The power was out.
Tony took a shallow breath, forcing himself to remain still. He was not going to panic. Just because there was no power, didn't mean the others wouldn't find him. There were trackers that didn't rely on external power sources, and after Afghanistan he kept a few on him at all times. Of course, that assumed that those power sources hadn't been taken off line by the same EMP that took him out, but people were looking for him. They had to be.
Tony took another shallow breath, trying to force it deeper. It didn't work.
He twitched violently before he remembered not to move, crying out in pain as the metal of his own suit cut further into his leg. He heard a few pebbles fall nearby, but nothing big. Tony bit his lip and forced down the panic. Someone would find him. It's only been thirty minutes.
On the bright side, at least the arc reactor wasn't still in his chest. He'd be dead already if that were the case, since the EMP took out the suit's reactor. He just had to wait this out. Wait it out and not think about darkness, enclosed spaces, not getting enough air to-
Tony pushed those thoughts away, attempting - and failing - another deep breath. Again, bright side. The suit was dented, letting the dusty air in from the outside, instead of suffocating him in his own custom-made coffin. Tony just wished that thought were more comforting.
He'd been buried for another hour when the need to struggle, to scream, won over again. He gasped in pain as his leg felt more pressure, enough to stop him from thrashing as he gasped for breath and listened to the falling rocks. He had to stay calm. His heart pounded in his ears as he closed his eyes, because falling back on childish tricks were about as good as he could come up with. If he couldn't see the darkness, it couldn't hurt him, right?
Wrong. Tony nearly thrashed out again, but he tried to swallow with his dry mouth and held it to a small twitch. How hadn't the reactor come back online yet? His voice was hoarse, either through shouting or babbling to himself. He couldn't say for sure either way. The reactor should have turned back on by now. It should have, but it hadn't. Something had gone wrong. Something always went wrong. Of course it did. He's Tony Stark, and he's always a problem. More trouble than he was worth. No one was coming to-
Tony bit his own lip hard enough to draw blood. They were coming. They had to.
Two hours and Tony's whole body practically vibrated with the tension of holding still. "Still no reactor," he croaked, his voice broken and rough. Too much dust or too much talking. "Please, JARVIS. I need... wake up. Cap! Someone... I don't want to... please." Tony was begging. He didn't care who heard him, as long as he wasn't alone. He didn't want to be alone.
Four hours and Tony passed out, from weakness or exhaustion, it didn't matter. He was beyond that, and it was a relief to go.
Thirty minutes later the power came back on in his suit as the other Avengers took out the EMP pulse that had been keeping Tony down, but his teammates' frantic voices went unheard.
Two hours after that the Hulk was roaring, carefully cradling the broken suit as he pulled the rest of the building off Tony. Steve had to be held back by Thor, pale and trembling, so that he wouldn't rush into the dangerous wreckage as well.
Tony didn't see any of that.
* * *
Tony woke up screaming. Or he would have, if his throat didn't feel like it was on fire. He managed a small sound that came out more like a whimper in the darkness, jerking awake. He expected to be pinned, but he could move. Except there were still things tugging on his hand and something over his head and now someone was pinning him. He had to fight. He had to-
"-Shh, Tony. It's okay. It's okay. I need you to stop moving. You're safe. Stand down, Avenger. You're safe. Shh..."
Tony didn't relax immediately, but he stopped struggling. He felt someone large moving in behind him, warm and comforting. Not threatening, but giving off heat like a furnace in a way that started to relax Tony's tense shoulders as the stream of calming words continued.
He took several breaths, his eyes adjusting to the light. Because while it was dark, there were also faint lights and flickering machines that chased away the deep darkness of earlier. There was a new kind of pain that crept up on him, one that was worse than his throat, left leg, the throbbing of his head, or the sharp sting any time he tried to take a deep breath.
"You with me?" Steve said after a few more minutes, his voice soft in the darkness.
