Okay, this is a different challenge this time.

For the first time EVER, this was co-written with a very dedicated reader- mythologyrox.

For example, she came up with the title as well as giving me her rough drafts and combining our ideas to create this.

This challenge was given by her, and was mostly completed (although she'll deny it) by her.

Hope you all like it!

Tony sighed.

Ever since the battle, his team was acting too strangely for his liking. They weren't going out of their way to antagonizing or straight-out shouting what was wrong, (Not like last time, Clint.) Actually, Tony feared that maybe the Avengers were blaming him for the fight going wrong. He knew he should've been more careful, but it was either defying Capsicle's orders or let hundreds of people die when he could've done something. Okay, maybe that was a little bit of an exaggeration, but who knows, maybe that missile would have hit that building also!

Natasha was especially angry at him. It wasn't that unsurprising since the one that got hurt was Clint, but why couldn't she understand he didn't have a choice? Wasn't it obvious or when Clint got involved, it got all foggy?

An eye for an eye. He feared Romanoff would agree with the outdated law. Tony wondered if she would actually follow with her threat to break his arm slowly, painfully, and surely. He really didn't want to have his arm broken.

Tony straightened his back quickly, glancing around before groaning quietly. He was still sore and aching since the battle and with everything going on with Clint he never got the chance to go see his personal doctors- maybe even a hospital at the rate he was going on. Yeah, he was that desperate.

He stumbled into the kitchen having abandoned the previously occupied couch, and for the first time in many years, he stayed silent. The Avengers (Minus Clint) were sitting there quietly, doing tasks to occupy their time. Natasha was the first one to notice him, and her eyes were colder than ever before, colder than when he stole her personal pistol, died it hot pink, and rigged it to shoot pink cotton balls. Tony turned, trying to avert his eyes from the cold emotionless voids that were her own, but seemingly wherever he dared look she looked back. Even closing his eyes, he could feel the glare burning his skin.

"How's Clint doing? His arm getting any better?" He tried asking with a flippant nature, but the words caught partway causing them to sound slightly strangled. Her eyes continued to burn him, and he couldn't help but gulp loudly.

"He's fine," she replied calmly and quietly, flipping the page of the magazine that was held carefully on her lap.

Tony slightly wished she would scream, yell, jump up and kick him hard enough to sing soprano, anything except that. Screaming, yelling, hitting and cursing, he could handle, that was to be expected. This...This quiet anger and deadly eyes that was what he wasn't used to. That was the persona she used with traitors and in interrogations. That was the look Loki got, getting those eyes meant that he pushed the little boundaries a little too far, making a permanent little Tony-shaped dent in the Mental-Natasha-wall.

He stared, the awkwardness of the situation increasing as he noticed Steve by the window, neck muscles tensed as he refused to look at Tony. Bruce also didn't look, instead staring at the pages of his book intensely, while Thor huffed, playing with a small clump of play-dough.

"…You all are mad at me, aren't you?" Tony asked quietly, already knowing the answer.

"No, you think?" Steve growled, turning and glaring with a look of anger, a look Tony was all too used to.

'Huh, maybe that's where dad learned it.' Tony mentally supplied, years of shielding were his only defense against a major slip up and a large flinch.

"Guys, it wasn't my fau-"

"It was!" Natasha snapped, eyes blazing now before burning to icy blocks of coal as Tony found himself swallowing again against the dryness of his mouth.

"It was your carelessness that injured Clint." She finished voice colder then the northern most tip of her homeland.

"It was a ro-" He shut up as Bruce's jaw clicked shut, and Tony immediately knew that the entire team was against him- peachy.

"Sir, may I suggest-"

"Mute, Jarvis." Natasha growled, and the AI instantly grew silent while Tony swallowed.

"…I'm sorry that I saved a thousand peo-"

"You disobeyed!" Steve shouted, turning and glaring while Thor sighed, not wanting in on this.

"Wait- what?" Tony asked with a frown and a quickly growing temper.

"You're going to not obey orders, and eventually your choice is going to kill someone!" Steve shouted, and Natasha glared.

