A blast. A blinding light. A scream. A lot of screams, overlapping one another, not intelligible anymore.
Except one, though. One word, from that familiar voice, reaching his ears as he descended, thrusters not keeping him in air anymore. It was desperate, filled with panic, but it irrationally soothed him.
Then his vision went dark.
Tony opened his eyes to a dark world. He wasn’t even sure if he had opened his eyes or not anymore. The only thing he knew was that it was dark. It was so fucking dark. Everything was pitch black around him, and nothing felt real. Tony raised both of his arms blindly and frowned when he realized he couldn’t feel the weight—and comfort—of the armor against his skin.
He checked his body and, yes, he wasn’t wearing the armor anymore. Huh. That’s strange. He was sure he was wearing the armor before, when…
What was he doing before?
Tony gulped as the panic started to settle in. What was he doing before? Why couldn’t he remember that? What was happening? Where was he? Why was it so fucking dark?
Tony took a shaky breath, tried to calm himself down. He’s Tony Stark, goddammit, he wasn’t gonna cave in to some stupid dark room and temporary memory loss.
It’s probably just from shock, anyway. No way his brain was gonna fail him. Not now. Never.
He tried to list off the things he could remember. He’s Tony Stark. He’s the current owner of Stark Industries. Iron Man. An avenger. He wore his suit before he woke up to this dark nowhere, so he probably went out on a mission. With who? He couldn’t recall. Chasing what? No clue, either. He ran a hand through his hair, frustrated.
Change of plans, he guessed. He inhaled shortly and, “Hello?”
It came out hoarser than he intended. He scowled, clearing his throat before repeating, more strongly this time, “Hello? Anyone here?”
No one answered, though. He frowned, crossing his arms in front of his chest. He couldn’t see himself, but he was sure he looked like a whining toddler. If Rhodey was here, he would have rolled his eyes and called him exactly that by now.
Oh my god, Rhodey.
Tony vaguely remembered the sound of two identical thrusters taking off from a balcony. Rhodey’s exasperated but fond sigh from the intercom as a response to his chatter. And other voices as well, filling the inside of his helmet, but he couldn’t distinguish the others. Just Rhodey.
“Rhodes?” He called out, heart thumping in his chest. “Rhodey!”
No one answered, again. Tony huffed, tapping his feet to the ground that he couldn’t see. He skimmed through the options of things that he could do in his head, but the list wasn’t that long.
There was nothing he could do.
And Tony hated feeling helpless.
He clenched both of his fists, tried to stop himself from shaking. It wasn’t working so well.
“Rhodey,” Tony whispered, feeling the cold of the ring on his finger. The emptiness surrounded him, and everything felt suffocating.
Rhodey paced beside the hospital bed, hands tapping the sides of his body restlessly. Natasha finally gripped his shoulder firmly, and Rhodey was forced to stop his steps.
“Rhodey, calm down,” she tried to soothe, but it just made anger flash inside Rhodey.
“Tony is in a fucking alien coma.” He snapped. He ran his hand through his hair, sighing loudly. Natasha didn’t seem offended. “Sorry. But Tony’s not waking up and we have no idea how to bring him back. Yes, Nat, I’m gonna freak out.”
“We’ll figure something out.” She assured. Well, tried to, anyway. The panic inside Rhodey didn’t lessen any bit. “Bruce is working on it. We’ll find something.”
“We better fucking do.” Rhodey slumped to the nearest chair, cradling his head in his arms.
Natasha rubbed his shoulder for a little while as Rhodey tried to catch his breath. “I’m gonna go out to get some lunch, okay? I’ll be right back.” She said softly.
“Yeah,” Rhodey mumbled, hand moving to grip on Tony’s. He didn’t squeeze right back like usual, and Rhodey’s heart ached. “Yeah, I’ll be waiting here.”
Tony thought he was imagining it, at first.
But he sure did not, because that teeny, tiny bit of light was still there. Glowing faintly in the distance, just a small dot of white. It almost seemed like it was mocking him, mocking his blindness, mocking the emptiness that suffocated him. Still threatening to suffocate him.
But it was something, in the middle of nothing.
The white dot was still glowing faintly, inviting him over. And honestly? It wasn’t like Tony had any other options.
Tony took a cautious step, simply hoped there would be no holes for him to fall to in this middle of black, and followed the light. There was warmth on his hand, as if someone’s holding it.
The light wasn’t getting any closer.
