He’s panting so hard, his teeth are dry. His lips have cracked and are sticky with blood but he’s not sure it’s his. Natasha’s lost so much, he can’t tell how much, but it's everywhere. She’s breathing, but all it would take is one more bullet hole, and they have…all the bullets. His gun is empty, the barrel hot enough to burn when he checks the chamber. It’ll misfire soon, needs cleaning–
Another volley strikes the concrete above their heads, and he can’t answer fire; they’re coming now.
He flips the gun, barrel scorching his palm, and turns the nine hundred and fifty gram lump of steel into a club. The first Hydra helmet over the wall doesn’t protect its wearer from a blow to the jaw –poor design– and he goes flying backwards.
There’s blood on the magazine catch, a scrap of skin.
Natasha is nothing but blood and scraps of skin at his feet. He has no time for wussing out.
A grenade hisses overhead and he leaps for it. It sails back the way it came and detonates in midair. He rides the shockwave like a scrap of paper and rolls to a stop too far from the wall, but they’re beaten back, bleating and screaming. He’s made a space, enough to haul the unconscious, broken jawed agent into reach and steal his weapon.
The ammo isn’t compatible with the Beretta, so he takes the whole thing. A test shot is worth the wasted bullet; the piece of shit pulls left, but the recoil is reasonable.
Deep breath… heartbeat below 70…breathe…
Stand, stance wide, aim, both hands.
Bang, Bang, Bang.
Three bodies hit the ground; visors aren’t bullet proof, and Tony’s past the point of aiming for the knees.
They’ll die here if he makes one wrong move.
The shell casings littering the ground and deep gouges in the concrete are the proof of that, if he goes down, they won’t last.
Four still in cover, a barrel pointing around a crate and he ducks, back into the shadow of the wall. His shoulder thumps against the concrete hard enough to shake loose a bark of pain, but he’s exhausted, can’t help it. Each round of fire is more of a risk as his reserves leak out of his leg. His boot is full of blood, now, hot and slick.
Hold…wait, bide your time… The scuff of a boot; they think they hit him. He counts heartbeats, …steady, focus…
He stands, and fires, and then they are alone.
Blood leaks from helmets, but he can’t see their faces.
The weapon is no use to him now, so he drops it and kicks it away, piece of Hydra shit. Natasha’s bandages are almost all blood, but they don’t have any more, so he pressed down on them to stem the bleeding, and prays it’s enough.
He doesn't know how long it’ll take rescue to get here, but she has to live.
By the time rescue comes, he can't even recognize it anymore, he's been fighting too long.
no, give, leave! Mine! protectsoftwarmPAINbite–
protectsafebloodbandagee s–…save her. savesafesecureplease!
He doesn't remember the rest.
Most of his hospital stay is missing too, a blur of darkened rooms and bright spotlights. Of black-red on green. He remembers…resisting Steve, fighting the needle, then wanting it, desperately.
All through it, the litany of Natasha doesn't let up.
He wakes up to the soft cream and faded orange of Natasha’s bedspread. Six inches from his face, there’s a lump in the blankets and when he tracks it up, Natasha’s red hair spills across a white pillow, clean and glossy and shifting slightly as she breathes. The air is warm, and there’s something sticky on his lips, making them soft. His leg hurts, distantly, and there’s a medical brace on his wrist, holding in an IV and taking his pulse.
It’s Bruce’s design, and matches the lines of the gauntlet. He could suit up if he needed to, and that’s all that lets him keep the IV in. He imagines it’s keeping him comfy. He blinks slowly and turns back to Nat so he can drink in the sight of her face.
If she’s pale, he can’t tell, because he’s too busy watching her being alive.
The sun moves while he’s watching, warming his back. Whatever’s feeding his IV hums at steady intervals, and he’s steady, floating gently and keeping watch. There’s a gun down the back of the mattress, in a recess he cut into the headboard for her. It’s just in reach, he could get it if they need it. She keeps it loaded, but not chambered; he could fire in five or six seconds. He’s not sure if that’s too slow, but… the tower is safe. It’s fast enough.
There’s always JARVIS, watching.
His eyes slip closed as the sun turns dim and orange.
The voice is soft, deceptive, threatening. Tony goes for the gun, clickslidecockARMAIM.
“Shit–!” Something crashes to the floor and Tony sees hands, a white star on a broad chest.
engagesafety, empty chamber
The unfired bullet lands on his lap, copper-gold against the blanket he hadn't even noticed.
“Put the gun down, Tony, please.”
Tony considers the weapon; sleek, efficient… he knows this one, it used to pull right. He fixed it. Easy bit of machining, quick.
He pulls the mag, pops off the slide, and puts the pieces that were a gun on the blanket.
Natasha didn’t wake, but he hurt his leg putting his back to the headboard and Steve doesn't need shooting right now. Not when he needs to clean up what he dropped.
“Jheese, Tony, what’d I do to deserve that?”
Tony doesn’t have an answer, and it’s obvious isn’t it? protectshielddefend– He clears his throat and slides back down to take the ouch off his leg and rest his heavy head on something softer than the headboard. He slips back into staring at red curls, until Steve sits behind him, on the bed. The gun’s components lift off his leg and Steve sets them on the dresser.
“I’m keeping the bullets.”
“…bastard,” Tony mutters, covering his face with his free arm and rolling onto his back. “Have I–- like this the whole time?”
“Yeah. We managed. I should have let Clint check in, you seemed okay with him even when…”
“Even out of my mind. Great.” He rubs some of the exhaustion out of his eyes and it tugs on his cracked lip. “Lipsalve.”
It lands on his chest, just below the reactor. “Thank you. Did you…”
“Put chapstick on you while you slept. Yes. Apparently I am a saint, who knew. Good?”
Tony grumbles, but… “Yes.”
He stares up at the ceiling, hazy as his IV buzzes again. “How is she?”
“Sleeping it off. Fine. She’s half full of my blood, now, so it won’t be that long.”
Tony almost falls asleep right there and then, the rush of relief is so strong, but holds off until he can roll back over so she's the first thing he'll see when he wakes up.
It had been… far too close.