Clint called from the pilot's seat, throwing holographs back to them all with his free hand. “JARVIS seems to think they're linked to some guy called Doom, whoever he is.”
With no SHIELD or Fury to tell them when and where their next mission was, JARVIS was now their eyes and ears – alerting them as soon as he picked something up on CCTV cameras, or if someone tweeted or blogged something out of the ordinary. So far, with no slip-ups, he was doing a bang up job.
“Ew, why Queens?” Tony whined. “It's even worse than Brooklyn, for God's sake.”
“Very funny,” Steve replied, knocking the man gently on the armoured shoulder, before turning back to the holographs. “So I'm thinking we have Hulk on point with this one to smash the robots apart. I want Hawkeye and Iron Man on support until Falcon shows up, and then I want Hawkeye with me and Widow on civilian evac. Everyone got that?”
The mumbled acknowledgements were good enough for him and as they got closer to the target site, he pulled the lever to open the door, turned to Tony, who was busy putting his helmet on, and asked, “Can I get a ride?”
“I live to serve,” Tony's voice came over his comm, dripping in sarcasm, and Steve grinned, then tossed himself casually from the Quinjet – laughing aloud as he heard the brunet mutter, “Son of a bitch” to himself before following.
Knowing full well that the genius wouldn't let him fall too far, Steve enjoyed the sensation of free-falling while it lasted, then – as he had predicted – Tony's metallic arm caught him around the waist, and he circled his arms around the suit's neck automatically as they levelled out.
“You're a menace,” Tony told him.
“I prefer adrenaline junkie,” he replied, still grinning and breathless from the rush.
“You're idiots, and I hope a robot gets you both,” Clint whined into the comm as Steve watched him set the Quinjet down nearby.
He was still grinning when Tony lightly touched down a few moments later and, even though the man still had the faceplate down, he could picture quite clearly how the genius' face must be pinched in fond irritation.
“Go get 'em, Shellhead,” Steve grinned, clapping Tony on his armoured shoulder companionably one last time, before jogging over to join Natasha. When he caught up with her, she had a strange expression on her face. “What?”
“How about my friend Mindy? She was SHIELD, but I did a thorough background check – she's clean.”
Steve sighed. “Maybe don't lead with the whole I had to give her a background check before considering her next time, okay? Let's go.”
Natasha hummed, obviously unconvinced about something, but followed him down the nearest street regardless. Thank God, a lot of civilians had had the sense to get themselves out of their homes and as far away as possible already, because Doom's robots had already been through here and wreaked havoc. Homes were in burning ruins; car parts lay scattered across the bubbling asphalt.
God, Steve hoped they weren't too late to save anyone who remained.
“All right, Avengers, status?” he asked, tapping his comm. Distantly, over the rubble, he could just about make out Iron Man jetting through the air a few blocks over.
“Falcon just arrived,” Clint informed him. “Hulk's having a great time. These things are shitty quality, man. Piece of cake.”
“Okay,” he nodded. “Keep me updated.”
“Will do, Cap.”
Without another word, he turned back to Natasha. “You take the right, I take the left?”
“Sure,” she shrugged. “Just watch out in case there are any of them lurking in the rubble.”
“I know,” he rolled his eyes. Natasha was like his mother sometimes, honestly. “Call if you need anything.”
“Call if you need anything,” she replied, and something about the way she said it made him think she wasn't just talking about the mission.
Quickly putting that thought to the back of his mind – because, honestly, he didn't know what she was talking about – he jogged over to the shell of the first house and peered through the broken windows. It didn't look like anyone was trapped inside, but he still ducked inside to take a quick look around, just in case.
“Hello?” he called, not really expecting an answer, as he began to circle around the inside of the house. The stairs were caved in, so there was no way he was going to get upstairs that way, but, honestly, there was no car in the driveway, and no reply coming, so he thought he was pretty safe in assuming that whoever lived here had gotten out in time.