"Oh- so the whole reason you're mad at me is because I saved lives? Clint has nothing to do with this?" He seethed, and Natasha spun with an angry hiss.

"No!" Steve shouted, and Tony's temper flared.

"Then get freaking Natasha off my back! She sure doesn't care for everybody except Cl-"

Natasha reacted, jamming her hand hard into a spot on the back of his neck, causing him to choke and suddenly go slack.

"Vse zayeblado! Pizets na khui blyad!" She spat in anger, and at once, Tony flinched.

He couldn't hold it back as she continued the line of Russian curses, the actual words and meanings lost on him as another round of the harsh guttural words were sent off.

Tony flinched.
He flinched away sharply as he heard those sounds come out of Natasha's normally English speaking mouth. He didn't object to it before- he couldn't object when it was Latin, nobody speaks Latin.
Any other language excepting French sounded too similar.

The words morphed until it was screams of people in pain and the sharp words tossed all around him, making his breathing labored- silence! He needed silence!

He spun, incidentally in his sudden panic his shoulder slammed into Natasha's chin who was the only one holding up his temporarily paralyzed form.

She hissed in anger, grabbing him brutally and dragging him across the wood floor to the closest thing she could find- a small door with an electronic latch used to opening and closing.

He tumbled inside with her brutal push, eyes not understanding what he was seeing except for bright flashes and brutal taunting in the voices that wouldn't be quiet- he needed silence, he need it no-

A sharp click before the words trailed off, leaving the sound of Tony's ragged breathing the only noise as he struggled in vain to right side himself in the crammed spot- where was he, it was dark, dark and cold and, and…

After a couple minutes, his neck slowly started to loosen up, and he found himself moving his limbs trying to stand up as his legs were shaking uncontrollably, arms mimicking the actions and refusing to help himself upwards, instead causing him to huddle against one of the cold metallic walls, in the dark.

He was going for his shirt, about to rid it just to be able to see, but it was cold…too cold, and it brought back the darkness, and the shouting men and their sharp laughs as the women screamed and begged in pained and sobbing whispers-

The voices, the sharp words in a language he didn't understand.

He flinched, swallowing thickly as he slowly and shakily forced himself to his knees, trying to remain calm as he let his hands shakily trail over the cool metal of the sliding door and the back walls and the side panels.

"Jarvis- open the door." He croaked voice more raspy then he normally would have liked, although with the recent emphatic reasoning, he didn't complain.

And he heard silence.

"Jarvis- open this do-or." He tried again, voice cracking halfway through the last word while again Jarvis failed to respond.

He started shuffling, hands clawing uselessly against the door, trying to find a purchase as he briefly felt a small flare of pain from where his clawing had uprooted one of his nails- he needed out.

"Open the door- ope-n." he croaked, slouching down and slamming his head hard against the door as the air seemed choking- oh god he was suffocating.

He- he couldn't see. There was a thing over his face, it was a bag. There was a bag over his head and he was so cold. It was dark and he was cold and the women were screaming and the men were laughing in the horrible sharp language, and he could feel them…he could feel their hands dragging over his arms and back as they crooned in that language, before clawing and jeering as they pushed him again.

And again, and again in the water, and he was so cold.

"Let me out!" He screamed, he honestly didn't care about his mask at this point, slamming his knuckles hard enough to split the thin skin over the bone as a dull thud was the sound the rang out- the sound of the jeering men walking on the metal…

"Oh god- let me out! Let me out." His screams turned to whimpers as he felt the cold fingers and the crooning voices as he clawed them away, missing and his hand flaring in pain again as his broken and jagged nails raked over his skin-wash away their touch.

He fell back, head colliding loudly against the door in a muffled roar of the explosives detonating- and he felt the shrapnel dig deep, and he felt them pulling and tugging at his bones, cutting and using a saw and cutting out his bones, watching in panic as the leering men laughed and held him down as he saw them take out his ribs, and he felt them touch his heart- he craned his neck and saw it beating…and the blood.

