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"Oh god, you're--" Blood oozed out of Iron Man's left flank, thick as engine oil but terrible, bright red. Steve stopped with his hands hovering over the rent metal; it was impossible to put pressure on the bleeding without getting the armor open, but he’d never seen it come off, he had no idea where to even start.

“Iron Man, talk to me! You damn well better wake up, you hear me?!”

The helmet shifted and a bubbly gasp made it out through the voice modulator. “There you are. Eyes on me, Iron Man!” he ordered, leaning over to catch that rare glimpse of blue behind the glass. It was squeezed right down to a rim around pain-blown pupils and Iron Man’s breathing turned harsh as he started to feel the pain.

“We need to get you out of the armor, you’re bleeding out. THOR! MEDIVAC, NOW!” Steve’s bellow carried across the smouldering battlefield, and Thor responded despite their broken radios.

“...n-no... Cap, stop...”

“--screw you, Iron Man, I’m not letting you die, just to protect your secret identity!”

“...’s not th--” a sudden choking noise cut him off, and red sprayed out of the helmet’s vents, a fine mist that painted the tarmac.

“You have a punctured lung, Iron Man, you’re not gonna just walk it off!

Iron Man was still shaking his head. “--only thing...keeping my lung inflated.”

Steve swore brutally, driving the edge of the shield into the road to try and dissipate the urge to tear something to pieces. “Then we get you to Tony. He’ll--”

“Can’t!” Iron Man gasped, his hand flailing in agitation. Steve caught it and held it tight, resisting the urge to scream. “Not in...the country.”

Steve spoke between gritted teeth. “Liar. He’s in the tower, I saw him half an hour ago!” He reigned in his temper carefully; he could crush even Iron Man’s hand if he wasn’t careful. It was clear he wasn’t going to get any sense out of Shellhead, but maybe he could get Tony.

He pulled out his Avengers card, hoping that the satellite line would work where radios weren’t.

“Cap to Avengers Tower; put me through to Tony Stark; Iron Man is down, I repeat: Iron Man is down.

The card engaged, and Jarvis’ face appeared. “Bring him to the tower, Captain, as quickly as you can. Please state the nature of his injuries.”

Steve hadn’t been so glad for Jarvis since he came out of the ice. “Left side, bleeding out through a tear in the armor. Some of the metal is bent inwards, It’s --shitting fuck-- it’s still in the wound. Punctured lung, bloody coughing--”

“Is the suit’s ventilation system functional?” Jarvis interrupted, abruptly.

“I think so; his lung hasn’t collapsed--” He put his hand at the vent on the left side of Iron Man’s head, still smeared with bloody mist. Air hissed out at pressure, cooling his palm. “Yes, it’s got power.”

“Get him here, Captain. Quickly.” Jarvis was already turning away from the camera as he spoke and cut the connection without hesitation.

Thor! Where’s --”

“I am here, Captain. Let us get gone.”

They hauled Iron Man, despite his groans of pain, into the medivac jet and hauled ass to the tower. It was only a few blocks, but the vents were starting to clog with coughed up blood, so Steve worked to keep them clear as best he could, while Thor, Don, improvised an oxygen supply. It was impossible to tell if Iron Man was still conscious.

Jarvis was waiting on the ‘pad and Steve was hauling the gurney along before the ramp had even finished dropping. The move shook Iron Man against the straps, and he groaned; still alive, at least. The rest of the trip was smooth, the elevator more than large enough for the gurney, and there was a trolley of medical supplies already there. Steve had been hoping Tony would be there with the jaws of life, or the armor equivalent, but maybe he was waiting in the lab.

Jarvis unlocked the armor’s cuffs, the metal going supple as it lost power, and he and Thor pulled the gauntlets off, while Steve held Iron Man still. Needles and tubes started appearing, some of them left behind by the armor, some freshly placed by Don’s nimble fingers as he flickered between Thor and himself.

