His head hurt. It hurt real bad. It felt like somebody had smacked him really hard with a hammer. Not that Tony had experience in being hit on the head with a hammer, but this was how he imagined it felt like.
"Ironman, what happened? Come in, Ironman. Tony?"
Well, that was weird. There was some sort of voice speaking in his ear. Was somebody whispering in his ear? Nah, it sounded too... normally pitched. Was there a tiny person in his ear, yelling to get his attention? No, that was even sillier, people couldn't just shrink to the size of an ant or a wasp or something.
"Hawkeye, what happened, did you see him go down?"
"Yeah, I'm on my way over there now."
Huh. The weird voice in his ear was actually two weird voices. And they were talking with each other.
But he had more important issues to be dealing with. Mainly, the pressure he was feeling on his head, where the hammer had hit him.
"Ironman," the first voice said again. "Ironman, can you hear me? Respond!"
Well, that didn't make any sense. How was he supposed to respond to a voice in his ear?
"How is he, Hawkeye?"
"He's definitely down. The side of his helmet's bashed in, whatever that thing is, it's strong. It must have broke through the armor."
Something had broken somebody's armor? That wasn't good. They ought to get that checked.
"Yes, but how is Ironman?" The first voice sounded frustrated.
"I'm not sure," the second voice said. "His Reactor's still glowing, but his eyes are off and he's not moving. I think the suit's been deactivated somehow."
Okay, that was just strange. How could somebody's eyes be off? Whoever this voice was, it was crazy.
But, then again...
Tony tried to open his eyes. They felt open, they really did, but he couldn't see anything. Everything was pitch black. Dark, and stuffy. Maybe his eyes were off.
"Alright, so he's still alive," the frustrated voice said. "Try to get his faceplate off, get him some fresh air."
The pain in his head flared up, like the hammer was back with a vengeance and a few buddies. He let out a small moan.
"I can't do it," the voice said. "Thor, a little help here?"
"I am on my way," said a deep booming voice that coincided with a particularly nasty clang of pain in his head. "As soon as I smite this beast! It is almost vanquished!"
"Hurry," said the second voice. Now he sounded frustrated as well.
After a moment of foreverness, the pain in his head intensified for a few seconds, and then suddenly, there was light.
Fresh air hit his face and Tony looked up in a daze. There were two people standing over him. One of them was blonde and wore a lot of black, and he had one of those thingies in his hand. Harp? No, he was pretty sure harps had more than one string. No, this was some kind of weapon.
"Tony, are you alright? Can you hear me?" He said, looking at Tony's eyes and shining a bright light in them, making him squint.
The thing that wasn't a harp fell to the ground with a clang. It was a weapon, he was sure of it. One of those thingies that you stuck pointy sticks in, and then shot them at people "Like a ssslingshot," he drawled.
The guy frowned. Tony turned his attention to the other person. A big muscley guy wearing a helmet and some curtains. He was holding some kind of weapon, after a moment, Tony realized that it was some weird kind of hammer. "You," he said, frowning at the thing. "Tell yer frien's to knock it off."
"Guy's, he's awake, but definitely concussed," the guy with the slingshot said. With a start, Tony realized that the voice in his ear said the same thing at the exact same time, and it sounded just like the guy with the slingshot.
"Whoa..." He said, looking up at the guy, his eyes wide. "They're twinss..."
The guy wearing curtains frowned. "What is his meaning?" He asked the guy with the slingshot, who shrugged.
"I don't know," he said. "Maybe he's seeing double?"
Something clicked in Tony's mind, and suddenly he realized who he was talking to. "...Clint?" He asked slowly.
Clint jumped. "Tony!" He said. "Tony, can you hear me?"
Tony frowned. "...Yeah..." he said.
Clint let out a breath of relief. "Alright," he said. "What's your full name?"
Tony frowned in confusion. Didn't Clint remember? "Tony Stark," he said.
"Well, yeah, but do you remember the rest of it?" Clint asked.
Tony nodded. "Anthony... Edward Stark," he said.
"That's right," Clint said. "Now, where are you?"