The blood was everywhere, and he was wet, and they were drowning him, and he was choking- he was suffocating…

Water was everywhere. It was drowning him- and it hurt as it hit the car battery because they broke his heart, and he was screaming, choking and crying as it burned, and he couldn't feel anything anymore because he was broken…


The Avengers had long since abandoned Stark Tower before Tony's resolve cracked. It was loud and messy, and even though the metal muffled the noise somewhat, it was still petrifying to listen to.

This was Tony, the man who didn't wince as his arm was cut open by a DoomBot, not to mention laugh when he plummeted eighty feet in a broken suit.

They had stormed out, wishing Clint a few farewells as they abandoned the tower quickly, promising to return to Clint with pizza.

They drove quickly through the city, Natasha having been able to swipe one of Tony's set of keys to a sleek Jaguar.

They sat quietly in the small pizza parlor in downtown Brookland (Steve was thrilled the business was still alive) and munched quietly on the bizarre mixtures. They were all angry at Tony, some more than others, but the smooth jazz in the background of the deliciously greasy food helped somewhat.

It was empty, (Natasha and the manager making an agreement) as they munched, occasionally attempting to start a conversation before a sigh or a snort cut down the attempts, leaving them to slurp their pop noisily while others snacked on a little basket of French fries, obviously freezer burnt.

When they had returned, Clint had eagerly chucked down the pizza (The man liked anchovies on his- at times Natasha wondered if he was part bird, or Osprey in this case) and watched re-runs of some old sit-com that was cringe worthy.

It was the next morning when they noticed something different.

Clint was out of the infirmary, watching Natasha perform a dozen different moves against Thor, who meekly attempted to hang onto the slippery female. Steve was slightly down the room, pounding against one of the sand filled punching bags with his slightly wrapped fists. Bruce was next to the ring on a small tablet, looking up something while he had classical music just barley audible over the panting and huffing of Thor vs. Natasha.

Their attitudes had simmered overnight, eventually cooling past the tepid point to where only a slight buzz of annoyance was in their mind with the mention of Stark- a tiny mosquito that continued to pester them.

"So…" Clint murmured, obviously bored by the long drawl he made in the simple word as he peeked over the side of Bruce's tablet, blinking at the algorithms

"Yes?" Bruce asked, tilting the screen and holding back a chuckle at the completely gob smacked look Clint made at all the complicated patterns of numbers and phrases.

"God, you trying to find the cure to Cancer?" Clint murmured, blinking as his eyes automatically went cross eyes from looking at the screen.

"Not even close- it's for finding and managing blood pressure." He clarified while Clint gave a confused nod, agreeing with whatever Bruce was going to say even though he probably had no idea whatsoever what it meant.

They turned, watching Natasha spin and do a ruthless flying kick right in Thor's groin, watching and both flinching in sync as the much larger man stumbled back, legs trembling slightly but remained on his feet as he went at her again.

"That's impressive." Clint commented, legs instinctively crossing while Bruce gave a wince, not daring to look back at the fight until a few minutes later when Thor called it, not wanting another strike.

"Still working on that?" Natasha asked, eyes flicking to the tablet where Bruce shrugged, Steve curiously looking at the screen before blinking and shying away just as Clint had done previously.

"Hey- where's Stark?" Clint asked with a frown, automatically scanning the gym where Thor blinked before recognition filtered through.

"…We didn't." Bruce groaned, head banging against the wall behind him while Steve shifted awkwardly.

"'Didn't what?" Clint asked hesitantly, looking at Natasha with narrowed eyes while she stuck her head up a little more, showing that she didn't care, and responded dryly.

"We locked him in a closet."

Clint stared, eyebrows lifted in surprise by the simplicity of his punishment before snorting slightly.

"A closet? I thought you would have kicked his ass." Clint grinned and Natasha rolled his eyes while Bruce frowned.

"You guys think he's locked in? He's been in there for almost –"Bruce stopped, freezing while Steve's eyes widened as he understood also.

"Guys? How long?" Clint asked with a frown of his narrowing eyes, and Natasha looked away awkwardly.

