and birds are singing to calm us downfandom:
anxiety, ptsd, spoiler warning for Iron Man 3summary:
In his dreams he’s falling. There are rivers in his mind and ashes in his mouth and he’s falling, hands curling around air and empty space, ears ringing with silence. His mind is chaos and crumbling buildings and she is the center of it all (and his father once told him that dreams are void of color but she is vivid and brilliant against the pale hollow darkness and Tony doesn’t know what to do with that).mirrors
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In his dreams he’s falling.
There are rivers in his mind and ashes in his mouth and he’s falling, hands curling around air and empty space, ears ringing with silence.
His mind is chaos and crumbling buildings and she is the center of it all (and his father once told him that dreams are void of color but she is vivid and brilliant against the pale hollow darkness and Tony doesn’t know what to do with that).
There is a cacophony of voices in his head and empty space in his lungs (“Miss Potts isn’t picking up, sir”, “Is this the first time you’ve lost a soldier?”, “Phil Coulson died still believing in heroes”, “Miss Potts isn’t picking up, sir”) and he falls.
He tells her that he doesn’t have anyone but her, he tells her that she is the one thing he can’t live without, but he doesn’t tell her that he loves her.
(Sometimes the words almost stumble out into the air between them but he chokes them down, because they feel wrong and they make his skin itch, because they turn to dust in his mouth.)
It’s an empty promise. Tony has seen emptiness. She deserves better than that.iii.
When he wakes up from his dreams the world spins for just a moment and he holds his breath until the walls stop moving, until the ground has righted itself and he can see her worried face, sleepy eyes blinking at him under frowning eyebrows.
“Tony? Are you okay?”
He holds on to her then like he’s drowning, fingers curled loosely around her neck where her pulse beats against his skin (and he wants to say “I wanted to die right there, I wanted to-”, wants to say “Please don’t ever do that to me again”, but instead he presses his lips to her forehead and breathes her in) and she’s warm and vivid and alive
in hands, mumbling “Tony, hey, hey, I’m here” and he doesn’t tell her that he loves her but he hopes she understands. She always understands.
He bites down on the desperation until he feels like himself again, until the thoughts in his head stop spinning madly (I am Iron Man, I am Tony Stark, Tony Stark is Iron Man, I saw her burning and I couldn’t stop it and what good is being a hero if I can’t protect her?).
It’s over, it’s all over, he tells himself; the arc reactor is buried under waves and water and he blew up the suits (and he doesn’t think about the way the Chitauri ship went up in flames and silence, how he could taste the blaze on his tongue and feel it in his veins).
But the thought of vast empty space still fills his lungs with water until he can’t breathe, can’t think, and the memories of the night he lost her, even if just for a moment, still make his hands tremble and in his dreams she falls.
He doesn’t tell her that he loves her.
(New York is faded blue in his mind, hushed and pale, like an old scar that still itches when his thoughts flicker over dark voids and burning buildings. Extremis is brighter, angry red against the back of his eyelids, but it will fade as well over time.)
He doesn’t tell her but he knows she can read it in the way he trembles just a little less when she’s holding him, the way her body fits against his bones so perfectly that it makes his chest ache sometimes.
He used to tell himself that the world needs heroes, needs him. He repeated it to himself again and again, erratic mumbles in nights when he couldn’t sleep, when all that kept him sane was the suits, the quiet humming of Dummy in the background. He didn’t realise that the one person who needed Iron Man the most was himself.
His father once told him that you can’t depend on anyone but yourself. He believed it, a long time ago, before the Avengers Initiative, before Killian, when he used to look back and see chaos (an endless waste of sand and stars and a city disintegrating).
He doesn’t any longer.
Now there’s Happy and Rhodey (and his warm hand on Tony’s shoulder), and the mismatched group of people he saved the world with, a long time ago. And her.