He was just about to head back outside and check the next house, content in his assumption, when he heard a strange noise. Freezing in the middle of what used to be the hall, he listened to see if it came again. It was probably nothing, of course – the integrity of the building was compromised, so there was bound to be a few moans and groans – so it didn't mean -
And then the noise came again.
Frowning, he looked up. It sounded like... well, it sounded like wheezing, and it sounded like it was coming from what remained of the floor above.
“Hello?” he called again, louder this time, as he crept over to the wreckage of the stairs. He didn't trust they were going to hold, but he was going to have to risk it and jump across the destroyed middle section, because there was obviously someone – or something – up there.
He didn't get a reply, but the wheezing did get louder, and was beginning to sound more and more like a desperately terrified cry with each passing second. Not wasting any more time, Steve tested the first couple of stairs – which, thankfully, held under his weight – then leapt over the quickly opening pit and scrabbled for purchase at the top as the last few steps gave way and disintegrated.
Looked like he was finding a different way back down, then.
After a few seconds to catch his breath, he glanced around the landing. It was obviously a family home – there were charred photos of an elderly couple and a baby boy all over the walls – but the fire damage was much more pronounced up here. The wheezing cry was coming from a room up ahead so, carefully dodging the patches of fire still ablaze, he moved forwards to the end of the corridor and pushed the door open.
Inside, everything was charred. What had once been patterned wallpaper was now blackened and peeling; the curtains were burnt and hanging limply from their frame, and the bed was -
“Oh no,” Steve breathed, stepping forwards cautiously and wafting smoke out of his face as he went.
On the bed – or what remained of it – were the charred remains of two bodies. Sadness and regret tugged at Steve's heart, because he knew that he was already too late; they were dead. Glancing around, he grabbed a still somewhat intact blanket from a pile of wood that he assumed had once been a dresser, and draped it over the bodies to spare them some dignity. He was really going to have to think about getting them out so they could be buried -
The cry came again, startling him, because – in his shock – he had almost forgotten about it. It wasn't hard to spot the source of it, once he was looking for it, because the tiny boy in the corner – covered from head to foot in soot, and coughing thickly, but alive – quickly caught his attention by raising his arms as though asking to be picked up.
“Hey, buddy,” Steve greeted softly, moving slowly across the room in case he spooked the boy. Crouching down in front of him, he realised that his pyjamas had the Avengers' symbols on them. “You okay?”
The little boy sniffed, coughed harshly into the crook of his arm, then shook his head – bottom lip quivering. “M'chest hurts.”
The kid's voice was wrecked – he'd obviously inhaled a hell of a lot of smoke – and he really couldn't have been older than three or four years old. Three years old, and quite possibly an orphan now, Steve thought distantly as he scooped the little boy up and held him close. He was tiny in Steve's arms, and shuddered for a few moments in fear, before – coughing weakly – he let out a wheezing sigh and rested his little head against Steve's shoulder.
“Let's get you out of here, little guy,” he murmured, stroking a reassuring hand through the boy's thick, curly hair. “It's okay. You're safe now.”
The wheezing continued as he carried the boy over to the window, and if there was anyone who could spot an asthma wheeze, it was him. He'd spent most of his childhood battling with it, after all. The kid was slowly getting limper in his arms, too, and he knew that time was of the essence.
“Natasha, what's your status?” he asked into the comm, peering out of the dirty window. Yeah, it looked like they were going to have to go down the trellis and hope it held.
“I got nothing. Street looks clear,” was the reply, and he sighed in relief, because at least there were no other fatalities.
“Not quite,” he replied, bouncing the little boy gently in his arms. “We have two fatalities in number six, and I've got a kid in need of medical attention.”
“All right, I'll head over. Barton says they've pretty much cleaned up, and the emergency services will be here any minute.”
“Good,” Steve nodded. “See you in a minute.”
Without another word, he shifted the little boy onto one hip and, with his free hand, loosened the straps on his shoulders. “Hey, buddy?” he asked gently, patting the kid's back. “What's your name, huh? Can you remember?”
