There’s an old adage about a bull thundering through a China shop that’s going through Steve’s mind as he unwittingly develops a Billionaire Genius Playboy Philanthropist on his back at top speed, and jolts in a panic. His first impulse is a storm of mental swearing as he assumes the worst, knowing an attack to wipe out most, if not all, of New York’s super-powered and specialized defense agents would be a golden opportunity. In a swift move he slaps his hands backward onto Tony’s shoulders, then hurtles himself forward in a flip, slamming down entirely onto Stark as the sole method of breaking his fall. Once Tony releases on reflex, Steve takes a knee, then brings an elbow down hard onto his diaphragm to disable him further, with a loud and decisive grunt. “HOUNNH!” Only once the poor guy starts gasping like a docked fish does Steve see his face and go white himself.
That had been some rather impressive footwork on his part and it’s somehow much less satisfying now.
"Now, tell me-… STARK?!"
From a normal but fit man Steve’s size, that can’t have felt good. From a guy that can flatten an oil barrel one-handed like a Schlitz can for sport, well… that’s probably the crunch of snapped ribs he’d heard, too.
All of the eyes on him don’t help matters, either. Phil seems to be looking on with a mixture of impressed shock and concern, and Fenrir’s probably about to hide in a corner and sob from Big Scary Suited Man-Mom. Steve rakes his hair back while doing his best to swap from defense mode to first-aid mode, hovering a foot above Tony’s face and bracing a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"Tony, I need you to focus on me, alright?" His voice takes on a smooth and comforting but rumbling baritone. He’s had to calm wounded soldiers many times and in a similar fashion, so the switch comes quickly. "Now, you need to breathe out every bit of air in your lungs to reset that diaphragm. Look in my eyes and exhale. C’mon, now. You’ve got this."
He braces to selflessly serve his country and holds his breath, lest he get drunk off of Tony’s exhale alone, keeping a determined and blank expression to avoid panic.
"Or you could murder him for me. That also works."
Somehow, it always escapes Loki’s attention for at least a few fleeting seconds that mortals are nowhere near as indestructible as Asgardians. Then a few more seconds to remember that despite the suit he flies around in, Tony is in fact a mortal. He stands there with his arms folded across his chest, flat out refusing to show any concern or weakness in front of the onlooking crowd as Steve ushers Tony on the floor.
His eyes narrow as Steve talks to Tony, acting as if something’s wrong with him. Tony’s the one who took him down in Germany. The one who took on Thor and his lightening and got smacked around by Mjolnir. If he could handle the hammer, surely he could handle being tossed over a shoulder. The reality of the situation just isn’t sinking in, otherwise, Steve might find himself being thrown across the room by a Norse God. Crouching down next to Tony and treating him like a child acting out for attention, Loki sighed.
"You’d better not bleed on that jacket. Not a drop. I mean it."
Everything was a blur. You can’t get slung over a shoulder and kneed in the ribs without your entire world spinning. …And spinning…and spinning…and Tony somehow manages to keep his liquor down as he lands flat on his back on the ground, looking up at Steve and Loki. To him, this is still a job well done that he’s been the one hurt instead of one of them. To him, he’s successfully prevented them from killing each other. At his own expense.
He isn’t sure how Steve expects him to exhale while he can barely breathe, or why he’s insisting he looks at him and focuses on him when Loki’s so much nicer to look at, but Loki seems to have zero concern for his injuries so he looks back to Steve. Exhaling seemed easy enough in theory. Tony is a genius after all, and he’s been breathing, inhaling and exhaling, for years now. But he gags as he tries to get the air out, feeling a stabbing sensation in his chest and a tinge of blood on his tongue. Loki’s words float through the air, and he manages to exhale the rest of the air with a bitter laugh.
"I’m going to bleed all over it… I swear." Tony mutters through gritted teeth as one hand tries to feel where he feels like he’s being stabbed on his chest, the other hand trying to push himself to sit up. He remembers back in the helicarrier, pissing off Steve and Steve telling him to put on his suit so they could go a few rounds at each other. Now he can see why he’d need the suit on. If his ribs didn’t hurt so much, he’d laugh.
"That’s the Stark I know. Now exhale for me. The sooner you reset your diaphragm, the sooner you can get back to sarcastically lording your mighty intellect over us non-geniuses. And drinking." Yes, he’s a big fan of the drinking. After browbeating him into following orders, he helps a wheezing Stark to his feet. "Aaaatta boy. Feels like those ribs are in tact, just… unhappy. If need be, I can zip you off to Mount Sinai. Buuut, this is YOU we’re talking about, so I’m not expecting an enthusiastic response." Now comes the real pickle: Leave him in Loki’s care or bite his lip and babysit?
Ugh. Now we see why he’s not a big drinker. He’s unsure which option will stink less, but he’d sure like to spend some time with his date after his Halloween beginning as an hour of weirdness, flippant mutants and broken billionaires. After all, he looks so… very… good… in…
What was he thinking about, again? A pair of hunky thighs in a particularly snug uniform may have distracted him. Heavily.