Tony walked for what seemed like hours (if time still worked the same—wherever he was), but the light was still a dot, blinking at him in the far distance. Or maybe it was right in front of him, but he didn’t move at all. How was he supposed to know? Whatever, he’d just keep walking until—
Until the warm sensation on his hand disappeared.
He stopped walking abruptly, almost tripping himself in the process. He rubbed his hand, already missing the feeling. He didn’t know what it was, but it sure was some kind of comfort. It tethered him, both the warmth and the light. He’d miss that feeling, surely.
But then that dot of light started fading, too.
“No!” Tony screamed, in something like panic and desperation, rushing to his small light. “Don’t disappear! Please!”
He ran as fast as he could, but he didn’t seem to get any closer. No matter how much he yelled, the light didn’t seem to listen.
Tony was plunged into the dark one more time.
Rhodey stepped out of the bathroom to find the heart monitor beeping erratically. The heart monitor that was connected to Tony. Tony’s body was still unmoving, but every medical equipment around him screamed ‘danger! danger!’
Rhodey’s mind screamed panic.
He rushed to be beside Tony, and at the same time Bruce Banner slammed the door open, Natasha hot on his heels.
“Bruce!” Rhodey yelled through the chaotic beeping. “Do something!”
“Yeah, yeah,” Bruce responded, frantically moving around and checking everything.
“Dammit,” Rhodey grumbled. “Dammit, Tony, hang in there.” He squeezed Tony’s hand with both of his, hard.
Then everything quieted.
Rhodey stiffened, glancing around and spotting both Bruce and Natasha’s confused looks.
“What’s happening?” He asked, turning to look at the heart monitor. It’s beeping steadily now. “What’s going on?”
“I.. don’t know.” Bruce answered hesitantly, still checking on everything. “Everything.. is back to normal now.”
“I can see that.” Natasha huffed and crossed her arms. “But how?”
No one answered her question, their heavy breathing filling the room. Rhodey squeezed Tony’s hand tighter, just immensely glad he’s still there.
Tony won’t stop walking now.
It just seemed like an endless journey. That light didn’t seem to get any closer. But he learned from experience. He won’t make the same mistake twice. He wasn’t going to stop.
He didn’t want to lose that spark again.
Tony held his own hand, all warm and comforting, and prayed to whoever would listen so that he wouldn’t lose it. Both the light and the warmth.
So he kept walking, though he had no idea when this would end.
“Tony,” Rhodey whispered to the still unconscious Tony, because he had nothing else to do and the others were not there. “Please wake up.”
Rhodey rubbed Tony’s knuckles absently. He still hadn’t released his grip on Tony’s hand, and he wasn’t planning to anytime soon. He left Tony to go to the bathroom and everything went to shit, so no, thanks, he’s not leaving now.
“Please wake up.” He whispered, more softly this time. He kissed Tony’s palm and kept it there. “Please wake up for me.”
Surprisingly, Tony didn’t suddenly wake up and teased Rhodey for it. Shame.
He chuckled bitterly, resting his head on top of Tony’s arm, before moving to throw Tony’s arm on top of his head instead. These kinds of thoughts were Tony’s influence, he just knew it. When Tony would eventually wake up (and he would—he had to), Rhodey’s gonna murder him for putting him through this shit.
“Hey, remember the first time we met?” Rhodey mumbled to the bed sheet, because why not? “You were a reckless jerk. Well, still are, looking at where we are right now—”
Again, Tony might be imagining it, but the light seemed to grow bigger and brighter.
Tony didn’t exactly have the idea of when, it just did.
And there was also something else. Something new. It was like it wasn’t so quiet anymore. There wasn’t exactly sounds, but something like it was there.
Tony must be imagining it, but he thought it sounded like Rhodey. If Rhodey was underwater and speaking through a shitty walkie talkie on the limit distance to him.
Tony huffed a laugh and kept walking.
Tony was sure that it was Rhodey talking to him.
The sound got clearer and clearer as he walked. It was Rhodey. He was sure now. Rhodey was retelling their MIT days to him, which, yes, that was his experience too so he knew it already, but they still managed to make him laugh. Tony tried to communicate with him, but it seemed like Rhodey couldn’t hear him, so he gave up on the idea quick.
At least he could listen to Rhodey’s voice.
The light started glowing brighter and bigger, too.
And Tony won’t admit it loudly, too scared to lose it, but maybe he had some hope too.
“No, I’m not leaving Tony.”
