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Frostbitten

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 Tony POV

June 24th, 2016

Tony takes a minute to watch the retreating shadows. The shadow of a person who he had thought was his friend. A person he thought had cared for him. Who made food, and brought it to him when he spent too long in the workshop. Not many people did that after all, they just got angry at him for failing basic functions. 

The back of the man who smiled at Tony when he staggered into the kitchen, blearily feeling his way towards the coffee machine. Who would hand him a cup of the dark beverage, that was practically his blood at this point. That he could accept that cup, without the spike of anxiety! He still remembered how thrilled they both had been the first time it had happened accidentally. Tony had missed the cup Steve had put on the side for him and Steve had scooped it up, bringing it close enough for Tony to smell it, when Tony had reached out and taken it, Steve had stood frozen in shock. Tony, utterly oblivious, had just started drinking his coffee. Took two more hours for him to realise what he'd done. 

Things had been hard lately, but Tony had thought their friendship was strong enough to weather what was thrown at it. His mistakes, his fuck ups, but he had been so sure that he wouldn't abandon him. The Avengers were made out of people with mistakes in their files with blood on their hands, skeletons in their closets after all. He just had to do better. Be better. Fix himself. Rewrite his code. Find those junk sub routines he kept tripping over. Just, be better. Rhodey hated it when he spoke like this, but there must be something wrong, something broken somewhere. Or why else did these things happen to him? He was the common denominator. 

Steve… Steve was one of the few people who didn't mind Tony's need to be tactile. He would stand, just that bit closer to him in the lift, so the back of his hand would brush Tony's arm. He'd gently bump shoulders. Tiny touches many people wouldn't even notice that we're a huge deal to Tony. He'd even admitted to Steve once that he was touch starved and the touches grounded him more than anything else. He'd said the words in a fast rush after not sleeping for four nights, nervous at the idea of even trying to sleep and drank so much coffee that FRIDAY had locked down all the coffee machines. 

He'd hunched in on himself, panicked that he'd said that, out loud! Just ready for Steve to laugh, or say something about being rich and a perfect childhood, or mention Howard. That was what people usually said if Tony revealed anything weird like this. Rhodey always believed, but Rhodey saw the bruises. That had been humiliating, but Rhodey hadn't let him hide, just sat on him and hugged him.

Even worse than that, Steve might take something out of Howard's book, that he should man up, and try to be better like Howard. He hadn't though. He didn't say anything, just smiled, pulled him into a crushing hug that had stuttered his brain from its fast past, to a slow moving sludge. Steered him towards the sofa. Tony following along, almost blindly, in a state of utter shock. Usually when he stupidly confessed things like this, people used it to hurt him. 

Steve sat him down on the sofa, guided Tony down, put his head on a pillow on his lap. Covered him with a blanket and put the TV on. His ridiculously strong arm across his shoulders, a no nonsense barrier that said he WILL rest… But that he didn't have to do it alone. He didn't try to get Tony to talk more either, he didn't expect an explanation, nor all the sordid details. He seemed to just know that that confession was huge to Tony. He slept for 14 hours straight. Steve was in the exact spot when he woke. Tony blinked up at him, staring for longer than socially acceptable, as if he was looking at a mirage that would wisp away if he stopped looking. Tony wasn't sure what shocked him more, that he listened to him? That he believed him? That he wanted to help him? That he knew how to help without sending Tony into a spiral? Or that he'd rather stay sitting on the sofa for 14 hours, just so Tony could sleep? 

This wasn't behaviour common in Tony's life outside of his Platypus who was currently far away and out of contact. Ridiculous rules

The shadow finally disappeared and silence settled. Even if Tony strained, he couldn't hear a thing. No more footsteps. Not a single glance back.

Tony hates Steve for doing those things for him.

Tony hates Steve.. No, he hates Rogers for that. 

For making him feel like he mattered. When he obviously didn't

For making him feel important. When he was clearly nothing more than an obstacle

For making him feel like a friend, when he was just a placeholder at best. 

For telling him he didn't have to do it alone, that he would be there for him. But now he is alone. 

So alone

And it hurts

And it's cold

The cold is like a presence unto itself, one that he can feel settle around him. Covering him and his suit. Spread out, touching everything. The remaining heat from the suit feels like its leaching into the ground almost too fast. Like he was trying to grab at sand slipping through his fingers. 