As they rolled out into the workshop, Jarvis kneeling over Iron Man and working the abdominal armor free, Steve looked desperately for Tony, hoping that he’d just step in and his ally, his friend, would be fixed. But Tony wasn’t there.


How was he not there! Tony wasn’t supposed to leave when Iron Man was in the field! He was under threat from international conspiracies on an hourly basis! Any attack on the Avengers could mean an attack on Tony himself, so where the fuck was he.


Steve jerked, realising that there wasn’t time for his dismay; Jarvis needed his help.

“Take this edge and, on my mark, pull slowly and steadily.”

Steve nodded climbed up onto the gurney, knees braced against Iron Man’s shoulders and eased his fingers under the torn metal edge, trusting his gloves to give him purchase on the blood-slicked metal. Trusting Jarvis to stop Iron Man from bleeding to death.

“--two... one... Mark.”

Steve pulled, painfully ignoring Iron Man’s horrified, wet breaths against his legs, and slowly, the metal pulled out of the wound. The bloodied metal screamed with the shearing force, then tore at the crease, leaving Iron Man exposed, naked despite the white shirt bloodied and bunched around him. The breastplate came away in Thor’s hands, unclipping, and exposed a second shell inside, this one undamaged.

“The helmet, now, Captain.”

Steve stumbled back off the gurney, dropping the bloodied shrapnel, and realised that his fingers were shaking. Jarvis was busy over the deep gash, stemming the bleeding with some kind of pen, the smell of burnt blood and a whisp of smoke rising from his hands. Every few inches, he stopped and reached into the wound to set the rib underneath, his fingers hooking around the bone and putting it back in place in a flash of red on pink.

“Captain, the helmet does not function without the breastplate.

Steve jerked to attention and stripped off his gloves. The faceplate had unlocked and he pulled it up and away. The rest of the helmet fell away from black curls and...

So that's where you are...

Tony Stark was lying there, bleeding to death from a gash on his side, and suffocating from a punctured lung. He was awake, barely, and Steve met those blue, blue eyes, frozen in shock, terrified suddenly that he was about to lose both his best friends.

Don ordered him to lift Tony’s head, tilt it back, while he strapped a mask to his face. Not just oxygen; the mask connected to a big machine by two thick pipes and Tony’s breathing evened out.

“--that's it, follow the respirator, in one two --”

A bubbling hiss made Steve jerk up; air was leaking out of Tony’s side, spraying a sticky mist across the sterile sheets.

“Not a punctured lung, a punctured chest wall.” Jarvis said with a strange sort of approval; was that better? As the air stopped hissing out, Don halted the machine helping Tony (tony,tonytony!) breathe, and told him to hold his breath.

It hurt, Steve could see that it hurt, wanted to say ‘no, don’t!’, but Jarvis was already running a thick line of glue along the wound, pressing it together in a way Steve had felt first hand.

Iron Man, Tonytonytony, was gritting his teeth, refusing to take a breath until it was over, and Steve squeezed his shoulder in shock and mute support. Billionaire, playboy, genius, Iron Man.

“There, breathe out, sir...”

Tony went limp and his mask steamed up with a long, slow breath out that drained the tension from his entire body. His eyes slipped closed in relief as the machine started up again, helping him draw air in.  

Tony Stark was Iron Man.

Suddenly, things made an awful lot of sense.


Steve refused to leave, even when Jarvis threatened him; Tony’d seen him just before he’d gone under, and Steve didn’t want there to be so much as a second where Tony thought he was angry.

Steve might have been, any other time, but Tony was alive, and not just a kidnapping target, and Iron Man, and--

Steve was still pretty shaken up, world-view turned on its head, etcetera, but he wasn’t angry. So, he sat there, stubbornly refusing to so much as move, while Jarvis scrubbed Tony’s blood off his hands and bullied him into fresh clothes.

It was worth it when Tony stirred awake and blinked up at him.

“‘morning, Tony.”