Tony looked around. "...Outside?" He asked.
Clint frowned. "Okay," he said. "I'm almost afraid to ask the next question. Do you remember what happened?"
"Uuuum..." Really, all he remembered was waking up feeling like he'd been hit on the head with a baseball bat. "A pinata?"
Clint looked worried. "Close enough," he said. Then another man ran up, holding something that looked like a shield. Really? A shield, a helmet, and a... bow and arrow!
"'sss there a medieval fair 'roun here or sssomethin'?"
The man with the shield frowned. "Tony," he said. His voice matched the frustrated one he'd heard earlier. "Do you know your full name?"
"I already asked him the questions," Clint said. "And I shined my light in his eyes. It's a concussion, no doubt about it."
Then it clicked who was holding the shield. "Cap?" He asked. "'sss tha' you?"
Steve frowned. "Yes," he said. "Yeah, it's me, Tony."
A woman ran up then and stood next to Thor. "...Tasha?" He asked. Then he did a double take. "Thor!? When'd you ge' here?"
"I have been here the whole time, friend Tony," Thor said.
Tony frowned. "...Oh yeah."
"Let's get him back to the tower," Natasha said. "Bruce, you back?" The second part of her sentence echoed in his ear, sounding staticy. Wait, that must've been his radio... Yeah, now that made sense.
"Just woke up," Bruce's voice said over the radio. "What's up?"
"We're heading back to the tower," Steve said into his radio. It was so weird, hearing the same thing twice. "Tony got hit. It doesn't seem too serious, just a bad concussion, but we're heading back now. Meet us there."
There was silence over the radio for a second, then "...Got it. I'm on my way."
"Tony, you gotta stay awake," He heard somebody say.
Huh. He hadn't realized he was sleepy. "Jussst a quick nap..." He pleaded.
"No, you gotta stay awake." It was Cap who was speaking.
"Heh..." Tony said. "You can' tell me wha' to do..."
For a second, he saw Cap give a half smile. Then everything went dark again.
A steady beeping had been making its way into Tony's head for quite awhile now, along with a strange sound like the murmuring of ghostly spirits, although he had been so out of it he hadn't realized that he'd been hearing anything at all.
Finally, it registered that he was, in fact, hearing it, and then, after a few more moments, it clicked in his head what that noises were.
The murmurs were people talking somewhere, and the beeping was a heart monitor.
He was hooked up to a heart monitor?
Then it clicked that if he was hooked up to a heart monitor, he must be in a hospital of some sort. Well, that was just great. Tony hated hospitals.
Then he remembered why he was in a hospital, and groaned as he managed to open his eyes.
That immediately got the attention of everyone in the room, and Bruce stood up. "Tony?" he asked, and the worry on his face was so familiar now that it was funny. "Are you in any pain?"
"No," Tony said automatically, and then stopped to think about it. "No," he decided. "I just really hate waking up in hospitals being stared at by soldiers, scientists, circus performers, assassins and demigods." He paused and tilted his head. "Wow, that sounds even more ridiculous now that I've said it out loud. When can I leave?"
Bruce smiled his trademark half-smile. "It's good to have you back, Tony," he said.
"Which brings me to my next question: Where was I, exactly?" Tony asked. "I mean, what happened? How long have I been out?"
"That was actually three questions," Cap said with a laugh.
"Well, then, answer them in whichever order seems best to you," he said with a wave of his hand.
"You've only been out for a few hours," Bruce said. "Pepper's on her way here."
"Oh, good," Tony said. "She can meet me on the way out."
"You're not going anywhere," Clint said, and Tony sighed.
"Come on," he said. "Hospitals bug me."
"It doesn't matter," Natasha said. "You're staying."
Tony moaned in defeat, at the same time feeling a strange sense of peace in him that he didn't understand. He hated hospitals, he always felt... exposed in hospitals. Vulnerable. Open to attack. And here he was only fighting half-heartedly, giving up too easily. Why?
