Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Avengers & Iron Man (MCU)
Genre: Hurt/comfort, action
Rating: M / FRM
Characters: Bruce Banner (Hulk), Clint Barton (Hawkeye), J.A.R.V.I.S., James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine), Steve Rogers (Captain America), Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Tony Stark (Iron Man), Thor, Tony’s bots (DUM-E & U).
Appearances & mentions: Phil Coulson, Jane Foster, Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Pepper Potts, Betty Ross, Erik Selvig.
Pairings: Pepper/Tony (brief), Jane/Thor (implied), Betty/Bruce (implied)
Summary: The apocalypse is happening and Tony Stark has just been blinded by the enemy. Earth’s remaining heroes must work together to protect their own – and to win a war most have already declared will be humanity’s last.
Written for: Round 2 of Apocalypse Big Bang. Written during NaNoWriMo 2013.
Also fills the “loss of vision” square of my card on Hurt/Comfort Bingo’s round 4.
Cover art & fanmix: monkiainen (here!)
Warnings: Major character death, violence and permanent injury (blindness), apocalyptic scenery (general destruction and death). Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World compliant (may contain minor spoilers), language.
The world is wrapped in a gray shade, as if he’s staring at it all through a dark blanket thrown over his eyes.
Shadows move, sharp one moment and blurry the next, hard to follow or take apart before they blend together with the background. Some of them appear familiar: bodies, reaching hands and slow gestures he cannot comprehend because the discoloration makes depth perception nigh impossible.
He tries to squint but it makes no difference. The shadows remain, sharp and blurry in turns, and he longs for clarity, for someone to explain to him why it’s so hard to comprehend what he’s seeing.
To explain to him why there’s only shadows in the darkness.
Tony woke up with a violent start that would have usually prompted whoever was in bed with him to wake up and ask if he was okay. Not tonight: he became acutely aware that he was alone, the small military bunk feeling cold. He hadn’t gone to sleep alone, and it was unlike Thor to just leave him once he fell asleep.
For an instant he listened for any alarming sounds but the others wouldn’t just let him sleep through a fight. They would wake him up, dress him, then prepare him to hide or run or fight. One of them would stay with him.
Pushing himself up on his elbows, Tony tried to listen, and finally detected the sound of another’s breaths. Not from the bunk he was in, but the other one on the opposite wall across the narrow space in between. The room had been so small Tony had no trouble learning it when he first entered it, and now he turned towards the sound, stilling his own breaths long enough to be certain who it was. “Steve?” he called out, because he could tell his breathing apart from everyone else’s; a perfect set of super soldier lungs and all.
He heard a start, then shifting. “I’m here,” Steve said, sleep instantly gone from his voice.
Tony didn’t see shadows moving but he heard Steve leaving his bunk and then felt him slide into Tony’s. His body was almost hot, banishing the coolness from Tony’s body as he pressed close and enveloped Tony in his arms. “Where’s Thor?” Tony asked because it bothered him a little.
“A call came in from the research base. They had some kind of accident and I told him to get over there, to make sure Jane was okay. It wasn’t the aliens,” Steve added, because that had been Tony’s first thought. “Just some experiment gone wrong.”
Tony nodded and pressed his face into Steve’s shoulder. “You’ve been working out,” he noted, still detecting the faint smell of sweat on his skin. The showers here needed repairs and the soap was pretty much odorless, making Steve’s natural smell all the sharper.
“I tried showering but the water pressure dropped again,” the other man replied. “Do I smell?”
“No,” Tony shook his head a bit and burrowed closer to him. Steve was solid, warm and real; if Tony could have seen, Steve wouldn’t have been just a shadow gesturing for him.
They lay there for a bit, both still awake, then eventually began drifting off, the bunk feeling a bit too crowded as it had with Thor when Tony first went to sleep, but it had been months since he had bothered to complain about such a thing. He would choose this a hundred times over being alone in the darkness, even if it made him weak and dependent on others; he could be strong and independent another day.
Tony finds himself standing in an atrium. He’s not sure how he got there, but he feels like’s he’s been there a while. A glass roof extends over him and although he can’t see the sun, it’s clear it’s close to midday, the bright light making the glass panels shine almost as if someone had showered them with glitter.
Everything is bright and sunny, the warmth of it seeping into his skin, and the heavy smell of flora fills his nostrils. There’s a garden filling almost all of the atrium, with elegantly cut trees and bushes, winding paths cutting across the greenery here and there.
Tony steps onto the nearest path and his eyes track every flower petal he comes across.
There’s even a small bridge and a pond, small rivers leaving the larger body of water to disappear between the plants. Fish move around in the water, colorful and elegant. Tony leans on the bridge’s railing, staring down, eyes tracking the small motions that send the fish shooting forward, never disturbing the water unless they swim too close to the surface.
A butterfly floats through the air, getting Tony’s attention, and a few flaps of its wings bring it sitting on the railing next to him. Its colors are brilliant, the sunlight almost making it sparkle, and although the beauty and peacefulness of the atrium should fill Tony with wonder and solitude, all he feels is an overwhelming weight pulling him down, gnawing at the beauty of the scenery around him.
