The really unfair thing, Tony thinks fuzzily — the true travesty of justice, the real kick in the pants — is that he isn’t actually bleeding. Or, at least, all of his blood is technically still inside of him.
Is it all inside of his circulatory system? No, it is probably not. But he still has it. It’s still his blood. It’s just not making it to his brain very efficiently, and is instead probably pooling inside his abdominal cavity.
“Iron Man?” Steve’s saying in his earpiece. “You copy?”
“Yeah, yeah, I copy,” Tony says, waving a hand next to his head to shoo the buzzing in his ears away.
“What’s going on? We lost visual on you about four minutes ago.”
What’s going on is that the Wrecking Crew threw Tony through Fifth Avenue, and now he’s in a subway tunnel, suit doing a bang-up impression of a crushed tin can, bleeding internally, swiftly going into shock.
And something…something looks wrong above his head among the I-beams.
“Bet that’s not good,” Tony says aloud.
“Iron Man, sit-rep, now,” Steve says, in his leadership voice. Whole corporate executive workshops had dedicated themselves to matching the confidence Steve could put into a handful of words. There should be a seminar series and an eight step program. Step one — be Captain America. Step two —
“Tony, c’mon,” Steve says, and the edge of panic coming through shakes Tony out of what is definitely hypovolemic shock.
“Right. Okay. Here’s the basics: I’m bleeding internally, going into shock, and there’s an improvised explosive device fastened to the ceiling of the subway above my head.”
“Get out of there,” Steve says instantly. “We’ll send in Explosive Ordnance Disposal in for the bomb and get some IV fluids into you and everything will be fine as long as you get out of there right now.”
Steve’s plan is good, given Steve’s understanding of the situation. Tony’s understanding of the situation was more complex, given that he has x-ray scanners in the suit helmet, and they say that this less of a leave it alone and it’ll be fine sort of thing and more of a someone has a cell phone somewhere and it’s going to make a very fatal call any moment now kind of scenario. Any second now a member of the Wrecking Crew is going to decide it’s time to move on to Plan B is for Bomb, and a large amount of chemical energy will convert to kinetic energy directly underneath the foundations of a Manhattan skyscraper.
“Uh-uh, load-bearing, remote trigger, not really time for all that,” Tony says.
He’s pretty sure those words didn’t cohere into the kind of explanation that Steve will find reassuring, but, look, his brain is low on blood and he has other things to worry about.
It’s a quick shimmy up some beams with the help of magnetic boots and Tony is nose-to-faceplate with an ugly mess of electrical tape, wire, and C4. Whatever ratfucker bastard made this bomb has affixed it to the ceiling with expanding urethane foam. Everything is stuck together in a puffy yellow shell.
Like a marshmallow, but not delicious.
No removing that without a boom and a splat.
At least it looks like they armed it after installing it. Tony will just yank the trigger apparatus out of the explosive payload. And he won’t let the uncovered copper wire touch the uncovered copper casing the bomb-maker has helpfully included, because that means a short, and a short which means to a spark, and a spark means that Iron Man goes to his grave as pretty pink mist.
The gauntlets are too clumsy for this kind of fine work. He’s loathe to take them off, though. He doesn’t want to go the way of Dr. Strange and have to learn magic to compensate for the loss of his fine motor skills. That would probably make him weird. Weirder. The point is: Tony likes his hands.
They aren’t going to have time to evacuate that building. If you’re good at your job, you don’t have to be scared.
Taking the gauntlets off reveals that Tony’s hands are shaking.
Blood loss is a bitch.
“Hey Winghead?” Tony asks, willing his fingers to stop trembling. “We do dangerous stuff all the time, right?”
“Whatever you’re planning — “ Steve says, sounding an awful lot like he’s about to tell Tony no.
“You jump off the tops of buildings. While riding a motorcycle. Several days of the week.”
Steve’s breathing hard — is he running? It sounds like he might be running. “Don’t you dare, Tony.”
“So if this goes bad, I want you to know that you don’t get to say I told you so. If it was you, you would also be about to stick your hands into a bomb.”
Tony’s fingertips are cold and blue-ish. This is a really, really bad idea. He’s pretty sure he’s going to do it anyway. About ninety percent sure. The other ten percent he’s saving for the eventuality that he passes out first and gets blown up while flat on his back on the subway tracks instead of getting blown up while clinging to a beam like a pole dancer and doing something incredibly stupid.
