TITLE: Heart Bursting
SUMMARY: (Movie-verse) Tony’s thoughts during his rescue from the desert. ONESHOT
DISCLAIMER: Iron Man etc. belong to Marvel Comics et. al.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Another one of my more in-depth views into the psyche of Tony Stark—known from here on out as the “Heart” series.
Tony Stark had no idea where he was. He’d just dragged himself out of a metal-filled sandy hole of his own making, and exhaustion had finally decided to announce its presence. Tony’s eyes were heavier than they’d ever been, his right arm was throbbing in time with his heartbeat, and he was beyond “tired.”
His borrowed boots—at least a size and half too big—slid uselessly through the dune and a cold wind whipped at his hair. He didn’t want to stop moving, but if he didn’t get his head wounds covered he’d be in real trouble with infection. Through the pain, Tony shifted out of the leather metal working coat and wrapped the material around his head.
All he could see was sand.
Mile after mile.
He kept walking.
It felt like he walked half the day away until the sound of helicopter rotors split the silence. He looked up, certain his mind was playing tricks on him, and basked in the sensation of sand whipping at his exposed arms from a multitude of directions as the Blackhawks circled. Tony practically slid down the sand dune with the ungainly speed he ran at and laughed—waving his arms despite the pain.
“HEY!” he whooped and dropped to his knees in the sand.
His raised fingers automatically formed into the peace sign Jimmy had been using for the photo he wanted… The photo he never got because he was killed not three minutes later.
Soldiers spilled forth from the rescue team.
He only recognized one of the faces among the men who ran off the helicopter. Colonel James Rhodes…
“How was the fun-vee?”
Tony grinned and felt an hysterical laugh building within him. How long have I been gone?
Rhodey leaned down and placed hand on Tony’s good shoulder. “Next time you ride with me, okay?”
Tony instinctively leaned in and pressed his face into Rhodey’s chest. There were no words to say—nothing he could verbalize to express his relief, joy, fulfilled longing…
How do I even go back?
Rhodey gently rubbed Tony’s back and held on as his friend started to laugh uncontrollably. The colonel wanted to smile, but heard the thick catch in Tony’s throat. Laughter heaved into inexplicable sobs and Rhodes jerked involuntarily as two bloody arms reached up to grab hold of his uniform.
As Tony held onto the colonel, the miniaturized arc reactor that was keeping him alive dug into his side. The feeling shocked Rhodes and he pulled back and stared down at the glowing apparatus that appeared to be implanted within his friend’s chest.
“Jesus Christ! What did they do to you, Tony?” he held him at arms length and stared at him. “Shit—how much time do we have? Tony? Talk to me!”
Stark had to swallow some more laughter and tapped on the reactor with his left hand. “It’s not a bomb, Rhodey.”
“Then what is it?” he helped Tony stand an started taking him to the helicopters.
Tony was utterly depleted of energy. His brain was running on fumes and words were coming slower and slower. As Rhodey strapped him in he tried to rub sand out of his eyes. “I made it,” he answered.
Rhodes finished with the seat belts and checked the contraption on—in—Tony’s chest. It sent shivers all the way down his spine.
As the junior airman took off for Bagram Airbase, Rhodes stared at Tony—watched the remaining strength drain completely out of him and he fell into a deep sleep despite the loud thup thup thup of the helicopter rotors. It was hard to believe he was really seeing his old friend sitting across from him. After not seeing his face for a little over three months, Rhodes expected him to look more like he’d been starved. But he had actually never seen Tony more fit.
Underneath the blood on his right arm the muscles stood out whipcord strong and defined.
“I made it…”
He decided then and there to ask Tony about what happened—as soon as they were on the way back to the States. For now, eyes still magnetically trained on Tony Stark’s snoozing form, Jim Rhodes reveled in the sensation of his heart bursting within his chest from nearly unbelievable joy.
Author’s Note: After writing the first of these, I’ve decided to do a short series of more in depth scenes from the film—the “Heart” series. More scenes are coming. As always, please review.