The butterfly takes off, flying low over the water. One of the fish jumps after it, but the butterfly manages to evade its untimely demise, flying higher and higher towards the glass roof, into the sunlight.
Tony looks up, following it with his gaze for as long as he can, and suddenly feels trapped.
There’s something he cannot escape, even here…
He stirred, the dream cut short, but Tony had the feeling he had seen all he needed to. Shifting, he adjusted his position in the large arm chair someone had found and dragged into Bruce’s lab in their current base in Maryland.
“Did you dream?” Bruce asked. He was at his desk by the sound of it, clicking away at the computer, working.
People kept implying Tony should get to work, too. He did work, sometimes, but it was slow going whenever he had to take information in because he had to rely on other people’s – or J.A.R.V.I.S.’s – explanations on the subject.
“Yeah,” he said to answer Bruce’s question. He blinked, but obviously it meant nothing. Just because he felt his eyelids pass across his damaged eyes… “Is it weird that I see when I’m dreaming?” Tony asked the other man when he could no longer resist voicing the question.
“No,” Bruce replied. “Your eyes may be damaged but you’ve spent most of your life gazing at things and your brain remembers that.” He stopped talking for a bit and Tony expected he had gone back to his current project. Instead, Bruce spoke up after what may have been instead a thoughtful pause: “What did you dream about? I can tell it was different from your usual dreams.”
The ‘usual dreams’ being visions that bordered on nightmares, most of the time filled with nothing but the darkness Tony already saw whenever he was awake.
“It was beautiful,” Tony confessed. “Colors and smells that made sense… So much color that I probably knew it was a dream to begin with. Then I started feeling this… like guilt, you know? Like I wasn’t supposed to be seeing it; like I was being punished for having such a nice dream for a change.”
“That’s your sub-consciousness,” Bruce answered, sounding sickeningly certain. “You need to let go of that notion and maybe the dark dreams will end.”
“Let go of what?” Tony snapped. “There’s nothing more to let go of.”
“Maybe it’s the anger.”
Tony guessed Bruce knew a thing or two about anger. He knew that in the last month the others had tried to help in any way they could. Some days Tony found it impossible to accept their counsel and words of wisdom because none of them knew what it was like, being deprived of his ability to see while the rest of him was healthy. The others had become a constant reminder of his injury after Pepper’s funeral – a reminder that Tony could do nothing alone; he could not find food, or shelter, or a safe place to sleep. He would not know where to look for clothes, nor would he be able to rest as much as he was now, with or without the nightmares.
Most days, Tony let go of his frustration and disappointment, allowing another person to help him, to guide him, and make sure he stayed alive. The Avengers were his team, his friends, and he had promised them he would let them help him.
Only, as days went by and Tony was no closer to figuring out why the aliens had attacked him, he wondered how long it would be before the others would just do as they had been asked to, several times, and left Tony in a facility that could look after his needs.
Tony had once said he would understand if they did it – that it might be for the best – but he didn’t want that. Even when he was a burden, he was still there, helping to fight the war…
Helping to fight the war. What a load of crap that thought was. Tony was nothing more than a hindrance, something to be dragged from one base to the next; a warm body to sleep next to at night, mostly because he needed it.
He wished he could do more, to give more.
“Dr. Banner,” J.A.R.V.I.S. called out through the room’s speakers, “Captain Rogers would like to remind you that we will be departing for New York City within six hours.”
“We’ll be ready to go by then,” Bruce replied, evidently meaning Tony as well.
“J?” Tony called out.
“Seeing as we’re going to be nearby, how about you start prepping Mark 50. It should be at the Tower, if the building’s still standing.”
“Indeed, sir. The armor will be ready for deployment when you arrive.”
Tony could feel Bruce’s eyes on him. “What?” he asked.
“You’re not thinking of getting into the armor?” They hadn’t talked about it, not really. For the last month Tony had been adapting to his blindness, and there hadn’t been time to actually consider getting back in the suit. Of course Tony had thought about it while he was on his own, sitting in that pipe, unable to contact J.A.R.V.I.S. because they had left the room so suddenly he hadn’t grabbed anything to take with him. The idea of going to a familiar place, even when it would be just another S.H.I.E.L.D. base, drove Tony towards making some kind of decision when it came to Iron Man.
“No,” Tony finally replied. “In case we get attacked again, I’ll feel better if I have an armor standing by.” It wasn’t that he didn’t trust the others to protect him, but having the armor there would also help the Avengers feel like Tony was being protected even if they weren’t constantly with him.
Bruce made an affirmative sound. “Who knows, maybe we’ll have time to stop by the Tower itself. There are some things I would like to take with me.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Tony agreed. Who knew, perhaps being in his own workshop, even if only for a little while, would give him the boost he needed to start working on something. It was high time Tony started pulling his own weight.
to be continued…