Feb. 13th, 2017

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slamdunkthefunk:

This is surreal
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Pretty good when I can practice! I live in Las Vegas, so you would assume that it would be easy to get involved with the community, but I’m finding it difficult to meet people who don’t make me uneasy, if that makes sense? 

In a few weeks a friend is going to introduce me to someone who might be willing to give instruction beyond what I can get on YouTube.

Ask me stuff
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My cellphone and birth control. Other than that, it depends on where I’m going and for how long. If it’s something like a camping trip where I’m not going to really have access to stores, I will make checklists sometimes weeks in advance and all things have to be accounted for. Obviously passports, IDs, etc., when necessary are a must.

Otherwise, I’m honestly pretty laid back about traveling. For the most part, I know that if I forget something absolutely vital (i.e. feminine products, or (as I did once on a trip to Canada) SHIRTS), stores exist. If I forget anything else that is not absolutely vital, I can live without it.

I try not to stress out too much, esp for vacations. I undergo a fairly significant personality shift when I’m on vacation, and ‘no stress, all things are adventures’ is pretty much my number 1. For example, Non-Vacation Drake stresses out about driving - she is particularly paranoid of being lost and BP goes up in a hurry when she takes wrong turns, esp in unfamiliar areas. Vacation Drake treats wrong turns as adventures within safe limits, and is a super relaxed driver/passenger. 

Ask me stuff

Memory 1/2

Feb. 13th, 2017 02:25 am
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My prompt for this week was “Finding something that has been lost.” It ended up being 11.5k words long, so I will post it in two parts. 

This one got me so excited! Please let me know what you think. :D

This is a bit of psychological memory/dream fun for Tony. 

Please look for the cut!

Sometime after Howard died, Tony had started dreaming of Captain America. In his dreams, Tony called him Steve, and Steve called him Iron Man. They fought side-by-side, Steve in his familiar patriotic uniform, Tony in a suit of armor that let him fly. At the end of the fight, Steve would put a hand on his shoulder and call him Shellhead. He would smile, even covered in dirt, and sweat, and blood, and Tony would feel like he was flying with his feet firmly on the ground.

When the grizzled captain of Howard’s survey vessel had shown up asking where his grant had gone, Tony had considered throwing him out. Instead, he’d put on two layers of long underwear, bought a parka, and gotten on a creaky boat to go explore glaciers. Just like the old man had year-after-miserable-year.

The water rocked him to sleep, and he dreamed of Captain America in Tony’s mansion home. Tony saw the mansion through the eyeslits of a helmet, with Steve ahead of him on the stairs. They moved together through the house, and Tony had the strangest feeling that they were having a conversation he couldn’t quite hear. It seemed like his ears weren’t working exactly right.

Steve stopped him as they crossed into the kitchen, and turned to face him. Tony was aware of Steve’s hand on his arm, but he couldn’t feel it through the armor. He imagined he could, though, the warm expanse of his palm pressed into Tony’s skin, long artist’s fingers curled around his bicep.

“I miss you, Shellhead,” Steve said. He set his forehead against Tony’s helmet. “I miss you. Come back.”

“Back?” Tony asked, but his voice wouldn’t carry through the helmet. “I’m right here.”

“Come back,” Steve repeated, and pressed a kiss to Tony’s helmet. “I’m waiting for you.”

Tony woke shivering and coated in a slick layer of sweat. He ducked further into his sleeping bag and wiped clammy hands across his face. His lips were chapped and salty with sweat and his feet were both cold and sweaty. He struggled out of the sleeping bag and cursed at the cold floor even through two pairs of socks, and squeezed himself into the tiny head. He tried to be grateful that he had a private bathroom and shower, but it was hard to do when he was hung over, freezing, soaked in sweat, and barely had room to turn around between the toilet and the shower stall.

He shucked off his sweaty long underwear and stepped under the spray as soon as it was warm enough not to give him frostbite. The first touch of the warm water made him convulse with shudders, and he danced in a quick circle around the chilly tile. Fog rose up against the glass door to obscure the rest of the head, and for a second Tony could believe that he was back in his dream, showering after a battle. For some reason, even looking at Steve –Captain America, Christ, his subconscious was on a (kind of) first name basis with Captain America – Tony was sure that he had to keep his identity a secret. Captain America was Steve and Tony was Iron Man.

How fucked up was that? He invented a dream world where his childhood hero was not only alive, but called him by affectionate pet names, and for some reason he didn’t want Steve to know his actual identity. Maybe it made sense. Maybe Steve wouldn’t call him by affectionate nicknames if he knew it was Tony under the suit, Tony with a heart problem (he didn’t have a heart problem, what a strange thing to make up), Tony who wasn’t even a good man while Iron Man was a hero.

And in typical Stark fashion, Tony was turning his strange dream into a living obsession, out on the high seas just like the old man, searching for a corpse. Tony had no idea what he expected to find, or what he thought would happen once he did. So maybe he found The Valkyrie. Maybe he brought Captain America home in a block of ice. What then? Display his shield at the Smithsonian? Send his body on tour like an Egyptian mummy? Maybe pick through Hydra’s allegedly magical weapons and find some new terror to unleash on the world?

Tony felt the ghost of Steve’s hand on his shoulder, a voice whispering I miss you from the depths of his dreams. Breathing in the steam, Tony set his forehead against the shower stall door and let the water beat down on his back.

Come back, Steve kept saying somewhere in his head.

“I don’t understand,” Tony told the glass door.

He reached out almost unwillingly and flipped the lever off. Cool air rushed in the moment the water turned off, and his skin pebbled up instantly. Slapping one arm across his chest, he snaked the other out of the shower and snagged his towel off the hook. As soon as he got home, he was installing heated floors – hell maybe heated walls, and heated toilet seats while he was at it – in every bathroom he owned. Theoretically, it was 72 degrees in the berths.

“Seventy-two degrees my ass,” he muttered as he pushed back into his cabin for clean clothing.

~*~

On deck, the captain stood in a rainslicker with a dented tin mug in one hand and a pair of binoculars held up to his eyes with the other. Tony clutched the handrail and tucked his face closer to his shoulder. The ship reared up and came down tilted to one side, somehow at the exact angle to spray freezing water right into his hood. It soaked into his thick sweater, and wet wool smelled like piss. He would vow to burn every piece of wool-anything he owned when he got home, except that it would probably smell even worse on fire.

“What are we going to do today?” Tony shouted over the crashing surf. He more than half expected one day the captain would catch on (and/or spontaneously grow a sense of humor) and respond, what we do every day – try and take over the world.

“We’re going to drop a submersible mid-day and start a spiral while they’re checking the glaciers,” the captain explained. It was obvious from his tone that he didn’t like explaining anything to Tony, but he was aware of who signed his paychecks and resented the obligation even more for it. “You should go down below with Dr. Banner in the echo lab.”

Tony reeled and the ship seemed to drop out from under his feet. When he landed, the deck of the ship had vanished and he was in some kind of science fiction lab. The displays around him where soft blue and floating in the air, a design for an Iron Man suit, but far more advanced than the one he saw in his dream-mirror. There was a man at one of the workstations on the opposite side of the room with rumpled clothes and mussed hair, and glasses sitting crooked on the bridge of his nose. He was staring at a magnified cell displayed on a transparent screen, one hand carefully adjusting a dial on a microscope and the other pushing his glasses up his nose every few seconds.

“I think I might have found the problem,” he said.

“What problem?” Tony asked, and then heard himself tack on Bruciebear. More pet names for people he didn’t know, except he did know them. This was Bruce Banner, and also the Hulk, and Green Bean, and Meangreen, and Bruciebear, and Rage Monster.

