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In my darkest hours

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Fire. Too hot. Can’t breathe.

Fuck fuck fuck

Tony jolts into consciousness, panic and confusion set in when he can’t immediately get a feel of his surroundings. His mind is in a haze. His body feels numb. He can hear the sounds of his own ragged breaths but little else. Darkness. He can’t see anything. Why can’t he see? Where is he? How long was he out?

Shit. Okay, calm down.

He gropes around, trying to get his bearings- it feels like it’s taking all his energy just to move his fingers. He’s on a bed, not his bed. The sheets feel too rough. There are cold metal bars on the side. He can’t move his right hand.

His left hand, feeling like it weighs a ton, is shaking when he lifts it up to touch his face. Oxygen mask. Bandages over his eyes. Stitches on his left temple. Faintly, he can hear a soft, steady beeping. Heart monitor. Hospital. He’s in a hospital, he thinks with relief as he relaxes a little.

He wracks his brain to remember what happened before he lost consciousness. Vaguely, he can remember battling some megalomaniac who seemed to have a personal vendetta against him- it happens. 

It took longer to apprehend the jackass than it should have. The battle ended up crashing into a building, causing way too much damage despite his trying to keep it contained but then again when has he ever done anything but cause chaos.

He was not at the top of his game. He was too sluggish, too slow, didn’t think fast enough. After all, he was running on 2 hours of sleep.

No time for that. Get Rhodey the use of his legs back. Keep his company running. Ross getting on his case. Fix the accords. Fix his life. Do better. Be better. No time to sleep.

Fire. Building collapsing. Flashes of the battle break through to the front of his mind- reminding him that he needs to handle this too. Fuck. Were there any casualties?

He remembers lying on the floor of the burning building, struggling to move, debris falling. His face plate broke off and his vision was blurry.

The painkillers they’ve got him on is enough to take the edge off but its putting a damper on his mind. He’s struggling to remember much beyond fragments.

“Mr. Stark!”

The kid! Spiderman had came in unexpectedly to help. He got everyone out of the building safely. Right? But then, he came back to help out with the battle. “Damnit, kid, get out of here.” Building collapsing.

He willed his body to move, fighting against the pain that shot through him. No rest for the wicked. Survey damage. Check on the kid. Check on survivors. He gripped at the railings, forcing himself into a seating position-

 

-and then, he feels someone jerk awake next to him.

He freezes, feeling his whole body tense up. He hears a sharp inhale like the person is about to say something but then, nothing. Like the person decided against it.

He can move his right hand now; the person was gripping it in their sleep. He can feel his right arm is in a cast- how did he not notice that?

He reaches up to take his oxygen mask off but the person catches his hand in a firm but gentle grip. Too big and rough to be Pepper’s hands or the kid’s.

“Rhodey?” he rasps out, hopeful even as his throat feels like sandpaper. All he gets in response is a caress along the side of his face, brushing the stray hairs out the way. The person tries to get him to settle down with a gentle squeeze on his shoulder which he supposes is meant to be a silent reassurance. He goes along with it because he feels too tired to fight.

“Hell of a week, huh, honeybear?” he says conversationally like he’s talking to Rhodey even if he still hasn’t gotten confirmation on that. Something about the combination of a concussion and the painkillers is making it difficult to care. ‘Rhodey’ settles his hand on his, stroking the back of it soothingly. “Hell of a year, actually,” he says between shallow breaths.

There’s a few moments of silence with nothing to fill the emptiness but the steady beeping of the heart monitor. And then, he blurts out, “You know what I haven’t been able to stop thinking about for the past six months?” That internal part of himself that reminds him not to dump his problems on other people must have been knocked out because it all spills out like word vomit, “Obadiah Stane.”

The hand holding his tenses.

“It’s kinda sick, isn’t it, how my life was changed by his decision to kill me? And I wonder how things would have been… if he hadn’t” he laughs mirthlessly. He doesn’t know whats wrong with him but now that he’s started, he can’t stop. He can’t see, he’s tired, his mind is fuzzy and it’s all making him kinda emotional, “or if he succeeded.”

“I wonder, you know if maybe Yinsen should have been the one to make it out of that cave instead of me, if any of this was worth it, if I--”

“I’m sorry, Tony. I’m so, so sorry,” a voice that’s distinctly not Rhodey cuts off his ramble, a voice he had been trying to forget for the past six months sounding regretful and almost as exhausted as he is.

Tony sharply pulls his hand away. His throat closes up as realization dawns on him. Steve? Why? Why is he here?

He feels like he was dunked in ice water as feelings of fear and dread overcome him. His body still feels the echoes of the scars from their last encounter, of how the cold seeped into his bones. If it didn’t hurt to move, he would curl in on himself like snail trying to hide his vulnerable parts except he didn’t his shell right now. He’s gripping the railings of the hospital bed, his breathing starts to pick up again. Steve must sense that he might make a sudden move because he tries to hold his forearm and reach out to caress his cheek as an attempt to comfort him.

“Get out,” he says, voice still hoarse. He flinches back when he feels Steve move closer, tightening his grip on the railings.

“Get out, get out, get out,” he repeats it like a mantra, hating how absolutely pathetic he sounds.

Without his sight, Tony can’t read the look on his face, can’t see the look of defeat and resignation on his face. He only hears the harsh exhale before he takes Tony’s face in his hands and brushes his lips on his forehead. “Stay safe, Tony,” he whispers softly in what sounds like a broken plea.

And with the sound of the door closing behind him, Tony is finally left alone is the sterile hospital room. He feels like he should be angry; what gives him the right to sound concerned about him? Instead, he feels as if he’s the weight of the past six months finally crashes down on him and he lets out a broken sob.