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“I think you missed your calling,” Tony suddenly informs him after several minutes of silence.

“…are you really trying to turn this into a joke,” Steve grits out between clenched teeth. This has to be the moment where Tony remembers he actually has a sense of humour.

“No, I just think you’re doing this pretty well,” Tony replies with a wonky smile. “Should have hired you as my private nurse a long time ago.”

Steve takes a deep breath, swallows his anger and the urge to shout at Tony, and concentrates on stopping the bleeding as best as he can, instead.

Despite what Tony says, this is neither his calling, nor is he doing pretty well. Tony is lying on the ground somewhere in the middle of nowhere, bleeding out, and Steve can’t stop the bleeding. He has no idea where his teammates are, and whether they are still alive or not. Communication is down. Tony’s armour is out of commission. There is absolutely nothing about this situation that doesn’t scream ‘worst case scenario’, other than maybe that the foes they were fighting are all dead now.

Tony has assured him that just before the armour went down, it sent out a distress signal. But Steve honestly isn’t sure if Tony only said that to calm him down. It wouldn’t be the first time.

And even if the signal went out, he doesn’t know if anyone out there is able to come looking for them. Or if they will find them if they are, actually. If they are going to find them on time.

He desperately wishes it wasn’t him here. Maybe Thor, who could simply carry Tony out of here. To safety and help. The only thing Steve can do is try to keep Tony alive long enough for help to arrive. Help that might never arrive, that is.

Fresh blood is still bubbling out of the wound on Tony’s side and stains the makeshift bandage red. Steve’s hands start shaking as he tries to put more pressure on the wound.

Stop, he mentally orders. Stop. Please stop.

“Hey… Steve,” Tony quietly calls out to him. His voice is cracking a little, and he coughs. A few drops of blood slowly trickle out of the corners of his mouth. “There’s something-”

“No,” Steve interrupts him forcefully, dangerously close to shouting despite his earlier efforts. “You are not doing that. Save your breath for breathing. I know what you’re doing. You think you’re going to die, so you are going to tell me something that you never dared to tell me and then you’ll die and leave me behind, alone and thinking about your last words over and over again and making me regret we never talked about it before and YOU ARE A FUCKING EGOISTICAL ASSHOLE DO YOU THINK I’M GOING TO LET YOU DIE!

He’s breathing heavily now. They know each other so well, but sometimes, Steve just has absolutely no idea what exactly is going on inside of that brain. A genius’ brain. And idiot’s brain. Tony’s brain.

Now is not the time to find out.

“Sssh, Steve,” Tony murmurs gently. “Ssssh.”

He reaches out with a slightly shaking hand and caresses Steve’s cheek with his thumb. That is the moment where Steve realises his cheeks are wet. Is he crying?

He is.

It has always been like this, hasn’t it? Nobody can break him quite like Tony does.

“Please, Tony,” he begs, taking Tony’s hand into his own, pressing it to his face. He doesn’t even care he’s begging now. He needs Tony to understand. “Don’t leave me alone. I need you by my side.”

“Never leave you,” Tony mumbles. “And I told you before. You just didn’t hear.”

He smiles up at Steve, bloody mouth and gently sparkling eyes.

“I love you,” he says, and then he slowly goes limp.