Bombs were dotted along the vast blue skies. Explosions illuminated the battlefield, revealing the fallen soldiers and unfortunate civilians. Hidden beneath a collapsed apartment building, a blue light flickered dangerously. Crimson paint shimmered in the moonlight. A pained grunt came from beneath the flickering light, the source inside the Iron Man armor damaged beyond repair. Panicked voices wafted through the helmet, the communication link between him and the others remained unsevered for the moment. He made an attempt to move but something managed to pierce his right thigh, pinning him to the cement. Blood covered the ground beneath him, liquid dripping from various areas on the armor.
The panicked voices seemed distant, like the time he flew through the wormhole. With each passing second, the voices became lighter and lighter until he could hear nothing other than his labored breathing. His fingers twitched against the pavement. He remembered soaring above, shooting the enemies down as best he could. Distracted by the intense battle, the only warning he received was a distressed shout from the Captain before the apartment building collapsed on top of him.
The explosions continued sending bursts of light into the darkness, smothering his panic of dark enclosed spaces temporarily. The right side of his face was covered in blood and he knew that he would need several stitches to close the wound. He blinked several times, trying to fight the drowsiness sweeping over him. Every time he breathed, he winced. There were definitely some broken ribs. “It hurts to breathe.” He wheezed, coughing violently.
“Then maybe you should stop.” He turned his head to the side. The Captain was seated beside him but instead of the stars and stripes, he was wearing his workout gear. Familiar blue eyes met his questioning gaze and Steve smiled. “If breathing hurts so much, you should stop.” He repeated.
Something stopped him from speaking. It could have been the head wound or the broken ribs, but he could only open and close his mouth multiple times in confusion. Steve sighed, his eyes rolling fondly. He turned to face him entirely and reached out, removing the helmet and setting the destroyed piece aside. “You may bleed out before the others get here. Just the head wound alone is enough to kill you. But you’re hanging on, why?” He asked.
Tony stopped flapping his mouth in confusion, rolling the question over in his mind. Why was he hanging on? In that moment, he realized that he wasn’t prepared to die. For the first time in his life, the thought of death scared him. On numerous occasions, he faced death. But each and every time, he accepted defeat and thought he might as well go out with a bang. He always had a flare for the dramatics. But as Steve leaned over him with a curious brow raised, he realized he wanted to leave the battle and head home. Where his family would be.
Bruce would be there with experiments ready and eyes glowing bright with excitement. Natasha would be there, making him her special blend of tea and humming an old Russian lullaby as she moved around the kitchen. Clint would be perched on the fridge, shooting him with whatever he could get his hands on. Most of the time, it happened to be straws. Thor would be singing songs about Valhalla, marching around the tower with an overwhelming amount of pride and joy. And Steve? Steve would be waiting for him in their shared bedroom with a massive smile on his face and his arms wide open, ready for Tony to come back home to him.
He called out for them. He continued fighting the drowsiness, their names whimpered into the tight space. The Steve that had been seated beside him was replaced by his Steve. The Hulk removed the cement blocks covering the entrance to the small space where Tony was trapped. Steve crawled inside and pressed a light kiss against his temple. “I’m getting you out of here, Shellhead. Just keeping breathing, okay?” And even though it hurt to breathe, even though the other Steve had suggested he should stop, his Steve wanted him to keep breathing.
So he breathed.