"By four, it will be a complete 24 hours." Steve muttered, causing Clint to stare and sigh.

"Really guys? Okay, err- Jarvis? Yeah, Jarvis. Do you have security feed of the closet or something like that?" Clint asked towards the ceiling in which nothing was responding.

"Unmute." Natasha spoke after a few seconds in which the silence was defining.

"I thank you, Agent Romanoff for unmuting me over the extended period of time, however I must insist that you-"

"Jarvis, can you pull up a live feed of Tony?" Clint asked, cutting off the AI carelessly, and Jarvis responded, this time with an icy tone in his voice, causing the others to be taken aback.

"Of course, Agent Barton. Although, I must insist that you go and free Mr. Stark at once instead of amusing oneself over his condition on a live feed."

"Hey! We only want to see if he's okay!" Clint shouted back, annoyed by the tone, however the tablet Bruce had been working on flickered, gaining a loading screen.

They shrugged, Natasha finding it a perfect moment to find some sort of blackmail material and the others just wishing that Tony hadn't done something completely stupid (such as wait for them in the nude, he'd just be locked in again for that.)

Besides, nobody would say anything, but locking Tony in a closet was probably worth the fact that he had injured Clint (indirectly maybe, but he still hurt him.)

They huddled around, making a foul smell of cheep cologne and body sweat, while staring at the finger print smudged screen, blinking and waiting as Bruce flipped through the time slots to the current time and selecting play.

They stared in horror at the tiny weak ball that they assumed was Tony, trembling violently against the metal walls while he seemed to curl in on himself, cut off whispers were faintly heard.

"The hell?" Clint barked and Thor blinked, brow furrowing in confusion.

"Uh- Jarvis? Can you go back a bit? Like…um…" Steve cut off, blinking as he looked desperately towards Bruce, who was too busy looking at the screen.

"Nineteen hours. He'll only have been in their for around 5." Natasha added, and the screen froze, a loading bar took its spot as it slowly moved forward.

"Maybe we should turn up the sound- he was muttering something before." Clint shrugged, not having gotten a good look.

Natasha shrugged, dragging the sound bar to a noticeably larger spot then before.

"Okay- play." Bruce added, clicking on the tiny button.

"LET ME OUT!" The scream was loud and ragged as it ripped through the speakers, causing Thor to jump in surprise and his arm to collide strongly against Steve's chest, whom became gasping for air.

"Turn it down!" Clint shouted, and finally the sound became a much lower level, letting them to slowly gather closer in dumb fascination.

Tony was a mess, screaming and nearly convulsing as he repetitively slammed his shoulder into the metal door, flinching at every corresponding thump before slamming again, clawing back his arm as if to swipe something away, only to miss and dig his dilapidated nails into his exposed skin and rake long lines that bled red, more red running from the chipped and split nails that had long since stained the previously light grey suit into a dark morbid red.

"Get him out." Bruce muttered, blinking quickly to pull back the green pigment that was quickly overtaking the usual brown, but no person made any advances towards the door, too wrapped up in the horror.

"Oh god- let me out. Let me go, let me go…No! No let me out- out outOUT!" Tony was screaming, having clawed at his face and long winding paths of red had snaked their way under the scuffed collar and his eyes were sightless and contracted despite the darkness.

"Get him out…NOW!" Bruce roared, and Steve turned on his heels, sprinting out as he slammed the door loudly- the others racing after.

Natasha was in a blind state of mind- she had seen the look in his eyes- she saw him struggle, and she did nothing. She thought that he had long since sought help for his kidnapping, she thought he was long since fixed and merely a cocky arrogant fool in nature.

Natasha was wrong.

Steve was by the closet, pulling on the sliding panel hard enough it was throw from its railing, propelled across the room before hitting a wall where its dent was noticeable in the dry-walling.

Tony didn't seem to notice that the door was open, he was still curled up and in the sudden light he only trembled further.

"God- Tony?" Clint tried, and the trembling increased to a point one would seek medical help.

"He's in a panic attack- help me!" Bruce shouted, noticing the signs as he waved towards the other door that was in the way.

