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If You Had This Time Again

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Tony had always considered the saying of hearing snow fall as a whimsical fairytale made up by hopeless romantics. As he laid in a broken Iron Man suit in an abandoned HYDRA bunker in the middle-of-nowhere Siberia, he managed to find some comfort in the satisfaction that he had been right. About something. For once

There hadn't been any words since Tony's demand for his father's shield, a bitter and broken request thrown like a halfhearted punch at the end of a fight already lost. There hadn't been any sounds since Steve's tiredly triumph footsteps and the careless clang of the shield hitting the ground, throwing away so much more than the symbol of a hero. There hadn't been anything but silence since. 

The quiet was a heavy yet soothing thing, like the thick comforter Jarvis used to wrap him in whenever he felt unwell. 

Tony hadn't felt well in a long time. He hadn't felt warm in a while, either. 

It should be concerning, the tingles fading away to numbness but he couldn't muster the strength to care. Not when everything he cared about, cared for, crumbled and slipped through his fingers.

JARVIS. Stark Industries. Pepper. The Avengers. Rhodey. The Accords.

The laugh forced out of his frozen lip was startlingly loud and anything but joyous, it contorted into a choked cry cracking and crashing through his crushed chest. Tears solidified to ice, clumping his lashes and catching on his cheeks. Tony tried lifting a gauntleted hand but could not. The powerless armor was now a restraint and soon to be a coffin. 

Death was certain, Tony knew with complete confidence. He told no one of his whereabouts, per Sam's insistence at the Raft. FRIDAY went offline hours ago, with her system purposefully limited to prevent acting without orders and Tony without the means to communicate with her, no reinforcement would be sent. Steve was long gone and his attention focused entirely on Bucky, unlikely to return to rescue the man who had almost killed his best friend. 

Tony had always considered the idea of life flashing by before death as an idealistic euphemism describing traumatic flashbacks caused by near-death experiences. As he felt his eyes drifting close, he was quite displeased to find some merit behind that idiom. Moments and memories of his life distilled into images that cycled through rapidly, like a glitched slideshow outlining all of his wrong choices and bad decisions. 

Before Tony gave into darkness, his last thought was a self-deprecating I should have known better

A fierce roar shook Tony back into consciousness. The New York skyline filled his vision, the humid air caressed his skin, and the taste of ash on his tongue. 

Another roar focused his attention and Tony couldn't quite suppress a flinch at the sight of Steve, clad in his uniform but, thankfully, without his shield. 

A quick scan of his surroundings located a relieved Thor and a pleased Hulk, a wrecked city and a familiar tower, a clear sky and a functioning suit. 

"What the hell?" Tony mumbled, mostly to himself. 

"We won." Steve said, sounding impossibly young and unbelievably grateful. 

Tony let his head fall back against the gravel, listening to the hum of the arc reactor in his chest. This is one hell of a flashback.