Tony nodded, not trusting his voice and knowing how painful it would be to speak anyway. He twitched, making a mental note not to tear out the IV on his hand, but took off the oxygen mask over his face, which must have just been a precaution because Steve didn't tell him to put it back on. But he had to stay still. He couldn't move or the rocks... No, no more building on top of him. He was fine.
Steve stayed behind him until he calmed down more, then called for a nurse. The lights hurt his eyes for longer than he should have thought possible, but Tony was glad for them and the flurry of activity the nurses brought with them. It was easy to remember he wasn't alone with them there. Easier to forget the fact that Steve hadn't left.
They also brought ice chips and water, and those were awesome. The cool water felt like bliss running down his ragged throat, and he would have made himself sick had the nurse not stopped him with a frown and gentle admonishments.
Through it all, Steve stood silently to the side, somehow managing to find the perfect spot where the nurses could get around him despite his big bulk. Tony didn't meet his eyes, debating prolonging the nurses visit, but instead silently taking their administrations and answering questions with short, succinct replies. At least his throat had receded to a dull throb instead of the raw pain from earlier.
When the nurses finally left, Tony was sitting up, his back braced against pillows. His leg wasn't broken, but the gash down the side of it would take a while to heal and could leave a scar. He'd been lucky it stopped bleeding, or he could have died from blood loss. The worst of his concussion was already passed, and he had a few broken and cracked ribs. His throat was still a little painful, but he assumed he only had himself to blame for that and that the dust he'd been breathing in wouldn't have any lasting consequences. The IV was because he'd been a bit dehydrated before the battle, and the anxiety of being trapped under a building had apparently done him no favors in that regard, but even that would be taken out soon. In short, everything was hunky-dory. A-okay. Perfectly-perfect with a bit of rest and pain-killers.
Too bad the same couldn't be said for the pathetic state of his heart.
"I could ask Rhodey or Pepper to come, if you want," Steve said, sensing the tension. "We only just managed to convince them your injuries weren't dangerous, but if you'd rather one of them be here, they'd come."
Tony shook his head. He would definitely rather Steve be someone else right now, but his injuries weren't that bad. Not enough to call in Rhodey or Pepper and drag them away from their sleep, no matter how much a hug from one of them would be nice.
Steve fell silent after that, and suddenly all of the silence felt louder than JARVIS would allow his music preferences to be set. "You don't have to stay," Tony said, his voice ringing in his ears like a forbidden tattoo drummed against his head.
"I can go, if that's what you want," Steve said, not looking at him. There was an unspoken 'but I'd like to stay' that baffled Tony. Was it the fact Steve had sent him in and now felt guilty? Or that he knew Tony hated being alone in hospitals and he was just being a responsible team leader? Either way, Tony didn't want it.
He also couldn't force the words out that would make Steve leave.
The silence came back with a vengeance, and Tony tried to focus on the soft sounds of people walking past or the light hum of the air conditioner. He wasn't trapped. He didn't need to talk just to remind himself that he wasn't alone.
"I'm sorry," Steve said, thankfully before Tony managed to work himself up.
"About what?" Tony asked, wincing at how gravelly his voice sounded, but at least the medicine the nurse had given him was starting to kick in, because it didn't hurt as much.
Steve closed his eyes, leaning back in his chair. "Lots of things," he said with an out rush of breath. "But I'll start with hugging you earlier. That wasn't right of me, given our... history."
Tony remembered the IV just before he tried waving Steve off. He settled for glaring at the IV instead. "No harm, no foul, Cap. You did what you had to."
"It hurt you."
Didn't matter. "Not a wilting flower. I can handle it."
"I hurt you," Steve said, and suddenly Tony was sure he wasn't just talking about hugging, but it was easier to pretend. "Don't just pass that off."
Tony didn't look up, because he knew the expression that was in those blue eyes and he didn't know what to do with that. "What do you want me to say?" he asked, his shoulders slumping as he stared at his hands.
