Tony isn't even looking when it happens. He doesn't remember the exact moment. All he can think of is his mom, dying in that car. He doesn't care about excuses. It doesn't matter. Barnes was supposed to be her friend and...and...Tony is barely aware of anything else. There's a fight going on around him. He's shooting at Barnes. Steve gets in his way. Tries to fight him. Steve lied. Steve knew about Tony's mom and he lied. He lied. He lied. Why? What? What? There's screaming. Barnes and Steve are coordinating. Mom's face. The way she never quite seemed to believe what was happening. The way she screamed. The screaming now. He's screaming too. Yelling something. Steve is trying to hold him back. He's trying to protect Barnes. That's whose side he's on. The murderer's side. The one that killed mom. A million images that Tony had pushed down over a lifetime are flashing in bleeding vibrant colors. The songs she used to sing. Protecting him from Dad when he was in a bad mood. The way she laughed at her own jokes. Her eyes going still and glossy. That time she told Dad they were going to the batting cages and took him with her for a manicure. The hole in her head. Steve is trying to reason with him. The blood splattering over the windows. Tony is moving before he even knows it. He's grabbing something sharp from the ground and he's moving. Yelling. Barnes has stopped running. His mom was in all white. "TONY!" someone yells. The white made the blood stand out more. Warm gushy blood. They say it's "bright red" but it's brown and red and dull. A hand is wrenching him back. Barnes is wrenching him back.
Tony convulses and curls in on himself. He's shuddering. Barnes backs away all careful and Tony lets his face-plate go up. Or it already is. He's not sure. Steve is lying on the ground. There is still a piece of metal wedged at an angle in his side.
"Shit. Shit shit shit." He rushes over to Steve.
"Language." Steve heaves. He laughs and it comes out as an ugly wheeze.
"Oh my god oh my god" Tony is chanting it under his breath. If he could just go back a few seconds. He can't have done this. This wasn't supposed to happen.
Everything is seizing up. Not now. He has to stay focused. "We'll get you to the Tower, the doctors..."
Steve's blood is everywhere. The scrap metal. The angle its at. It's in Steve's heart.
"The doctors will fix this. I can fix this." He's talking too fast to even really hear himself.
He knows better than to try to pull the metal out himself. "I can fix this." He's everything around him and he's looking for something but he's not sure what.
Steve's whole body shudders when he turns towards Tony. "It's okay." He says, even though it's obviously not. "It's okay. I forgive you just...don't...don't hurt...help Bu--" Steve heaves a cough and Bucky is cradling him.
"I'm fine." Bucky reassures him. "See? Hey, look, I'm holding you while you're coughing a lung out, everything's back to normal, see Stevie?"
Steve laughs "It never goes back." He says. His eyes are getting distant.
"I'm here. I'm here." Promises Bucky. "Just like before."
Steve seems to realize for the first time "You remember!"
"Yeah, 'course I do. I told you."
Steve smiles. He looks so cold. Tony wants to say something, come closer, help, but he's frozen in place.
"Jerk." Says Steve.
"Punk." Says Bucky.
Maybe it's just an urge not to be left out, some petty jealousy even now but Tony says "C'mon, Capsicle, don't be such a drama queen, you're gonna be fine."
Steve doesn't make any bitchy remark. He doesn't move. He doesn't scream. Tony couldn't even say when he stopped moving.
"SHIT!" He's on his feet again.
Bucky is hunched over Steves body like he's trying to protect the guy or something. Even though he's...he...
"SHIT SHIT SHIT" Tony kicks the snow in front of him and it hardly moves. Practically ice. Fuck this. He slumps down against the far wall.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so so goddamn sorry. I'm sorry." If he says it enough this will all go away. He'll wake up and it won't be real and he'll have passed out fighting or something something something.
T'challa doesn't say anything for a while when he comes in.
He just sees the body. Sees that Tony and Barnes are done fighting. He doesn't cry. He is just very very quiet. After a while he goes over to the body. He whispers something over it. Just between him and Steve. Just him, really.
The ride back to the tower is quiet too. Tony and Bucky don't look at eachother. Maybe it's because Bucky is still angry. Maybe they're just both too drained to think about it at all. Maybe they are both afraid to look up and see their own guilt reflected back at them.
The worst part is knowing that however awful he feels, it will pass. He will go back to his life. He will probably break up with Pepper and get back together with her again. He'll build more suits. He'll get over it. The worst part is knowing that, however awful he feels, it is completely dwarfed by this: Steve feels nothing. Steve will never feel anything again. Steve is gone. Tony took that all from him. Steve is dead. No amount of guilt or obsession will ever ever come close to approximating that truth. It is completely and totally incomprehensible. Even as Tony chases it in circles in his mind, he knows this. There is no understanding it, not really. Some things just don't ever make sense.