Fly Away Home
Movieverse, scene, focus on Tony. Spoilers.
All characters belong to Marvel and the movie!verse. Writing this made me cry; this was both exactly and not quite how I pictured it when I first thought it up.
He extricates himself from the skeleton of metal and wire, every movement pained, hampered by the slickness of blood on his fingers dribbling down dusty biceps, the stink of sweat heavy in the heat of the sun. Digging himself free proves equally irritating. The suit is no longer functional, or necessary, and clutches at his trapped limbs beneath the desert sand. When he finally feels the restraint give way he topples forward, coating his tongue in grit. The smell of smoke and ash is on the air, blown from the pillar of fire miles away.
How he had flown that far, to land as he did without more of his malnourished body beaten up and broken is nothing short of nigh impossible. But that's what he is, an impossible man. Red rivulets on his skin itch, his wounds sting in the biting, salty wind. He staggers away from the corpse of his creation, leaving it for the desert to claim. Odds are good that he'll join its resting place before he finds civilization.
Anywhere is better than where he began.
His shirt stinks of the unwashed, the grit and grime and blood he shed to build his iron armor, but it also provides protection and so he does not discard it. Every step is a stumble, weakened of the need for food, for water, for sleep, for a blessed lack of pain.
He doesn't know how long or how far he's come before he hears it. A soft whump-whump-whump-whump-whump, growing louder, closer; at first he thinks it could be delirium. Then the sand kicks up, and he twists round in disbelief as the choppers rocket overhead. American markings are emblazoned on their tails; he's never been so glad to see one. He howls out in delight, fighting past the dryness of his mouth, his tongue, throwing his better arm into the air, waving them down. His strength gives out, and his knees hit the sand…then his arm to his leg. Gods, at last.
Out of the men who run towards them, one face is familiar. He's aware of a hand on his shoulder, and it should hurt, it does hurt, but he can't do more than smile, because the pain is real, the hand is real, this is real.
"Next time you ride with me, ok?" Rhodes, Jim, James, good old Rhodey. The corners of his eyes crinkle in a grin, a grimace, and he buries his head into the shoulder of a friend. Tears threaten, prick, glitter, but do not fall; he's too tired to cry.
"Hey Rhodey," he whispers, the words all but silent, throat impossibly tight. "I'd like to go home now."