I’m bleeding out
So if the last thing that I do
Is bring you down
I’ll bleed out for you
Tony rubbed at his temples, a frown forming on his face. He was currently staring at a laptop screen, attempting to ignore the conversation of the rest of the ‘vengers behind him. He heard Thor’s boisterous yell and grit his teeth.
“You’d think they’d let me have some measure of peace,” the inventor hissed quietly to himself.
“But they can’t.”
Tony jerked at the voice. Where did that come from? His arc reactor suddenly felt so hot. He clutched at the blue light shining out of his shirt. Why was it humming? It didn’t normally burn like this…
“If they let you ‘have peace’ as you say, then you’ll hurt yourself. They know. They always know. You can’t hide forever, you can’t even hide now.”
“Shu- Shut up!” Tony shrieked, slapping his other hand against his head as the voice continued to sneer at him. He twitched when the reactor shook under his palm. Was it… crying? No, it was laughing.
“You think hiding behind all that narcissism is fooling anyone? Do you genuinely believe you can pretend to be happy and no will notice? They notice, Stark, your friends. They’re going to give up on you sooner or later.”
“They wouldn’t,” Tony protested weakly, his voice a mere whine now. He moved the hand on the reactor to his collar and pulled his shirt down to inspect the blue object. The inventor jerked away almost instantly.
It was bleeding.
“That’s not…” Tony started to murmur, then cut himself off. It wasn’t actually blood. Not his anyway. It belonged to the reactor, blue viscous fluid running off the silver wiring and onto his stomach. The arc reactor was pulsing too, the light going from its normal ice-like shade to cobalt.
“Possible? But it is. This ‘blood’ is yours, you know. Did you know that? Your blood isn’t even normal. It’s from a machine. How will your friends react to that?”
“They’d help me,” Tony shouted assuredly, glaring at the offending reactor.
“Will they? How do you know? How will they react to a robot?”
“I’m not,” the inventor growled feebly, but even the engineer knew he didn’t sound convincing. His voice warbled at the end. He was… really what was he? His friends shouldn’t bother trying to help him. All he did was bring them down. They could never be successful with him. So he might as well just keep bleeding.
Maybe he’d die.
So I bare my skin
And I count my sins
And I close my eyes
And I take it in
“That would solve a lot. For your friends that is. Look at everything they’ve done for you. And then look at what you’ve done for them. Very big difference in numbers, isn’t it Stark? Come on, you should know how to do math at least. Or are you as stupid as I think you are?”
“Stop!” Tony finally exploded, throwing his hands up into the air. He didn’t hear the Captain yelling at him in the background. The din of his friends’ voices was lost in the whirlwind of his own thoughts.
The engineer stood from his chair, not noticing that it clattered to the ground behind him. He strode away from the computer, one hand still on the cackling reactor throbbing on his chest, and the other tearing at the skin on his face.
It was right.
What had he truly done for his friends other than make them worry? All of his problems… he heaped all of them on his own companions! All the sins he’d made, the people he’d pushed away… the cuts he’d put on himself. They all were his fault! And yet Tony went to his friends as a way to run away.
Did he face his problems? No. Never.
The typically iron-suited male closed his eyes, smacking into the door of his room in the tower. He slid down the frame, tears threatening to spill from underneath his eyelids. The inventor tightened his grip on the reactor and dug his fingers into his cheek. He cared little for the blood that seeped out from the action.
“See? Even now you hide. You’ll always be that way. A coward. That’s what you are, isn’t that right?”
“Y-yes…” Tony stammered out. He winced and brought the hand on his cheek down, slowly looking at the liquid coming out from it.
And it was blue.
“What did I tell you? Are you surprised? You are finally becoming what you really are.”
“And what’s that?” Tony squeaked, his voice lilting into a surprisingly high octave as he stared at his fingers.
When the day has come
That I’ve lost my way around
And the seasons stop and hide beneath the ground
When the sky turns gray
And everything is screaming
“It’s the day that you realize you’re just a robot. You’re not human. You don’t deserve to be.”
“What?” Tony shivered. The inventor dragged himself up off the floor, using the hand coated in blue blood to clutch at the door. He removed it and found himself staring at the ocean-colored mark he left on the wooden frame.
Stark’s eyes grew dark as he watched the liquid swim down the doorway, following the trail that scarily resembled a tear’s path. He found that his own tears were replicating it perfectly.
“You don’t get it do you? You’re useless, Stark. Pathetic. You shouldn’t even exist.”
“But…” Tony shook again and put his arms around his chest. He gripped his shoulders harder, trying to stop the reactor from shivering so much. The inventor desperately raced into his room, crashing against his window and laying his face against the cool glass. It brought a disturbing amount of relief to his rapidly heating body.
His eyes slowly found their way to look outside. He stared at the wintery scene, glowering at the disappointed sky and the judgmental trees. Why were they all looking at him? What had he done to make them all so hateful towards him? WHAT HAD HE DONE?!