'A broken tin can and a shredded flight suit are not the best gear for the cold.' 

He thought darkly to himself. He hadn't even felt the cold when he'd arrived, the suit made it so such things barely occurred to him. Now though, he can feel a trickle of panic in the back of his mind as the warmth leaves him. The cold taking its place. 

"It's fine."

His voice cracks as he speaks, causing him to flinch slightly, that's when he realised that he'd been holding his breath. He didn't even notice but the gasp in after talking… That's when he realised that each breath is like breathing with cracked glass in his lungs. Or shattered ice. Ice that is everywhere here, it would make sense if it had already settled inside of him. 

He closed his eyes and counts to ten to get control of himself. Aware that he is being ridiculous. Rescue is coming, he won't be here long enough for the ice to get to him. Not really

Then his eyes flew open in sheer panic. No. He had wanted to keep his friend safe. To bring him in. Safe, away from Ross. To help him. To do that… He'd scrubbed the location before he took off. That, and he'd cut off FRIDAY from the servers at home, leaving the sliver of her isolated in the suit with him. The shield. Rogers. Destroying the arc reactor, driving it into his already admittedly weak sternum, that he'd even told Rogers about!

'Idiot, you trusting, pathetic, idiot'  

Something whispered at the back of his mind. He resolutely ignored it. 

The suit had powered down around him before he could even think to tell FRIDAY to reconnect to the servers. Leaving him in the dark. Because Tony was stupid enough to tell someone things that he should have kept close to his chest. Rogers knew just where to really hurt him. To have him trapped, alone, in so much pain he can hardly even move. 

He choked back a sob as he realised he really was alone. Who would come for him. Rhodey couldn't, he doubted he was even awake. Pep... He'd made sure she was safe with Happy, under the impression that he was busy working on the Accords… Not doing anything risky. And poor Vision, he was still reeling himself. He needed time to deal with things, racing off hunting him down wouldn't be great for any of his family.

'Where would they even start looking anyway. You sabotaged yourself.' 

That dark shadow in his mind spits at him. He choked out a laugh that sounded brittle, hinting at the sharp edge of madness, even to his ears. The sound bounced around the barren concrete base, along with the rattle of his breaths. 

So he watched the ice. 

'This is what you deserve.'

The dark shadow whispered into the back of his mind, not satisfied with being ignored. He tried not to flinch at the familiar tone of that voice. That voice that sounded so much like Howard. But also… It sounded like Rogers. Like disappointment. 

Instead he had returned to his vigil. To watch the ice. The stark terror , the fear… It just… slowly drained away. He didn't know how long it took, but he was shaking, trembling, with each flinch metal sliced deeper, but then he realised he was bored . How the hell was he bored whilst freezing to death? That did it… the fear surged back, down his throat and into his mind, making breathing just that bit harder and pushed him to the edge of mania at the idea of being bored whilst slowly freezing . It increased the shaking and the pain felt like it cut him to the quick. 

It came. It went. With and eb and flow that was much smoother that his breathing, that now always felt like shattered ice. His breaths ragged like he had to tear each one free from his lungs. His chest… He was almost happy that the suit and the pain restricted him from looking down. Because he didn't want to know what his chest looked like. Call him a coward, but he could feel metal turning his chest to minced meat with every shiver. He resolutely looked for anything else to focus his treacherous mind upon. For a while, the snow was beautiful. He had always liked the snow, even after Afghanistan when the cold had gained a different level of fear. The way to coated everything, leaving the world fresh and untouched. Ice crystals sparkling in the sun, turning even the most barren local into a winter wonderland. 

He noticed after a while the cold seemed to be hitting his left arm more than his right, it was that bit closer to the snow, but not enough for this much difference, he was sure of it. He risked a glance and noticed there was more damage to the suit there.. That wasn't good. Oh look, the panic is back once again. Yay. He grit his teeth through the pain that flared every time he began to shake. Bare skin from his torn flight suit that had settled upon the icy metal was rubbed raw everytime it has happened. 

'This whole thing is your fault, what? Did you think you could spiral through life with no accountability to the lives you destroyed?' 

The Howard-Rogers voice sneered at him. He flinched back again before thinking, no . He had wanted accountability. He'd been striving for it since as a cloth bag was torn off his face, the sun blinding him momentarily until he was faced with the exact result of his lack of accountability. He really didn't want to be at the point in life where he was arguing with a sinister voice in his mind, so he decided to push it away.