“Peter,” the boy croaked softly against his neck.
“Okay, hi, Peter,” he nodded, smiling reassuringly as he pulled his helmet off to show the boy his face. “My name's Steve. We need to get out of here, Peter, and the only way we can do that is if we climb out of the window, do you understand? I promise you I won't let you fall, sweetie, but what I'm going to do is put you on my back, so you need to hold onto my neck. Can you do that?”
Peter nodded, coughing weakly again, and Steve took that as good enough. Clipping his helmet straps around a shoulder strap and then easing the little boy up by the arms, he lifted him over his head and wedged him securely between his back and the shield. Even if the kid let go, there was no way he was going anywhere – he was basically cocooned.
“All right, Peter, here we go,” he called, then used his elbow to knock the glass out of the window. “Okay?”
“Uh-huh,” Peter whispered.
Gripping the window frame on either side, he ducked his head and hopped up onto the ledge, then – double checking that Peter was, indeed, as secure as he'd thought – he swung sideways and out onto the trellis. Pausing for a moment to make sure it took their combined weight (and breathing a little sigh of relief when it did), he quickly descended before the whole house decided to give up and cave in. The sound of sirens was steadily getting louder and, by the time he reached the ground, he could see an ambulance and fire truck – both of which were part of a long chain of emergency service vehicles – pull into the street.
With Peter still his number one priority, he gently lifted the little boy off his back and held him to his chest instead, cradling him like the baby he was. In the light of day, what little patches of skin that weren't covered in soot looked almost grey, and his little lips – which hung open in the hope of drawing fresh, precious air into his lungs – were beginning to turn blue. Steve knew, logically, that the last thing he needed to do was panic, but he really didn't think he could stand to watch this little boy die – not after seeing what had happened to the other people in the house.
“Come on, Peter,” he sang, rubbing the little boy's chest firmly as he strode over to where the ambulance was pulling up. “Come on, baby, just keep breathing. I know it's hard, but keep trying for me, buddy.”
Despite his soothing words, though, the moment a paramedic tried to take Peter away, he let out a truly heartbreaking, wheezing cry. Steve could see quite clearly how much he was hurting on the poor boy's face, and he couldn't bear to add to his anguish, so he immediately took him back and cradled him close again.
“It's okay, Peter, it's okay. Calm down, buddy,” he pleaded, swaying him gently back and forth as he turned to the paramedic. “He's inhaled a lot of smoke, but I'm pretty sure that wheeze is asthma. We need to -”
“If we can't keep him calm, he's going to do himself some damage,” the paramedic agreed. “He seems to have taken to you – bring him into the ambulance and we'll see what we can do.”
Steve nodded, still rubbing little Peter's chest to try and calm him down, and followed the paramedic into the back of the ambulance. Once inside, he sat down on the gurney and sat Peter on his lap – propping the little boy up against his chest. He was pretty limp by this point, but Steve wasn't about to let him go, so it was fine
“See, not so scary, huh?” he asked softly, taking hold of one of Peter's tiny hands in his own. “You're okay, Peter. This nice lady is going the help you breathe better.”
“You're good with him,” the paramedic replied with a smile as she hopped up into the ambulance and sat down on a stool opposite them. Still smiling down at little Peter, she went about attaching some patches to the end of some wires. “Okay, cutie pie, we're going to have to take your shirt off and see your lovely tummy so I can put some of these sticky pads on your chest, all right?”
“Noooo,” Peter whined, squirming weakly in Steve's lap. “Doooonnnn'.”
“I promise it won't hurt, Peter,” Steve told him, even as he went about pulling the kid's shirt off anyway. It wasn't like he could really protest, anyway. “It's so the lady can hear your heartbeat. That's cool, right?”
Honestly, he was a little out of his depth. Did kids Peter's age say things like cool? Hell if he knew. If the way the paramedic was trying to hide her grin was anything to go by, they probably didn't.