It must be because he felt... protected, with the team there. He looked around; Bruce was still standing nearby, smiling his somewhat-nervous half-smile, ready to surrender control to the Hulk if need be. Clint lounged in one of the uncomfortable chairs, but his body posture was such that he could be standing and loosing arrows in a second. Steve sat in the other chair, tall and mighty, in all his Captain America glory. While the sight would once have brought back memories of Tony's dad, and of growing up in the shadow of a man he'd never met, now he realized it brought out a feeling of camaraderie, and a sense of security he hadn't ever realized he'd wanted. He knew that as long as Cap was in the room, he would be safe.
And then there was Thor and Natasha. Thor, well, Tony couldn't help but like the big guy. His ever-present smile and his have-at-thee manner, mixed with his general cluelessness and his jovial spirit made him a joy to be around, and he was strong enough and skilled enough to protect Tony from anything. And then there was Natasha. Creepy ninja lady who could kill him in the blink of an eye and yet, hadn't done it yet. If that wasn't restraint, he didn't know what was. He still didn't trust her motives, not completely. It wasn't anything against her, he knew it wasn't personal, but he just needed a little more time. "Fool me once," as the saying went. He was forever on his guard to the best of people; he wasn't sure he would ever trust someone who had lied to him before.
But it was a work in progress, and Tony suddenly realized why he felt so strangely at ease this time. Because he truly trusted his life to these people. That was... new, to say the least.
"So, been out for a few hours, that's... surprisingly, not the first time." Tony paused to consider this. "Anyway, I'm still a little unclear on the why. What happened again?"
"Don't you remember, Tony?" Natasha asked.
"No, actually, I don't," he said. "Last thing I remember before waking up here was my helmet being broken."
"Yeah, that's what happened," Clint supplied. "But do you remember anything else, about the fight maybe?"
Tony sighed. "I'm not sure how clear I have to be to get you to understand," he said. "I don't remember... anything about the fight. All I remember is waking up for a second with a pounding in my head."
"Well, that's not good," Bruce noted with a sigh. "Anyway, it was a pretty simple fight, a giant robotic monster tried to take out the city, we stopped it just in time, only it got a pretty powerful hit to your head before it went down."
"Just my luck," Tony sighed. "And now I'm trapped in a hospital room with nothing to do, being held against my will. Which brings me back, again, to an earlier question, when can I leave?"
Steve chuckled. "As soon as Pepper gets here, we'll try to get the doc to sign you out," he said. "He already said it wasn't that bad of a blow to your head, so you should be fine as long as you take it slow for the next few days."
"Ah," Tony protested with a grimace. "I don't do slow. I'll take his advice, and skip a board meeting or two, but really, that whole 'taking it slow' thing is just ridiculous."
"Tony, you need to rest in order to heal," Bruce tried with about the same enthusiasm that Tony had displayed about staying in the hospital: half-hearted.
"Correction; the common layman needs rest in order to heal," Tony said. "Trust me, I've had worse. It's always just fine with a cup of coffee and some AC/DC."
Bruce sighed and Natasha rolled her eyes, while Clint snickered and Thor asked Steve what AC/DC was, to which Steve replied that he hadn't the foggiest idea.
Tony smirked and laid back down on his pillow, looking up at the ceiling. Even when he was down, he still had his trusty ol' wit and Starkasm to fall back on.
And the world would never be rid of it.
Author's Notes: Well, that marks the end of this story. I wanted to include this chapter for two reasons. 1; because I love me some Tony!whump, and 2; because I wanted there to be a chapter in which Tony realizes that the Avengers are more than a team to him now.
I want to thank everybody who left reviews throughout this story, and everybody who followed it or favorited it. I'm glad you all liked my story, I had a lot of fun writing it. I also want to potentially thank anybody who is going to read this and who will review or favorite this later. Thanks, guys! It means a lot to me, even still. XD
Although this is the end of Starkasm, keep your eyes open. I'll be posting a new story very soon, which will be much different than this one, but hopefully, just as good or better. While this was more a humor/friendship fic, the next story will be a futuristic angsty adventure drama with quite a few friendship themes thrown in. All in all, be ready for an epic tale of awesomeness, coming soon to a website near you.