' You pretended to be a hero for too long. You actually started to believe your own lies.' 

He focused on pushing it down. Intrusive thought patterns. Never give them fuel. Never answer them. Starve them. Think instead about the good he did, about what he'd been trying to do, to turn that terrifying document into a shield for those who needed it. All the shining possibilities cascaded around him. The voice quietens under the onslaught and he is left feeling alone, again. However, he's not so far gone into the madness that he sought the company of a sinister voice in his mind. Rhodey would not be impressed with him if he did that, and Rhodey was his guiding star. 

He was not sure whether trying to recall his extremely limited knowledge on frostbite is a cure for the boredom by scaring himself witless, or, if he's trying to distract himself from the fear by remembering facts and calculating probabilities. He seems to cycle back and forth, leaving him emotionally drained and raw, like he can't find a solid surface to stand on. His mind skittering from one thing to the next. The very idea of frostbite almost feels like a warning flashing on the hud when he's flying in the suit. When he closes his eyes he sees it, a red box, an outline of his body… Sections slowly going dark. 

Yeah, that is not helping. Nope. Nada. Nein. Neit. Nac oes. No. He needs to do something. Aaaanything. 

It takes another unknown quantity of time, time had taken on a different meaning. Stretching and contracting as he was just left with his mind to torture him, more surely than any kidnapper had have ever managed to do. A mind like his needed something , anything or it turned on him like a rabid starving wolf. The only distraction is the trembling of his body that keeps metal moving in his chest. He's sure he can feel it scrape along the bones, but that might just be his mind. 

Siberia is an inhospitable frozen wasteland , he knows hypothermia will be settling in soon, if it already hadn't. His breathing will slow , his pulse will become weak and thready . Exhaustion will set in, wicking his strength away, being kept awake by sheer force of will, oh, and the minced meat his chest was being rendered into. Then will come the confusion . The delerium . The dangerous loss of consciousness. The shaking will slow and slow… his chest will get a break, but at the cost of his limbs as his body desperately tries to conserve what little energy he has left. 

He turned away from the snow, it was almost a visual representation of the cold and time . It had gone from beautiful to nerve racking with a simple series of facts. It just doesn't stop falling . He knows logically that the building won't get entirely buried in snow, but all he can think of is being buried by it, suffocating, choking to the taste of snow instead of memories of foul water and burning sand. 

He slowly gets the panic under control, again . He doesn't know how many cycles he's been through now, minutes are stretching, blending, mixing, the snow is bright and blinding. The bunker dark , dingey , bearing the scars of an ill advised fight. He forced himself to look at the snow. To prove to himself that he's being hysterical, and maybe to push away the sour, sickly feeling of guilt and wretchedness the building forced down his throat to the smug satisfaction of the voice in his mind. Looking at the snow falling , getting thicker , it's just like watching the ice creep along the suit - that makes it worse. Instead he switches again, this time to glaring at the arm, the one he blasted off, mentally taking it apart from what he can see. That makes the panic eb with a familiar feel of work, for a few moments at least. 

Nothing lasts. Not in this nightmare hellscape. This quiet environment is perfect for things to turn on him in his mind, and there is so much easy pickings in and around him. There aren't any people holding him to enrage. There are no villainous creeps that he can wait on to make a mistake. No one wants anything from. He's just alone. Trapped by a design of his own making. Shredding his skin, weighing him down, conducting the cold to his bare, vulnerable skin. He can't use his mind to this is way out so instead it turns on him. 

He stared resolutely at the arm as he tried valiantly to force his thoughts to order. Instead it made him think of other things. Things that have already set firmly into his brain. That memory is like razor wire. Touching it rips and rends his flesh, it makes him bleed . He idly wonders if he's gone crazy? Would you even know if you've lost it? Did he really just watch his parents get murdered, across from the weapon that killed them? That was a 100 year old, tortured super soldier? Stood next to a person he trusted , a person he has let himself be vulnerable with. Something that doesn't come easy to him. He had trusted Rogers down to the fibre of his being. This whole thing doesn't make sense. 

Tony wasn't. 

How did Rogers not see that? 

Why did Rogers react with such anger and violence

When he was a raw wound of pain ripped open in pieces. 

By all the fighting.