“What's this, huh?” she asked instead of commenting, as Steve pulled the shirt over Peter's head, and a previously unnoticed necklace jangled and came to rest against his chest.
A quick scan of the little dog tag attached to the chain showed that it was a medical tag, and that Steve had been right all along – Peter had asthma, and was three years old. His last name was Parker, too, which could probably be used to help the hospital track down any remaining family. Steve took the tag from the paramedic as she pulled it over Peter's head, and then – before he could work himself up again – she stuck the pads to Peter's chest and turned the heart rate monitor on.
Steve looked up as Natasha appeared at the doors of the ambulance. “Hey. You okay?” he asked.
“Rest of the street is clear,” she replied, nodding. “Clint pulled a couple of people out of a burning house a few blocks over, but apart from that, everyone else seems to have gotten out okay.”
“Apart from those two fatalities,” he sighed, glancing down at Peter as the paramedic slipped an oxygen mask over the little boy's face. “They were already long gone by the time I found them.”
“The police and fire department are seeing to them now,” Natasha told him, then, “It's not your fault.”
“Yeah,” he nodded, because he knew that – of course he did – but it didn't make it any easier. “Are, um... are the others okay?”
“Easy mission, apparently,” she shrugged, and Steve loved her for the fact that she didn't call him out on changing the subject. “Tony seems to be under the impression that the robots are even more shoddily built that Hammer-Tech stuff, so it was fine.”
“Wobot?” Peter asked, showing the most awareness Steve had seen from the boy since he'd found him. Whatever was being pumped through that mask was obviously working miracles. “Wobot, Steeb?”
Natasha rose an eyebrow at him, a smile twitching her lips up. Honestly, Steve was a little surprised, too – he had assumed the little boy was too out of it to remember that he'd told him his name. Still, he just hugged him a little closer and rose an eyebrow right back at Natasha – daring her to say anything. She didn't.
“Yeah, buddy. You like robots?” he asked, mind drifting, inexplicably, to Tony for a moment.
“As stimulating as this conversation is, we should probably head back to the tower, Steve,” Natasha cut in. “You know Bruce will get sulky if we're late and have to reheat dinner.”
After battle dinners had kind of become a tradition for the Avengers. They took it in turns – because they were all exhausted after a battle – to cook for the whole team (apart from Tony and Clint, who always cheated and ordered out) and then they'd have 'family dinner time' before going their separate ways. Bruce always insisted that food never tasted as good when it was reheated, so they all made sure to be there on the dot when it was his turn to cook, because making Bruce happy had quickly become very important to all of them.
“I think we can handle it from here, if you need to go,” the paramedic told him. Despite her reassuring words, though, Steve found himself reluctant to put the little boy down for reasons he couldn't quite explain.
“Okay, Peter,” he sighed. “Let's get you laid down, huh? I have to go now -”
“Nooooo!” the little boy cried, face scrunching up immediately under his oxygen mask in displeasure. “No, no, Steeb, don' gooo!”
Steve, as it turned out, really hated it when toddlers cried when there was something he could do about it. Rotating Peter gently, he cradled the sobbing boy to his chest again and shot Natasha a what can you do? look. It really wasn't like he could leave the kid when he was so distressed – he could hurt himself even more.
“Guess I'm going to have to skip dinner tonight,” he shrugged earnestly. He felt bad about it, sure, but it was only one time. Once he got Peter settled at the hospital (and made absolutely sure that he was going to be okay), he'd head home.
“Whatever,” Natasha replied, rolling her eyes as she took a step backwards, “but you're explaining to Bruce why you missed his stew.”
“Yes, Ma'am,” Steve saluted, shooting her a grin as the paramedic closed the doors. Turning back to Peter – who had calmed down considerably upon realising Steve wasn't going anywhere – he asked, “You ever been in an ambulance, buddy? The sirens are cool.”
This time, the paramedic couldn't quite hide her laugh.