Nebula tries to reach out to him but Tony smacks her hand away. “I’m fine,” he all but growls at her. He’s not fine but there’s nothing she can do to help him either. What’s an alien know about human biology? Besides that he’d be happy to die about now, after Peter...
“You’re dying, you idiot. Are all humans this ignorant to their own biology?” Nebula snaps at him, angry. He hasn’t seen her look anything but angry in the short time they’ve known each other.
“No. But there’s nothing here for me but death.” That’s fucking cruel after the snap. He lives just long enough to watch everyone he loves die, then he’s left to wonder about Pepper, Rhodey, the rest of the Avengers. And Strange just... how the hell could he just give up the stone? Whatever, what’s done is done. And now he dies and all for fucking nothing. Its not that he expected his death to be meaningful, loss rarely is, but he thought he’d at least die doing something good for the world. Instead he dies after failing to save half the fucking universe. Raw deal.
Nebula rolls her eyes, “you’re as dramatic as Quill. Lie back, I know the basics of human anatomy,” she tells him and he frowns.
“How and why would you even know that?” And how do aliens seem to know so much about humans when humans only just found out about them? That makes no sense and Tony refuses to believe all those bunk alien stories of the past. He’s sure a few have validity but most of them are obvious horse shit that all follow the same pattern.
“It was part of my training, lie back or I’ll push you back and you won’t like that,” Nebula tells him, sounding like a bad villain out of an even shittier movie.
He rolls his eyes and carefully lowers his body onto a piece of ship, staring up at the orange, barren sky. The plants, when there used to be some, must have absorbed light differently than the plants on earth. Flora probably looked a lot like earth in the fall all year round. That would have looked cool. He also wonders what that’s doing to his system if anything and figures maybe Nebula will know the answer to that. “We should get off this planet soon. I don’t really want to know what a lack of a moon will do to it.”
Nebula makes a noncommittal noise as she returns to his side. “We’ll get off this hellplanet when I’ve fixed you,” she tells him.
Tony frowns, looking back up to the sky. “Why do you even care?” he asks. “You could fuck off and leave me to die, I probably wouldn’t even be that mad about it.” Truthfully if he wanted to he could probably get off this planet too. What was it Obie said once... that it wasn’t the suit that made him dangerous, it was his brain. That he could be dumped in the middle of the desert with nothing but cactus needles and sand and he’d still manage to fly out of there. There’s tech all over the place around him. He’d be able to leave no problem if Nebula left him to die.
His words bring a slight pause to Nebula’s actions- mostly her feeling around his wound and shit it hurts but he’s had worse. Finally she looks up. “I’m sorry about your son,” she says softly, blinking rapidly and it takes Tony a moment to realize she’s close to tears.
“He wasn’t my son, technically,” Tony murmurs.
“I was adopted too,” Nebula says. “Thanos was an awful father. I... I didn’t know a parent could care that much about their child. I watched Thanos throw a moon at you and you got back up seconds later but your son... I didn’t know people could make noises of pain like that and I’ve tortured my fair share of all sorts of species. You didn’t deserve any of this,” she murmurs softly. “This nanotech is impressive,” she adds.
Didn’t deserve- Nebula doesn’t even know the half of it. And May, fuck, if she survived this she’s going to lose her shit worse than he did. First her husband, then her nephew? And Peter’s parents when he was a kid- that woman has suffered more than anyone should. “I didn’t make for a very good father figure,” Tony tells her. “Not that I had a great role model myself. And thanks- took me time to figure out but a suit that responds to my thoughts and is instinctual means faster response times. Not that it helped,” he notes more to himself than her.
For a long while Nebula ignores his words, instead focusing on medicine that she does, in fact, seem to know a lot about. Including how to dose a human with foreign anesthetics. When she speaks again its as she’s stitching his wound, warning him that the nanobots are still in there because, for the moment, they can’t be removed from his system. Tony knew that already though, and Nebula is running low on resources. He’ll need more than the average post mission workup. He probably needs hours of surgery, which is a fucking shame since the damn doctor died. Not that this was his specialty but still.
“I don’t know a lot about good parents, but I know a lot about bad ones. Thanos shed a few tears for Gamora after he killed her. You sounded like you were dying after Peter faded away. At first I thought it was your wound, not emotional distress. When you show more pain at the loss of a child than you do at a stab wound that went clear through your body I know you care too much to be an awful parent. His suit was like yours, too. You made it,” she says and he nods. “Lots of defense strategies too- his first course of action is always to retreat, if I made a good analysis of his use of the tactical gear. And I know I did. You didn’t want him in a fight unless he needed to be there.”