At his desk, Bruce sighed and reached under his glasses to rub at the inside corners of his eyes. “Were you doing that thing where you nod and make appropriate noises while you ignore me when I explained this last week?” he asked tiredly.

“Probably?” Tony ventured.

Bruce made an exasperated noise, but he didn’t sound surprised, or even all that annoyed. In fact, he sounded almost fond. Tony couldn’t figure out why Rage Monster was one of the nicknames he had for this unassuming, harmless-looking man, except that he had an abrupt thought that Bruce had once broken Harlem.

“Where are you, Tony?” Bruce asked, his voice suddenly soft and sad.

“I’m right here,” Tony said. He took a step around the table he’d been working at – Iron Man components spread out on the surface, not actually iron, his head supplied nonsensically, but gold titanium alloy, 1:3 ratio. He slipped on a puddle of spilled water and hit the floor hard.

When he opened his eyes, the captain was leaning over him, familiar weathered face pulled into an exasperated frown. “Mr. Stark?”

“Who’s Dr. Banner?” Tony asked, blinking rapidly against the spray of salt water. The captain’s expression turned from exasperated to confused. “You said I should go down below with Dr. Banner in the echo lab.”

Eyes narrowed, the captain said, “Dr. Winslow is in the echo lab. Do you need to see the physician?”

Tony shook his head, growing annoyed and frightened at his day-time dreaming. Maybe he’d hit his head when he fell. “No, I’m fine. Just misheard.”

Not convinced, the captain helped him to his feet. “Get below decks,” he suggested, “It’s slick up here.”

“Can’t have your paycheck falling overboard?” Tony tried to joke as the captain firmly sealed Tony’s hand to the rail, holding it there until he felt Tony grip it.

Giving him a scarily big grin under his bushy beard, the captain took a swallow of his coffee and reminded him, “You already invested us a grant that will keep the operation going for another five years.”

“Right,” Tony said, and then decided, “Maybe I’ll go below deck.”

“Good idea,” the captain said sagely and watched Tony half-climb and half-slide down the stairs.

When Tony looked back up, the captain had his binoculars up again, legs spread and rocking with the motion of the boat so perfectly that he could have been fused to it. Tony shook his head, asked himself again what had possessed him to think that an arctic sea voyage was a good idea, and shouldered the door open. A heave of the boat on the waves nearly tumbled him down the short set of stairs, but he managed to catch onto the door and ended up being flung into the wall instead. He shoved the door against the wind, sealed it shut and sagged back to rest his weight on the bulkhead with his eyes closed. He was sweating again, and still freezing cold even in the comparatively toasty interior of the vessel.

“Stop the engines, Iron Man!” an unfamiliar-but-familiar voice shouted. “There’s something out there!”

Tony opened his eyes and found his vision closed in by the eyeslits of Iron Man’s armor once more, an even older version of the armor than he’d been walking around in with Steve at his side in the mansion. It was heavier and there wasn’t even a cursory display on the inside. He looked down and found that he was standing at a helm, his hands on a wheel, dozens of controls and levers and buttons at his elbows. He looked toward the voice and found a giant of a man in a red cape and a bewinged helmet standing at a porthole. They were obviously deep under water.

Thor, his dream-memory supplied, a god – not a god, an alien with the name of a god. A hammer no one else could lift. They were on an Avenger’s mission in a submarine off the coast of Alaska. The particulars of the mission are fuzzy except for the notion of a man who swam like a fish and refused to wear anything other than underwear.

“Looks like a human, but how it possible?” Another familiar-not-familiar voice said. Hank Pym in the red and blue skin-tight costume of Ant Man… or Giant Man, though it didn’t make sense that he could be both when they were contradictory monikers. High Pockets, Tony’s dream memory offered, and Blue Eyes, though the pet names aren’t his own. He remembered Jan van Dyne’s voice supplying them all, and why would it be Jan of all people? Tony liked her – they’d more-or-less grown up together, but he couldn’t imagine her on a submarine.

Tony shook his head and looked out the porthole again. A figure drifted slowly past the window, and Tony’s heart seized in his chest. Low on power? He thought, one gauntleted hand pressing to the chestplate. He’d grown accustomed to the strange idea that his heart needed a battery over weeks of weird dreams, but this felt different. For some reason he couldn’t quite pin down, he knew that the person floating by their underwater craft was Steve.

Steve. He’d found him. After weeks (months? Years?) of searching, he’d found him. But it wasn’t… he couldn’t know who it was, didn’t know who it was, this was an accident. They hadn’t been searching for anyone except Mr. Speedo. He watched Hank seal himself into the airlock and heard the outer hatch open to pour freezing water in with him. Half of Hank’s body appeared in view of the porthole, far too large, maybe distorted by the water? Except Tony also knew that he could grow to nearly ten-feet in height, or shrink to the size of an insect (Physics didn’t work that way). He reached out of the porthole to grab the floating figure – Steve – by his ankle and pull him inside.

It doesn’t work that way, Tony thought, annoyed. Never mind the temperature of the water, or physics, or the ridiculous notion that Hank could change the size of his body (The Hulk, Tony’s dream-memory reminded him in a nauseating explosion of images: himself in a giant suit of armor begging the Hulk to go to sleep (what?) and Bruciebear tearing through his clothing as he turned green, and the Hulk leap-frogging over buildings, punching a giant sky-worm (what the fuck?)).

He felt dizzy and sick to his stomach, like being rocked on the surface instead of insulated below the waves. Tony shook his head hard enough to make the helmet rattle, but he was suffocating inside of it, it was too close, and too small, and smelled like iron (really iron, not gold-titanium alloy 1:3). He gagged and tried to take it off, but his hands stayed firmly by his sides.

When he turned around, he was in some kind of lab with the other Avengers (who was driving the boat?), staring down at the body (Steve) laid out on a bunk. He was dressed in familiar red, blue, and white, with the shield on his chest, face relaxed in sleep, hands at his sides. His uniform was sparingly covered in scraps of tan cloth (he’d been frozen, nothing should have disintegrated) Tony also remembered an image of him incased in a block of ice, thawing slowly on a table, surrounded by SHIELD techs in biohazard gear (What was SHIELD? – Except he did remember Director, no Colonel Fury, a doughnut shop, a hostile takeover, a woman with red hair infiltrating his life, Iron Man yes, Tony Stark no.). Tony hadn’t been there for that one, had only seen the images in the aftermath, but how could they both be real?

Thor and Hank examined the man like they didn’t immediately recognize him (neither of them had been there the other time, but they’d both been in the house with Steve in Tony’s other dreams, they should know him), and Tony just watched, trapped in his own body, head spinning agonizingly fast. His memories jumped from a sparkling tower, to a sprawling mansion, from a file projected above him in glowing blue, to the submarine, and back.

Thor plucked at the scraps of Steve’s clothing and pointed out his ‘colorful costume’ – congratulations, Captain Obvious, maybe you should give your mom back her drapes and stop playing dress-up, Tony thought snidely. (Forest somewhere in Germany, the trees shattering around them, watching Thor on a digital display with data flickering in the corners of his eyes. Suit charged to 400% “Doth mother know’th that thou wear’th her drapes?”)

“Wait!” Wasp said, voice tiny and high-pitched and fast, “Don’t you recognize it? It’s the famous red, white, and blue garb of Captain America!”

No shit? Tony meant to shout, but instead heard himself exclaim in shock, “The Wasp is right!”

Steve’s eyes opened and somehow went right to Tony, as if he’d expected him to be there, as if he’d been waiting for Tony all along. “I’m sorry I haven’t been there as much as I would like, Tony,” he said softly. No one else seemed to hear him. “Please come back to me.”