Thor reached forward, yanking it off the wall loudly, ignoring the long blood trails down the inside as it joined its counterpart on the ground, and Clint shifted awkwardly.

"Tony? Uh- calm down, you're overreacting?" He asked, voice getting higher which only made Natasha half heartedly push him aside.

"Never say that- it makes it worse." She hissed, nervously looking at him and not sure on what to do.

"Don't touch him- he doesn't know where he is." Bruce stated, shoving Thor out of the main area where he needed to work.

"Tony? Tony, come on. You're here in Stark Tower, you're here. Okay? There's Clint, and Natasha here too." Bruce started softly, and Natasha gave a slight nod, understanding what she had to do.

"Tony? Come on- I-"She cut off, she couldn't take it. She had done this. She had locked him in the closet- was he a severe Achluophobia? Was he Claustrophobic? What set him off?

"Friend Banner?" Thor asked in worry how Bruce dared gently try and pry Tony from his fetal position before Tony started flailing, screaming and clawing him with jagged bloody fingers and Bruce pulled back, running a hand through his hair.

"I- he's not responding." He stressed, obviously distressed.

"What do we do?" Steve asked, feeling violently sick with how Tony was clawing helplessly at the wall, trembling and making gasping noises so similar to dry sobbing- why wasn't he crying? Had he been so scarred that he is incapable of tears? Did he run out of things to cry for?

"I- call SHIELD medic. We've got to tranquilize him and hope for the best." Bruce stressed, and Natasha stared with haunting eyes, before jumping upright, grabbing a phone and hurriedly pressing the emergency button- a medical team would be dispatched immediately.


Fury was (pardon the pun) furious. He was annoyed, agitated and slightly ticked off.

He was calmly finding the reason why a Middle East weapon seller was currently located in Africa when his phone had gone off. He had picked it up, mentally scowling as a report came through from some poor innocent (probably hysterical) agent.

Tony Stark was in the SHIELD infirmary.

Now that wasn't something that would normally concern Nick Fury, he had been around Tony Stark long enough to know how the former seemed to have a knack at self harming himself instead of a lethal option instead.

At times, Nick Fury swore the man was part cockroach…or elf. It seemed that elves never died.

Normally a small wound would be easily hidden from the press, but after some mediocre reporter managed a photo of not only Stark being airlifted into a waiting jet, but Clint who had barely made it out of infirmary himself, and the panicked other Avengers, hiding this mistake was near impossible.

The council jumped on him of course, tossing around words the media had been throwing to the sharks, like 'tumor' or 'heart attack' causing distress in a wide area of the public.

If they were distressed now, Fury didn't even want to think about what would happen if word got out that a joke from the other Avengers was the lead to this massive panic attack and eventual tranquilization.

Sometimes, Fury just really wanted a drink.


They were all over him- he heard the screams and shouts still, and pain on his arms and legs and chest. What were they doing?

"He's waking up!"

"Hold him still!"

They were over him, grinning with yellow and black teeth as they held his arms and legs down as he thrashed, arms and hands reaching down in him, he felt them brush and another flare of pain. They were touching his heart.

"Stop it! Stop it!" He screamed, voice long since gone from shouting and managed a throaty raspy croak that they laughed at- and he felt his pulse increase, pounding hard as it struggled.

He felt electric pain- was his heart beating to hard for the reactor? Was it hurting him when it was supposed to save him?

"He's going into Cardiac Arrest!"

"Sedate him!"

"He won't wake up if we do!"

They were touching him. He thrashed as they poked and prodded the bloody metal that was his reactor- they couldn't touch it, nobody could touch it except him and Yinse-


He was over him, eyes black and soulless, empty sockets as he lay against the sacks of sand and neck at an awkward inhumane angle.

"Yinsen! God oh god- no! No please!" He cried, and Yinsen stared, a dark grin on his face as he brought in a bone saw-

"No….please!" He shouted and the demon man morphed into a dying one, horror automatically vanishing as he thrashed, screaming for someone to help…

"Don't waste your life, Stark."