Steve didn't reply at first, and Tony wondered if he was just going to let it drop. He couldn't decide if it was better to just go back to the status quo. The status quo hurt like a bitch, but it was better than sitting here waiting for the axe to fall. They'd tried this dance already, and Tony knew how it ended: going their separate ways once the song finished.
"I want..." Steve started, then took a deep breath. "I'd like you to listen to what I have to say. You don't have to. You're within your right not to. But... please. Just listen?"
Tony wanted to say no. He wanted to yell and shout with his already abused throat to tell Steve to get lost, because he really didn't need this pity and misguided guilt. They had pulled the plug on the relationship and for good reason. What more did Steve want? To stomp on the wires? Because right now even being back under that building was looking like a good alternative.
But Tony didn't do any of that. His hand fisted as he pulled his mind away from the darkness and being alone. "Shoot," he said, because when was he able to tell Steve no to anything?
Steve took his hand, rubbing gently at the joints to make him relax his fist, then checked to make sure the IV wasn't disturbed. Tony wanted to bat him away, but he couldn't. He wanted to revel in the feel of Steve's hands covering his own, but he couldn't do that either.
"I sent you in there," Steve said quietly.
"I'd have gone anyway," Tony said. "Did they..." he faltered, remembering why he'd been under the building.
"We got most of the civilians out. There were a few left that insisted on going back for... meaningless things, but we couldn't move fast enough to stop them." Steve's hand briefly tightened around Tony's. Loss of life never sat well on Steve's shoulders, especially not when it was over something easily prevented. Tony floundered, wanting to comfort Steve and not knowing how any more.
"It wasn't your fault," he said helplessly. It had been Tony's fault, if it was anyone's. He'd been trying to brace the support structures to give people time to evacuate. He hadn't been able to fix the problem fast enough. He should have been able to get it done before the EMP hit and took him out.
Steve shook his head. "We should have been more thorough in our search and forced them out sooner, or found Hydra's EMP device quicker. Then you wouldn't have been..."
Tony was pathetically grateful Steve didn't finish that sentence. As it was, he still felt his heart rate spike, which was ridiculous because he wasn't under the building any more. Not that knowing how stupid it was stopped any of his other panic attacks, but he wasn't going to give in that easily. "Is that all you wanted to say?" Tony forced out.
"No," Steve sighed. "Tony, I... We really thought we lost you."
"Hazard of the job."
"That's not-" Steve started, then visibly calmed down. "Tony, please let me finish."
And there it was. The disappointment. Tony immediately felt small and useless, and he hated that feeling. He hated it all the more for the fact it was Steve making him feel that way. "Then get to the point," he snapped, regretting the shortness of his tone immediately, but unable to take it back.
He glanced up to see Steve's eyes closed as the other man took a deep breath to calm, whether to calm his anger or to fortify himself for what he was about to say, Tony couldn't tell.
"I nearly lost you," Steve said finally, his voice a soft whisper in the quiet of the room. "Except I had already done that. I'd lost you because I was being stubborn about the wrong things."
"And what were those wrong things?" Tony asked, perfectly willing to rub salt in the wound.
"The fact that I was being more stubborn about our argument than trying to make our relationship work," Steve said plainly, opening his eyes and looking at Tony with a lost expression that cut off any smart reply he could think of.
"You said this was a bad idea," Tony said as he looked back down. And it was. Steve was right. This whole conversation was only serving as further proof as to why, and Steve hadn't been the only one being too stubborn when they fought. Steve was just the only one able to admit it, and Tony was all too aware of where that left him.
"You didn't have to agree with me," Steve replied, but there was no accusation in his tone. It was broken and small, and it made Tony ache to pull Steve against him and hold him close until Steve sounded happy again. He didn't though; he stared at his empty hands instead. Had Steve needed a reason to stay? Tony had probably jumped to conclusions if Steve had been asking. He had been pretty angry at the time.
Tony still didn't know where that left them.
"I want to try again," Steve said, his voice firmer.