“I’m right here,” Tony screamed in frustration. “I’m right here!”

His voice echoed inside his helmet, and Steve just looked at him sadly.

“Mr. Stark?” A hand landed on his shoulder. Tony felt it, but he shouldn’t have because the armor – “Mr. Stark?”

Tony opened his eyes and found himself staring up at a woman. She had long, straight brown hair, and she was tiny, with delicate bone structure and intelligent eyes. “Jane?” he asked, confused. She was Thor’s girlfriend. Except Thor wasn’t real, he was a construct of Tony’s seriously fucked up and obviously over-indulged imagination.

“It’s Dr. Winslow,” she reminded him slowly, and then added, “Emily.”

Tony shook his head to clear out the last of the dream, and blinked at her. She wasn’t that tiny – actually she was probably 5’8” and her hair was a dishwater blond pulled back in a tail. She had hazel eyes and Jolie-lips, and a decidedly Scandinavian cast to her features. He looked around suspiciously, but he was back on the boat, standing in the echo lab. The ocean crashed against the portholes and slid away, very close to the waterline, but not under the surface.

“Sorry,” Tony said. He flashed a winning smile at her. From her expression, he’d missed winning and ended up somewhere around worrying.

“Do you need to go see the physician?” she asked.

“No!” Tony roared. “I need you to find Steve!”

Dr. Winslow flinched back from him and then squared her shoulders and glared. “It’s Steve now is it?”

For a second, she looked like Natasha (who was Natasha?) and Tony pressed his hands to his eyes until she reverted back to Emily Winslow. “Sorry,” he said. “Maybe I’ll just go… lay down.”

“That might be a good idea, Mr. Stark,” she said somewhat frostily.

~*~

Tony woke in a bed that was at least twice as wide as he was – which was an obvious lie since his bunk onboard the ship was barely wide enough for him to lay on his back, and he’d rolled out of it more than once. He stretched his hands out looking for the wall, but he found only mattress and smooth sheets as far as he could reach on either side.

He pulled his head out of the pillow and looked around blurrily. He was in an unfamiliar bedroom – but it was his bedroom, at the tower in Manhattan. King-sized bed, because ‘comfortably sleeps three’ had been a plus at one point, tastefully decorated because Pepper (Pepper? PA – no, CEO – no, girlfriend – no, ex-girlfriend) had done it for him.

“Mr. Stark,” Jarvis called into the room.

Tony jumped, ready to remind Jarvis that he didn’t like people sneaking up on him while he was sleeping, but the room was empty when he rolled over.

“Mr. Stark,” Jarvis repeated from somewhere in the vicinity of the ceiling. Speakers, Tony thought, an intercom system (except that Jarvis was dead and this was JARVIS, who was not speaking through a computer, he was a computer. Tony clearly remembered hundreds of hours of coding, and putting together composites of dozens of voices, tweaking and pushing, and dissolving into sobs when he finally got it right).

Breathing past the sudden heat behind his eyes, Tony called out, “Yes?”

“Captain Rogers is looking for you. Shall I tell him you are indisposed?”

Tony checked the bed to make sure he was alone and then said, “No, that’s fine. Let him in.”

There was a brief pause and then Jarvis said, “As you like, sir.”

The door opened and Steve blustered in, mostly in uniform (different than the uniform on the submarine, different than the uniform in the mansion house, different again than the uniform on the helicarrier (Helicarrier?)), and carrying an armful of paper.

“Tony, can you please –” Steve stopped abruptly and stared at Tony in the bed. His Captain America Mode face faltered and color rose up on his cheeks. He shuffled his feet and Tony was surprisingly turned on by his missing shoes. The red toes on his navy blue socks were somehow adorable.

Tony pulled up a smile from somewhere and said, “Can I please…?”

“Uh. Clothes?” Steve fumbled. When Tony’s smile grew wider, Captain America Mode re-engaged and he continued forward like Tony wasn’t sitting up in bed wearing nothing but a pair of tight red boxer briefs (“I feel a little foolish about keeping that secret from you till now,” he remembered saying, standing in nothing but a thong with his armor stripped away, Steve’s shocked expression as he realized that his friend Iron Man was Tony Stark, and Tony terrified that shock was bordering on anger).

He shivered and reached for a pillow to pull across his lap, tapping the space next to him. Steve sat down with one knee tucked up on the bed. He spread the paperwork over Tony’s pillow – mission reports, and why did Steve still print them out? – and handed Tony a pen and a clipboard to write on.

Tony made a put-upon noise and heard himself babbling, reading through the pages even though they were meaningless and he wanted to talk to Steve, but he couldn’t shut himself up long enough to say anything that mattered.

Steve reached over suddenly and caught his hand, and Tony had the conflicting impressions that he was still writing and that his hand was immobile (and cold) under Steve’s grip. He wanted to turn his hand over and lace their fingers together, he wanted to pull his hand away, he wanted to see how the hell words were still appearing on the page when he wasn’t writing them.

“Tony, please. I’d do anything for you to just come back. I miss you, Shellhead. I miss you.”

“GODAMMNIT!” Tony howled somewhere in his head, while his hand filled out mission reports (and I told Legolas Katniss Hawkeye not to jump off the building, but he did it anyway, and sidenote please someone make Clint check his hearing because I am starting to doubt that he’s really just that annoying and suspect he might have some hearing loss…) “I am right here, Steve. I am trying to find you, I swear. I am… I am tearing up half the planet looking for you. Just tell me where you are, and I will come to you, please.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Iron Man,” Steve said, patting his hand.

“Fuck fuck fucking goddamn fuck!” Tony shouted after him in frustration and tossed himself sideways. He landed on the cold floor in his cabin, tangled up in his sleeping bag, shivering and drenched in sweat once again. It was even worse than being trapped in the Iron Man suit, smothered by the fabric and trapped with his own heat, the sick scent of his sweat.

Poundpoundpound! “Mr. Stark! Mr. Stark are you alright?”

“Jarvis?” Tony croaked, and then stopped because Jarvis was at home with the Avengers – no, dead – no, an AI – no, Vision (Vision?). Tony was starting to unravel, he couldn’t keep anything straight. “I’m fine!” he called out breathlessly. “I’m fine.”

“Mr. Stark, do you need to go to the infirmary?”

“No!” he yelled, suddenly panicking and not sure why. “No. I’ll be right out.” He didn’t even know who was on the other side of the door and suddenly couldn’t remember who else was on the ship, except the captain… captain … he had a name, Tony was sure. Dr. Banner – no, Foster – NO, Winslow. There were… there was a cook. At least one? And… other people, who did things?

Was he that much of an asshole that he really hadn’t noticed anyone else? No, one of Tony’s talents had always been in recognizing people, remembering names. He knew the names of most his employees at Stark Industries – Stark International – Stark… Jesus Christ, he couldn’t even remember the name of his own company. He made a desperate, trapped animal noise, and finally managed to struggle out of his sleeping bag, worming across the floor, and his legs suddenly didn’t work right, he needed the reactor in the workshop (Reactor?).

Tony shoved himself up to his feet (he wasn’t paralyzed, not by Obadiah (what the fuck?) or the suit damaging his nervous system) and stumbled into the head like he was drunk (No, he’d been sober for a decade – no, he’d just been drinking the night before, he’d woken up hung over, hadn’t he?). He didn’t even recognize his own face in the mirror and smashed a fist against it, but it wasn’t actually glass and all it did was hurt his hand. He cursed, tripped over the toilet, bashed his elbow against the shower stall, and finally managed to get himself under the showerhead.