Tony screamed and the world reflected it.
I will reach inside
Just to find my heart is beating
“You’re so disappointing. Can you do anything right?”
Tony ignored the reactor. Why did this thing even exist in him anyways? He ripped at the metal object, tearing more blue blood from it that he paid no mind to. Why couldn’t he get rid of it? Where was his real heart? The one that he’d had before all his doubts started to surface…
Had he ever really had one?
Tony stopped at that thought, fingers sluggishly leaking with his sapphire blood. Of course he had a heart… right? He shook his head, hand again tightening on the reactor. And if he didn’t have one it didn’t matter. He’d find it then, he’d discover his true heart if it killed him.
You tell me to hold on
Oh, you tell me to hold on
But innocence is gone
And what was right is wrong
“Tony!” The call had Stark immediately pause his frantic fingers. The inventor hesitantly drew away from his window, tilting his head to the side to focus on his door. His eyes were wild as they locked onto the five silhouettes crowding the entrance to his room. The light behind them cast their shadows along his floor, all five of them covering his rigid form.
Tony shook as the darkness oozed over his body. His friends’ shadows… they were suffocating him. Or… was he the one choking them?
“Tony, please, stop,” the Captain continued. His voice, so soothing and calming before, now sounded like it was laughing at him. Tony’s eyes twitched, his body twisting in an attempt to get out of the shadows that were now coming past his doorway to get to him.
“Don’t come closer!” He wailed desperately. The giggling shadows instantly stopped, only a few feet from completely submerging him in black. The engineer whimpered, clutching at the reactor that had suddenly grown cold now.
“Tony, are you alright?” Tasha’s voice now, the pitch again going from her usual supportive tone to one that chuckled at him. Why were they all laughing?
“No… he’s not,” Bruce added, his deep voice making the inventor shiver even harder. Did he really laugh that cruelly? Were they all secretly mocking him?
“I can see that… look at his eyes…” Hawkeye agreed with the doctor, his words warping into sick giggles in Tony’s abused mind. “Wait, Stark, you’re bleeding!”
“What’s wrong? Man of Iron, we’re here, your friends. It’s okay now,” Thor soothed, his voice causing Tony to screech suddenly. His sounded the worst. It was the loudest, the one that laughed the most at him. But… why?
It hurt when the Norse god moved to touch him, the fingers that wrapped around his arm actually stinging. It left marks on him too, when the inventor hastily jerked away from the Thunderer. But these marks… they weren’t blue. They were red. That wasn’t right! None of this was right! His friends shouldn’t strike such terror in him, shouldn’t be making him feel so petrified…
When the hour is nigh
And hopelessness is sinking in
And the wolves all cry
To fill the night with hollering
Tony lurched out from under his friend’s burning shadows, squealing with fright when they forcibly dragged him back into the darkness. The engineer lashed out, striking at the black hands holding him. He didn’t care about their answering shouts. All he wanted was to be free of this choking feeling. This total annihilation. It was all too much! Just too much!
“TONY!” That voice… whose was it? It didn’t matter. It jeered him as it always did. They really were all laughing! He could hear them, his friends, their hollering at him. They were saying he was useless. Worthless, completely and utterly a failure, and that… that they didn’t need him.
But they were right! They didn’t, they never really did. Tony heard his own splintered voice ascend into a blood-curdling scream, but even it sounded like laughter. He agreed with what his friends said about him. And he hated himself for it.
When your eyes are red
And emptiness is all you know
With the darkness fed
I will be your scarecrow
Tony’s vision was consumed with the charcoal-colored haze of his friends. It was speckled with the blue of his reactor, the light hued streaks bringing nothing but darkness to him. Logically, it should have brought light…
Then, it all turned red. All of it: the ink and water turned to fire and lit up the world in crimson. Tony wailed as it threatened to consume him, the sound turning into a strangled hiss as it choked him. The inventor’s struggles renewed under this strange onslaught of scarlet.
He closed his eyes in an attempt to clear out the shades of death. The picture he was given instead was perhaps more horrifying. Tony now saw his friends, the five of them close with their arms all connected but with him out of it.
“You really are useless,” Bruce snarled, eyes flashing emerald. “All you do is hold me and the rest of us back with your pathetic abilities. You can’t do anything right. You should just leave us alone!”
Tasha tittered with her own witch-like laughter, covering her mouth with her hand and only showing her glimmering orange irises that bore into Tony mercilessly. “He’s right. You are a death sentence on all of us. How can you be an asset to our team when you can’t even help yourself?”
Hawkeye threw back his head and cackled along with Black Widow. “Of course! You think you can help us, Stark? You can help us by leaving. Or, better yet, dying!”
“Stop it!” Tony interrupted out of panic. He squirmed, trying to dislodge the shadowy fingers locking him in place. “No-none of this is real! None of you would say that…”
“Wouldn’t we?” Steve’s frown scared Tony more than the others’ dangerous grins. He looked so disappointed. Just pitying really. “Stark, you’re clueless. You don’t even know that we can’t stand being near you. All you do is drag us down with your worthless little life.”