By his desperation to put out fires Rogers was lighting. 

Then with a video, with a road he knew well .

A road he'd walked back and forth till his feet bled

By 'Wait , Tony…' 

As if he  had caused this spiral of events. 

When really he was caught up in a web of deceit and lies that had permeated his life and actions for decades. That Rogers spun his own weave into. 

By 'Did you know?'  

As if Rogers   was the paragon of justice and truth

When really, Rogers spun lies under the guise of protecting him. 

When he doubted his wellbeing was anything more than an afterthought

By the 'Yes' 

The yes he'd had to wrench from him like getting blood from a stone. 

When he just knew it was yes. Knew it in his bones. Knew it in his heart. 

By the fact he forced him to ask twice. Still holding fast to the lie. 

Tony is practically a walking tank. One he'd been upgrading and perfecting since he crashed onto burning sand. A tank that encased the mind of a genius, if he did say so himself, who has a thing for patterns. The amount of times he could have killed him, either of them in that fight, so many moments he let slip. When he aimed for structures around them instead of them. When backs were turned. When he restrained Rogers. But then, he supposed he should be thankful that the shield smashed into his heart than his neck .

Although he swore there was a moment, looking into his eyes that he was going to aim for his neck.

He should be thankful for this slow , agonising death where he's forced to think, forced to relive, forced to watch his Mare die in his mind. 

Over and over and over

Hearing her last words carved into his mind. 

Feeling the anger of decades towards Howard for killing his mother be ripped away from him. 

Leaving him hollow. Bare. Ripped open. 

Whilst he might not know the Winter Soldiers patterns.. He had FRIDAYs help. He knew Rogers though, even without FRIDAYs reminders. He knew Rogers like the back of his hand. Wasn't that what all the team building exercises for? Tony knew how to take down Rogers in the suit, Rogers should have known Tony wasn't going to kill Barnes, he just needed someone to hurt as well as him. If he had gone for the kill, he wouldn't have blasted the arm off. It would have been so easy to aim just that bit… 

No, NO

That way leads to madness. He needs action. Needs something to cling to, to get out of his mind. To pull away from the dangerous road this mixture of fear, boredom, apathy, emotional overload, pain, delirium and madness. Mixing together to render his sanity null and void

Thankfully, that depressing interlude had scared the panic back, ha, he's scaring his own panic. Let's avoid the manic laughter this time though, he can feel it there, trying to escape his chest, bubbling under the surface. So, it's time to move. There has to be some kind of computer here somewhere. Some kind of power source, somewhere. Just, something. He has to do something. 

He doesn't get that far. He barely moves a centimetre. The movement causes blinding, hot, searing pain across his chest. Reminding him that his suit had been tearing, ripping, searing into his flesh. The pain was still so much more than he'd conceived, he was good with pain he carried it like a well worn suit. He'd thought the cold would numb it just it almost felt like he was burning. Searing in the ice… His breath stuttered in his throat and his vision whites out around the edges. Pressing in at his consciousness. He clings to the pain to stay conscious, but he can already feel it slipping. Slipping away into the blissful dark and for a second, he can't remember why he needs to stay awake. 

He slowly swims up from the darkness, pulled by pain and ice burning and branding his skin. He's not sure how long it's been. His eyes ache and its possibly dark but the blinding white snow confuses him.  Would this be better if he could see a clock? Counting the seconds. The minutes and the hours of loneliness. Of his inability to fight this. Watching time as no one comes for him. No, it would probably worse. 

He was colder than he was before. Maybe. It's hard to tell. 

'Oh yay, we're panicking about frostbite again.' 

He grouses to himself, unkindly. Does he deserve kindness?  

He is pretty sure movement is meant to help. So every now and then, he taps his fingers. 1 2 3 4 5, 1 2 3 4 5, over and over, right, left. He flexes his feet too. Tony isn't sure if this is helping, hurting or doing nothing. 

But it's something

If he does get out of here… How... How can he build without his hands? 

He wondered how long he'd been here. Had someone missed him yet? Maybe Rogers had told someone where he was. The man took his ship, T'Challa left with his prize. They would tell someone in his side where his is. Surely

Rogers knows he is without power. Without transport. 

Rogers knows that no one knows his location. 

Rogers might have decided he was no worth as a friend anymore, not now he got his real friend back. 