The cold water made him shout, and his entire body seemed to convulse all at once. For several seconds, his lungs were frozen, and then he sucked in a breath. He was on a deep sea survey vessel that his father had commissioned a decade before. The captain had shown up at his mansion in Upstate New York to ask where his grant money had gone (he hadn’t even known that Dad was dead), and Tony had suited up and gone with him. They were ostensibly searching for the wreckage of The Valkyrie and Captain America’s presumably frozen corpse, though Tony knew that the captain and crew mostly used it for their own studies.

They would find Captain America, and Tony’s dreams would be banished along with the madness. Shivering violently, he reached up and turned the lever over to hot, only gradually becoming aware that he was still in his clothing.

~*~

“We may have found something worth exploring,” the captain said when Tony finally made it to the mess for dinner. The food was so heavy and carb-rich, and Tony should weigh 300 pounds with mashed potatoes and bread and pasta every night, but he was losing weight faster than his belt could keep up.

Tony looked up at the captain, afraid to realize that he’d been hearing things again. “Oh?” he ventured cautiously.

The captain nodded his grizzled head. “Out on the ice. We’ll take a submersible out tomorrow if you want to go.”

Tony frowned, remembered Steve’s body drifting past the porthole, and asked, “Why are we taking a submersible if it’s on the ice?”

Setting down his fork, the captain stared at him hard. “I said we’re taking an expedition out tomorrow. Do you want to go?”

Tony stuffed a forkful of mashed potatoes into his mouth to stop the frustrated scream clawing at his throat. “Right, sorry. Yes, I would like to go.”

“Mr. Stark,” the captain said (why couldn’t Tony remember his name?) “I really think you should see the physician.”

“No,” Tony said, keeping his voice to a low grumble, “I’m fine. I’m just distracted and can’t seem to get my… sea legs, or whatever. I’m fine.” He shoveled the rest of the potatoes into his mouth and stuffed half of his meatloaf in after. His mouth was too full to even chew, but it was all off the tray, so he gathered up the dishes and hurried out of the mess.

Alone in the corridor, he leaned against the bulkhead and struggled to swallow the last of his dinner. They were going to find Steve tomorrow, The Valkyrie half-buried in the snow (did that make sense after seventy odd years? No, not seventy-odd, it hadn’t been that long. Just fifty? Maybe only twenty-four? He couldn’t keep it straight.) He finally managed to choke down the mouthful and hit himself hard in the chest to clear his airway (the reactor, Jesus – except, it wasn’t there. He didn’t have a heart problem, he’d never been to Afghanistan – no, Vietnam).

Stop, he commanded himself. He would find Steve tomorrow and it would all be over.

“Mr. Stark? Are you feeling –”

“I’m fine!” Tony interrupted the crewmen who’d just stepped around the corner. “Just… went down the wrong tube. Fine.” He pushed past the man (he had a name, Tony was sure), and hurried back to his cabin. It was probably a better idea if he just stayed there until the expedition left in the morning.

~*~

The boat pitched sharply and Tony jerked awake. He was slumped forward on the bench of a motorboat. For several panicky seconds he didn’t remember how he’d gotten there. He remembered going to bed the night before, his dinner sitting heavy in stomach. He thought he remembered throwing up in the night. He definitely remembered fighting, fighting, fighting, endlessly. He remembered being in a wheelchair at one point, and in a HUMVEE the next, driving a race car, dancing with Pepper, fighting with Pepper, fighting with Steve.

He remembered falling to his knees in the sand and Rhodey’s arms closing over his shoulders, and being so tired and so relieved that all he could do was laugh, except his throat was too dry to make the noise and it sounded like sobbing. He remembered pulling the collar of his shirt aside to see lines like microcircuits creeping up his neck. He remembered building his own particle accelerator. He remembered Steve’s eyes following him with disappointment as Tony broke into a secure facility to retrieve his stolen technology, and going through Steve to do it.

He didn’t remember getting up in the morning, or getting dressed, or getting on the boat, but he must have done because he was squished on a bench between the captain and a lump of a person obscured by heavy cold-weather gear.

“STARK!” the captain shouted over the crash of the surf. “If you’re going to be sick, do it over the side!”

Tony just shook his head. “I’m fine.”

“You should see the physician when we get back on board!”

Tony just barely restrained the urge to shove the captain over the side. “I’M FINE!” he screamed, his voice going shrill in an effort to rise over the hum of the engine, the whip of the wind, and the splash of the icy water against the boat. They were racing over water the color of a cold corpse, arrowing toward a landscape of ice and snow. The sun hit the ice and turned it a shade of white-gold that he couldn’t quite describe. Even through the tinted goggles, it made his eyes sting.

The boat slowed as they approached the beach, and two figures in the front jumped out to pull the boat up the shore. Tony lurched again as the hull scraped over the black sand. They anchored it to the ice and two of the puffy winter-gear figures stayed behind with the boat while Tony was jostled into the center of the rest of the group. Tony’s thighs trembled and his stomach hallowed out. He felt weak and cold through the core.

“Come on, Tones,” Rhodey said from behind the thick balaclava. His voice was muffled and his breath fogged the air in front of him.

Tony turned to look at him, and Rhodey stared back from the slit of the woven mask. “Rhodey, I don’t understand what’s happening,” Tony pleaded.

“You’ve pulled through worse, Tony,” Rhodey said. His voice was too soft for Tony to hear over the shriek of the wind, but he heard it as if they were alone in a silent room. “You can do this.”

“I don’t understand!”

“Come back to us. We’re all waiting. Steve’s waiting. If you can’t come back for me, you can come back for him.”

“I’m trying,” Tony gritted out. “I’m looking for him. Jesus fucking Christ, just tell me where he is!”

Rhodey reached over and grabbed Tony by both arms. He shook him hard enough to make Tony’s head swim. His vision went white-blue-black-blue-white-gray-white-blue. He moaned, as his stomach turned over and squeezed hard.

“Mr. Stark!”

It was the captain, not Rhodey (Of course not Rhodey, James Rhodes was a classmate at MIT, and they were friends, they were best friends, but Rhodey wasn’t War Machine, wasn’t a colonel, wasn’t on the expedition, didn’t know Steve (yes, of course he did, he was a fucking Avenger, he’d been Iron Man and Iron Patriot, and he’d rescued Tony in Vietnam – no, Afghanistan. He’d been employee, friend, ally, adversary. They’d fought together and against each other, and rescued the president, momma hen and papa bear.)

“Just the snow,” Tony gasped out. “It’s just the glare of the sun on the snow.”

“Open your eyes, man!” the captain shouted. “The sun isn’t even out!”

Tony cracked his eyes open and the captain was right, of course he was. The sun was just barely above the horizon, one larger star among a sea of them. The sky was dark. Snow ghosted across a barren landscape of ice fields. He was wearing snowshoes. When he looked over his shoulder, the shore wasn’t even visible. They could have been walking for days. He remembered taking the boat in, taking a helicopter in, riding in on snowmobiles, a sled and a team of dogs.

Tony curled over and put a thickly mittened hand to his head. He might as well have been naked for all the good the winter clothing was doing him – he was chilled and soaked in sweat under his parka, and probably smelled like piss (goddamn wet wool), and his stomach was hugging his spine.

“We’re going back,” the captain decided. “You’re going to medbay!”

“NO!” Tony howled. The wind howled with him. “No. He’s here. He’s here, he’s waiting.”

“He’s waited this long, he can wait a little longer,” the captain argued.