Tony blinked at his friend. That wasn’t true. No… they couldn’t really be doing this. They couldn’t leave him! They just couldn’t. He would… he would – what would he do?
Thor stepped forward then, his menacing stance making the engineer jump almost immediately. The god was possibly even more let down than Cap was. Tony locked his gaze with the Thunderer’s, trying to see any of the sympathy and kindness that usually lit Thor’s eyes with glee. But there was nothing in the normally friendly irises, nothing but dissatisfaction.
“How could you do this to us, Tony?” Thor snapped at the inventor, growl making the inventor twitch feebly in response. “How could you even think of holding us back when all we’ve done is help you? Aren’t you even grateful?”
“Of course I am!” Tony shouted, convulsing as the shadow hands dragged their obsidian nails down his arms. “I… I love all of you so much… but I –”
“You don’t love us!” Thor cut in irately, eyes going from displeased to angry without warning. He didn’t laugh at Tony like before, but now his voice was screaming at him. “If you did, then you’d be useful! Or at least try to help us for a change!”
“But I want to!” Tony screamed. He finally got one of his hands out from the darkness and reached it towards Thor desperately. “Please, just get me out of this place!”
“See? Even now you can’t do anything,” Thor leaned back, glowering at the extended hand with disdain. He took out his hammer, lightning crackling around it. “You are a nuisance. One that we don’t need let alone should have to save.”
“Don’t…” the words he had wanted to verbalize vanished in his mind as the inventor warily watched Thor raise the hammer. Was he going to…?
“We don’t want you here, Tony,” Thor delivered the sentence with such shattering truthfulness that the engineer didn’t even have a response for it. Tony watched the hammer descend on him with a defeated expression on his face.
This… this was right. His friends… no, the real Avengers didn’t need him. This should happen.
‘Cause I’m bleeding out
So if the last thing that I do
Is to bring you down
I’ll bleed out for you
'Cause I’m bleeding out
I’m bleeding out for you (for you)
“Man of Iron, hello? Man of Iron, please wake up! Please!”
Tony surged forward, jumping out of the chair he was slumped in so quickly he nearly smashed into Thor. The god grabbed his shoulders and held him a good distance away, eyes watching him with concern.
“Are you alright?” Thor asked, a reassuring smile plastering itself on his face as he tried to calm the fidgeting metal man down. “You fell asleep at your computer again.”
“And you were kinda screaming,” Bruce walked up beside the god, staring with a slightly frightened glint in his eyes. “Were you watching something scary before or…?”
“Was it a nightmare?” Natasha piped up. Tony looked beyond Bruce to see the girl sitting down next to Hawkeye, her legs drawn up and clutched to her chest. “I have those too.”
“It must’ve been particularly terrifying,” Hawkeye stated sagely, his own eyes reflecting the strangely scared expression all of them had when they looked at Tony.
“Why are you all looking at me like that?!” Tony couldn’t help the reaction. They all just were staring at him with so much fear and he didn’t like it! It looked like contempt to him for some reason…
“You were tearing at your own skin, Tony,” the Captain’s calming voice, the real one, made all of Tony’s violence spike up even more. How dare he sound so sympathetic and worried! Did he really think that he could ever understand –
“It was absolutely horrifying,” Thor finished, sad eyes locking with Tony’s fiery ones.
And that’s what made his hostility disappear. Tony stared back at Thor, his irises growing dim with the tears welling in them.
And then he broke.
Tony threw himself at the Thunderer, sobbing and incoherently shouting things that made absolutely no sense to his damaged mind or even to his friends’. Thor hugged the frantic man instantly, eyes rounding in surprise at the abrupt change in mood.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry for being such a burden! I – I’ll do something to fix it! I’ll make myself useful to you I promise! Please, just don’t leave me!” Tony finally managed to tear his head off Thor’s chest. His shimmering eyes pleaded with the Thunderer’s. “I’m so sorry!”
Thor blinked and briefly looked up at the others. Tasha and Hawkeye had stood now, approaching the shivering inventor in an effort to help but remained awkwardly behind him. The Captain was closer, his hand hovering over Tony’s shoulder undecidedly. The star-spangled hero lowered it, looking at Thor and asking silently for what to do. The patriot wasn’t sure how to comfort Tony. And Banner, the doctor still standing to his side, shook a little as he focused on the torn engineer in front of him. Bruce’s eyes found Thor’s and he frowned slightly. Even he wasn’t sure how to help.
But Thor knew.
He held the broken inventor closer. The god of thunder didn’t know what had made Tony lose it, but he knew when to not ask questions and just give what was needed. Thor smiled at the engineer brilliantly and whispered, “It’s okay. We’d never leave you, I swear. And… we forgive you.”