“This,” Logan said, through tightly clenched teeth. “Has got to be the worst rescue mission ever.”
Tony trudged along several yards behind now, moving more slowly but more deliberately. Each footstep was work as the foot of the heavy Iron Man suit sank deep into the desert sand. Pulling his foot out again was a chore, only to have it sink back down again. Logan's constant complaining was absolutely no help. It wasn't his fault that HYDRA fired a weapon that rendered technology useless. It wasn't his fault they were trying to land the jet at the same time. And it wasn't his fault Steve was out here somewhere, being held hostage, being hurt, being tortured. “We'll... find him...” Tony said, in-between panting breaths. “Promise.”
“What are your promises worth?” Logan asked. Even though he was projecting forward as he walked, his anger made his voice loud enough for Tony to hear. “You promised we'd land safely.”
Logan stopped in place and wheeled around. “Okay, but that jet is not taking off again.”
“I can... fix it.” Logan stopping gave him Tony some time to close the distance between them.
“It's in three separate pieces!” Logan exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air in frustration. His claws weren't out, though, so he couldn't have been that angry.
“Fixable,” Tony insisted. “But... we'll... find... Cap... first...” With that last step, he caught up to Logan. He went to rest his metal hand on Logan's shoulder, but the man pulled away at the last moment, making Tony stumble forward. “Not... funny!” All his effort went into steadying himself and trying to keep himself from falling face-first into the sand. He refused to be the thing Logan used to amuse himself on this trek through the desert. “If I... fall... you'll... have to... pick me... up. Then I'll be... the one laughing.”
He wasn't even moving now, and he was still out of breath. Sweat rolled down his face, down his body. His clothes were drenched with it. Walking around inside the suit was like walking around in a sauna. A very heavy, iron sauna. But he couldn't admit to Logan he was miserable. And he had to rescue Steve. That meant he had to be strong. And they had to keep moving. Tony checked the compass in his suit—one of the few things that still worked—and determined that they were still going in the right direction. “Let's just... go.”
Logan sighed and nodded. He started forward again. Within five minutes, he was well ahead of Tony, muttering his frustration the whole time. “Can't believe we're stuck walking three miles. I've already got sand in my uniform and in intimate places only you and Steve get to see. By the time we get there, we'll be exhausted. I'm already thirsty. It's too sunny. And hot. And—”
“Hot,” Tony agreed, almost breathless again. The heat was almost unbearable. But it was nothing compared to what Steve must be going through right now. So Tony kept going. He just wished that the suit's release mechanisms weren't jammed in place. Unless they knocked out whatever was disrupting technology in the area, he'd never be able to get this suit off. “So... so hot.”
Not to mention the absolutely splitting headache he had right now. He wondered at first if it might have been due to damage sustained in the crash, but the diagnostics in his suit obviously weren't working, so there was no way he could find out if he was concussed. There really wasn't much he could do about it, in any case. So Tony just tried to ignore the throbbing in his forehead and the light dizziness that kept threatening to intensify. He ignored how weak and tired he felt. He ignored the queasiness in his stomach. He ignored the racing heartbeat, how hot he felt, and how hopeless this all seemed. No matter how bad he felt, he knew he had to keep going. He had to get to Steve. He had to deactivate the technology blocker. He had to get them home.
At least he wasn't sweating quite so much now. Maybe he'd turned a corner. Maybe it was all downhill from... the world pitched wildly around him. He tried to call out for Logan, but he wasn't even sure he was doing that out loud or just in his head. And, as he lost consciousness the strangest thought popped into his head: I don't even have a ring.
Before he opened his eyes, he was aware of a cool breeze on his cheek. This seemed strange, though he couldn't make his brain work out why. He forced his eyes open and found he was flat out on his back in the jet's cargo bay. The two side doors were rolled back, allowing for a cross breeze, though the air was still a bit warm and stuffy inside. He felt another bit of coolness, this time on the side of his face and his neck as well.
Gathering his strength, Tony tried to sit up. At once, a hand found his shoulder and pushed him hard back down; he was too weak to fight against it. But the moment he'd spent partly upright had given him a brief glimpse of his surroundings and three new insights. One: Logan sat by his head, fanning him with some sort of technical manual. Two: his Iron Man suit lay off in one corner in many jagged, torn pieces. And, three: he was naked. Tony groaned. “My suit!”
“Had t'get you out of it,” Logan told him, not sounding the least bit sorry.
“Yeah, but did you have to cut it into so many pieces?”
Logan shifted uncomfortably and paused in his fanning of Tony. “I might've been a bit... angry at the time.” That was code for the fact that Logan lost his shit and went to town on the suit. “But I was worried about you. I've seen heat stroke before; it's serious.”
“No need to worry. I'm tough.” He still had a massive headache and not nearly enough strength as he needed to get up. But he didn't feel quite so hot. He reached up to rub at his head and found an air-activated cold pack on the back of his neck. There was another one at his groin, tucked between his legs. Logan really had seen this before. “Thanks for taking care of me. I forgot you were a medic back in World War II.”
“Yup. Medic, soldier, special ops—you name it. Wasn't exactly the desert, but I still remembered a few tricks. And most of the things in the jet’s first aid kit don’t require technology. You, ah, want a little bit of water?”
Tony nodded. Logan slid his arm under Tony's head and helped lift him up a little to make it easier to swallow. He pressed a canteen to Tony's lips and tilted, but only for a second. Tony had barely gotten his lips wet when the water was taken away again. “Just a little at a time, until you can prove to me you can keep it down.” He lowered Tony back down and resumed fanning.
“How long before we can go back out for Steve?”
“As soon as I'm confident you're stable, I'll head out.”
“Nuh-uh. You're staying here.”
“What, so you're going to go storming across the desert and burst into that facility on a one-man mission of search and destroy?”
“Call me highly motivated,” Logan said. “But I won't be at my best if I'm worried about you passing out again or not being able to hold your own in a fight. Besides, you don't have your suit.” His hand crept over and slid across the glowing arc reactor in Tony's chest, making Tony feel exposed and vulnerable. Logan's voice dropped to a whisper. “I ain't losin' either of my guys today.”
Tony was moved; he was, truly. But he couldn't let Logan go off on his own. “Just give me a few more minutes and some pants. I'll be fine.”
“Right. You'll be fine 'cause you'll be staying here where you're out of the sun. As soon as I destroy whatever's blocking the tech, you'll be right here to send a distress call.” Before Tony could protest again, Logan lifted him again to give him another small taste of water.
Tony knew he wasn't in a position to fight Wolverine on this. So he swallowed the water and lay still, letting the cold packs and shade and cool breeze do their things to get his heart rate and temperature back down to normal. If he couldn't go with, at least he'd be able to keep Logan from worrying about him out there.