“He’s waited long enough!” Tony screamed into the wind. He pushed away from the captain, hard enough to send the bigger man stumbling back in the snow. Before the captain could recover, Tony hurried off as fast the snowshoes would allow. There was a hill on the horizon, somehow familiar, not quite natural. It was Steve, it had to be. Tony needed it to be Steve, needed the madness to stop.

The Valkyrie should have been buried under decades of snow and ice, but it was completely exposed, debris from the crash littered all around it, streaks of soot turning the blue ice black. Tony struggled out of his snowshoes and ignored the shouts of the crew coming after him. The plane was surprisingly intact. If it had just hit, Steve could have still been alive. Tony scrambled on the ice and broke through the crust to plunge waist-deep into the snow, feet from the plane.

Shouting in frustration, Tony kicked and screamed his way out of the snow, slithered out on his belly, and crawled to the plane. The windows had been shattered out, and Tony could just see the shadow of the pilot’s chair beyond. The nose was buried several feet in the ice so the bottom lip of the window was only seven or eight feet off the ground. He jumped, missed the first time, and jumped again. He just managed to catch the edge of the window – he knew that the shards of glass were cutting through the gloves, but he couldn’t feel it. He heaved himself into the plane and spilled down a ramp of ice to the floor, which rattled under his weight. Shitty Hydra construction, bullshit cheap flooring panels.

“Where are you?” he called into the darkness. “Steve! Steve, please!”

“Mr. Stark!” the captain called from outside the plane. “It’s not safe!”

“Fuck you and your safe!” Tony screamed back. He tried to get up, but his knees just gave out. He was weak, and cold, and cold. He couldn’t stand, fine, so he would crawl. The nose of the plane had crashed into the water, frozen, and then been pushed out. There was thick coating of ice that extended from front console to the base of the pilot’s chair.

Tony fumbled a flashlight out of his pocket and swung it around the interior of the plane. Steve would have been in the pilot’s chair when he’d crashed. The impact would have thrown him forward. He could have been thrown out of the windows. He could be anywhere. Drifting under the water where only the submarines could find him, encased in a glacier and lost for another century or twenty.

“No,” Tony said. “No, you’re… You’re here.”

He scraped snow off of the icy console, the beam of his flashlight flickering over the solid ice. It lit up a shadow in the depths, a smudge of irregular darkness against the deeper darkness of the console. An unmistakably human-shaped shadow.

“Steve,” Tony gasped, “Steve. I found you. I found you. I came back for you. Can we stop now? Can we just go home?” He slumped against the ice, pawing at the snow. He could just barely see the glint of light off a silver star. “Please, I want to come home.”

Memory 2/2

Feb. 13th, 2017 02:25 am
ladyshadowdrake: (Default)
via http://ift.tt/2kAtROI:
Second half of my week 6 prompt. 

Find part one here.

Look for the cut!

Tony woke in his bunk. The boat wasn’t just rocking up and down, side-to-side, it was spinning. He was cold and too exhausted to shiver, and he hadn’t zipped the bag up before falling asleep. His left side was even colder than his right, almost numb from his elbow to his shoulder. He struggled to get his arm back into the bag, but he couldn’t reach up to catch the zipper.

“Mr. Stark,” a gravelly voice intruded.

Tony was startled by the voice, but only long after the chance for an appropriate reaction had passed. He twisted to look up the captain. Man looked bigger than ever, or Tony felt smaller than ever. His eyes were very blue against the deeply lined leather of his skin, and he had surprisingly long lashes.

“You need to see the physician,” the captain said firmly.

If there was anything Tony was truly startled about, it was that he’d woken in his own bunk and hadn’t just been taken to medbay while unconscious. He couldn’t remember anything after finding Steve in the ice. Finally, finally finding Steve in the ice.

“Where’s St-… Captain America? Where is he?” Tony asked, more than half dreading being told that it was all a dream, that he’d missed the expedition and they hadn’t found anything anyways.

The captain pursed his chapped lips. The motion made his whiskers bristle out like an annoyed cat. Tony tried to laugh, but the only thing he managed was a vague vibration against his chest. He pulled his knees up slowly, ignored the pain in his hips, and fought to kick out of the sleeping bag.

“Where is he?” he repeated.

Shaking his head, the captain said, “He’s in lab 2. Mr. Stark… Just go to the medbay.”

“No,” Tony said with no heat. He couldn’t muster up the energy for heat, didn’t have a warm molecule in his body. He stumbled off the bunk, and expected the captain to help him stand, but he didn’t. The giant man stood and crossed his arms over his chest. Tony caught the bulkhead and looked at him, but he only shook his grizzly head.

That was fine. It wasn’t like he hadn’t struggled down a hallway by himself before.

(Had Steve carried him out of a building? He thought so, remembered in kaleidoscope fragments being insensible on the floor, the scent of smoke, Captain America’s arms supporting his knees and back. He remembered being carried down a fire escape.

He remembered Steve stepping into his arms and the two of them flying off together. Steve’s weight low on his spine as he flew with Captain America on his back. The sound of Steve’s voice, whooping in childish joy and urging him faster.

He remembered crawling on his knees through his room, shedding pieces of the armor as he went, feet away from the nearest outlet. It might as well have been miles, and there were people just down the hall. Steve, Jan, Hank, Thor – No, Steve, Clint, Natasha, Thor. All he had to do was shout and someone would come to help him across the last few feet to the outlet. He’d crawled on his own, and reached the outlet just in time, just like a dozen other times.)

There was no arc reactor in his chest, but he felt heavy all the same, like he needed a charging port. His joints ached. He pinballed down the corridor, avoiding the shadowy forms of crewmen who had names (everyone did) but he couldn’t remember them.

“Mr. Stark,” the captain said from somewhere behind him. His voice was growing both weary and pleading. “Go to the medbay.”

“No,” Tony croaked. He stepped-slid-slipped down the stairs and leaned against the wall. The corridor broke off left and right. The left-hand side was illuminated. MEDBAY, the sign read, blue on white, and underlined in red. The right-hand side was dark, the sign rusted over. LAB 2. It might as well have said Steve.

He turned to the right, ignored the captain’s exasperated sigh, and slid down the wall. The corridor stretched, and narrowed, closed in on him until his vision was reduced to a horizontal slit.

“Where are you going, Shellhead?” Steve called from behind him. Tony stopped and knocked his head lightly against the wall. Steve’s footsteps caught up, clatterclatter, and he curved around Tony until he stood in front of him. He was dressed in a dark blue knit top and pleated khaki pants (who under the age of 70 wore pleated pants unironically? Steve, that’s who. And he looked damn good in them.) Tony felt his lips pulling up at the corners.

“Are you ducking out on us, Tony? The party’s back the other way.”

“Not you too,” Tony moaned. “I did what you asked. I found you.”

“It’s important to team morale to have you around,” Steve explained. “We like to see you off the battlefield too, you know? It’s your tower. You should join us. Come back.”

He wanted to turn around. He wanted to follow Steve to the common room – Steve had called him Tony, he didn’t need to keep his identity a secret. He could take off the armor (it was so heavy) and sit down, or stand at the bar, or watch Bruce slowly realize that Natasha was trying to flirt with him (No, she and Clint were together, she’d turned double agent for SHIELD against the Soviets – No, the Soviet Union didn’t exist, she was his PA – no, she was Fury’s right hand – no, Fury was dead – no, he’d faked his death. Bruce had Betty – no, Veronica. Go to sleep.)

“Steve. I’m tired.”

“Come back with me,” Steve said softly.

“You’re in the lab.” Tony closed his eyes and tried to make his stomach stop twisting. “That way is the medical bay.”