Natasha raised an eyebrow, clearly exasperated. “Rhodey, you’ve been sitting here for eight hours. Tony won’t disappear just because you left for bathroom break.”
“But no one can guarantee that.” Rhodey retorted. “Last time I left for ‘bathroom break’, we almost lost him.”
“We’ll keep an eye on him, Rhodes.” Bruce piped up softly. “He’ll be okay.”
And yeah, Rhodey felt exhaustion deep to his bones. But he couldn’t just leave Tony. Not when he could lose him any second now. Not when Tony didn’t seem to be waking up anytime soon.
But he also knew Tony would slap him if he stayed any longer.
Rhodey sighed. “Ten minutes,” he mumbled, squeezing Tony’s hand one more time. “And he better still be here when I’m back.”
“Um, Rhodey?” Tony said, walking faster. “I sure don’t know where you’re going, but don’t leave me, man.”
Even just as Rhodey said that, the light’s glow dimmed a bit, and it set Tony off to the edge. He couldn’t lose it. Rhodey just couldn’t leave him.
Rhodey’s voice scoffed from the sky, and Tony’s heart nearly jumped out from his throat.
“Just, give me a second.” Sky-Rhodey said, then there was static in exchange of his voice, and Tony was practically running to the light.
“I might need more than a second!” Tony yelled, running out of breath, squeezing his own hand. Please, please, just a little bit more.
Then the static disappeared. Then, a whisper all around him: “Please wake up.”
And his lips felt warm.
Just like that, the light exploded and Tony stumbled, closing his eyes, falling to the light.
A gasp. Another gasp. A few more gasps.
“What the fuck.” Someone said, so close to Tony’s face.
Tony opened his eyes, squinting against the blinding light. The blinding light that was eclipsed by that face. That favorite face that he loved so much.
“Rhodey.” Tony breathed, and Rhodey crushed him in a hug.
“So, what? You’re telling me we can basically wake up this dumbass Sleeping Beauty with the prince’s kiss?” Someone said from behind Rhodey, and Tony recognized Natasha’s voice.
“Shut up, Nat.” Bruce’s voice, and he sounded relieved.
“He could’ve wake up hours ago, but—you know what? Whatever. I’m heading out.” She didn’t do so before showing her unimpressed face to Tony, though. Her red hair tickled Tony’s face, and Tony scrunched his nose at her. She grinned right back.
“Welcome back, Shellhead.” Just like that, she started walking out. “Bruce, come on. We’re getting the royal family their dinner.”
Bruce chuckled before saying his greetings to Tony, and followed her out.
And Rhodey was still hugging him.
“Platypus?” Tony rubbed Rhodey’s back. “Nice to see you too, bud. Can you let me go, now?”
Rhodey let out a shaky breath before finally releasing Tony from his death grip. However, he started wiggling to the tiny space of bed beside Tony, and settled himself there.
“Um..?” Tony asked, laughing silently. “I thought you were going to head out too, before?”
Rhodey raised an eyebrow at him. “Did your soul float around here when you were in coma or what?”
Tony laughed, because it was so fucking good to be back. “Not exactly. I just hear your voice.”
Rhodey looked genuinely curious now. His hand found the way to Tony’s, and their fingers intertwined.
“Oh, and this, too.” Tony raised their locked hands. “I can.. feel someone holding my hand? Was that you?”
Rhodey nodded, squeezing tighter. Waiting for Tony’s story.
He just didn’t know if he could do it right now.
Another squeeze, and Tony looked up to find that understanding look on Rhodey’s face, and he breathed out.
“You keep me going.” Tony snaked his free arm to hug Rhodey, and he reciprocated his move. His hand would fell asleep minutes from now, but who cares. Who cares when Rhodey’s warmth was all around him? “Back there.. wherever there was. You’re my spark. Like, literally.”
“Okay, poet.” Rhodey whispered before kissing Tony’s forehead. “But that’s literally my whole job description.”
Tony smiled, feeling extremely content and safe and here and warm. Some wave of exhaustion swept over him, and his eyelids went heavy.
Rhodey noticed—obviously, he always did—and gave him a soft kiss. Oh, Tony thought dumbly, so that was the cause of the warmth on Tony’s lips before. He laughed against Rhodey's lips, because he was helpless like that. Rhodey just smiled in return when they broke the kiss.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
That statement, along with Rhodey’s hand rubbing his back softly, and his warmth around him, felt like a permission for Tony. He closed his eyes, and this time he wasn’t afraid of losing the light or warmth, because he had Rhodey all around him.