"No! Stop it! Let him go! Don't- YINSEN!" Tony screamed as instead of a simple shot bullets from his guns rained upon him until something little less identifiable as a corpse fell, blood staining his body in the cold and wet- and the eyes were back, glaring and staring. Shouting at him,

"Why didn't you save me?"

"I- I didn't! We had a plan!" Tony shouted, and the empty face turned into a snarl of anger- Oh Yinsen.

"We're losing him! Get the sedative!"

"I thought you said it was too risky?"

"He'll kill himself at this rate!"

Arms all over him again- pressing him and attacking while Yinsen watched with a grim smile on his face, whispering ever so softly as Tony was dragged on the ground, laughs and shouts and screams- bombs and weapon fire drowning all around him.

"So you're a man who has everything…yet nothing…"

And Tony saw nothing.


"This…This is so wrong." Clint muttered, sitting in an infirmary room, back against the one way glass that showed the outer hallway.

"What did you expect?" Natasha muttered, taking residence on the small windowsill while keeping her back to the one bed.

It was silent as Clint briefly observed the oddly clustered Avengers scattered across the room. Bruce had taken one of the provided chairs, staring at a vaguely distorted painting on the wall. Steve was on the only other recliner, while Thor had been forced into a greatly uncomfortable plastic chair made for someone who was much smaller than he.

"Did you guys know-"

"You think we would have if we did?" Natasha snapped, glaring before hastily turning to face the window instead of Steve's startled face and regretful questioning.

"…I know that look, Tasha." Clint spoke and Natasha's jaw twitched causing Clint to sigh and look away once again.

It was awkward, sitting in the med bay with nothing to do but stair at the obviously too white walls with the small TV in the corner.

They sat, a few agents returning with small jell-o cups and food for the rest of them while another came by, adding a bag of fluids to the IV before leaving hastily under Thor's calculating and protective look.

And they sat. Waiting for hours until eventually a SHIELD medical personal timidly instructed that they had to leave- and that they could return the following morning.

The man shivered, nearly wetting himself at the combined death glares of not only Natasha and Clint, but an awkwardly protective look of Thor (Maybe Loki taught him that glare).

Eventually, they left. Stumbling away and muttering farewells to each other before stumbling into the small cubby of their sleeping quarters.

The next morning, Bruce blearily awoke to a blinking phone, a light flashing red signaling that someone from either the A. Flight Deck, B. Medical Room, or C. The radiation labs, were trying to contact him.

"Hello?" He blearily asked, fumbling for his glasses as the sign on the back of the door came into focus.

"Dr. Banner. Patient Tony Stark is currently active and aware in the Medical Wing."

Bruce blinked, hanging up quickly as he fumbled in the sleep haze to get dressed, cursing as he stubbed his toe on the closet sliding rack, throwing on a coat and rushing out of the room, hastily making his way towards Tony's room.

He rushed past a few baffled interns, nearly knocking the precariously stacked pile of papers from ones arms as he rushed past, guilt building up quickly in his gut.

'I should have known better- nobody can go and not have a trigger.' Bruce's rational part of his mind added, and his guilt grew, making a horrible choking feeling in the base of his throat.

He moved, standing and reaching out for the knob to the door before freezing, staring at the shiny metal painted knob as his mind race.

What if…Tony blamed him?

Obviously, everybody was expecting Tony to roll his eyes, make a crude or pathetically weak pun and jump right up and take on the world. At times, Tony was like water. He was smooth, slippery and able to move around any optical in his path. Water couldn't be captured; water couldn't be hurt- water couldn't be broken or shattered.

But Tony seemed to always make the sacrificial move- he was always ready to risk his life to save another, no matter how small or insignificant. (Except for cats, that man had an odd hatred for felines).

Bruce sighed, hands closing on the metal before slowly turning- he couldn't deal with the 'what if's' right now.