He opened his eyes and Steve was gone, the corridor was as bright as any other, and he was just outside the door to the lab. There were people crowded around the room in white jackets over thick sweaters, blue nitrile gloves, and hairnets, and safety goggles. Tony pushed through them, and they moved without complaint, silent as ghosts. The first glimpse of Steve on the table was almost enough to make him cry. He was soaking wet, water dripping off the table to patter on the floor.

“Steve.”

There was no way that someone frozen for seventy years (twenty-four? Fifty?) could be alive, but Tony expected him to turn and open his eyes. He pushed past the last pair of white coats to the edge of the table. He froze, and shook his head sharply to clear his vision. It wasn’t Steve on the table, relaxed in cold-induced slumber, tinged blue with chill. It was Tony in the undersuit and one gauntlet, his cheeks hollowed out. His chest rose and fell in jerky, too-even swells. He had a pattern of burns across his chest and neck, tiny holes in the fabric of the undersuit. His vision flickered, and for a second he was looking up at a swinging light from a cot, shadows looming over him, the scent of burnt flesh and metal and ozone thick in the room.

He closed his eyes and pressed his hands to his face until purple and yellow lights exploded behind his eyelids. When he opened his eyes again, the room had solidified, and it was still his own body on the table, soaking wet and tinged blue with the cold, dozens of wounds that had frozen over.

“What is this?” he demanded. When no one responded, he whirled around. The room spun and he fell back against the table, knocking the light eschew. It swung wildly flickering yellow-dark-yellow-dark. He closed his eyes against the swell of dizzy nausea, and felt a sudden impact of cold metal on his shoulders. The ship continued to toss and roll, and Tony reached out to grab onto any solid surface.

“Tony,” Steve said softly. “Tony, just open your eyes.”

Angry and frustrated and tired and cold, Tony let his eyelids drift open. Steve leaned over him, haloed by the overhead lamp, looking just as tired and frustrated and cold as Tony felt. The skin under his eyes was darkened and lined with stress, his hair was a mess, but he was still smiling. He set a hand on Tony’s cheek. The ship had stopped moving and the room was empty but for them. Tony couldn’t help but notice how much Lab 2 looked like a morgue. He was on an examination table and it was filled with water.

“Are you going to get up?” Steve asked.

Tony let his breath out in a shuddery wheeze. He nodded and grabbed the slick edges of the table to pull himself upright. To his shock, Steve slid an arm under his knees and helped him move his feet over the side. He put his other arm around Tony’s shoulders and eased him off the table. His feet felt numb and he stumbled when he tried to support his own weight.

Steve caught him with a soft murmur of noise. “You don’t have to do everything alone,” he said.

Tony leaned into his shoulders, and together they shuffled out of the lab and back into the corridor. They passed the captain at the juncture that would lead back to his cabin. The man had his arms crossed over his chest and he stared Tony down as they came to a slow stop in front of him. Tony peered around the captain’s bulky form, and then back up the sign. MEDBAY.

He knew that the captain would move if Tony turned back for the cabin. He also knew that Steve wouldn’t go with him. His head dropped back, and he forced his spine to straighten.

“Fine,” he said. “Fine. I’ll go see the goddamn physician.” He pushed away from the support of Steve’s arms and walked down the corridor with one hand against the wall. The ship continued to rock, knocking him gently side-to-side, Steve trailing silently at his back.

The door at the end of the hall swung open at a touch, and the boat abruptly stopped moving. He looked over his shoulder to the familiar corridors of the ship, the captain just visible at the turn in the hallway, Steve standing silently beside him, and then turned back to the door. Through the doorway was a shore of dark sand, the sullen blue of Atlantic Ocean with a storm gathering in the distance. The air was cold and electric with impending fury, and far above the water the sky had been torn open.

The tossing of the ship was suddenly a comfort he wasn’t ready to give up. He didn’t want to step through the door, didn’t want to put his feet on solid ground.

“You’re not a coward, Tony,” Steve said softly.

Head bowed, Tony stepped down from the doorway and into a patch of tough grass that had clawed through the sand. He leaned back to look up at the fight going on far above his head. Iron Man and War Machine were bare specs against the gray clouds, but he knew the shape of their fingers, the curve of War Machine’s neck as he angled upward, the vibration of the suit’s thrusters pushing him up and up.

Steve stepped out of the doorway, but didn’t close the door. He stopped at Tony’s side and looked up. His expression was one of profound sadness as he watched, like he knew what was going to happen. Of course, he did know what was going to happen, because Tony knew what was going to happen.

Ahead of them, Captain America ran to the edge of the water, helpless on the ground, every line of his body expressing his frustration and fear. He put a hand to his ear.

“Iron Man, War Machine, stand down!” he commanded. There was no answer. His lips thinned into a worried-angry-frightened line. “Tony, there is another way. Come back.”

“Sorry, Cap,” Tony whispered. He couldn’t hear Iron Man’s response through the comms, but he didn’t need to. He closed his eyes. “I’ll take it from here, Rhodey.”

“Not on your life,” the ghost of Rhodey’s voice replied. “No more fun-vees, remember?”

“Don’t be stupid,” Tony said, his fingers moving in a complicated programed-and-never used pattern.

“Tony? What are you doing? TONY!” Rhodey shouted so loudly that his voice distorted through the comm.

“What’s going?” Captain America demanded, “What’s happening? Talk to me!”

In the air above them, War Machine broke off from Iron Man’s side and curved away from the gaping hole in the sky, jerking and twisting as Rhodey tried to regain control of the armor. He would eventually – it was only ever meant to be used in case of emergency, in the event that Rhodey became incapable of handling the controls himself and needed assistance to land. It was never meant to stand up to the concerted effort of the pilot to resist.

Tony crossed his arms over his chest and watched dully as the spec that was Iron Man angled up into an even steeper climb. He had a bomb held to his chest, designed by Richards to close the tangled crossroads he’d inadvertently created between multiple universes. Between everyone on hand, only Iron Man and War Machine had the flight capability, speed, and shielding to carry the bomb, and between the two of them only Tony really understood how it worked. Most days, Tony really hated that he’d ever learned the word ‘multiverse.’

“Whatever happened to cutting the wire?” Steve asked gently from his side as they watched Iron Man disappear against the madness-inducing darkness of the portal. In the air, Rhodey was weaving drunkenly and turning shaky loops as he fought the auto-land protocol, and Captain America had his hands and jaw clenched equally tight.

“Sometimes you just don’t have the wire clippers on hand,” Tony murmured.

“Tony,” Captain America said – Steve, he’d been Steve then. “Don’t do this again.”

“Practice makes perfect, Cap,” Tony quipped in reply.

Neither Steve or Captain America had been able to argue, because of course Tony was right. He usually was when it counted.

Rhodey’s thrusters abruptly cut out and he plummeted through the air toward the water below as deadweight. Clever, cutting suit power completely and rebooting. Before he’d fallen a dozen yards, power re-engaged and he threw his hands out to reverse his trajectory. It was too late, and Rhodey must have known it, but he rocketed straight up in pursuit of Iron Man.

Five seconds later, there was a sudden crush of pressure that made Rhodey falter and Steve stumble two steps into the surf, and then an explosion of white-gold light that swallowed up the sky. Tony held a hand over his ears and flinched away from the light. He felt a sense of vertigo, twisting, pitching, falling, and then a smack on his shoulders like hitting concrete, the suit breaking away and water rushing in.

The sky dimmed. After the brilliance of the explosion, everything seemed dark and dull. Silence and pressure swallowed the beach. Tony could see Captain America’s mouth moving, screaming something he couldn’t make out. Rhodey tumbled and jittered through the sky, thrusters firing intermittently, flight stabilizers flickering as he flailed his arms in an instinctive attempt to regain his balance. Tony watched as he oriented himself and then turned and dove back toward the waves.