This would be a lot easier if his hands weren’t shaking.
It would also be easier if Steve wasn’t shouting at him.
“Do not do this, Tony. Leave it alone. There are robots for this — you like robots. You can go to the hospital, and the robot will put the bomb in a bag and EOD will discharge it safely on the shooting range. We can go watch.”
The transceiver’s connected to the circuit wire, the circuit wire’s connected to the fuse head, the fuse head’s connected to the base charge, now hear the word of the Lord, Tony sings silently.
“Please,” Steve says, and hell, he’s begging. This isn’t fair. Tony isn’t supposed to have to choose between civilian lives and Steve begging.
“I can do this,” Tony says.
“I know you can,” Steve says. “But I don’t want you to.”
“Just one good pull and it’s safe. I’m not going to die.”
Tony braces one wrist on his forearm for a little extra stability. He’ll just unwind this bit from that bit and not touch any metal pieces together —
Steve sounds like he might cry. “You have to come home. I need you to come home.”
Tony feels his dexterity start to slip. Jitters run down into his wrists, threatening a tremor to follow, so with one last quick twist he yanks the wires free.
“You have to come home for me,” Steve’s saying, quiet and desperate. “Please.”
“Hey, it’s okay, I got it,” Tony says. “Bomb’s all disassembled. Done.”
The breath Steve lets out is as shaky as Tony’s hands. Tony shimmies back down the pole and pulls his gauntlets back on and feels — still terrible, still got thrown through several feet of concrete and municipal plumbing — but definitely alive.
“Christ, Tony,” Steve says, and Tony’s about to tease him for being a worrywart, just a little, mostly to cover up the way it makes him feel warm inside when Steve talks about home like it’s a thing he and Tony could have together, and then he sees the smaller, decoy explosive way, way too late.
Amateur demolitionists love to include free bonus bombs. It’s a great way to distract the removal squad from the main event.
And Tony’s just stepped on one, like a rubber boot planting itself into a deadly cow patty.
He doesn’t have time to think. If he did, it probably would’ve gone something like it would be so cool if Steve didn’t have a hot mic to this disaster.
It’s very hot.
The horizon is spinning.
He’s glad he put the gauntlets back on, even though his fingers still feel like they’re crisping up like cocktail weenies.
It would be very bad if a train came right now.
Probably Steve told the MTA about the problem.
Steve is going to be so mad.
Tony lands in a pile several yards away from where he was, in total darkness. The lights are all off and the glass over his eye-holes are charred black. His chest is half caved in, from the feel of it. The jaw control lever in the helmet is twisted up so it digs into his neck; when he swallows it clicks on and off and the displays flicker weakly in response. He hates when the electrical system goes offline. It makes the suit feel like a coffin.
He’s pleased to note that now he’s bleeding externally as well as internally. That’s gratifying.
And Steve is still yelling at him.
Of all the things — no lights, no servos, no fans to keep it from getting intolerably stuffy — he still has comms so that Steve can call him reckless.
Tony is truly cursed.
Steve is strangely muffled, not in a staticky connection way, more in a through a closed door way.
He’s getting louder.
“He’s over here!” Steve hollers, and Tony tries to turn his head — bad idea, wow, very bad idea — and then someone is prying the helmet off of him, and it’s Steve, not through the comms but right here. That makes sense.
“Be alive, Shellhead, be alive,” Steve whispers, big gloved hands feeling around Tony’s neck, searching for a pulse. Tony could tell him that through leather that wasn’t going to work.
“It was just — “ Tony rasps, then has to stop to hack a cough, right into Steve’s face, sorry Steve — “a small bomb.”
“Thank God,” Steve says, and then he grabs Tony’s face with both hands and kisses him square on the mouth.
Tony finds this surprising, and excellent, and if all he needs to do to get kisses from Steve is get slightly blown up, he should have tried it earlier.
He relays this fact to Steve, who frowns at him like he’d very much like to shake Tony and is holding himself back only out of fear of spinal column injuries. But then he kisses Tony again anyway, and that’s alright.
Tony would be happy to do this forever, but he’s pretty sure his blood pressure is dropping at an alarming rate, and consciousness isn’t going to be on his side much longer.
It’s probably the best way he’s ever passed out. He’s putting that down in the mission notes.