He quietly nudged the door open, all breath escaping him in a large exhale as he looked upon Tony who was barely awake. Tony was tired, exhausted, messy…weaker looking then the other ever dared look. His eyes were dull and mirrored by deep set purple bags that sunk low under his eye sockets. His skin was as pale as what Loki looked while, and the wrinkles and cuts on his face as well as battle scars, seemed to shine in the light, causing him to look nearly 10 years older. Tony just looked…wrong, clad in a hospital gown with the numerous amounts of disfigurements from his original appearance.

Tony wasn't like this when he fell out of the portal Natasha managed to close (He watched security footage) He didn't look like that in an odd clash of a group of mutants, Tony wasn't like this even in the last battle they had, and everybody knew that Tony being forced to fight against his will against the Avengers, was difficult. (Someone had managed to hack into Jarvis, another mutant with a technology affinity.)

He heard more noises as the door behind him turned and the others flooded in, Steve sporting a massive bed-head that he had obviously attempted to tame before rushing over with the others close behind. It was a miracle that Tony had not yet noticed them, but by the harsh sharp sounds of the heart rate monitor, and the crackling noises his own breathing made, it was obvious that he wasn't completely…aware, of his immediate surroundings. The fact that his left hand trembled slightly added to the suspicion.

"Tony." Natasha spoke quietly, daring to break the silence that the others had created.

Bruce looked, and he nearly took another look at the thinly veiled distraught expression on her face, eyes watching with a mixture of guilt and some form of regret, an expression not normally portrayed by the assassin.

Tony seemed to snap out of his daze with a literal flinch, hand twitching finally stopping as he looked up, dim eyes with a little spark in them as he blinked slowly and looked over the nervous Avengers. He shook a little, and Bruce hurriedly held his arms up as he would a wounded animal, and slowly the others did as well. The last thing they needed was for him to go back into cardiac arrest.

The man looked at them, eyes as open as he ever was as emotions of betrayal, hurt and so many more flitted through faster than Clint's channel surfing. He turned, grabbing the thin blue medical blanket and yanking it up and over his head, hiding him from the others in an obvious sign of him not wanting to talk.

"Tony, I- I am so sorry. We're so sorry. We were just angry, and acted without caring, and we never wanted this to happen- and, and I'm so sorry for all of that…" Bruce rambled, wringing his hands on the coat while the little blob of blue shook slightly. Bruce didn't know what to say, he was so sorry.

"I should have noticed." Natasha muttered, and this time she moved, gently and loudly walking towards Tony, who was facing away, before gingerly pulling the blanket away, like a mother to a child. Tony refused to look up, jaw tight as he faced the wall, and Natasha said nothing.

They stood there, the Avengers taking their respective spots while Tony continued to stare at the wall, or the abstract piece of art hanging on the wall on occasion. He didn't say a word when the nurse returned and re-filled his IV. He didn't say a thing as Clint cracked jokes, and he didn't say anything when Thor told his stories, casting a mournful shade of Thor's mood if anything.

"My earpiece broke." Tony mentioned after nearly six hours of ear-burning silence. The sudden sound of the raspy scratchy voice, noting that it had been recently used.

Thor flinched at the sound, head swinging over drawing Natasha and Clint's attention as they all looked at Tony, whose gaze was focused on Steve, who swallowed with growing sick realization.

"Why didn't you tell us before?" Clint blurted out in the reoccurring absence of noise.

"Maybe, because I shouldn't have to." He spoke, voice shaking slightly towards the end, either from anger or paranoia from his recent panic attack and PTSD trigger.

Steve flinched, and said nothing as Tony closed his eyes, exhaling deeply before eventually falling asleep again where the twitching and flinching continued, as well as occasional thrashings or strangled murmurings.

Every single twitch, Natasha mirrored it. Every muttered word and Clint's hand balled into a fist. Every quick shake of his head would cause Thor's to turn away, and every strangled breath caused Bruce to have to control his own.

Every pain filled thrash caused Steve to jerk in his seat, forcing himself to watch what his faith had created.

'Maybe if Tony trusted us a little more, this wouldn't have happened.' His mind supplied, and a more logical point of Steve's brain spoke up even louder.

'If you're to get Tony to trust you, you better start trusting him.'



(And Technically)