For several beats, there was no sound, no movement. Tony felt the cold settling into his bones as he watched Captain America pace restlessly at the boarder of land and sea. When War Machine broke through the surface with an armor-less Tony in his arms, Steve splashed into the waves to meet him and practically tore Tony out of his grip. They crashed to the sand, water licking at their feet, and Steve yanked Tony’s mouth open to check his airway, tilted Tony’s head back and sealed their lips together. Rhodey dropped heavily on Tony’s other side, the faceplate of the armor looking absolutely murderous in the strange light.

As Steve begged Tony’s lungs to give up the water and accept the air, it started to rain. Heavy sheets fell, dark and cold around them, and the world started to go dark at the edges.

Tony looked away from the struggle in the sand and turned to the Steve who stood beside him. “Did I die?”

Steve’s eyes glowed in the increasing darkness. He tipped his head to one side and glanced back at the trio in the sand. “I guess that’s up to you.”

Tony turned back around. The door back to the ship was still open. The sign above it read Lab 2. Next to it, another door stood next to it, innocuous wood of the medium-gold plywood installed in every hospital ever built. Medbay, the sign above it read.

“Can’t guess what your vote is,” Tony muttered.

Steve smiled at him. His voice filled with gentle laughter. “You know I’m not really here, right?”

“Doesn’t stop you from having an Opinion,” Tony muttered, but he didn’t wait for Steve to respond. With a gusty sigh, he stepped forward and pushed open the Medbay door.

~*~

Tony swayed in the doorway of the hospital room. It was flooded with golden sunlight, trees and blue sky visible outside the window, the walls lined with monitors and medical equipment. He wasn’t surprised to see himself in the bed, but he was somehow surprised to see Steve sitting beside him with a magazine in his lap, one hand up on Tony’s bed, thumb stroking idly over his knuckles.

Tony shuffled into the room and pressed his hands to the foot of the bed. It didn’t move under his touch, the blankets didn’t pull tight over the feet beneath them.

“Are you going to get up?” Steve asked from behind him.

“What’s the benefit if I do?” Tony asked tiredly. The door shut behind him and the scene he’d just lived through felt immediately less-real, another dream among many.

He could feel Steve’s curious gaze on the back of his neck. “Does it matter?”

“No.” Tony looked at the Steve who sat at his bedside. He was wearing those damn khaki pants, a midnight blue button up shirt, and white tennis shoes with bright white tube socks. His familiar brown leather bomber jacket was draped over the back of the chair. Tony gestured to him helplessly. “You’re such a dork.”

As if he’d heard him, Steve looked up from his magazine, looked at Tony on the bed, and squeezed his hand. Tony felt the ghost of the pressure on his fingers and shivered. “You’re going to have a lot to catch up on. A seventeen year old girl in Australia has made a breakthrough in nanotechnology for cancer treatment. It says here that she’s figured out how to program the bots so they’re attracted to radioactive glucose that the patient drinks and gets absorbed by the cancer cells. I guess it makes the tumors glow?” Steve explained. “They’re self-replicating, but they’re supposed to shut down as soon as they’ve eaten up the cancer, and then they just get eaten up by the body.”

“That sounds like the start of a dystopian science fiction novel,” Tony said.

“Sounds like a bad idea to me,” Steve said, “I’ve seen Stargate. Replicators are bad news.”

“That’s my boy,” Tony praised. He wasn’t – Steve wasn’t his. Steve was dream, a fantasy. Somewhere in the real world, Tony was tossing around in his bunk, fevered and sweating. When he woke up, he should maybe go to the medbay after all. He doubted he would find a hospital room with trees and blue sky beyond.

“You’re lost,” Steve said gently beside him. Tony pulled his attention away from the Steve at his bedside and took in his much more tired version. He seemed skinnier somehow, less. Worn down. “You’re caught in a storm, stuck between realities. They need you here.” He set a gentle hand down on Tony’s leg where it remained unmoving under the hospital blankets.

“Here is a dream,” Tony protested weakly.

“Why? Because it’s too good to be true? That you have friends who love you, family? Me?”

Tony’s hands clenched into fists. “I don’t have you. You’re a corpse somewhere in the Arctic Ocean, or the Bering Sea, or stuffed and mounted on some Nazis’ wall!”

Steve didn’t react to the outburst and Tony panted through a dozen breaths that whistled through his throat like chips of ice. He turned a frustrated circle and came to rest with his back to the hospital bed. The heart monitor became slowly audible under the cadence of his breath. Beep…beep, beep…beep.

Tipping his head to one side, Steve said, “Now you’re dying.”

“I’m not! This isn’t real. There is no reality, no universe that exists outside my head where you-!” He pointed at Steve where he sat with his magazine, fingers slid under Tony’s hand. Tony felt the illusion of warmth and a tickle of pressure at the center of his palm.

“Where Captain America would be concerned for Tony Stark? Or where Steve Rogers might return Tony Stark’s severely constipated version of affection?” Steve suggested.

Tony shot him a glare, and Steve hiked an eyebrow at him, daring him to deny it.

“Why would you prefer to stay on the ship, Tony?” Steve asked when Tony didn’t respond. “Why? Because you’re miserable, and cold all the time, and alone?”

“And this reality is so much better?” Tony demanded, gesturing sharply to the hospital bed. He wasn’t sure exactly which one of the Tony-Stark-is-Iron-Man universes it was, or when. The universe where he kept a guilty secret of his identity, and eventually drank away his company, his friendships, his identity, and put them back together again? Where he lied to people to protect them, and it always blew up in his face, but they stayed (and he did it again)? Was this after he’d lost the secret of his identity, but before his life had gone off the rails, before he’d lost and regained the use of his legs, lost and regained his friendship with Rhodey, lost JARVIS, lost Pepper, turned Happy into a monster?

Or the universe where his weapons were responsible for thousands, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and he let it happen? Where his every effort to rectify his mistakes just compounded the problems, and his own ego knocked him off his feet again and again, where he and Steve were at each throats as often as they had each other’s backs?

Wouldn’t it be better to be none of those things? Start over, go through a normal life in a world where superheroes were only on paper.

“Why are you looking for Captain America?” Steve asked curiously.

“Because you won’t leave me alone!” Tony shouted.

“If this is a world where superheroes don’t exist, why are you looking for one?”

Tony’s jaw slackened. He closed his eyes tightly. The room rocked like they were on the ocean, and Tony’s memory shifted again. The Valkyrie was a German bomber, a regular American soldier had boarded and forced the plane down in the ocean to stop its perfectly normal bombs from reaching American soil. Captain America was a comic book hero created to punch Hitler at a time when America refused to get involved. He was a fantasy.

Steve laughed at him. “You’re putting a lot of effort into making yourself believe that,” he observed. His voice was gentle, softly chiding.

“It makes more sense,” Tony said, sagging against the hospital bed.

Steve moved to stand next to him. He crossed his ankles one way and his arms the other, right-over-left, left-over-right. “Sure. Want to tell me why you’re really hiding?”

Tony’s shoulders slumped. Pieces were slotting into place, the crazy knot that his mind had become slowly unraveling, strands straightening out form the tangle of the others. “You’re better off without me.”

“Or are you better off without me?” Steve pressed.

“Never,” Tony whispered. “You make me… You make me try harder.”

“Who made you try harder after Afghanistan? Or was it Vietnam?” Steve asked.