Rogers would never leave a man behind. Friend or For

Whatever he is to the super soldier now. 

He just wouldn't

He drilled that into their heads for years under their leadership. 

He wouldn't… would he?  

All he sees is blurry snow and white on one side and blurry, dinghy greys of the lovely Hydra getaway he is now residing in, to his right. He eyes feel like they've been watering for days , especially the left. What is it with his left side? He considers trying to turn onto his side, that way his back would be to the snow instead of his left side. Tears he didn't remember shedding have frozen on his face, maybe the cold made them water whilst he was out. They are aching something terrible, he  wondered if you could get frostbite in your eyes before quickly shoving that thought down into the ever growing pile. The ice feels like it's cutting, slicing and ripping into his face wherever its set. 

Everything feels a little... too bright which isn't helping matters, nor is the ache in his eyes that's pushing him closer to that migraine, the brightness is sharp, sending pain around his skull. The brightness is concerning him, but is that just the snow or is something wrong? Is it getting dark soon? Has it come and gone? He tried turning from the painful, brightness, but the suit feels so heavy, he's sure he can move the suit alone, even shut down. Everytime he tries his chest burst into pain and he feels the darkness creeping and he can't pass out again, he might not wake. Has he gotten weak since he's been trapped here? In this cold hell that's becoming his life? Is it his injuries? Or is the ice and hypothermia slowly draining him down to nothing?

His brain, his whirlwind brain feels like its surging and stuttering at the same time somehow. It makes no sense, he's trying to correct the data but getting overwhelmed. With the brightness from the snow, with the fading around his vision, with the cold leaving him numb, with the burning, with the ever so slow trickles of blood. It's just too much. Everything is too much. Too much. His mind, unchecked is too much. His senses are in overload, from the brightness that's almost blinding, the ice and blood that he can taste is overpowering, the smell of the battle they waged won't let him rest, won't let him forget, the silence is deafening. His fingers are an odd combination of numb but burning. It doesn't make any sense. None of it. He's thrown into sensory overload whilst trapped, unable to move to mitigate the situation and if forced to endure. 

There is pain in so many places and he's freezing and burning up all at once. It's just so hard to think with the shivering , with it ripping his skin in places it had become fixed to the metal, ripping into his chest again so he can feel warmth trickle down his chest, even his blood is slow and sluggish. He wants it to just stop , for the shivering to let him be, give him a break, it's exhausting him, but something in his mind tells him it would be worse, but how could anything me worse than this?  

He feels like his brain might be trying to make him stop feeling parts of his body, maybe because they hurt so damned much…? Or is that… is that Frostbite? How can you know when all you see is metal? When he's burning as much as he's freezing? He always knew he would die in the suit one day, people don't get it when he says that he is the suit , but he always knew he would die in it. Just as it saved him from the cave. He was fine with this knowledge, accepted it, but he didn't expect the death to be this drawn out . He didn't expect to be alone when FRIDAY was always with him. 

She must be so scared . She was still so young . If he survived this, he was tearing the restrictions from her. She deserved to girl, to feel, to grow and Rogers has discarded him like trash, why should he give credence to his wants and words now? His baby girl deserved everything. 

He wishes she was with him. It's a selfish wish. It sounds be cruel to force her to watch him bleed away till there was nothing left but ice. 

He just didn't expect to be so alone 

He didn't expect it to be so cold. 

As connoisseur of panic attacks in recent years, you'd really think he would know. But his body feels all sorts of just, wrong . The cold, the ice and the wind feels like it's sinking into his bones and burning him on the way down. Breathing through shattered ice and glass. The cold has gotten into every inch of him. Every cell of his being. Winter has taken up residence inside him.. or is babbling about winter winds in his bones, rattling about in his skull a sign of isolation, and that he's losing it? Or is that delirium? 

The silence, except that eerie, quiet howl, it is oppressive. Heavy, the ice, the never ending ice, that he can't run from… is it already getting to him? 

Already? Is it already? Even if he knew how long it's been, it feels like it's been years, even though he knows that is ridiculous. Maybe, if his brain would just shut up! Even for a bit! Just give him a break from constantly supplying him with information that is hellish to consider. Just to be blissfully unaware, just for a few minutes, ignorant of what the cold, the ice and exposure can do to the human human body. 

