Tony’s hearing came back only after he had stumbled over scree and dust for what felt like hours. Rubbing his temple, he leant in the shade of a shattered building, gulping for air. His Savile Row suit had seen its last days, he’d left the Balenciaga tie somewhere in the dirt, and his shirt was sticking to his skin. Thank God he’d thought to wear comfortable, handmade Italian shoes to this godforsaken asshole if the world, but calf leather wasn’t made for this kind of hard use.
“How much longer?” Tony complained.
His rescuer glanced back at him, then ambled into the shade, frowning. Even when dusty and travel-worn, Captain America looked a right treat, blond and blue-eyed and broad-shouldered in the kevlar alloy uniform that Tony had designed, with the white star and the three stripes over the titanium-weave chest. The famous vibranium shield that Howard Stark had forged was latched magnetically to Rogers’ back, though the paintwork was nicked all to hell from taking the brunt of the shrapnel from the land mine that had knocked out their convoy.
“We have to keep moving, Mister Stark,” Rogers said brusquely.
“You didn’t answer my question,” Tony was still trying to catch his breath. “Also, I didn’t put this much effort into my alcohol problem for it to be undone by us having to hike around the fucking Sahara.”
“This is Afghanistan,” Rogers noted, in the same brisk tone.
“God, this is sad,” Tony huffed, though he was starting to feel less like he was about to do something undignified, like throw up over Rogers’ knee-high, fuck-me boots. “The locals just tried to kill me, I have to walk, and I’m stuck with Uncle Sam’s poster boy, who, perhaps fittingly, doesn’t have a goddamned sense of humour.”
“You talk a lot more than your father used to,” Rogers added neutrally.
“Jesus, don’t bring up the old man. You’re making me even more depressed.”
“I know he spent five years looking for me,” Rogers ignored Tony, “And even though SHIELD only managed to find me a month back, I’m still grateful. So. I’ll get you safely out of here. But you’re going to have to work with me.”
Childhood idols, Tony reflected sadly, always disappointed you when you met them. But at least most said idols didn’t tend to compound the problem by dragging you across the length and breadth of this desolate armpit of a country. “This rescue could’ve worked so much better if you hadn’t broken my phone.”
“I was hauling you out of a burning jeep at the time.”
“How come you don’t have a phone?” Tony complained. “This is ridiculous. Where are we even going? It’ll take the Army years to find us without some sort of signal.”
“There’s an outpost two days or so from here. That’s where you were going to get flown out to Bagram. We’re taking the long way around. Hostiles will be watching the usual routes.”
“Two days? We don’t have supplies. We don’t have internet reception.”
“Does it matter? Your phone’s broken anyway.” Rogers had the gall to smile faintly.
“I’m going to die,” Tony said mournfully. “And the only silver lining in this fiasco is that you’re hot. When I die, at least I’ll die looking at a nice ass.”
Was Rogers turning faintly red, or was it the heat? “Keep moving, Mister Stark.”