Doesn’t matter if that’s all true, he still got the kid killed. He should have gotten Stephen himself, damnit. But that would have left Peter dealing with whatever the hell kind of alien that was and- there’s no easy way out of that and it doesn’t matter anyways. The past is the past unless you’re Thanos.
“So what’s the deal with Thanos and his ‘children’ anyways? Seems more like you were all his pawns more than anything,” he says to change the subject.
Nebula sits on the small piece of ship beside him. “That’s exactly what we were- mercenaries to do his bidding. He trained us, ‘loved’ us, sent us to do whatever he felt was necessary to do.” She pauses in her words for a moment before sighing. “I’ve done some... unspeakable things.”
“Because you were put in a position where you didn’t have much choice,” he tells her softly, resting a hand on her most-definitely-some-kind-of-metal arm.
She stares at it for a moment, confused, before shaking her head. “No. I wanted to do those things. Took pride in them. Something like that is unforgivable. I don’t know how Gamora lived with it- she had to do worse things than any of the rest of us. She was his favorite.”
Tony half smiles, “I know a thing or two about that. My father was a weapons developer- taught me to be one too and that’s no excuse for what I did, all the damage I caused with my bombs, guns, whatever. But I wasn’t really left with much of a choice either.” Howard would have killed him, and that being literal isn’t out of the question, had he not taken on the family business. He used to think it was a bad thing, when he was a kid, until Howard literally beat that out of him. Its an honor to serve your country, and all that. Never seemed to consider what happened when your country is wrong, or when the wrong people get ahold of the right weapons, or who got caught in the crossfire of a war they never wanted to be in and can’t move away from without money, luck, and a country willing to take them in.
“You seem to do okay. Like Gamora,” Nebula says and Tony can hear the sadness in her voice.
He shakes his head. “I’ve made too many mistakes to be anything like your sister. She sounds brave.”
Nebula blinks rapidly and nods. “When we were kids, all I wanted her to do was save me. She was always better than me, better than all of us, and I thought for some stupid reason she could help me with that skill. Stupid and childish, I know, but I guess children will think childish thoughts. Of course she chose to save me the one time I wished she wouldn’t have.” She describes Gamora, how she saved Nebula when she wished she hadn’t for the fate of the universe. How Nebula tracked them down to try and kill Thanos and save Gamora herself. How only Thanos left Vormir.
Tony listens because she needs someone to talk to, and because he needs the distraction from the look on Peter’s face when the fucking kid apologized like he was wrong somehow for dying. God, that hurts his heart more than the shrapnel and reactor ever had. “You did everything you could,” Tony tells her, giving her arm a gentle squeeze he isn’t sure she’ll feel. She does because she looks down at his hand in confusion for a moment before looking away, obviously still not clear on what that was.
Fuck, she must have lived a life that was some awful if she can’t even recognize comfort. At least Tony had Jarvis, Anna, and Peggy. Jarvis was always soft and sweet, Anna too. Peggy was a hard ass, always on him to do better but when he needed her she was always there. Once, when Howard got really bad, aunt Peggy beat the living hell out of him. Told him next time she’d kill him and make it look like an accident if he ever put his hands on his wife or kid again. He didn’t do that again either, but it left him to figure out ways of psychological torment that didn’t leave bruises and left Tony a lot more damaged than a slap.
“I didn’t do nearly enough,” she murmurs. “I should have done more.”
God, does Tony ever feel the same way. Carefully he lifts himself into a sitting position, conscious of his wound and the nanobots are conscious of it too, and he wraps his arms around a confused Nebula. “What’s this?” she asks, confused.
It’d be funny if not for the circumstances. “Its a hug. Humans do it for comfort.”
“Do you... need comfort?” she asks and Tony lets out a half a laugh before his stomach and the nanobots remind him that’s a bad idea.
“No, you do,” he says, leaning into her mostly because he’s tired, he’s only just feeling it now. HIs eyelids droop a little and Nebula sighs.
“You made a good point about the affects of the missing moon on this planet. That’s the fifth time I’ve seen that star in the last two hours and I know the planet doesn’t normally spin this fast. We need to go,” she says, extracting herself gently from Tony. He props himself up for a moment before Nebula picks him up and he lets out an indignant squawk. “This is called ‘carrying’ we do it when people are injured,” Nebula tells him and Tony lets out a small laugh that’s as bad an idea as the first one was.
“Usually humans give a little warning first. Just for future reference,” he says and Nebula shakes her head, walking towards a ship with him.