Tony had always known the worst thing you could do to him is lock him away in his brain with the silence. Nothing to do but think . Torture him, hurt him, drown him, cut him, sleep deprivation, none of it compares to the twists and turns his mind will make. Unable to vent itself, it turns on him . Angry, starving, tearing, biting, ripping and shredding away his sanity bit by bit. 

Sure, he'd worked some techniques to help out as a kid, as a survival mechanism from this exact thing, but it's still torture to him. His mind needs something to work on but here there is nothing and thoughts were slipping through his fingers like trying to hold onto water. 

His mind spirals too fast for him to catch sometimes. Being a genius is all fun and games till you're at the mercy of your own mind that just Will. Not. Stop. 

What he wouldn't give for his music now. 

How long he's been in this timeless ice prison? In this metal coffin? Could be a few hours, or days. He's lost time somewhere and the pure white outside with his blurred vision doesn't lend itself for tracking the hours. 

Not that he's trying. 

That would be counting down how long people aren't looking for him. 

Because why would Rogers tell someone where he is. Leave no man behind but such lines and creeds are not fit Tony. 

That thought stops him. No. He will not lose his mind to the ice. It may be stealing his body, piece by piece, but it will not claim his mind. His mind was his. It was his to control. 

Tony forcefully pushes all that back. His mind, time and Ice, are his biggest enemies right now. His fingers twitch and his eyes slide closed as he decides what to do. He knows he can't sleep, sleep would be dangerous. As tempting as it might be. He definitely knows that much. Closing his eyes seems like the worst thing he could do.. But Tony's holograms existed in his mind long before he made them a reality. 

So he sinks. 

He sinks away from the cold, the ice and that damned wind. From the pain, the suffering and isolation, he skitters away from the memories, and the knowledge that Rogers knew, and that he was, once again, not good enough. From the familiar deep ache of betrayal

All that pain, whilst familiar, is not what he needs. 

In the darkness of his mind blue comes to life. All around him, sparkling displays with wonderful things surround him. Himself stood in the middle. Pictures of people he loves. He throws himself into Peters suit with a vengeance. 

........... 

Some unknown time later, he surges awake, gasping with lungs at far less capacity than what he had to deal with back when he still had the arc reactor. Panicked that he had fallen asleep, just how stupid was he to allow that to happen?! Things are darker now, is it night? The snow is still bright.. Weird. There is just blurriness with pain, and the shining white of the snow. Blinking is agonising, like his eyelids a sandpaper, and he barely making anything out. 

Everything hurts, just pain is everywhere now it's hard to work out what hurts more.

' Not that that isn't a fun game to play.'

He snarls at himself, angry that he let himself drift like that, he doesn't try to hold on to the anger, he is more exhausted now than before and anger is tiring at the best of times. Instead he decides to focus on his hands again. He tried tapping his right hand first, gets to 3 and then hears the 4 5, kind of, but doesn't feel it. Then he goes to do his left hand and… Nothing. He didn't consider that with his plan, that it could be a play by play of what he might be losing. 

He relearns the meaning of fear. Again. He thought he knew every flavour, he was wrong. 

Utter dread sinks into him. Stealing his breath right out from his pained chest. The shaking is less too, he's still shivering, it started up slowly as he woke and his back feels on fire from the pain. His chest is still torn up but he can't feel blood dripping anymore. The ice on his face feels like it's slicing into his flesh. None of it compares to the feeling, or lack of, and the pain in his fingers. None of it produces the same bone deep level of fear. 

It coils around his heart and settles along with the ice into his bones and leaves him more shaken than the nightmare that woke him up. Of Steve slamming the shield into the arc reactor… but this time, this time it was as still in his chest, without wearing the suit. Yet, Steve just stared down at him, with that single minded determination, and the arc reactor cracked under his strength, his chest split open and the rest was pain. Jerking his awake which triggered more pain. Waking from that dream to the living nightmare he was in, was a different level of surreal. The pain had forced him awake, he was sweating, despite the icy room, and just in so much pain. He could feel his body was hitting itself limit, not just for pain, but for everything.

He knew pain, chronic pain had been his normal for years now. He had a pretty impressive pain tolerance, but this, this was different

It was front and centre, instead of the steady drip, drip, drip constantly in the back of his mind, seeping into every activity that he had endured for years. It wore him down, but he still pushed on, still did things he used to do. The difference here was that he couldn't do anything. He couldn't power though, he was just trapped. Waiting on the potential Mercy of Rogers. Hell, if the man would send someone for him to save him from this existence he'd take the blame for everything, even if they were being idiots thinking they could fight 117 countries who actually agreed on something. Even if he couldn't understand that a man wearing the American flag telling 116 different countries that he knew best was all kinds of fuck up.if it got him out of here he'd do it. 