A grinding noise registered before Tony realized that he’d clenched his teeth. Behind him, Steve’s voice drifted through the room honey-slow, reading out the article on the cancer-fighting nanobots. Tony pulled in a noisy breath through his nose. “Yinsen.”

The Steve beside him said nothing. Tony felt the pressure on his hand increase. Behind him, Steve broke off his reading and said in a cheerful, teasing voice, “If you could wake up and explain how this works to me, I’d sure appreciate it. You know how the future confuses us old men. I need you to… I need you. We’ve been stupid about each other for too long. You deserve better from me.”

Tony slammed a fist into the foot of the bed with a sudden burst of heat. For a moment, his cheeks flushed with warmth and his chest expanded sharply. For a moment, he felt the sun slanting across his chest.

At the bedside, Steve sucked in a sharp breath. He stood up to lean over the bed. “Tony, do that again. Move your foot. Squeeze my hand. Nurse!” he shouted, and then quickly lowered his voice. “Tony, just… anything, please.”

“He loves you,” the Steve standing next to him noted, voice almost curious.

“He doesn’t,” Tony insisted, but his voice shook.

A woman in a lab coat walked into the room. Tony stared at her as she looked up from her clipboard. 5’8” with dirty-blond hair pulled back in a tail, Jolie-mouth, Scandinavian features.

“Dr. Winslow,” Steve said, gesturing her over with one hand. “He moved his foot. I was talking to him, and he – he moved.”

She gave him a sympathetic look that made Tony cringe, her eyes flickering over to the monitors. “Captain Rogers, I know that this is hard for you to accept, but he is in a coma. He’s not responding to you consciously.”

“It’s only been two days,” Steve said stubbornly, “And it isn’t a natural coma.”

“However it happened,” she said gently, “The end result is the same. He’s… he’s like a computer without an operating system.”

Her voice faded to a murmur as the sunlight got brighter, the beeps and ticks of the machines growing louder. Tony watched Steve’s expression set harder, his eyes narrowing, his lips turning down at the corners. He was terrifying in the intensity of his belief, his surety that Tony was going to manufacture a miracle and wake up. Maybe it was hard for Steve to accept considering what he’d woken up from.

“You’re really going to let that brilliant mind just die?” Steve prodded from beside him.

“I’m not really here,” Tony insisted.

“You’re just terrified,” Steve observed. “You’re scared that you’re going to wake up and this…” he gestured to the room around them, “Isn’t a dream.” He pointed at Steve. “He isn’t a dream.”

“Haven’t I done enough?” Tony demanded. “Haven’t I crawled through enough shit to deserve to just… stop?”

“Haven’t you crawled through enough shit to deserve to go home?” Steve shot back.

Tony’s teeth clicked shut. He stared wide-eyed, chest jerking up and falling down with the shush-hiss of the respirator. A shiver ran up his spine following a flush of warm from his toes to his neck. He put a hand over his chest, the flat place where the reactor used to be. The pressure around his hand stayed firm and constant.

“How do you know what I deserve?” he asked helplessly. “How could you know anything?”

“Idiot,” Steve said fondly, “I’m a construct of your subconscious.”

Tony looked helplessly at the hospital bed, Steve standing next to him, staring down the doctor giving him news he didn’t want to hear and refused to believe, as if his refusal to believe would make her wrong. His jaw got tighter and tighter, but his hand stayed gentle on Tony’s, thumb rubbing soothingly over Tony’s knuckles as if he might be offended by the doctor’s lack of faith.

“No brainwaves,” Tony said finally. “No operating system.”

“You’re an engineer, aren’t you?” Steve asked with an incredulous snort. “Build one.”

~*~

It was dark when Tony finally got his brain to reboot after a dozen failed attempts. Sensation came back in a quick cascade - a building tingle in his limbs that rushed from his fingertips and toes inward and upward, and then heat, aching joints, tears pooling at the corner of his eyes, pain in his throat, swollen tongue, swollen fingers, dull discomfort at the inside of his elbow, the weight of the blanket on his thighs, the pressure of the oxygen tube on his face and the tickle of the prongs in his nostrils. The sound of the heart monitor, the sour scent of antiseptic, and a bitter metallic flavor at the back of his throat. A hundred minor complaints registered all at once up and down his body, all demanding his immediate attention.

His lungs re-engaged with a jerk and he sucked in breath that felt like inhaling sand. His priorities realigned, complaints rearranging in order of intensity, and air shot to the top of the list, pushing full bladder down somewhere around 5 and cold feet down somewhere around 500. He vaguely heard –felt, smelled – commotion at his bedside, but fight or flight was suppressed so far under process oxygen that he couldn’t even reorient his attention to decipher who was at his bedside in the first place.

Processes finally fell into place, and he managed to inhale and exhale in the correct sequence. The dark spots in front of his eyes faded, and he became aware of the motion of his chest, the dryness in his throat. People were moving around him, alarms were going off, there were hands everywhere, and he finally realized that he was struggling against them.

“Tony!” Steve shouted over the bedlam. “Tony, you’re safe. You’re back, you’re okay.”

Tony traced the trajectory of Steve’s voice, briefly seeing his voice as colors, lines, equations written in the air. They faded, and he found Steve standing next to him, wide-eyed and glowing with equal parts worry and hope and fear and joy. He twisted and found Rhodey on the other side, eyes luminous in his face, lips practically disappearing into his mouth.

“Honey, I’m home?” he rasped out finally.

“If you weren’t already in a hospital bed, I would put you in a hospital bed,” Rhodey said, but his lips finally crawled out of his mouth and stretched into a smile.

On his other side, Steve was sucking in rapid breaths through his nose like he couldn’t quite figure out how to engage his voice. Rhodey looked in between them and stepped away from the bedside, ostensibly to get out of the nurses’ way. In his absence, Steve leaned in close and set his forehead very gently against the side of Tony head.

“Welcome home,” he said.

Tony leaned into him and nodded, lips stretching into a smile. He was barely aware of the nurses moving around him over the warmth of Steve’s hand in his own.
ladyshadowdrake: (Default)
via http://ift.tt/2kmwF15:
People are being so generous with AO3 comments this week?? I am… thoroughly overwhelmed right now (in a good way).
ladyshadowdrake: (Default)
via http://ift.tt/2kYeekZ:
writing-prompt-s:

Anyone not married by age 25 gets a spouse assigned to them by the government. You are fine with that: most matches are a success and it’s less effort for you. But it’s your wedding day and you’ve just met your match. You cannot imagine how this was the person they chose for you…..!
ladyshadowdrake: (Default)
via http://ift.tt/2kDjk5c:White House Blocks Listing of Bumble Bee As Endangered Species:

“The population of the rusty-patched bumble bee has plunged by 90 percent since the early 1990’s following a trend that has seen bee populations plummeting in general. On January 11th, a new rule was adopted to add the bee to the ESA and a mandatory 30-day waiting period went into effect.”
ladyshadowdrake: (Default)
via http://ift.tt/2l8Ccg8:
juvenile-reactor:

AVAC gangster and police dept. and stony bonus

I don’t know what I’m drawing

-

spelling error fixed, sorry😷
ladyshadowdrake: (Default)
via http://ift.tt/2l8Txpe:
Netflix’ description of Twilight. xD

Hottest guy in school, eternal devotion and sparkly skin: totally solid reasons to date a vampire. No necking, though.
ladyshadowdrake: (Default)
via http://ift.tt/2lDot1n:
petite-madame:

Avengers Selfies Series - Part One: Team Iron Man (+ Bruce & Stephen Strange)

Team Cap will be posted later this year. Please, don’t repost the artworks separately. (Photoshop CS6 - Paint Tool SAI - Painter 12)

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