“I've got you. Don't worry.”
It's like he's hearing the words through a tube. They sound faraway and tinny – maybe like they're coming through an old radio. But it's still a voice, one that isn't yelling at him or threatening him and even though his vision's swimming in and out of focus – probably a concussion and his ears are ringing – and he feels like he's been hit by a truck.
Someone is pulling him up to his feet, though, an arm under his shoulders and he's lucky that it's there because otherwise Tony would be falling flat on his face. His knees are shaking and his legs feel like they're made of jelly. He can't stand up on his own.
The arm around him slides down to his waist and Tony's pulled against a body that is nothing but muscle – he would stop to admire but his head feels like someone tap danced on it in his suit – and his vision is filled with bright blue fabric.
He can hear the crackle of static and the sounds of gunfire and people yelling. He can't make anything out though.
But the arm around his waist is firm and holds him upright as though he weighs nothing at all. Tony can't help but lean against them, feeling body armour against his cheek and – colours colours red and white red and white and blue – suddenly he can see red and white in addition to the bright blue.
His brain is moving too slowly to connect all the pieces.
Tony's legs won't move fast enough, so whoever it is who's holding him just sweeps his unstable legs out from under him and picks him up. Their pace doesn't even seem to slow; it picks up, and then they're running through halls.
Well, more like whoever is carrying Tony is running. Tony is busy trying not to pass out from the throbbing pain in his head or throw up. At the rate things are going, Tony thinks that they both might happen.
He really doesn't want to puke all over those colours though. And his head is throbbing, but something keeps bugging him because – red white and blue red white and blue where have I seen that before – it just feels like there's something he's missing; like a circuit that isn't quite connecting.
His vision is a little less spotty. He can focus just a little, but his head is still pounding and he feels a little nauseous. But he manages to focus enough and – his heart stops and skips beats this isn't possible.
He passes out.
– – –
When he wakes up, he's in what is definitely a hospital and he's hooked up to a lot of machines. There are voices close by and if he closes his eyes and focuses enough, he can just make out the conversation.
He recognizes the woman's voice. Pepper. The man's is unfamiliar but sounds worried and nervous and strong all at the same time. Tony recognizes it as being whoever pulled him out of that hell hole.
I've got you.
And if Pepper is there and he's in a hospital, he's safe. He's okay. He's not dead.
The arc reactor is still there, still keeping him alive.
He's going to be okay.
The voices get closer and Tony opens his eyes. Pepper is standing at his bedside, looking as though she hasn't slept in days and harried and beautiful as always. She just smiles at him and shakes her head a little. Tony thinks she's probably used to these things happening to him by now; if someone isn't out for his life, then they're after the reactor or the armour and that's just how his life is now.
Just a little behind her and to the side, there's a man. He's tall and blond and looks out of place among all this modern equipment. But he's smiling at Tony with all of this hope and sadness and care and it's just so perfect that Tony doesn't know what to say.
Pepper has this little knowing smile on her face, but she just gently reaches behind her and pulls the man forward.
“Tony, this is Steve Rogers.”