Tony couldn't help it. He looked up in surprise, catching Steve's eyes. They were trained on him with a stubborn set of Steve's chin. "Why?" Tony asked, his voice dull and blank.
"Because if there's a chance I could lose you, I'd rather spend what time I have with you than without you."
Peggy, Tony's mind supplied. Of course Steve wouldn't want that regret again. "Even with the fights?" Tony asked. Because they had been so good, that first month before everything backfired after a bad mission. But Tony wasn't sure he could handle having all of that if only to have it taken away again.
"Fights and all," Steve said softly. "Because right now it's killing me more that I don't have the right to hold you any more, knowing it was my fault."
Tony swallowed. "It wasn't your fault," he replied, fidgeting against the pillows at his back. Break-ups took two people, after all, and Tony had done more than his fair share in their fight.
"Tony..." Steve started, but fell silent.
Tony closed his eyes, picking through the possibilities. They had already crashed and burned once. The probability of it happening again was high. It wasn't that they didn't get along, because they did fantastically. Waking up in Steve's bed and being able to run his scarred fingers through those golden strands was the happiest Tony had been since the last time he was allowed to kiss his way down Pepper's neck. He could have that again, even if just for a little while. Did he want it?
Yes. Yes, he did.
"You don't have to answer now," Steve said, waking Tony from his thoughts. "And I can leave if you-"
He stopped, looking down at the blue sleeve Tony had grabbed when the word 'leave' fell from his mouth. Tony resolutely tried not to care that he'd panicked in front of Steve and was now keeping him from leaving. He focused on the lights in the room, not on Steve's widening eyes.
"I can call someone to come and wait until they arrive," Steve amended, realizing his misstep. "You were awake under there. And alone."
"I'm fine," Tony bit out, though he didn't let go of Steve's sleeve, even when Steve placed a hand over his comfortingly. He tried to take a painful deep breath as Steve sat back down and resolutely pushed the fear that threatened to overwhelm him away. Steve was here. Tony wasn't going to die and he wasn't alone.
He didn't force himself to let go of Steve's wrist though. Instead, he tugged Steve closer. Not that he could actually move Steve, but it made his intention known.
"Tony," Steve said, his voice choked.
"Fights and all," Tony said, tugging insistently. "Come on."
"There's not enough room for both of us in that bed." Steve's voice was trembling, but he was moving to the space Tony had cleared.
"You're the strategic genius. You can make it work," Tony muttered, not caring how much space there was so long as Steve got there quickly.
Which, of course, he didn't, taking a moment to lay the bed back properly and fixing the I.V. so that Tony wouldn't accidentally rip it out by moving around. Bastard. But then Steve was kicking off his shoes and hesitantly lying down next to him. And Tony, now that he had made up his mind, decided the fact that Steve was still on the edge and putting a respectable space between them was unacceptable.
He rolled Steve over and climbed on top, pinning Steve under him and ignoring the way his ribs protested the motion. Not that Steve was the running away sort, but people... people had a tendency to leave Tony, and even knowing Steve could easily throw him off, having Steve pinned underneath him settled something in Tony he couldn't quite explain. He wanted to wrap his arms around Steve, but he knew Steve would get testy about the IV so he settled for fisting his hands in the blue undershirt of Steve's uniform and breathing in the smell of leather and sweat as he curled into Steve's shoulder. His ribs were hurting like a bitch in this position, but at the moment he didn't care.
Steve was stiff under him, his hands hovering at Tony's sides for a moment. Tony could almost feel the moment Steve snapped, a sharp breath being drawn under him, and then Steve's arms wrapping tightly around his back as his shoulders shook and he buried his face against Tony's hair. "Tony, God, I..." Steve said, his voice trembling.
Tony was probably trembling himself, but he didn't care. Instead, he kissed every bit of Steve's neck and collar chastely to remind them both they weren't alone. The lights were bright and the power was back on. That was all that mattered.