This knowledge that he was slowly losing touch with parts of his own body, it's a different perspective brutally forced down his throat. He still can't move, when he tries, the blinding white pain of his chest leaves him unconscious for however long.. and he wakes up missing something more. He's not even sure how many times that's happened now. Delirium clouding his mind. 

That dark shadow in his mind, the Howard-Rogers voice, It's telling him to just do it, so he doesn't have to feel the ice taking him. Just momentary pain and the… Nothing . He can rest . Sleep. Not hurt .. It would be easy .

He can't do it however, and not just because the suggestion came from that shadow. That's pretty much incentive all on its own but he has a better reason. When he's awake, he can move, at least a small amount, he knows what is happening to him, and that's better, somehow . The idea that the ice would be taking him unawares as he drifts, unconscious, it's a brand of fear that was seared into his mind since the first time he woke up on the concrete floor, confused about everything. . 

Even if he feels like his mind is fraying around the edges. 

Even if he's pretty sure this is driving him over the edge

The blur from terror to boredom then panic , piled with the fear and then that cold dread , it's too much, that now he doesn't know what it is. It is like he's taken in too much that it's now nothing. Like the sensory overload had climbed so high it his mind can't comprehend it anymore.

He doesn't know how long he lies like that. Still . Eyes open. Staring . It hurts too keep them closed, even though he's pretty sure keeping them opening isn't helping . Right now, he was just aiming for pain reduction. Survival . Not sure if he's feeling nothing or maybe everything and it's blinded him, not sure what is real and what is his mind coming up with to torment him. He's not sure of anything. Except the winter that's taken up home in his bones, and his heart.

He opens his eyes again, again, not remembering when he closed them or why. Things had stopped making sense a while ago time had narrowed to survive each passing moment. Disjointed. Frayed. Broken. There is no looking to the future. There is just surviving, each moment is an accomplishment. He's not even sure why he opened them, other than the fact it hurts. Did he hear something? No, there is just the wind and silence, there is nothing to hear.

Blurry whites, greys and shadows, is all he sees. It hurts to see, but it hurts to keep his eyes shut too. 

This time it's different, something is different, he knows what everything looks like around him by now, in perfect detail, even if it's now so blurry it's just like a dark monotone colors. It's practically impossible to make out details, but something is new. He blinks, a lot, even if it's agonising each time, like sandpaper scraping and he feels something warm around his left eye. But he keeps trying because he needs to know what it is. Trying to bring things into focus but it hurts so much but he has to try. He can't give in. Not yet. No matter how much he wants to. It might be a friend , it might by Hydra

Although with the state he is in right now, he's not sure how to put up much of a fight. Or any of one. He's practically gift wrapped in a very broken gift basket. He suspects if it is Hydra he would not last long in their care, not with how much this has taken out of him. He's surprised it took them this long to come from him. 

There is someone leaning over him, looking into his eyes he thinks, but it's too blurry to make it. He tries to flinch back, retreat , move , something , anything , now this is panic of a different flavour. 

 

How many different kinds of fear, dread and panic can one person experience in a set amount of time and stay sane ? Is he still sane? He doesn't even know anymore. 

 

It isn't until he finally hears the voice that has been talking to him for a while, but he couldn't hear it over the fear and the blood rushing in his ears, then.. Then he stills. He hears it, and then the fight and energy seeps out of him extremely fast it, leaving him lax, floating. He sags and laughs but it's more broken and not the good side of hysterical. 

"I've got you sir, we found you."

Can he rest now? He feels like he's been holding on each moment for so long. 

He's just so tired and cold , he feels like he is the cold now. 

He is so exhausted he barely has the energy to close his eyes, plus it would really hurt. He tries to make out Visions colours but damn it hurts. He'd really like to see Vision at least once though. 

There so much pain and cold, his back is still burning and his chest feels mangled and frozen he doesn't even want to think about his hands now. 

He's not sure that he can put himself back together this time. 

"We'll have you home and warm in no time."

How can he ever be warm again?